saulius

My name is Saulius Simcikas. I am a researcher at Rethink Priorities. I currently focus on topics within farmed animal welfare. Previously, I was a research intern at Animal Charity Evaluators, organised Effective Altruism events in the UK and Lithuania, and earned-to-give as a programmer.

Topic Contributions

Comments

What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism?

This project might be of interest.  They tried to answer the following questions:
How can people with non-utilitarian ethical views, such as egalitarians and justice-oriented individuals, find a place in the effective altruism community?

And are effective altruism methods helpful when we seek to reduce systemic inequalities and social injustices?

And they tried to find the best charity to donate to for these goals.

Are there any uber-analyses of GiveWell/ACE top charities?

Michael Dickens did something like that in 2016 here. The web app doesn't seem to work anymore (you can see how it looked here) but you can still access the spreadsheet from the internet archive here.

The Wicked Problem Experience

I'm going to point aspiring researchers who ask me what it's like to work at an EA think tank to this article. This is exactly my experience for many projects where the end result is an article. It's a bit different when the end result is a decision like "what charity to start".  

saulius's Shortform

ah, thanks so much for pointing this out, happy to see that funders already have this idea on their radar and I don't need to do anything :)

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

I just wanted to point out that if you want to participate but don't necessarily need $100,000, you can pledge to donate a part of the prize if you get it.

saulius's Shortform

Why don’t we fund movies and documentaries that explore EA topics? 

It seems to me that the way society thinks about the future is largely shaped by movies and documentaries. Why don’t we create movies that shape the views in a way that’s more realistic and useful? E.g., I haven’t read the discussion on whether Terminator is or is not a good comparison for AI risks but it’s almost certainly not a perfect comparison. Why don’t we create a better one that we could point people to? Something that would explore many important points. Now that EA has more money, that seems plausible. In 2021, OpenPhil gave grants totalling $77.6 million for work on the potential risks from Advanced AI. The budget of a movie with an all-star cast and special effects like Don't Look Up is $75 million. But the difference is that the movie might make money, maybe even more money than its budget. It’s not obvious to me that even something extravagant like this would be a bad investment because it might make it easier to make progress on AI policy and other stuff for years to come. Of course, movies wouldn't have to be so high budget, especially at the start. And better approach would probably be creating documentaries. Maybe a series like Vox Explained for various EA issues or for longtermism. I think it could become popular because some of the EA ideas about how far future might look seem more interesting than a lot of sci-fi, and also more novel to most people. And this is not just about AI. E.g., I can imagine a nuanced documentary about wild animal suffering that also talks about why we should think twice before spreading nature to other planets. 

Anyway, this is just a shower thought, I imagine that this has been discussed before but just wanted to post it in case it hasn’t been discussed enough. And note that I never worked on AI so I don’t know what I’m talking about in that part of my text.

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

That said, writing a good blog takes a lot of time, and note that the expected value for any particular blogger will be relatively low. If 100 bloggers apply (which we expect to be a lower bound given the traction), it's $5k for the work of a part-time job over a year.

I worry that this creates a weird dynamic. Only people who are financially well-off already can afford to invest a lot of time for a small probability to win a lot of money. These are normally not the people who need money the most. And if these people started blogging because of the money, they might not be very motivated to continue once they get this $100,000. At the same time, some talented writer who can't afford to spend a lot of time on blogging will continue to not be able to do that. Also, I hope that you will give feedback to applicants to prevent someone from putting a lot of time into this hoping that they get the money and then never getting any money. I guess I'm surprised about this $100,000 or nothing granting approach, it doesn't seem optimal to me. 

Just to illustrate, my thought process after reading this post was that maybe I should reduce my hours at work and start a blog. But then I thought that I'm really privileged to be able to do that and that this format further rewards privileged people.  And that if I got $100,000, I might take some time off from EA work and blogging which I wouldn't do otherwise.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding some things. It's also unclear to me how developed a blog should be before you apply.
 

We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize

I'm curious why do you expect blogging to  "often be done by people who aren't members of the EA community"? Are you advertising this in other places and is this your way of trying to get more people into EA? Do you want long-time members of EA community to apply as well? Sorry if that's too many questions.

Why the expected numbers of farmed animals in the far future might be huge

Nice post! One intervention could be specifically arguing against including factory farming in space colonization plans. But methods and the tone for doing that might have to be very different from what animal advocates mostly use now. We'd have to be very careful and strategic about how we do that because doing it badly would make future efforts much more difficult. We could also fund and encourage research how to colonize space without animal farming.

If they get good at factory farming in space colonies, then it will be more difficult to switch to other options later. It's like we are selecting which branch of a tech tree we will go for in a video game right now but it's in real life.

Load More