Asterisk is a new quarterly magazine/journal of ideas from in and around Effective Altruism. Our goal is to provide clear, engaging, and deeply researched writing about complicated questions. This might look like a superforecaster giving a detailed explanation of the reasoning they use to make a prediction, a researcher discussing a problem in their work, or deep-dive into something the author noticed didn’t quite make sense. While everything we publish should be useful (or at least interesting) to committed EAs, our audience is the wider penumbra of people who care about improving the world but aren’t necessarily routine readers of, say, the EA forum.
In a nutshell: we’re for Bayes’ theorem, acknowledging our uncertainty, weird hypotheticals, and well constructed sentences. We’re against easy answers, lazy metaphors, and the end of life as we know it.
While we expect the bulk of our pieces will be about typical EA cause areas (we think they’re important for a reason!), we’re a lot less interested in covering specific topics than in showcasing an “EA-ish” way of thinking about the world. We want to show off what this community does best: finding new ideas, taking them seriously, and investigating them rigorously – all while doing our best to reason under uncertainty.
We’re especially excited about pieces that help readers improve their epistemics and build better models of the world (the kinds of questions you’d see in the world-modeling tag on Less Wrong would all be within scope for us). We’d like to see smart writing about global catastrophic risks aimed at a wider audience, EA methods applied to topics we’ve never thought about, and historical case studies that help us understand the present. Here are a few representative examples of the kinds of questions we’d like to see people tackle:
How can we predict the next pandemic? Are there plausible candidate pathogens outside the usual suspects (flu, pox or coronavirus)?
What economic impacts of AI do we expect to see in the next five years? The next ten? Which industries will be impacted first?
How was Oral Rehydration Therapy developed and rolled out? Why did it take until the 1960s when the underlying mechanism is so simple?
The pessimists are probably right about lab grown meat for human consumption. Is there a niche for it anyway?
Does the typical American cow lead a life worth living?
We’re approaching the 10 year anniversary of the replication crisis: what’s changed, what hasn’t?
Net neutrality was repealed in 2018. At the time, everyone was convinced this would be the end of internet freedom. What’s actually happened since, and why did so many people get it wrong?
What lessons should the biosafety community draw from the Soviet & US cold war bio-warfare programs?
Technology drives agricultural productivity in the US – what are the barriers to bringing that to the developing world?
Effective PPE exists. What would it take to make it wearable and widely available?
What do we know about the evolution of human intelligence, and what, if anything can it tell us about the development of artificial intelligence?
How contingent is scientific progress? Is differential technological development possible, and if so, how can it be steered?
Right now, we’re not interested in pure philosophy, movement evangelism, or meta-EA and other inside baseball. Reports on the health of the community or various internal organizations can be interesting, but they don’t have the kind of broad appeal we’re looking for.
If you’re interested in writing for us, please send a short paragraph explaining your idea (along with a writing sample, if you have one) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to writers, we’re looking for:
Managing Editor: our first full-time hire. To learn more about the role or to apply, check out the job posting on CEA’s website.
Copy Editors and Fact Checkers: These are part-time roles, between ten and thirty hours per month depending on availability. Professional copy-editing experience would be nice, but by no means necessary. Fact-checkers with domain expertise in topics we’re likely to cover are especially valuable.
Web/UX developer: We’re looking for a developer with design and UX experience who can work with our design team to help build the site. We anticipate this role taking three or four months of part-time work, plus further availability on a consulting basis to help troubleshoot problems and implement new features.
Asterisk is fiscally sponsored by the Centre for Effective Altruism and our salary and benefits are managed by CEA, but we are an independent organization and retain full editorial oversight.