Garrett Ehinger

EA Group Organizer, Pre-Medical Student, UG Biosecurity Research @ BYU-I Food Security Lab; BYU-I Effective Altruism Fellowship
Pursuing an undergraduate degree
Working (0-5 years experience)
47Joined Apr 2022

Bio

Participation
6

I have been involved with EA for about two years now and was introduced to it by my best friend while attending university. I am from Seattle, am interested in reading/writing and debate, and I am studying biomedical science with a Chinese minor and a neuroscience emphasis.

How others can help me

Others can help me by providing connections to biosecurity related work, or others interested in biosecurity. 

How I can help others

I can help others make connections in biosecurity, offer novice counselling or pointers about the field, and share experiences/resources I've had/have that might be useful to others going the same route as myself. 

Comments
5

I like this really interesting comparison... How do you propose we as humans make ourselves beneficial to an "overlord" AI so that we become indispensable? Maybe some ideas could be creating various isolated Dead Hand systems? But that seems more like a coercive relationship destined to break rather than a symbiotic one...

I agree with @MikeJohnson on thought experiments falling within a deist frame (such as Nick Bostrom's Simulation Hypothesis), however I'd hardly say these make TI tractable. I'd rather say that research into quantum consciousness or string theory etc. have very strong scientific bases and I personally think they have set good precedents for concluding TI. I.e., they make a good case for just how tractable TI can be. A good book that sums this up pretty well is Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D.'s "The Mind and the Brain". He goes into the implications of quantum consciousness and the potential for there to be Creator's that we could possibly be influenced by via String Theory related physics, and that this could be tested for. I think people would be surprised by just how tractable this could be, but honestly it's contingent on the nature of a Creator if that Creator does exist. Like I said in the last clause of my post, if the Creator's don't want to be found or are impossible to observe, then we are wasting our time no matter how theoretically tractable TI might be, so ultimately I have to say I sort of agree with your point, Peter!
 

As for your point on impermanence, I'm pretty sure every religion believes that everything continues forever; although some do get nuanced regarding whether or not that "forever" is divided up into infinite separate lives like the aforementioned Buddhists, but even they believe that once you've obtained complete enlightenment and have shed your Karma you exit the cycle of 轮回 (lun hui) and enter an eternal state of peace. The only group of people I can think of who don't believe something along the lines of an eternal afterlife in a heaven or hell world are die-hard heat-death atheists, which is a pretty small subset of the atheist population if I'm correct. Ultimately, its still a part of TI that deserves answering I think.

As for your last point, I definitely see the merit of your point there! Thanks a bunch for sharing that! It's an awesome new perspective I hadn't thought of. :)

In all honesty, I haven't put too much thought into a research agenda so forgive me if this response isn't very thought provoking haha. This post was a sort of spur of the moment idea that I just had to get down on paper (as signified by my many typos), but in a sort of knee-jerk response to your comment on a rough research agenda for TI, I guess the first step would be spending resources (be it time or money) convincing people (particularly EAs at first) that TI should be taken seriously, especially considering WM's SPC framework.

Honestly, conceding to the existence of the uncertainty gap is the first major obstacle that everybody faces and it needs to be addressed. I think separating EA for Christian's out from EA itself was didactic felo de se because it ruined potential meaningful exposure to opposing viewpoints by presuming incompatibility or at least irreconcilable rationale bases, thus making it more difficult for ideas like TI to gain traction as priorities; so I'd address this first. This could be done by maybe creating a compilation of works meant to create uncertainty in either side (a page of a website for atheists and a page of a website for theists)... although this comes dangerously close to faith-bashing so I'm not entirely sure how to do this. 

Secondly, I think prioritizing quantum physics research (specifically exploring quantum consciousness - QC - theory) would be a savvy move.  It has multilateral applications. A breakthrough would not only likely bring us closer to concluding TI but would also be likely to further the human species (getting us into space travel, for example) and at the very least would improve quality of life. As far as I'm aware, encouragement towards research in these fields is nonexistent in not just EA, but in the world in general. Exploring things like the observer effect, collapse of wave functions as a result of observation, etc. are all very real research options with solid scientific foundations and yet are hardly talked about (certainly never talked about in EA). Encouraging donations to orgs similar to the Accelerating Research on Consciousness initiative (although I know this one is a bit big haha) could be a good move, promoting QC research within EA as a viable impactful career option would be another good move, etc. 

A quick google search shows there is virtually no work being done on quantum consciousness, and the work being done on consciousness alone is certainly neglected compared to other higher priority cause areas like Nuclear Threats or AI research. so this fits pretty solidly in the ITN framework as well. 

Thoughts?

Maybe I missed it in the article, but I think a project like this could be a little premature. The chicks are culled, true, but if they were engineered so that they were saved instead, then they'd be condemned to a horrible life of pain in cages (laying hens have it the worst, I think). Of course, it is perfectly plausible that a project like this might somehow instigate change in the way laying hens are treated and thus kill two... birds (darnnit) with one stone, but I don't see how.

Hello! My name is Garrett, and I am from Seattle, Washington. I have been involved in EA for about a year and was introduced to it by my closest friend while at school. He and I have both always been directly involved in humanitarian aid projects around the world for most of our lives (it's how we met, actually), and after returning from a service trip in Lesbos where he had been shaken by the suicide of a small child there he began to wonder about the effectiveness of his efforts. This then put him on the road to finding EA. When he ran across it, he shared it with me, and I immediately fell in love with everything about EA. I was the director of the university's service department at the time and was responsible for activities involving hundreds of students, and was frustrated with what I perceived to be inefficient and ineffective university policies governing funding and activity options. EA was simply too relatable to pass up.  I've been heavily involved ever since, although my schooling has prevented me from attending many of the conferences that I wish to attend one day in order to make more of your acquintances.  Until then, I am happily engaged in furthering the EA chapter here at my university in Idaho.

The causes I currently care about the most within EA are animal welfare and biosecurity (although I pretty much love every other cause area within EA as well). 

I was raised hunting and was always taught that animals were for my use, and before knowing EA I consumed inordinate amounts of meat (I kickboxed and for several years was a competitive weight lifter). There was a period of 4 months where, in order to reach a certain physique within the required time frame, I consumed 220g of animal-based protein per day on a 1700 calorie diet (I developed some minor health issues, as could be expected). It wasn't until I attended an EA online training seminar for group leaders that a compelling argument for a vegetarian lifestyle was made by a fellow EA member, Pete Rowlett (I hope he doesn't mind me mentioning him here), that I decided to become vegan. His arguments, combined with the EA reading material I was familiarizing myself with, along with certain verses from my religious texts, all combined to convince me that I needed to change my eating lifestyle. I am currently trying to start our university's first Animal Welfare movement in tandem with our EA chapter, and am also preparing presentations on animal welfare to give at our EA retreats that we are planning. It hasn't been easy switching lifestyles cold-turkey like that, and I have slipped up on the rare occasion, but I have found it well worth the effort (weight loss has never been so easy) and don't plan on going back. I will add, however, that my university has a culture of meat consumption, and my new lifestyle has turned away some interested romantic partners. That was an unforeseen and difficult hurdle to overcome. Anyways...

As for biosecurity, I am in my university's premedical program and have always had a deep interest in international relations as well as biotechnology/biomedicine/etc. After reading "Biological Threats of the 21st Century", I found myself drawn to this cause area that I hadn't even known existed! I have studied Chinese since I was 10 years old and lived in Asia for a couple of years doing humanitarian aid, and the tense peace between the island of Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party, and the US always unnerved me. Biosecurity as a cause area was the perfect blend for me of IR and Biotech, and I found an amazing niche for "biosecurity in China" within EA. This combination of all my deepest intellectual interests was yet again too strong of a pull for me to ignore, and now I find myself attempting to organize our university's Biosecurity in Asia society, contributing to online forums regarding Chinese biosecurity, and doing other various projects associated with biosecurity and our university, etc.

I plan on becoming a medical doctor so that I can "earn to give", and I hope to eventually transition from medicine to working full-time on biosecurity policy in the United States (preferably related to China somehow, and hopefully done in direct association with EA). Fun facts about me are I like reading/writing, movies, debate, poetry, and art (and I am not too bad at playing Battlefront II online, either). I have four siblings, one of whom has been in Mexico doing humanitarian aid for 6 months now and I hope to persuade him to participate actively in EA. My family has not been very open to the ideas proposed by EA and I am having a difficult time convincing them to take it seriously, but I do get frequent questions from them along the lines of "what does EA think about ___?" so that is a good sign, I think. Other things that are good to know about me are I love paisley ties, indie music, and I am a horrible cook.