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News and updates from the world of effective altruism

What does the Future Fund mean for you?

The newest major funder in EA, the FTX Future Fund, plans to distribute between $100 million and $1 billion dollars this year to support ambitious projects to improve humanity’s long-term prospects. The Fund has already run a competition for project ideas, getting hundreds of submissions and awarding a total of $51,000 for the best ideas

The Future Fund focuses on projects that work on ensuring the safe development of artificial intelligence, reducing the risk of biological catastrophe, and growing effective altruism, among other cause areas.

The first open call for applications has just closed, but the Fund plans to make grants and investments throughout the year. It is eager to support ambitious, massively scalable longtermist projects. 

Before the Future Fund, the chief sources of funding for longtermist work were EA Funds (for smaller grants) and Open Philanthropy. The Future Fund’s activities will likely increase the total amount of funding available for long-term-future-oriented work by at least 50% in 2022.

Why reducing the risk of nuclear war should be a priority

"The nuclear winter scenario [...] would kill billions of people—billions—in the years that follow a large-scale nuclear war, even if it was fought 'only' with today’s reduced stockpiles.

It is unclear whether humanity as a species could possibly survive a full-scale nuclear war with the current stockpiles. A nuclear war might well be humanity’s final war."

A new article by Max Roser at Our World in Data reminds us about the real human toll of a nuclear war — and why we shouldn’t be willing to tolerate even a small chance of it happening. 

The initial blast from a nuclear weapon can kill millions, but the less-known and deadlier aspect of a full-on nuclear war is the “nuclear winter” that would follow. Burning cities would spread soot around stratosphere, which would block out the sun’s light for years and lead to massive crop failure and widespread famines. The possibility of billions of people dying as a result is hard to comprehend, but we need to grapple with it and take it seriously.

Nuclear stockpiles have been reduced over the past 40 years, but there are still over 10,000 warheads, and the risk remains existential. One of the likeliest ways a nuclear conflict could break out is from a false alarm; “a nuclear bomb that detonates accidentally – or even just a false alarm, with no weapons even involved – can trigger nuclear retaliation.” 

The article also presents a timeline of close calls and offers suggestions for how we can reduce the threat

There is a lot of other good content on nuclear weapons and the risk they pose — even videos envisioning the effects of nuking a city. Another great recent discussion is in a new 80,000 Hours podcast episode about how to avoid catastrophic nuclear blunders and what this means in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


Famine risk and the Russia-Ukraine war

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is disrupting networks supplying wheat and other grains to some of the poorest people in the world. 

The World Food Programme (WFP), which purchases and distributes food to people in crisis situations, mainly sources wheat in Ukraine and is facing funding gaps. Instead of taking wheat from Ukraine and sending it elsewhere, the WFP is helping Ukrainians, and the program is struggling to meet the additional need. 

Additionally, energy and food prices are rising, and poorer people will be hit especially hard. This is because they spend a higher percentage of their income on meals, making it harder to cut back on extra expenses in order to buy enough food. Moreover, as you can see on the map below, not all countries depend on exports of wheat from Ukraine to the same extent, so the effects are more concentrated. 

Finding the right way to respond is difficult. A report by the Center for Global Development points out that there are many unnecessary subsidies and counterproductive requirements (e.g. that US aid must be provided with US produce and US vessels) that policymakers should reconsider, and that they should target aid at the regions that need it most. 

Other links

For more stories, try these email newsletters and podcasts


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 600 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.

If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.

Applications due soon

Rethink Priorities is hiring 25 people for 16 roles, ranging from Research Fellows and Research Assistants in different cause areas, finance and operations roles, and senior researcher roles (Remote, apply by 17 April 2022)

Our World in Data is hiring:  The Operations Team at CEA has opened applications for a summer internship (Oxford / Remote, apply by 24 April 2022)

Other positions

Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Legal Priorities Project (Remote)

Various roles, Ought (Bay Area / Remote)

Roles in product management and software engineering, Momentum (Bay Area)

Various roles, GiveWell (Bay Area / Remote)

Various roles, Giving Green (Remote)

Various roles, The Good Food Institute (Remote / US / Washington D.C.)

Various roles, Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (Remote)

(And many more positions on the 80,000 Hours Job Board and the "Job listing (open)" tag on the EA Forum.)


Books, events, community projects, and more!

You can now pre-order Will MacAskill’s new book, What We Owe the Future

The book, which will come out in August, makes the case for longtermism: the view that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time. You can pre-order the book here in the US or here in the UK (it should also be on Amazon in most other countries). 

If you plan on buying the book at some point, it would be helpful if you pre-ordered it soon. Early pre-orders are important because they help the book reach more people.

Will is also offering to have one-on-one calls with eight of the people who preorder the book. You can find out about all of this in the announcement post.


$100,000 prize for new blogs

Effective Ideas is offering up to five awards of $100,000 to the best new or recent blogs exploring themes related to effective altruism and longtermism. The aim is to create a broader, richer, and more public conversation around these ideas.


A new nuclear security grantmaking program

Longview Philanthropy has launched a nuclear security program and is now looking to hire a grantmaker to co-lead it. 

As discussed above, full-scale nuclear war has the potential to permanently curb humanity’s potential. But the importance of this problem is not matched by adequate attention and funding. In fact, the MacArthur Foundation’s "Nuclear Challenges" initiative, which has made up around half of the philanthropic support for this cause in recent years, is closing in 2023. Longview is stepping up, and focusing especially on the extreme end of the risks posed by this problem. You can read the full announcement here.


Organizational Updates

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

Timeless Classic

Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good

Accurate predictions can be crucial for governments and decision-makers, but they’re also extremely difficult to achieve. And all too often, the people who make the most predictions have terrible track records.

The forecasting community and research field are trying to improve this by developing better methods and systems for prediction. One of the foundational projects in this field was Philip Tetlock’s “Good Judgement Project” and the book that followed in 2015, Superforecasting (here’s a book review). The Good Judgement Project participated as a team in a major forecasting tournament and did significantly better than any other team — including one with professional CIA analysts who had access to classified information. 

Some of the main takeaways are: 
  • We can do better than saying that something “is likely” or “not likely,” because those claims are too vague to be truly informative. “Is likely,” for instance, can mean everything from “I think it’s slightly more likely than not to happen,” to “this is almost certain.” Vagueness also makes statements difficult to falsify. If you ask people to estimate numerical probabilities, you can track how good they are at predicting the future.
  • Break unapproachable questions into simpler sub-questions.
  • When forecasting something, start by considering what happened in similar situations. For example, if you’re estimating the chances of a conflict between two countries in the next 10 years, look at how frequently those countries have been in conflict over the past century or at other historical patterns.

This post from 2019 describes the Good Judgement Project’s story and some of the main takeaways in greater detail. A different post describes how staff at Open Philanthropy and Givewell get better at forecasting. You can also find a whole community working on this on the forecasting platform Metaculus.
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– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team
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