Write a cause, problem, or field overview

  • Occupation:
    Student, Professional, Retired
  • Time commitment:
    Hours, Part-time
  • Duration:
    Short-term, Medium-term
  • Familiarity with EA:
    Familiar, Very Familiar

The effective altruism community has become relatively well-versed in a few domains — global health interventions, factory farm reform, a general understanding of the risks of advanced AI — but could still use a lot of brainpower in many other highly promising areas. Since each EA organization has needed to narrow its focus to specialize at its function, many would-be priorities are neglected relative to their plausible scale and tractability. We need people who are willing to go off the beaten path to investigate areas that typically lie outside the remits of existing organizations, and let the rest of us know if there are things we should pivot to prioritize.

For instance, you could read books and papers to reach the frontier of knowledge about tobacco advocacy, or to learn about some emerging technology that you think might be important but that doesn't get much attention from EAs. Individuals have historically looked into causes like climate change, developing-world pain relief, and aligning recommendation algorithms with human wellbeing.

This line of work is particularly well-suited to people who specialize or plan to specialize in an EA-neglected domain, and who know enough about EA "mainstream" topics to make impact comparisons.

To get started, hone in on one topic where you are or could become knowledgeable by looking at some of the many overviews on broad areas of EA interest. 80,000 Hours' problem profiles are the most accessible place to start. You can find more information about focus areas (with overlap) from the Open Philanthropy Project, the Foundational Research Institute, the Global Challenges Foundation, and the Future of Life Institute. To learn how to make cross-cause comparisons of impact, check out this talk on prioritization research. Finally, publish your work to the EA Forum or, if they approve your piece, through an academic institution or a specialized EA organization like the Foundational Research Institute.

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