(looking for feedback!) A Happier World: An EA inspired YouTube channel

by Jeroen_W5 min read13th May 20217 comments

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VideoRequests (open)Effective altruism messagingEffective altruism educationEffective altruism art and fiction
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Introduction

After making my first video, on preventing engineered pandemics back in November 2020, I applied for funding with the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund. They funded my YouTube channel so I can work on it for 6 months. I want to use this time to create at least 3 more videos, aiming for 4. 

I'm now looking for help to make this project go as successfully as possible. 

Some ways you can help me are:

  • Give general feedback
  • Help review the list of episode ideas (I won't share it publicly here)
  • Help write episodes or give feedback to the scripts
  • Come up with more ways to measure the impact of the channel

You can message me if you're interested in helping out with any of these!

Underneath I've described my YouTube channel in detail. Most of it is written so that even people who aren't aware of Effective Altruism will understand it. 

Short pitch 

A Happier World is an online video series that explores exciting ideas with the potential to radically improve the world. Using evidence and reason, the series will explore the world's biggest problems and the most cost-effective ways to solve them. It will also discuss the ethics behind doing good. Everything will be explained using found footage, animation and interviews with the help of a voice-over.

The video series will cover subjects related to:

  • Global poverty and global health
  • Animal welfare (especially the welfare of animals in large factory farms and wild animal suffering)
  • Global catastrophic and existential risks that pose a serious threat of mass casualties (including both natural and synthetic pandemics, nuclear war, climate change, unregulated artificial intelligence, etc.).
  • Moral philosophy: Ethical questions related to improving the world
  • Science and rationality: Probability theory, moral psychology,...
  • Advice: Career, volunteering

Episode length

Every episode can be 5-20 minutes long. 

Target audience

People (16+) who are interested in science, rationality, ethics, and improving the lives of others. They have a broadly consequentialist mindset.

Clarifications

Ethics: Related to improving the lives of others

Lives of others: For some, this could be humans only. For others, it could encompass all sentient beings. For most, it’s likely somewhere between these two ends.

Broadly consequentialist mindset: They rather save 10 lives than 1 for the same amount of effort, they understand the importance of prioritizing issues, expected value theory isn’t too far fetched for them. This doesn't mean they're aware of consequentialism or EV theory, but some people are just naturally more open to that way of thinking than others.

This target audience includes EA’s who want to learn more, potential EA’s and also just people who a lot of the content might appeal to even if they'd never become aspiring effective altruists. I include "Broadly consequentialist mindset" as it means I'll have to use words like “best ways”, “high impact” and “prioritization” when talking about the channel. 16+ because I want the content to be easily understood by many and people of a young age have more options regarding their career path. 

The goals of the videos

  • Make people more receptive towards specific Effective Altruist ideas
  • Get more people into Effective Altruism
  • Better inform the EA community
  • Get current EA's more engaged
  • Get people to donate to effective charities
  • Get people to change their careers in a more impactful direction

How the impact of the channel will be measured 

At the end of each video and in the comment section, viewers will be encouraged to share in a comment whether they’ve donated to a charity, changed their career, or if they just shared the video. This won’t give a good idea about the total impact, as it’s unsure what percentage of people who do one of those actions will also share that info, but it will give an idea about the minimum impact. Perhaps once the channel has grown, surveys can be organised to better understand what percentage of people actually share that they’ve done something.

Some charities and EA surveys ask people how they discovered the charity/EA. I could ask these charities and survey creators whether they know if any came from my channel.

I will encourage student and local groups to use my videos in their events by posting in relevant Facebook groups/Slacks (ex. Effective Altruism Group Organizers, Effective Altruism Online Events). I’ll ask them to let me know if they’ve used my video, what the reaction was, how they think it compares to other media (ex. talks) and if they would have held the event if it wasn't for my video.

Here I’ll defend the reasons as to why this series needs to be made in the current media landscape and all the production-related decisions.

Why does A Happier World need to be made? 

Earth is a beautiful planet, rich in resources with a lot of potential. The world has been improving in many ways for the past two centuries, but there are still too many problems. Every year, more than 400 000 people die of malaria. Around 700 million people are still living in extreme poverty. People around the world suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. More than 150 billion animals are slaughtered every year. The threat of climate change, (engineered) pandemics, nuclear war and unaligned artificial intelligence is very real. I can’t sit idly and do nothing to help those who suffer and will suffer. That’s why I want to make a video series that brings us closer to a happier world for all sentient beings. It will make people more aware of these issues and it will show that everyone can do valuable things to improve the lives of many. I believe the best way to solve these problems is by using evidence and reason, which is why this will be a key element of my video series.

I will solely focus on problems that are the most neglected, the biggest in scale and/or the easiest to solve. I will use these criteria (neglectedness, scale and tractability) to decide which subjects to cover. Because that’s where we can have the biggest impact as individuals. Often, scoring high on just two out of three criteria can be good enough. Some examples of problems & solutions may be:

  • Malaria (neglected compared to other global development issues, kills 400 000 people per year, very tractable), one of the most effective solutions is to donate bed nets.
  • Wild animal suffering (extremely neglected, very large scale, very difficult to solve), a lot of research for solutions is still needed.
  • Nuclear war (very neglected, large scale, difficult to solve), inspire countries to reduce their amount of nuclear weapons.
  • Farmed animal suffering (very neglected, large scale, easier to solve), solutions are to promote plant-based diets and to invest in cultured & plant-based meat.

This framework of finding problems and their solutions comes from the Effective Altruism (EA) movement, an international movement that tries to answer the question “How can we use our resources to help others the most?”. The EA movement values using evidence and careful reasoning to find answers to this question. 

Just like A Happier World, the articles and podcasts from Vox’s Future Perfect are also heavily inspired by the EA movement. Future Perfect is a section on the American news and opinion website Vox. I think a video version of some of their content would appeal to a bigger audience, that’s why I think it’s a good idea to create this series. Kelsey Piper, one of the people writing for Future Perfect, has said in the past that she would love it if someone would make a video series similar to their newsletter and podcast. Millions of people read their more popular articles, it’s not just interesting for people who are already subscribed to the EA philosophy. This is also the goal of my video series. The people behind Future Perfect often write articles that respond to current events. A Happier World will generally choose subjects that will be relevant for longer periods of time.

Why do I want to use YouTube? It’s free, available to everyone and it’s easy to add subtitles in many languages. It’s handy to spread important ideas this way because anyone can share the videos with their friends. YouTube also has a great algorithm that recommends certain content to certain people, which can help with finding an audience that’s interested in my series. I will use other social media (Twitter, Instagram) to share teasers of and facts from the videos, but also to find an audience.

The series is currently being funded by an EAIF Grant for 6 months. In what other ways could the series be funded in the future? Some videos could be sponsored by NGO’s, just like how the Rockefeller Foundation has funded Future Perfect and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded Kurzgesagt videos. Another option is through Patreon, a website where people can donate monthly to your channel to support you financially. Sponsored ads are also a way to fund videos. I've seen videos that were sponsored by Brilliant and nordVPN, sponsors that still give you a lot of creative freedom. Some grants support “solutions journalism”, which my series may fall under. Another option is YouTube monetization and membership, but these will only be possible once my channel grows a lot.

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7 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 3:21 AM
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I'm really glad you're doing this, since I had a similar idea a year ago!

Another format I think would complement this nicely is "instagraphics," or educational, slide-based infographics disseminated through social media channels like Instagram and Twitter. I believe they're a particularly high-fidelity way to spread ideas via social media, and you could even post them on your YouTube channel via the community tab!

Funny that you mention it, I've been working on a template today for instagraphics!

First and foremost I really liked the engineering pandemics video, I actually saw it independently a month ago and it reminds me a lot of good informational youtube content  (which is good).  I wanted to state my support for this because I think what you're trying to do is great! Other than that I'm a person with time on my hands and youtube experience, so I would love to help in whatever way I can, especially with demographics and outreach. (I've sent you a dm :) ).

I think this is a brilliant idea! I'd like to recommend a video on how the news tends to focus on novel and infrequent problems, and how this systematically misses some of the worst problems which are happening far more frequently, which messes with our ideas of what the worst problems are.

I like this, added it to my list of possible episodes!

Great! I'd also recommend reaching out to leaders of university EA groups who might be able to share the videos on social media

Excited about this Jeroen, it looks real good! I would love to see if I could help, I have some prior experience in journalism  and teaching, as well as a great love for the youtube format.  I have limited time at the moment, but I've sent you a dm to see if we can work something out! :)