Our favorite links this month include:
More details below, alongside dozens of job listings and other updates. Enjoy the edition!
— The EA Newsletter Team
P.S. This edition of the newsletter was produced by Applied Divinity Studies.
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
If civilization collapsed, could humanity survive?
What does it mean for a risk to be “existential”? Would something need to wipe out all of humanity to qualify, or would our species still be doomed if there were only a few (hundred thousand) survivors?
In an interview with Robert Wiblin, Luisa Rodriguez hashes out this question in much more detail. Even in extreme scenarios like nuclear war, she thinks we’ll likely have enough human capital to replenish the earth and recover civilization. A nuclear war would still be horrific, but in a different sense than an asteroid which destroyed the planet and ended humans forever.
But a "likely" recovery still isn't a guarantee. In a written report, Rodriguez estimates that an event with a 90% fatality rate, “major infrastructure damage, and severe climate change” could have a 1-10% chance of leading to human extinction.
Donation timing: The debate shaking up philanthropy
GiveWell is saving 20% of its 2021 funding for future years, when it expects to have more cost-effective ways to spend the money. This decision sparked a debate over the value of giving now versus later.
The argument in favor of giving now is straightforward: There are people in need, they could benefit immensely from donations, and we should help sooner rather than later if we can. We may also miss out on opportunities if we wait too long. As Open Philanthropy co-CEO Alexander Berger notes in a recent interview, “I think the world basically is getting better, at least from the perspective of global health, [so] giving opportunities should continue to get worse over time.”
Likewise, you can present giving later in simple terms: We might find more cost-effective ways to do good in the future, and we should save enough to make sure we can fund them.
This is how GiveWell sees its current situation: “For 2022 and beyond, we’re confident we’ll be able to increase the total amount of funding opportunities we identify at both 8x and 5x better than GiveDirectly.” (It uses the impact of GiveDirectly’s cash transfers as a “bar”, and focuses on finding ways to have several times that level of impact.)
But GiveWell may not be the best example for this debate. It still aims to distribute its available funds within the next few years. Meanwhile, the foundation responsible for a sizable portion of those funds — Good Ventures, which largely relies on research from Open Philanthropy — plans to give away almost all of its founders' net worth (more than $20 billion), but will take decades to finish doing so at its current pace. Discussions that focus on GiveWell risk missing this broader dynamic.
See also: Open Philanthropy’s blog post about the GiveWell grant and this detailed case for giving later in many situations.
New charity focuses on shrimp welfare
Shrimp are small animals with very small brains. Researchers debate whether they feel “pain” or experience "suffering" in a sense that we would recognize.
But there are so many shrimp in the world that if there’s even a small chance they can suffer, their aggregate suffering is massive in expectation. Each year, 350 billion shrimp are farmed, often in appalling conditions. For example, their eyestalks are often torn out (a practice called “eyestalk ablation”) so that they’ll reproduce faster.
The Shrimp Welfare Project wants to change conditions for shrimp by targeting water quality, disease, and eyestalk ablation. In some cases, their advocacy may benefit farmers in addition to shrimp; ablation results in less resilience to common pathogens.
Ultimately, organisms like shrimp or fish will probably never have the public appeal of cute land mammals. But if their experiences matter and we can help, this neglectedness may be all the more reason to get involved.
In other news
Links we share every time — they're just that good!
Opportunities to work on some of the world's most pressing problems
The 80,000 Hours Job Board features more than 900 positions. We can’t fit them all in the newsletter, so check out the others on their website!
You can see more positions in the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.
Applications due soon
Portfolio Officer, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (London or Oslo) (apply by 7 January)
Predoctoral Research Fellow in Economics, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (apply by 5 January)
Operations Coordinator, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (apply by 17 January)
Summer Research Fellowship, PIBBSS (Remote) (apply by 16 January)
Hiring Manager, Wild Animal Initiative (Remote) (apply by 17 January)
Development Coordinator, Wild Animal Initiative (Remote) (apply by 17 January)
Operations Director, Wild Animal Initiative (Remote) (apply by 17 January)
Business Operations, Redwood Research (SF Bay Area)
Chief of Staff, Founders Pledge (London or remote)
Head of Events
, Longview Philanthropy (apply by 30 January)
Senior Engineer, Growth
, GiveDirectly (NYC or remote)
, GiveWell (SF Bay Area or remote)
, The Good Food Institute (Various locations)
, Lightcone Infrastructure (Berkeley)
, Open Philanthropy (SF Bay Area or remote)
, Ought (SF Bay Area or remote)
Books, events, community projects, and more!
Apply to the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program
Charity Entrepreneurship works to create opportunities for effective grantmaking by incubating and launching highly impactful organizations.
Given our earlier discussion about GiveWell’s search for new ways to deploy funding, it’s notable that Fortify Health, started in 2017 through Charity Entrepreneurship’s parent organization, may become one of GiveWell’s top charities.
They’re especially eager for founders interested in working on road traffic safety, aid quality, tobacco taxation, postpartum family planning, and exploratory altruism, but you aren't limited to those ideas.
You don’t need prior experience starting a charity (though some skills are useful), and will receive intensive training as part of the program.
You can read the announcement here, or get started on your application (due 16 January).
EA conferences in 2022: Save the dates!
The Centre for Effective Altruism has announced actual and potential dates for a series of effective altruism conferences. Sign up here to be notified when applications open.
EA Funds is looking for grant applications
EA Funds wants to find more applications for projects that could improve the world. This can include:
- Academic scholarships
- Teaching buy-outs
- Impact-focused startups
- Anything else that fits one of the funds
Their message to people who aren't sure about applying:
“We sometimes meet people who did not apply because they thought they would not be funded. Some of them eventually applied and were funded, despite their doubts, because we were excited by their projects. Applying is fast and easy; we really do encourage it.”
They’ve also made public grant reporting entirely optional, and encourage people to apply even if they have a preference for private funding.
The EA Funds donor lottery
It’s hard to find time to research charities before you give. And if you give a moderate amount (like most people do), it might not feel worth the effort.
That’s why EA Funds offers a donor lottery. Here’s how it works:
The lottery isn't for everyone, but some people consider it one of the most effective ways to give for most donors. Consider trying it out this year!
- You make a donation in exchange for a chance to win. For example, a $1,000 donation gives you a 1% chance to win the $100,000 lottery.
- If you win, you get to donate the full amount to (almost) any cause you want. This makes it worthwhile to think more carefully about where to give, which can lead to more (expected) impact overall.
- If you win, you'll get access to expert advisors who can help you figure out where you want to give.
EA Funds launches Effective Crypto
This new site from EA Funds makes it easy to donate more than 150 different cryptocurrencies to “bundles” of charities chosen by expert advisors. You can also build your own portfolio of charities to support.
EA Mental Health Navigator Service seeks volunteers
The EA Mental Health Navigator Service aims to help people navigate local, national, and international resources for mental health support. They build lists of recommended providers (some of whom are active in the community) and offer personal consultations to guide people through the process of seeking help.
They’re looking for volunteers, particularly those with experience in web design, marketing, mental health/peer support, or healthcare and mental health resources in different parts of the world.
CSPI launches a policy reform essay contest
The Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology is holding an essay contest:
“We’re seeking submissions that propose a plan for a reform that can facilitate or remove a barrier to the development or application of an important new technology.”
Submissions are open through 31 March. This could be a good opportunity for anyone interested in impact-focused approaches to policy and political advocacy.
You can see updates from a wide range of organizations on the EA Forum.
Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good
Effective altruism is full of open questions, both technical and philosophical. From a Bayesian perspective, even if we feel confident in a particular framework, we shouldn't assign zero credence to other views.
The key is to be humble without being paralyzed by uncertainty. One approach to managing that uncertainty in practice is called worldview diversification. In an oft-cited essay, Holden Karnofsky, co-CEO of Open Philanthropy, explains how his organization uses this approach in their grantmaking:
“A challenge we face is that we consider multiple different worldviews plausible. We’re drawn to multiple giving opportunities that some would consider outstanding and others would consider relatively low-value. We have to decide how to weigh different worldviews, as we try to do as much good as possible with limited resources.
“When deciding between worldviews, there is a case to be made for simply taking our best guess and sticking with it […] Instead, we’re practicing worldview diversification: putting significant resources behind each worldview that we find highly plausible. We think it’s possible for us to be a transformative funder in each of a number of different causes, and we don’t — as of today — want to pass up that opportunity to focus exclusively on one and get rapidly diminishing returns.”
For a more technical analysis, see the book Moral Uncertainty.
|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.
(Actions we'd love to hear about include donating to charity, applying to a job, or joining a community group.)
Finally, if you have feedback for us, positive or negative, let us know!
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team