Biosecurity & pandemics
Managing biological risks and preparing humanity for possible future pandemics

Quick takes

I'm working on an article about gene drives to eradicate malaria, and am looking for biology experts who can help me understand certain areas I'm finding confusing and fact check claims I feel unsure about. If you are a masters or grad student in biology and would be interested in helping, I would be incredibly grateful.   An example of a question I've been trying to answer today: How likely is successful crossbreeding between subspecies of Anopheles Gambiae (such as anopheles gambiae s.s. and anopheles arabiensis), and how likely is successful crossbreeding between anopheles gambiae and other complexes?   If you know the answer to questions like these or would have an easy time finding it out, send me a dm! Happy to pay for your time.
Longtermist shower thought: what if we had a campaign to install Far-UVC in poultry farms? Seems like it could: 1. Reduce a bunch of diseases in the birds, which is good for: a. the birds’ welfare; b. the workers’ welfare; c. Therefore maybe the farmers’ bottom line?; d. Preventing/suppressing human pandemics (eg avian flu) 2. Would hopefully drive down the cost curve of Far-UVC 3. May also generate safety data in chickens, which could be helpful for derisking it for humans Insofar as one of the main obstacles is humans' concerns for health effects, this would at least only raise these for a small group of workers.
Risk neutral grantmakers should, if they have not already, strongly consider modifying their position. If such a grantmaker has a choice of an intervention with 1000 utils of potential impact but only 1% chance of working out (10 utils in expectation), and an intervention with 10 utils of potential impact but 90% likely to work out (9 utils in expectation), I would suggest that one should go with the latter at this point where the x-risk community is hopefully still in its early days.  The reason is that having wins has value in and of itself. I think this is especially true in the x-risk domain where the path to impact is uncertain and complex. At least now, in the hopefully early days of such work, there might be significant value by just demonstrating to ourselves, and perhaps major donors on the fence on whether to become "EA/x-risk donors" and also perhaps talent wondering if EA "is for real", that we can do something.
Note: I just came up with this idea, so it might be bad: Have some cryptography key thing that only certain institutions have, so keep information out of harms way. For example, a paper titled "the pandemic-causing abilities of (placeholder), and how to make them.", or "the dangers of using (placeholder) to jailbreak AI". Perhaps the key could be distributed by the government, or maybe when you get a PhD or other level of expertise in the feild, you get the key. ¯_("/)_/¯
Sales professionals might be able to meaningfully contribute to reducing bio x-risk. They could do so by working for germicidal UV companies in promoting their product and increasing sales. This is not my own idea, but I do not think I have seen this career track before and thought it might be useful to some - people with sales backgrounds might not easily find impactful roles (perhaps apart from fundraising and donor relations). If you need more details please just comment here and I will give as much detail as I have on this opportunity.
There is a natural alliance that I haven't seen happen, but both are in my network: pandemic preparedness and covid-caution. Both want clean indoor air. The latter group of citizens is a very mixed group, with both very reasonable people and unreasonable 'doomers'. Some people have good reason to remain cautious around COVID: immunocompromised people & their household, or people with a chronic illness, especially my network of people with Long Covid, who frequently (~20%) worsen from a new COVID case. But these concerned citizens want clean air, and are willing to take action to make that happen. Given that the riskiest pathogens trend to also be airborne like SARS-COV-2, this would be a big win for pandemic preparedness. Specifically, I believe both communities are aware of the policy objectives below and are already motivated to achieve it:   1) Air quality standards (CO2, PM2.5) in public spaces. Schools are especially promising from both perspectives, given that parents are motivated to protect their children & children are the biggest spreaders of airborne diseases. Belgium has already adopted regulations (although very weak, it's a good start), showing that this is a tractable policy goal. Ideally, air quality standards also incentivize Far UVC deployment, which would create the regulatory certainty for companies to invest in this technology. Including standards for airborne pathogen concentrations would be great, but has many technical limitations at the moment I think.   2) Public R&D investments to bring down cost & establish safety of Far UVC Most of these concerned citizens are actually aware of Far UVC and would support this measure. It appears safe in terms of no radiation damage, but may create unhealthy compounds (e.g. ozone) by chemically reacting with indoor air particles.  I also believe that governments have good reasons to adopt these policies, given that they would reduce the pressures on healthcare and could reduce the disease burde
An interesting quote relevant to bio attention hazards from an old CNAS report on Aum Shinrikyo:  Footnote source in the report: "Interview with Fumihiro Joyu (21 April 2008)."
Pandemic Prevention: All Nations Should Build Emergency Medical Stockpiles All nations should have stockpiles of medical resources e.g. masks, PPE, multi-purpose medicines and therapeutics, and various vaccines (smallpox, H1N1, etc). At the slightest hint of danger, these resources should be distributed to every part of the country. There should be enough stock to protect the people for as long as is required to get resupplied. The Australians have a national medical stockpile and they started distributing masks from it in January 2020 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The French used to have a national stockpile of masks, but they decided it would be more ‘efficient’ to get rid of it, reasoning that if there was an emergency, they could just buy masks from China. Sacre bleu! Stockpiling is a general-purpose risk management technique which also works for other emergencies such as terrorism, fires, nuclear fallout, and war. If you want to survive in the long-run, you need to build stockpiles!
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