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, the podcast’s producer, Keiran Harris, spoke with Howie, 80,000 Hours’ chief of staff, about having a successful career with depression, anxiety, and imposter syndrome. Additionally, Rob spoke with Leah Garcés on turning adversaries into allies to change the chicken industry, and with Robert Wright on using cognitive empathy to save the world.
Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED)
ALLFED has published a new open-access research paper in Cleaner Engineering and Technology: “Potential of microbial electrosynthesis for contributing to food production using CO2 during global agriculture-inhibiting disasters” by Juan B. García Martínez, Michael M. Brown, Xenia Christodoulou, Kyle A. Alvarado, and David C. Denkenberger.
The paper is on alternative foods for severe global food catastrophes (e.g. nuclear winter).
Nähtamatud Loomad, Anima International’s team in Estonia, spent many years engaging policymakers, the media, and the public, fighting for an end to fur farming in the country — and now, the practice is finally banned in Estonia. The bill was supported by all parties and will take effect in 2026.
As part of Anima’s step-by-step approach towards getting companies to commit to the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), Salling Group, the largest retailer chain in Denmark, is now phasing out faster-growing chickens. Over the next nine months, they plan to replace 70-80% of their current supply (20 million chickens) with a slower-growing variety. Meanwhile, Anima plans to continue pressing the company to replace the remaining 20-30%.
Otwarte Klatki, together with Compassion Polska, have announced that Carrefour, the first leading Polish retail chain, signed the ECC, an agreement to improve the welfare of chickens raised for meat. Before the end of 2026, Carrefour’s own brand of chicken meat will be sourced from farmers who meet certain requirements that significantly improve chicken farming conditions.
Otwarte Klatki published the first Polish report on the transport of live animals for economic purposes. It examines the situation in detail and comes as a response to both the dreadful conditions in which animals are transported and the lack of appropriate legal regulations. Otwarte Klatki hopes that the publication will serve as an incentive to change the law and improve the welfare of animals.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) recently published the results from their 2020 Donor Survey Analysis, which shines light on who gives to ACE and how those donors are influenced by ACE’s recommendations. They also shared a post explaining their thinking behind supporting wild animal welfare and their recommendation of Wild Animal Initiative. Read it to find out why they think wild animal welfare has the potential to be a high-impact cause area.
ACE staff members took a culture survey, similar to the one that ACE distributes to charities that they evaluate. For transparency, they have published the results.
Aditya SK gave an online talk for Effective Altruism Denmark's Wild Animal Welfare event. In his talk, Aditya discussed speciesism, suffering in nature, and how we can help.
Animal Ethics published an update to their 2015 article on the UK badger cull. “Vaccinating badgers in the UK can end the killing and help animals” details the January 2021 Consultation proposals and explains how vaccinating badgers against bovine tuberculosis (bTB) helps badgers and lays the groundwork for future interventions to help wild animals.
They also published “Invertebrate sentience: a review of the behavioral evidence.” This text identifies the behavioral features that could provide evidence for sentience in invertebrates and evaluates the extent to which these features are actually seen in various invertebrate species.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
On 7-8 June, CHAI held its fifth annual workshop. Over 150 attendees, including professors, students, industry researchers, and policymakers, met virtually to discuss AI safety and beneficial systems.
CHAI researchers Thomas Krendl Gilbert and Vael Gates graduated from UC Berkeley. Tom earned a PhD in Machine Ethics and Epistemology, and this fall he will join the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech as a postdoc. Vael Gates earned a PhD in Neuroscience with a focus on computational cognitive science, and this fall they will start as a postdoc at Stanford’s HAI / CISAC (Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence / Center for International Security and Cooperation).
The New York Times podcast “The Ezra Klein Show” featured CHAI affiliate Brian Christian in an episode titled “If 'All Models Are Wrong,' Why Do We Give Them So Much Power?”
CHAI welcomes sixteen collaborators and interns in 2021, virtually mentored by CHAI graduate students, in our largest internship cohort.
Jonathan Stray joined CHAI as a Visiting Scholar in his role as Research Scientist at the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative (BERI). At CHAI, Jonathan conducts research into the ways in which social media content selection algorithms affect human well-being.
The podcast “TalkRL” featured Thomas Krendl Gilbert in a recent episode.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
CSER is seeking applications for a new Deputy Director role, which combines leadership, academic, and management responsibilities for the centre. More information about the role and instructions for how to apply are available here; the application deadline is 4 July.
Asaf Tzachor, Catherine Richards, and Lauren Holt published a paper in Nature Food arguing that future foods, such as spirulina, chlorella, insect larvae, mycoprotein and macro-algae, should be integrated into the food system to reduce critical vulnerabilities to environmental change, pests, and pathogens.
Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh co-authored a paper in Nature Machine Intelligence that provides new methods to explore competition and collaboration dynamics in the creation and use of experimental benchmarks in AI research, and analyses how actors behave and react based on their own or others’ achievements.
Clarissa Rios Rojas was invited to provide a statement for the UN's Sixth Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Asaf Tzachor published a paper in the International Journal of Innovation in the Digital Economy that uses participatory methods to recognize, categorize, and prioritize critical barriers to adopting AI in Indian agriculture.
Faunalytics published their Ocean Life Fundamentals, a visual resource in which they examine some of the most important issues facing fishes, aquatic mammals, and other species, based on the best available and current data. The complete Faunalytics Fundamentals series is available here.
Additionally, they’ve added several study summaries to their research library, including one study that examined how people value the lives of non-human animals relative to humans. They’ve also released the latest edition of their new Faunalytics Explains video series.
Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can recently revived their YouTube channel with a series of live industry and cause area talks, as well as bespoke video articles covering:
- Basics of effective giving:
- Cause area talks:
- Industry and occupation talks:
Their volunteers have released more in the myths about charity series:
- Do effective animal advocates only care about farmed animals?
- Does aid make low-income countries dependent on handouts?
- Should charity be anonymous?
GiveWell recently hosted an online event for their donors that included a conversation with Malaria Consortium’s Programme Director for Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention and a spotlight on a promising program: addressing malnutrition. You can view the video recording and written transcript here.
- Published an update to its cost-effectiveness model on 5 May.
- Published several short notes explaining why it is deprioritizing further research on programs, including aspirin and community distribution of polypill for cardiovascular disease prevention, eggs for complementary feeding, and bracelets for immunization. For a longer list of programs GiveWell has assessed, please see the spreadsheet linked from this page.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI continues to invite 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.
GCRI has new papers forthcoming in IEEE Transactions on Technology and AI & Ethics. “AI certification: Advancing ethical practice by reducing information asymmetries” by Peter Cihon, Moritz Kleinaltenkamp, Jonas Schuett, and Seth Baum reviews the potential of certification programs to improve AI governance by reducing information asymmetries. “Moral consideration of nonhumans in the ethics of artificial intelligence” by Andrea Owe and Seth Baum looks at the extent to which nonhumans are and should be treated as intrinsically valuable in AI ethics.
The Good Food Institute
● GFI Brazil and GFI Asia Pacific worked with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific to host a two-day workshop on alternative proteins.
● GFI worked with a coalition of companies to defeat a label censorship bill in Texas. Senior Policy Specialist Scott Weathers is quoted in an article on Reason.org, a prominent libertarian publication, that is highly critical of the bill.
● GFI published the 2020 State of the Industry Reports (SOTIR) for cultivated meat; plant-based meat, eggs, and dairy; and fermentation. Their blog post describes the purpose of these studies and provides a quick overview of each SOTIR.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
MIRI published a new mathematical framework that they see as one of their largest results to date: Scott Garrabrant’s finite factored sets, a new approach to modeling causal interactions and information flow.
One for the World
- OFTW is now opening new chapters for the next academic year — if you know someone who would like to raise awareness and funds for GiveWell’s charities on their university campus, and we don’t have a presence there already, please get in touch!
- We’re hiring a Communications Officer to start this summer. If you can work remotely in the US and have comms or marketing experience, please consider applying!
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $1M to the MIT Media Lab to support Professor Kevin Esvelt’s research on topics related to biosecurity, $672K to the CDC Foundation to support research on malaria control, and $550K to Compassion in World Farming for general support.
Ought is developing a machine learning benchmark for few-shot text classification. We want to incentivize the ML community to improve model performance for projects that will benefit real users. If you’ve spent way too long entering in or labeling data in a spreadsheet, please repurpose your pain for academic progress!
- We’re looking for datasets like annotated transcripts, lists of organizations tagged by industry, exports of Twitter profiles categorized by job type, publications labeled by topic, lists of candidates to hire, freeform survey responses, etc.
- Contributing data means making the data publicly available for any ML researcher to work on.
- We’d cite you in a paper that we publish in the NeurIPS 2021 Datasets and Benchmarks Track, and any related materials. If you prefer, we can anonymize the data so that while we credit you for contributing to the benchmark, we don’t specify which data is yours.
- We prefer data that has ≥ 500 labeled rows, but we can be flexible.
Additional details can be found here.
Last month, Rethink Priorities (RP) published the results of the EA Groups Survey and the first two parts of the 2020 EA Survey (involvement, and demographics). Apart from that, RP has recently provided an overview of their work on risks from nuclear weapons. Additionally, RP has been exploring the global health and development research space; they have written a report on lead exposure and evaluated the potential of charter cities. Lastly, RP volunteer Charles Dillon has explored forecasting accuracy across different time horizons and levels of forecaster experience, and one of the interns, Lizka Vaintrob, produced humanities research ideas for longtermists.
WANBAM is accepting Expressions of Interest for mentees! The application round is open until 30 July. If you are a mentee with WANBAM, you will have one-on-one meetings with a mentor for six months, and introductions to a global community of people who are changing the world. They would love to hear from you if you are a woman, non-binary person, or trans person of any gender with the goal of pursuing a high-impact career path. Past mentees have been particularly successful when they have a sense of what they would like to achieve through mentorship. To express an interest, please complete this application. If you have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, WANBAM sought insights from their mentors on how to create and sustain welcoming and effective mentoring relationships; the writeup is available here.
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