Our favorite links this month include:
Also, today is the last day to apply for the EA Student Summit! Targeted at undergraduate and graduate students, the event features talks on the latest thinking in effective altruism (as well as many networking opportunities).
Summit applications close today (21 October) at 11:59 p.m. PST.
— The EA Newsletter Team
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
COVID: Human challenge trials may be held in the UK
One way to speed up vaccine development is to run a “human challenge trial,” where participants test a vaccine by getting injected with a live virus. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists and advocates have been calling on governments to allow these trials — and thousands of people have volunteered to be infected.
Those efforts may have finally borne fruit. Though media outlets differ on the details, it seems that the advocacy group 1Day Sooner has convinced the UK government to begin making plans for a trial, which could start as early as January.
We’re excited by the contributions of the EA community to this cause: 1Day Sooner received substantial support from Open Philanthropy, and their lead researcher (David Manheim) is a regular contributor to the EA Forum.
The importance of AI governance
“When we think about the risks arising from the combustion engine — such as urban sprawl, blitzkrieg offensive warfare, strategic bombers, and climate change — we see that it is hard to fault any one individual or group for negligence or malign intent [...] Rather, we see that technology can produce social harms, or fail to have its benefits realized, because of a host of structural dynamics.”
Like the combustion engine or a host of other technologies, advanced artificial intelligence is likely to bring drastic changes to the world. The field of AI governance involves managing those changes to avoid damaging outcomes — including social upheaval, military conflict, and the rise of superintelligent agents that aren’t aligned with our values.
Oxford’s Allan Dafoe has written a new introduction to the field, which outlines the risks posed by advanced AI and suggests ways we can prepare for a future in which it exists. His argument: Because no one can fully predict the technological or geopolitical landscape of future decades, people working in AI governance should develop “adaptable expertise” that could be useful in many different scenarios.
Dafoe draws an analogy between AI governance and early work on nuclear weapons policy, where a small number of scientists, leaders, and officials made decisions that shaped the course of the century. If you’d like to work in a field that may be of similar importance in our own century, contact the Future of Humanity Institute to express your interest.
Psychedelics hold promise for mental health
Mental health problems cause enormous amounts of suffering, and even the best treatments often don’t help much. However, recent clinical trials have shown that psychedelic drugs could be a promising way to address depression, PTSD, OCD, and many other issues.
EA-aligned researchers at Founders Pledge analyzed a number of these clinical trials and concluded that psychedelic-assisted treatment could be worth supporting for donors who are “interested in improving the wellbeing of the current generation.” They estimate that funding Usona Institute (which is developing a psilocybin-based drug to treat depression) could be roughly as impactful as the other mental health interventions they’ve recommended.
[Discuss this article on the EA Forum.]
Reframing the core arguments of effective altruism
Benjamin Todd, the CEO of 80,000 Hours, recently laid out a new way to frame the core arguments of effective altruism in a podcast and an EA Forum post. We liked his framing enough to quote the post directly:
“The claim: If you want to contribute to the common good, it’s a mistake not to pursue the project of effective altruism.
The three main premises supporting the claim of EA:
If you accept these premises, it seems clear that you ought to focus on “the project of EA” — which Todd defines as a search for the highest-impact options you can find, relative to their cost.
- Spread: There are big differences in how much different actions (with similar costs) contribute to the common good.
- Identifiability: We can find some of these high-impact actions with reasonable effort.
- Novelty: The high-impact actions we can find are not the same as what people who want to contribute to the common good typically do.”
Of course, the devil is in the details; few people in effective altruism fully agree on which options really are most cost-effective. But it’s still good to remember the beliefs we do share.
The post also reminds us that EA is fundamentally a philosophical approach, rather than a social movement; even if you aren’t involved in the community, you can still pursue the “project” as an individual.
For more stories, try these EA-related email newsletters and podcasts.
In other news:
If you want to discuss effective altruism with others, check out EA Hub's list of relevant Facebook groups.
Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good
“The central metaphor running through this article is thinking about Effective Altruism as 'mining for gold' [...] Gold, here, is standing in for whatever it is that we truly value. This could include making more people happy and well-educated, trying to avert a lot of suffering, or trying to increase the probability that humanity makes it out to the stars.”
Owen Cotton-Barratt’s “Prospecting for Gold” is a classic EA Global talk on how to find the best opportunities to do good.
Students from EA Oxford recently produced a summary version that is easier to read than the original transcript. We see their summary as one of the best ways to learn about cause prioritization and other key concepts.
[Watch the original video from EA Global.]
Opportunities to work on some of the world's most pressing problems
The 80,000 Hours Job Board features more than 500 positions. We can’t fit them all in the newsletter, so check out the others on their website!
If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.
If you want to find out about new positions as they arise (or post a position yourself), check out the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.
Applications due soon
Corporate Engagement Manager, The Good Food Institute (Remote, Europe) (Apply by 26 October)
Operations and Development Associate, Rethink Priorities (Remote) (Apply by 9:00 a.m. EST, 26 October)
Graphic Design & Digital Communications Volunteer Internship, Charity Entrepreneurship (Remote) (Apply by 31 October)
Project Coordinator, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University (Cambridge) (Apply by 1 November)
Operations Analyst, Effective Giving UK (London or remote in UK) (Apply by 6 November)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy // Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (Apply by noon UK time, 11 November)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Economics // Senior Research Fellow in Economics, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (Apply by noon UK time, 16 November)
Early-Career Funding Recipient, Improving the Long-Term Future // Global Catastrophic Biological Risks, Open Philanthropy (Remote) (Apply by 1 January)
Machine Learning Engineer // Research Scientist, OpenAI (San Francisco)
Postdoctoral Studentship, Safe and Trusted AI, UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (London)
Recruiter // General Application, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco or remote)
Senior Researchers, GiveWell (Oakland or remote in US)
Various positions, The Good Food Institute (Washington, DC or remote)
Books, events, community projects, and more!
EAGxAsia-Pacific: Applications now open
Applications for EAGxAsia-Pacific (November 21-22) are now open! Be sure to apply by 11:59 pm PST on Wednesday, 18 November.
This event will showcase projects and people in the Asia-Pacific community and help to strengthen relationships between EAs living in the region. But it’s also a virtual event — you don’t have to live in Asia to attend!
For those of you who live elsewhere, it’s also a great opportunity to make new connections with people who you wouldn’t normally meet at EA conferences in Europe and the United States.
Facebook’s Giving Tuesday match — coming soon!
Facebook’s Giving Tuesday donation matching opportunity is fast approaching. Since 2018, the effective altruism community, the EA Giving Tuesday team, and Rethink Charity have directed $1 million in matching funds from Facebook to highly effective nonprofits. Let’s make 2020 another success!
For updates and instructions on how to maximize the chance of getting your donations doubled, sign up at eagivingtuesday.org.
Sign up for the EA Forum email digest
The Effective Altruism Forum now has an email digest. Each edition features a few highlighted posts from the past week. Sign up here!
“The Life You Can Save” available as a free podcast
Peter Singer’s celebrity-narrated audiobook, The Life You Can Save, is now available on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify. It has never been easier to access and share Peter’s book, which has served as an introduction to effective altruism for thousands of people.
This work is part of The Life You Can Save's ongoing efforts to extend the audience for Peter's work, spread the ideas of effective giving, and raise more money for their recommended nonprofits. Click here to learn more.
Charity startup seeks advisors on political advocacy, lead exposure
The Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP), a new organization incubated by Charity Entrepreneurship, is looking for advisors as they prepare to work on lead reduction advocacy in Malawi (and later, other countries). They’d like to connect with:
Use their contact form to get in touch.
- Experts involved in lead regulation or other forms of political advocacy
- People with personal networks or in-country experience in Malawi, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, or Guatemala
One for the World hits $1 million in donations
One for the World (OFTW) advocates for students and young professionals to pledge at least 1% of their income to support effective charities. Collectively, their members are on track to give away their one millionth dollar this year. To celebrate, OFTW is holding a webinar with Peter Singer — register here.
You can see updates from a wide range of EA-aligned organizations on the EA Forum. (Organizations submit updates, which we edit for clarity.)
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!
Aaron, Heidi, Michal, Pascal, and Sören
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team