Risto does research on trustworthy AI in the project by AI4EU (funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020). He also studies economics, public policy, and philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Furthermore, he founded Effective Altruism Estonia, an NGO that promotes the ideas of how to do the most good using reason and evidence, where he now advises new leaders and volunteers. Previously, he worked for five years as a personal coach helping people improve their exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle habits. If you have a promising project that could improve the world a lot, let him know and he might join.


The same is the case with the effective altruism course at the LSE titled Effective Philanthropy: Ethics and Evidence. The reason for that was that the teacher Luc Bovens moved to work for another institution. I don't know about UCL.

microCOVID.org: A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

It would also be more informative to assess risks of death from COVID-19. 'Micromorts' normally stand for one-in-a-million chance of death because the word is combined from micro and mortality. If 1000 μCoV were a thousand-in-a-million chance of death, then engaging in activities with such a risk would be quite reckless indeed. That would be about similar to climbing quite high mountains and doing a couple of base-jumps.

I have calculated COVID-19 risks for myself in the context of Estonia where I am currently. My numbers right now are about: risk of getting COVID-19: 1^-4 and risk of dying of COVID-19: 4^-6 (about 4 micromorts). These are probably overestimates as I'm young, healthy, and very cautious and I'm using nasal swab data rather than antibody data, which indicate about 10 times larger infection rate than the nasal swab data (meaning 10 times smaller death rate in Estonia). These numbers are of course smaller in Estonia than in the Bay Area.

Another interesting topic here is what counts as too risky? I think that my risk threshold is about traveling 10 km by motorbike, which is about 1 micromort. I would engage in such activities once in a while, but in general 1 micromort seems too large in the context of activities that are easily substitutable. Can't ride a motorbike for entertainment? Easy, just play some less risky sport and get as much pleasure.

Should you do a PhD?

"You should not do a PhD just so you can do something else later. Only do a PhD if this is something you would like to do, in itself."

Why do you think this is the case? For example, I have noticed based on my search that nearly 60% of research roles in think-tanks in Europe have PhDs and that proportion is greater for senior research roles and more academic think-tanks. This does not account for the unmeasurable benefits of PhDs such as being taken more seriously in policy discussions. Isn't it possible that 4-6 years of PhD work gives you more impressive career capital than the same amount of experience progressing from more junior roles to slightly more senior ones?

Effective Altruism Stipend: A Short Experiment by EA Estonia

This post was actually published in 2018 for the first time, but for some reason I wasn't able to share the link with some people as it showed up as a draft. I resubmitted it and it has received some interest from the community again.

I think that the longer term evidence right now indicates that the impact of this was lower than the short-term evidence made me anticipate. I expected to have several highly engaged new members in the EA community longer term, but currently it appears that these people are only weakly involved with effective altruism. Hence, I would say that the cost-effectiveness of this project was not high. But there are some indirect effects this might have had related to marketing and reaching more people indirectly, which I don't have a good understanding of.

I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA

Why did you decide to move from Global Priorities Institute to 80,000 Hours?

Local EA Group Organizers Survey 2019

Estonia actually has two local groups, one in Tallinn and the other in Tartu.

Understanding and evaluating EA's cause prioritisation methodology

Do you think there's more useful research to be done on this topic? Are there any specific questions you think researchers haven't yet answered sufficiently? What are the gaps in the EA literature on this?

Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations

It actually might be more complicated than what you say here, alexherwix. If a research analyst role at the Open Philanthropy Project receives 800+ job applications, then you might reasonably think that it's better for you to continue building a local community even if you were a great candidate for that option.

In addition, for the reasons that you mention, every possible local community builder might be constantly looking for new job options in the EA community making someone who doesn't do that a highly promising candidate. Furthermore, being a community builder is actually a surprisingly difficult job.

Another consideration is that preparation and training for a specific job at an EA organization and gaining skills leading a local group might be quite different. It might suit you more to do tasks related to community building in a local context.

Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations

This is slightly relevant, in a recent 80,000 Hours' blog post they suggest the following for people applying for EA jobs:

We generally encourage people to take an optimistic attitude to their job search and apply for roles they don’t expect to get. Four reasons for this are that, i) the upside of getting hired is typically many times larger than the cost of a job application process itself, ii) many people systematically underestimate themselves, iii) there’s a lot of randomness in these processes, which gives you a chance even if you’re not truly the top candidate, and iv) the best way to get good at job applications is to go through a lot of them.
Strategy-development for EA groups: Lessons learned from EA Denmark

You can decide it by asking who wants to be the leader of a particular activity (the way that your group did) as well as inquire what resources and capital people have available to successfully lead that activity. Sometimes people have the motivation to lead activities, but they don't actually have the necessary resources to do it successfully yet.

Agreed on the failure-mode thinking. I guess if you only take the best-case scenario into consideration, then you forget to assess the risks involved. On the other hand, I'm not sure it should be included in this initial brainstorming session or later when a possible activity is selected as a top candidate.

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