398 karmaJoined Sep 2018


Mid-career climate science researcher in academia

Previously used display name "Pagw"


Harvard Health says that avoiding infection is part of strengthening one's immune system

I was intrigued so looked at the link. It has heading "Healthy ways to strengthen your immune system" and says in one bullet point under this "Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly", but doesn't say anything about why this would help strengthen the immune system (it just links to a page with steps for reducing infection risk). A possible alternative interpretation is that this is meant as advice for not getting sick rather than making the immune system more effective, and this seems more likely to me. But it's not clear.

A minor thing on the CO2 emissions reductions is it should probably be considered whether the trees would be cut down anyway if they weren't used for wood. I think you'd want to know the net deforestation due to collecting firewood, presuming that forest expansion would be cut back anyway for other reasons.

Just thought I'd note that I checked again and the CAF DAF's minimum balance has gone up to £25k and has a minimum fee of £600/ann.: https://www.cafonline.org/individual-trust-supporting-documents 

The most common pushback (and the first two comments, as of now) are from people who think this is an attempt at regulatory capture by the AI labs


This is also the case in the comments on this FT article (paywalled I think), which I guess indicates how less techy people may be tending to see it.

"According to CE’s weighted animal welfare index" - the link seems broken - I think the bit after the final "/" needs to be removed

Regarding the question of what philosophical view should be used, I wonder if it would also matter if someone were something like prioritarian rather than a total utilitarian. StrongMinds looks to focus on people who suffer more than typical members of these countries' populations, whilst the lives saved by AMF would presumably cover more of the whole distribution of wellbeing. So a prioritarian may favour StrongMinds more, assuming the people helped are not substantially better off economically or in other ways. (Though, it could perhaps also be argued that the people who would die without AMF's intervention are extremely badly off pre-intervention.) 

Though if you wanted to reduce wild animal populations, you could pay to destroy habitats without also causing farm animal suffering, or maybe even do something productive e.g. keep growing crops but burn them for fuel rather than use them as animal feed. Not that I'd particularly advocate this, but I think it argues against a view that it could be optimal to not reduce farm animal populations on these grounds.

 Fair questions to ask. I'd hope the quality of information obtained through uni courses is much better than random selection of reading material, as profs who have spent many years studying a subject should know which are the key texts to read, the most important facts to understand and the key arguments on each side of controversial issues. I think a random selection approach would generally yield information low in importance. (Perhaps articles from certain blogs wouldn't do too badly, but how would you know which blogs to choose and avoid getting sucked into ones that sound plausible but are terrible?) Edit to add: But doing some reading around the internet before deciding whether to embark on a course of further study could perhaps be a good thing to do.

I don't really see working in different jobs for a few months doing much to broaden thinking in the ways a uni education would - people I know in regular jobs seem to mostly be focussed on getting narrowly defined tasks done and not much on reflective thinking. Though it may be quite complementary as it could highlight things that an academic education wouldn't (George Orwell's writings of working in various jobs come to mind - but it seems rare for workers to take on this journalistic mindset). Edit to add: I also think workplaces will tend to have people with more correlated mindsets (e.g. work in an AI lab and most people around you will probably think developing AI is great), which isn't very good for developing an accurate worldview, whereas at a university I think you'd be more likely to be exposed to a greater variety of views. Though I don't have a measure for how well this works in practice (and I think people probably do cluster into groups with similar views to a fair extent). Of course, uni profs and students will tend to be correlated in thinking that uni is good ;-)

Of course that's not to say there aren't plenty of profs who focus on unimportant info, are poor at explaining, are biased etc. And as I said I think narrow uni courses are less good for getting a broader perspective. Honestly, I'm not sure how good an average uni education is by this measure (including at "top" unis). But finding a good one could be very valuable.

It would be interesting to have a way to test this, but I can't think of a good objective test of having broad knowledge.

I agree that any sense of shame about dropping out should be removed and that university may not be the best route for everyone. However, the post seems to mainly make the argument for dropping out for people who have a firm idea of what they want to do, and I don't think most early-stage university students would have much idea (or even if they believe they do, that their ideas would be a good).

Similar to Guy Raveh, I think university may be most valuable for getting exposure to a broader set of ideas (though specialised courses like those that are common in the UK are less good for this). Also, for getting time to consider future directions that one may not have if working full time.

PS As an academic, I may be biased - though I don't feel like I'm very inhibited from talking about the downsides of the academic route!

Thanks very much for answering Sjir. I'm not sure why having tax relief on future income would change the answer to what to do with this year's income a lot, unless one were not going to donate future years' income - else, the tax relief on future income is used up by donating that income. Of course, it may be possible to use relief on future income that would not counterfactually get donated (that needed for living expenses, saving etc.), so in that case you're right that the return from tax relief for donating now vs later is less than I said for that portion (e.g. 1.67/1.25-1=34% for donating at higher rate now rather than basic rate later). Indeed, this may reduce the average return from donating from income in the 25% tax bracket to close to zero in many cases.

Re "perhaps there are longer-term downward trends in policy around tax relief" - again, it doesn't seem to me that this would likely strongly affect what it's best to do with this year's income, along the lines of the above. In the UK a previous finance minister did try a few years ago to restrict tax relief at the higher rates, but couldn't get it through, so it seems unlikely to me that it would happen in the next few years, but could happen in the longer term.

Sorry if I didn't understand your point 100% correctly.

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