Deborah W.A. Foulkes

Independent Researcher & Global Citizen Governance Activist
58 karmaJoined May 2022Working (15+ years)


  • Completed the In-Depth EA Virtual Program
  • Attended an EA Global conference


Topic contributions

Thanks for your feedback, text has been revised.

Thank you for your feedback, text has been revised.

Hi Siao Si, thanks for your detailed response. I'll try to address some of your points, though not in the order you state them.

Firstly, it is necessary to treat the issues of carrying capacity and optimum human population differently; they are not the same. It is also incorrect to say that many agree that 10 billion is the carrying capacity. The estimate of how many humans earth can support is in flux: on the one hand, technological developments e.g. to improve distribution of resources could extend carrying capacity; on the other hand, the accelerating ecological degradation of the planet (including but not solely due to the climate crisis) is resulting in a shrinkage of the land area able to support crop production and we are currently on a trajectory of collapse in ocean fisheries due to unsustainable fishing practices.

Secondly, there is huge variation in experts' estimates of the optimum human population, enabling abundance and flourishing for all - some go as low as only 100,000 humans.

See here for different scenarios:

People as paperclip maximisers (or bacteria in a petri dish)

Humans, the human species, operating unconsciously along the lines of their biological imperative - to reproduce, reproduce, reproduce - while providing so-called 'rational' justifications for that primitive imperative, like in this post, are essentially no different to Bostrom's paperclip maximiser: planetary resources and energy shovelled in at one end, humans (and their attendant domesticated animals and crops) popping endlessly out at the other, until nothing else is left. Our DNA is like that badly designed AI algorithm. Or, to use a different metaphor: we are no better than bacteria, multiplying explosively on their petri dish, until all the food is gone and they drown in the poisonous sea of their own excretions. So we need to consciously evolve to change this mindless imperative if we are to BOTH preserve the planet for future generations AND expand into the stars. (The two are not mutually exclusive.)

See here for some interesting ideas on human cultural evolution:

and here for a more academic treatment:

Can't find the EA Gather Town via this link or on the Gather app. Can you give its exact handle/label? Thanks.

Correct. Thank you. Was mixing it up with the other charity he founded with his wife - Turquoise Mountain. He's now an advisor for Give Directly:

His bio there: Rory is an advisor at GiveDirectly. Previously, he was the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Minister of State for Justice, Minister of State in Foreign Office and DFID (covering Africa, Middle East, and Asia), Minister for the Environment and Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. After a brief period as an infantry officer he joined the UK Diplomatic Service, serving overseas in Jakarta, as British representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo crisis, and as the coalition Deputy-Governor of two provinces of Southern Iraq following the intervention of 2003. He left the diplomatic service to undertake a two-year walk across Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. In 2005, he established the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul, working to restore a section of the old city, establish a clinic, primary school, and Arts Institute, and bring Afghan crafts to international markets. In 2008, he became the Ryan Professor of Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School and Director for the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy. He is a Visiting Fellow at The Jackson Institute at Yale University. Speaking & Press Requests: If you are interested in Rory speaking at an event or making a press appearance please email He’s on Twitter at @RoryStewartUK.

Whether something is perceived as rude or not is a subjective assessment. Given that Stewart was reporting on his own interaction with a person at the Future Fund and obviously thought them to be extremely rude, it is not correct to say it was likely that 'it was less rude than the podcast made it sound'. The podcast is not a third party, interpreting events reported to it. Stewart's assessment of the rudeness must be accepted, since he himelf was the affected party.

His incredulity at being treated like that was audible. And perfectly understandable, since he was approaching them as the co-founder of the charity Give Directly (, which rigorously assesses the effectiveness of its own giving. Stewart even appears to have himself been influenced by the principles and philosophy of effective altruism, so for him to have been rebuffed in so coarse a manner is doubly inexcusable.

There's a saying, 'the fish stinks from the head down' and it seems that the hubris and arrogance of SBF himself had indeed rubbed off on whoever it was talking down their nose to Rory Stewart - author of several best-selling non-fiction political books and memoir, former UK government minister, diplomat, governor of a wartorn middle eastern region, Yale professor and Conservative leadership contender. (

At the very least, the unnamed Future Fund person should have recognised the common ground between Stewart's charity and the effective altruism movement, and been friendly to him. Snubbing and alienating potential friends and allies is not only respectless but also quite simply stupid. I sincerely hope whoever it was is no longer employed by any EA organisation.

Please provide arguments for your disagreement if possible James. Thank you :-).

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