Our favorite links this month include:
We especially want to highlight Kelsey Piper’s thoughts on how to help Ukrainians during the present crisis — she considers the risks and benefits of many different approaches, from political action to assisting refugees.
— The EA Newsletter Team
P.S. This edition of the newsletter was produced by Applied Divinity Studies.
P.P.S. There was a broken link last edition. You can see the winners of the EA Forum Creative Writing Contest and read their entries here.
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
Vox on universal basic income for the formerly incarcerated
A pilot program is testing the possible benefits of giving money with no strings attached to formerly incarcerated people in Florida.
Finding employment with a criminal record is difficult, and the formerly incarcerated often face extreme financial hardship. This contributes to high reincarceration rates; 68% of people released from prison are rearrested within the next 3 years. Incarcerating someone at a federal facility for a year costs taxpayers $35,000, so a program that supports formerly incarcerated people via direct cash transfers might pay for itself while significantly improving lives.
There are still serious uncertainties about guaranteed cash transfer programs, which is why this one is being tested with a small cohort of only 115 participants. For instance, it’s possible that the program in Florida could set up perverse incentives and discourage people from finding work. But the idea is very promising, and similar programs have been surprisingly successful.
This test could also help us learn about the potential of broader universal basic income programs. As sociologist Lucius Couloute explains: “If this can work for folks who are really at the lowest point of our social and economic hierarchy… It’ll pertain to other folks with criminal records across the country and also to anyone who is struggling with issues of economic stability and social disadvantage.”
See Vox for a full writeup
, and for more context on this burgeoning area of study.
A new introduction to longtermism
“Imagine burying broken glass in a forest. In one possible future, a child steps on the glass in 5 years' time, and hurts herself. In a different possible future, a child steps on the glass in 500 years' time, and hurts herself just as much.”
Did you do any less harm in the second scenario, just because it took longer for someone to get hurt? If you think both scenarios are equally bad, you’ve picked up on a key facet of longtermism — “the view that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.”
These quotes come from a new introduction to longtermism
, which argues that:
What starts out as a straightforward argument can lead to a number of thorny philosophical questions (discussed in the FAQ
- Future people matter — we should care about the welfare of people 500 years into the future
- Humanity could survive for a long time — the potential size of the future is huge
- It is possible to positively influence the long-term future
). Can we really influence the far future? How can you justify focusing on it when there are people suffering today? And isn’t there a risk that the overwhelming importance of the future could be used to justify horrendous acts in the short term?
These are all important considerations, but they’re also reasons to engage seriously with the questions posed, rather than dismissing the field offhand. We recommend starting with the introduction
, followed by the deeper explorations of these topics available on the resources page
Can cash prizes help people think clearly and carefully?
Metaculus is giving out $4000 in prizes
for the best forecast writeups on a series of critical questions
Unlike monied prediction markets, which often find themselves in a regulatory gray zone, Metaculus only awards points to its users
. The upside is that anyone can participate, and prediction accuracy isn’t limited by withdrawal fees, taxes
or long resolution times
. But the obvious downside is that there’s no real economic incentive to participate. Putting out a financial prize for writeups doesn’t entirely solve the problem, but it’s a promising indication of a commitment to support this ecosystem.
If you’ve ever been interested in trying out some EA-related research, but you don’t want to write a full academic paper (we don’t blame you), this is a great way to contribute something to our collective knowledge!
For more stories, try these email newsletters and podcasts.
In other news
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 800 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.
Summer Research Fellows, Happier Lives Institute (Remote) (apply by 20 March)
Applications due soon
Senior Research Fellow - Law & Artificial Intelligence, Legal Priorities Project (Remote) (apply by 20 March)
Senior Research Fellow - Law, Biosecurity & Pandemic Preparedness, Legal Priorities Project (Remote) (apply by 20 March)
Senior Research Fellow - Law & Institutional Design, Legal Priorities Project (Remote) (apply by 20 March)
Program Officer (EA movement building / Global Health and Wellbeing), Open Philanthropy (San Francisco / Remote) (Apply by 22 March)
Several positions on Open Philanthropy’s longtermist EA movement-building team (San Francisco / Remote) (Apply by 25 March)
Business Operations Lead
, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco / Remote)
, Development Impact Lab, CEGA at UC Berkeley
Various Positions, Effective Giving (London / Oxford / Amsterdam / Remote)
, GiveWell (SF Bay Area or remote)
, ALLFED (Remote)
, IDinsight and Giving Green (Remote)
Senior Visiting Research Fellow
Legal Priorities Project (Remote)
, Momentum (Bay Area)
, Ought (San Francisco / Remote)
, Good Food Institute (Remote / US)
Books, events, community projects, and more!
New EA Global dates announced
Since our last newsletter, the EA Global team has announced additional dates for conferences around the world this year. The full list of locations:
Not all applications are open yet, but we’ll announce them in the newsletter as they become available. You can see the applications that are open on the EA Global website.
- Oxford (26 - 27 March)
- Boston (1 - 3 April)
- London (15 - 17 April)
- Prague (13 - 15 May)
- Australia (8 - 10 July)
- San Francisco (29 - 31 July)
- Singapore (2 - 4 September)
- Washington, D.C. (23 - 25 September)
- Berlin (September or October)
FTX Foundation announces massive funding opportunities for future-focused projects
The FTX Foundation launched its Future Fund: a philanthropic fund making grants and investments to ambitious projects that strive to improve humanity's long-term prospects. The fund plans to distribute at least $100M this year, and potentially a lot more — they’d be able to deploy up to $1B this year. You can read about the launch of the Future Fund here.
Reducetarian Fellowship for NYC undergraduates
The Reducetarian Foundation has launched a new initiative, the Reducetarian Fellowship. This one-year program is for NYC-area undergraduates and includes seminars, workshops, individualized mentorship and guidance, and a summer internship with a partner organization. Each fellow receives a $7,500 stipend for the year.
More info is available on their website.
Charity Entrepreneurship: new application round opens
Charity Entrepreneurship has opened a second application round for their 2022 and 2023 Incubation Programs. (Deadline: 31 March)
Through their June–August 2022 program, they plan to launch charities focused on road traffic safety, aid quality advocacy, tobacco taxation, postpartum family planning, and exploratory altruism.
You can see updates from a wide range of organizations on the EA Forum.
Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good
In September, we shared news
about Wave, a massively successful startup inspired by effective altruism that recently raised $200 million at a $1.7 billion valuation
The startup’s Chief Technology Officer, Ben Kuhn, wrote an article several years ago titled “Why and how to start a startup serving emerging markets
”. We think it’s worth revisiting in light of the company’s outsized success.
Kuhn explains that while they might seem opposed, the goals of making money and doing good can work together. By allowing Wave to scale rapidly, and by gaining access to for-profit capital, pursuing their mission as a startup (rather than a non-profit or other non-commercial entity) gave them the best of both worlds.
He goes on to lay out a number of important tactical considerations, including Wave’s role as an importer of high standards, the need to deeply understand your users, and the risk of corruption operating in countries with relatively weak institutions.
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