ALTER is an organization in Israel that works on several EA priority areas and causes. As laid out in our mid-year update, we had several things planned for the second half of 2022, and they were largely successful. Unfortunately, the past several months have been particularly challenging, in large part due to the collapse of FTX and issues with the Israeli banking system. (See coverage here on some specific impacts.) Delayed items include actually posting this update, and other planned progress - but despite that, ALTER has made progress on several fronts, and is continuing its work on several fronts.
Accomplishments and Progress
- We ran a successful AI safety conference in Israel, AISIC2022 and identified a number of people who are interested in or working on AI safety here in Israel. We are continuing to follow up with them, and will hopefully have more to announce in that vein in the near future.
- We are continuing to do academic outreach in Israel, and building our network for AI safety, biosecurity, and other cause areas.
- Vadim Weinstein,the mathematician who we hired, has been working on AI safety with Vanessa, and we are excited about potential progress. We are working on figuring out how to replace his grant from FTX with other money, but there is a strong interest in funding the work, and we are attempting to finalize those arrangements.
- David attended the Bioweapons Convention Review Conference and continued outreach around Israeli engagement in various international forums.
- The situation with banking in Israel has become much more challenging due to our receipt of a grant from FTX. We are now prohibited from receiving money from international organizations from our (current) bank, which has made getting our other grant money very challenging, and we have so far been unsuccessful. (We are likely to be able to resolve this in the coming months, and EA Israel can potentially lend us funds in the interim.)
- The grant we received from FTX is not being used, and we are trying to understand the legal situation, and what will happen with the bankruptcy. This money is being kept in a separate account, pending clarity about its status and the potential to provide restitution to those defrauded by FTX. Any resolution will likely not be for quite a long time.
- Once we receive currently granted but unreceived funds, our runway is sufficient through the end of this year, rather than the end of next year. We will be applying for additional funding over the course of the year to allow us to continue operations.
- The funding environment over the coming years is more challenging, and for that reason we are less able to support additional work, and have a smaller funding cushion. We are still investigating the different potential avenues forward for this.
We are also revisiting our strategic planning in light of the changing funding environment and our current projects.
- David will be working for ALTER as full time director of research and policy in 2023, as well as continuing to work on our direction and planning.
- We are continuing to work to build a community of people in Israel working on AI safety, including funding one researcher identified via our AI safety conference.
- We are funding a prize for work on Vanessa Kosoy’s AI Safety Learning-Theoretic Agenda
- We are building out a network of academics interested in additional EA-adjacent fields, especially focused on issues relevant to Global Catastrophic Biological Risks. (If you know of anyone in Israel who we should contact, let us know!)
- We are working on a collaborative policy project with Rona Tobolsky and several other individuals and groups to get Israel to iodize salt, since iodine deficiency in Israel is an ongoing and shockingly large problem.
- We are engaging with the Israeli government both internally on AI regulatory policy, and with the foreign ministry, related to issues in pandemic preparedness and biorisk reduction.