Big List of Cause Candidates

Many thanks to Ozzie Gooen for suggesting this project, to Marta Krzeminska for editing help and to Michael Aird and others for various comments. In early 2022, Leo updated the list with new candidates suggested before March 2022, in this post—these have now been incorporated into the main post.

In the last few years, there have been many dozens of posts about potential new EA cause areas, causes and interventions. Searching for new causes seems like a worthy endeavour, but on their own, the submissions can be quite scattered and chaotic. Collecting and categorizing these cause candidates seemed like a clear next step.

At the time we first published this post, we —Ozzie Gooen of the Quantified Uncertainty Research Institute and I—noted that we might later be interested in expanding this work and eventually using it for forecasting —e.g., predicting whether each candidate would still seem promising after much more rigorous research. At the same time, we felt like the original list itself could be useful already. Since then, we haven’t carried out forecasting experiments, but we have once updated the list as noted above.

Below is the current list with suggestions up to March 2022. It has a simple categorization, as well as an occasional short summary which paraphrases or quotes key points from the posts linked. See the last appendix for some notes on nomenclature. If there are any entries I missed (and there will be), please say so in the comments and I’ll add them.

Initially, I created the “Cause Candidates” tag on the EA Forum and tagged all of the listed posts, and made available a Google Sheet. These are not maintained, but might be upon request.

Animal Welfare and Suffering

Pointer: This cause has its various EA Forum tags (farmed animal welfare, wild animal welfare, meat alternatives), where more cause candidates can be found. Brian Tomasik et al.’s Essays on Reducing Suffering are also a gift that keeps on giving for this and other cause areas.

1.Wild Animal Suffering Caused by Fires

Related categories: Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

An Animal Ethics grantee designed a protocol aimed at helping animals during and after fires. The protocol contains specific suggestions, but the path to turning these into policy is unclear.

2. Invertebrate Welfare

In this post, we apply the standard importance-neglectedness-tractability framework to invertebrate welfare to determine, as best we can, whether this is a cause area that is worth prioritizing. We conclude that it is.”

Note: See also Brian Tomasik’s Do Bugs Feel Pain.

3. Humane Pesticides

The post argues that insects experience consciousness, and that there are a lot of them, so we should give them significant moral weight (comments contain a discussion on this point). The post goes on to recommend subsidization of less-painful pesticides, an idea initially suggested by Brian Tomasik, who “estimates this intervention to cost one dollar per 250,000 less-painful deaths.” The second post goes into much more depth.

4. Diet Change

The first post is a stub. The second post looks at a reasonably high-powered study on individual outreach. It concludes that, based on reasonable assumptions, the particular intervention used (showing videos of the daily life of factory-farmed pigs) isn’t competitive with other interventions on humans:

“(...) we now think there is sufficient evidence to establish that individual outreach may work to produce positive change for nonhuman animals. However, evidence in this study points to an estimate of $310 per pig year saved (90% interval: $46 to $1100), which is worse than human-focused interventions even from a species neutral perspective. More analysis would be needed to see how individual outreach compares to other interventions in animal advocacy or in other cause areas.

Given that a person can be reached for ~$2 and that they spare ~1 pig week, that works out to $150 per pig saved (90% interval: $23 to $560) and, again assuming that each pig has a ~6 month lifespan, that works out to $310 per pig year saved (90% interval: $47 to $1100). To put this in context, Against Malaria Foundation can avert a year of human suffering from malaria for $39, this does not look very cost-effective.”

Comments point out that the postulated retention rates may be too high (making the intervention even worse). Lastly, the second post was written in 2018, and more work might have been done in the meantime.

The third post is somewhat more recent (Nov 2020), but it reports results in terms of “portions of meat not consumed” rather than “animal-years spared”. This makes a comparison with previous research not be straightforward, because different animals correspond to different intensity and length of suffering per kilogram of meat produced, and the post does not report how big these portions are or to which animals they belong.

The fourth post explores “current and developing alternatives to self-reporting of dietary data.

5. Vegan/​Vegetarian Recidivism

“But there’s a big problem with vegan/​vegetarian advocacy: most people who switch to vegan/​vegetarian diets later switch back.”

The post suggests paying more attention to the growth rate of the vegan/​vegetarian movement. It also suggests some specific measures, like producing resources which make it easier for vegetarians/​vegans to get all the nutrients they need in the absence of animal products.

6. Plant-Based Seafood

This Charity Entrepreneurship report ultimately concludes that: ”...while fish product creation in Asia is the most promising intervention within food technology in terms of impact on animals, it is not the most promising intervention for Charity Entrepreneurship to focus on.”

Note: Charity Entrepreneurship has produced many more reports. But, as they are not tagged on the EA Forum, they were difficult to incorporate in this analysis, given the search method I was using (see Appendix: Method). They are, however, available on their webpage.

7. Improving plant-based diets

In order to improve vegan alternatives, this post proposes to create new types of plant-based food crossing rare Chinese tofu with traditional western cooking methods. The author analyzes the idea in detail, and answers possible objections.

8. Moral Circle Expansion

“This blog post makes the case for focusing on quality risks over population risks. More specifically, though also more tentatively, it makes the case for focusing on reducing quality risk through moral circle expansion (MCE), the strategy of impacting the far future through increasing humanity’s concern for sentient beings who currently receive little consideration (i.e. widening our moral circle so it includes them.)”

In particular, the post makes this point by comparing moral circle expansion to AI alignment as a cause area.

9. Analgesics for Farm Animals

Related categories: Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

“There is only one FDA approved drug for farm animal pain in the U.S. (and that drug is not approved for any of the painful body modifications that farm animals are subjected to), FDA approval might meaningfully increase the frequency with which these drugs actually used, and addressing this might be a tractable and effective way to improve farm animal welfare [...] Farm animals in the U.S. almost never get pain medication for acutely painful procedures such as castration, tail docking, beak trimming, fin cutting, abdominal surgery, and dehorning. What I was not aware of until this morning is that there is only one FDA approved medication for ANY farm animal analgesic, and that medication is specifically approved only for foot rot in cattle [...] In contrast, the EU, UK, and Canada have much higher standards for food residues in other domains (hormones, antibiotics, etc.) but have nevertheless approved several pain medication for several procedures in species of farm animals. As a result, these drugs are much more commonly used there.”

10. Welfare of Specific Animals

Rethink Priorities has done research on the welfare of specific animals, and possible interventions to improve it. They produced a number of profiles, some of which I include here for illustration purposes, but without any claim to comprehensiveness. Thanks to Saulius for bringing my attention to this point.

11. Cell-Based Meat R&D

Based on a Fermi estimate, the author concludes that “cell-based meat research and development is roughly 10 times more cost-effective than top recommended effective altruist animal charities.”

12. Animal-Free Proteins

“The report describes what needs to happen to get to 11%, and further to 22% of meat, seafood, eggs and dairy eaten globally every day. Current technology must be refined and scaled, and in some areas, step changes are needed. For instance, optimized protein crops for human consumption need to be bred, and microorganisms as well as animal cells grown on low-cost feedstocks. Regulatory support, such as carbon taxes on meat or subsidies for farmers who are shifting from animal agriculture to alternative proteins, could further boost growth.”

13. Antibiotic Resistance in Farmed Animals

“Reducing antibiotic use in farms is very likely to be net positive for humans. However, it is not clear whether it would be net positive for animals. If farmers stop using antibiotics, animals might suffer from more disease and worse welfare. This effect might be mitigated by the fact that (i) farmers can replace antibiotics with substitutes such as probiotics, prebiotics, and essential oils, which also prevent disease, and (ii) farmers might be motivated to make adaptations to farming practices which prevent disease and also benefit animal welfare, such as lowering stocking density, reducing stress, and monitoring disease more closely. It is not obvious how likely it is that farmers will take these disease-mitigating measures, but since high disease rates increase mortality, decrease carcass profitability, and could cause reputational damage, it is plausible that they will be motivated to do so. Alternatively, animal advocates could take the ‘holistic strategy’ of promoting welfare measures which also tend to cause reduced antibiotic use. Tentatively, I take the view that eliminating antibiotic use on a farm would not lead to worse lives for those animals.

Eliminating antibiotics might also be expensive for producers, and because of this, it could increase the price of animal products in the short term, which would be good for animals. The literature weakly supports the view that meat prices will increase following an antibiotic ban. However, there is also some support for the view that price will increase differentially for smaller and larger animals, which lands us with the small animal replacement problem. This problem could be avoided by the approach taken to the intervention, e.g. a corporate campaign targeting only small animals.”

14. Helping Wild Animals Through Vaccination

“We will first see some cases of successful vaccination programs in the past, including vaccination against rabies, anthrax, rinderpest, brucellosis, and sylvatic plague, in addition to the proposal to vaccinate great apes against Ebola. Next, we will see how zoonotic epidemics have been the object of growing attention.We will then see some responses to them that are misguided and harmful to animals. We will then see the prospects for eventual wild animal vaccination programs against coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2. We will see the three main limitations of such hypothetical programs. These are the lack of an effective vaccine, the lack of funding to implement the vaccination program, and the lack of an effective system to administer the vaccine. We’ll consider the extent to which these limitations could be overcome and what clues previous examples of vaccination can provide. As we will see, such programs remain to date merely speculative. They could be feasible at some point as other wild animal vaccination programs show. However, it remains uncertain whether there will be human interest in implementing them, despite the benefits for animals themselves.

Finally, we will see the reasons why, if implemented, programs of this kind could substantially help not just the vaccinated animals, but many others as well. Not only would this prevent zoonotic disease transmission to other animals, but such measures could also help inform other efforts to vaccinate animals living in the wild. Moreover, each successful vaccination program helps to illustrate that helping animals in the wild is not impractical, but realistic. This helps to raise concern for these animals and to inspire action on their behalf.”

15. Herbivorizing Predators

This post puts forth a moral argument with the intention to open discussion about considering herbivorizing predators as a cause area. The author argues that we should start doing scientific research to look for new technologies that would make it possible.

Community Building

1.Effective Animal Advocacy Movement Building

Related categories: Animal Welfare and Suffering

The post argues that EAA-specific movement-building might be particularly neglected within EA.

2. Non-Western EA

The post asks about expanding EA beyond the USA and Europe. It gets some pushback in the comments, particularly because of the difficulty of transmitting ideas with high fidelity.

3. Understanding and/​or reducing value drift.

Pointer: This cause has its own EA Forum tag.

4. High School Outreach

“Specifically targeting STEM, logic, debate, and philosophy competitors with short outreach could increase high school outreach effectiveness as it would select for high-performing students who are more likely to engage with EA ideas. This would give these individuals more time to think about career choice and enable them to start building flexible career capital early and might make them more open to engaging with EA in the future.”

5. Idea Inoculation

This post proposes an experiment to serve as the basis of a psychology paper about EA ‘idea inoculation’, in order to discover better ways of conveying EA-related information.

6. Values Spreading

Values spreading refers to improving other people’s values. The idea has met with some skepticisim, but perhaps variants of it, like highly targetted or high-leverage values spreading, could still be promising.


Related categories: Global Health and Development, States of Consciousness


Cryonics will probably get cheaper if more people sign up. It might also divert money from wealthy people who would otherwise spend it on more selfish things. Further, cryonics might help people take long-term risks more seriously.

One advantage of life extension is that it might prompt people to think in a more long-term-focused way, which might be nice for solving coordination problems and x-risks.”

One could also argue “that cryonics doesn’t create many additional QALYs because by revival time we’ve probably hit Malthusian limits. So any revived cryonics patients would be traded off against other future lives.”

The author argues that brain preservation is “one of the best areas for people interested in helping others to work in” and “a great place for people who are interested in helping others to donate money”.

2. Ageing

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

3. Genetic Enhancement

The post makes the argument both from a short and long-term perspective. I was particularly intrigued by the suggestion to select for empathy; the comments also suggest selecting against malevolent traits.

4. Mind Enhancement

“This post aims to raise awareness, provide a rough framework for classification and list the most important theoretical arguments and considerations regarding the impact/​desirability of mind enhancement.”

“This post is a first attempt at analysing cognitive enhancement research using the ITN framework and cost-effectiveness estimates. Several interventions enhance cognitive functions such as intelligence and decision making. If we identify effective, cheap and scalable cognitive enhancement interventions, they may be competitive with GiveWell charities.”

5. Finding Extraterrestrial Life


Politics: Ideological Politics

1. Local Political Causes

2. Fighting Harmful Ideologies

Note: Post is a stub.

Politics: Global politics

Pointer: See also the EA Forum tag for Global Governance.

1. Democracy Promotion

The author estimates the benefits of democracy. They then suggest concrete actions to take: “a review essay on the efficacy of tools of external democracy promotion finds that non-coercive tools like foreign aid that is conditioned on democratic reforms and election monitoring are effective, while coercive tools like sanctions and military intervention are ineffective… One tool EA organizations can fund is election monitoring. Research suggests that election monitoring can play a causal role in decreasing fraud and manipulation.” Some forum comments suggest that the area is too costly, and not that neglected.

This post explores several funding opportunities in this area. The author lists the following causes:

  • Increasing rationality: Rationality could be increased by funding books as Galef’s The Scout Mindset, or projects as the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence.

  • General education spending: “[E]ducation can often predict populism better than income. Thus one funding idea might be to try to increase education budgets globally.”

  • Civic education: “[C]ivic education can strengthen democratic beliefs and explain the relevance of pluralism, which can play an important role in preventing populist attitudes.”

  • Journalism: Funding ideas include payments for online news content, the provision of local and investigative journalism, and investigative fact-check websites in general.

  • Information spreading: “One way to reduce populism is to give activists the tools to expose and debunk populist ‘common sense’ arguments”, tools like Our World in Data.

  • Research on populism: “Funding opportunity: Fund an academic researcher working on populism.”

  • English language education: “Fostering English language learning improves access to more content. This might improve international relations.” But the author notes that learning English doesn’t seem neglected.

  • Elections and voting: Funding opportunities include switching back to paper ballots to increase trust (Verified Voting Foundation), voting system reform, and the uses of statistical techniques to test election results, among others.

  • Combatting computational propaganda: Several funding opportunities and ideas are proposed here to counterbalance current AI techniques spreading misleading information.

  • Fostering more independent commissions and monitoring: Following the example of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which scrutinises UK aid spending, institutional decision making could be improved by setting up independent commissions for every major department in government.

  • Aggregating expert consensus: “Aggregating expert consensus might decrease populism by reducing the faith put in common sense approaches.”

  • Prediction markets: “Furthering the use of prediction market might help increase the accuracy of forecasts for important policy issues.”

  • Doing more fundamental research: Funding could foster fundamental research, which is useful to find new techniques to improve institutional decision making.

2. Promotion of Parliamentarism

The author applies the ITN framework to promotion of parliamentarism and concludes that it is a valuable cause for EAs to focus on.

3. Promotion of Self-Determination

This post discusses the advantages of promoting more recognition of a right to self-determination. It develops a set of criteria to be met and applies them to the particular cases of Artsakh, Taiwan, and Crimea. Finally it shows some possible ways to reinforce the idea of self-determination.

4. Human Rights in North Korea

The scale of suffering seems vast, and marginal interventions (e.g., smuggling North Koreans out of China) might be cost-effective. The post also suggests capacity building in this area might be a promising intervention.

5. Improving Local Governance in Fragile States

Politics: System Change, Targeted Change, and Policy Reform.

Note: These categories are grouped together because in practice the distinction between broad system change from outside a political system and targeted change or policy reform within a system is often not quite clear.

Pointer: This cause candidate has a related EA Forum tag: Policy Change.

1. Better Political Systems and Policy-Making

Pointer: The related Institutional Decision-Making has its own EA Forum tag; more cause candidates can be found there.

2. Getting Money Out of Politics and Into Charity

Donors from two opposing parties could be matched to send their money to their favourite charities instead than to zero-sum political contests.

3. Vote Pairing

The post makes the case that vote pairing —where one or more voters for a mainstream candidate in a safe US state vote for a third-party candidate in exchange for a vote from a third candidate supporter in a contested state— is much more effective than other traditional interventions.

4. Electoral Reform

Pointer: This cause has its own EA Forum tag. I’m adding one post for illustration purposes:

Note: Included here for completeness. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a new cause area because the Center For Election Science is working on it.

5. Tax Justice

The post gives an overview of current efforts to make tax evasion or tax flight harder, and why this should be thought of as positive. A commenter, Larks, makes the opposite case.

6. Effective Informational Lobbying

The first post starts with a literature review and concludes by proposing “something along the lines of ‘effective lobbying’: a rigorous approach to institutional-level change, starting with the legislature, that would take a portfolio approach to policy advocacy,” and outlines how that would broadly look.

The second post is a “call to all interested in lobbying as both a career and an EA methods topic.” Having a discussion group on this topic seems like a great idea, so I gave the post a strong upvote. However, it seems like it didn’t get picked up when it was posted in mid-December 2020.

7. Ballot Initiatives

“The goal of this post is to bring ballot initiatives to the collective attention of the EA community to help promote future research into the effectiveness of ballot initiative campaigns for EA-aligned policies and movement-building.” The post gives examples of what might be accomplished with ballot initiatives and covers their advantages and disadvantages.

8. Increasing Development Aid

Related categories: Global Health and Development.

9. Institutions for Future Generations

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

10. Decline or Collapse of the US.

There are reasons to believe that the probability of regime collapse of the US in the next 50 years is higher than 0.5%. The dis-utility from Collapse could be extreme in certain scenarios.

Politics: Armed Conflict

This cause has two related EA Forum tags: Armed conflict and Nuclear Weapons which may contain more cause candidates.

1. Preventing or Reducing The Severity of Nuclear War

Note: Luisa Rodríguez has more content in this cause.

2. Ukraine Conflict

This post proposes supporting Ukraine as a cause area, arguing that if Russia is not strongly punished, other states could follow similar policies. The author goes on to propose buying satellites for improving Ukraine’s military system.

Global Health and Development

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag.

1. Reducing the Efficiency of Genocides

Related categories: Politics

The post makes the case that at least some genocides (the Rwandan, Myanmar, and possibly the Somalian genocides) could have been stopped with better oversight and targeted use of resources.

2. Malnutrition

The author asks about the impact of malnutrition, i.e., “eating the wrong things as a voluntary choice despite having alternatives.” This would mostly be a problem for middle and high-income countries.

3. Diet Change

Unhealthy food choices result in poor diets that reduce expected lifespan and life quality. The author of this post collects a considerable amount of evidence and argues that this a neglected area, given the number of people affected by those choices.

4. Raising IQ

Related categories: Transhumanism

“Interventions to raise IQ could do a lot of good because of potentially significant flow-through effects of intelligence. IQ also has the benefit of being easily quantifiable, which would make it simpler to compare interventions.”

Note: In practice, the raising-IQ framing is unpalatable for some people, as are some charities in an adjacent space, like Project Prevention. However, because one of the most effective ways of raising IQ is reducing malnourishment or undernourishment, and in particular, iodine deficiency, one could focus on these causes instead. Note that mal/​undernourishment in kids leads to lower wages in adulthood. Although one might suspect IQ is the mediating factor, it’s not necessary to emphasize the connection.

5. Physical Goods

“Seven out of eight of the Givewell top charities deal with physical goods—anti-malaria nets, deworming medication, and vitamins. But otherwise, there’s not much discussion/​active work in EA on how to improve/​spin up the physical manufacture and distribution of physical goods beyond donating money to existing organisations.”

6. Fighting Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea seems like a large problem because more people die of it per year (or did so in 2015). The remedy is apparently “oral rehydration therapy: a large pinch of salt and a fistful of sugar dissolved in a jug of clean water.”

Note: GiveWell has moved slowly and cautiously on this topic, but Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water program is now a GiveWell Standout charity.

7. Fighting Fistulae

The author suggests a way of preventing fistulas which may be much cheaper than surgery: “targeting midwives to share information on when to seek specialized care and identify at-risk patients, training doctors at government (free of charge) clinics, providing equipment, and potentially offering travel stipend to extremely poor households”.

8. International Supply Chain Accountability

Related categories: Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

Workers’ organizations can lobby international companies to adopt better labour conditions across their supply chain, and to get the original companies to pay for these efforts. A particularly promising strategy is to apply pressure in the countries these companies originate from (Spain, Germany, the US), rather than in the countries where the products are made. This seems to be working for the case of Inditex (Zara, and various other textile brands). It is unclear how, and if, EA might get organizations working in this area to accept external funds, but they could in principle absorb a lot of them.

Note: I’m the author of this post.

9. Chloramphenicol for Heart Attacks

The article linked suggests approving Chloramphenicol as a coronary treatment, which is claimed to be a fixed cost of “$25 million spent once to save 400,000 lives per year in the U.S. alone.” Comments point out that the estimate “seems to be based on one study of 21 pigs.”

10. COVID-19

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag, which contains more cause candidates. Here are some examples included for illustration purposes:

11. Vaccines

The author argues that “funding overhang” should be spent developing vaccines against infectious diseases:

“If EA’s investing $10 billion in vaccination over the next ten years could save the equivalent of 3-5 years of disease burden of a disease like tuberculosis, it would represent a cost per disability-adjusted-life-year (DALY) saved of roughly $50-$85 (on par with GiveWell top charities).”

12. Clean Cookstoves

This is a very quick, rough model of the cost-effectiveness of promoting clean cookstoves in the developing world. It suggests that:

“If a clean cookstove intervention is successful, it may have roughly the same ballpark of cost-effectiveness as a GiveWell-recommended charity.

Circa 90% of the impact comes from directly saving lives, based on a model which estimated both the number of lives saved and the impact on climate change.”

13. Agricultural R&D

“In combination, the difficulties with estimating the effects of R&D and the potential barriers to adoption suggest that the estimated benefit-cost ratios reported earlier are likely to be upwardly biased. The benefit-cost ratios estimated are also lower than those associated with Giving What We Can’s currently recommended charities. For instance, the $304 per QALY estimate based on the Copenhagen Consensus benefit-cost ratio, which appears to be at the higher end of the literature, compares unfavourably to GiveWell’s baseline estimate of $45 to $115 per DALY for insecticide treated bednets (GiveWell, 2013). The benefit-cost ratios also appear to be lower than those associated with micronutrient supplements, as discussed earlier. While there are significant benefits that remain unquantified within agricultural R&D, the same is also true for interventions based on bednet distribution, deworming and micronutrient supplements. As a result, while this area could yield individual high impact opportunities, the literature as it stands does not seem to support the claim that agricultural R&D is likely to be more effective than the best other interventions.”

14. Golden Rice

“In this post, I want to very roughly ​​evaluate whether golden rice should be of interest to EAs and whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in general are worth investigating deeper.”

The author concludes that this cause is valuable, though acknowledges that golden rice wouldn’t allow to reach levels of efficiency comparable to GiveWell top charities.

15. Agricultural Land Redistribution

The authors conclude that advocating for agricultural land redistribution is neither tractable nor cost-effective.

16. Ventilation

“The goal for this post is to give an introduction into the human health effects of air pollution, encourage further discussion, and evaluate an intervention: The use of air purifiers in homes. These air purifiers are inexpensive, standalone devices not requiring any special installation procedure. A first analysis suggests that the cost-effectiveness of this intervention is two orders of magnitude worse than the best EA interventions. However, it is still good enough to qualify as an ’effective’ or even ‘highly effective’ health intervention according to WHO criteria.”

Indoor air pollution can be worse than outdoor pollution, yet it is neglected. Installing ventilation and filtration systems in our buildings would reduce economic losses arising from air pollution and respiratory viruses.

17. Stubble Burning in India

Stubble burning in north India is a major contributor to seasonal decreases in ambient air quality [...] Stubble burning releases carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and methane as well as particulate matters (PM10and PM2.5) (Abdurrahman, Chaki, & Saini 2020). These pollutants affect the immediate area and also drift southeast to Delhi, smothering the city of ~22 million in thick haze. At their peak, these fires are responsible for ~58% of Delhi air pollution (Beig et al. 2020). The consequences of this air pollution include skin and eye irritation, respiratory problems (dry cough, wheezing, breathlessness, chest discomfort, asthma), and hypertension (Rizwan, Nongkynrih, & Gupta 2013). Air pollution is estimated to be responsible for at least 48,000 premature deaths in Delhi alone in 2020 (Greenpeace, n.d.).[5] Nationwide, the open burning of agricultural residue is estimated to be responsible for more than 66,000 premature deaths in India (GBD MAPS Working Group 2018).[6]

18. Starvation in Afghanistan

Since the Taliban seized power, US sanctions and the sudden suspension of foreign aid worsened the situation in Afghanistan to the extent that millions of people are at risk of starvation and death.

19. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Interventions

According to GiveWell’s research, the overwhelming majority of the value of mass deworming interventions (DW) comes from expected long-term economic effects rather than short-term effects on health. The mechanism by which these long-term effects occur is unclear, especially as the health effects are so small.

The best WASH interventions (in particular, Dispensers for Safe Water, but possibly also Development Media International) have larger health effects than DW.

If the long-term effects of deworming are related to the health effects of worms, it is likely that the long-term economic effects of WASH interventions are at least as good. If the effects are somehow specific to worms, given that a significant part of the benefit of WASH is in preventing parasitic worm infestation, there should still be significant long-term effects of WASH interventions.

20. Research on Inbreeding

“Inbreeding (also known as consanguinity) is associated with an increased risk of adverse prenatal outcomes including stillbirths, low birth weight, preterm delivery, abortion, infant and child mortality, congenital birth defects, cognitive impairments, malformations and many other complex disorders. . . . [R]esearch on this issue in the context of global health and development is scarce, and additional research might generate ample information value about potentially impactful interventions.”

21. Stopping Miscarriages

The author implies that stopping miscarriages could be important (if there’s some probability that embryos are human), given that miscarriages occur in 20% of pregnancies.

22. Advocacy for Legalizing Abortion

Adolescent pregnancy is associated with high rates of child mortality. The author advances that advocacy for legalizing abortion may be an effective way to prevent this tragedy in developing countries.

23. Drug Legalisation

Moving from drug prohibition to legalisation would be beneficial to drug users (decriminalisation) and drug-producing and trafficking countries (less violence). The author raises the question of whether this could be an area to be prioritized.

24. Patent Policy

This post covers three candidates within patent policy: The first is global health innovation incentives:

“Alternative innovation finance mechanisms—such as advanced market commitments and the Health Impact Fund—can help incentivize firms to invest in R&D aimed at helping developing countries’ poorest people. The present patent system, on the other hand, provides limited incentive to create innovations for these people.”

The second candidate is patent trolling: Some firms’ merely buy patents and sue others for infringing on their rights, without really producing anything themselves. These patent trolls cost money to other firms, which therefore turn hesitant to use technology, and unwilling to innovate.

“However, many legislative and judicial steps have been taken since 2013 to address patent trolling in the US, making the issue—in our view—presently low in scale, neglectedness, and tractability.”

The third is evergreening, which doesn’t seem to be a high priority either:

“It does not appear that companies unfairly extend (i.e., evergreen) their patent terms using statutory strategies. However, there is reason to believe companies use other means such as the 30-month stay provision to extend effective market monopolies.”

The author also recommends further research into this area.

25. Training Economists

“One specific mechanism [for promoting growth] is to train developing-country economists, who then work in government and influence policy in a pro-growth direction, ultimately increasing the probability of a growth episode.”

26. Improving Welfare Algorithms

“More than 50 million people in Latin America are impacted by the decision of very simple linear algorithms which determine how much welfare they receive from social programs. Simple changes to the algorithm lead to hundreds of thousands of people being added or removed to major welfare programs.”

The author holds that improving these algorithms would allocate billions of dollars more effectively.

27. Low Back Pain

This post argues that exercise seems to be the most effective treatment to prevent low back pain, which is a symptom experienced by people of all ages and socioeconomic circumstances. A comment by Aaron suggests that this might be a solid cause area in the developing world.

28. Chronic Pain

This post gives an overview of what chronic pain is, and its relation with demographic and environmental factors. It finally discusses whether it could be a worthy cause area, reaching no conclusion.

29. Intactivism

The author argues against the practice of circumcision and proposes its abolition.

30. Delaying Aging

This post argues that aging is the most common cause of death and human suffering. There are already known effective interventions (exercise, fighting smoking) against accelerated aging. For this reason, research confirming that aging itself is responsible for aging-related diseases could yield many cost-effective programs.

31. Health in Younger Generations

Inspired by a study on the health of the millennials, the author advances that mental and physical health might be deteriorating in younger generations. This idea is only proposed as a subject for future research.

32. Charter Cities

A comprehensive report on the subject. Conclusions are pessimistic, given the uncertainties involved, but the authors state that further research could be valuable at a modest cost.

This is a defense of charter cities and a reply to the foregoing report.

33. Alleviating Price Risk

This post is an excerpt from this piece by Peter Harrigan. It calls attention to the idea that price risk is one of the more overlooked sources of poverty. Third world farmers face constant risk from price volatility, which reduces their profits and leads them to bankruptcy.

34. Fighting Corruption

This post estimates that aid-embezzling in developing countries could cut “from 10% to 50% of donations received by charitable organizations in humanitarian and development settings”. It proposes the creation of an organization dedicated to do audits of development and humanitarian projects in such countries.

35. Lead Exposure

This is a comprehensive report on the problem of lead exposure. The authors conclude that it is neglected and deserves more attention among effective altruists leaning towards neartermist interventions.

36. Fungal Diseases

This post links to an interview with Marcio Rodrigues, an expert in the field, about the importance and neglectedness of fungal diseases.

Global Health and Development: Mental Health

Related categories: States of consciousness.

Pointer: This cause candidate has two related EA Forum tags: Mental Health (Cause Area) and Subjective Well-Being. For illustration purposes:

“Not only does mental illness seem to cause as much, if not more, total worldwide unhappiness than global poverty, it also seems far more neglected. Effective mental health interventions exist currently. These have been improving over time and we can expect further improvements. I estimate the cost-effectiveness of a particular mental health organisation, StrongMinds, and claim it is (at least)four times more effective per dollar than GiveDirectly, a GiveWell recommended top charity. This assumes we understand cost-effectiveness in terms of happiness, as measured by self-reported life satisfaction [...] Even if mental health is a large-scale, neglected problem, we shouldn’t consider it a possible moral priority if there aren’t effective treatments. Fortunately, there are.”

The project, which seems to be ongoing, tries to systematically assess a long list of mental health interventions.

Initially, various EAs proposed varied experimental mental health interventions. There are a number of posts asking if “mental health issue X” should fall within Effective Altruism’s purview. Of these, mental health apps represent probably the most well-argued intervention and stand on a class of their own. In particular, they are scalable.

Adolescence comes frequently with substantial suffering. After analyzing abundant data, and pointing out the lack of strategies to tackle this problem, the author suggests that more research is desirable to establish this as a cause area.

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common and debilitating. The standard of care includes light therapy provided by a light box; however, this treatment is restrictive and only moderately effective. Advances in LED technology enable lighting solutions that emit vastly more light than traditional light boxes. Here, we assess the feasibility of BROAD (Bright, whole-ROom, All-Day) light therapy and get a first estimate for its potential effectiveness.”

This post argues that instead of trying to discourage sex workers, there is a number of reasons for which “it is worth considering integrating this profession more into society”:

“Sex workers satisfy a very essential need, providing not only sexual intercourse but also company, a listening ear, a safe space where is no judgment. Otherwise dangerous paraphilias can be safely practiced, believed to be shameful wants can be satisfied, never said fantasies can be discussed. Victims of sexual abuse, people with mental health conditions, couples with sexual problems can not only talk or discuss their problems, as it would be possible in a clinical setting but can also receive practical help too. All of these attributes make sex work a potentially valuable addition to mental health and wellbeing services.”

States of Consciousness.

1. Psychedelics

Related categories: Global Health and Development: Mental Health.

The post makes the case from an EA perspective and offers a cash prize for counter-arguments.

2. Fundamental Consciousness Research

″...if your goal is to reduce suffering, it’s important to know what suffering is.”

3. Increasing Access to Pain Relief (Opioids) in Developing Countries

Related categories: Global Health and Development. Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

Access to opioids is unduly restricted, such that the pain of some deaths can amount to “torture by omission”. The author suggests, as a tentative donation target, the Pain and Policy Studies Group of the University of Wisconsin-Madison which “runs ‘International Pain Policy Fellowships’, which train national champions of the cause to identify and overcome barriers to the use of opioids in their countries. The programme has had numerous in-country successes.” However, the program seems to now be defunct. One organization that I personally perceive as promising, which is working in this space, is The Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering.

4. Cluster Headaches

“Cluster headaches are considered one of the most excruciating conditions known to medicine...”; “there is [...] evidence that psilocybin mushrooms can prevent and abort entire episodes. Such evidence has been published as survey data and is also widely reported by patients in cluster headache groups. TwoPhase I RCTs are ongoing and should add to the existing evidence for efficacy. Lack of access to psilocybin mushrooms and widespread information about using them are key barriers to effective treatment for many patients.”

5. Drug Policy Reform

Related categories: Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

“In the last 4 months, I’ve come to believe drug policy reform, changing the laws on currently illegal psychoactive substances, may offer a substantial, if not the most substantial, opportunity to increase the happiness of humans alive today.”

6. Love

“Making it possible for people to deliberately fall in love seems like a high priority, competitive with good short- and medium-term causes such as malaria prevention and anti-aging. However, there is little serious work on it.”

7. Universal Euphoria

Compressing as much happiness into a unit of matter can be pursued at all levels of technological development. With current technology, we could have animal farms dedicated to making rats, about which we know a fair bit, maximally happy. With future technology, we could have computer simulations of maximal bliss.

The idea is sometimes thought to be morally repugnant or philosophically misguided, and a quick Fermi estimate suggests that current happy animal farms would not be cost effective compared to interventions in the developing world.


Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag.

Related categories: Existential risk, Transhumanism, Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform.

1. Space Colonization

If we had a backup planet, existential risk would be reduced. Further, we’d be able to have more people. However, even with a backup planet, existential risk in both planets would be correlated, and the protection from extinction that the second planet provides would be inversely proportional to the degree of correlation. One might expect this correlation to be particularly high for hostile AI. See here for some discussion on these points.

User @kbog looked at this issue in more depth, and concluded that:

In this post I take a serious and critical look at the value of space travel. Overall, I find that the value of space exploration is dubious at this time, and it is not worth supporting as a cause area, though Effective Altruists may still want to pay attention to the issue. I also produce specific recommendations for how space organizations can rebalance their operations to have a better impact.

2. Space Governance

“I argue that space governance has been overlooked as a potentially promising cause area for longtermist effective altruists. While many uncertainties remain, there is a reasonably strong case that such work is important, time-sensitive, tractable and neglected, and should therefore be part of the longtermist EA portfolio [...] The work I have in mind aims to replace the current state of ambiguity with a coherent framework of (long-term) space governance that ensures good outcomes if and when large-scale space colonisation becomes feasible.”


Related categories: Global Health and Development.

1. Global Basic Education

The post could use some work, but I can imagine both of its points being true: education has intrinsic value (all things being equal, we want to have more education), and extrinsic value (it is somewhat correlated with health outcomes, and economic productivity).

2. Philosophy in Schools

“In this post I consider the possibility that the Effective Altruism (EA) movement has overlooked the potential of using pre-university education as a tool to promote positive values and grow the EA movement. Specifically, I focus on evaluating the potential of promoting the teaching of philosophy in schools.”

Climate Change

Related categories: Politics: System change, targeted change, policy reform. Politics: Culture war.

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

1. General

Most notably, climate change has a long tail of bad outcomes, and it impacts more than just GDP, as previously modelled.

Note: The disagreement about whether EA should give more attention to climate change is probably older than any of these posts.

2. Public R&D to Deal With Climate Change

3. Leveraging the Climate Change Movement

“This willingness to act seems to be mostly tied to climate change and cannot be easily directed towards more effective causes. Therefore, I think EAs could influence existing concerns and willingness to act on climate change to direct funds/​donations towards cost-effective organizations (i.e., CfRN, CATF)with relatively low investment of time.”

4. Extinguishing or Preventing Coal Seam Fires

“Much greenhouse gas emissions comes from uncontrolled underground coal fires. I can’t find any detailed source on its share of global CO2 emissions; I see estimates for both 0.3% and 3% quoted for coal seam fires just in China, which is perhaps the world’s worst offender. Another rudimentary calculation said 2-3% of global CO2 emissions comes from coal fires. They also seem to have pretty bad local health and economic effects, even compared to coal burning in a power plant (it’s totally unfiltered, though it’s usually diffuse in rural areas). There are some methods available now and on the horizon to try and put the fires out, and some have been practiced—see the Wikipedia article. However, the continued presence of so many of these fires indicates a major problem to be solved with new techniques and/​or funding for the use of existing techniques.”

5. Paris-Compliant Offsets

“We should be rapidly exploring higher quality and more durable offsets. If adopted, these principles could be a scalable and high-leverage way of moving organisations towards net-zero.”

6. Help coral reefs survive climate change

7. CO2 Sensors

The idea here is to raise awareness about high CO² levels by introducing sensors in smartphones and similar devices.

8. Hurricanes

This post proposes to stop hurricanes as a way to avoid the damages caused by them. As high surface temperatures are a necessary condition for hurricanes, cooling them down would prevent their formation, which might be achieved by regularly provoking water spouts (that is, “30mph ‘humidity tornadoes’ over hot waters”) with the help of a special device described by the author.

Existential and Global Catastrophic Risks

Pointer: This cause has its own EA Forum tag. More cause candidates may be found there, or in the related AI Alignment, AI Governance and Civilizational Collapse & Recovery tags.

1. Corporate Global Catastrophic Risks

“It might be useful to think of corporations as dangerous optimization demons which will cause GCRs if left unchecked by altruism and philanthropy.”

Comments present a different perspective.

2. Aligning Recommender Systems

Pointer: See the related Near-Term AI Ethics tag.

“In this post we argue that improving the alignment of recommender systems with user values is one of the best cause areas available to effective altruists, particularly those with computer science or product design skills.”

3. Surveillance

Given the seriousness of surveillance tech, which can stabilise totalitarian regimes and destabilise democratic ones, this post proposes to fund advanced AI-based stylometrics research to see how far it can be developed and to create awareness about whatever are the results of this research.

4. Keeping Calories in the Ocean for a Possible Catastrophe

In particular, the post suggests cultivating bacteria. ALLFED’s director answers in the comments.

Note: Included here for completeness. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a new cause area since ALLFED is now working on it.

5. Recovery from an Existential Catastrophe

This post lists some ideas relating to better recovery of civilization in case that an existential catastrophe takes place, which seems rather neglected as compared to prevention of existential risks.

6. Resilience of Industry and the Electric Grid

7. Foods for Global Catastrophes (ALLFED)

Note: Included here for completeness. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a new cause area since ALLFED is now working on it.

8. Preventing Ideological Engineering and Social Control

Related categories: Politics

“Will enhanced government control of populations’ behaviors and ideologies become one of AI’s biggest medium-term safety risks?”

9. Reducing Long-Term Risks from Malevolent Actors

The authors make the case that a situation when malevolent actors rise to power has many negative externalities. They propose countermeasures, such as advancing the science of malevolence. This would involve developing better constructs and measures of malevolence, and hard-to-beat detection measures, such as neuroimaging techniques. Comments suggest further concrete measures, such as having elections for parties rather than leaders (which gives less power to individuals).

10. Autonomous Weapons

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag

11. AI Governance

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag, and is already being worked on at FHI’s Centre for the Governance of AI, among other places. For illustration purposes:

12. International Cooperation

The author argues that international cooperation could especially reduce the risks of unaligned AI and engineered pandemics. That’s why allocating funding in attempts to foster it seems of high importance.

13. Improving Disaster Shelters to Increase the Chances of Recovery From a Global Catastrophe

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag.

“What is the problem? Civilization might not recover from some possible global catastrophes. Conceivably, people with access to disaster shelters or other refuges may be more likely to survive and help civilization recover. However, existing disaster shelters (sometimes built to ensure continuity of government operations and sometimes built to protect individuals), people working on submarines, largely uncontacted peoples, and people living in very remote locations may serve this function to some extent.

What are the possible interventions? Other interventions may also increase the chances that humanity would recover from a global catastrophe, but this review focuses on disaster shelters. Proposed methods of improving disaster shelter networks include stocking shelters with appropriately trained people and resources that would enable them to rebuild civilization in case of a near-extinction event, keeping some shelters constantly full of people, increasing food reserves, and building more shelters. A philanthropist could pay to improve existing shelter networks in the above ways, or they could advocate for private shelter builders or governments to make some of the improvements listed above.”

14. Discovering Previously Unknown Existential Risks

The most dangerous existential risks appear to be the ones that we only became aware of recently. As technology advances, new existential risks appear. Extrapolating this trend, there might exist even worse risks that we haven’t discovered yet.

15. Exploring Using Insights from International Relations Theory to facilitate International Cooperation Against Existential Risks

Dealing with existential risks requires international cooperation. Naturally, one might expect scholars of international relations (IR) to provide the best answers regarding how states can cooperate to protect humanity’s long-term potential. Yet reading Tody Ord’s new book The Precipice as a PhD student in IR, I am surprised how little attention my field has paid to the existential threats Toby raised in the book, such as global disease, climate change, and risks from artificial intelligence (AI).

Although mainstream IR often overlooks existential risks, it does offer insight into how to make international cooperation easier. In particular, IR theory’s emphasis on the importance of national interests offers us a realistic view of international behavior. Isaac Asimov, a universalist and humanist, once dismissed decisions based on the national interest as “emotional” reactions on “such nineteenth century matters as national security and local pride.” My view is exactly the opposite: We should work with states as they are, not what we wish them to be.

16. Reducing Risks from Whole Brain Emulation

17. Preventing/​Avoiding Stable Longterm Totalitarianism

Pointer: This cause candidate has related EA forum tags: Global dystopia and Totalitarianism

18. Reducing Risks from Atomically Precise Manufacturing /​ Molecular Nanotechnology

19. AGI Safety Research Far in Advance

“Among other things, I make a case for misaligned AGI being an existential risk which can and should be mitigated by doing AGI safety research far in advance.”

20. Evolutionary AI alignment

This post discusses the possibility of simulating human evolution as a new approach to the alignment problem:

“If AI alignment is intractable, but human evolution is robust in producing something close to human values, we could try to simulate/​mimic human evolution to create a superintelligent successor AI.”

21. Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Given the current evidence of unidentified aerial phenomena, the probability that they are due to extraterrestrial crafts, and the enormous implications for our world models if this were the case, it may be reasonable to do more research on the subject.

22. Fundamental Research

The author claims that “research for the sake of research” is the best way to anticipate unknown future existential risks.

23. Universal Basic Income

“I argue that poverty alleviation would reduce both mortality and existential risk, and that, among anti-poverty programs, universal basic income has a number of advantages over targeted and in-kind benefits.”

24. Short-range Forecasting

The author argues that short-range forecasting can be useful for longtermism, if there is a coordinated effort to respond rapidly to potential crises in their early stages (for example, by creating an EA Early Warning Forecasting Center).

25. Risk from Asteroids

The author gives an overview of this particular risk and explains why it is not a cause to be prioritized:

“First, the international effort to track near-Earth asteroids is potentially humanity’s most successful effort to date to directly address an existential risk. . . . Second, expanding beyond mere detection to building deflection systems probably shouldn’t be a priority right now — not just because other comparably tractable risks look far more urgent, but because deflection technology could pose risks of its own from malign use.”

26. Biosecurity

“In conjunction with a group of other EA biosecurity folk, I helped brainstorm a set of projects which seem useful, and which require various backgrounds but which, as far as we know, aren’t being done, or could use additional work. Many EAs have expressed interest in doing something substantive related to research in bio, but are unsure where to start—this is intended as one pathway to do so.”

Basing on experience from the last pandemic, this post highlights the danger posed by misinformation to future global biological catastrophic risks on the rise, and sketches some possible ways to do something about it.

The author argues that evaluation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. mask wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, etc.) is neglected and that the scale of its impact could be high.

This post gives a list of longtermist biosecurity projects. The first is about improving response time to biothreats by early detection. This could happen by setting up an Early Detection Center where a small team collects “samples from volunteer travelers around the world and then does a full metagenomic scan”.

The second project points out that most personal protective equipment (PPE)—e.g. masks, suits, etc.—has a number of disadvantages. Materials science and product design could produce better PPE than our current options, i.e. “highly effective in extreme cases, easy to use, reliable over long periods of time, and cheap/​abundant”.

The third proposes better medical countermeasures against biothreats “either by 1) producing targeted countermeasures against particularly concerning threats (or broad-spectrum countermeasures against a class of threats), or by 2) creating rapid response platforms that are reliable even against deliberate adversaries”.

The fourth points out some possible ways of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention. The fifth recommends further investigation on the advantages of sterilization technologies “that rely on physical principles (e.g. ionizing radiation) or broadly antiseptic properties (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, bleach) rather than molecular details (e.g. gram-negative antibiotics)”.

The last project is to create pandemic-proof refuges:

“Existing bunkers provide a fair amount of protection, but we think there could be room for specially designed refuges that safeguard against catastrophic pandemics (e.g. cycling teams of people in and out with extensive pathogen agnostic testing, adding a ‘civilization-reboot package’, and possibly even having the capability to develop and deploy biological countermeasures from the protected space).”

Rationality and Epistemics

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. It has seen more work on LessWrong.

1. Developing the Rationality Community

2. Progress Studies

3. Epistemic Progress

  • Epistemic Progress has also been suggested as a cause area, but this topic has seen more activity outside the EA Forum.

Donation timing

1. Counter-Cyclical Donation Timing

2. Patient Philanthropy

Pointer: This cause has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

3. Improving our Estimate of the Philanthropic Discount Rate

How we should spend our philanthropic resources over time depends on how much we discount the future. A higher discount rate means we should spend more now; a lower discount rate tells us to spend less now and more later.

According to a simple model, improving our estimate of the discount rate might be the top effective altruist priority.


Trivia: See Wastebasket Taxon.

1. Eliminating Email

Civilization could have better workflows around email.

2. Software Development in EA

Note: Post is a stub.

3. Tweaking the Algorithms which Feed People Information

The post is structured in a confusing way, but a core suggestion is to tweak various current AI systems, particularly the Youtube and Facebook algorithms, to better fit EA values. However, the post doesn’t give specific suggestions of the sort a Youtube engineer could implement.

4. Positively Shaping the Development of Crypto-Assets

The article tries to analyze the promisingness of influencing the development of crypto assets from an ITN perspective, in 2018. Three of its most notable points are:

  1. Effective Altruists should shape the implementation of any high-impact new technology,

  2. crypto-assets constitute a new organizational technology which could solve a bunch of coordination problems, and

  3. the use of crypto assets could result in beneficial resource redistribution.

The author outlines the creation of a new (digital) currency with a view to tackle poverty:

“[T]he major source of the currency will be in the people as a whole, with a certain fixed percentage of the value represented by the currency (that is, the market cap), being credited, on regular intervals (for example, every day), to every single person known to the currency.”

The author argues that decentralized creation of money (instead of money creation by central banks) could lead to better ways of distributing money.

5. Increasing Economic Growth

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

6. For-Profit Companies Serving Emerging Markets

7. Land Use Reform

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. The Land Use Reform tag covers posts that discuss changes to regulations around the use of land (e.g. for housing or business development). These changes could lead to increases in economic growth and welfare in locations around the world.

The author gives an overview of the problem and presents the solution advocated by the YIMBI movement in the UK, namely a political reform reducing veto power and giving households on a street the means of allowing development by a majority vote. The concluding section lists a number of reasons for and against EA involvement in this area.

This post examines the problem posed by veto players when majorities are trying to bring forward development. Improving coordination techniques could be the way to break such deadlock not only here, but also in many other areas:

“With high uncertainty, I think that focusing a small amount of resources on improving broader coordination techniques for reducing such large deadweight losses in various areas could be a highly impactful, tractable and neglected area of research.”

8. Markets for Altruism

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

9. Meta-Science

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

10. Scientific Progress

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. However, it is mostly a stub, as far as EA Forum posts go. For illustration purposes:

“Creating the right incentive structures in science could make science more fluid, efficient, and painless. . . . The aim of this post is to suggest science policy as a possible research area for EAs where it might be possible to do progress that results in better science.”

11. Improving Information

A proposal to adapt information spread on EA databases to other methods of accessing it (email, twitter, RSS readers, etc.). If distribution of information is improved, there should be an increase in general impact.

This post highlights the importance of Wikipedia editing and gives useful suggestions for how this should be done.

12. Cause Prioritisation Research

This post points out that there has been little progress on cause research for several years. Some difficulties relating to it are discussed, but “they are all overcomeable, and they do not make a strong case that such research is intractable”.

13. EA Art & Fiction

Pointer: This cause candidate has its own EA Forum tag. For illustration purposes:

14. Corporate Giving Strategies and Corporate Social Responsibility

Note: This cause area comprises two distinct areas: giving by companies, and giving by employees.

Note: Corporate Social Responsability has the potential to be used by companies to cheaply distract from their pretty terrible working conditions in their supply chains by having ineffective corporate giving strategies which donate to recipients in the developed world. Last time I checked (two years ago). See International Supply Chain Accountability.

15. Biodiversity

This post claims, without elaborating on it, that biodiversity of life should be considered worth funding. Some of the comments reason why it shouldn’t.

The author gives a list of ideas for tackling this issue.

16. Population Size Reduction

The author argues that reduction of population growth should be prioritised, because it would have significant positive effects on several other EA cause areas, such as climate change, animal welfare, etc.

17. Metaverse Democratisation

“This post argues that we may now be at a tipping point that decides whether we are steering either towards a utopian or to a dystopian future of hybrid virtual/​physical realities. It encourages a discussion on the assessment of the problem and brainstorming of potential solutions.”

18. Sleeping Less to Increase Lifespan

The author argues that sleeping under 6 hours is perfectly healthy. If people sleep less, then their lifespan would be increased.

19. Combating Ageism

The author claims that people between 15 and 17 years are “the most oppressed group in the West”.

20. S-risks

“In this post, I’ll give an overview of the priority areas that have been identified in suffering-focused cause prioritisation research to date.”

“Artificial sentient beings could be created in vast numbers in the future. While their future could be bright, there are reasons to be concerned about widespread suffering among such entities. . . . Research may help us assess which actions will most cost-effectively make progress.”

This post reviews Metzinger’s paper, Artificial Suffering: An Argument for a Global Moratorium on Synthetic Phenomenology.

21. EA Meta

“This post goes over why we think Effective Altruism meta could be highly impactful, why CE [Charity Entrepreneurship] is well-positioned to incubate these charities, why 2021 is a good time, differences in handling EA meta compared to other causes, and potential concerns. We finish by introducing our three top recommendations for new charities in the space: exploratory altruism, earning to give +, and EA training.”

22. Prioritization research on slacktivism

There are some tasks that could be done with almost no effort, and yet they could have a lot of impact. This post notes that “[s]ome slacktivism is probably way more effective than other slacktivism, so somebody should do some prioritization research to find the best slacktivism techniques”.

Other lists of ideas

The following posts collect lots of funding ideas, many of which are novel interventions and cause areas:

Appendix I: Method

I queried all forum posts using the following query at the EA forum’s GraphQL API:

posts(input: {
terms: {
meta: null  # this seems to get both meta and non-meta posts
after: "10-1-2000"
before: "10-11-2020" # or some date in the future
}) {
results {

Then, I copied them over to a document called last5000posts.txt.

The EA forum API returns a maximum of 5000 entries, but this is not a problem because it currently only has 4077 posts.

I then searched for the keywords “cause x”, “cause y”, “new cause”, “cause”, “area”, “neglected”, “promising”, “proposal”, “intervention”, “effectiveness”, “cost-effective”, using grep, a Unix/​Linux tool, taking care to use the case-insensitive option (this is necessary because, although links contain the title in lowercase, links don’t always contain the full title). An example of using grep to do this is:

grep -i “cause x” last5000posts.txt >> searchoutputs.txt

which appends the results to the searchoutputs.txt file if the file exists, and otherwise creates that file.

I then looked through the posts with the “Cause-Prioritization” tag and under the most upvoted posts to see if I had missed anything. I then went through all EA Forum tags which had some relation to cause candidates and read through the relevant posts.

When I started tagging the posts I’d found, I found out about the “Less-discussed Causes” tag. I didn’t like its categorization scheme, which also included things other than cause candidates, so I continued creating my own tags. The “Less-discussed Causes″ tag had about 5 posts I wouldn’t have found. I also found many more posts which were not in the tag.

I imagine a similar method could be used to efficiently populate other tags.

Appendix II: A Note on Nomenclature

Trivia: See Soviet Nomenklatura.

Thanks to Michael Aird for pushing for clarification of the terms I’m using, and for asking exactly what this list was about.


  • Cause Area: A broad category of causes. For example, “animal welfare and suffering” would be a cause area, “factory-farmed animals” and “wild animal welfare” would be slightly less-broad cause areas.

  • Cause: Something more specific than a cause area. For example, “analgesics for farm animals” would be a cause within the “factory-farmed animals” cause area.

  • Intervention, charity idea, etc.: Something more specific than a cause. For example, a ballot initiative to provide more space for factory-farmed animals, like 2018 California Proposition 12 would be an intervention. “Working to bring approval voting to Saint Louis” would be an intervention within the cause “better voting methods”, itself within the cause area “better political systems”.

  • Meta-intervention: An intervention that can be applied to different causes. For example, ballot initiatives.

Question: On what level of specificity am I working in this post?

In practice, it’s often hard to establish whether something is a cause area, a cause, or an intervention. For example, I’d say that “climate change” is a cause area and that “extinguishing or preventing coal seam fires” is a cause, but the original post refers to it as a cause area.

Column C —”Level of specificity”— this google sheet contains information about the categorization chosen for each cause candidate (from intervention to cause area).

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.