These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
This month, 80,000 Hours put out their list of policy and research ideas to reduce existential risk from Dr. Toby Ord’s book The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity.
They also released three podcasts and another “anonymous answers” piece:
- Tara Kirk Sell on COVID-19 misinformation, who has done well and badly, and what we should reopen first
- Michelle Hutchinson on what people most often ask 80,000 Hours
- Dr. Greg Lewis on COVID-19 and reducing global catastrophic biological risks
- Anonymous answers: How should the effective altruism community think about diversity?
Finally, their CEO, Ben Todd, addressed the question “What programmes will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community?”
Following discussions with Anima International, Danpo, the largest poultry producer in Denmark, made the decision to phase out a notorious fast-growing chicken breed by late 2021. This will affect 50 million birds a year, and will make Danpo the largest producer of slow-growing chicken breeds in Northern Europe.
Meanwhile, a new campaign against live animal markets was rolled out in several countries. The campaign has already collected more than 40,000 signatures and generated press attention across Europe.
Kirsty Henderson became Anima International's new acting CEO, following Dobrosława Gogłoza's departure. Kirsty has been on the AI board since the beginning and was chosen unanimously by her fellow board members to take on the role.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators published their 2020 prospective goals and announced some updates to their charity quiz. They also launched ACE Community Chat, a virtual opportunity to connect and discuss what’s going on at ACE and in the effective animal advocacy movement more broadly.
Animal Ethics has published Introduction to wild animal suffering: A guide to the issues. The text is a companion to their online course on wild animal suffering. It is meant to acquaint readers with basic ideas about what wild animal suffering is, why it matters, what is currently being done about it, and what more can be done. They have also been uploading a series of video courses to YouTube (seven so far, with another twenty-two on the way).
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
BERI is expanding their offerings to provide free services to a wider set of university-affiliated groups and projects, and is now accepting applications from groups and individuals interested in receiving their support. Applications are due by 30 June.
If you are a member of a research group (or an individual researcher) working on longtermist projects, BERI encourages you to apply. If you know anyone who might be interested, please share this with them!
For more information on what BERI does for their collaborators, see their FAQ.
Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA released a review of their work in 2019 and an update on their plans for 2020. They also overhauled their Mistakes page, which provides context on ways their work has fallen short over the years (and the steps they’ve taken to improve).
They also opened applications for EAGxVirtual, which may become the largest EA event of all time. Apply by 11:59 GMT on 11 June.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
Professor Anca Dragan was featured on the podcast “Artificial Intelligence” with Lex Fridman. In the episode, they discuss human-robot interaction during semi-autonomous driving and reward engineering.
PhD student Rohin Shah spoke on the Machine Ethics podcast about AI topics such as alignment problems, future AI, and recommendation algorithms and extremism. Rohin also returned as a guest to the Future of Life’s AI Alignment podcast to discuss (with Buck Shlegeris) the state of current research efforts for beneficial AI.
Professor Stuart Russell and Caroline Jeanmaire, Director of Strategic Research and Partnerships, organized an inaugural virtual workshop in collaboration with the Global AI Council at the World Economic Forum. The workshop series, titled “AI Economic Futures,” will bring together AI specialists, economists, and science fiction authors to facilitate the development of AI policy recommendations that could lead to future economic prosperity. The initiative is funded with a grant from Open Philanthropy.
Center on Long-Term Risk
The Effective Altruism Foundation/Foundational Research Institute (EAF/FRI) became the Center on Long-Term Risk to better represent their mission and activities. They also ran a search for permanent researchers and summer research fellows. David Althaus, one of their researchers, co-authored the report “Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors” on the EA Forum.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER led three major new publications: “Informing management of lockdowns and a phased return to normality: a solution scan of non-pharmaceutical options to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” “Toward trustworthy AI: Mechanisms for supporting verifiable claims,” and “Embrace experimentation in biosecurity governance.”
Media coverage: Haydn Belfield wrote for the Daily Mirror on the U.K.’s digital response to the pandemic. Catherine Rhodes was interviewed by Politico and the BBC World Service. Asaf Tzachor’s paper on “future foods” was covered by the BBC: “The green sludge that could transform our diets.”
With their Incubation Program starting soon, Charity Entrepreneurship has room for more funding. Help them start more effective charities by donating here. You can also use that link to support CE’s incubatees . Fish Welfare Initiative is currently looking for $20,000 in funding to see them through August; you can learn more about FWI’s work on their blog.
In case you missed it, check out CE’s blog for a recent update on Suvita and Charity Science Health. The two organizations are teaming up to fight COVID-19 in India through community outreach and mobilization. Donate from CE’s page, or directly on Suvita’s website.
In addition to their recent poll on public understanding of COVID-19, Faunalytics published a new blog post which examines myths and facts surrounding animals and COVID-19, discusses the shutdown's impact on animals, and highlights recent studies on changes in meat and plant-based meat sales. As advocates adjust their strategies, Faunalytics would like to invite anyone with questions about research to visit their virtual office hours for personal assistance.
They are currently soliciting feedback via their Community Survey. The survey is one component of their impact measurement process and is used to assess each aspect of their work, shape their priorities, and evaluate their effectiveness.
Faunalytics also added several external study summaries to their library on topics including the global footprint of fish consumption, layer hen welfare, and how we can use media to communicate more effectively about meat-eating and climate change.
Future of Humanity Institute
The Centre for the Governance of AI team wrote a piece for the Monkey Cage in The Washington Post that looks at the privacy trade-offs with contact-tracing apps for epidemics such as COVID-19.
FHI researchers collaborated with many other organizations to launch a new report and website, “Toward Trustworthy AI,” which argues for mechanisms that make it easier to verify claims made about AI systems.
“In order for AI developers to earn trust from users, civil society, governments, and other stakeholders, there is a need to move beyond principles to a focus on mechanisms for demonstrating responsible behavior. Making and assessing verifiable claims, to which developers can be held accountable, is one step in this direction.”
Future of Life Institute
The Future of Life Institute published a new resource on COVID-19 and catastrophic risk. It features expert opinions on what the pandemic can teach us about preparing for the future and more. They also released two new podcasts: one on superforecasting with Robert de Neufville and one on the current technical AI alignment landscape with Buck Shlegeris and Rohin Shah.
GiveWell is hiring researchers and content editors.
- Granted a total of $450,000 to support coronavirus-response projects.
- Highlighted the importance of collecting baseline data and providing flexible funding through a story about GiveWell top charity Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program.
- Wrote about GiveWell top charity Against Malaria Foundation's support of research into a new type of insecticide-treated net that may be more effective at reducing malaria cases than standard nets.
NPR’s Planet Money interviewed GiveWell Senior Research Analyst James Snowden about GiveWell’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and how donors can optimize their giving.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI is pleased to announce that McKenna Fitzgerald will be GCRI's new Project Manager and Research Assistant. Before joining GCRI, Ms. Fitzgerald worked as Director of Academic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco.
GCRI Special Advisor for Government Affairs Jared Brown has an essay in War on the Rocks about the U.S.’s failure to plan to use the Defense Production Act to address catastrophes like the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Before joining GCRI, Mr. Brown worked for the Congressional Research Service and was one of the original authors of its primary report on the Defense Production Act.
The Good Food Institute
- GFI and their global affiliates hosted or spoke at more than twenty webinars related to alternative proteins this month.
- The GFI Policy Team celebrated the Governor of Virginia’s veto of a label censorship bill, which GFI had actively opposed on First Amendment grounds.
- GFI secured the sign-on of 36 nonprofit organizations, companies, investment firms, and university centers (including Unilever, Merck, Greenleaf, and Impossible Foods) to their letter to the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting $20 million in FY21 to advance groundbreaking and foundational research for plant-based proteins and cultivated meat.
The Humane League
The Humane League (THL) continues to invest in global efforts to reduce the suffering of chickens. Last month, THL Japan secured a cage-free commitment from Eat Natural, a distributor supplying eggs to restaurants and hotels throughout Japan.
The Open Wing Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 groups organized by THL, continues to drive progress for animals around the world. In the last month:
- Eight major companies announced new cage-free commitments, including policies in Chile, Colombia, Panama, Lithuania, Sweden, Japan, and Thailand.
- Six companies announced new broiler commitments in France, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.
- Four companies announced that they have fulfilled their cage-free commitments, including major retailers and manufacturers.
In response to COVID-19, THL is temporarily shifting their focus away from restaurants and toward chicken industry producers like Tyson. Their new campaign initiative aims to pressure major chicken producers to adopt higher welfare standards for chickens raised for meat, and stands in solidarity with slaughterhouse workers demanding basic workplace protections. Thanks to daily breaking news about the meat industry’s abuse of workers and culling of millions of animals, and the risks it poses to public health, producers are uniquely vulnerable to pressure right now. To support THL’s new campaign initiative, sign this petition demanding that Tyson stop neglecting public health and animal welfare.
Happier Lives Institute
Happier Lives Institute published an update on their research plans on the EA Forum. While they continue to be interested in mental health, they do not see themselves as “the EA mental health org.” HLI is conducting global priorities research using self-reported happiness and life satisfaction data to improve the world’s ability to measure what matters.
HLI has begun work on a systematic review of the impact of cash transfers on well-being. This will provide empirical evidence to inform policy, implementation, and research. They have registered a protocol describing their methodology and expect to publish their findings within the next three months.
Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
· Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh contributed a chapter to the Shanghai Institute of Science for Science’s report “AI Governance in 2019 — a Year in Review: Observations from 50 Global Experts.”
The Life You Can Save
The Life You Can Save continues to support their featured nonprofits, including their responses to COVID-19. Notably, they have launched a COVID-19 appeal. Donations to this appeal will be divided among Development Media International, D-Rev, Evidence Action, GiveDirectly, Living Goods, Population Services International, and Project Healthy Children. You can donate here.
The Giving Games Project published their 2020 Impact Report, which contains evidence of their impact and potential to scale. Anyone wishing to run a virtual Giving Game should contact Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $1.8M to Harvard University to support COVID-19 serological testing, $1M to UC Berkeley to support research on asymptomatic carriage and seroprevalence of COVID-19, and $627K to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to support COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
Rethink Priorities has hired Abraham Rowe, the former Executive Director of Wild Animal Initiative and Utility Farm, as their new Director of Operations.
Women and Non-Binary Altruism Mentorship
WANBAM has incorporated as a nonprofit with the mission of “connecting and supporting a global network of women and non-binary Effective Altruists.” They are delighted to annouce their Board of Directors: Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn, Habiba Islam, Catherine Low, Sky Mayhew, and Karolina Sarek. They are additionally running “Women in Effective Altruism,” a fireside chat seminar series with women from diverse high-impact career paths, in collaboration with One For The World and the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA). As of 7 May, they opened their mentee application round, which will remain open until 5 June. More information on each of these can be found on WANBAM’s Facebook page and website.
Add your own update
If your organization isn't represented on this list, you're welcome to provide an update in a comment.
You can also email me if you'd like to be included on the list of organizations I ask for updates each month; I can then add any updates you submit to future posts. (I may not accept all such requests; whether I include an org depends on its size, age, focus, track record, etc.)