Along with the usual news and job listings, this edition features a few opportunities we really want to highlight (more details further down):
We hope you enjoy the newsletter!
- EA Global: Reconnect, an event for people who have taken significant action based on the principles of effective altruism
- The EA Fellowship Weekend, an event aimed at newer members of the community (applications are due tomorrow!)
- An application round for Effective Altruism Funds — which makes grants of up to $250,000 for projects in a variety of cause areas
— The EA Newsletter Team
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
How much harm is caused by different animal products?
Ville Sokk, an Estonian engineer, has created FoodImpacts.org, which lets you calculate how much harm is caused by the consumption of different animal products.
With FoodImpacts, you can:
While any given estimate will be just that — an estimate — the tool can still help you get a better sense for the impact of animal products, and consider how much good you could do by reducing or changing your consumption.
- Choose how you weigh harm to animals themselves, compared to harm from the greenhouse gas emissions involved in food production
- Use your own estimates for the intensity of suffering among different animal species
You can find further discussion of FoodImpacts on the EA Forum, and see Sokk’s sources for harm estimates.
A sample chart, with animal products ranked from most to least harmful.
Your chart will look different, based on your own beliefs about animal welfare.
How should EA-aligned donors think about climate change?
Giving Green, which aims to be an evidence-based guide to the best charities in the climate change space, launched at the end of 2020. Their recommendations got a lot of attention in mainstream publications, and we featured them in an earlier edition of this newsletter.
Recently, a pseudonymous researcher (who goes by “Alex”) shared a critique of Giving Green on the EA Forum, drawing attention from many other researchers and donors. The resulting comments brought up a number of key questions about climate change and charity evaluation:
The discussion shows how constructive criticism — which is central to the culture of effective altruism — can help us become more effective donors.
- Which types of work are most neglected, compared to their potential impact?
- How can we determine which policy changes are “incremental,” and which are “transformative”?
- Should a charity evaluator accept a lower level of certainty about impact, if this allows it to attract a wider range of donors?
A few notable comments:
Note: Aaron Gertler, who helps to produce the EA Newsletter, also gave feedback to Alex on a draft of the critique.
Stories from an ex-politician with EA connections
Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, a longtime member of the EA community, spent four years as a legislator in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. In an “Ask Me Anything” session on the EA Forum, she answered questions on topics at the intersection of effective altruism and politics, including:
Edwards-Appell is one of the only elected legislators who has publicly identified with effective altruism. This makes her perspective unusual — and worth reading!
- The political advantages and disadvantages of holding EA-related ideas
- The conflict between valuing all lives equally and fighting for the people you represent
- The consequences of being transparent and avoiding self-censorship
2020: An eventful year in forecasting
Forecasting future events can help us understand how to maximize the impact of our work and donations. (For example, the likelihood of a new pandemic could influence whether you decide to work in biosecurity.)
As a result, the EA community has a strong forecasting culture. Many of its members read about expert forecasts and test their own skills on prediction markets and other platforms.
Nuño Sempere, author of the Forecasting Newsletter, has published a review of 2020’s biggest forecasting news. Topics include:
- How government agencies and other groups tried (and often failed) to predict the spread of COVID-19.
- The use of “forecast-based financing” by the Red Cross and other groups, as a means of providing early support in areas where a disaster is likely to happen.
- The story of U.S. election forecasting in... an unusual year.
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.
Books, events, community projects, and more!
Applications are open for EA Global: Reconnect
The next EA Global conference (20-21 March) is a free virtual networking event focused on one-on-one discussion, though there will also be a few talks and a variety of meetups.
The event is aimed at people who have a strong understanding of effective altruism, and have taken significant action on the basis of EA principles — in their career plan or field of study, or by donating a significant proportion of their income.
You’ll need to apply to the event by 11:59 PM PDT on 17 March.
If you are newer to effective altruism, we instead recommend applying for the EA Fellowship Weekend (see below).
Apply by *tomorrow* for the EA Fellowship Weekend
The EA Fellowship Weekend is a new virtual event, aimed at past and current participants of effective altruism fellowships, reading groups, and workshops. (However, people at all levels of experience are welcome to attend — you don’t have to have participated in one of those activities.)
This event is focused on 1:1 and small-group discussions, as well as “peer-to-peer problem-solving” sessions where you consider ways to boost your impact with help from someone in similar circumstances.
You’ll need to apply to the event by 11:59 PM PST on 1 March.
Effective Altruism Funds: Call for applications
Do you have a project you think will improve the world?
The Animal Welfare Fund, the Long-Term Future Fund, and the EA Infrastructure Fund are calling for grant applications, to be submitted by 11:59 PM PST on 7 March.
Grant sizes are typically between $5,000 and $250,000, but can be as low as $1,000. Applications typically take 1-2 hours, and the fund managers recommend applying even if you aren’t sure your project is a good fit:
“We sometimes meet people who didn't apply because they thought they wouldn't 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!”
You can apply for funding, and learn more about what each fund is looking for, on the EA Funds website.
Apply for funding from Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is running its fifth round of Movement Grants. They encourage applications from “anyone interested in making the animal advocacy movement more effective”. In the previous four rounds, they’ve given out 108 grants to charities in 30 countries, with an average grant size of $20,000.
Visit the application page to learn more or apply for funding.
Sign up for the EA Forum email digest
If you enjoy content on the Effective Altruism Forum, but don’t have time to check it regularly, consider signing up for the Forum’s email digest. Each week, you’ll get a brief email with a few of the week’s most popular posts.
Future of Life Award: $3000 prize for best nominee
Nominations for the 2021 Future of Life Award are now open. This prize is awarded to an individual who, without having received much recognition at the time, has helped make today dramatically better than it otherwise would have been.
Previous winners include Bill Foege and Viktor Zhdanov, who made critical contributions towards the eradication of smallpox, and Matthew Meselson, the driving force behind the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. There is a $3,000 prize for the person who nominates the eventual winner.
London School of Economics: Future of Humanity Summit
On 27 March, at 10 AM UTC+01, the effective altruism group at the London School of Economics is hosting a series of online panel discussions, open to anyone who wants to watch:
“This event examines the most fundamental question about the future of humanity: our long-term survival. It will survey different forms of “existential risk” — from those that are familiar to the public, such as climate change and nuclear weapons, to those which emerge out of less familiar places, such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology.”
Follow the event on Facebook to be notified when registration opens.
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
Operations Analyst, Longview Philanthropy (London) (apply by 19 March)
Chief Data Scientist, Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness, Gryphon Scientific (Washington, DC metro area)
Data Analyst // Full-Stack Developer // Technical Team Lead, Our World in Data (remote)
Developer & Technical Project Manager, Giving What We Can (remote)
Engineering Lead // Full-Stack Software Engineer // Machine Learning Engineer (NLP) // Software Engineering Intern, Summer 2021, Ought (San Francisco // remote)
Events and Communications Associate // Research Associate // Senior Associate (Finance & Reporting), Center for Effective Global Action (Berkeley, California)
General Application // Grants Associate // Program Associate, Farm Animal Welfare, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco Bay Area // remote)
Project Lead, Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare in China, World Economic Forum (Beijing)
Various jobs in alternative proteins, The Good Food Institute (remote // various global locations)
Various jobs in global development, IDinsight (various global locations)
Featured: Two new jobs at CEA
The Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA), which runs the EA Newsletter, is looking for a Finance and Data Lead to manage our grantmaking systems and financial reporting. You can find more detail about the role in this post by Louis Dixon.
We are also hiring a Full-Stack Engineer to help us build a unified online platform for the effective altruism community.
You’ll need to send an application by 31 March, but CEA considers applications as they receive them; if the role interests you, it’s best to apply as soon as you can.
Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good
This month’s classic is Jess Whittlestone’s “Supportive Scepticism”.
In this post, Whittlestone points out that effective altruism involves a lot of tension: People want to do the most impactful thing they can, but it’s nigh-impossible to know what “most impactful” means for any specific person.
What follows: “A strong desire to do the best possible thing coupled with a huge amount of uncertainty is a recipe for dissatisfaction.”
This leads community members to put immense pressure on themselves. It also affects conversation: people might feel obligated to be more critical than supportive of others’ plans, or feel shy about sharing their own plans because they fear judgment.
To counteract the coldness that can emerge from this culture, Jess recommends practicing “supportive scepticism”:
- While we should still hold high standards for impact-focused projects, we can listen carefully to an idea before sharing our doubts.
- We should also recognize when self-criticism begins to eat away at our motivation, and give ourselves enough slack to move forward on important decisions.
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!
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team