Wiki Contributions


Proposed Longtermist Flag

I was missing something important before about the aspirational nature of a flag.  While the star held something true about there being actually hard, knock-out problems to solve along the way, I think the inevitability of the star-less version is more suitably aspirational. 

There is not one singular problem to solve, there are many, and the other shapes already hold that. With the star, I had put an oppositional teleology before the indefinite striving for betterment, and that was out of order. That was more 'per ardua ad astra,' "through adversity to the stars," this is more 'sic itur ad astra,' "such is the way to the stars." Let us not be defined by the battles we have won, but by the ideals we pursue, through and beyond whatever difficulty may come...

I've kept the star's color. The hope is that the future is better in both quantity and quality, so having the color brighten as the area expands shows that it's not just more of the same. I'm annoyed with the gradient technically, I think it breaks the simplicity rule of flag design by making it a lot harder to draw the flag from memory or print it in a standard way.  Oh well. SVG here.

Neglected biodiversity protection by EA.

I'm interested in writing about this with someone; anybody interested in writing arguments with me about why biodiversity matters? I don't expect it to make the leaderboard of urgent problems, but as a slow important problem I think it's a contender.

Here's a sketch of the argument that convinced me: we want our life support system to handle as many challenges as it can on its own, with as little maintenance as possible. Nature is not a closed system, so the challenges are multi-factor and co-occurring. High biodiversity provides already established stabilizing loops, redundant pathways of nutrient cycling, adaptive strategies, and a variety of pre-existing species and ecosystems which can colonize new niches as conditions change. The more parts are available, the more complex and robust nature's networks can be, hopefully thereby requiring less human management in order to continue to provision and protect life. Loss of biodiversity is a loss of information, resilience, redundancy, and other resources all at once.

I think biodiversity hasn't gotten as much attention as people might be willing to give it. I don't know why, but here are some guesses. Maybe...

  • more clarity is needed about how biodiversity contributes to other goals.
  • "biodiversity" is at the wrong level: maybe it's a subproblem or tool, and the cause area has a different name.
  • "biodiversity" as a concept is too vague or poorly connected to evoke mental imagery or motivate action.
  • the principles and how they fit together haven't been articulated clearly/succinctly enough.
  • it's hard to get really good at thinking about "biodiversity" because it contains something mentally costly, like patience, perspective-taking, predicting, counterfactualizing, or systems thinking.
  • more true causal stories are needed explaining how biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, which lead to personal everyday benefit.
  • building biodiversity is an upfront investment with a long payoff horizon, so it may not be financially competitive as other projects, except in specific cases with a fast, easy-to-capture payoff.
  • we've still got some biodiversity, so it may be less urgent than other cause areas despite being important.
  • more post-mortems of failed interventions are needed to address disappointment, counteract the appeal of non-intervention, and reassure funders that ecological interventions can be cost-effective.
  • more here-now-small-doable localized intervention recommendations are wanted, with a tangible signal for whether the intervention is working (such as water quality, or return of an indicator species). For instance, planting milkweed for monarchs was clear, tangible, and doable, so lots of people planted milkweed (at least suboptimally, possibly counterproductively).
  • more practice and guiding examples would help about how to compare very different interventions' possible expected value, and select ones that pay for themselves. For instance, I wonder whether oyster seeding or herbivore exclosures around oaks would support more biodiversity 30 years later per $1,000 spent? Per 100 volunteer hours spent? Which interventions include a way to economically capture part of the increased value of ecosystem services provided? Could beaver reintroduction be paid for with almond futures?
[By June 21] Win funding for wild animals

Result: This project came in second place and won the $750 prize, per update here.

What is the closest thing you know to EA that isn't EA?

@rory_greig, do you know where systems thinkers converse?  

What is the closest thing you know to EA that isn't EA?

I haven’t found a communication nexus, but I’d love to hear about it if there is one! Looks like there are some Facebook groups and a LinkedIn group, but I don’t know how active they are. Most of the activity I’ve seen is in a closed Keybase group.

I’ve run into at least half a dozen other systems mindset folks who have heard a little about EA and want to know more. We tried to set up a learning discussion during Complexity Weekend but got stuck on scheduling conflicts. Cross-pollinating might look like someone who practices both presenting at a Heartbeat event, or for an EA group organizer to volunteer as a Complexity Weekend organizer. 

What is the closest thing you know to EA that isn't EA?

Systems thinking shares the question: where and how can one intervene to achieve large improvement for small investment, minimize off-target effects, and have the improvement actually stick instead of revert?

Intactivism as a potential Effective Altruist cause area?

Thank you very much for writing this up!  
- This 2010 paper estimates that over 100 newborn boys die in the US annually from circumcision and related complications. 
- Alexithymia, poor recognition of one's emotions, is another condition that may result from circumcision. Paper here. I wonder if the stereotype of American men being out of touch with their emotions is related to this? 
- RE sentience: Intact America claims that as adults, some men still remember the experience of being circumcised as infants. Cross-check: some adults still remember being born. 
- Some US-based charities that work toward ending infant male circumcision are Doctors Opposing Circumcision, Intact America, and Bloodstained Men. I've donated to Intact America several times; I appreciate that they thought to check who is initiating, and as of recently are focusing on trying to get nurses to stop suggesting the procedure to new moms in the hospital. 

What are good institutes to conduct a research-based Masters in ageing research? The Buck Institute in Novato, CA, USA has some master’s programs, not sure about the duration.

Has anyone found an effective way to scrub indoor CO2?

I've worked in indoor air quality for three years and I'm not aware of any products that capture CO2 below the industrial scale, unfortunately. If you come across anything, I'd love to know! 

I've tried the indoor plants approach and tested CO2 levels with Kitagawa tubes, and all the data showed was when the HVAC system was running... There are already lots of plants outdoors, and they're lower-maintenance there, so it's worth checking whether your HVAC system could be doing its job better of bringing outdoor plant-enrichened air to you.
- Are the filters clogged? Houses sometimes have a 5" filter hidden in the unit in addition to the return filters.
- Are the coils dirty? 
- Are the vents open? 
- Are the ducts insulated and in good repair? 
- Are the filters the right size and MERV rating for the unit? 
- Could the unit be upfitted with a filter that has more surface area, so that it restricts the airflow less? Going from a 1" filter to  a 2" or 4" filter can increase the airflow. If not, look for a filter with more pleats per inch.

If you've got great ventilation  - or no authority over the ventilation - and you're still experiencing poor indoor air quality, a HEPA air cleaner with carbon can't fix CO2 but it'll get most other contaminants. 

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