Hello, <<First Name>>!
Now that Giving Season has begun, we have some opportunities to share. Read on to learn how you can:
This edition also features the Effective Altruism Survey, which collects useful data to help the movement flourish. Please consider filling it out!
— The EA Newsletter Team
Books, events, community projects, and more!
The EA Survey provides valuable information on:
Dozens of organizations use the survey’s results to improve their work. It takes roughly 20 minutes, but it really is outstandingly helpful — please consider filling it out!
- The demographics of the EA community
- How people get involved
- Which causes people support
- How people feel about the movement, and what they want to change
Facebook will match $7 million in charitable donations on Tuesday, 1 December. That’s a 100% match on the first $2 million, and a 10% match on the next $50 million — see more on Facebook’s Q&A.
As in past years, EA Giving Tuesday and Rethink Charity are helping people coordinate to get their donations matched before the funds run out. Between 2018 and 2019, our community got more than $1 million in matching funds for highly effective nonprofits.
If you want to take part, now’s the time! For instructions on how to maximize your chance of getting matched, sign up at eagivingtuesday.org.
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 the Centre for Effective Altruism (which also runs this newsletter) 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. (Unlike most lotteries, this one pays out all the money it takes in.)
- 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, even though your expected donation size stays the same.
- If you win, you'll get access to expert advisors who can help you figure out where you want to give.
Do you support US-based charities outside the EA movement, or know someone who does?
GivingMultiplier is a service which matches donations to any US charity — as long as the user also gives at least 10% of their total contribution to one of nine highly effective charities.
For every $10 given to an effective charity, the service will give $1 to both charities. For example, if you gave $50 to a local museum and $50 to the Against Malaria Foundation, GivingMultiplier will donate $5 to each.
The Harvard researchers behind the project hope it will help people feel good and do good, by supporting charities they already love and discovering new, highly impactful charities. Consider using the platform, sharing it with others, or contributing to match future donors.
A few notes:
- The project is funded in part by the Centre for Effective Altruism, which also runs this newsletter.
- All of the matching funds will eventually be donated somewhere. Participants aren’t generating extra funds for charity — just choosing where existing funds will be donated. (That said, choosing where that money goes is still important!)
To celebrate Giving Season, a consortium of EA-related organizations will be running a joint event on 30 November for people who want to learn about effective giving. These orgs are based in the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Australia — hence the “international.”
The keynote speaker will be Michael Kremer, winner of a 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for his research on global development.
See the full list of speakers, and register to attend, on the event website.
The Forecasting Innovation Prize is a $1000 prize fund for posts or comments written about forecasting, and posted on LessWrong or the EA Forum, between now and 1 January. The prize committee aims to distribute 2-5 prizes, with a minimum first prize of $500.
They’ve even posted a list of suggested ideas in their announcement — if anything interests you, write it up!
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
Wave is a startup which aims to help people in developing countries save and transfer money, even when they can’t access a bank.
Co-founder Lincoln Quirk started the company with effective altruism in mind; access to financial services often helps people escape from extreme poverty. Since its founding, Wave has grown to 400 employees and more than one million users.
Quirk and Ben Kuhn (Wave’s CTO) recently held an “Ask Me Anything” session on the Effective Altruism Forum. The ensuing discussion covered work-life balance, effective management, optimizing remote work, doing business in Africa, and the social benefits of for-profit entrepreneurship.
“Historically, research on dangerous pathogens, for biodefense and bioweapons, has resulted in disturbingly frequent accidental infections of workers and sometimes [escape] to the outside world.”
This grim sentence opens Carl Shulman’s discussion of bioweapons research — and its tendency to produce accidents. For example:
But there is a silver lining. We haven’t seen any recent accidents from the release of engineered pathogens — and because accident rates are so high, this provides “nontrivial evidence” against the existence of a large-scale bioweapons program producing such pathogens.
- From 1963 to 1978, smallpox escaped from British laboratories three times, infecting 80 people and killing three.
- SARS has escaped from virology labs on six separate occasions.
- One Soviet researcher claims that dozens of bioweapons staffers in the USSR were killed in accidents over the course of the Cold War.
Organizations in the effective altruism movement (like GiveWell, Animal Charity Evaluators, and Founders Pledge) have long sought to track the impact of especially good charities.
Charity Navigator — the world’s largest independent charity evaluator — has decided to do something similar. Thanks to its acquisition of fellow evaluator ImpactMatters, the organization will soon include charities’ “impact and results” as part of its rating system. (Ratings were previously based on other factors, like overhead costs or transparency.)
While Charity Navigator’s research won’t be as thorough as that of other evaluators, it will cover a wider range of charities — which makes it easier to find, say, a charity in your own community. However, there are problems with its approach: ratings will not compare charities across different cause areas, and the scoring system ranks the best charities only slightly higher than those which are much less effective.
Overall, if you want to make an especially impactful donation, we still recommend using the other evaluators we mentioned, or supporting a collection of promising causes through EA Funds (which, like this newsletter, is a project run by the Centre for Effective Altruism).
Over the years, effective altruism has grown to include a massive collection of nonprofits, startups, and other projects. Last month, Jamie Gittins wrote a post listing and describing dozens of EA-related organizations.
While a “complete” list would be impossible to make, this is the best list we know of, and it’s a great starting point if you want a bird’s-eye view of what the EA movement is working on.
In other news:
For more stories, try these EA-related email newsletters and podcasts.
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
We often hear things described as “better in every way.” For example:
In some cases, these statements may be true. However, we should be surprised when this happens. As Gregory Lewis puts it: “What is best for one thing is usually not the best for something else.”
- “Our product is longer-lasting, higher-quality, and cheaper.”
- “A vegan diet is more humane, more sustainable, and healthier.”
- “Candidate X has better views than Candidate Y on every issue.”
- “My ethical system gives better answers than your system to every ethical question.”
In this 2016 essay, Lewis lays out the reasons we hear so many claims about the overwhelming superiority of a certain thing. He also explains how to notice when such claims are motivated by bias, and how we can avoid making biased claims ourselves — since effective altruism can be susceptible to this form of exaggeration.
Opportunities to work on some of the world's most pressing problems
The 80,000 Hours Job Board features more than 500 positions.
More than 100 of those positions were added within the last few weeks. We don't have room for all of them, so be sure to visit the 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), see the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.
Applications due soon
Deputy Director of Research // Research Analyst, Charity Entrepreneurship (London or remote) (apply by 30 November)
Masters of Public Health, Health Security Scholarship // PhD in Environmental Health, Health Security Track, Johns Hopkins University, Center for Health Security (Baltimore, MD) (apply by 1 December)
Associate Director of Legislative Affairs // Senior Legislative Specialist, The Good Food Institute (Washington, DC)
Bias and Fairness Engineer, Applied AI, OpenAI (San Francisco)
Corporate Engagement Specialist, The Good Food Institute (Remote in US)
Digital Marketing and Fundraising Manager, Animal Equality (Remote in UK)
Director of Communications // Research Director, GiveDirectly (Kampala, Kigali, Lilongwe, London, Monrovia, Nairobi, or New York City)
Engineering Manager // Product Designer // Software Engineer | Full-Stack // Software Engineer | Probabilistic Programming, Ought (San Francisco)
General Application // Recruiter, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco or remote)
Head of Policy, The Good Food Institute Europe (Brussels)
Major Gifts Manager, Founders Pledge (London)
PhD Student, Safe and Trusted AI, UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (London)
Policy and Thought Leadership Intern, The Economist Group (Washington, DC or New York City)
Post Doctorate Research Assistant – Nuclear Monitoring, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) (apply by 31 December)
Predoctoral Research Fellow in Economics, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (apply by 6 January)
Senior Researchers, GiveWell (Oakland // Remote)
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