Virtual EAG 2020: Q&A with Elie Hassenfeld, co-founder and CEO at GiveWell

Elie, the CEO and co-founder of GiveWell, discusses his organization’s latest research, his views on economic growth, and what he’s changed his mind on lately (among other topics).

Elie co-founded GiveWell in 2007 alongside Holden Karnofsky. He also helps to set the strategy and oversee the work of Open Philanthropy, and chairs EA Funds’ Global Health and Development Fund.

Before launching GiveWell, Elie graduated from Columbia University with a degree in religion and spent several years in the hedge fund industry.

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Virtual EAG 2020: Fireside chat—AI governance (Markus Anderljung and Ben Garfinkel)

Markus Anderljung and Ben Garfinkel discuss how they got into the field of AI governance and how the field has developed over the past few years. They discuss the question, “How sure are we about this AI stuff?”, and finish with an update on GovAI’s latest research and how to pursue a career in AI governance.

Markus is a Project Manager at the Centre for the Governance of AI (“GovAI”). He is focused on growing GovAI and making their research relevant to important stakeholders. He has a background in history and philosophy of science, with a focus on evidence-based policy and philosophy of economics. Before joining GovAI, Markus was the Executive Director of Effective Altruism Sweden.

Ben is a Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute and a DPhil student at Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations. Ben’s research interests include the security and privacy implications of artificial intelligence, the causes of interstate war, and the methodological challenge of forecasting and reducing technological risks. He previously earned degrees in Physics and in Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University.

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Virtual EAG 2020: Identifying opportunities for farmed animals (Garcés, Leah)

What if a single tool could utilize animal numbers as well as economic, political, and cultural data from a multitude of countries to help effective altruists identify where and how they can make the greatest impact for animals? Learn about the new Farmed Animal Opportunities Index, an open-source tool that offers a research-backed formula for evaluating high-impact opportunities to help animals.

Leah is an animal advocate who has partnered with some of the largest food companies in the world with a mission to end factory farming. She is the President of Mercy for Animals and established, and was the first executive director of, Compassion in World Farming USA. She also serves on the advisory boards of Encompass and Seattle Food Tech.

Leah’s work has been featured in many national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Vice Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune. She is a contributing author to the Huffington Post and Food Safety News. She is also the author of “Grilled: Turning Adversaries Into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry’.

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Virtual EAG 2020: Facing the risk of nuclear war in the 21st Century (Carl Robichaud)

Nuclear weapons pose a grave threat to civilization. Public awareness of this threat has faded, but the weapons have not gone away. In fact, recent technological and geopolitical trends make nuclear war more likely than it has been in decades. Carl Robichaud discusses these developments and assesses the options for effective altruists seeking to contribute to nuclear risk reduction.

As program officer in International Peace and Security at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carl manages a portfolio of grants to strengthen nuclear security. In this capacity, he heads the Corporation’s work on strengthening nuclear governance and investing in the next generation of nuclear experts.

View Carl’s slides here:

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Virtual EAG 2020: Taking good food global (Richard Parr)

Richard discusses the international expansion of The Good Food Institute, and some of the special considerations that alternative proteins face in non-US regions.

Richard leads GFI’s work in Europe. He worked as Special Adviser to the UK Prime Minister between 2012 and 2016, and as Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for International Development from 2010-12 and 2016-18. In government, his main focus was on international development policy, and he worked closely on the formation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Richard holds an MA in Modern History from Oxford University.

View Richard’s slides here:

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Virtual EAG 2020: Finding equilibrium in a difficult time (Julia Wise)

Thoughts on handling anxiety and loneliness during the coronavirus quarantine.

Read Julia’s full post on the EA Forum.

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Virtual EAG 2020: What’s been happening in AI alignment? (Rohin Shah)

While we haven’t yet built aligned AI, the field of alignment has been chugging along for a few years now, producing many useful outputs. In this talk, Rohin will survey conceptual progress in AI alignment over the last two years. While the talk will assume basic knowledge of the arguments for AI risk, technical knowledge is not necessary.

Rohin is a 6th year PhD student in Computer Science working at the Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI) at UC Berkeley. While he started his PhD working on program synthesis, he became convinced that it was important for us to build safe, aligned AI, and so moved to CHAI at the start of his fourth year. He now thinks about how to provide specifications of good behavior in ways other than reward functions, especially ones that do not require much human effort. He is best known for the Alignment Newsletter, a weekly publication with recent content relevant to AI alignment that has over 1700 subscribers.

View Rohin’s slides here:

Subscribe to the Alignment Newsletter:

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Virtual EAG 2020: Growing meat—A market-based approach to building an ethical food system (Zak Weston)

Plant-based, fermented, and cultivated protein technologies hold the potential to shift our food supply away from its dependence on conventional animal agriculture and its consequences on climate change, global food insecurity, public health, and animal welfare. But transforming the food system is a vast, multidisciplinary effort that requires disciplines ranging from synthetic biology and chemical engineering to economics and data science. Zak makes the case for rethinking meat, eggs, and dairy, discusses the levers we can push on to ensure the success of the alternative protein field, and explains how you can make a positive impact.

Zak works at the Good Food Institute (GFI), an international nonprofit focused on creating a healthy, just, and sustainable food system through plant-based protein innovation, fermentation-derived proteins, and cellular agriculture. He consults with leading foodservice operators, food manufacturers, and alternative protein supply chain companies to help increase the quality and quantity of their plant-based meat, egg, and dairy offerings and meet the growing consumer demand for alternative protein foods. An active member of the Effective Altruism community, Zak holds a B.A. in Business Management from Cedarville University, and joined GFI after several years of experience in sales and working with startups.

View Zak’s slides here.

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Virtual EAG 2020: Representing future generations (Tyler John)

Politics is a notoriously short-termist enterprise. Political institutions generally operate on 2-to-4-year timescales (as the issue of climate change has shown). But this is not necessary or inevitable. In principle, the immense wealth, influence, and coercive authority of national governments could be used to vastly improve the long-term future. In this talk, Tyler analyzes major sources of political short-termism and describes high-priority institutional reforms that could improve alignment between the incentives of present governments and the interests of future generations.

Tyler John is a PhD Student in Philosophy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and a Global Priorities Fellow at the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research.

Tyler’s research focuses on longtermist political philosophy and animal moral, legal, and political philosophy. His current constellation of projects is focused on normative arguments for the State to consider the very long-term future, and empirical research into how it could do so effectively.

Before coming to Rutgers, Tyler was a fellow at the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. He is also the Education Advisor on the Board of Directors of Faunacción, and he has co-authored a book on chimpanzee legal rights.

View Tyler’s slides here.

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Virtual EAG 2020: Q&A with Toby Ord, senior research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute

If all goes well, human history is just beginning. Humanity could survive for billions of years, reaching heights of flourishing unimaginable today. But this vast future is at risk. For we have gained the power to destroy ourselves, and our entire potential, forever, without the wisdom to ensure we don’t.

Toby explains what this entails, with emphasis on the perspective of humanity — a major theme of his new book, The Precipice (

Toby Ord is a philosopher at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. His work focuses on the big picture questions facing humanity: What are the most important issues of our time? How can we best address them?

Toby’s earlier work explored the ethics of global health and global poverty. This led him to create an international society called Giving What We Can, whose members have pledged over $1.4 billion to highly effective charities. He also co-founded the wider effective altruism movement, encouraging thousands of people to use reason and evidence to help others as much as possible.

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