October Blog Prizes Updates and Announcement

Effective Ideas Blog Prize October Updates and Announcements

Effective Ideas Team

We have a few updates to the blog prize contest we would like to share.

First, we originally announced that we would aim to award prizes within 2022. We now expect to award, at most, two prizes within 2022, and the contest will continue running in 2023. Don’t be afraid to jump in, even if you haven’t started a blog yet.

Second, based on the interest in the contest from young writers, we will be dividing one of the $100,000 prizes into five prizes of $20,000. This will allow us to recognize young writers who show promise but do not meet our bar to be a full prize winner. 

Third, we have some advice on what we would like to see from contestants before the major prizes are awarded:

  • So far, many entries have had insufficient engagement with the topics we think are of utmost importance. These include: the long term trajectory of humanity, preventing existential risk, and the use of reason and evidence to do good. We advise entrants to dive deeper into these topics. 
  • On a similar note, we’re watching for bloggers who generate and develop new, important ideas. 
  • Finally, we are excited to see bloggers cultivate themselves as important voices in the discourse, even becoming public intellectuals. We advise entrants to create a larger conversation about their writing, be that on Twitter, via a podcast, in discussion forums, etc. 


Thanks for reading, and best of luck!

The Effective Ideas team

Post Prize #4: Results

Post prize #4 winners

We’re excited to announcing the winners of Post Prize #4. We asked for reviews of Will MacAskill’s new book, What We Owe the Future, which was released on August 16th. The book has made a large splash in the media and in blogs, beginning an important discussion about what we can do to improve the future. Here are our awards for the best reviews:

My Take on What We Owe the Future by elifland

This post argues that What We Owe the Future does not give a clear sense of longtermists’ priorities. Specifically, Eli argues that MacAskill underestimates AI risk and is not clear that preventing harm from transformative AI is currently the foremost longtermist priority. We particularly admired how much useful and actionable discussion this review generated on the EA Forum, including a thanks from MacAskill himself. 

If not you then who by Isabel

Isabel writes about What We Owe the Future from a personal perspective. She writes that she typically likes to embrace the present, so can have trouble thinking about the future. But when she read the book, examples like the dropping glass on a hiking trail helped change her relationship to time: ”This book makes the future personal.” She also highlights and comments on her favorite passages from the book, ending with how the book changed her mind. 

Honorable mentions 

We enjoyed Michael Noetel’s concise, highly readable, review for The Conversation and Bessie O’Dell’s thoughtful review which discusses who should read the book. We also liked this review series by Hamish Doodles, which incorporates his sketches and takes on ideas in the book from a number of angles.

Click here to read about Post Prize #5.


Post Prize #5: Embarrassing Thinking

This month, we’re asking contestants to write about a big-picture question or confusion about the world that you’re normally embarrassed to ask about. (E.g., Why are first-past-the-post voting systems most common? Why are cats and dogs the most common household pets? Why is Shakespeare considered great literature?) Dig into the “whys” behind your question, without trusting traditional answers or simple explanations. You could do it in the style of a Minimal Trust Investigation, where you suspend your trust in others and attempt to dig into your question from first principles.  

Prize: We’ll award $1000 to the most outstanding pieces

Deadline: Opens October 1st, Closes October 31th

How to submit: When you have finished your piece, tweet a link to it and tag and follow our Twitter, @effective_ideas. If you’re not on Twitter, email it to nickwhitaker@effectiveideas.org with the subject line Post Prize #5. Looking forward to reading them!

Blog Prize Digest: September

Read on to hear about the winners of our latest Post Prize, some of our other favorite posts from the month, and the topic of our next Post Prize.

Some of our favorites from the blog roll

The Decision Was Already Made

n the first post for her new blog, “by Zeus, maybe!“, Idil writes about the moment when we make moral decisions: Is it when we are confronted with a moral choice or earlier? Idil argues that moral decisions are like an exam: if you show up without studying, expecting to learn the material while taking the test, you are doomed to failure. 

Scraping training data for your mind

Henrik Karlsson discusses Karl Ove Knausgaard’s rocky start to writing, suggesting that individuals need to “scrape” knowledge and skills until they are able to find their niche. Karlsson tracks Knausgaard’s development against contemporary trends and questions what sort of domain knowledge and introspection is necessary for great work.

Improving “Improving Institutional Decision-Making”: A brief history of IIDM

Sophia Brown writes about the history of ‘improving institutional decision making’ in effective altruism. Early on, the discussion focused on how to direct government aid towards more cost effective initiatives. Later, IIDM came to mean an investigation of how insights from decision sciences could be integrated into organizations. Now, longtermists and those concerned with existential risk are considering how institutions might play a role in ensuring the future goes well. Sophia plans to follow up this post with more of her thoughts on the future of IIDM.

Can Nuclear Power Manage Another Comeback?

Austin Vernon recounts the history of nuclear energy and charts a path forward for the development of further nuclear power plants. Vernon aims for self-regulated, demand-driven energy production and has a pathway for getting there. 

B-minus Politics Are Best

Maximum New York writes on why good enough politics is preferable to perfect policy. Striving for real rather than abstract gains, a political theory of second best isn’t about solutions so much as making complex problems more manageable.

EA is not religious enough

“Pretty much every criticism of Effective Altruism has some claim that EA ‘is a lot like a religion’” but Lawrence Newport argues that EA should become more religious—especially in a manner similar to the Quakers. The Quakers, Lawrence writes, serve as a great model for how a community with a longterm vision of good policy and social productivity should interact and engage with others.

The Power of Challenge Trials

Saloni writes about how challenge trials actually work and how they might be used to develop vaccines against the Zika virus. In a regular vaccine trial (outside a pandemic), very few people who receive a vaccine dose are actually infected, so it can take thousands of volunteers to get a statistically significant sample. It can also take several years. Challenge trials could rapidly speed up the vaccine development timeline. Also, be sure to check out the work that is being done on challenge trials advocacy from 1Day Sooner.

From the judges:

  • Leopold and Avital at the Future Fund announced the Future Fund AI Worldview Prize—enormous prizes for changing the team’s fundamental assumptions about AI
  • Nothing new from Fin and Nick!

If you are still hungry for more posts

Flu Strain Frequency Over Time Graphic of the Month

The B/Yamagata strain of flu might have gone extinct during the pandemic, via @salonium