Bio

Disenangling "nature." 
It is my favorite thing, but I want to know its actual value.
Is it replaceable. Is it useful. Is it morally repugnant. Is it our responsibility.  Is it valuable. 
"I asked my questions. And then I discovered a whole world I never knew. That's my trouble with questions. I still don't know how to take them back."

Comments
62

I can't figure out why this didn't get more traction. This post seems extremely relevant and brought up well considered points that I'm surprised I've never encountered before. This subject seems fundamental to life changing career decisions, and highly relevant to both EA earning to give and EA career impacts. I also can't spot any surface level presentation reasons it might have gotten overlooked or prematurely dismissed.

Edit: Ah, I think what happened is it was evaluated by the suggested actions when scrolling to see the outcomes/results. I am also much less positive these are good approaches to addressing the problem. They are offered without much evidence, and transparently acknowledged as such, but it's potentially the posts biggest most obvious fault.

Excellent post.

I'm not very involved with EA/politics but I'd be interested in hearing discussion about how to improve decision making and institution design. For example - a fundamental problem with government bodies is they seem to function well early on, when they are made up of people who believe in the goal and there is a strong unified culture. But suffer from malaise as years pass and both people and systems get entrenched to the point that the goal is secondary. Incentive alignment decays and becomes virtually nonexistent in many governmental bodies.

Of course I also have a special interest in how the government can address wrong incentives caused by externalities.

What about more political experiments - stronger states rights, charter cities, special economic zones, as a way to move forward, and demonstrate effectiveness/ineffectiveness without trying to go through the disfunction we currently see in federal government?

And solving vetocracy at local levels through things like quadratic voting, systems that prevent gerrymandering, street votes, etc.

Anything else I haven't heard of that seems a promising way to improve political outcomes!

This is great, thank you. Honestly it feels a little telling that this has barely been explored? Despite being THE x-risk? I get that the intervention point happens before it gets to this point, but knowing the problem is pretty core to prevention.

A force smarter/more powerful than us is scary, no matter what form it takes. But we (EA) feels a little swept up in one particular vision of AI timelines that doesn't feel terribly grounded. I understand its important to assume the worst, but its also important to imagine what would be realistic and then intermingle the two. Maybe this is why the EA approach to AI risk feels blinkered to me. So much focus is on the worst possible outcome and far less on the most plausible outcome? 

(or maybe I'm just outside the circles and all this is ground being trodden, I'm just not privy to it)

I suggest adding your anki deck to the EA anki deck list!
(I took the liberty of adding your link but didn't feel qualified to fully add an entry - please add it!)

What We Owe the Future: A Flashcard Summary
https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1539708817

(Not my deck, but definitely an EA anki deck!)
More information here.
 

Everyone wants to live in a better world, but it's very difficult to know how. Some people will tell you the problem is greed, we don't help our neighbors, or are obsessed with materialism. But other people will tell you spirituality is part of the problem, local problems are a distraction from the big picture, and desiring things is what drives us to improve the world.

Getting everyone to believe one thing is impossible with all these different ideas of what is the right way to a better world. Everyone uniting on one belief is not even a good idea: if we all focus on one problem and one solution, we will suffer from all the other problems we left in order to focus on this one.

We have to try our best to navigate all these conflicting problems and solutions, and EA is a very good method at doing that. Trying harder to do right isn't enough. (Most people already are trying to do right!) Maybe we could convince them to try harder. I want people to care more, and do more to make the world a better place, but I'm worried it's hard to convince people to change their lives. I think a bigger problem is even when people try to do right, they don't actually help achieve the things they want to.

Since I actually did this work myself (in the US) I am going to go into too much information about my experience. Read the bolded bits if you want the summary of important points without the juicy mosquito-abatement details.

I was checking weekly anywhere we historically found mosquito larvae, including adding new locations any time another location was found - much the same as this program does: using a tablet, satellite map, and gps locations. 

I witnessed the larvae populations reducing in response in many places and in other places maintaining a high number of larvae (but no further development stages). It did prevent there from being pupae except if returned to the site late. Pupae are the next stage ( 7-10 days)  when the mosquito baby quits eating to morph (and BTI no longer works). As you can see this happens so rapidly that it is important to return to sites weekly and not a day late. Fortunately pupae can also be killed in an environmentally friendly fashion with mineral oil[1] although I rarely (twice per week over ~60? weekly sites in a 7mi, 35hr a week with recordkeeping, car travel, etc) needed to resort to that. 

As mentioned, the biggest obstacle is finding every transient water body, from large to small, and getting people to let you treat their puddles, ditches, water troughs, etc etc etc. I did not scout for new locations although I was encouraged by my employers to ask around for new problem locations. Having an updated map is really helpful but eradication seems unlikely. Another issue is that mosquitoes can fly up to 2 miles (iirc) so if they aren't breeding nearby they still might by flying in. 

Regarding missed locations: I myself skipped some waterbodies when I was scared to trespass. Also water appears and disappears sometimes without much discernable cause, which made it annoyingly important to check empty sites repeatedly.  Also obstacles like barb wire fences, and  uh... when you are totally alone cattle are really big and I didn't want to find out if they would suddenly decide to charge me. Instead I kept hoping the next day they wouldn't be on that side of the pasture. 

We loaded up on equipment once every couple of weeks when we ran out of supplies, but I would scan/travel/work closer to 80% of my time. I figured out the faster routes to locations and how I preferred to chain them together through the season. (Although the water does keep moving around as water appears or dries up.) Recording was a simple paper datasheet of larvae/pupae seen and how much treatment I used. I would take a picture at the end of the week to submit so I never had to go visit a central office. And the tablet would track my movements if I might be lying about actually visiting locations. No one ever checked, I'm pretty sure, but if there was a complaint they could. And when working alone it is reallllly tempting to eat 2 hour lunches and skip long, hot, slogs that end in a mostly-dried-up tiny puddle.  

They mentioned having much better results when hiring undergrads. I suspect its because undergrads believe they have to be thorough much more than mid-career hires. Also the biology knowledge helps. Honestly I wish they had checked our work more, because I at the end of the season I found out I had been deploying double the treatment what everyone else was. By accident. It was still within permitted doses, but... uh... oops.

In summary: It was highly cheap and effective in the spots I was active. The main issue is coverage of transient water and returning weekly.

  1. ^

    Pupae still need to breath. BVA Mineral oil (only a few drops) makes the surface tension at the top too strong for the pupae to break the surface to breath, for about 2-5 minutes. Long enough for them to suffocate. I assume other tiny air breathing species would die too, but not the critters that don't need air or the slightly-larger critters who can survive longer without air. These are mostly temporary standing-water areas with temporary populations so its likely to be easily repopulated after a suffocation event.

    The oil naturally breaks down (from sunlight I think?) and disappears. There was no build up. It looked bad to see shiny oil across natural water but it dissipated in an hour or so, and left no residue. What really convinced me was encountering natural oils in the water from cattails that looked a lot worse than the mineral oil I was using. Oil is a natural thing too, sometimes.

    Oil doesn't work for large bodies of water or flowing water, because the choppy water breaks the oil surface sheet. But mosquitoes don't live there because they need still water to breed for some reason. Oil is still used in water around the edges of ponds where vegetation keeps the surface still.

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