July 2019 Newsletter

Hopefully you've been enjoying the weather, and hopefully it lasts for the various picnics coming up.

One area I've been reflecting on this last month has been identity and effective altruism. In recent conversations people have been surprised that I don't call myself an effective altruist, despite working/volunteering at EA London in one way or another for the last four years (I prefer the clumsier 'someone interested in effective altruism').

One of the main reasons is that it struck me as arrogant to call myself effective when really I'm quite uncertain about how much good I am doing. I think it has also allowed me to be open to new ideas that come along rather than getting stuck in a mentality of something being EA or not, or potentially being afraid to be critical of something that has become part of my identity. This may be a part of wanting to have a small identity and for other people it is easier to have that label but I think it is still worth spending some time thinking about what your preference is and how this identity could affect your decisions.

This post by Helen Toner explains the idea of 'effective altruism as a question rather than an ideology' in more depth and nuance, with a useful top comment by Rob Wiblin agreeing that EA isn't defined by conclusions but is associated with particular methodologies.

Best,
David

UPCOMING EVENTS

Monthly Social
When: Tuesday 2nd July
A monthly social and impromptu picnic to meet others who care about doing good and using evidence

EA and Tech Meetup
When: Tuesday 9th July
A few lightning talks followed by discussion for people interested in EA and tech

Picnic Social
When: Friday 12th July
A second impromptu picnic

Dealing with Disasters - Northumbria
When:
17th-19th July
ALLFED will be at this conference, which includes a session on widening the UN description of hazards to include a wider range of global catastrophic risks

Animal Social
When: Saturday 20th July
Socialise with friendly and altruistic people who are passionate about reducing animal suffering

Economists and EA
When:
Tuesday 23rd July
A meetup for working economists interested in EA, email hello@ealondon.com for more details

Fast AI - Deep Learning Study Group
When:
Saturday 27th July
A study group for people interested in going through the 'Practical Deep Learning for Coders' course. Join the EA Software, Data and Tech group to find out more

Using the Law to Help Animals
When: Thursday 1st August
An evening discussion organised by the UK Centre for Animal Law

EA Global London
When: 18th-20th October
EA Global London will take place this year near the Barbican. Applications will open later this year.

COMMUNITY NEWS 

• A new organisation, the Happier Lives Institute, has been created to look into "the best ways to help others live happier lives" founded and supported by members of the community including Michael Plant, Barry Grimes, Nikita Patel, Derek Foster, Sonia Vallentin, Peter Brietbart and Lucia Coulter

• An interview with Ben Delo and Natalie Cargill on why they are prioritising the long-term future at Effective Giving

• Vishal Maini with an artificial intelligence reading list for newcomers 

• Karolina Sarek with research looking into whether corporate campaigns in the US have any counterfactual impact

• Victoria Krakovna with an overview of the International Conference on Learning Representations Safe Machine Learning workshop

• Jamie Harris looking into whether effective animal advocacy movement building is a neglected opportunity

• Hauke Hillebrandt with a post looking into whether corporations could be global catastrophic risks



Story

Haseeb Qureshi on how they first got involved in effective altruism.

"...I’ve glossed over an important question. Why did I become an effective altruist to begin with?

There are two ways to answer that.

The first way is to say that all of the arguments are compelling. EA’s critique of conventional altruism is rigorous and persuasive. If you, like me, are committed to moral consistency, it’s hard not to be convinced. In a way, effective altruism begins by pulling softly on the threads of your beliefs, and by the time it’s done, your moral imperatives look completely different.

Let’s call that the ideological answer. It’s the first reason why I’m an EA, and maybe someday I’ll tell the story how effective altruism changed my mind.

But right now, I want to tell another story. I want to tell the story of why effective altruism changed not my mind, but my life. Why EA makes me do things that I wouldn’t otherwise dream of doing—like devoting my life to it.

It’s not because of the arguments or the ideologies. Those things are powerful, but arguments are paltry against all the history and conditioning behind a human life. It takes something more blunt than that to change someone’s life. It takes something powerful and human.

Really, it takes a punch to the stomach.

The other night while walking home, I had such a punch...." Read on


Latest Jobs

• Global Priorities Institute are hiring an operations assistant, closes 15th July - Oxford

• GiveDirectly are hiring a partnerships associate and a people & compliance manager in the London office as well as various roles in Uganda, Malawi and Liberia

• The Future of Humanity Institute are hiring a Research Scholars project coordinator, closes 10th July

• Founders Pledge are looking for researchers and a key relationship manager

• Animal Charity Evaluators are hiring researchers, closing on July 14th - remote

• Open Philanthropy Project are hiring research fellows - remote

• The Alan Turing Institute are looking for various roles including project manager (defence and security), data scientist and research associate

• UK intelligence agencies are looking to hire Mandarin linguists for a variety of roles

• Wave are hiring for a head of people operations - remote

• Beyond Carnism are looking for a head of communications, closes July 15th

• Animal Ethics are hiring a welfare biology research and outreach coordinator, closes July 31st - remote

• The Overseas development institute is hiring a senior digital officer and a public affairs manager. Closing 7th July

Several roles at DeepMind and Deepmind Health, including brand manager, events specialist, research assistant, organisation designer and ethics research intern

• 80,000 Hours job board with filters by location, problem area and role type. You can also sign up to their career coaching waitlist here

• There is also the EA London members directory with people in different careers who may be able to help advise

• If you want to meet up and discuss career options in person, you can apply via this form


Latest Research and Updates

• Claire Zabel and Luke Muehlhauser with a post summarising the potential areas and personal fit for information security careers for global catastrophic risk reduction and why it may be an impactful career path

• BBC Future with an article looking into the risks of anthrax and nuclear waste being released by melting Arctic ice

• Helen Toner from Center for Security and Emerging Technology and Jeffrey Ding from the Center for the Governance of AI testifying at the US Senate before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on “U.S.-China Competition in Artificial Intelligence"

• Simon Beard from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk writing for the BBC Deep Civilisation series on the long term quest to decide right from wrong

• Hilary Greaves with a collective study on effective altruism, released later this year with contributors including William MacAskill and Toby Ord

• GFI report on the state of China's plant-based meat industry

• CSER researcher Luke Kemp with a chapter on conflict resolution in climate diplomacy

• A post on how two centuries of rapid population growth is about to come to an end

• An overview of the Bangladesh Priorities project looking at how to do the most good per taka spent

• A new online game for people to test their knowledge of historical data trends

• Jeremiah Johnson on why they've decided to donate a kidney to a stranger

• Clearer Thinking with a set of 'Life-Changing questions' that they claim are practical, yet rarely-asked and 83% of people reported were valuable for them to answer

• Our World in Data with visualisations on which countries achieved economic growth and why this matters


Organisation Updates

• Rethink Charity Forward 2018 year in review

• ACE with a review of 2018

• A review of fundraising activities of the Effective Altruism Foundation in 2018

MIRI 2018 year in review

• The Life You Can Save are launching the Giving Games Platform and new facilitator tools


Grants

• Open Phil have made 10+ grants recently, including $18,451,000 on global health, $7,660,000 on farm animal welfare, $5,168,000 on scientific research, $4,796,000 to 80,000 Hours, $2,756,000 to the Centre for Effective Altruism, $1,015,000 on global catastrophic risks, $255,000 on criminal justice reform and $150,000 on land use reform

• The Gates Foundation with a $180,000,000 grant in support of the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) network. CHAMPS collects and analyses data that is used to help identify the causes of death among children under the age of 5 in seven countries where child mortality rates are the highest

• A $150,000,000 gift to the University of Oxford to serve as a dynamic hub dedicated to the humanities and also to house the Institute for Ethics in AI

• Open Phil explaining their $17,500,000 bet on Sherlock Biosciences’ innovations in viral diagnostics

• ACE are funding grants for animal advocacy projects, especially for newer organisations focused on farmed animals. Closing on July 14th

• GiveWell explaining their decision to allocate $4,700,000 to the Against Malaria Foundation

• The EA Fund for Global Development has granted $60,000 to Instiglio, an organisation which assists in the technical design of results-based financing mechanisms


Research

• Zach Groff with an update on a foundational result on how much wild animals suffer, suggesting that suffering doesn't necessarily dominate enjoyment in nature

• Luisa Rodriguez with the first in a series of posts on nuclear risks, looking at which plausible nuclear exchange scenarios should worry us the most

• An overview of the rising threat of dengue, the world’s fastest-growing mosquito-borne virus

• 3ie with a post warning about the dangers of relying on single studies to inform policy making

• Kim Cuddington with research into various ways of understanding life history classification of animals

• Research into the health impact of snakebites, with over 120,000 people being killed each year and 400,000 people with life changing disabilities

• Daniela R. Waldhorn with research into whether invertebrates have the capacity to experience pain and pleasure in a morally significant way

• Peter Hurford looking at


• A report from What Works Wellbeing on what an individual would be willing to pay for an additional year of healthy life (average = £25,000)


Vox

• A look into whether climate change is an existential or catastrophic risk and why this could matter

What are lethal autonomous weapons and should they be banned?

• What is the case for adding more and more people to earth?

• How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls


Podcasts

• Philip Tetlock on why accurately predicting the future is "central to absolutely everything"

• Future Perfect podcast with Jaan Tallinn and Kelsey Piper looking at risks from AI

• Cass Sunstein on how social change happens

• Pushmeet Kohli on 80,000 Hours talking about DeepMind’s plan to make AI systems robust & reliable

Dylan Matthews on Rationally Speaking talking about various EA related areas

• Future Perfect looking at how foundations like Ford and Rockefeller pushed hard to control India's population with sterilisation and how India's government expanded that practice into a massive atrocity

Rob Wiblin on the Neoliberal podcast discussing 80,000 Hours

• Dr Diana Fleischman discussing how the EA movement is redefining animal suffering


Effective altruism in media & blogs

• CSER researchers with an article in the Metro on artificial diseases

• A new book by Tom Chivers about AI Safety and the community around this area

• Devex with an article on how GiveWell is exploring giving opportunities that are more difficult to measure

• A Christian book review of The Most Good You Can Do

• Inside Philanthropy looking at whether new donors transforming the global aid industry is a good thing

• Recording of the 2019 Liffman Lecture on ethical philanthropy featuring Peter Singer

• Paul Niehaus from GiveDirectly and Ellie Hassenfeld from GiveWell with recordings of their talks at the Data, Decisions and Public Policy lectures


Good news roundup

• Kenya and Ghana are rolling out a malaria vaccine to 360,000 children

• Ecuador has approved same-sex marriage