These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter. Organizations submit their own updates, which we edit for clarity.
Last month on The 80,000 Hours Podcast, Rob Wiblin spoke with Audrey Tang on what we can learn from Taiwan’s experiments with how to do democracy, and Matthew Yglesias on avoiding the pundit’s fallacy and how much military intervention can be used for good.
Advisor Habiba Islam was featured on the Hear This Idea podcast, where she discussed planning a high-impact career and ambitious altruism.
There’s also new content on the 80,000 Hours website:
- Two career reviews: Founder of new projects tackling top problems by Benjamin Todd, and Software engineering by Benjamin Hilton.
- A new problem profile on space governance, written by Fin Moorhouse.
Finally, 80,000 Hours is mailing a free book to anyone who signs up for its newsletter, so please tell your friends!
GiveWell recently published the following pages on grants it recommended:
- A $120,000 grant to Malaria Consortium and PATH to scope the feasibility of implementing an intermittent preventive treatment in infants (IPTi) antimalaria program at national scale in two countries. IPTi is one of the most promising new interventions GiveWell has identified—evidence from trials indicates it is highly effective at reducing clinical malaria cases, and so far it's underutilized. (For more details on what a scaled IPTi program might look like, see notes from conversations with Malaria Consortium and PATH on February 24, March 12, May 24, and May 28.)
- A $1.2 million grant to the Center for Global Development (CGD) to support research into the effects of lead and run a working group to advocate for lead exposure reduction policies. Lead exposure is one of the focus areas GiveWell has identified in our exploration of potentially high-leverage funding opportunities in public health regulation. (For more details on proposed activities covered by the grant, see notes from GiveWell’s conversation with CGD.)
- A $4.4 million grant to Sightsavers to support deworming in six Nigerian states in 2021–2023. This grant is among several GiveWell recommended to top charities last year to quickly fill unexpected gaps left after other funders withdrew support.
GiveWell is expanding its research team to find excellent new funding opportunities in 2022 and beyond. Current openings include a Senior Program Associate, Senior Researchers and Senior Research Associates, and Content Editors.
ALLFED - Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters
What would we eat after a nuclear war or massive asteroid impact? Malnutrition needs not be a major issue, given an adequate global disaster response: let's establish preparedness to facilitate it. Read the latest piece of research from ALLFED:
Some great progress for broilers - last year, Anima International in Denmark challenged retailers and farmers to open up their farms to allow living conditions of a standard broiler chicken to be documented for the 35 day breeding cycle. The original campaign followed with a ‘reward’ challenge were huge, including full-page advertisements in 17 newspapers. As a result, the largest lobby organization of farmers have just released a website live streaming from a farm holding 32,000 broiler chickens, leading to a lot of media interest and an opportunity for more campaign work and dialogue. You can take a look at the live stream here.
In Poland, the Anima International team (Otwarte Klatki) is pleased that Netto, a large European retailer, recently announced it is now cage-free a full three years before its original 2025 deadline, making it the first cage-free retailer in Poland. In addition, two other big Polish retailers - Biedronka and Makro (METRO) - are now also cage-free in advance of their deadlines. It seems that Polish retailers are now racing each other to stop selling cage eggs sooner than the competition after working with Otwarte Klatki and other organizations.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is now accepting applications for their 2022 ACE Movement Grants. ACE launched the Movement Grants program in 2018 to help promising projects get off the ground and fund a wide range of interventions. The grants are for anyone interested in making the animal advocacy movement more effective. You can also see the full list of previous grant recipients and FAQs here. The application round is open until 11:59 pm PT on March 20.
To understand the effect of corporate outreach on the welfare of egg-laying hens, ACE examined the effectiveness of corporate outreach on changing welfare practices and the welfare implications of switching to cage-free systems. They found that corporate outreach seems to be an effective intervention for encouraging companies to switch from caged to cage-free eggs, affecting between nine and 120 hen-years (i.e., year of hen life) per dollar spent. You can find out more on their website.
Animals suffer in various ways, and different problems call for different solutions. To prioritize what problems to focus on, ACE finds it helpful to consider the scale of each problem. In one of their latest research briefs, they discuss one important aspect of scale: the number of individuals in various animal groups and species.
ACE is seeking a Director or Research to lead their research team and oversee the execution of their Charity Evaluations and Movement Grants programs. The ideal candidate will have strong communication, reasoning, and management skills, and share a dedication to ACE’s mission, which is centered on the principles of effective altruism for animals. This is a full-time remote position. More details and how to apply can be found on their website.
In January, Animal Ethics published A new paper on how to do effective advocacy work to reduce wild animal suffering. The article addresses two main issues -- how to gain more knowledge about how to best help animals and how to achieve a shift in attitudes about this topic. It discusses the most promising research topics, what audiences we should target, and practical recommendations for successful wild animal suffering outreach for both individuals and organizations.
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
Center for Human-Compatible AI
Tom Lenaerts, along with The Anh Hanh, Francisco C. Santos, and Luís Moniz Pereira, published Voluntary safety commitments provide an escape from over-regulation in AI development. The journal paper, published in Technology and Society, shows that voluntary, yet enforced, commitments lead to safe development behaviour and avoiding problems of over-regulation.
Arnaud Fickinger and Stuart Russell, along with Brandon Amos and Samuel Cohen, published Cross-Domain Imitation Learning Via Optimal Transport. Included in the 2022 International Conference on Learning Representations, the paper provably achieves cross-domain transfer in non-trivial continuous control domains by minimizing the Gromov-Wasserstein distance with deep reinforcement learning.
Scott Emmons, along with Ben Eysenbach, Ilya Kostrikov and Sergey Levine, published RvS: What is Essential for Offline RL via Supervised Learning? Included in the 2022 International Conference on Learning Representations, this work finds that surprisingly simple design choices are sufficient for strong empirical performance on offline RL benchmarks. It also shows that using supervised learning to learn a goal-conditioned policy — one that can condition on arbitrary goal or reward targets at inference time — is competitive with offline TD learning methods.
Centre for the Governance of AI (GovAI)
Our Applied Research Lead, Joslyn Barnhart, published a new paper, “Emerging Technologies, Prestige Motivations and the Dynamics of International Competition.” She conceptualises international ‘prestige races’ within competitive dynamics over emerging technologies and highlights that prestige as a motivation can cause state behaviour to deviate from traditional arms race literature’s expectations. The paper analyses the US-Soviet space race as a potential analogy for AI.
Our Head of Policy, Markus Anderljung, joined 11 other co-authors in publishing an article in Science, “Filling gaps in trustworthy development of AI.” The paper explores mechanisms AI developers can use to anticipate and prevent harm while demonstrating their own trustworthiness. Governing AI must involve tools that identify and mitigate potential harm from AI systems in ways that can be verified and trusted by other actors.
Our Economics of AI Lead, Anton Korinek, launched a MOOC on the Economics of AI on Coursera. Sign-ups are free and are available now. The course introduces participants to cutting-edge research in the economics of transformative AI, including its implications for growth, labour markets, inequality, and AI control.
Korinek also published a new report for the Brookings Institution on Lessons on AI Control from the Facebook Files and their regulatory implications. The article points out that recent revelations from the “Facebook Files” exemplifies how misaligned AI systems can begin to act contrary to society’s interests.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
We are seeking a Senior Research Associate with expertise in the long-term impacts, risks, and governance of AI. This full-time post offers a unique opportunity to help lead an ambitious group of researchers who are highly motivated to have a real impact on the safe and beneficial development of AI. The successful candidate will join the AI: Futures and Responsibility programme, a collaboration between CSER and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) and will be expected to be an active member of CSER's management team, taking part in the coordination and development of CSER's projects, and building our networks. Read more and apply
Lara Mani and fellow participants at the 7th Planetary Defense Conference published a paper in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science on lessons in preparing for a Near-Earth Object (NEO) impact. The paper draws on a hypothetical NEO impact scenario that allowed the planetary defense community to discuss potential responses to a globally catastrophic impact event.
SJ Beard and Patrick Kaczmarek published a chapter on the philosophy of Derek Parfit in his festschrift Ethics and Existence. In it, they argue that across the span of his work Parfit provided all the necessary components for his Theory X, a population axiology that was free of undesirable implications, and they show how these can be combined together and applied to the global challenges he argued matter most.
A group of researchers from CSER responded to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s request for comments on its Concept Paper for AI Risk Management Framework. They welcome the framework and the NIST's ongoing work to address risks in the design, development, use, and evaluation of AI products, services, and systems and emphasize that the approach set out in the Concept Paper is the right one.
Clarissa Rios Rojas contributed to the Framework for Global Science in Support of Risk-informed Sustainable Development and Planetary Health, produced by the International Science Council and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The framework argues that identifying, assessing, and managing existential risks and identifying suitable governance arrangements for existential risks are priorities for a new research agenda to shape the future of the Sendai Framework. Citing CSER and our research, it also notes how the emerging fields of systemic and existential risk are reshaping Disaster Risk Reduction.
Alex McLaughlin published a paper in the European Journal of Political Theory arguing that we ought to reject the integrationist attempt to unify our theorizing between different domains of global politics in relation to justice issues such as climate change. The paper shows that integrationism is either trivial or it ignores the distinctive commitments held by its opponents and goes on to argue that the relevant disagreement is actually about the role of practices for political philosophy.
Center on Long-Term Risk
The paper Normative Disagreement as a Challenge for Cooperative AI by Julian Stastny, Maxime Riché, Alexander Lyzhov, Johannes Treutlein, Allan Dafoe, and Jesse Clifton was accepted at the Cooperative AI workshop and the Learning in Presence of Strategic Behavior workshop at NeurIPS 2021.
The CLR Fund made a grant to University of Michigan professor Michael Wellman for work on a project aimed at extending the methodology of empirical game-theoretic analysis (EGTA) in fundamental technical directions, driven by application to the design and evaluation of intelligent bargaining agents.
The Center on Emerging Risk Research made a grant of $3m to Carnegie Mellon University to establish the Foundations of Cooperative AI Lab, led by Vincent Conitzer.
Charity Entrepreneurship has opened applications for their 2022 and 2023 Incubation Programs. Deadline: March 31. Through their June–August 2022 program, they plan to launch charities focused on road traffic safety, aid quality advocacy, tobacco taxation, postpartum family planning, and exploratory altruism. If an idea is not started through the summer program, it will remain an option in the February–March 2023 program, which will also start charities in the area of animal welfare. Early applications give candidates better chances of being accepted onto the program. If you want to explore whether nonprofit entrepreneurship is a good career fit for you, CE encourages you to take their quiz (high quiz scores correlate with candidates doing well in the application process). CE has also recently published a book, How to Launch a High-Impact Nonprofit. EA chapters and groups can receive a free copy from EA Books Direct. (If the book is not yet on your group’s order link, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to add it.) To receive a copy for a book review or to engage with it for a feature, podcast, or interview, you can request a review copy by writing to email@example.com.
Faunalytics, in collaboration with Mercy for Animals, released the second edition of its research series on chicken and fish suffering. For this study, Faunalytics investigated beliefs and attitudes about chickens and fishes in Brazil, Canada, China, and India, and which beliefs are linked to pro-animal behaviors (defined as respondents’ willingness to reduce their consumption of chicken and fish products and/or their willingness to sign a petition for chicken or fish welfare reforms). Check out the results from these four studies–plus a comparative report–here.
Faunalytics added several new study summaries to their research library on topics including trends, progress, and pitfalls from the last 20 years of aquaculture, and using the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change to study the process of becoming vegan. They also produced the latest edition of their Faunalytics Explains video series with an episode looking at how the USDA supports animal agriculture.
Additionally, Faunalytics is hiring! They are currently accepting applications for their new, part-time, fully remote Operations Specialist. Apply soon, the application deadline is March 5, 2022.
Fish Welfare Initiative
FWI recently published the following:
- Their 2021 in Review
- A separate review of their non-India international work
- Report: The Environmental Impacts of Fish Farming
Regarding FWI’s corporate work, where they are working to transition the purchasing of corporations to higher welfare fish, their corporate outreach manager (Anushree) traveled to Kolkata and Orissa to meet various corporations and assess their interest in transitioning to higher welfare fish. FWI has thus far met with several dozen corporations, and is currently partnering with one (more on that partnership in the next newsletter).
One of their staff (Haven) also toured Brazil to learn about fish farming and fish welfare efforts there.
Giving Green has been expanding its outreach efforts, giving talks at a Stanford seminar and for private organizations. Other than that, the team has been busy recruiting new talent; roles at Giving Green are still open.
Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can is approaching 8,000 members and had 694 new pledges from Dec 1 2021 to Jan 15 2022 which marked a successful year end and a bright start to the new year.
There has been some favourable coverage of Giving What We Can in the media, from The Guardian “New year’s resolutions: ‘I’m going to give away 10% of my income’” to Making Sense with Sam Harris “#271 - Earning to Give” which features FTX founder and Giving What We Can member, Sam Bankman-Fried.
Research and Content Associate Julian Hazell made a convincing argument as to “Why we're in the best position to do good in history”.
The Giving What We Can team has gotten together to discuss strategy for the coming years, and are looking forward to sharing an update in the near future.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI Research Associate Andrea Owe has a new publication titled Greening the Universe: The case for ecocentric space expansion. The paper calls for the near-term goal of avoiding global catastrophe as a prelude to the long-term goal of cultivating an ecologically flourishing cosmos, a “universe of weird and beautiful Earths”.
Inspired by Owe’s paper which presents distinct views about global catastrophic risk, GCRI believes it is important to consider a variety of perspectives on global catastrophic risk in order to better understand the topic and how to address it. GCRI elaborates upon this point in the new GCRI Statement on Pluralism in the Field of Global Catastrophic Risk.
Happier Lives Institute
HLI opened applications for their Summer Research Fellowship. The fellowship is full-time (35 hours a week) and runs for seven weeks from 11 July to 25 August (special accommodations can be requested). Fellows will be paid for their time, up to a maximum of $3,500 for the full seven weeks. To apply, please submit your CV and write 1-3 paragraphs about why you are a good fit for the fellowship. The deadline for applications is Sunday, 20 March.
HLI also published a report on affective forecasting by 2021 fellow, Matthew Coleman, explaining the common mistakes we make when predicting the intensity and duration of our own and others’ feelings. Our error-prone intuitions have important implications because they lead us to underestimate the importance of global priorities that are difficult to mentally simulate and resistant to hedonic adaptation such as mental illness and chronic pain. In order to avoid these biases, Matt argues that researchers should use subjective measures of how people actually feel about their lives, instead of making intuitive assumptions.
HLI is planning to hire two Senior Research Analysts later this year (full details to be announced in April). One will head up their work estimating the cost-effectiveness of micro-interventions in terms of subjective wellbeing. The other will work with Michael to establish a global wellbeing grantmaking portfolio for major donors who want to spend over $10 million a year.
The Humane League
THL continued to make progress to end the worst and most widespread abuses of chickens in the retail sector, which in the U.S. accounts for more than half of chicken purchased. Thanks to THL and a coalition of groups, Meijer, one of the top 10 US grocery stores, pledged to reform its chicken supply chain.
The Open Wing Alliance won their Bakery Bash campaign, securing global commitments to end the use of battery cages from French multinational Bakery Groupe Le Duff and Focus Brands, which operates Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba Juice, and several other brands across 6,000 locations in more than 60 countries.
THL was recognized by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) as one of its Top Charities for the eighth consecutive year. Learn more about THL’s plans to scale its work in 2022, and how to help end the abuse of animals raised for food.
Legal Priorities Project
LPP is hiring Visiting Senior Research Fellows to join their team for a fixed period of 3–12 months and take on a research project inspired by legal longtermism. The Visiting Fellowship is also open to researchers who are new to longtermism and wish to learn more about its applications in law. Applications are open indefinitely. They also have three other permanent positions closing soon (March 20).
LPP also published an updated version of their paper “Protecting future generations: A global survey of legal academics”, which surveyed 516 law professors from leading universities around the English-speaking world. The results of the paper strongly suggest that law professors widely consider the protection of future generations to be an issue of utmost importance that can be addressed through legal intervention.
Momentum wrote an EA Forum update outlining Momentum’s theory of change, providing updates on its progress to date, and exploring reasons for and against working at Momentum.
They offered a warm welcome to Benji Gering, who joined the growth team as Momentum’s 9th employee. They also kicked off recruiting for a new product manager to work closely with the founders designing and building out new software features.
Momentum also completed a minimum-viable version of a new content-management system which allows nonpofits to design and edit donation pages independently. They are currently testing and rolling out this ‘self-serve’ donation page system and will launch this system in the coming weeks, allowing any nonprofit to create a free donation page in minutes.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
MIRI has released a series of informal, largely unedited chat logs of AI safety conversations between some researchers from MIRI, the Future of Humanity Institute, DeepMind, OpenAI, Open Philanthropy, and the Alignment Research Center, among others. The discussion so far is available in both text and audio form. MIRI has also announced a $1.2 million bounty for help with building a large fiction dataset for AI safety research.
One for the World
One for the World released the first in a series of posts with Giving What We Can about effective giving and why/how the community should promote it. The organisation also ran virtual training seminars for students in Australia, the UK, Canada and the US, to help them run outreach and advocate on their campuses.
Rethink Priorities (RP) has welcomed several new permanent staff members as well as research fellows to their Longtermism and Operations Departments.
New Longtermism Department Staff:
- Renan Araújo - Associate Researcher on the General Longtermism Team.
- Ben Snodin - Senior Researcher on the General Longtermism Team.
- Ashwin Acharya - Researcher on the AI Governance and Strategy Team.
- Max Räuker - Research Fellow on the General Longtermism Team.
New Operations Department Staff:
- Rachel Norman - Communications Coordinator on the Development and Communications Team.
Rethink Priorities is now accepting expressions of interest for their 2022 Fellowships and general employment applications. More information about working at RP and future openings will be posted on their Career Opportunities website.
In the last 6 months, Suvita have significantly expanded their programmes to increase access to childhood immunisations in India. They launched SMS reminders in their first district in Maharashtra state and a second district in Bihar state, as well as launching immunisation ambassadors in Maharashtra and continuing to scale the programme in Bihar. For more details, Suvita recently published their first newsletter, which includes a link to Key Milestones from their first two years.