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.


Why do EAs have children?

Yeah, I feel that too. My daughter is just 1 year and 9 months. We are constantly high-fiving and fist-pumping.

Why do EAs have children?

Because (i) my wife wanted to have a child and I thought it would strenghten our relationship, (ii) I assumed my child was likely to become a happy person and possibly an EA, (iii) I'd potentially have a very close friend for life.

Database of existential risk estimates

Existential risks are not something they have worked on before, so my project is a new addition to their portfolio. I didn't mention this but I intend to have a section for other risks depending on space. The reason climate change gets prioritized in the project is that arguably the EU has more of a role to play in climate change initiatives compared to, say, nuclear risks. 

Database of existential risk estimates

Thanks for this database! I'm currently working on a project for the Foresight Centre (a think-tank at the Estonian parliament) about existential risks and the EU’s role in reducing them. I cover risks form AI, engineered pandemics, and climate change. For each risk, I discuss possible scenarios, probabilities, and the EUs role. I've found a couple of sources from your database on some of these risks that I hadn't seen before. 

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.

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