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2022 End of Year Summary
Michael Dello-Iacovo
Strategy Lead and Researcher
November 25, 2022

Our main focus in 2022 has been conducting high-quality empirical research, primarily surveys and behavioral experiments, to build the field of digital minds research (e.g., How will humans react to AI that seems agentic and intentional? How will we know when an AI is sentient?). Our two most notable publications this year are a report and open-access data for our 2021 Artificial Intelligence, Morality, and Sentience (AIMS) survey and our paper in Computers in Human Behavior on “Predicting the Moral Consideration of Artificial Intelligences, and we have substantial room for more funding to continue and expand this work in 2023 and beyond.

AIMS is the first nationally representative longitudinal survey of attitudes on these topics. Even today with limited AI capabilities, we are already seeing the social relationship we have with these digital minds bearing on public discourse, funding, and other events in the trajectory of AI. The CiHB predictors paper is a deep dive into demographic and psychological predictors of AI attitudes, so we can understand why certain people view these topics in the way that they do. This follows up on our 2021 conceptual paper in Futures and literature review in Science and Engineering Ethics. We have also been working to build this new field through hosting a podcast, an AI summit at the University of Chicago, and a regular intergroup call between organizations working on this topic (e.g., Center on Long-Term Risk, Future of Humanity Institute).

The urgency of building this field has been underscored in two ways in 2022. First, AIs are rapidly becoming more advanced, as illustrated in the amazing performance of image generation models — OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion — as well as DeepMind’s Gato as a general-purpose transformer and high-performing language models Chinchilla and Google’s PaLM. Second, the topic of AI sentience had one of its first spikes in the mainstream news cycle, first as OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever tweeted “it may be that today's large neural networks are slightly conscious” in February, and then a much larger spike as Google Engineer Blake Lemoine was fired after claiming their language model LaMDA is “sentient.”

In 2023, we hope to continue our empirical research as well as develop these findings into a digital minds “cause profile,” making the case for it as a highly neglected, tractable cause area in effective altruism with an extremely large scale. The perceptions, nature, and effects of digital minds are quickly becoming an important part of the trajectory of advanced AI systems and seem like they will continue to be so in medium- and long-term futures. This cause profile would be in part a more rigorous version of our blog post, “The Importance of Artificial Sentience.”

2022 has been a challenging year for effective altruism funding. There was already an economic downturn when this month’s collapse of FTX, one of the two largest EA funders, left many EA organizations like us scrambling for funding and many other funders stretched thin. We expect substantially less funding in the coming months, and we need your help to continue work in this time-sensitive area, perhaps more than any other year since we were founded in 2017. We hope to raise $90,000 this giving season for our work on digital minds, such as surveys, experimental research, the cause profile, and other field-building projects. We will also continue some work on factory farming thanks to generous donors most excited about moral circle expansion in that domain, such as our Animals, Food, and Technology (AFT) survey and an experiment on how welfare reforms like cage-free eggs affect attitudes towards animal farming in Anthrozoös.

As always, we are extremely grateful to our supporters who share our vision and make this work possible. If you are able to in 2022, please consider making a donation.

Accomplishments in 2022 (To Date)


More detail on our in-progress research is available in our Research Agenda.


2022 Spending

So far this year we’ve spent $154,362, broken down approximately as follows (85% research, 10% outreach, 5% admin). Research expenses are primarily researcher salaries; outreach this year was primarily the staff time spent on the podcast and intergroup call; and admin expenses include insurance, software, and our virtual office subscription.

We continue to maintain a Transparency page with annual financial information, a running list of mistakes, and other public information.

Room for More Funding

We have substantial room for more funding for highly cost-effective projects. We are currently aiming to raise $90,000 this giving season (November 2022–January 2023) to continue our work on digital minds research. We also welcome donations specific to our continued work on factory farming and will do our best to ensure their counterfactual impact is only an increase in that research.

While we know that the economic downturn and FTX’s collapse will make fundraising difficult this year, we would be thrilled to raise more than this. For each additional $75,000 after that, we could continue hiring at least 2–3 top-tier researchers, up to a total of $300,000. Our early 2022 recruitment had 108 applicants for the generalist position (1 we hired and at least 5 more we would have been thrilled to hire) and 98 researcher applicants (2 we hired and at least 5 more we would have been thrilled to hire). If we were able to raise more, we would put forth a more ambitious plan, which we are open to, for organizational scaling in 2023 and 2024.

If you have questions, feedback, or would like to collaborate, please email me at If you would like to donate, you can do so from our website via PayPal or by check.

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