Our favorite links this month include: — Lizka (for the EA Newsletter Team)



Why do people care about asteroids?

On September 26, NASA successfully struck an asteroid with a spacecraft (DART), modifying its orbit around another asteroid. It was interesting, but why should we care? 

For one thing, asteroid collisions can lead to extinctions — the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also killed over 75% of the planet’s species. 

But knowing about the dinosaur-killing asteroid wasn’t enough for people to take risks from asteroids seriously. A recent article by William MacAskill explores how scientists and popular culture helped overcome the “giggle factor” associated with the topic. This led to Spaceguard, a project that identified more than 98% of extinction-threatening asteroids. The project determined that the risk of such an asteroid colliding with the Earth is one in fifteen billion — one hundred times lower than what was previously estimated.

So asteroids are probably not the greatest threat to our existence. Still, even smaller asteroids can kill millions of people, and only about two-thirds of asteroids above 140 meters have been identified and tracked, meaning we could still discover one on a collision course, and the ability to redirect asteroids of such sizes is exciting. But more importantly, the ability to pull together enough resources and ingenuity to scan the skies and deflect an asteroid shows that humanity can fight existential threats if we take them seriously.

Prize-winning criticisms of effective altruism (and of work in EA)

The recent EA criticism contest has wrapped up, with $120,000 in prizes awarded to the top 31 criticisms. 

The top prizes went to two entries that emphasized the role of uncertainty analysis in impact evaluation, a review of an approach to forecasting progress in artificial intelligence, and a proposal for an alternative approach to the philosophical study of population ethics. Other prize-winners included criticisms of specific organizations in effective altruism, criticisms of community norms and dynamics, and disagreements with prominent narratives and theories. 

Effective altruism is a difficult project, and we’re almost certainly getting it wrong in important ways. Noticing and pointing out the flaws is an enormous gift to the people trying to work on this. 

Is the law the answer to pig welfare in the US?

Two legal cases in the US are highlighting the possibilities and limitations of the law as a tool for improving animal welfare

An animal-welfare-motivated measure supported by over 62% of California voters may be struck by the US Supreme Court based on a law that prevents states from giving their own businesses preferential treatment. The measure would ban some pork products that relied on gestation crates — “narrow metal crates that confine pigs so tightly they’re unable to turn around” that are used in factory farms to hold over 6 million pigs per year during their pregnancies. The court ruling may not be known for a while, but you can try to predict the result by betting on a play-money market (which currently narrowly predicts that the court will strike the measure). 

Meanwhile, a jury acquitted two activists for Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) on trial for removing two dying piglets from a factory farm in Utah in 2017. The activists had been filming inside a factory farm that had violated its pledge to stop the use of gestation crates. The footage was not shown to the jury; the prosecution argued that it would cause an inappropriately emotional reaction. The case might serve as a precedent for future cases, and as a prompt for protests — which might be an effective tactic.

It’s not clear that legal advocacy is very promising compared to things like developing alternative sources of protein, but it’s encouraging to see the effort and occasional successes. Other legal-system-oriented efforts include pushing for the enforcement of existing animal welfare protections.

In other news

For more stories, try these email newsletters and podcasts


Links we share every time — they're just that good!


Boards and resources:
  • The 80,000 Hours Job Board features more than 700 positions. We can’t fit them all in the newsletter, so you can check them out there.
  • The EA Opportunity Board collects internships, volunteer opportunities, conferences, and more — including part-time and entry-level job opportunities.
  • You can see more positions in the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.
  • If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.

Selected roles

Effective Ventures Operations GiveDirectly  GiveWell Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) | bio is looking for a Senior Program Officer / Senior Director, Global Biological Policy and Programs (Washington, D.C.)

Open Philanthropy



EAGxVirtual is happening 21 - 23 October — apply now!

EAGxVirtual is a free, online conference that will bring together ambitious people from around the world to connect with others interested in effective altruism. The conference will feature opportunities to engage with experts via talks and office hours, build and strengthen networks through one-on-one meetings, and learn more about the world’s most pressing problems. The conference organizers encourage everyone to err on the side of applying, regardless of their background with effective altruism. 

You can learn more and apply here. The deadline is 8:00 am UTC on Wednesday, 19 October.

(You can also find a tentative schedule of conferences in 2022 and 2023 here.)


The Future Fund’s AI Worldview Prize 

The Future Fund has announced prizes from $15,000 to $1.5M to change their minds (or those of some superforecasters) on artificial intelligence and AGI. 

You can learn more — including the Fund’s rationale behind the prize, their current beliefs on AI, and the specific prizes they’d award for different kinds of work — in the announcement post. The deadline for submissions is 23 December.


Workshops with the Global Challenges Project

The Global Challenges Project is running intensive, all-costs-covered, three-day workshops in Oxford and Berkeley for university students familiar with effective altruism to engage with the field of existential risk reduction. You can see the schedule and apply here. The deadline for the next workshop is 23 October.

Other important announcements

  • Our World in Data and Metaculus are partnering for a forecasting tournament with prizes for accurately predicting answers to important questions at different time intervals.
  • Rethink Priorities has announced a new Spe­cial Pro­jects Pro­gram, which provides fis­cal spon­sor­ship and op­er­a­tional sup­port to promising new projects motivated by effective altruism. Those interested are invited to get involved by joining the Special Projects team or applying for sponsorship. 
  • GiveWell’s Change Our Mind Contest for pointing out potentially important mistakes or weaknesses in their cost-effectiveness analyses is still accepting submissions until 31 October
  • Students with an interest in pandemic preparedness or mitigation of global catastrophic biological risks might want to apply for a fully funded PhD program in ​​the Health Security track at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. You can apply and find out more here. Applications are due 1 December.
  • High Impact Professionals released a guide for fundraising at one’s workplaces, and encourage those interested to reach out. You can find out more here.
Organizational Updates

You can see updates from a wide range of organizations on the EA Forum.

Timeless Classic: Carl Shulman on the common-sense case for existential risk reduction
In a classic episode of the 80,000 Hours podcast, Carl Shulman and Rob Wiblin discuss: 
  • How misaligned incentives lead politicians to under-prepare for disasters, and what has led governments to take serious action in the past
  • Potential ways to approach nuclear war (like preparing alternative food sources) and pandemics (like installing early detection systems and making labs safer)
  • Successes and failures around COVID-19
  • Empirical reasons that might lead people to different priorities (and when the key disagreements are about differences in values, instead)
  • And a lot more.
You can listen to the episode and find a transcript here.
We hope you found this edition useful!

If you’ve taken action because of the Newsletter and haven’t taken our impact survey, please do — it helps us improve future editions.

Finally, if you have feedback for us, positive or negative, let us know!

– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team
Click here to access the full EA Newsletter archive
A community project of the Centre for Effective Altruism, a registered charity in England and Wales (Charity Number 1149828) – Centre for Effective Altruism, Trajan House, Mill Street, Oxford OX2 0DJ, United Kingdom
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