These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
This month, Arden Koehler spoke to Owen Cotton-Barratt about the Research Scholars Programme, epistemic systems, and layers of defense against potential global catastrophes.
The team also re-released two episodes from early 2020 that were overshadowed by COVID-19 and received less attention than they normally would have:
- Michelle Hutchinson on what people most often ask 80,000 Hours
- Phil Trammell on patient philanthropy and waiting to do good
Finally, two team members released posts on the EA Forum:
- “Critical summary of Meacham’s ‘Person-Affecting Views and Saturating Counterpart Relations’, by Arden
- “10 Habits I recommend (2020)”, by Michelle
Otwarte Klatki (Poland) published a report about phasing out live carps from sales by retailer chains in Poland. It is a part of the organization’s campaign to ban selling live carps in Poland.
An Anima International representative participated in a debate with members of the European Parliament called “Fur Farming in Europe: Addressing Animal Welfare & Public Health Concerns.” The event brought together politicians, policymakers, and experts on animal welfare and veterinary epidemiology to discuss fur farming issues.
Открытые клетки (Anima International’s Russia-based organization) published their first petition for a cage-free campaign.
Otwarte Klatki and SOKO Tierschutz published shocking footage from mink gassing on a Polish farm. This video is one of many publications from 2020 raising awareness of cruelty in the Polish fur industry.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) recently developed and publicly shared their first standardized wage formula, describing the factors they included and the reasoning behind them. They also summarized the organizational improvements they made over the past year.
ACE is currently working on their next strategic plan and setting 2021 goals. They will publish their 2020 Year in Review in the next few months.
Animal Ethics published an account of their work in 2020. It details their educational work on wild animal advocacy, their progress in promoting the study of wild animal suffering in academia, and their educational work on the moral consideration of animals internationally.
They also published a study examining how existing data about wild animals admitted to rescue centers and animal sanctuaries in Greece provides insight into natural harms affecting wild animals. The study also increases our understanding of how some natural harms may interact with anthropogenic harms, and suggests future research regarding animal suffering in the wild.
Aquatic Life Institute
The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) launched six stakeholder coalitions in 2020 that are working to elevate aquatic welfare. Aquatic Animal Alliance (AAA) grew their ranks to over 15 global nonprofits across six continents and published a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive guide to welfare for wild and farmed aquatic animals. AAA is currently providing feedback to product certifiers and government agencies. Organizations interested in joining AAA may apply here.
ALI is currently seeking a Managing Director. Prospective applicants can learn more here.
ALI's Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) online events will continue this year. Those interested in staying in the loop can sign up for the EAA events mailing list and contact Rocky Schwartz at email@example.com if interested in presenting.
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
BERI’s first public fundraiser was a success, raising over $60,000 to support new collaborations in 2021. More info is available here. They also received a $247,000 grant at the recommendation of Jaan Tallinn, in support of their machine learning research engineer program at the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (CHAI).
The Cellular Agriculture Society
CAS published an update on how they will be directing their core programming towards video production for cellular agriculture.
Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA announced that two of their projects — Giving What We Can and EA Funds — have begun to operate as independent organizations.
They also released an update on their progress in the fourth quarter of 2020, a post summarizing their new organizational strategy, and a guide to areas of community building they’ve chosen not to work on.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
Congratulations to Caroline Jeanmaire, Director of Strategic Research and Partnerships at CHAI, who has been recognized as one of 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics in 2021. The list is published annually by Women in AI Ethics, which has the mission to make AI more diverse and accessible, in part by recognizing rising stars in the field.
CHAI would like to thank Mr. Ben Hoskin for his generous donation of $20,000. His support enables our mission to reorient AI research towards provably beneficial systems.
In December 2020, CHAI PhD candidate Daniel Filan launched the AI X-risk Research Podcast (AXRP). In each episode, Daniel interviews the author of a paper and discusses how its ideas might help us to reduce existential risk from powerful AI. The first three episodes feature CHAI researchers Andrew Critch, Rohin Shah, and Adam Gleave.
Thomas Krendl Gilbert co-authored “AI Development for the Public Interest: From Abstraction Traps to Sociotechnical Risks,” published for the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2020.
Rohin Shah published his PhD dissertation, “Extracting and Using Preference Information from the State of the World.” Congratulations to Rohin, who is now working as a research scientist on the technical AGI safety team at DeepMind.
On 17 December, CHAI hosted the third Positive AI Economic Futures Workshop in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the XPRIZE Foundation. More than 100 participants met virtually to plan scenarios of a future economy and society transformed by AI. The workshop brought together AI experts, science fiction authors, economists, policymakers, and social scientists.
Center on Long-Term Risk
Researchers from the Center on Long-Term Risk published three posts last month:
- Anni Leskelä: “Commitment and credibility in multipolar AI scenarios”
- Daniel Kokotajlo: “Against GDP as a metric for timelines and takeoff speeds”
- David Althaus and Daniel Kokotajlo: “Incentivizing forecasting via social media”
The second round of applications to Charity Entrepreneurship’s 2021 Incubation Program will be held from 15 March to 15 April.
The program will be held online from 28 June to 27 August 2021. CE is specifically seeking candidates who could start charities working on animal welfare (shrimp welfare and feed fortification), alcohol regulation, family planning, and EA meta. In their recent EA forum post, CE explained this year’s focus on EA meta and their top three charity recommendations in this area.
In 2021, CE is focused on developing the ecosystem for charity entrepreneurs. If you can recommend organizations for potential partnerships on e.g. startup grants or research, always feel free to reach out.
Faunalytics published their 2020 Year In Review and outlined their 2021 Plans and Priorities. In 2021, they will set their next research agenda, and invite advocates who would like to participate in their study selection process to learn more here. Advocates interested in conducting their own research won’t want to miss the Reducetarian Foundation’s latest podcast episode: How To Conduct Effective Research with Faunalytics’ Jo Anderson.
Additionally, Faunalytics is hiring! Faunalytics’ Research Scientists work closely with the Research Director on their original research program, which includes conducting research, presenting research to the public, and providing direct support to advocates. View the full job description and learn how to apply here.
Fish Welfare Initiative
Fish Welfare Initiative has initiated their communication with farmer-supporting organizations in India, and believes that they are close to securing their first commitment. In the meantime, they continue to survey local farming conditions.
FWI is also currently hiring for the following:
- Program Coordinator (India). This position would be a great fit for an early- or mid-career person involved with EA.
- Fish Welfare Expert (India). We’re primarily looking for someone with aquaculture, veterinary, or other similar experience.
- Generalist Intern (Asia). This position would be a great fit for an early-career person involved with EA.
Lastly, FWI was honored to be included on Giving What We Can’s top recommended individual charities for 2021.
Future of Humanity Institute
In December, Greg Lewis and Cassidy Nelson from the Biosecurity Research Group, along with Allan Dafoe from GovAI, published “The biosecurity benefits of genetic engineering attribution” in Nature Communications.
Jan Brauner (DPhil Scholar) and Mrinank Sharma (DPhil Affiliate) published “Inferring the effectiveness of government interventions against COVID-19” in Science. The paper currently has one of the highest attention scores (measured by Altmetric) of all Science publications.
Allan Dafoe and Ben Garfinkel co-authored “Beyond Privacy Trade-offs with Structured Transparency.” Allan also co-authored “Open Problems in Cooperative AI.”
“Pitfalls of learning a reward function online,” co-authored by Stuart Armstrong, has been accepted to the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence.
Thank you very much to GiveWell’s supporters in the effective altruism community for a great end-of-year giving season!
GiveWell produced a short video explaining their work — please check it out and share if you like.
GiveWell is currently seeking researchers to identify, analyze, and compare the giving opportunities that can most cost-effectively save or improve the lives of the global poor:
- Senior Research Associate: You have more than six years of relevant work or educational experience, often including a master's degree or PhD.
- Senior Researcher: You have over a decade of relevant work experience, often involving both a PhD and a few years of work experience, or a master's degree and many years of work experience.
GiveWell is also seeking a Philanthropy Advisor to build long-term relationships with GiveWell supporters.
Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can now operates independently of the Centre for Effective Altruism (with ongoing operational support). 2020 was the biggest year on record for new pledges; GWWC’s members have now pledged over $2 billion and donated over $200 million.
Toby Ord was featured in a Vox article about Giving What We Can. GWWC was featured in a number of podcasts including “Making Sense,” “Your World, Your Money,” “Hear This Idea,” and “The Odin Podcast.”
The Good Food Institute
- GFI Israel and Aleph Farms organized an event for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first head of state to taste cultivated meat. Netanyahu declared that we need to “Give people the choice, the freedom to choose ... I think Israel needs to be a leader in this direction.” He committed to appointing an alternative proteins czar to coordinate the government’s commitment across all relevant agencies.
- Singapore became the first government to grant regulatory approval for cultivated meat, which allowed Eat Just to make history as the first cultivated meat company to serve restaurant-goers. GFI has been working for years with Singapore on both the scientific and regulatory fronts, and was delighted to have been invited to offer a global perspective on both of these firsts for cultivated meat.
The Humane League
After a relentless campaign by the Open Wing Alliance, THL secured a global cage-free commitment from Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the parent company of Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Hortons. This far-reaching commitment, the first from a major restaurant group, will cover 25,000 restaurant locations in more than 100 countries, including China and several countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Thanks to pressure from The Humane League and their coalition partners, Whole Foods became the first major US retailer to adopt chicken welfare standards in alignment with the Better Chicken Commitment. THL UK also secured Better Chicken Commitments from three companies. They include the Jan Zandbergen Group, the European Union’s largest meat company, impacting 180 million chickens.
Jacob Peacock, Director of THL Labs, gave a virtual presentation, “Reducing Meat Consumption: Strategies, Evidence, Outlooks.” The recording is available for viewing.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $2.2M to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology to support research on malaria prevention, $890K to the MIT Media Lab to support research on methods for securely screening DNA synthesis orders, $600K to 1Day Sooner for general support, and $500K to the Centre for Effective Altruism to support a longtermist incubator.
They also announced their allocation of $100M to GiveWell top charities, published a set of suggestions for individual donors from Open Philanthropy staff, and summarized their AI governance grantmaking so far.
Ought is working on building Elicit, a tool to automate and scale open-ended reasoning about the future. They are adding GPT-3 based research assistant features to help forecasters with early steps in their workflows. If you’re interested in becoming a beta tester, please see more information here.
Over the last month, Derek Foster published the second and third parts of his review of measurements of subjective wellbeing. Rethink Priorities also welcomed new staff: Distinguished Researcher Dr. David Reinstein, and Operations and Development Associate Dr. Dominika Krupocin.
Wild Animal Initiative
Wild Animal Initiative submitted a comment requesting that the EPA revise their environmental risk assessment of the avian pesticide Avitrol to account for the threat it poses to wild animal welfare.
WAI researchers designed a field experiment to test the welfare effects of a commercially available pigeon contraceptive, and they are currently seeking funding to launch it.
Staff Researcher Jane Capozzelli wrote about using biotelemetry to study wild animal welfare. Deputy Director Cameron Meyer Shorb explained how WAI defines welfare, which is central to their mission to understand and improve the lives of wild animals.
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