Benjamin M.

104 karmaJoined Pursuing an undergraduate degree


Here to talk about phytomining for now.


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Both my state senator and my state representative have responded to say that they'll take a look at it. It's non-commital, but it still shows how easy it is to contact these people.

Do you like SB 1047, the California AI bill? Do you live outside the state of California? If you answered "yes" to both these questions, you can e-mail your state legislators and urge them to adopt a similar bill for your state. I've done this and am currently awaiting a response; it really wasn't that difficult. All it takes is a few links to good news articles or opinions about the bill and a paragraph or two summarizing what it does and why you care about it. You don't have to be an expert on every provision of the bill, nor do you have to have a group of people backing you. It's not nothing, but at least for me it was a lot easier than it sounded like it would be. I'll keep y'all updated on if I get a response.

I'm a bit confused about how you get that children that just had severe malaria cases are a good proxy for lives saved with seasonal malaria chloroprevention.

  1. Your page on SMC says that it works by reducing the number of malaria cases, and consequently reducing the number of deaths, rather than by making malaria cases milder.
  2. Thus we'd expect that, for a child whose life was saved with SMC, the impact of receent malaria cases on their health would be nonexistent.
  3. But this is implying that they have recently had a severe malaria case, which seems like it wouldn't be true.

Am I misinterpreting something either here or on the SMC page? Or is it really being used as a proxy for sickliness in general? In that case, why are you only looking at estimates from children who suffered severe malaria cases, and not ones with other negative health events?

If I wrote this it would probably mostly be links/summaries/categorization of other people's arguments against funding forecasting, plus maybe a few reasons of my own. 

I want somebody to flesh out some of the negative comments on Open Philanthropy's announcement about funding forecasting into an actual post.

I don't have a background in forecasting or any insider knowledge of EA community dynamics, so I'm the wrong person to write this post but I might if nobody steps forward to claim it.

If you're willing to consider literature, The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse is the book that led me to EA ways of thinking, and also the best book, in my opinion, that I have ever read.

This looks very interesting!

One note: Friends Peace Teams has also been producing ceramic water filters, formerly in Indonesia and more recently in the Philippines, I believe. Unfortunately it's not well documented on their website (I only found out about it through a talk that I went to). At that talk one of their members implied that they thought that they had a better production method based on training local people to make the filters using local materials in some way and then having them train others; I'm not really sure how this differs from other locally-produced water filter manufacturers but they implied that it was.


Alma "Kins" Aparece was the person who gave most of the talk and, if I remember correctly, helped facilitate the water filter making.

They very much don't fulfill the idea of a charity focusing on one intervention (or maybe a few interventions), however; they do a wide variety of programs, most of which are focused on mediation and interpersonal training rather than clean water/other more tangible goods.

I'm not the first person to post this, but, if you're an American, calling your senator or representative is probably a good idea. Here's roughly how calls have gone when I do them:

  • Find the DC office number of your two senators and one representative and dial it 
  • If it's during weekday hours, a staffer will probably answer the phone. If it's on the evening, holidays, or weekends, you'll probably be talking to an answering machine
  • A staffer or an answering machine message will ask you to say who you are and what you're calling for
  • I usually give my first name, zip code, and say that I'm calling to express my opinion on an issue or a piece of legislation. If you're talking to an answering machine, you usually have to press a button about what you're calling for (constituent services, expressing opinions, and some other stuff)
  • Then they'll ask you to say your comment
  • I begin by briefly saying what PEPFAR is (a bill that funds efforts to fight AIDS around the world) 
  • I mention that it needs reauthorization to continue being funded
  • I then give my main reason for supporting it (it's a very effective way that the US saves lives cheaply around the world)
  • I might also give some side reasons, especially if there's a person saying things like mm-hmm on the other end of the line (it's boosted America's reputation abroad, the program isn't actually related to abortion, yada yada yada)
  • I say what I have to say in under a minute
  • I don't have a personal or professional connection to the issue, but, if I did (i.e. doctor, nurse, AIDS patient, immigrant from a country with PEPFAR funds), I'd probably try to mention it
  • Some advice online says it's good to make it more of a conversation and less of a speech, but that's never worked well for me
  • You can adjust it a little for Democrats vs. Republicans as long as you're saying true statements; usually I emphasize the boosting America's reputation abroad with Republicans and maybe throw in a George W. Bush mention. But I'd definitely caution against saying things you don't believe in to signal membership with one party or another
  • If there's somebody on the line, they'll say thanks and let you know that they'll pass along your concern. 
  • Occasionally they'll ask a follow-up question (the only one I got about PEPFAR was whether this was a matter needing an individual response, but I've received actual questions about details when calling about other issues before).
  • Then I tell them thanks for listening and hang up. 
  • This takes at most 2 minutes per call in my experience. I try to call my senators and reps about something (lately it's usually PEPFAR) most weeks; I wouldn't recommend going over once a week.

    All this comes from a mix of reading some online articles, my own experience, talking with people who have been calling about other causes, and a bit of speculation.

    Conclusion: Calling senators and representatives is easy and a good way to support PEPFAR reauthorization

Edit: found an earlier comment at that talks more about effectiveness.

This is a comment because it's not actually a justification for EA elitism. 

There are some okay-ish ways to quantify where students interested in Effective Altruism might end up. If we assume that, for a student to be interested in effective altruism, they need to have independently pursued some kind of extracurricular activity involving a skill of the kind that Effective Altruism might discuss, we can look at where the top competitors for those kinds of extracurriculars are.

One thing to beware is confounding factors. People who would be good for EA might be too busy to participate in these activities (either because they have busy class schedules or are involved in research or because they work outside of school). People might also be doing activities because they are superficially impressive, which probably isn't a good sign for thinking in a very EA way.

Here are some brief summaries of where top competitors in different American extracurriculars come from:

Ethics Bowl ( no clear pattern among the universities

Bioethics Bowl ( similar to above

National Debate Tournament ( often but by no means exclusively prestigious US schools, seems to lean towards private schools a bit also? but I'm just eyeballing it

US Universities Debating Championship ( Mostly Ivy-League or similarly prestigious schools

Putnam Exam ( Strongly dominated by MIT

College Model UN ( no clear pattern besides DC-based schools tending to do well

I'm sure other people can add more to this list.

If you think that Putnam results are a strong predictor of Effective Altruism, that could justify more elitism. Personally, I doubt that.

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