All of JuanGarcia's Comments + Replies

Vertical farming to lessen our reliance on the Sun

While you are correct that vegetable oil would be the most compact way of storing edible calories, we wouldn't be able to rely only on it as it misses several key nutrients, and it would still not solve the prohibitive cost of storing enough food to last for a multi-year catastrophe. We think strategic micronutrient supplement stocks could be cost-effective but haven't looked into it in depth yet.

Any type of food stock would be very useful on the onset of a catastrophe, but the cost-effectiveness of large-scale long-term food storage interventions is not great.

Vertical farming to lessen our reliance on the Sun

I agree the benefits of closed environments system that you bring up are considerable, in fact there are even more benefits than those mentioned (see this paper). I wanted to bring in some other considerations to enrich the discussion around this:

  • If the closed environment system depends significantly on sunlight-based renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, then it is not resilient to abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios such as nuclear winter.

  • There are many other possibilities outside of vertical farming for closed environment food productio

... (read more)
2Ty21d
Thanks for your response. I checked out your website (including your FAQ where you point out the limits of storing food rather than focusing on the means to resiliently produce it) and I was wondering if you guys thought there might be some merit to strategic supplies of vegetable oil even if to only help buy several months of time for other operations to ramp up? A 55 gallon barrel of vegetable oil has ~2,100,000 calories, is edible for ~2 years, and--in order to prevent waste--could be sold and replaced after several months as it has industrial value (eg as biofuel).
A primer & some reflections on recent CSER work (EAB talk)

Thank you, very useful. Happy to see CSER expanding to domains where ALLFED is working such as food shocks, critical infrastructure, volcano engineering, etc. Looking forward to collaborate more!

A tough career decision

As always it's great to read your thoughts Pablo, and I like your scheme for getting the best of both worlds. I think it's worth recommending that you build accountability to prevent yourself from drifting away from your stated plan or a similarly good one. Wishing you the best at Xanadu!

2PabloAMC1mo
Gracias Juan!
Case for emergency response teams

This looks like a much needed inititative. I'm interested to sign up for the reserve, it looks not unlike the type of work I've done in the past .

Resilient food

Ah it must have been that, thanks for letting me know

Resilient food

Sorry Pablo I did not even realize I reverted your change (don't even recall doing that). I'll be more careful going forward

2Leo2mo
It has happened to me that when trying to make an edit I accidentally click ok on the warning that says "We've found a previously saved state for this document, would you like to restore it?", thus restoring an old version of the article and reverting someone else's edits.
3Pablo2mo
No worries at all. And thanks, once again, for these great contributions!
Resilient food

I've made a complete revamping on the entry based on the current state of the art. Any feedback is welcome.

5Pablo2mo
Hi Juan, thanks for these valuable contributions! I think the article looks great. One friendly (and pretty minor) request: please don't revert other editor's edits without first raising the issue in a comment, unless it's evident that the edit should be reverted. For example, I changed "1st gen" to "first-generation" and you reverted my change (see the Style Guide section on abbreviations [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/style-guide#Abbreviations] for a justification of my change). Similarly with other changes, such as expanding the name of ALLFED (there is no need to provide alternative spellings, abbreviations or full names when the text is a link pointing to a Wiki article that does these things). Thanks again for taking the time to improve the article!
What psychological traits predict interest in effective altruism?

Has EA growth slowed? Has EA reached most of the people who were going to be interested in it? Where are you getting this from?

The Spanish-speaking community is growing fast. I assume there are other countries/languages that are yet to be significantly reached, all of which are bound to have some amount of people with significant E and A factors.

3G Gordon Worley III3mo
Yes, I suppose I left out non-English. I should have more properly made my claim that growth has slowed in English-speaking countries where the ideas have already had time to saturate and reach more of the affected people. I forget where I got this from. I'm sure I can dig something up, but I seem to recall other posts on this forum showing that the growth of EA in places where it was already established had slowed.
Comments for shorter Cold Takes pieces

In response to the following parts of your post:

  • "the only relevant-seeming academic field I found (Utopian Studies) is rooted in literary criticism rather than social science"
  • "most of the people there were literary scholars who had a paper or two on utopia but didn't heavily specialize in it"
  • "Rather than excitement about imagining designing utopias, the main vibe was critical examination of why one would do such a thing"

I know a scholar who heavily specializes in the study of Utopia from the social sciences perspective (history) rather than literaty ... (read more)

[Linkpost] Don't Look Up - a Netflix comedy about asteroid risk and realistic societal reactions (Dec. 24th)

I'll be looking forward to see if/how they deal with the aftermath of the impact, and specifically with the agricultural collapse that would ensue which is probably the most severe consequence of an asteroid/comet impact.

Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

I think I see what you're getting at, let me add a couple of things:

  1. Quorn's mycoprotein is produced from a different microorganism (Fusarium Venenatum), with different growth rates and processing steps than baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), so you are correct. It is more expensive than yeast, and also compared to the gas-based SCPs I mentioned.

Based on a conversation I had with an ex-Quorn scientist, the wholesale selling price of Quorn products is ~$3/kg wet (which makes sense given the intensive postprocessing and other additional steps). I'm... (read more)

Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

Pretty much the only thing currently standing between us and bacterial SCP-based food (such as from methane or CO2/H2) is the lack of approval for use as a human food. Most or all of these companies have shown interest in the human food market, and a few of them are publicly pursuing it, such as Solar Foods. I expect they will be available in the next few years.

As Humbird mentions in the TEA and other sources confirm, the production cost of baker's yeast is well known (~$1.80/kg dry), so no need to run any numbers for that. I'm fairly confident SCP from m... (read more)

3Linch8mo
I think there's two missing steps here. 1) yeast SCP for vegan meat replacement(Quorn) probably has importantly different processes and structure to baker's yeast. So I'm interested in whether it's realistic to expect ~$2/kg for that as well. 2) Humbird's TEA for yeast has both internal validity and empirical validation, and also he made a yeast TEA as a validation step to demonstrate that his model can retrodict an existing system. The secondary reason I asked for you to share the same methods that you've used for bacterial SCPs to get to yeast SCP numbers is so we can help make sure you aren't skipping calculation steps. (But it's probably not worth you doing additional work here if you haven't already done so, just for my curiosity)
Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

Then again, I do believe that you can culture simple cells for a lower cost. I estimated the cost of producing protein-rich single cells from methane at $1-2/dry kg. https://osf.io/94mkg/

However, those numbers are for a bacteria that feeds on gas. The yeast analogy is much closer to mammalian cultures.

3Linch8mo
Oh very cool! I know you/ALLFED is focused on bacterial SCPs from the perspective of feeding earth after disasters, but do you have a quick sense of why we can't have it during normal times? Like what are the relevant timelines/bottlenecks against using bacterial SCPs as a way to partially replace animal agriculture? Also more broadly did you do any BOTECs to look at the cost of yeast SCPs in comparison to bacterial SCPs? Just generally curious if we actually expect bacterial SCPs to have cost savings over yeast (waving away scientific problems)!
Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

I found this really interesting:

Humbird first models a Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) where all parameters are similar to baker’s yeast [...] The analysis comes to $3.87/kg of wet (70% water) cell mass for the constrained yeast process. As yeast production at scale is already a highly optimized process over many decades, and the additional constraints mentioned so far are pretty close to the fundamental biological nature of animal cells, it seems unlikely that we can do better than a lower bound of $3.87/kg. Unfortunately, there are other constraints.

I... (read more)

8Linch8mo
Yeah, and it's an even larger ratio from a moral perspective, at least if we are focused primarily on farmed animal welfare. Of course, 1) just replacing beef is more than enough for a solid business case, 2) you can also try replacing really high-end luxury foods (Kobe beef, caviar, foie gras), where the lower bounds here don't apply, and 3) as you allude to, chicken and pork meat prices may increase. (1) and (2) are more relevant for justifying cultured meat use from a business perspective than from an altruistic perspective. 3) is something I've seen many cultured meat proponents say, but of course we can't rely on it (for starters, chicken and pork meat prices might also decrease ). That said, a moderate possibility that chicken and pork meat prices might increase ought to be sufficient to justify altruistic cultured meat investment, assuming that we can get prices close to parity with conventional meat prices. So 3) is unlikely to be a crux, within reasonable ranges.
3JuanGarcia8mo
Then again, I do believe that you can culture simple cells for a lower cost. I estimated the cost of producing protein-rich single cells from methane at $1-2/dry kg. https://osf.io/94mkg/ [https://osf.io/94mkg/] However, those numbers are for a bacteria that feeds on gas. The yeast analogy is much closer to mammalian cultures.
What is your favorite EA meme?

Good point, but I don't see how you can produce a version of this meme without specific assertions of effectiveness of each of the interventions (without killing the funny) . Alas, it did not pass peer review.

I like the idea, but I think this would be better without specific assertions of effectiveness. Very few people will agree that MIRI is 180% and ALLFED is 240% as effective as GiveDirectly, for example (many people would say much higher; many people would say much lower), and this assertion is totally unnecessary for the value of this image.

Report on Whether AI Could Drive Explosive Economic Growth

I suppose this was briefly touched upon as part of Objection number 1, but could you comment on the apparent coupling between economic growth and energy use? See for example: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/electric-power-and-natural-gas/our-insights/the-decoupling-of-gdp-and-energy-growth-a-ceo-guide#

Is there reason ro believe AI could produce a decoupling of the two?

4Tom_Davidson1y
Hey - interesting question! This isn't something I looked into in depth, but I think that if AI drives explosive economic growth then you'd probably see large rises in both absolute energy use and in energy efficiency. Energy use might grow via (e.g.) massively expanding solar power to the world's deserts (see this blog [http://reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.com/2020/05/terrestrial-solar-energy-could.html] from Carl Shulman). Energy efficiency might grow via replacing human workers with AIs (allowing services to be delivered with less energy input), rapid tech progress further increasing the energy efficiency of existing goods and services, the creation of new valuable products that use very little energy (e.g. amazing virtual realities), or in other ways.
EAGxVirtual 2020 lightning talks

Hello, Juan here. Here's the final version of the paper I mentioned we were working on during my talk for those who would like to know more: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2020.08.011

Thanks for taking the time to transcribe the talks

EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020)

Potential of microbial protein from hydrogen for preventing mass starvation in catastrophic scenarios

My name is Juan B. García Martínez, research associate of the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED). My colleagues Joseph Egbejimba, James Throup, Silvio Matassa, Joshua M. Pearce, David C. Denkenberger and I have researched the potential of microbial protein from hydrogen for preventing mass starvation in global catastrophic scenarios.

As members of ALLFED we are concerned by the fact that the current global food system is critically ... (read more)

Food Crisis - Cascading Events from COVID-19 & Locusts

One important caveat regarding flour fortification with vitamin D3 is that if the flour is used for baking bread, you could be losing 70% or even more of the added vitamin due to thermal degradation: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1750-3841.14764

Regardless, experts seem to think it is a cost effective measure even without accounting for the COVID-19 prevention potential. These researchers estimatd the effectiveness at £9.5 per QALY gained, which admittedly sounds too good to be true: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-019-0486-x