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— 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

The Institute for Progress launches to address biosecurity and more

For researchers who want their work to have real-world impact, publication can often feel like throwing a manuscript over a wall, and hoping someone is there on the other side to pick it up and implement it. In the last few years, people in effective altruism have begun tackling this problem by doing more to connect research with political action. (See, for example, Toby Ord’s work with the United Nations or the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations.)

The recently launched Institute for Progress could help to further fill the gap. It’s a DC-based think tank which aims to accelerate scientific, technological and industrial progress while “safeguarding humanity’s future.” Simultaneously, it aims to make sure that research with critical policy implications actually ends up in the right hands.

The institute has already published a series of policy proposals, including Willy Chertman on advanced market commitments for pandemic preparedness and Tina Huang on a testbed for government-procured AI systems.

How Open Philanthropy selects causes

This month, two Open Philanthropy staffers held an in-depth discussion with economist Eva Vivalt on the assumptions and analyses that inform the grantmaker’s giving in global health and wellbeing. (For more, see their earlier blog post on the topic.)

Open Philanthropy sets a minimum "bar" for the expected impact of a donation, and funds anything they find above that bar. The bar depends on many factors, including their available capital and the impact they expect to have with future donations (since good opportunities might be harder to find as the world grows richer over time). Currently, they look to fund anything which seems at least 1000 times better than giving money to someone earning $50,000 per year.

This is a dense and highly technical discussion, but an important one for understanding how experienced researchers think about one of the thorniest questions in EA: how to compare the impacts of increasing health vs. increasing income.

Vox on the great population growth slowdown

Between July 2020 and July 2021, the US population grew by 392,665. That’s the lowest increase in absolute terms since estimates began at the start of the 20th century, and the lowest in percentage terms since the US was founded.

There are a variety of factors at play, including increased deaths from COVID-19, an aging population, and less immigration. But according to an article from Vox’s Bryan Walsh, the primary cause is fewer births.

It’s not just the US. According to Brian, “half the world’s population lives in countries with below-replacement-level fertility” (2.1 children per women, the number that keeps a population stable over time). This includes Japan (1.5), Canada (1.56), and China (1.64).

This is particularly concerning if you consider the role of population growth in macrohistorical trends, or worry that population decline will bring about a world where “knowledge and living standards stagnate for a population that gradually vanishes” (as economist Chad Jones argues in the ominously-titled The End of Economic Growth? Unintended Consequences of a Declining Population).


In other news

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


Research Analyst, Charity Entrepreneurship (London / Remote) (apply by 15 February)

Hiring and Vetting Specialist, Charity Entrepreneurship (London / Remote) (apply by 15 February)

Recruitment & Outreach Manager, Charity Entrepreneurship (London / Remote) (apply by 15 February)

Content Development Specialist, Charity Entrepreneurship (London / Remote) (apply by 15 February)

Copyeditor & Writer, Charity Entrepreneurship (London / Remote) (apply by 15 February)

Summer Course in Economic Theory & Global Prioritization, Forethought Foundation (Oxford) (apply by 15 February)

Head of Events, Longview Philanthropy (London / Remote) (apply by 30 January)

People and Culture Coordinator, Rethink Priorities (Remote) (apply by 6 February)

Researcher, Sentience Institute (Remote) (apply by 20 February)

Generalist, Sentience Institute (Remote) (apply by 20 February)

Other positions

Product Manager, Momentum (SF Bay Area)

Software engineer, Momentum (SF Bay Area)

Research Analyst, Forethought Foundation (Bay Area / Remote / Rolling basis)

Various Positions, ALLFED (Remote)

Various Positions, GiveWell (SF Bay Area or remote)

Various Positions, Good Food Institute (Remote / US)

Various Positions, IDinsight and Giving Green (Remote)

Various Positions, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco / Remote)

Various Positions, Ought (San Francisco / Remote)


Books, events, community projects, and more!

Creative Writing Contest winners


Fiction has always played an important role in effective altruism, with Peter Singer’s drowning child analogy playing a crucial role in generating intuitions for impartial altruism. More recently, the Centre for Effective Altruism hosted a writing contest for fiction and creative nonfiction on EA topics, and it has now announced the winners.

The first place prize, $10,000, goes to atb for their story The Unweaving of a Beautiful Thing. Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s beautiful,” the witch said, gesturing along the Melbourne laneway where they sat. Shoe-box cafes ran its length, tables spilling onto the pavement along with the smell of coffee. Graffiti turned the walls into a riot of colour, and the sound of milk steaming mingled with shouted orders and laughter and chatter. People strode along the alleyway, ducking in and out of cafes, oblivious to Death and the witch.

“I suppose it has its own sort of beauty,” Death said.

The witch nodded, plucking at the edges of her spell. “I plan to enjoy it for every minute I can buy myself.”

Death sighed. “I do have others to visit.”

“And every minute you spend with me is a minute that they too get to look for beauty.”



Prizes in global priorities research


The Global Priorities Institute and the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research are awarding prizes for the best work on global priorities research in philosophy and economics produced in 2021.

The following prizes will be awarded in each of economics and philosophy:

  • A prize of GBP 3,000 for the best overall paper

  • A prize of GBP 2,000 for the best paper by a graduate student

  • Potentially one or more runner-up prizes of GBP 1,000

  • Commendation prizes of GBP 200 for all sufficiently strong entries by graduate students

Eligible for the prize are any papers or working papers published in 2021 as well as papers specifically written for the prize. Authors can submit their own work, but nominations of other people’s work are also encouraged. The judges are looking for submissions from people of a wide range of academic seniority and will be awarding prizes for students in a separate category.

More details can be found on this website. Submissions and nominations need to be received by 31 January 2022.


Incubation program will provide funding and mentorship to create an EA hiring agency


EA organisations have said for years that they’re bottlenecked by the ability to access, evaluate and hire employees. Simultaneously, some applicants have struggled with low acceptance rates, high standards for hiring and time-intensive interview processes.

Nonlinear wants to address both problems by initiating the creation of an EA hiring agency. If you apply to be its founder, you can receive seed funding (around one year’s salary) and mentorship from Nonlinear staff.
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

Historically, technological progress has led to immense gains for humanity. From renewable energy, to the eradication of smallpox, and the more recent invention and deployment of mRNA vaccines, new technologies have saved lives, enabled the sustenance of new lives, and raised standards of living.

Unfortunately, it’s not all without downsides. Whether you think the annual risk of nuclear war is closer to 0.4% or 2.2%, it’s almost certainly higher than the ~0% prior to 1945. Some of the technologies that allow us to understand disease and rapidly engineer new vaccines may also allow malevolent or merely careless actors to engineer devastating pandemics.

In a 2016 blog post, Nick Beckstead writes about differential technological development: the process of trying to determine which technologies get invented, when, and in which order. In most cases, what we want is fairly straightforward: to encourage the development of technologies that raise standards of living and prevent existential risks, while slowing or preventing the development of technologies that could be catastrophic.

Beckstead models advanced AI as a tricky edge case. One might see AI as a potential threat to be averted. But if you’re worried about other risks (pandemics, meteors), and believe that advanced AI might help prevent them, you can generate an argument for accelerating AI development. Whether or not that’s true depends highly on model assumptions, but it’s an important question to consider.

We hope you found this edition useful!

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– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team
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