EA Boston 2018 Year in Review

This is a re­view of the Bos­ton EA com­mu­nity’s ac­tivi­ties in 2018. Rather than hav­ing a sin­gle over­ar­ch­ing group, Bos­ton has many smaller groups, mostly based around uni­ver­si­ties. 2018 was the first year in which all these groups be­gan to col­lab­o­rate sys­tem­at­i­cally and form the sort of city-wide EA net­work Bos­ton had pre­vi­ously been lack­ing. In the in­ter­est of keep­ing the global EA com­mu­nity in­formed of our ac­tivi­ties, we de­cided to write the first an­nual re­view of all sig­nifi­cant known EA ac­tivi­ties in Bos­ton. We hope that other lo­cal group lead­ers and EAs in­volved in com­mu­nity-build­ing efforts will find it use­ful, par­tic­u­larly if they’re work­ing in cities with large stu­dent pop­u­la­tions or other rele­vant similar­i­ties to Bos­ton.

Sum­mary:

  • MIT and Har­vard have the most promi­nent stu­dent groups in Bos­ton, with some EA ac­tivity at Tufts, Wel­lesley, and Bos­ton Univer­sity. Ju­lia Wise runs an in­de­pen­dent meetup group for non-stu­dents.

  • The Arete Fel­low­ship, de­vel­oped largely by Har­vard un­der­grad­u­ate Stephen Casper, has been a very suc­cess­ful tool for stu­dent group re­cruit­ment and is spread­ing quickly to other schools. Har­vard also pi­o­neered a ca­reer fel­low­ship for grad­u­ate stu­dents.

  • The lo­cal ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity has been de­funct since the dis­solu­tion of their group house.

  • Bos­ton’s main com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage is its con­cen­tra­tion of pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties. It’s also a cen­ter for biol­ogy re­search and home to the Fu­ture of Life In­sti­tute, the Ab­dul Latif Jameel Poverty Ac­tion Lab, and a mas­sive fundraiser for GiveWell char­i­ties con­ducted at Google’s Cam­bridge office.

  • The Bos­ton com­mu­nity’s prob­lems in­clude dis­tance from the Bay Area, high stu­dent turnover rates, and re­li­ance on vol­un­teers with other com­mit­ments.

  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween differ­ent stu­dent groups in­creased greatly this year af­ter their lead­ers came to­gether to work on EAGxBos­ton 2018.

  • In the fu­ture, we hope to ini­ti­ate a ca­reer net­work fo­cused on emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy policy, host EAGxBos­ton 2019, pro­fes­sion­al­ize and ex­pand our fel­low­ships, and seed more uni­ver­sity groups in our area.

This doc­u­ment was writ­ten pri­mar­ily by Re­becca Baron and Tay­mon Beal, with con­tri­bu­tions from Chris Bak­er­lee, Stephen Casper, Joan Gass, Juan Gil, Justin Kwong, Cul­lyn O’Keefe, Lu­cas Perry, Valerie Rich­mond, and Ju­lia Wise.

Lo­cal Group Struc­ture and Activities

Bos­ton has a strong com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage in terms of ac­cess to in­tel­li­gent, promis­ing young peo­ple due to its sta­tus as ar­guably the world cap­i­tal of higher ed­u­ca­tion. There are fifty-two in­sti­tu­tions in all, in­clud­ing Har­vard and MIT, whose pres­tige and brand recog­ni­tion is un­ri­valed al­most any­where in the world—and no other city has two such in­sti­tu­tions just an 8-minute sub­way ride apart. Bos­ton’s com­pact ge­og­ra­phy and con­ve­nient pub­lic trans­porta­tion make it easy for mem­bers of differ­ent lo­cal groups to meet in per­son.

Har­vard boasts sev­eral of the largest and most promi­nent EA stu­dent groups in Bos­ton, with Har­vard Univer­sity Effec­tive Altru­ism com­pris­ing pos­si­bly the largest group of EA grad­u­ate stu­dents in the world. Of Har­vard’s twelve grad­u­ate schools, four have ac­tive EA groups: the Grad­u­ate School of Arts and Sciences, which in­cludes most M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. stu­dents; Har­vard Busi­ness School; Har­vard Law School; and the Kennedy School of Govern­ment. The T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s group went dor­mant, but is in the pro­cess of be­ing re­vived. In ad­di­tion to the grad­u­ate groups, Har­vard boasts a vibrant and ac­tive un­der­grad­u­ate group, Har­vard Col­lege Effec­tive Altru­ism. All of these groups are co­or­di­nated by an um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Har­vard Effec­tive Altru­ism Stu­dent Group, which is cur­rently headed by Cul­lyn O’Keefe in ac­cor­dance with Har­vard EA’s strate­gic vi­sion.

Com­po­nent groups at Har­vard ran ca­reer fel­low­ships, lunch events, fundraisers, speaker events, and re­cur­ring so­cial hang­outs this year. The um­brella group is run­ning the Philan­thropic Ad­vi­sory Fel­low­ship, led by Eric Gast­friend, which con­sults for large donors on how to give effec­tively. The Fel­low­ship trains over a dozen grad­u­ate stu­dents in EA each semester while con­sult­ing for clients such as The Laura & John Arnold Foun­da­tion, Sch­midt Fu­tures, Draper Richards Ka­plan Foun­da­tion, The Life You Can Save, and oth­ers. They are cur­rently de­sign­ing a course on Ra­tion­al­ity and EA to be taught at Har­vard Col­lege by Steven Pinker in Spring 2020. Har­vard Law School ran an AI safety read­ing group, and there is an in­for­mally or­ga­nized EA cowork­ing ses­sion on Har­vard’s cam­pus once a week.

Mean­while, a twenty-minute walk away, there’s MIT—an­other pow­er­house both in academia and in the vi­tal­ity of its large and ac­tive EA group, en­er­get­i­cally led by Juan Gil, Valerie Rich­mond, and Luis Hong Sanchez. There is also a group as­so­ci­ated with the Sloan School of Busi­ness, but they are not cur­rently very ac­tive. The MIT group is younger than Har­vard and has gone through or­ga­ni­za­tional ups and downs, but is cur­rently lead­ing many on-cam­pus ac­tivi­ties, in­clud­ing so­cial events and a tech­ni­cal AI safety read­ing group, as well as spear­head­ing some in­ter­col­le­giate pro­jects.

Tufts cur­rently has a sin­gle EA or­ga­nizer, Re­becca Baron. Though the group was ac­tive circa 2016, when it was led by its founders Dillon Bowen and Luke Sa­bor, the mo­men­tum pe­tered out af­ter their grad­u­a­tion. No one was ac­tively push­ing Tufts EA for­ward un­til Re­becca took over for the Fall 2018 semester, and her first round of at­tempts to re­vive the un­der­grad­u­ate group did not suc­ceed. Tufts has an ac­tive chap­ter of One for the World, but its lead­ers are not EAs.

Wel­lesley also has a One for the World chap­ter and has long had a few scat­tered EAs en­rol­led, but they have not held ex­plic­itly EA events since 2017. How­ever, 13 Wel­lesley stu­dents re­cently grad­u­ated from MIT’s Arete Fel­low­ship, an in­tro­duc­tory EA read­ing and dis­cus­sion pro­gram de­tailed later in this post. Some of them in­di­cated in­ter­est in restart­ing a for­mal EA group at Wel­lesley. We are cau­tiously hope­ful about Wel­lesley EA’s fu­ture.

Bos­ton Univer­sity has no EA group at the mo­ment, but it has at least one ac­tive EA who is plan­ning to cre­ate one. No other schools are known to have EA pres­ence at the mo­ment, though efforts to seed more groups are un­der­way.

In ad­di­tion to the stu­dent groups, Ju­lia Wise runs an in­de­pen­dent meetup group that dates back to be­fore EA was for­mally or­ga­nized. This group’s pri­mary ac­tivity is din­ner-and-dis­cus­sion mee­tups at Ju­lia’s house, which used to be sched­uled ir­reg­u­larly but since late 2018 now oc­cur monthly. Ju­lia cooks din­ner for the guests, who then in­for­mally break out into groups and dis­cuss what­ever top­ics are of in­ter­est. At­ten­dees have vary­ing lev­els of EA knowl­edge and com­mit­ment, and few come ev­ery month. The din­ners provide so­cial sup­port for the com­mu­nity and help keep es­tab­lished EAs up­dated on the move­ment’s lat­est de­vel­op­ments, while Ju­lia’s in­tro­duc­tory Q&As help new­com­ers learn the ba­sics. Other than the din­ners, there are oc­ca­sional in­stan­ti­a­tions of an EA read­ing group and some­times at­tempts at differ­ent ac­tivi­ties. Notably, Scott Weathers and So­phie Her­manns led a Con­gres­sional let­ter-writ­ing and lob­by­ing cam­paign in early 2018 in fa­vor of the Reach Every Mother and Child Act. Hav­ing an in­de­pen­dent group sep­a­rate from the uni­ver­sity groups lets Bos­ton EA tar­get differ­ent de­mo­graph­ics in differ­ent ways, ap­peal­ing to both am­bi­tious 18-year-olds and the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Ju­lia works for CEA as com­mu­nity li­ai­son and pres­i­dent of Giv­ing What We Can, but her work with the in­de­pen­dent lo­cal group is not a cen­tral part of her job du­ties. Lately, John­son Ram­saur has been in­creas­ingly in­volved in or­ga­niz­ing, in­creas­ing the group’s lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity and re­duc­ing its re­li­ance on a sin­gle or­ga­nizer.

Fi­nally, Tay­mon Beal has no for­mal role in any of these groups but acts as an un­offi­cial in­ter-group li­ai­son; they in­volve them­self in as many of the var­i­ous groups’ ac­tivi­ties as they have time for, talk to their lead­ers, and try to keep tabs on what ev­ery­one is do­ing. This lets them en­courage each group to co­or­di­nate their ac­tivi­ties when do­ing so makes sense.

In ad­di­tion to lo­cal-group-led ac­tivi­ties, Bos­ton has also hosted talks and in­for­mal dis­cus­sions with promi­nent vis­it­ing EAs and EA-ad­ja­cent peo­ple do­ing rele­vant work, in­clud­ing Jacy Reese from Sen­tience In­sti­tute, Jeff Als­tott from IARPA, and Che Green from Fau­n­a­lyt­ics.

Fellowships

The Arete Fel­low­ship (guide/​han­dover doc­u­ment here), an in­no­va­tive new pro­gram run at Har­vard and MIT as well as Duke and the Univer­sity of Hous­ton, is a weekly read­ing and dis­cus­sion group meant to in­tro­duce un­der­grad­u­ates to EA ideas. Fel­lows are cho­sen through a com­pet­i­tive ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cess, af­ter which they are as­signed about an hour’s worth of weekly EA read­ings and meet up once a week to dis­cuss them. The nine-week Arete cur­ricu­lum, com­posed largely by Har­vard un­der­grad­u­ate Stephen Casper, is de­signed to give com­plete be­gin­ners a work­ing knowl­edge of core EA ideas. Casper also worked hard on build­ing per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with Har­vard’s fel­lows, per­son­al­iz­ing each ac­cep­tance let­ter based on the fel­low’s ap­pli­ca­tion and at­tempt­ing to meet each fel­low for a one-on-one din­ner. Of the 68% of MIT Arete Fel­lows who com­pleted the pro­gram, 85% said in a sur­vey that they would be in­ter­ested in work­ing with the fel­low­ship or MIT Effec­tive Altru­ism in the fu­ture (ob­vi­ous se­lec­tion bias warn­ing). Har­vard’s sur­vey data was in­val­i­dated by low re­sponse rates, but many fel­lows be­came in­volved with Har­vard EA pro­jects af­ter finish­ing the pro­gram. Both Har­vard and MIT have re­al­ized that piping fel­lows from the fel­low­ship to more ac­tive EA roles is a sig­nifi­cant yet im­por­tant challenge.

Har­vard and MIT plan to run the Arete Fel­low­ship again in the fu­ture, and there has been in­ter­est from many other schools in adopt­ing it. The pro­gram is new and still heav­ily un­der re­vi­sion, and any schools the pro­gram ex­pands to are en­couraged to ex­per­i­ment with the read­ings and for­mat. In time, we hope to pro­duce a high-qual­ity, stan­dard­ized cur­ricu­lum that can be broadly dis­tributed.

Mean­while, the Har­vard Grad­u­ate School of Arts and Sciences Effec­tive Altru­ism stu­dent group launched the Agathon Ca­reer Fel­low­ship to help grad­u­ate stu­dents work to­wards satis­fy­ing and high-im­pact ca­reers. 43% of ap­pli­cants were ac­cepted, yield­ing an inau­gu­ral class of 17. Over four two-hour weekly ses­sions, Agathon Fel­lows were given a de­tailed, in­ter­ac­tive walk­through of the 80,000 Hours ca­reer guide plus small-group peer ca­reer coach­ing and one-on-ones with the fa­cil­i­ta­tors (Holly El­more, Elliot Glazer, and Chris Bak­er­lee). Again, sur­vey data was bi­ased by low re­sponse rates, but it yielded con­struc­tive crit­i­cism that will be taken into ac­count in fu­ture iter­a­tions of the pro­gram.

The Ra­tion­al­ist Com­mu­nity in Boston

Bos­ton had hosted ra­tio­nal­ist mee­tups since 2009, but the com­mu­nity be­came more firmly es­tab­lished around 2013 with the for­ma­tion of the Ci­tadel group house. Ci­tadel hosted mee­tups ev­ery other week and some­times other ac­tivi­ties such as Order of the Sphex, a sort of weekly group pro­duc­tivity check-in; AI safety, ma­chine learn­ing, and writ­ing mee­tups; and com­mu­nity so­cial­iz­ing.

Though this com­mu­nity was speci­fi­cally ra­tio­nal­ist, not EA, it over­lapped some­what with Ju­lia’s dis­cus­sion groups. Many mem­bers were in­ter­ested in EA-rele­vant top­ics, and a sig­nifi­cant frac­tion were giv­ing 10%, eth­i­cal veg*ns, or both. Many alumni from that com­mu­nity are now work­ing on EA pri­or­ity pro­jects or in places with EA mis­sions, in­clud­ing the Deep­Mind safety team, CFAR, and LessWrong 2.0.

Ci­tadel dis­solved in 2017, a vic­tim of bu­reau­cratic cross­fire be­tween the land­lord and the mu­ni­ci­pal hous­ing au­thor­i­ties. Another smaller group house, Sun­sh­ine Reg­i­ment Treefort, fol­lowed it, but it was less cul­turally suc­cess­ful and lasted only a year. A third at­tempt to es­tab­lish a ra­tio­nal­ist group house failed. The com­mu­nity that Ci­tadel was the cen­ter of is cur­rently de­funct.

Tay­mon Beal also ran a monthly Slate Star Codex meetup for a while, but it lost trac­tion af­ter the first two mee­tups. Evan Hefner has taken this over and his first meetup went well.

In­sti­tu­tions and Opportunities

Again, Bos­ton’s com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage is its high con­cen­tra­tion of pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties. It’s a city full of young peo­ple well-po­si­tioned for high-im­pact fu­ture ca­reers, who are un­sure what they want to do with their lives but tend to be am­bi­tious about it: peo­ple who are likely to find EA’s mes­sage and goals ap­peal­ing, and have the po­ten­tial to do big things once they’ve joined. How­ever, since it’s difficult for col­lege stu­dents to con­tribute to EA pro­jects be­yond cam­pus or­ga­niz­ing un­til they grad­u­ate, Bos­ton EA’s heavy stu­dent com­po­si­tion may hurt our ca­pac­ity for pro­duc­ing im­me­di­ate im­pact. Academia also cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties to lose sight of im­pact for pres­tige: “AI” is a bit of a buz­zword in many EA-ir­rele­vant con­texts, and it’s easy to get ex­cited about ac­tivi­ties, es­pe­cially pitched from out­side the EA com­mu­nity, that sound good but don’t do much. This is es­pe­cially tempt­ing since Bos­ton has few di­rect-work jobs, as de­scribed be­low.

MIT has rather fallen be­hind in the ma­chine learn­ing boom, as the ad­van­tages of Stan­ford and UC Berkeley are so strong that most of the most promis­ing re­searchers go there. It’s plan­ning to es­tab­lish a new billion-dol­lar school of com­put­ing in or­der to catch up with the Bay, but it’s un­cer­tain whether it will suc­ceed in that re­spect.

In ad­di­tion to the uni­ver­si­ties, Bos­ton is os­ten­si­bly the world cap­i­tal of biotech. As per @an­throp­icprin­ci­pal on Dis­cord: “The same way that the Bay Area feels like ev­ery­one has a startup and that if you ex­press Wrong opinions about I dunno TypeScript aloud on a street cor­ner a ran­dom passerby may ar­gue with you, Cam­bridge feels like half the peo­ple on the sub­way with you have some kind of al­most-self-aware maybe-can­cer-eat­ing fun­gus they’re on their way to sing lul­la­bies to.”

Bos­ton com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions provide am­ple op­por­tu­nity for wide-rang­ing biomed­i­cal re­search, in­clud­ing syn­thetic biol­ogy and im­munol­ogy. How­ever, lit­tle of this work is fo­cused ex­plic­itly on miti­gat­ing global catas­trophic biolog­i­cal risks, im­prov­ing an­i­mal welfare, or slow­ing ag­ing. Kevin Esvelt and the Sculpt­ing Evolu­tion group at the MIT Me­dia Lab are do­ing EA-rele­vant re­search—speci­fi­cally on malaria gene drives. Esvelt has spo­ken at mul­ti­ple EA Global con­fer­ences and has writ­ten about the pre­ven­tion of global catas­trophic risks aris­ing from biotech and the po­ten­tial use of gene drives to pre­vent wild an­i­mal suffer­ing.

The only ex­plic­itly EA non­profit lo­cated in Bos­ton is the Fu­ture of Life In­sti­tute, which works pri­mar­ily on nu­clear and AI risk. While their in-house re­search is cur­rently limited, they run pro­jects that en­able or sup­port re­search, or are largely di­rect-ac­tion- or ad­vo­cacy-fo­cused. They pre­vi­ously func­tioned as a grant­maker for AI safety re­search, with $10 mil­lion in fund­ing from Elon Musk, but do not have im­me­di­ate plans to give out more money. FLI is look­ing for vol­un­teers, es­pe­cially for the Fu­ture-of-Life Awards pro­gram, which will rec­og­nize pre­vi­ously-over­looked in­di­vi­d­u­als who have con­tributed sig­nifi­cantly to the long-term wellbe­ing of life on Earth. In­ter­ested vol­un­teers can ap­ply here. The point of con­tact for more in­for­ma­tion on FLI’s ac­tivi­ties is lu­cas@fu­ture­oflife.org.

Bos­ton also hosts the North Amer­i­can office of J-PAL, the Ab­dul Latif Jameel Poverty Ac­tion Lab, which re­searches and pro­motes ev­i­dence-based policy for global poverty alle­vi­a­tion. J-PAL is not offi­cially af­fili­ated with effec­tive al­tru­ism, but they have re­ceived grants from GiveWell and OpenPhil.Their em­ploy­ees have pre­sented at mul­ti­ple EA con­fer­ences in Bos­ton, in­clud­ing EAG 2017.

Google’s Cam­bridge office em­ploys a num­ber of EA and EA-ad­ja­cent peo­ple. Though it’s a minor branch office of the com­pany, less than a tenth the size of Google head­quar­ters, it punches well above its weight dur­ing Google’s an­nual em­ployee-giv­ing ini­ti­a­tive and some­times beats ev­ery other office in funds raised. For the past few years, Jeff Kauf­man has led Google Cam­bridge’s EAs in suc­cess­fully lob­by­ing to di­rect that money to­ward GiveWell-recom­mended char­i­ties. At be­tween a quar­ter-mil­lion and a half-mil­lion dol­lars each year, this may be the largest fundrais­ing event for GiveWell char­i­ties in the world.

The EA Com­mu­nity in Boston

Bos­ton is not the Bay Area. It’s far from the cen­ter of EA ac­tion, misses out on much of the benefit of cen­tral­iza­tion and dense net­works, and doesn’t have enough lo­cal EA-al­igned or­ga­ni­za­tions to em­ploy its am­bi­tious, ded­i­cated grad­u­ates. There’s al­most no tech­ni­cal AI safety work to speak of in the area and lit­tle work on AI strat­egy ei­ther, nor meta work be­yond lo­cal com­mu­nity-build­ing. Many tal­ented com­mu­nity mem­bers end up leav­ing Bos­ton sooner or later for jobs in var­i­ous other cities, with the Bay as an es­pe­cially at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion given its EA orgs and so­cial cen­tral­iza­tion.

All of Bos­ton’s lo­cal or­ga­niz­ing is done in peo­ple’s spare time, of­ten around de­mand­ing aca­demic or work sched­ules. This al­lows the com­mu­nity to do pro­duc­tive work very cheaply, pow­ered by Ju­lia’s gen­eros­ity for the din­ner mee­tups plus stu­dent ac­tivity fund­ing from the uni­ver­si­ties. Nearly any pro­ject we can con­ceive of will have peo­ple available and will­ing to work on it. Vol­un­teer pro­jects are also a great way to get in­ter­ested new­com­ers more in­vested in and con­nected to the lo­cal com­mu­nity. How­ever, this leaves us at the risk of peo­ple drop­ping off of pro­jects as other de­mands on them in­crease, and means that most of our ac­tivi­ties are run by am­a­teurs. The EAGx or­ga­niz­ing team in par­tic­u­lar has strug­gled with re­tain­ing mem­bers year to year and with find­ing ex­pe­rienced team lead­ers who aren’t busy with other re­spon­si­bil­ities. The Bos­ton com­mu­nity might be able to in­crease its effi­ciency and im­pact by cre­at­ing a paid com­mu­nity-build­ing po­si­tion, pos­si­bly through an EA Com­mu­nity Build­ing Grant from CEA. It’s un­clear at the mo­ment whether we have any­one who’s qual­ified for this job and not oth­er­wise oc­cu­pied.

Hav­ing such a stu­dent-cen­tered com­mu­nity means Bos­ton as a whole is par­tic­u­larly vuln­er­a­ble to the high turnover rates and lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion prob­lems that tend to plague uni­ver­sity groups. Group lead­ers are always rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­rienced and leave as soon as they’ve built up much skill. If they don’t find com­pe­tent suc­ces­sors, their groups are at risk of de­clin­ing or even go­ing de­funct, though some have re­cov­ered from this in the past. The un­der­grad­u­ate groups have dis­cussed some strate­gies to en­sure lead­er­ship han­dovers con­sis­tently go well, such as choos­ing lead­ers early enough to give them sig­nifi­cant train­ing, writ­ing han­dover doc­u­ments ex­plain­ing how to run im­por­tant club func­tions, and work­ing hard to bring in fresh­men each year.

Based on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence com­par­ing Bos­ton’s EA com­mu­nity to other lo­cal groups, its cul­ture is rel­a­tively ac­cessible, wel­com­ing, and warm—though pos­si­bly less con­sis­tently friendly for peo­ple from non-tech­ni­cal back­grounds. Peo­ple are gen­er­ally ac­cept­ing to­ward new­com­ers and peo­ple farther from the com­mu­nity’s core. It’s pos­si­ble to be in­volved with­out sav­ing the world or do­ing di­rect work on a pri­or­ity pro­gram—Bos­ton EAs are do­ing all kinds of differ­ent things. The in­de­pen­dent group in par­tic­u­lar tends to be wel­com­ing and grounded. It also has a long his­tory and will likely be around for a while to come.

Build­ing Unity

In 2018, the Bos­ton com­mu­nity trans­formed from an ar­ray of largely in­de­pen­dent groups to a fledgling col­lab­o­ra­tive in­ter­col­le­giate net­work. This was largely due to the plan­ning pro­cess for EAGxBos­ton 2018, a one-day con­fer­ence held at MIT and the Bos­ton com­mu­nity’s sin­gle largest un­der­tak­ing this year (post­mortem here). Bos­ton has also hosted EAGx Bos­ton 2016, or­ga­nized lo­cally, and EA Global Bos­ton 2017, or­ga­nized by CEA with vol­un­teer sup­port from the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

At the be­gin­ning of 2018, Tay­mon ini­ti­ated a call for vol­un­teer EAGx or­ga­niz­ers. The re­sult­ing team was led by Matt Rear­don of Har­vard Law School, who worked with two other stu­dents at Har­vard, two at MIT, one at Tufts, and Tay­mon them­self. Since Har­vard did not par­ti­ci­pate in or­ga­niz­ing EAGxBos­ton 2016, this was the first col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­ject in­volv­ing both Har­vard and MIT EA. Many of the or­ga­niz­ers oc­cu­pied lead­er­ship po­si­tions in their re­spec­tive groups. After col­lab­o­rat­ing so closely on a time-in­ten­sive pro­ject, these lead­ers con­tinued to ac­tively co­or­di­nate ac­tivi­ties to­gether, and their groups now com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate much more fre­quently. It has be­come com­mon for mem­bers of one group to at­tend events hosted by an­other, and Har­vard and MIT switch off on host­ing monthly in­ter­col­le­giate so­cials.

Lead­ers from each of Bos­ton’s groups met to­gether for the first time in Septem­ber, fol­low­ing a much smaller in­ter­col­le­giate meet­ing in De­cem­ber 2017. They dis­cussed var­i­ous pro­jects to work on to­gether, and cre­ated a Slack chan­nel to make it eas­ier for them to reach each other. A group leader re­treat funded by CEA in Novem­ber was very helpful for in­creas­ing in­ter­group co­or­di­na­tion, as it al­lowed lead­ers who barely knew each other to bond, share tips, and work on over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy.

Plans and Pos­si­bil­ities for 2019

2018 has been a very ex­cit­ing year in Bos­ton. We hope to con­tinue most of our cur­rent pro­jects, build on them, and ex­pand and bet­ter co­or­di­nate our com­mu­nity.

EAGx Bos­ton 2019 will take place April 27-28 at Har­vard. We are ex­pand­ing to a two-day con­fer­ence with a fo­cus on fa­cil­i­tat­ing net­work­ing and helping at­ten­dees come away with bet­ter-tar­geted plans for im­prov­ing the world.

The Belfer Cen­ter’s Tech­nol­ogy and Public Policy Group has founded the Emerg­ing Tech Policy Net­work for the Spring 2019 semester. This is a ca­reer net­work and weekly din­ner dis­cus­sion group fo­cused on ma­jor long-term policy ques­tions sur­round­ing emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing miti­gat­ing catas­trophic risks. In­di­vi­d­u­als in the net­work will have ex­clu­sive ac­cess to high-pro­file speak­ers, in­clud­ing poli­cy­mak­ers, aca­demics, and tech­nol­ogy ex­perts, as they nav­i­gate ca­reer de­ci­sions. Ap­pli­ca­tions are cur­rently on­go­ing. We are ex­cited about this op­por­tu­nity for those in­ter­ested in catas­trophic risks.

We also hope to ex­pand, pro­fes­sion­al­ize, and im­prove the qual­ity of the fel­low­ships, pos­si­bly con­sult­ing move­ment-build­ing ex­perts to pro­duce a well-thought-out cur­ricu­lum we can be very con­fi­dent in. We’d like to an­swer the ques­tion of how to keep fel­low­ship grad­u­ates en­gaged with the com­mu­nity and help them past any stick­ing points along the road from freshly minted EAs with a solid grasp of the ba­sics to peo­ple who can suc­cess­fully take on se­ri­ous pro­jects and pro­duce im­pact in the real world. The Har­vard Kennedy School has also just be­gun its own 10-week fel­low­ship, which adopts 80,000 Hours con­tent for in­di­vi­d­u­als fo­cused on nav­i­gat­ing high-im­pact ca­reers in gov­ern­ment, civil so­ciety, and pub­lic policy. 40 stu­dents, pri­mar­ily from HKS, are cur­rently en­rol­led.

Fi­nally, we’d like to de­velop new stu­dent groups at Tufts, Bos­ton Univer­sity, Wel­lesley, and other lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties. By fur­ther grow­ing the pop­u­la­tion of bright, en­er­getic young EAs; ex­pand­ing our net­work to other schools; and con­tin­u­ing to forge our dis­parate groups to­gether into one com­mu­nity, we hope to make Bos­ton an even more ex­cit­ing and ac­tive EA hub in the fu­ture. We as­pire to be a place where smart, cre­ative peo­ple gather to gen­er­ate, iter­ate, and try out ideas with real-world im­pact—a lab­o­ra­tory to de­velop the tools to fight suffer­ing and make the world a bet­ter place.