EA Newsletter April 4, 2019

Effective Altruism Newsletter

April 04, 2019

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Articles and Community Posts

Dangerous pathogens like smallpox and SARS aren’t always handled safely by the labs that work on them. Kelsey Piper discusses the many ways in which these errors, which could kill millions of people, take place.

The risk of human error is one of several that motivate EA work on biosecurity; to learn more, check out the Open Philanthropy Project's 2014 cause report or their most recent grants in the area.

When GiveDirectly transfers money to recipients, what happens next? Kelsey Timmerman traveled to Kenya to view their work firsthand. Similar articles include the reflections of Carlos Dominguez and a site visit by GiveWell.

Researchers have spent decades modeling the factors that could lead to nuclear war and the potential impacts of a nuclear exchange. Seth Baum summarizes this research — and argues that actual policy discussions rarely make use of it.

South America’s largest egg producer just launched a vegan egg substitute in Brazil.

Scientists are developing new malaria vaccines. To test their work, they need infected mosquitoes… and human volunteers. John Beshir, a member of the EA community, talked to Vox about his decision to help out by getting malaria on purpose.

How can we train superintelligent AI to provide useful information on tasks that are too complicated for us to understand? In a podcast produced by the Future of Life Institute, Geoffrey Irving of OpenAI suggests having different AI “agents” debate a question in front of a human judge. His reasoning: even if we can’t answer a question ourselves, we might know a good answer when we see it.

EA Forum Highlights:

Timeless Classic

Lewis Bollard was the guest for 80,000 Hours’ first podcast on animal advocacy, and his episode is still one of the longest and most comprehensive they’ve ever recorded.

To quote the episode summary: “Listening to this episode is among the fastest ways to get up to speed on how animals are mistreated and the best ways to help them.”


As always, 80,000 Hours’ High-Impact Job Board features a wide range of positions. (They added more than 100 this month alone.)

If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.

To learn about new jobs as they get posted, check out the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.

Operations Specialist (Finance), Centre for Effective Altruism (Apply by Friday, 5 April)

Chinese STEM Translator / Data Scientist / Research Fellow / Senior Software Engineer, Center for Security and Emerging Technology

Director of Communications, Mercy for Animals

Director of Operations / Project Manager, Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative

Ethics Research Scientist / Ethics Research Intern, DeepMind

Executive Assistant, GiveDirectly

Financial and Social Impact Advisor to Ultra High-Net-Worth Family

Head of Brand, Founders Pledge

International Market Research Intern, Good Food Institute

Project Manager, Macrostrategy, Future of Humanity Institute

Research Analyst / Senior Research Analyst / Senior Fellow, GiveWell

Salesforce Solutions Architect / Senior Administrator, Open Philanthropy Project

Bonus content: GiveWell is massively expanding their research team. James Snowden recently wrote about his experience working there; his post also offers a close look at how GiveWell conducts research.


Survey on the psychology of ineffective giving

How do people in the EA community differ from other people in their approach to charitable giving? Lucius Caviola, Stefan Schubert, and Jason Nemirow are running a “seven-minute survey” on this question, the findings of which will be published in an academic journal.

Consider taking the survey if you’d like to help the research team understand why most people don’t focus on effectiveness in their giving.

Survey on mental health

Danica Wilbanks, with support from EA Spain, is conducting a survey on mental health in the EA community. Here’s more information on the survey’s goals, and here’s a link to the survey itself.

AISafety 2019

This year’s AISafety workshop will be held in Macau, China. You can learn more about the event here, or submit papers here (by 12 May).

The Charity Entrepreneurship’s incubation program application process is now open! ​

Early applications will be accepted from April 2nd to April 15th​ 2019. Early applicants will be given priority and the sooner you send your application the sooner you’ll know if you have been accepted! Read more on what to expect from the program and about the benefits after it’s finished.


80,000 Hours

80,000 Hours moved its office from California to London, added over 50 new jobs to their job board, released an in-depth interview with three policy and strategy researchers at OpenAI, and revised their advice on how to actually make a career decision.

Animal Charity Evaluators

Animal Charity Evaluators added three new members to their board of directors: Persis Eskander, Eric Herboso, and Allison Smith. They also published a short animated video explaining cause prioritization as it relates to animal advocacy. ACE's report on farmed fish welfare is nearing completion and will be made public within a few weeks.

Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative

BERI received a grant recommended by the Open Philanthropy Project to hire engineers dedicated to BERI's CHAI collaboration. The first of these full-time engineers has already joined, and two others have accepted offers, as has a new research intern. BERI made grants of $600,000 to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and $25,000 to ALLFED.

Center for Human-Compatible AI

CHAI PI Michael Wellman was featured on the #UMichChat panel, which discussed the future promises and risks of AI. CHAI PI Anca Dragan and graduate student Smitha Mili published Literal or Pedagogical Human? Analyzing Human Model Misspecifications in Objective Learning. Steven Wang, Cody Wild, and Nevan Witchers have accepted offers to join us as ML engineers via the CHAI/BERI collaboration.

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

CSER Chair Partha Dasgupta will lead the UK Government Economics of Biodiversity Review. Recent publications include the book Extremes, an existential risk Special Issue (editorial), and the papers Perfectionism and the Repugnant Conclusion and Assessing emitters’ contributions to temperature extremes. Researchers appeared on a Radio 4 programme (video) and wrote about biosecurity and Brexit and dinosaur extinction. Martin Rees gave the Lord Speaker’s Lecture in the House of Lords (PDF).

Forethought Foundation

The Forethought Foundation has announced an Undergraduate Thesis Prize in Global Priorities Research for students who plan to submit a thesis in the 2018/19 academic year. Winners will be awarded £2,000.

Future of Life Institute

FLI continued their campaign to ban lethal autonomous weapons, presenting a statement to the UNCCW and publishing an open letter and editorial for the global health community. They released an AI Alignment podcast, co-hosted the Augmented Intelligence Summit, and ran a campaign highlighting women in the field of existential risk.  


GiveWell announced the decision to grant a total of $10.1 million in discretionary funds received during the fourth quarter of 2018 (including donations from the EA Fund for Global Health and Development) to Malaria Consortium's seasonal malaria chemoprevention program. More details can be found in this blog post.

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

GCRI welcomes Special Advisor for Government Affairs Jared Brown. He was previously an analyst in emergency management and homeland security policy at the US Congressional Research Service, and is currently working in support of the policy outreach efforts of the broader global catastrophic risk community.

Machine Intelligence Research Institute

MIRI has released an Alignment Research Field Guide with general-purpose advice for people interested in getting started in a new research field, as well as for people interested in starting research groups or meetups.

Open Philanthropy Project

The Open Philanthropy Project announced a grant and an investment in Sherlock Biosciences to develop a universal viral diagnostic and a grant to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to develop technology that can identify male chicks at scale in ovo, eliminating the need for chick culling.

Rethink Charity

Rethink Priorities, our cause-prioritization research project, recently published a report on fish stocking. RC Forward, our Canadian fundraising project, moved over $4.5m CAD to effective charities in 2018 and will soon be releasing a summary and cost-effectiveness analysis of our service. The Local EA Network (LEAN) has shifted its focus to empirical research and the development of eahub.org.

Wild Animal Initiative

Wild Animal Initiative released its 2019 research agenda. Research will focus on identifying and prioritizing early welfare biology projects, and completing literature reviews and foundational research to lower the costs of subsequent projects.

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This is an archived version of the EA Newsletter sent to 51,102 subscribers on March 7, 2019. To see the full archives, click here.