EA Organization Updates: November 2020
These monthly posts originated as the “Updates” section of the EA Newsletter.
It’s a set of prompts that take you through how to make a career plan, checking you’ve asked yourself the most important questions, are aware of the best resources, and have taken the most useful steps to investigate.
For the podcast, Rob Wiblin spoke with Tristan Harris about the political and social problems created by social media and what we might do about them, and Arden Koehler spoke to Benjamin Todd about what the core claims of effective altruism really are.
Finally, they set up a live open thread on the EA Forum where you can ask for advice on career questions and offer advice to others.
Anima International’s Eating Better project revealed that 54% of Russians are ready to include plant-based meat alternatives in their diet. The report and the promotion of plant-based meat in Russia was covered in an article in Vegconomist.
Anima International (AI) has been focusing on promoting and monitoring the decline of the fur industry in Europe. AI operates in a number of countries in which the industry could potentially be banned, so each part of the organization is pushing for that and securing news coverage on the subject across Europe.
Biedronka (Jerónimo Martins), the biggest retailer chain in Poland, published a press release saying they will phase out cage eggs by 31 December 2021 — four years earlier than the date to which they originally committed. Anima International was involved in the initial negotiations around this commitment.
News broke in November that Rasmus Prehn, the new Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, will work toward a complete phasing out of cage eggs. A 2019 survey conducted for Anima by YouGov showed that seven out of 10 Danes believe that it is unacceptable to keep hens in cages.
Open Cages UK released a report co-written by David Wiebers, a neurology professor and physician, and Andrew Knight, a professor of animal welfare/ethics and veterinarian. The report, titled “A British Pandemic: The Cruelty and Danger of Supermarket Chicken”, reveals the potential for catastrophic new pandemics arising from the UK food system. It was featured in The Independent.
Animal Advocacy Careers
Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) released a new skills profile (“technical research for animal product alternatives”) to help individuals understand whether seeking to develop this kind of expertise could be one of the most effective ways for them to help animals. This skills profile was based partly on AAC’s newly-released “Animal Product Alternatives For-Profit Roles Spot-Check”, which contains data about the companies working on these products and available jobs at those companies.
AAC also published “A Brief Overview of Hiring and Turnover Costs Research” and added 17 new roles to their job board.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is excited to announce that they have published their 2020 charity reviews. This year, they recommend four Top Charities. The Albert Schweitzer Foundation, The Good Food Institute, and The Humane League have retained their status from last year, and — for the first time — Wild Animal Initiative joins their ranks!
ACE also recommends nine Standout Charities: Anima International, Compassion in World Farming USA, Essere Animali, Faunalytics, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, the Good Food Fund, Sinergia Animal, Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira, and Vegetarianos Hoy.
They published a blog post on the process leading to their 2020 recommendations.
A generous grant has allowed Animal Ethics to begin several long-term research projects in wild animal suffering and feasible interventions such as vaccination and contraception.
They recently published a blog post titled “The potential to reduce the suffering of animals in the wild using eDNA sampling.” The post explores the potential of this technique to revolutionize our ability to help wild animals in the near future.
Aditya SK, Animal Ethics’ coordinator in India, presented at EAGx Asia-Pacific on expanding animal advocacy and concern for wild animal suffering in India.
Animal Ethics can now be followed on Twitter in French in addition to English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
BERI is running a public fundraiser from now until the end of the year. They’re hoping to raise $50,000 to support new trial collaborations in 2021. For more information, see their blog post, which also summarizes much of their 2020 activity.
Centre for Enabling EA Learning and Research (CEEALAR)
Open to new applicants: They are offering free tests for COVID-19 infection on arrival at the Athena Hotel, Blackpool, with self-isolation only required until a negative test result comes back. You can have a great time with fellow EAs, with minimal contact with the outside world. Apply here.
Hiring: They ran job adverts for an Operations Manager and Community & Projects Manager in August. Unfortunately, they didn’t receive the level of interest they had hoped for! If you saw the ads but decided not to apply, please let them know what would’ve tipped the balance for you in favor of applying.
Fundraising: They were fortunate to receive a generous donation of $50,000 from Jaan Tallinn. However, they are still some way off the ideal of an 18-month runway, so further donations are most welcome.
CEEALAR has become a registered charity. Donations made from 6 December 2019 onward by UK taxpayers are eligible for Gift Aid.
Centre for Effective Altruism
Recruiting new people to effective altruism
Retaining highly engaged community members
Reducing risks to the growth and stability of the community.
If you’d like to support their work, you can donate here.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
NeurIPS 2020 accepted four more papers co-authored by CHAI researchers:
Pedro Freire, Adam Gleave, Sam Toyer, Stuart Russell. “DERAIL: Diagnostic Environments for Reward and Imitation Learning” (Deep RL Workshop)
Rohin Shah, Pedro Freire, Neel Alex, Rachel Freedman, Dmitrii Krasheninnikov, Lawrence Chan, Michael Dennis, Pieter Abbeel, Anca Dragan, Stuart Russell. “Benefits of Assistance over Reward Learning” (Cooperative AI Workshop; won a Best Paper Award)
Scott Emmons, Ajay Jain, Michael Laskin, Thanard Kurutach, Pieter Abbeel, Deepak Pathak. “Sparse Graphical Memory for Robust Planning”
Eric J. Michaud, Adam Gleave, Stuart Russell. “Understanding Learned Reward Functions” (DeepRL Workshop)
The Survival and Flourishing Fund donated $799,000 to CHAI, sent to the UC Berkeley Foundation, as well as $247,000 to the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative to be used for the BERI-CHAI Collaboration. On Giving Tuesday, BERI also received over $46,000. CHAI gives many thanks to all the generous donors who continue to support their work.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER held their third major international conference over 16-19 November, focusing on key themes from Martin Rees’ seminal 2003 book Our Final Century and reflecting on the development of the field of global catastrophic risk research. Speakers included Martin Rees, Bentley Allan, Francesco Calogero, Nancy Connell, Joan Diamond, Doug Erwin, Jason Hickel, Karim Jebari, Lindley Johnson, Ndidi Nwaneri, Stuart Parkinson, Malcolm Potts, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Heather Roff, Anders Sandberg, and Sheri Wells-Jensen. Videos of all the speakers and panels are now available online.
Shahar Avin and Amritha Jayanti published a new report, “It Takes a Village: The Shared Responsibility of ‘Raising’ an Autonomous Weapon,” highlighting complementary and contradicting conceptions of future autonomous weapons systems.
CSER welcomes three new staff members: Dr. Jake Ainscough and Akaraseth Puranasamriddhi joined as research assistants in Climate Risk and Sustainable Finance, working with Dr. Ellen Quigley, and Laura Elmer will be CSER’s new administrative assistant and PA to the management team.
CSER published a comic based on their recent horizon scan to identify bioengineering trends that will be important over the next five to 15 years. The comic appeared in eLife earlier this year. It was produced by Myrto Gkiouli and Efdemon, and is available in English and Spanish.
The latest digest of eight recent papers identified as relevant to the study of existential risk by CSER’s TERRA machine learning tool during November 2020 is now available.
Center on Long-Term Risk
They also announced their Intro Seminar to S-Risks, which will take place in February. Applications close on 4 January.
The program will be held online from 28 June to 27 August 2021. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, CE may also organize part of the course offline for those who can travel to London (all costs covered). Successful applicants will receive a free two-month intensive training in management, fundraising, and impact analysis — everything needed to start a charity! If you finish the program with a co-founder and a high-impact charity startup, you can apply for a seed grant of up to $100,000.
To learn more, visit CE’s Incubation Program website.
Faunalytics published their newest study: “Beliefs About Chickens And Fish & Their Relation To Animal-Positive Behaviors.” Their findings reveal what beliefs people currently have about these animals and how common those beliefs are among US consumers. They also looked at how each belief relates to people’s willingness to take action in support of chickens and fish. Read the full results here.
Their research library includes new study summaries on cultured meat and European attitudes toward fish welfare, and new blog posts on the psychology behind charitable giving and evaluating Faunalytics’ own effectiveness.
Fish Welfare Initiative
As they wrap up their research stage and begin the implementation of their work, FWI has released three new research pieces:
“Fish Welfare Improvements in Aquaculture” gives a near-comprehensive overview of the welfare issues facing farmed fish and how to mitigate these. It also includes the first ever (as far as FWI is aware) discussion of welfare and recommendations for the fish species commonly farmed in India.
“Fish Welfare Scoping Report: China” discusses current conditions and potential improvements for farmed fish in China, which accounts for more than half of all global farmed fish.
“Fish Welfare Scoping Report: The Philippines” discusses current conditions and potential improvements for farmed fish in the Philippines, the eleventh-largest global producer of farmed fish. It also includes findings from the farm visits of FWI’s local contractor.
They also published a post announcing their strategy for 2021: working with other NGOs to incorporate higher welfare practices into fish farming in India.
Future of Humanity Institute
This month, FHI held their annual retreat to discuss research directions and future projects. The Centre for the Governance of AI (GovAI) also held their annual strategy retreat, and Alexis Carlier joined as Project Manager.
There were several publications from the Macrostrategy team: Nick Bostrom and Carl Shulman published “Sharing the World with Digital Minds,” Eric Drexler and Anders Sandberg co-authored “The Timing of Evolutionary Transitions Suggests Intelligent Life Is Rare,” Silvia Milano co-authored “Ethical aspects of multi-stakeholder recommendation systems,” and Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg co-authored “Recognizing the Diversity of Cognitive Enhancements.”
GiveWell’s annual recommendations for individual donors are now online! These recommendations are the culmination of thousands of hours of research into numerous criteria including charities’ effectiveness and room for funding. Their top recommendation remains to give to GiveWell’s Maximum Impact Fund.
New Incentives just joined GiveWell’s list of Top Charities! New Incentives was a GiveWell Incubation Grant recipient; after closely following their progress over several years, GiveWell is excited to see this program meet their top charity criteria.
GiveWell is currently seeking researchers to identify, analyze, and compare the giving opportunities that can most cost-effectively save or improve the lives of the global poor:
Senior Research Associate: You have more than six years of relevant work or educational experience, often including a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Senior Researcher: You have over a decade of relevant work experience, often involving both a Ph.D and a few years of work experience, or a master’s degree and many years of work experience.
Giving What We Can
This giving season, Giving What We Can encourages you to join (and invite others to join) their Pledge Drive and the Effective Giving Advocacy Challenge. With giving season in full swing and a new year around the corner, this is the best time to promote effective giving!
Giving What We Can was recently featured twice on Vox, with Toby Ord explaining the pledge 11 years on and Kelsey Piper making the case for giving sooner rather than later. Waking Up released a new series, “Doing Good,” with Will MacAskill and Sam Harris.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
In a recent blog post, GCRI looked back at what they accomplished in 2020 and at what they hope to accomplish in 2021. In general, they plan to continue doing policy outreach, building the global catastrophic risk community, conducting research that advances understanding of global catastrophic risk, and growing their staff and network of external collaborators. GCRI depends on your support and hopes you will consider them in your donations this year.
GCRI is also pleased to announce that “Long-Term Trajectories of Human Civilization” won Emerald Publishing’s 2020 Literati Award for Outstanding Paper. GCRI Executive Director Seth Baum led a group of 14 scholars on the paper.
The Good Food Institute
GFI’s Policy Team provided recommendations to members of the Biden-Harris transition team, urging the Administration to prioritize investment in alternative protein research and development in its economic recovery plan.
The GFI Israel and GFI Europe teams facilitated a virtual roundtable aimed at establishing four consortia to apply for EU research and innovation funds to advance sustainable food systems. The Horizon 2020 funding calls will secure €6-12 million in funding for each project and bring potential partners together.
GFI Europe organized a roundtable on alternative proteins for the UK government team responsible for drafting the National Food Strategy, which will influence UK policy and R&D in the coming years.
GFI continued to strengthen their relationship with the World Economic Forum (WEF). GFI India Managing Director Varun Deshpande moderated a panel at the WEF’s Future of Protein event titled “Leveraging the Power of Innovation for Alternative and Plant-Based Proteins.” Policy Associate Emily Hennessee is working with WEF as Innovation Lead for an action track in the 2021 United Nations Food System Summit, a unique opportunity for GFI to influence the global conversation and develop relationships with other nonprofits and intergovernmental institutions. Director of Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell and the Communications Team worked with the WEF to publish an op-ed on the WEF blog which described fermentation technology’s power to transform our global food system and made the case for increased investments.
For the fifth year in a row, Animal Charity Evaluators determined that GFI is one of the most effective animal charities they’ve found.
Happier Lives Institute
Happier Lives Institute has published two new working papers: a meta-analysis of the effect of cash transfers on subjective well-being and a theoretical paper on the comparability of subjective scales. HLI has also produced a problem area report on pain and a short introduction to the philosophy of well-being.
The Humane League
Leveraging the success of a recent Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) secured from Aldi in Germany, THL and coalition partners in the Open Wing Alliance (OWA) negotiated with the supermarket giant to extend this policy to its Spanish market. This new commitment will spare approximately 17,000,000 chickens raised for meat from some of the worst abuses on factory farms. THL UK also secured Better Chicken Commitments from restaurant chains Franco Manca and Côte Brasseries.
THL also continues to invest in global efforts to reduce the suffering of egg-laying hens. Last month, THL and the OWA secured a global cage-free policy from Meliá Hotels and Resorts, while THL Japan secured cage-free commitments from restaurant chain Kijima, as well as restaurant and retailer San-no-hachi.
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) recognized THL as a Top Charity for the seventh year in a row.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $3.6M to The Humane League to support the Open Wing Alliance, $3.2M to the University of Glasgow to support research on malaria prevention, $275K to Direct Relief to support the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, and $150K to Free Hearts to support criminal justice reform work. They also published suggestions for individual donors from Open Philanthropy staff.
This month, Jason Schukraft published a summary of Rethink Priorities’ research into the intensity of valenced experiences across species, and Derek Foster published the first post in a series on measuring subjective wellbeing in humans. Rethink Priorities also published a summary of their activities in 2020 and strategy for 2021, and hosted an AMA on the EA Forum.
Suvita is entering the final stages of their immunisation ambassadors programme pilot in Bihar, India, with promising early indicators supporting their theory of change. They continue to build collaborative relationships with government and academia. They have also launched a year-end crowdfunding campaign.
WANBAM are delighted to announce that they are now accepting Expressions of Interest for mentees. To provide an insight into their work, they created a video on what their community most values about their work here. They would love to hear from you if you are a woman, non-binary person, or trans person of any gender with an interest in pursuing a high-impact career path in an EA-aligned field. Applications will remain open until 1 January 2021. For more information, please see their website.
Wild Animal Initiative
Animal Charity Evaluators recognized Wild Animal Initiative as a Top Charity and one of the four most impactful giving opportunities in effective animal advocacy. Open Philanthropy’s animal welfare experts also personally recommended Wild Animal Initiative to individual donors. WAI held an open forum to discuss their ACE recommendation, room for more funding, and plans for growth.
Last month, the WAI Research Team connected with experts in prairie dog fertility control, mathematical ecology, and wild animal aging. WAI researcher Luke Hecht reviewed the methods used in cause-specific mortality research and their limitations. He also summarized what is and isn’t known about how wild animals die.
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