These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter. Organizations submit their own updates, which we edit for clarity.
You can see previous updates in our repository of past newsletters.
This month, Rob spoke with Tom Moynihan on why prior generations missed some of the biggest priorities of all, Max Roser on building the world's best source of COVID-19 data at Our World in Data, and Pardis Sabeti on the Sentinel system for detecting and stopping pandemics.
80,000 Hours is considering hiring full-time writers who have demonstrable experience writing for the public and who have a preexisting interest in and understanding of the organisation’s priorities, including longtermism and effective altruism. The announcement is a call for expressions of interest, rather than a role that has been formally opened.
- After a long dialogue with Anima in Denmark, the Salling Group is phasing out fast-growing chickens. This is part of Anima’s step-by-step approach towards the European Chicken Commitment. As the largest retail chain in the country, Salling Group has a market share of more than 35% of chicken among Danish retailers. This decision will affect some 20 million chickens.
- AI’s group in Poland, Otwarte Klatki, has published the first Polish report on the transport of live animals for economic purposes. It examines in detail the situation of farm animals transported over long and short distances.
- AI’s group in Estonia, Nähtamatud Loomad, is celebrating after the country’s parliament voted to ban fur farming following a campaign run by NL and others.
- Since the beginning of this year (and until the start of June), 333 cases of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza have been detected on poultry farms in Poland. AI published an in-depth article on the situation.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) announced their latest round of Movement Grant recipients, where they distributed over $1 million in funding across 35 projects. Additionally, ACE is running a matching campaign for their Movement Grants program — all donations through 23 July will be matched up to $300,000.
They also published Snails and bivalves: a discussion of possible edge cases for sentience, arguing that there are no conclusive reasons to deny the sentience of these animals.
Aditya SK, Animal Ethics' coordinator in India, appeared on the Sentientism podcast.
Their coordinator in Brazil, Luciano Cunha, had a book published in Portuguese addressing speciesism, the moral consideration of nonhuman animals, the situation of animals living in the wild, and ways we can help them.
Animal Advocacy Careers
Animal Advocacy Careers is a nonprofit that helps people help animals as effectively as possible. You could call them an EA meta charity.
They are seeking a part-time recruitment specialist. Details include:
- This is a remote position open to candidates globally (though you may sometimes need to be working at times convenient for American or European partners)
- $45,000–$65,000 pro rata
- Deadline: Sunday 1 August 2021
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
The Survival Flourishing Fund’s “S-process” is recommending ~$1.1MM in grants to BERI, in support of BERI’s collaborations with FHI (Future of Humanity Institute), GovAI, SERI (Stanford Existential Risks Initiative), and CSER (the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk).
BERI is launching five new trial collaborations, which you can read more about here.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) 2021 accepted the paper “PEBBLE: Feedback-Efficient Interactive Reinforcement Learning via Relabeling Experience and Unsupervised Pre-training” by Kimin Lee, Laura Smith, and Pieter Abbeel. Read more on arXiv or the paper’s website. ICML also accepted “A New Formalism, Method and Open Issues for Zero-Shot Coordination” by Johannes Treutlein, Michael Dennis, Caspar Oesterheld, and Jakob Foerster. Read more on arXiv.
Seven CHAI members are helping launch The MineRL BASALT Competition on Learning from Human Feedback at NeurIPS 2021. CHAI members involved with BASALT include Rohin Shah, Cody Wild, Steven Wang, Neel Alex, Pieter Abbeel, Stuart Russell, and Anca Dragan. Read more on arXiv or the BAIR blog.
Stuart Russell participated in Debates on the Future of Robotics Research, a virtual workshop at the International Conference on Robotics and Animation (ICRA) 2021. CHAI alum Jaime Fernández Fisac served as General Co-Chair on the organizing team. Watch recordings of the debates at roboticsdebates.org.
CHAI PhD student Daniel Filan’s podcast AXRP published two new episodes. Episode 8 features Dylan Hadfield-Menell, former CHAI student and current MIT professor, in a discussion on assistance games. Episode 9 features MIRI researcher Scott Garrabrant in a discussion on finite factored sets. Find the episodes on the AXRP website or any podcast provider.
Center on Long-Term Risk
The CLR Fund decided to make two grants. Nisa Stiennon received a grant for independent research on the question of what it means for agents to cooperate. Samuel Martin will receive a grant for independent research connecting multi-agent AI safety work to scenarios of existential catastrophe. Also, Emery Cooper replaced Lukas Gloor as a fund manager.
Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA released their Q2 update, with information on recent work on a variety of projects.
Centre for the Governance of AI
The Centre for the Governance of AI is now becoming an independent nonprofit, after having been founded in 2018 as part of the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute (FHI). They are currently in the process of setting up the organisation, forming a board, and fundraising. You will find updates on their placeholder website and through their new mailing list (see the signup form on the homepage). Markus Anderljung has also written an EA Forum post discussing the changes.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
Future Proof, a new report from CSER Research Affiliates at the Centre for Long-Term Resilience, CSER staff, and colleagues at the Future of Humanity Institute, sets out the key extreme risks we face, analyses the UK’s current level of focus on each of them, and provides recommended actions for the government to take over the next 12 months. Estimated costs of implementing these recommendations in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review are included where possible. In a linked blog post, CSER researcher and report contributor Haydn Belfield makes the case for greater government R&D spending on extreme risks.
S.J. Beard, Partha Dasgupta, and Natalie Jones co-edited a special section of the Journal of Development Studies, bringing together demographic and philosophical perspectives on population change and global challenges.
In a video of the launch of CSER’s recent report, Clarissa Rios Rojas (CSER), Max Tegmark (FLI), Ernesto Polcuch (UNESCO), and Phyllis Kalele (Academy of Science of South Africa) discuss science, policy, and global risk.
Matthijs Maas published a preprint of a book chapter to be published by Oxford University Press arguing that policy actors should complement law-centric and technology-centric approaches to AI governance with a regulatory perspective that emphasizes how, when, and why AI applications enable sociotechnical change.
As part of a project to model transformative social change and collapse, Sabin Roman has published a paper presenting a quantified framework for studying state division and unification using periods of unity and upheaval in Imperial China as a case study.
Charity Entrepreneurship is currently running their third Incubation Program. This year, the program attracted over 2,000 applicants; 30 participants representing 17 countries were accepted. This includes 21 participants in CE’s core program, six of whom will do region-specific research under CE’s mentorship, and three of whom have just started their own high-impact startups/foundations. The best projects in the areas of animal welfare, EA meta, family planning, and health policy will each be provided with seed grants up to $100,000 in September 2021. Visit CE’s website to learn more about the program.
Faunalytics released the first report from a new longitudinal study, Going Vegan or Vegetarian: Many Paths to One Goal, in which they provide solid data about how to help new vegans and vegetarians (veg*ns), as well as people transitioning to a veg*n diet, maintain that change. In this report, they found that most people transitioned gradually, and that the typical person reduced their animal product consumption by 42.1 monthly servings over the first six months of going veg. Subsequent reports from this study will focus on new veg*ns’ motivations, supports, barriers, and strategies for overcoming those barriers.
Faunalytics is accepting applications for their Communications Manager and Philanthropy Officer positions. The Communications Manager (full-time) will spearhead their advocate relations and external communications. Meanwhile, the Philanthropy Officer (part-time) will support donor development and fundraising. The application deadline for both positions is 31 July.
Faunalytics recently conducted their annual Community Survey to measure the use and impact of their work. Of over 500 advocates who provided their feedback, 92% put Faunalytics' resources to concrete use — for example, to improve advocacy materials or techniques. Close to half of respondents described their work as completely (19%) or very much (23%) part of the EA movement. Thank you to everyone in the EA community who participated in the survey!
Fish Welfare Initiative
In India, Fish Welfare Initiative is now beginning their corporate outreach work. They have so far met with two prominent Indian food service companies, both of which responded positively to incorporating animal welfare into their seafood supply chains. FWI is scaling up this demand-side work in the coming months.
On the supply side, FWI continues to progress with their Alliance of Responsible Aquaculture in Andhra Pradesh, India. Through the Alliance, FWI is currently working with farmers to make improvements in about 30 different fish farm ponds.
Future of Life Institute
FLI is hiring for a Podcast Producer! You'd play a crucial role in the development of educational content about global catastrophic and existential risk by managing the production and publication of the FLI Podcast. If this sounds up your alley, you can find more information here!
Giving What We Can
In “Can money buy happiness?” Julian Hazell and Michael Plant reviewed new data on income and happiness.
Rickey Fukazawa, Chris Broecker and Burke Libbey each shared why they took The Pledge and made the case for people to join them (sharing your effective giving story is a fantastic way to multiply your impact).
GiveWell considers malnutrition treatment to be a promising program. As part of its work to learn more about malnutrition treatment, GiveWell recommended a grant to the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) to support its program providing treatment for malnutrition and pediatric emergencies in Mirriah, Niger. GiveWell also published a research report on combined protocol community-based management of acute malnutrition.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI is still taking responses to their open call for advisees and collaborators. GCRI welcomes inquiries from people who are interested in seeking career advice and/or are interested in collaborating on projects related to global catastrophic risk. GCRI is particularly interested in inquiries related to their publications, primary topics, and current AI policy projects. Information about the advising and collaboration program and how to apply can be found here.
The Humane League
In the US, THL secured commitments from four top pizza chains to eliminate some of the worst and most widespread abuses of chickens raised for meat, including Cicis Pizza and Papa Murphy’s. In the UK, THL won new chicken welfare policies from Taco Bell and six other companies.
THL works to hold companies accountable for their cage-free commitments. In the US more than 96 million hens are now free from cages — an increase from under 10% to over 30% since THL’s work began. Globally, 85% of companies that committed to go cage-free by 2020 completed their transition, according to a report from the Open Wing Alliance (OWA).
THL UK is capitalizing on an opportunity to create legal change for fish in the UK. They conducted and released a research report on effective messaging, and will use the findings to lobby the UK government to protect fish at slaughter.
THL Labs published two new research reports: “Interventions to reduce meat consumption by appealing to animal welfare,” which was published in the journal Appetite and found that individual consumption of meat may be effectively reduced by raising awareness of the poor welfare conditions on factory farms; and “Milking It: Exploring the impact of plant-based milk in the US,” which found recent declines in dairy milk are only partially attributable to substitution with plant-based milks.
One for the World
One for the World has released provisional year-end fundraising figures for 2020-21. The organisation moved $750k to GiveWell’s recommended charities, representing 235% growth from 2019-20. A very basic estimate is that at least $487k of this is counterfactual fundraising — a more detailed counterfactual estimate will be in the annual report.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $3.5M to Wild Animal Initiative to support research on animal welfare; a combined $1.2M to UC Berkeley, CEEW, and IIT Delhi to support the installation of a network of low-cost air quality sensors in South Asia as part of Open Philanthropy’s newest cause area; and $590K to the University of Tübingen to support early-career research on robustness as a means to improve AI safety.
They also announced that Open Philanthropy co-founder Alexander Berger has been promoted to co-CEO, introduced new team members who joined in the last year, published a report on whether AI could drive explosive economic growth, and announced new roles on the Global Health and Wellbeing team.
Rethink Priorities (RP) has been actively hiring. Their newest addition to the team is Carolina Salazar, who recently joined the organization as Research Project and Hiring Manager.
RP has published several new reports on Lead Exposure, Charter Cities, and a Summary of Consumer Acceptance of Alternative Proteins.
In collaboration with their partner Metaculus, Rethink Priorities has just launched their first forecasting tournament on risks from nuclear weapons. The results will inform RP’s research process and help uncover insights that are important for policymakers. Michael Aird, Staff Researcher at RP, is the Community Shaper for this tournament.
Wild Animal Initiative
Wild Animal Initiative (WAI) is launching a fund to support high-impact wild animal welfare research. The theme of their first call for proposals is the welfare and ecology of juvenile wild animals. Researchers should submit a brief expression of interest form by 29 August.
Wild Animal Initiative partnered with Dr. Manrico Sebastiano to crowdfund his research into causes of frigatebird chick mortality. The project is now fully funded, and received an additional $750 for having the second-highest number of individual donors in the competition.
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