Crossposted from Twitter

As the year comes to an end, we want to highlight some of the incredible work done and supported by people in the effective altruism community — work that's helping people and animals all over the world.

1/ The team at Charity Entrepreneurship incubated five new charities this year, including the Center for Effective Aid Policy and Vida Plena — the first CE-incubated organisation to operate in Latin America. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/isggu3woGwkpYzqwW/presenting-2022-incubated-charities-charity-entrepreneurship

2/ Over 1,400 new people signed the Giving What We Can Pledge, committing to giving away 10% or more of their annual income to effective charities. The total number of pledgers is now over 8,000! https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/about-us/members

3/ The work of The Humane League and other animal welfare activists led 161 new organisations to commit to using cage-free products, helping free millions of chickens from cruel battery cages. https://chickenwatch.org/progress-tracker?filterK=Cage-free

4/ Open Philanthropy launched two new focus areas: South Asian Air Quality and Global Aid Policy. It's already made grants that aim to tackle pollution and increase the quality or quantity of foreign aid.
https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-aid-policy/ and https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/south-asian-air-quality/ 

5/ Alvea, a new biotechnology company dedicated to fighting pandemics, launched and announced that it had already started animal studies for a shelf-stable COVID vaccine. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/alvea-launches-scalable-shelf--stable-dna-vaccine-development-against-new-sars-cov-2-variants-301483557.html

6/ Almost 80,000 connections were made at events hosted by @CentreforEA's Events team, prompting people to change jobs, start new projects and explore new ideas. EAGx conferences were held around the world — including in Berlin, Australia and Singapore. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/DajpFcaMrHv4fPLTy/cea-s-work-in-2022#Events

7/ The EU Commission said it will "put forward a proposal to end the ‘disturbing’ systematic practice of killing male chicks across the EU" — another huge win for animal welfare campaigners. https://www.eurogroupforanimals.org/news/victory-chicks-eu-commission-propose-end-male-chick-culling

8/ What We Owe The Future, a book by @willmacaskill arguing that we can — and should — help build a better world for future generations, became a bestseller in both the US and UK. https://whatweowethefuture.com

9/ New evidence prompted @GiveWell to re-evaluate its views on water quality interventions. It then made a grant of up to $64.7 million for @EvidenceAction's Dispensers for Safe Water water chlorination program, which operates in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. https://blog.givewell.org/2022/04/06/water-quality-overview/

10/ Lots of members of the effective altruism community were featured on @voxdotcom's inaugural Future Perfect 50 list of the people building a better future. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/23399287/future-perfect-50-change-agents

11/ Fish welfare was discussed in the UK Parliament for the first time ever, featuring contributions from effective-altruism-backed charities. https://animalequality.org/news/historic-uk-parliament-discusses-the-suffering-of-farmed-fish/

12/ Researchers at @iGEM published a paper looking at how we might be able to better detect whether states are complying with the Biological Weapons Convention — work which could help improve biosecurity around the world. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4213018

13/ New research from the Lead Exposure Elimination Project showed the dangerous levels of lead in paint in Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone. In response, governments in both countries are working with LEEP to try to tackle the problem and reduce lead exposure.
https://leadelimination.org/paint-study-results-sierra-leone/ and https://leadelimination.org/new-study-zimbabwe-botswana/ 

14/ The EA Forum criticism contest sparked a bunch of interesting and technical debate. One entry prompted GiveWell to re-assess their estimates of the cost-effectiveness of deworming, and inspired a second contest of its own!
https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/NFhELFno7ScuCxXMY/the-winners-of-the-change-our-mind-contest-and-some#Prize_for_inspiring_the_Change_Our_Mind_Contest____20_000 

15/ The welfare of crabs, lobsters and prawns was recognised in UK legislation thanks to the new Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill https://www.crustaceancompassion.org/single-post/great-news-what-next

16/ Rethink Priorities, meanwhile, embarked on their ambitious Moral Weight Project to provide a better way to compare the interests of different species. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hxtwzcsz8hQfGyZQM/an-introduction-to-the-moral-weight-project

17/ At the @medialab, the Nucleic Acid Observatory project launched — working to develop systems that will help provide an early-warning system for new biological threats. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/gLPEAFicFBW8BKCnr/announcing-the-nucleic-acid-observatory-project-for-early

18/ Longview Philanthropy and @givingwhatwecan launched the Longtermism Fund, a new fund supporting work on reducing existential risks. It's already supporting important work in AI safety, biosecurity and nuclear security. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/KKoDGiSkfsnco8iQf/longtermism-fund-december-2022-grants-report

19/ In general it's been an exciting year for the AI alignment community. As researcher John Wentworth puts it, there's been "gradual convergence toward a technical alignment paradigm". https://www.alignmentforum.org/posts/BzYmJYECAc3xyCTt6/the-plan-2022-update

20/ A new survey from @KatjaGrace showed that 48% of AI experts think there's a 10% or greater chance of advanced AI leading to an "extremely bad" outcome — helping to outline the importance of the problem and the need to do more work here. https://aiimpacts.org/what-do-ml-researchers-think-about-ai-in-2022/

21/ And researchers at @AnthropicAI developed a new technique for training less harmful AI assistants. https://twitter.com/AnthropicAI/status/1603791161419698181 

This is just a small fraction of the incredible work done and supported by the effective altruism community this year. A full thread would be hundreds, if not thousands, of tweets long! And we're very excited to see all the work that the community does in 2023.

If you want to learn more or get involved:

And have a very happy new year!

Thank you to posts from ElliotJDavies and Lewis Bollard which we used to help compile this list. And thanks to Emma Richter, Lizka Vaintrob, Ollie Base, Angelina Li and many others for helping with the research process and contributing ideas.

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14 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:03 AM

Charity Navigator’s opening to EA is another big gain. Hoping for some posts on it soon.

I think this post is really useful — more people should probably see it — and I'm curating it (although it's not the sort of thing I usually curate).

To quote the Celebrations and gratitude thread from September: 

We often have high standards in effective altruism. This seems absolutely right: our work matters, so we must constantly strive to do better.

But we think that it's really important that the effective altruism community celebrate successes:

  • If we focus too much on failures, we incentivize others/ourselves to minimize the risk of failure, and we will probably be too risk averse.
  • We're humans: we're more motivated if we celebrate things that have gone well


Thanks for all your work, everyone. 

[Disclaimer: Shakeel and I are at CEA, and I'm affiliated with a couple of the projects listed.]

I suspect some of the advocates involved in the animal welfare victories listed here might be taken aback to see them listed as "in EA". The movements for animal rights and animal welfare long predate effective altruism. What makes these things "in EA"?

My guess (without looking at specific examples) is started by people within the EA community, or those that reference EA in their explanations for what they do, or that started the project through EA funding sources (less certain about this one, starting through EA funding is probably more likely to be EA, but there are organisations that get EA funding that are not considered EA).

Those all seem like reasonable criteria! Again focusing on the animal welfare examples, my guess is that several of them wouldn't meet any of those criteria, though it would depend on how loosely several things are defined.

The animal welfare items were: 

  • The work of The Humane League and other animal welfare activists led 161 new organisations to commit to using cage-free products, helping free millions of chickens from cruel battery cages.
  • The EU Commission said it will "put forward a proposal to end the ‘disturbing’ systematic practice of killing male chicks across the EU" — another huge win for animal welfare campaigners.
  • Fish welfare was discussed in the UK Parliament for the first time ever, featuring contributions from effective-altruism-backed charities.
  • The welfare of crabs, lobsters and prawns was recognised in UK legislation thanks to the new Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill
  • Rethink Priorities, meanwhile, embarked on their ambitious Moral Weight Project to provide a better way to compare the interests of different species.

Of these, it seems like the first, third, and fifth items have clear EA links, but the second and fourth are less clear. I'd be interested to hear if there were EA-linked orgs significantly involved in advocacy around either the UK animal sentience legislation or the EU commission male chick culling ban proposal.

I'm a "long time" "animal welfare" "EA" and I'm confused by Jamie's thread here.

I agree that I think it's possible to co-opt and take credit, and this is bad.

I'm not sure this has happened here. I don't understand Jamie's purpose. I'm worried his comment is unnecessarily disagreeable.

It's good to have good people (EA) do good work on animal welfare. It's great if this list draws attention to work that we think EAs should support.

Yeah, no particular purpose other than to 

(1) reduce the chance that effective altruism does end up co-opting and/or incorrectly taking credit. (I don't expect that Shakeel was intentionally trying to do this.)

(2) Lower priority, but I was intrigued about how the phrase "in EA" was being used more generally. Context: I think that what gets counted as "EA" or not often rests a lot on self-identification, which I don't see as a particularly important or useful consideration. I'm more interested in whether projects seem cost-effective (in expectation), or at least whether people seem to be actually be putting the 'core principles' of EA to good use. (Here's CEA's list on that.) I suspect what's going on here though is more about whether the projects have been Open Phil funded.

Great list! Thank you for compiling this.

Re: #5, I'd be interested in hearing more from the Alvea team about what ultimately transpired with the "animal studies," which were controversial the last time I saw them come up on the Forum.

Thanks, I wasn't aware of some of these outside my cause areas/focus/scope of concern. Very nice to see others succeeding/progressing!

Given how much things are going on in EA these days (I can't keep up even with the forum) might be good to have this as a quarterly thread/post and maybe invite others to celebrate their successes in the comments.

The biggest development IMO is the researcher engagement with GiveWell, particularly involving quantifying uncertainty (as well as modelling transparency and quality control).

Minor quibble, but this should be titled 'New Good things that happened in EA this year'.

There's already loads of existing good things happening, that shouldn't get forgotten about. I don't have the numbers, but I'd like to know- how many nets did AMF distribute? How many times did animal charities expose abuse and take companies to court to protect existing laws?

I know this stuff is happening, and it's great and we should hear more about existing, ongoing good work

I was also really excited about OpenPhil's Cause Exploration Prize. Not as much the results as the entries themselves. So many new opportunities for us to make the world better!

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