Introducing Canada’s first political advocacy group on AI Safety and Technological Unemployment

by LKor 31st Oct 201713 comments


[Note: I'm posting this on behalf of my friends at CHS.]



The Centre for Human success is a registered non-profit recently launched in Toronto, Canada. Our goal is to create the conditions for effective political action on technological unemployment and AI Safety. Specifically, raising awareness and advocating for solutions that can mitigate the possible displacement of human labour, and the risks inherent in the AGI arms race.

Our goal is to get out in front of the debate around AI and help frame it in as constructive a way as possible.


Why approach AI from the political angle?

As Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risks Institute wrote in this October’s newsletter:


"The best opportunities [for reducing catastrophic risk] are often a few steps removed from academic risk and policy analysis. For example, there is a large research literature on climate change policy, much of which factors in catastrophic risk. However, the United States still has little in the way of actual climate policy, which is due to our political process, not to any shortcomings in the research. Likewise, some of the best opportunities to reduce climate change risk involve engaging with the political process, often in ways that are unrelated to climate change."


What does ‘political action’ involve?

Building a movement. How? 1) By raising awareness - educating the public through events, media, citizen networks and even door-to-door canvassing; and 2) Through advocacy - petitions, letter writing campaigns, anything that can create momentum and help politicians realise there are votes to be gained by taking constructive action.


Who is behind this? It was founded by Wyatt Tessari (engineer, former political candidate and climate activist), and is currently a team of volunteers and concerned citizens. Our aim is to grow quickly and become a national (and ultimately international) reference on AI, much like is for climate.


What are our targets & how will we measure our success?


By the end of June 2018 (our first Annual General Meeting), these are our targets:


Community Building:


  • Events:

    • Create a passionate community of at least 5,000 people in Canada.

    • Hold weekly smaller events (20-50 people) and at least one major event (50-100) each month, focusing on the quality of the content

    • Expand beyond Toronto to other major cities in Canada by the end of 2018


  • Advocacy:

    • Launch a petition in early 2018 asking in the Canadian government to initiate global talks on managing AI risks, aiming for 2000+ signatures within 3 months. [Currently there has only been one AI petition in Canada (on lethal autonomous weapons), and 3 smaller ones with the biggest having <500 votes.]

    • Be active in the 2018 Ontario provincial election, host all-candidate debates, giving scorecards to Parties, and asking them to present a vision for navigating the impacts of AI & technological unemployment

    • Gain local and national media attention


  • Stay on top of latest policy recommendations (AI Safety and technological unemployment) and share findings on our blog & newsletter

  • Put together a report & event comparing global approaches to these issues

  • Prepare educational materials (infographics, flyers, press releases) for the general public

  • Create an online tool to help people navigate the ongoing job market disruption



  • Amount ($CAD):

    • Raise $15k by February 1st. [We currently consist of one full-time volunteer staff and six part time volunteers, and have run over a dozen events in the last 3 months spending only $700. Our primary goal to hire at least one full time staff for overseeing operations by early 2018]

    • Raise $75k by June 30, 2018 to grow the operation with two full time staff

  • Sources:

    • Individuals as well as members within the community

    • Organisations/grants that won’t affect our mission. EA has a number of promising avenues like the GiveWell Incubation Grant and OpenPhil, which we are exploring.

What’s next?

November-December (set up & consultations):

  • Administration - Incorporate as a non-profit, set up legal and banking processes, set up electronic tools such as NationBuilder, website

  • Fundraising: Build strategy, launch crowdfunding & other fundraising efforts

  • Team: Recruit and onboard new volunteers, train on Marshall Ganz organising techniques


  • Communications - Refine message, building media contact list, launch social media accounts

  • Outreach & consultations - Reach out to policy experts and a variety of stakeholders (government, political, NGO) to help us with the focus and strategy of advocacy efforts

  • Research - Conduct research and share our findings (blog, newsletter, media)

  • Events - Reach out to potential speakers and plan upcoming events

January-February (advocacy launch):

  • Strategy - Create an advisory board, expand and reorganise team/specialise roles, develop branding

  • Advocacy - Launch and manage the petition, begin media campaign

  • Events - Scale up events

  • Research - Continue to share our findings from our research (blog, newsletter, media)

  • Fundraising - Adapt and expand efforts as needed

March Onwards (expansion & Ontario election):

  • Prepare for the Ontario provincial election in spring 2018

  • Expand operations and community building

  • Establish/strengthen connections with all major organisations involved in AI policy

  • Secure additional funding and plan for 2018/19

What are our Strengths and Weaknesses?

We are the first and only advocacy group in Canada dedicated to AI safety and technological unemployment. As such, we are in a position to help frame them as they emerge into the political debate. With Canada as one of  the most positively viewed country in the world and Toronto as an international AI hub, our country is in an ideal position to take the lead on the world stage and host global talks and agreements.


Our main limitation right now is our small size and lack of network. For us to be taken seriously we will need to grow significantly, expand our team and build relationships with stakeholders throughout Canada and abroad. The other key challenge comes from the lack of clear policies available in the AI field - the path forward for everyone is unclear and we will need to continuously navigate uncharted waters.

What do you need from EA?

Any and all forms of support (volunteers, funds, mentorship)! Including critical feedback as to best strategies for growth and which policies you believe would be most effective to advocate for (or connecting us with an expert who could advise us).


Thanks in advance for your thoughts and feedback (positive or negative)!”


P.S. One of our team members, David Yu, will be attending EAG London. If any of you are interested in chatting more at the conference, don’t hesitate to reach out at