These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
You can also see last month's updates, or a repository of past newsletters.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Future Generations
The Future Generations Bill was recently introduced to members of Parliament and peers at a House of Lords reception. The bill is backed by the Today for Tomorrow campaign, supported by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. The campaign has been covered by The Big Issue, i news, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and The House (the official magazine of the UK Parliament).
Work by Anima International (AI) — as well as their partners in the Open Wing Alliance, in particular the Humane League and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation — contributed to the decision of Metro Group, one of the world’s largest retailers, to go fully cage-free in its supply chain by 2027. AI also convinced the largest hotel chain in Denmark (Scandic Hotels) to adopt the European Chicken Commitment, and one of the most popular restaurant chains in Estonia (Baltic Restaurants Estonia) to go cage-free.
A graphic fur farm investigation by AI (Tušti narvai in Lithuania) was covered in the Daily Mail, along with the details of our campaign to ban fur imports to the UK. AI's work was additionally covered in more than 20 publications across Europe, from the UK to Ukraine.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators recently released their 2020 Guide to Effective Giving. They also shared a roundtable discussion on how animal advocacy organizations can responsibly expand internationally. Finally, they published a systematic review on consumer acceptance of cell-cultured meat.
Animal Ethics has published a qualitative study about scientists’ attitudes towards improving the welfare of animals in the wild. In order to make progress in making wild animal suffering a more tractable and respected cause area, academic work in this field is crucial.
Early in February, they carried out several talks at different Indian universities about the moral consideration of animals and wild animal suffering. These talks were part of a series of events about this topic they started this year (and have decided to suspend as a precautionary measure due to the COVID-19 crisis).
Center for Human-Compatible AI
- The MIT Technology Review highlighted Adam Gleave in a feature on his paper “Adversarial Policies: Attacking Deep Reinforcement Learning,” coauthored with fellow CHAI members Michael Dennis, Cody Wild, Neel Kant, Sergey Levine, and Stuart Russell. Their research will be presented at the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) in April.
- The Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society (AIES) 2020 accepted a paper, “Hard Choices in Artificial Intelligence: Addressing Normative Uncertainty through Sociotechnical Commitments,” coauthored by CHAI machine ethics researcher Thomas Gilbert.
- CHAI researcher Smitha Milli and Professor Anca Dragan coauthored a paper, “Reward-rational (Implicit) Choice: A Unifying Formalism for Reward Learning.”
Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA announced that EA Global would be postponed or cancelled due to risks from COVID-19.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER researchers had four papers published at the AAAI/ACM AI, Ethics and Society Conference:
- “Activism by the AI Community: Analysing Recent Achievements and Future Prospects”
- “Beyond Near- and Long-Term: Towards a Clearer Account of Research Priorities in AI Ethics and Society”
- “Exploring AI Futures through Role Play”
- “Should Artificial Intelligence Governance Be Centralised? Six Design Lessons from History”
Researchers also published “To Divest or to Engage? A Case Study of Investor Responses to Climate Activism.”
Applications to the Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) Incubation Program 2020 are now open.
CE’s team spends thousands of hours each year researching potential charity ideas, building on large bodies of research by external organizations. They’re interested in hearing from people who want to start a high-impact charity in any of four areas: animal welfare, mental health and happiness, family planning, and health and development policy.
The program will be held from 29 June to 28 August in London; apply by 15 April. You can boost your odds of acceptance by reading through the recommended resources on CE’s website, and by examining the research they’ve done on promising interventions.
Last year, CE incubated six new charities. Read the recently published update on their progress.
Faunalytics published a new study that tested two key advocacy strategies against each other: asking for meat reduction versus meat elimination. They found that advocating for meat reduction led to more meatless meal purchases than advocating for vegetarianism, because so many more people were willing to try reduction.
They also published a case study detailing how veg orders at a single restaurant have grown over the past five years — for example, how options with and without a veg protein differ. This type of analysis, while limited in its generalizability, provides useful context about how change occurs in particular circumstances. They also summarized an external study which found that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought.
Future of Humanity Institute
Toby Ord’s new book, The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, has been published! Subscribe to Toby’s newsletter at the bottom of this page to read the first chapter online.
Toby also edited a portion of the book and published it in The Guardian, under the title “Why we need worst-case thinking to prevent the next pandemic.”
FHI is seeking research fellows for summer 2020 to pursue research aimed at improving the long-term future. Applicants with many academic backgrounds will be considered, from pre-undergraduate to postdoctoral. Participants will likely take the lead on a project, with mentorship and support from a more experienced researcher. The expected output is a research article or similar on a question relevant to the long-term future.
FHI expects to offer six to twelve fellowships. The deadline for applications is 4:00 PM GMT on 22 March.
GiveWell processed $54.1 million in donations last year — an increase of roughly 30% from 2018. This is a promising indicator of continued robust donor growth, although it is incomplete; this figure does not account for donations made directly to GiveWell's recommended charities and via partner organizations, which have historically accounted for the majority of GiveWell's money moved. These will be incorporated into a complete metrics report later this year.
Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
AI Narratives: A History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines (Oxford University Press) has been published. Assembled by editors Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, and Sarah Dillon, the book explores AI narratives from literature and mythology, and examines the potential social, ethical, political, and philosophical consequences of advancements in AI technology. Kanta was interviewed by CFI’s Dorian Peters.
The Good Food Institute
- As part of their Sustainable Seafood Initiative, GFI announced a strategic partnership with Kerafast to create a cultivated meat/seafood cell line repository. Wild Earth and IndieBio co-founder Ryan Bethencourt noted: “This new capability shifts the technological arms race to a new stage very similar to the early PC [personal computer] era.”
- With partners, GFI defeated label censorship bills in seven states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington.
- GFI released their third annual Restaurant Scorecard, which rates the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 Restaurants according to the breadth and depth of their plant-based entrees and promotion of plant-based eating.
- GFI was featured in USA Today: “If you think about it, animals can't be the only way to transform plants into meat.”
The Humane League
The Humane League (THL) continues to invest in global efforts to reduce the suffering of chickens. Last month, THL secured 17 corporate commitments to end some of the worst practices faced by chickens on factory farms:
- THL secured cage-free commitments from Minor Hotels and Club Med.
- THL Japan secured cage-free commitments from six retailers, restaurants, and farms.
- THL UK secured European Chicken Commitments from five businesses, including Papa John’s.
- Two UK businesses that had made commitments in the past reached 100% cage-free status this month, including Morrisons, one of the country’s biggest retailers.
- THL US secured four Better Chicken Commitments from businesses, including industry giant Hormel and restaurant chain White Castle (which committed due to an impending campaign from THL and a coalition of animal advocacy groups).
Last month, THL disbursed the first round of grant funding (more than $1,038,000) to 31 organizations in The Open Wing Alliance, their coalition of more than 80 member organizations united to end the abuse of chickens worldwide.
THL Labs preregistered for a study titled “Impact of Corporate Commitments to Source Cage-free Eggs on Layer Hen Housing.” The study will assess the impact of global cage-free commitments on increasing the percentage of hens living cage-free.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $4M to the Good Food Institute to support its international expansion, $2.2M to GiveWell for general operating support, and $1.6M to Ought for general support of its research on factored cognition.
Rethink Priorities published a global list of estimates of the numbers of vertebrates that are farmed or in captivity. They also published an analysis of donation data from the 2019 EA Survey.
Wild Animal Initiative
Wild Animal Initiative presented a new vision for the ecosystem services approach to conservation. They hope that redefining ecosystem services as the way nature benefits or harms both humans and wild animals will prove a more objective and comprehensive way to calculate the value of nature.
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