I am a phd student in theoretical computer science.
Animal welfare is the best cause area.
"Technical AI Safety" is not an effective cause. And even if it was, MIRI wouldn't be a good intervention.
I blog at bethzero.com. Part of my writing there is about why I think "AI Safety" isn't doing anything of value. I'm open to writing prompts. In lieu of funding, my output there is limited by the number of fucks I give.
Useful book recommendations:
James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Recommended reading for anyone who wants to use rational thought to do good, with a bunch of case studies where it failed miserably as well as a theory on what went wrong.
Aph Ko and Syl Ko, Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters. If directly useful thought is like coding up new features, then building theory is like clearing technical debt. The Ko sisters build some quality theory on veganism and intersectional feminism. Not being used to such texts, I found it a hard book to understand. I've probably listened through it 5 times by now.
Cathy O'Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction. Or any other book on the ethics of algorithms really, there are a number of them out there. If you have a STEM degree, you likely didn't learn about the very real ethical problems that you'd happen upon in your career, which will result in your not recognizing them as such. The value of changing this situation should be self-evident.
Fun book recommendations:
Jiří Matoušek, Thirty-three Miniatures: Mathematical and Algorithmic Applications of Linear Algebra. This is a math textbook, but it is honestly on of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. Matoušek is a phenomenal writer and this is his one text that can be read for actual leisure. Mostly doesn't require more knowledge than you'd learn in a basic linear algebra class.
Andrew Rowe, Sufficiently Advanced Magic. LitRPG that can be accurately judged by its cover. I enjoy the series.
Francis Spufford, Red Plenty. Fictionalized portrayal of life in Soviet Russia. Follows a bunch of people, among which Leonid Kantorovich (brilliant mathematician, inventor of linear programming on that side of the curtain).