Joseph Bloom

91Joined Jun 2022

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22

Hi all, I'm Joseph. I have a double degree in computational biology/statistics, have RA'd in protein engineering (structure/dynamics) and worked in proteomics (LCMS). Currently on an FTX regrant to find ways to help with Biosecurity/AI. I'm focusing on upskilling in AI, but keen to keep discussing biosecurity.

Thanks so much! Was hoping someone would do this soon!

Hi!

It's great that you are trying to make these kinds of decisions with impact in mind!

I have a comp bio background but more in proteomics and have spent time this year looking at different ways to have a large impact, although my own focus was much more on pandemics preparedness / x-risk.

Probably this problem is underspecified. It's just very hard for anyone at this level of abstraction to make the decision for you. Details like your relationship with the supervisor, other lab members for example could be critical. It does sound like you like the first option but I'd encourage you to test your hypothesis thoroughly (or proportionally to the subsequent time investment).

However, some guiding principles may help:

  • Speak to current lab members/students of either lab. If you feel very confident that they are sending out good cultural and intellectual vibes then you're time is a much safer bet there.
  • Fieldwise, meta-genomics seems likely to be very useful in pandemic preparedness (see SecureDNA) so if your work has higher inner product (more in common) with those kinda of projects then I'd see that as a concretely safer bet.
  • Given your other interests, I'd definitely go speak to more bio experts. Book an appt with the EA consult a bio expert (if it's still open) or look for EAs who you can chat and contact them.

EffectiveThesis might have some useful content too. https://effectivethesis.org/

Good luck and all the best!

Thanks Agustin, 

I appreciate the clarification and this kind of detail ("people with experience working on climate change research, activism or public policy" as opposed to others). 
 

Based on this thread, I think we'd be looking for a document that meets the following criteria:

  •  Extends/Summarises current EA material on climate change so that it's clear that EA has made serious attempts to assess it. 
  • A nuanced explanation for the ITN framework, explaining how much of the work on climate change is not-neglected, and which observations might justify working on climate change over other cause areas. 
  • Some description of other EA cause areas and links to similar reasoning which may explain why they are prioritised by some EAs. 

Such a document should also be simple enough to be linked as introductory material to someone not familiar with EA.  It would also be valuable to test such a document/set of arguments on some climate activists or even iterate based on their feedback in order to be more effective. 

I'm definitely not the person to write this, but I could ask around a few places to see if anyone is keen to work on it. It sounds like our prior is that this is likely enough to be valuable, and simple enough to attempt, that it's worth a shot. 

That's fair. I'll keep thinking about it but this was helpful, thanks.

My general sense of the 80k handbook is that it is very careful to emphasise uncertainty and leaves room for people to project existing beliefs without updating. 

For example:

Working on this issue seems to be among the best ways of improving the long-term future we know of, but all else equal, we think it’s less pressing than our highest priority areas.

I value the integrity that 80k has here, but I think something shorter, with more direct comparisons to other cause areas, might be more effective. 

Thanks for the answer. Does this idea of looking at it in that hypothetical word framing have a related post somewhere?

This is fantastic, thank you! 

Is there a summary of the main insights/common threads from the interviews? 

I'd like to see a more comprehensive model for what biosecurity risk looks like that can motivate a comparison of project ideas. In the absence of that, it's really hard to say where we get the most benefit. 

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