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Effective Altruism Newsletter

December 7, 2018

December is a busy time for EA, but we’ve got you covered — especially if you’re planning a year-end donation or considering the pledge. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition!

-The Team

Articles and Community Posts

The Open Philanthropy Project funds many organizations working on systemic change. On Election Day in the U.S., those efforts paid off, as voters passed three different ballot initiatives with support from Open Phil:

The EA Forum, in its first month open to the public, had nearly 100 new posts. Among the most popular:

Could we ever discover technology that is easy to build, but powerful enough to destroy civilization? Nick Bostrom considers this possibility in The Vulnerable World Hypothesis. Kelsey Piper summarizes the paper.GiveWell removed Evidence Action’s No Lean Season program from their list of top charities after new data suggested that the program didn’t work. Evidence Action supported GiveWell, to praise from development experts.Speaking of evidence: J-PAL just launched Evidence to Policy, a collection of stories about experimental studies that helped the world’s governments scale up effective programs (and scale down those that weren’t effective).MIRI has released their new research directions, including a discussion of why they’ve decided to share less of their work.Finally, as the new year approaches, a lesson from Max Roser: The world is much better; the world is awful; the world can be much better.

Spotlight: Year-End Giving

Welcome to our special end-of-year section, packed with charity reviews and different ways to give. 'Tis the season: Charity evaluators are posting their thoughts on giving!

Giving What We Can, which helps people build a habit of evidence-based giving, is holding its annual pledge drive. (More details below.)The EA Donor Lottery is now live. Whoever wins will have a huge incentive to do careful research before they donate, which could make a lottery more efficient than individual giving. Last year’s winner, Adam Gleave, wrote a detailed post explaining his decision process.</td>

Timeless Classics

We’ve included a lot of giving advice this issue. To balance that out, here’s a reminder from Helen Toner that EA advice is never absolute or final: Effective altruism is a question, not an ideology.


As always, 80,000 Hours’ Job Board features a wide range of positions.If you want to hear about new EA opportunities, subscribe to the 80,000 Hours Newsletter or check out the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.


The 2018 Giving What We Can pledge campaign just launched. You might join a gym if you want to exercise more regularly. Likewise, making a concrete plan for your giving and getting support from a community can help you stick to your donation goals. This is a great time to consider:

  • Making an effective donation.
  • Taking a short-term pledge with Try Giving. Will it be 10% for a year? 5% for next semester? You decide!
  • If you’re ready, taking the full Giving What We Can pledge to donate 10% of your income (or 1% of spending money, if you’re a student) to effective organizations.

Join the Facebook event and take advantage of this season to talk to your friends about the pledge!80,000 Hours is conducting their annual impact survey to try to track how much they've been helping people do more good. You can help them figure out which of their services are worth continuing or growing by filling it out.Want to double your donation? A team of professional poker players is sponsoring more than $1.2 million in matching funds to ten charities.Update: The EA Giving Tuesday project, which we featured in November, estimates that the EA community directed nearly $500,000 in matching funds to effective charities. That’s roughly 10 times last year’s total!


80,000 Hours
80,000 Hours released an article clarifying misconceptions about talent gaps, a podcast with Brian Christian on “Algorithms to Live By”, and a podcast + guide on using engineering skills to improve AI safety & robustness. They were also featured on Vox’s Future Perfect podcast. They're currently focused on their annual review and impact survey.

Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters
ALLFED's David Denkenberger recently published an updated cost-effectiveness model, along with an alternative version produced by board member Anders Sandberg. According to the new models, alternate foods compare favorably to artificial intelligence alignment. ALLFED also published its annual progress report and fundraiser.

Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators released their 2018 charity recommendationson 26 November. Top charities include the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Animal Equality, The Good Food Institute, and The Humane League. ACE plans to publish additional posts about this year's evaluation process over the next few weeks. An anonymous donor is matching donations to ACE's Effective Animal Advocacy Fund through 31 December.

Center for Human-Compatible AI
Rohin Shah has been writing a sequence on Value Learning for the AI Alignment Forum. Rosie Campbell took part in a fireside chat on AI Safety and CHAI’s approach. Michael Wellman spoke at the Michigan AI Symposium. CHAI’s newsletter has relaunched: subscribe here.

Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA launched the new EA Forum, and users have already shared nearly 100 new posts. They also published their fundraising plans for 2019 and an update on the EA Community Building Grants project.

Centre for the Future of Intelligence
CFI launched the History of AI project with a public lecture and symposium with experts from multiple disciplines. Programme Director Adrian Weller was appointed to the Board of the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. CFI will shortly be advertising on this page for a postdoctoral researcher to join the Trust and Transparency project.

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER released a Six Month Report covering their new publications. They appeared on a BBC radio program to discuss population ethics, met with policymakers and industry leaders at the United Nations and Alan Turing Institute, and attended events on modern deterrence, high-impact bio-threats, and global pandemics. They also attended the Partnership on AI’s All Partners Meeting.

Charity Entrepreneurship
Charity Entrepreneurship published two reports (Fortification of Factory-Farmed Animals’ Food and High Welfare Meat) and updated their websitewith additional information on how to found charities.

Effective Altruism Foundation
EAF launched a new fund focused on reducing s-risks, published the takeaways from their 2018 hiring round, and outlined their plans for next year on the EA Forum. If you prioritize reducing s-risks, consider contributing to their ongoing fundraiser.

Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research
The Forethought Foundation announced its official launch. The foundation aims to promote academic work which addresses the question of how to use our resources to improve the world as much as possible. They launched a new fellowship program for Masters and PhD students in philosophy and economics, the Global Priorities Fellowship (deadline 27 December 2018).

Future of Humanity Institute
Nick Bostrom released his new paper: The Vulnerable World Hypothesis. FHI is looking for a Website and Communications Officer to drive their communications strategy.

Future of Life Institute
FLI released a new resource on the Benefits & Risks of Biotechnology, which also explains the four main tools of biotech and explores ethical questions around the subject. Ariel Conn hosted Catherine Rhodes on the FLI podcast to discuss biotechnology governance.

GiveWell updated their top charity recommendations for 2018 and wrote about the details of their decision. They also published a blog post on theirrecommended allocation for Good Ventures, a large foundation with which GiveWell works closely.

Global Priorities Institute
GPI is currently seeking Research Fellows and Senior Research Fellows in Philosophy, to start in Autumn 2019. Applications are now open and close on 4 January.

Machine Intelligence Research Institute
Edward Kmett, a prominent Haskell developer, has joined MIRI's research staff. MIRI also finished releasing Embedded Agency (an introduction to their more mathematical research) and published a discussion of their newer research approaches (which are closer to computer science). They are currently fundraising for 2019.

Open Philanthropy Project
The Open Philanthropy Project announced grants of $1,695,376 to Boston Children’s Hospital to research chronic pain, $266,000 to Citizen Action of New York for criminal justice reform advocacy, $100,000 to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth to discuss automatic fiscal stabilizers, and $100,000 to Food Frontier to promote meat alternatives.

Raising for Effective Giving
REG is running a donation challenge, with over $1.2 million in counterfactual matching funds for donations to ten high-impact charities.

Sentience Institute
Sentience Institute published a summary of its 2018 accomplishments, from “The End of Animal Farming” and its media coverage — including an excerpt in The Guardian — to its research and speaking engagements. They are currently fundraising for 2019.

Go forth and do the most good! Also……we’d like to thank Pascal Zimmer for his work. As a volunteer, he helped start the EA Newsletter and led the team for three years, sending out most editions and growing the newsletter to 50,000 subscribers. Aaron Gertler, who is exceedingly grateful for Pascal’s help, has taken over his position. Let us know how you liked this edition and how we can improve further. If you'd like to see past editions of the newsletter, you can find them here.