Open and Welcome Thread: January 2021

by Aaron Gertler1 min read2nd Jan 202129 comments

13

Open Thread
Frontpage

If you have something to share that doesn't feel like a full post, add it here! 

(You can also create a Shortform post.)

If you're new to the EA Forum, consider using this thread to introduce yourself! 

You could talk about how you found effective altruism, what causes you work on and care about, or personal details that aren't EA-related at all. 

(You can also put this info into your Forum bio.)

If you're new to effective altruism, consider checking out the Motivation Series (a collection of classic articles on EA). You can also learn more about how the Forum works on this page.

29 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:53 AM
New Comment

Hello there,  just introducing myself (also kinda a xpost from reddit) :)

My name is Aaron, and I'm an senior in high school from Arizona. I discovered the EA rabbit hole while parsing through Applied Divinity Studies over winter break; it's super amazing and humbling to see yall smart people come together to find efficient ways to make the world better.

I'm fairly set on studying computer science in college because it fits the criteria of something that i'm relatively interested in/have a bit of experience in/pays well. I like to have (ever changing and sometimes unrealistic) long term goals about what I want to do in my life, and I was pretty sold on the idea of becoming a software engineer in the bay, living below my means, and end up retiring early in a low cost of living area to spend my time volunteering and doing things that I really wanna do in life.

When I discovered EA I was really interested in the idea of working in AI Safety, which 80000 hours categorizes as one of the most urgent global issue to work on. I know virtually nothing about machine learning or artificial intelligence, but its one of the things I wanna learn about now that my  senioritis is kicking into full gear! I love statistics and thinking about the implications of tech on society and public policy, so it seems like something i'd might be able to contribute towards. I'm also studying linear algebra and multivar this year, which I understand are important mathematical concepts to grasp when studying machine learning. I really don't know anything about this field, however; I just know that AI safety is clearly an important field that EA seems to agree requires more research in, so I'm not sure if it will be a good fit for me until I try it. 

80k hours also writes that potential AI safety researchers should have "strong technical abilities (at the level of a top 10 cs or math phd program globally)", which seems really scary and difficult. I'm graduating at the top of my high school class and I've dabbled in a bit of stuff like AMC and codeforces in high school, but i'm definitely not extremely gifted or talented, nor do I spend a lot of time on these things.

I've read that AI alignment is clearly an urgent global issue that's very talent constrained, but AI itself is a super competitive field which which has way more supply than demand. It seems that the people who work in AI safety are the cream of the crop who graduate as PhDs from the world's best universities, dedicating many years to solve these really important questions. I think that if I work hard enough in college, I might be able to contribute in such an effective way. However, I'm not sure if I'm willing to commit that much of my life to enter such a competitive field, when I could be making much more in the industry and potentially retire early and volunteer my time in other ways/earn to give within the EA community. I'm also wondering how much experience one needs in order to effectively contribute within AI safety; this article seems to suggest that with enough dedication, someone who comes from a competitive role in industry and doesn't have a PhD can still impact the field in a positive way.

In addition, I'm super passionate about US elections analysis; I love reading stuff like the NYT Upshot/Nate Cohn/Dave Wasserman and learning about voting patterns and elections forecasting and demography; I was wondering if there is anybody in EA who shares similar interests, and whether there is any EA-related paths that relate to voting/elections/democracy in the US.

Finally, I'm also applying to college this year, and I was wondering if there are any specific universities which have strong EA communities. I've applied to most of the UCs, ASU, U of A, and Cal Poly so I'm specifically wondering about those.

Thanks so much for reading this far down a post by a random high schooler :) Someone on the EA subreddit told me that I shouldn't be this worried about my future and that I don't need to make these decisions right now, but I'm honestly really worried for what the future holds for our world and excited for how I might be able to do something about it, so I hope that I can receive a bit of advice on how to best be a member of the EA community in the future. Looking through all the stuff that happens within the community is really inspiring and humbling, and I'm really excited to hearing your advice. Thanks!

Hello, Aaron! My name is also Aaron, and I help to run the Forum.

Computer science is an excellent starting point as a college major; it feeds into many other fields and gives you an easy way to take part in a huge number of projects if you decide to do that.

80k hours also writes that potential AI safety researchers should have "strong technical abilities (at the level of a top 10 cs or math phd program globally)", which seems really scary and difficult. 

I wouldn't worry about this sort of thing at the outset. You're at the top of your class, you're studying linear algebra, and you've been doing math for fun -- those are all good signs. If you look at the profiles of the people who are actually doing AI safety work, I think you'll find quite a few whose educational backgrounds don't match this profile.

I've read that AI alignment is clearly an urgent global issue that's very talent constrained, but AI itself is a super competitive field which which has way more supply than demand [...] I'm not sure if I'm willing to commit that much of my life to enter such a competitive field.

Some competitive fields are very risky to pursue, because the skills you train in the process aren't very lucrative outside of the competitive slots. Professional sports and orchestral music are two examples of risky paths like this.

However, if you don't get a position in AI safety, the skills you learned along the way will have been very lucrative. You might be slightly hindered if you've been spending time on obscure safety-related topics rather than something more commercial, but you'll also have a network of contacts in the EA and AI safety communities (which are pretty well-connected in these areas). 

There are also a bunch of ways to "test" your skills in this area before you start applying to full-time jobs; for example, some organizations in the field have events and workshops aimed at students and other non-experts, and there are places like this forum and LessWrong where you can publish ideas and get feedback from people who work at AI safety orgs.

So I don't think you have to worry about committing too much of your life in this way, as long as you spend at least some of your time learning skills that will make you a solid candidate for industry jobs. (This doesn't mean that AI safety is necessarily the best thing for you to do out of every possible path you could pursue -- I just don't think you should be wary of it for this reason.)

I'm also wondering how much experience one needs in order to effectively contribute within AI safety; this article seems to suggest that with enough dedication, someone who comes from a competitive role in industry and doesn't have a PhD can still impact the field in a positive way.

You didn't include a link to a specific article, but this sounds correct to me. AI safety is a very young field and there's a lot of work to be done; this means there should be good opportunities to make progress without having to spend many years developing expertise beforehand. 

In addition, I'm super passionate about US elections analysis; I love reading stuff like the NYT Upshot/Nate Cohn/Dave Wasserman and learning about voting patterns and elections forecasting and demography; I was wondering if there is anybody in EA who shares similar interests, and whether there is any EA-related paths that relate to voting/elections/democracy in the US.

There's definitely some of this in EA! You might be interested in:

  • The Center for Election Science, which fights for plurality voting in the U.S. and has received a lot of grant funding from EA-aligned donors. It's led by Aaron Hamlin, who is deeply passionate about improving our voting system (and is one of my personal favorite Aarons).
  • Rethink Priorities' work on ballot initiatives (no need to read this whole thing, it's just an example of EA people going deep on election-related work)
  • This post on electoral reform
  • The Open Model Project -- this isn't really an "EA" project, but one of their team members, Peter Hurford, is a longtime member of the community. If you want to do polling-related work, he could be a good person to talk to.

Finally, I'm also applying to college this year, and I was wondering if there are any specific universities which have strong EA communities. I've applied to most of the UCs, ASU, U of A, and Cal Poly so I'm specifically wondering about those.

You can find a fairly comprehensive list of EA groups here.

Of the schools you listed: UC Berkeley has a sizable EA community and is located in one of the world capitals of EA (the other is Oxford, UK). UC San Diego has a moderately active group; I also live within walking distance of the school, so drop me a note if you end up there :-)

Not sure about the  rest of your list.

I'm honestly really worried for what the future holds for our world and excited for how I might be able to do something about it.

This seems like the ideal way to be thinking as a high-school senior. There are reasons to worry, but you're in a good position to make a really big impact. College will be busy, and you'll be exposed to lots of new ideas, but I hope you stay interested and involved with EA! Maybe I'll see you at a conference in a year or two.

Thanks a lot for your detailed response. It was really clarifying and I appreciate it :)

Hi! Yes, I work on AI safety but like many others here I like to follow Dave Wasserman etc. Michael Sadowsky is one person who works with political data full-time. Whether you want to work on AI safety, political data, or just earning, then studying CS or statistics is an ideal starting point. I would suggest picking AI-relevant classes at a good school, and maybe trying some research, and that should set you up well whatever path you end up pursuing.

Hi! If you're interested in CS, I suggest checking out the public interest tech movement. I've been involved in public interest tech for over 4 years, and recently I've been thinking about the intersection of EA and public interest tech.

The Civic Digital Fellowship is a 10-week tech internship in the federal government that is open to college students who are U.S. citizens. I encourage you to apply once you start college.

I also recommend checking out Impact Labs, founded by fellow EA Aaron Mayer. They run a winter fellowship and a summer internship program every year.

There are many other opportunities in public interest tech; some are more aligned with EA causes than others. I can't list them all but you can use this page as a starting point.

Hi, introducing myself :)

I'm an aspiring Israeli EA and fairly new to the forum. I'm doing my master's in machine learning and aiming to work in AI algorithms/safety/ethics (preferably all of them). Not really sure how to get there, so I'd be happy to talk to anyone who has advice.

I joined EA about 2-3 years ago, and I'm enthusiastic about our activity, though I think we should sometimes take our numerical calculations and moral framework with more humility. I volunteer in some projects in the Israeli community.

I am chronically ill, which I usually wouldn't tell someone in an introduction, but I feel discussion and representation of how disabled and chronically ill people can find their place in the EA community is lacking. Anyone who has thoughts on the matter, or wants to discuss personal experiences, is welcome to talk about this.

I am also a classical pianist, a great vegan cook, a chili pepper grower,  an amateur linguist and a founding member of NWWC (which you may not know about yet. spoilers!)

Hey Guy,

It's great to see your intro, if you're interested there is a group on Facebook for disabled and chronically ill people interested in EA.  There are also some other groups mentioned on this directory here that you may find useful.

Hi Guy
I'd be happy to talk to you. I'm co-founder of AI Safety Support, a new organization dedicated to helping people who want help with AI Safety. 

I'd like so see how we can help you, and learn from you how we can better support people in your situation. Please reach out by mail, or book a call or both.

He passed away four years ago this month — within a day of Derek Parfit — but I think John Berger's writing and BBC documentaries could resonate with many in EA who might not have had a chance to come across Berger.  Below are a few links in case others might find his  work on migrant workers, gender inequality, and animal welfare thought-provoking.

1. Segment of his Ways of Seeing BBC program focused on inequality (starting at 22:00).

2. Excerpt from his New Yorker obituary:


...Hence one of the most striking aphorisms in “Brief as Photos”: “What we mourn for the dead is the loss of their hopes.”

Hope, Berger proposed, is what we counterpoise to the essential revelation of history—that we’ll decline, that we’ll die. “To decide to engage oneself in History requires, even when the decision is a desperate one, hope,” he writes in “Bento’s Sketchbook,” one of his last volumes. Hope names a commitment to change the world, against the fact of finitude. It was hope, I think, that allowed Berger to write so beautifully about death without eliding the tragedy of it...

Berger always returned to the possibility of proximity, seeking to cross the distances that divide us. Throughout his work, every way of seeing starts with a look, and every look promises to become a touch—fumbling hands reaching across the void. The thought of death brings us back to the body, calling on us to act, with and for one another.

3. Excerpt from his New York Times obituary.

The year 1972 was Mr. Berger’s most prolific, with “Ways of Seeing” and the publication of his most critically acclaimed novel, “G.," ...which was awarded the Booker Prize. (Characteristically, Mr. Berger criticized the company that sponsored the prize, saying that it exploited Caribbean workers, and announced that he would split his winnings with the Black Panthers.)

In 1974, when his critical influence was probably at its height in Britain, he left London for Paris and then Geneva. He later decided to leave cities altogether, moving to a remote peasant community, Quincy, in the French Alps, where he lived with his wife, Beverly Bancroft, who died in 2013, and their son, Yves. (Besides his son, he is survived by another son, Jacob, and a daughter, Katya, from a previous marriage.)

In the Alps, where he learned to raise cattle, he wrote a trilogy of unconventional books called “Into Their Labors” — comminglings of short story, poetry and essay — examining the migration of peasants away from their traditions and into cities.

He also successfully dabbled in screenwriting, collaborating with the director Alain Tanner on three films, including the critically praised “Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000” (1976) about a group of radical idealists trying to stay true to their principles.

Hello everyone, I've been following EA for around a year, and attended the 2020 Virtual EA Global Conference. I am a 23 y/o Business Management and Geography graduate from the University of Exeter, and I was hoping by attending the conference I would meet people to become more involved in EA or help with my job search, but neither happened. 

I'm currently trying to get work in journalism or communications at an NGO/charity. I have some experience in sports journalism, but I'm keen on using my skills to try and achieve a more positive impact on the world. The Geography aspect of my degree was human-oriented rather than environmental; I studied social and political geography, global urban futures etc. (which isn't to say I'm not interested in more environmental topics).

Hey, George!

I was a dedicated college journalist, and I think that the skills I learned from that have been useful for a lot of my work since I graduated (I'm 27 now, and manage content for CEA).

You may be doing some or all this already, but I recommend:

  • Checking the 80,000 Hours job board regularly (there's more variety in the positions available than people sometimes think)
  • Joining the EA Job Postings Facebook group
  • Following or reaching out to the Solutions Journalism Network. They aren't formally EA-affiliated, but I've been in touch with a person who works there, and I think their mindset is a good fit for EA-aligned people who want to do journalism.

If you'd like to meet more people, here are some things to try (again, you may have done some already). The "meetings you'd like to arrange" thread dates back to March, but I'm trying to encourage people to keep using it, since new comments will appear on the Forum's front page under "recent discussion" and people will keep visiting the post in the future.

If you want to chat with me about communications work in EA, you can schedule a time here.

Hi Aaron, thanks for your reply!

I regularly check the 80,000 hours  and EA Facebook page job boards. I didn't know about the Solutions Journalism Network though, which seems like as good of a resource I could hope for at the moment, so thank you for that.

If I have some unanswered specifics on EA communications I'll be sure to schedule a time to talk to you.

It seems Considering Considerateness: Why communities of do-gooders should be exceptionally considerate is not as visible now because CEA removed "Our current thinking" (or something) from their webpage and the essay is not linked e.g. at https://www.effectivealtruism.org/resources/. So I want to highlight it as I liked it a lot a few years ago.

What do people think about making it possible to conduct polls on the forum? This could be an easy way to gauge what EAs (or at least those who engage on this forum) think about certain issues. 

I'll ask LessWrong if they've been working on anything like this (as they have a bigger team, and most of our code comes from them).

Meanwhile, I run Effective Altruism Polls for exactly that purpose!

I’ve just realised that Facebook polls can’t be made anonymous which is a bit of a drawback, although one could just link to an external poll.

I think polls might be a decent idea for the EA Forum, but I suspect only if they’re away from the main page. I don’t think it’s worth congesting the main page anymore than it already is.

Thanks, I actually wasn't aware that Facebook group existed.

Hello all, I've known about Effective Altruism for years, but have decided it’s time to get involved.

I apologize ahead of time for my overall lack of knowledge about the breadth of ideas and suggestions that are entertained, But I personally know that thick skins and good faith arguments can produced refined concepts. As any group who has sat down and hammered out homebrew dnd rules can attest. (a joke and also not a joke) 

I have taken a short, surely inadequate, I preeminently grant, examination of some core ideas and I believe my suggestion is worth at least, an explanation based dismissal. With that I offer my case for an Effective Altruism program.  

I seek to combat climate change, extreme poverty, and eventually a myriad of other dire situations, under a single framework.

step 1. Fund 6 million usd

2.  Install solar panels and home battery systems on residences and apartments whose occupants, have applied for and been accepted into the program. One county/region at a time. I'm arguing the concept, but I'll provide a figure as a starting point to be argued up or down.  Per home cost estimated at $35,000-$70,000. ($20,000 for 30 kWh panel and $1,000 per battery 1kWh capacity. $5,000 per install) (2 panels and 25kHw battery capacity for 4-person home)

3. Sell the solar electricity to the program participants, at a subsidized rate of up to "half off" of their current local kWh price. 

4. In addition to this source of income, the panels will also sell excess solar energy back to the grid, after filling the attached battery for the day.

5. These funds can be directed entirely to the desired effective relief, on a monthly basis. Marketing the program to potential residents could be based on the intended charity to increase willingness to participate with lower subsidies for themselves, and could also generate more engaged effective altruism members.

6. Calculating total proceeds and overall impact: no expertise here, but I can surmise some of the factors. Including, but probably not limited to, Local, current and projected, kWh price (this is the big one and is seemingly readily available info), local climate, the amount of the solar energy subsidy offered, investment dispersal between panels and batteries, and ensuring that those being provided solar energy, were previously receiving polluting energy. 

7.Again, I'll stake a starting figure for sake of encouraging discourse, from those with greater understanding. After subsidies and assuming 15 cents per kWh(expensive estimation for the states), I’ll say 300,000 usd per year. I'm not showing my math here cause I didn't do any worth writing down. concept here.

8. By virtue of the axiom "a penny saved is a penny earned" this program seems to me, to be virulent in a positive way. Again, sorry if these arguments have been covered, I humbly accept all good faith arguments and positions. 

"A carbon molecule not released into the atmosphere, that would have been released without your mitigation is a carbon molecule removed from the atmosphere.”

9. Calculate the dollar value of 1 carbon molecule removed from the atmosphere. 

10. factor that into the long-term estimates, of the value of this program.

 

Honest, good faith question, does this idea fit with longtermism? 

I know persuasion isn't important here, but I offer these heart string tugs to suggest that this program could be used to create an informed and engaged population, who go on to perpetuate similar good work. If I could speak to those suffering from plights, great and small, I would offer this statement, in humility for all those with power.

"I wish I could say that we’re just now dropping the ball, on short term relief, to invest in a system that will hold the ball for generations to come, but the truth is we haven’t ever held the ball, in a truly adequate way. I ask forgiveness on the world’s behalf as we diligently plant the seeds of prosperity, that will lift up all peoples, given time to bear fruit.”

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying or missing something important, but it seems like you're proposing a charity/program that gives out subsidized solar panels to people who you hope will then promote the program to other potential participants.

It seems as though the assumption here is that solar eventually pays for itself and more (hence, you are generating "funds" that go to other charities). If this is the case, companies should be clamoring to install solar panels in these places (this is already the case in many locales; California utilities sometimes "pay" people in credits to install solar).

Are you proposing solar installation in places where it isn't profitable to do, but might still be affordable if done with donated money? If so, I don't understand point #5 (about using the excess funds).

Basically, it seems like an opportunity with this kind of "investment" potential would generally be pursued by an existing solar provider. Maybe not every time -- no market is totally efficient -- but you didn't explain where you want to do this, or why the place you want to reach is under-served by existing providers. So that's the next question I'd aim to answer as I developed such a project.

 

Also, you might be interested in a report from the researchers at Founders Pledge, who studied many different ways to reduce climate emissions. One area they examined was "optimal deployment of solar and wind energy" (starting on page 41).

In the end, they came away thinking that, while solar and wind installation was definitely impactful, it wasn't very "neglected" -- that is, corporations and nonprofit organizations already do lots of this work. They thought that investment in more neglected areas would probably do more to reduce emissions, and recommended charities in other parts of the climate change space.

This doesn't mean that trying to boost solar installation is a bad idea; it may just be somewhat less promising than other ideas, and people in the EA community tend to focus on the most promising areas they can find.

(Of course, Founders Pledge is just one organization, and other climate researchers don't necessarily agree with their assessment. But this is the most detailed research I'm aware of.)

Thank you for your timely response.

let me first boil everything down to its simplest terms, then I may dive into a specific case study proposal.

 

To my way of thinking, this is the marshmallow test of altruism.

If someone said you could invest 6 million usd in the most effective charity, (30 million lives saved?),  or invest 6 million usd in a solar energy business model that produces 300,000 usd per year for the same, most currently effective charity, as well as, having at least some level of impact on co2 emissions, which would you choose?

  Given the belief that future suffering is as valid as current suffering, I believe it makes sense to go with the solar option.  My humble rebuttal to this not being a neglected area would be, no corporation would ever operate this way. The most any corporate solar venture would benefit society, would be the slight reduction in fossil fuel based energy consumption. In this model that is only a side benefit. 

Thanks for entertaining my idea and being a gracious forum operator. 

Just realized I may have violated the "EA's should" rule of thumb.

I don't mean to hijack ideas or claim to understand philosophies better than those who hold them. I truly believe an open back and forth could refine my concept and help me construct a real plan based on specific locations and other variables.

Thanks again, I may go ahead and try to build the foundation of a proposal based on real variables.

Asking about a proposal isn't the same thing as saying "EAs should do X". There's nothing wrong with asking! (Though more detail is almost always helpful.)

You're actually hitting on a major question in effective altruism here; should we give money now, or invest it in order to give later?

On the one hand, investing lets us wait to see what better opportunities emerge, and increases the total amount we can donate later.

On the other hand, giving now is somewhat like "investing" in the work we support. Giving a charity $1 now could have as much impact on that charity's work than giving them $2 in ten years (depending on the charity's goals, opportunities, etc.)

This is an open question, and the right balance of giving/investing could be very different for different people.

On the topic of investing in solar projects to generate interest: Organizations like Sunwealth already do this. It sounds like your proposal might involve solar projects specifically in areas where people struggle with poverty, which would make it a bit different -- though I also expect you'd have a hard time getting good returns in areas that Sunwealth (and utility companies) haven't already tried to flood with solar panels. But I could be wrong!

Thanks again for being a truly gracious forum operator and tolerating my complete lack of insight into your world(of EA).

I was working on this as a post when I saw your reply, and frankly I'm glad I did see it. I have conviction in the veracity of my plan,( I can hear your internal screams saying "what plan? I need details", and I'm going to try to give you everything in this post, so you can decide for yourself), but I am no great mathematician or economist and I'd probably get torn to shreds out there. On a meta EA level, and on a node of human consciousness reaching out to another node of human consciousness level, I humbly ask that you sort the following, smattering of my consciousness, for the alpha gamma and beta of it all. 

I offer and accept truth and honesty freely, without interfering emotion. I hope you won't use my free admittance of pathos and ethos, to dismiss my logos out of hand. I am untrained, undisciplined, I am only one, of at least 20, it would  take to make this a reality, but I am also convinced, that I have stumbled upon worthy fundamental truths, of this world. If not original, original at least through this modern lens. I claim no perfect mind, but the circumstances of my life have granted me waves of epiphanies. 

12 years ago I lost the capacity for interpersonal human connection, within and without the family, 6 years ago my father died from a niche disease. Without my knowledge my singular mission became, to find a way to fund and cure all diseases, because I never had the chance to connect with my father and it wasn't the universe's call to make. But, even if I could be satisfied accomplishing or fighting for this alone, my deep connection to the sea of human consciousness would not allow me to step over or on, those whose suffering could be remedied cheaper.

 For years I was tortured by this singular, insurmountable, goal, but now my captor has become the fire within my soul. I have shed shame and ego and found that we are us all, every single one, but a single cell of one being. I saw the conjunction of Physics, Philosophy and every human discipline. Upon my realization of the path we will walk, as one being, to a perfect stable future, I fell to the ground weeping, for the horizon of my mind had been made boundless. I saw not just a perfect future, but the stepping stones that we must utilize one after another with diligence. I looked up at the night sky through my window, I felt the hunger of those who had gone to sleep in lu of diner, and I knew that on the other half of the earth millions were waking from a night of the same, hoping for relief and opportunity, but finding none. The tears  streaming my face were of joy and sorrow in equal measure, for I knew the task was still unimaginably great and terrible and so I begged forgiveness from those who I now intend to lift up, for not having started the fight sooner, and for the decades that will still see much suffering.  

I saw through blurry vision, that must be made clear with help from others, an equation so pure, honest, clean, and humane that I knew it was as a warrior would describe the art of the sword. It belongs to no one person, group, or nation. It must be ratified true by groups that verify and create such programs. But then it must be able to be taken up by any community, town, or city individually.

This is the first version I came up with, designed to lift up a struggling city or town and build the foundations of a utopia.

 

The claim is that if a city has a sustainable income dedicated to hunger and homelessness relief, derived from a one time investment, the city will prosper and be able to dedicate more resources to creating sustainable income for local vital relief programs. Eventually it will become economical to treat even lack of healthcare and addiction treatments. Because all other programs have been adequately funded 

     A fund will be established to receive 8 million dollars.

     With 6 million dollars, up to date solar panels and home battery systems, will be installed directly on residential homes and apartments, who have applied to the program. Costs estimated at $40,000 to $75,000 per home outfitted with the system. (30khw panel at $20,000 and 10khw battery system at $1,000 per KWH battery capacity $5,000 per install)

     The electricity from the systems will be sold to the residents for half to 3/4ths of the current market rate per KWH locally.  Meaning if the program participants monthly electricity bill was 50 usd, it would now be 37.5 usd per month. Its the discount in this monthly utility cost that is the "subsidies" the program effectively retains ownership of the solar systems like how cable providers used to or still do "rent their tv box to consumers" except this is a boon for the participant.

     The proceeds will go directly and entirely to local effective hunger relief, (the system to determine "effective" must be perpetual and include everything from Financial compliance audits to high school newspaper club investigative journalism) for a period of time no less than one year.

     After that time, it will continue to allocate as such, until it is determined by the city and citizens that proceeds may effectively combat an additional, real and present situation of suffering.

     A change in proceed allocation can only be sought through city/town ballot measures. Unless a local state of emergency is declared. At which time, the funds may be allocated by the city governance, not the state.

     Annual proceeds will be determined by factors including, local climate, current and projected local kWh market rate, number of systems installed, and amount of subsidy offered to the participants. Annual proceeds on this scale may range from as little as $100,000 to as much as $400,000.

    Selecting an ideal environment for the initial program will be vital to establishing its credibility and capacity for positive outcomes. The remaining 2 million will be reserved to remedy any installation and administration challenges but every withdrawal from the account must be confirmed by the city council or other transparent city body.

Upon finishing this work I wanted to drop it in a billion flyers from the skies of the world. If just 5? cities within a region came together they could shoulder the burden of the initial investment one at a time, until all had been lifted up. Imagine if a nation came together to fund this one community at a time. But now I know I must prove to those who care about pure Logos that I am right first, that then the world may be made to see.

 

This is my claim: if a system can be devised and proven to be an exponential multiplier of impact such that it becomes feasible we could eliminate all combat able suffering in our lifetime, then it becomes the moral imperative to act thusly. 

The nature of suffering, both cause and effect, is a lack of energy, and lack of the opportunity to reasonably acquire that energy. The allegorical pushing of the boulder up the hill, is simply the process, and personified difficulty, of acquiring the necessary energy for a given amount of time. My ultimate goal is that of leveling the hill on a global energy scale. With enough electricity we could desalinate water and grow plants of every season in hydroponics warehouses along every cost, sustainably.

Chemical energy in the form of food, electrical energy for everything from growing crops to manufacturing components into products, and fossil fuel energy used for transportation and creation of most electrical energy. All of these regulated through currency that has consistently grown weighted to one side of the scale. (I consider this an increasing well being existential risk, but thinking that is not necessary to entertain this idea.)

The nature of my theory of everything argument is that we can build an electrical aqueduct that will stand for years and provide energy surpassing that which created it. This energy can be used directly to relieve suffering originating from a lack of energy or converted into money in the places most profitable and reconverted to the necessary energy to remedy the targeted suffering.

We now have the technology to make a one time investment that takes energy freely from the sun everyday. That can be put in the regions where they could produce the most money [1], to pay a monthly sustainable income to the desired charity. I am no expert in solar technologies, many claim to pay for themselves in five years. Assuming five years more than that, which is what my laymen math came closer to than five, it is still undeniable that so long as the solar panel pays for itself, before it gives out, and all of that money was directed entirely at the charity that would have received the lump sum money, then the solar panel multiplied the effect of the charity, by combating climate change, promoting development of true renewable energy, and potentially going on to continue to produce income for the charity. Its like money laundering but only good stuff happens. I mean that not only as a joke, but to point out that the existence of destructive spirals in the world, leads me to believe that an exponential positive spiral is the only force that can create a stable "positive-long-term future." I'd be happy to be informed about the emissions of manufacturing the panels and batteries themselves and factoring that into the true "payed for itself moment." 

Rather than running a business for the sole goal of making money to donate, this idea for a, (501(c)3)? again just one of 20 needed to figure this out, prioritizes both the intended and unintended consequences in both the decades long term and the true long term. I won't claim to have done a deep dive into sunwealth, but they are operating as solar farms, and I'm saying keep the equation as simple as possible by not having to deal with infrastructure and just putting the panels on houses who want them and sell the power to them directly.  

 I'm hoping to hear many, many oppositions about the lack of unintended consequences and everything else. Displacement of sectors, doubts about the veracity of solar technology to meet these goals, slippery slopes, and countless others that my perspective hasn't yet offered or might not ever offer.

But I believe that every attack on this concept, will help discover and create the holy grail of altruistic endeavors. When you bring your mental sledgehammer to the walls of my idea, I humbly ask that you bring brick, mortar, and the tools of masonry to rebuild it together, stronger. Let this space be a true modern forum, where humanities most valuable infinite resource can be thrown against itself to discover truth. Please don't hesitate to speak your mind. Imagine if a hive mind were possible, and we could attack reconstruct and attack again, in a matter of moments, these ideas. That clearly isn't practical this century, so we'll have to make this work. If you don't have anything constructive to say, say all the destructive stuff your thinking, so long as you actually read this all. 

 

Here's a framework for how I imagine this could go down with regard to EA.

501(c)3 formed or one agrees to work on this.

501(c)3 says "who in these high electricity cost states [1] would like free solar panels and battery systems installed on their residence, with the understanding that the solar energy will be provided to you, for 75% of your regions current local kWh price? Meaning that if your avg monthly bill was 50 usd it would now be 37.5 usd, assuming that the capacity of the panel and battery system meets individual demand." The residences will remain hooked up to the grid to receive power, if the battery runs out at night, as well as, to sell excess electricity to the grid, after filling the attached battery for the day. Put all the legal disclaimers at the bottom. I.E if you sell the panels and battery systems, we gonna sue you as though you stole malaria nets from children.

501(c)3 compiles list of applicants and chooses the first state to operate in. If a state wants to work with the nonprofit great, if not no problem. The main factors are the local annual sunshine metric, the local current and projected kWh price, the investment dispersal between panels and battery capacity, and ensuring that it only considers applicants receiving polluting energy.

Brace yourself for how much this is going to sound like a money laundering scheme. Again I truly believe that the only path to a sustainable "positive long term future" is to create a sustainable positive exponential growth system.

501(c)3 partners with givewell or similar program to offer the option, to pay your donation to them, through buying solar systems, that then generate income monthly with a myriad of other positive side effects, and likely will out preform the lump sum investment option, by a multiplicative factor. (I know all of those words raised hairs, and rightly so, but an exponential positive growth system is the only way to shoot the moon of altruism, and for Sagan's sake I'm one 21 year old, asking for other people to build this with me, not bernie madoff) And I'm not proposing an over night exodus to this system. Stability is built over time. I would guess that as little as an annual .5% of world donations could make this program explode positively, in a decade. 

Prediction: charities begin to see the effect in a decade. as the statistical distribution of the lifetime of the solar panels and overall systems becomes clearer, it shows that while some only last a few years after "paying for themselves" others go on for as long as 2 decades, and the development inspired by the program, leads to greater technological advancements in the field. Continued with deliberate guidance this system is able to account for its own footprint in the overall world ecosystem and mitigate or at least logically outweigh any consequences. 

opinions

Any negative disruptions in the fossil fuel energy economy, from taking these actions, I would argue were only inevitable. But I don't dismiss them and I do think it would be important to consider the speed and scale of disruptions.

By the time that electricity drops drastically in value, the world will have been so improved, that a world wide network of desalination and hydroponics warehouses become the logical inevitability along every coast, and with cheap electricity that water and food can be transported inland cleanly.

 

Thank you for your time and thoughts,

 

  1. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/

I don't have time to review all of this, but I'm glad you've written it all out! You should make sure to bookmark or otherwise save this link to your comment, so that you can access this text in case you want to explain the idea to anyone else.

In my role, I see lots of people propose very big ideas. Things to keep in mind about these:

  1. The more things need to go right for an idea to work, the less likely it is to work. Consider which elements of your plans are flexible, and be ready to adjust them. This especially applies to working with relatively inflexible entities like local governments.
  2. If you aren't an expert on a topic, you may have a hard time doing really good research on it. Talking to an expert can teach you things you'd have had a hard time learning on your own. Before you spend a lot of time, or any money, on this idea, you should do your best to talk to someone who works in the solar industry (if you don't work there yourself -- sorry, don't recall). They may have a simple objection that neither of us ever would have considered.
  3. I can't emphasize enough that large utility companies are already tracking people down and offering them electricity discounts in exchange for installing solar. Society doesn't always discover sources of "free money" (like "houses that get a lot of sunlight"), but if you think you've found a new way to generate easy investment income, you should assume until proven otherwise that someone else has already taken that opportunity. Maybe the utility companies haven't expanded to all the places they could reach, or maybe the charity could afford to target certain customers that a company couldn't -- but you need to very certain this is true.

I find I enjoy discovering other people's ethos, logos, and pathos, Which I would describe as an ineffable series of lenses through which we view the world around us, but we can always pick out a few lenses that we know we have. I offer some stories from my life, completely antiseptically, that have shaped my major lenses. 

I grew up in northeastern Tennessee, in the good ole Appalachian. I was the second child and son of two college graduates, who for, as long as I can remember, shared no great passion of one another. For my entire first 10 years, that would be the only thing I could complain about and perhaps suggest that, if forced to deal in absolutes, one might benefit from walking in on parents copulating, rather than live in home with no PDA at all, or any discernible love beyond mutual cooperation for the household.

On the first week of 6th grade, my group of friends tried to convert me. Looking back, they  had likely just came back from an, after fifth grade summer camp, where they had ramped up the rhetoric, and I haven't held ill will for them in many years. The jarring thought of there, literately being a boundless eternal torture chamber for anyone who didn't meet a criteria that included, being born within the geographical region of the proper religion, was amplified by the fact that, to my retrospective befuddlement,  I had completely avoided ever thinking about, or being exposed to any religious ideas, until this point.

I had no idea what my parents believed so i didn't feel able to talk to them. So within a week of the first discussion, I had stumbled up the original cosmos. More than 3 decades after its airing, and more than a decade after Carl Sagan's death, this work of science and art gave an 11 year old the ability to think of earth, as the pale blue dot, and so many other wondrous concepts. From that point on I hung out with the same group because I thought everyone in my region held these beliefs, but I was no longer really swimming with the fishes. I was an analytical outlier, a semi self contained submarine.

Upon losing the ability to have depth in my personal connections, I inevitably drifted towards concepts of wider oneness. Such as "for whom the bell tolls" and other contemporary concepts of the topic. 

When I was 15 my family learned that my father had ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. We didn't have any grand emotional connection as a family, before we lost him 4 days after my 16th birthday. Upon ruminating on the lack of research and resources dedicated to niche diseases and my understanding and belief of oneness, though I did not realize it at the time, I set out to discover or create a "theory of everything" for altruism if you will. To create a system, which would allow for the use of funds to research and cure these diseases even in an utilitarian moral view. 

The only way to accomplish this would be to eliminate all suffering that could be remedied cheaper, a huge order yes, but what the human mind can imagine, it can achieve. I contend that my conceptual proposal should be vigorously attacked, examined, and or, re imagined, to further pursue this goal. I seek a group to bat this idea around with, and experts who can attest to specific x values for all the necessary variables of a case study proposal. 

Thank you, for your time and thoughts.

Griffin Winkle

Oh, and also -- welcome to the Forum! I hope you find some interesting posts to read, and can get good feedback on ideas you share.

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