4839 karmaJoined Oct 2017


Improving rodent welfare by reducing rodenticide use
The Rodenticide Reduction Sequence


The writeup is still a good high-level overview of the kinds of activities I do and have explored, but it's outdated because it doesn't mention that I've led two protests now (I'm working on a post-mortem I'll share on EA Forum), doesn't explain my relationship to PauseAI the group (I'm independent for now but use the PauseAI branding sometimes and may found a PauseAI US 501(c)(4)), and most of all the budget doesn't reflect what I could do with more money. The main thing is still funding myself, but I will fairly soon need to be able to pay employees to have the infrastructure we need for larger grassroots people organizing activities. I haven't decided on a larger structure and priced it all out yet, in part because I think there's still a lot I can accomplish as an individual.

I have a GoFundMe that I share on social media for small donations. GoFundMe has a transaction fee, though, so for people who wanted to give me medium-sized donations (like a few $100 to a few $1000) we did it through Zelle. Anyone who is interested please feel free to DM me for that info!

"Too unilateral or rash" is not a euphemism for "non-peaceful": I really do specifically mean that in these EA/LW/etc circles there's a tendency to have a pathological fear (that can only be discharged by fully assuaging the scrupulosity of oneself and one's peers) of taking decisive impactful action.

I cannot help but see the AGI-accelerationist side of things winning decisively, soon, and irreversibly if those who are opposed continue to be so self-limitingly scrupulous about taking action because of incredibly nebulous fears.

I second this. I further think there are a lot of image and tribe concerns that go into these sentiments. Many people in EA and especially AI Safety sort of see themselves in the same tribe with AGI companies, whether they are working toward the singularity or just generally being a tech person who understands that tech progress improves humanity and guides history. Another aspect of this is being drawn to technocracy and disdaining traditional advocacy (very not grey tribe). Some EAs actually work for AGI companies and others feel pressure to cooperate and not “defect” on others around them have made alliances with AGI companies.

I’m confused about the lifetime exclusion and so I didn’t want to advise anyone that they might not have to pay on gifts of over $17,000 in a year :/ I would love to get an answer from a tax lawyer or accountant on this!

I really wish the person who disagreed had said why. I really want to know if this is incorrect!

But you agree there are nonverbal humans who nonetheless probably have qualia, right? If you think their species indicates their capacities then I think you should take phylogenetic relatedness more seriously as a reason to expect similar mental experiences.

Mikhail gave me a chance to read this ahead of time, but I didn’t get it together to give comments before he posted it. He should get credit for that.

On the whole it seems like this is argument about burden of proof or what we should assume given that we don’t know the real answer. Mikhail seems to say we’re jumping to conclusions when we attribute qualia to others when only talking about qualia is really good evidence. I think most animals between humans and cnidarians on the tree of life should be assumed to have qualia because there isn’t a clear function for qualia in humans that isn’t shared with other animals with brains. (It’s possible qualia are a weird, unnecessary part of the way the mammal brain works, but not, say, the insect brain, but I see no reason to think qualia are only part of the human brain.) I think we should assume other animals phylogenetically close to us also have qualia, and there’s a legitimate question of how far that assumption should go. (“Sentience indicators” are a way of systematizing whether or not other animals are close enough to the only example we know of qualia, humans.) Should it cover shrimp? I think we can’t rule out shrimp qualia, and there are just so many individual shrimp that are harvested because of their small size, so even very diminished experiences seem like they might add up.

Note that we don't infer that humans have qualia because they all have "pain receptors": mechanisms that, when activated in us, make us feel pain; we infer that other humans have qualia because they can talk about qualia.

Yeah we look to criteria like this because we can’t talk to animals. I would be much more skeptical that something without physical receptors for tissue damage feels pain. There are many life forms that do not have pain receptors and they are generally ruled out as having meaningfully negative experience even though we don’t know the relationship of qualia and sentience to sensory perceptions for sure.

Having reactions to positive and negative rewards in ways that make the brain more likely to get positive rewards in the future and less likely to get negative rewards in the future is a really useful mechanism that evolution came up with. These mechanisms of reacting to rewards don't require the qualia circuits.

Yeah, but qualia could just accompany reinforcement learning mechanisms for some reason we don’t yet know (we don’t yet know any reason qualia are necessary or useful over mere unconscious reinforcement), or they could be like a form of common currency for weighing various inputs and coming to a decision. Qualia are not required for anything as far as we know so I don’t think there’s any principled reason to say humans have them but no one else does.

when we see animals reacting to something, our brains rush to expect there's something experiencing that reaction in these animals, and we feel like these animals are experiencing something. But actually, we don’t know whether there are neural circuits running qualia in these animals at all, and so we don’t know whether whatever reactions we observe are experienced by some circuits. The feeling that animals are experiencing something doesn't point towards evidence that they're actually experiencing something.

This is one reason we may be biased to interpret animals as having qualia. But I have a strong presupposition that at least species phylogenetically close to me have qualia as well. Why would qualia only start with humans? Humans do some unusual things but I have no reason to think qualia are particularly involved in them.

might give evidence for whether fish feel empathy (feel what they model others feeling), something I expect to be correlated with qualia[4]

I’m surprised this would change your mind. Why is empathy in the brain any different than pain receptors? We don’t know the relationship of either to qualia/sentience.

Lightspeed Grants and my smaller individual donors should get credit for funding me to work on advocacy which includes protests full-time! Sadly afaik that is the only EA/adjacent funding that has gone toward public advocacy for AI Safety.

Yes! The biggest issue with eradication in the US and Central America is that it has to be maintained with pretty massive international effort. It uses a non-genetic sterile male technique, which means rearing huge amount of males (which require meat and certain conditions to grow), sterilizing them with x-rays, and releasing them by helicopter over the line Panama/Colombia border where the eradication is maintained. The US needs the cooperation of the rest of the North American countries in providing facilities and granting access to distribute the worms to keep it up, and it needed Mexico's partnership to do the initial eradication, part of which was a public health campaign to get ranchers to treat affected cattle to reduce the spread (as you can see in these amazing comic books the joint commission put out). So far it has proved too difficult to keep going through the jungles of South America to finish the job.

But using gene drives could make it could be easier. There are just all the standard concerns about using gene drives, like it affecting related species. I don't know enough about the relatives of the screw worm to know if it's a good candidate there or not.

Imo the EA take on veganism should be “It’s one way of doing good, by not directly consuming animals and by establishing that as a norm, and it’s a supportive practice for your altruism not to benefit from animal torture and death. Like any practice or intervention, its costs and benefits should be openly weighed.”

Sometimes the problems with veganism get excessive attention from people who do not like it, but we can just raise the bar and care about everyone’s nutrition (or respect how much they are willing to risk with an informed decision about whatever diet).

It is harder to be vegan if you’re constantly weighing whether it’s okay or even necessary to bend the rules, and I imagine that’s where a lot of the well-meaning responses that don’t want to talk about vegan nutrition issues are coming from.

I was vegan for 15 years (now in a moral trade where I eat dairy and husband limits meat intake— net reduction in animal suffering). Even in my early years in EA, I viewed veganism as if it were free— something that everyone else should do on top of their other altruism. It took me a lot of reflection on costs and tradeoffs to see veganism as an intervention like any other other and that for some people it would not be part of their good-maximizing path.

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