Connor Tabarrok

20 karmaJoined


Hi! I'm a water resources engineer by day, so this post caught my eye. There are tons of parallels to be drawn here between water treatment and air treatment, and I think you've done a great job outlining the scale of potential benefits available to us. However, some key differences arise in how we interact with air and with water in our daily lives. The water supply chain is cordoned off from other environments and the larger global supply of water, meaning we can take small volumes relative to the total supply and apply targeted treatment techniques to improve the quality of the consumed volume. With regards to air quality, much of our consumption is still directly from the global supply (the atmosphere). While we do have systems in place to filter and treat this air indoors, outdoor air quality is a much larger beast to tackle, and it may be more efficient to opt for intervention at point of consumption, in the form of masks/aerators, than to attempt to treat the global air volume. Turning to pathogenic risk, I think you've correctly identified an area of great potential improvement, since most airborne pathogenic transmission happens indoors, where we could conceivably intervene via existing AC / air supply systems. 

Both of these measures (Clean indoor air / clean drinking water) are really just proxies for how clean our bodies are, (both in terms of pathogen exposure but also of pollutants). I wonder what other tools you could include in a "clean body" framework? My first thought was about the potential for blood-donation to filter out bio-accumulated microplastics from the body (reducing the concentration as newly made blood does not contain any), but I'm sure there are other examples.

Great post, looking forward to more! 

Hi there. I'm a water resource engineer working out of Austin, Texas. 

One thing you might find interesting is the concept of ASR (Aquifer Storage and Recovery), in which wells are used to pump water into aquifers during times when the area is oversupplied such as an intense rain event or from surface level sources. This method prevents the water from evaporating or running off and keeps it relatively clean and pathogen free if treated before re-injection. The city of San Antonio has a 60 MGD facility where they inject water from the Edwards aquifer (through which water runs very quickly, causing variable flow rates) and into the Carrizo aquifer, which is mostly comprised of sand, and retains the water much longer. 

Here's a link from COA

Yeah I don't disagree that preferences cannot change, but I hold that as true with the important caveat that they cannot change without costs, which I think you acknowledge in your sentence about an initial adjustment period. As for the magnitude of the difference, I don't really think it matters: it could be 5%, it could be .1%, it could be .01%. What's important is that it will be forever laundered into more utility by other humans, while this is not true of utils to animal welfare. So if you accept that meat is a preference (even small) and that fufillling preferences makes people work even a little bit harder/better, then eventually, it will always outgrow the animal welfare utils in the long-term. Like I said, I dont know if this conflict should downgrade longtermism or veganism, but I just thought it needed pointing out, as it confused me. 

Excited to see what is submitted! The need for physical projects is great!

I agree! There seems to be a utility monster problem when weighing Longtermist stuff against moral good that has no compounding value. This is why I added the line about not being sure whether this should be weighed as a criticism against Longtermism or against veganism.

Hey Max, great post! 

Let me pitch an idea to you:
If Bostrom's VWH were correct and eventually our picking of new balls from the urn will lead to our destruction, perhaps a solution is to split humanity into many sets of pickers, isolated from one another's knowledge, in order to maximize the total amount of time humanity can experience the picking process for. One way to do this might be to colonize other planets in complete secrecy, provide as little technology as possible to the new inhabitants of those planets, and then destroy the knowledge that allowed us to do so, severing the connection between these worlds. They would get to experience their own set of discoveries, independent of our set, with both groups drawing white and black balls separately from each other. If we could also imbue them with the idea that this is the right course of action, perhaps they would also create more isolated sets of pickers, and know not to seek out those who had created them. 
What do you think?

Hi there! I'm a Civil Engineer, new to EA, and I've definitely felt lost among the Econ/Policy/SWE people that seem to be overly represented in EA circles. Dont get me wrong, they make for great company, but it does feel like the physical implementation of High Impact Projects has been largely overlooked. I'm so glad to hear that there will soon be a community based around implementation and I would love to learn more!

Looks super interesting! Applying today!