kierangreig

Chief Strategy Analyst @ Rethink Priorities
1156Joined Feb 2015

Bio

Kieran Greig is the Chief Strategy Analyst at Rethink Priorities. He works with the Leadership Team to advise on Rethink Priorities’ strategy and execution, at all levels. Prior to that, he was the Director of Research for Farmed Animal Funders, a group of large donors who each give over $250,000 annually to end factory farming. He previously worked as a researcher at Animal Charity Evaluators, and prior to that was a co-founder of Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health. He has written about topics like improving the welfare of farmed fish and supporting plant-based alternatives to animal products. He has a B. Sc. from Monash University and a Masters from La Trobe University.

Comments
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Thanks for your engagement! 

Yes, for instance, as mentioned in the appendix, some non-fictitious examples for Global Health and Development are: 

We produced numerous research reports for Open Phil assessing the potential of global health and development interventions, looking for interventions that could be as or more cost-effective as the ones currently ranked top by GiveWell. This included full reports on the following:

  • The effectiveness of large cash prizes in spurring innovation (the report was also shared with FTX Future Fund, and another large foundation).
  • The badness of a year of life lost vs. a year of severe depression.  
  • Scientific research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The landscape of climate change philanthropy.
  • Energy frontier growth (this report explores several of the key considerations for quantifying the potential economic growth benefits of clean energy R&D).
  • Funding gaps and bottlenecks to the deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies.
  • A literature review on damage functions of integrated assessment models in climate change.
  • A confidential project that we won’t give further details on.
  • Detailing the process of the World Health Organizations’s prequalification process for medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and vector control, as well as the potential impact of additional funding in this area.
  • Describing the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List and the potential impact of additional funding in this area.
  • Whether Open Phil should make a major set of grants to establish better weather forecasting data availability in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
  • Further examination of hypertension, including its scale and plausible areas a philanthropist could make a difference.    

And for AI Governance and Strategy respectively, some examples could include the following: 

Ongoing projects include the following: (Note: this list isn’t comprehensive and some of these will soon result in public outputs.)

  • Developing what’s intended to be a comprehensive database of AI policy proposals that could be implemented by the US government in the near- or medium-term. This database is intended to capture information on these proposals’ expected impacts, their levels of consensus within longtermist circles, and how they could be implemented.
  • Planning another Longtermist AI Strategy Retreat for 2023, and potentially some smaller AI strategy events.
  • Thinking about what the leadup to transformative AI will look like, and how to generate economic and policy implications from technical people’s expectations of AI capabilities growth.
  • Mentoring AI strategy projects by promising people outside of our team who are interested in testing and building their fit for AI governance and strategy work.
  • Preparing a report on the character of AI diffusion: how fast and by what mechanisms AI technologies spread, what strategic implications that has (e.g. for AI race dynamics), and what interventions could be pursued to influence diffusion.
  • Surveying experts on intermediate goals for AI governance.
  • Investigating the tractability of bringing about international agreements to promote AI safety and the best means of doing so, focusing particularly on agreements that include both the US and China.
  • Investigating possible mechanisms for monitoring and restricting possession or use of AI-relevant chips.
  • Assessing the potential value of an AI safety bounty program, which would reward people who identify safety issues in a specified AI system.
  • Writing a report on “Defense in Depth against Catastrophic AI Incidents,” which makes a case for mainstream corporate and policy actors to care about safety/security-related AI risks, and lays out a “toolkit” of 15-20 interventions that they can use to improve the design, security, and governance of high-stakes AI systems.
  • Experimenting with using expert networks for EA-aligned research.
  • Trying to create/improve pipelines for causing mainstream think tanks to do valuable longtermism-aligned research projects, e.g. via identifying and scoping fitting research projects.

Interesting point and thanks for raising, Saulius. :)

That specific grant actually hasn’t been made yet. Though we approved of it, I believe it’s waiting on the university to finalize something before the funds are allocated. So, I am going to strike it from the list of grants at the top of the report (I was meant to do this before but forgot to do this even though I removed it from the paragraphs of the payout report, my apologies).

To further address your point though, I think the counterfactuals here are tricky to think about and I wouldn’t confidently claim that wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes. Would be keen for folks to think about both of those more! 

In terms of the quick case for the grant, I think it is more exploratory and probably helpful information to have in case there are significant increases in farmed carmine production in the future. Particularly, I thought that for carmine, it was like the case for wild-caught fish. As in, demand currently outstripes finite supply, so fluctuations in demand therefore mightn't impact current supply much.  E.g.:

"However, demand is rising and because the supply is finite - it is difficult for Peruvian farmers to substantially boost supplies - the price has soared in recent years.

Back in 2013 Peru's exports of carmine totalled 531 tonnes, which was worth $22m. So over the past four years, the price per tonne has risen by 73%." (link)

Further to that, occasionally, I think there are big spikes in price when exogenous events constrain supply. (link

And, if current demand were to sustain or increase it seems like a marginal increase in industry would come from the farmed side. E.g., 

“High demand is fuelling the search for innovative production techniques in order to move away from dependence on the prickly pear, which carries a number of limitations.” (link)

““Habitat for cacti is limited, growth of both host and parasite are slow, and extraction procedures are woefully inefficient,” Dapson says. “Improvements in extraction and purification have been made, but they don’t address the core problem, which is production of the insects.”” (link)

So, exploring alternatives now could more so contribute to reductions on the expansion on the farmed side in the future. Perhaps it, therefore, isn’t too dependent on views around whether wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes.

Good flag! :)

Fwiw, looks like rerunning the analysis with the relative bounds on chicken moral worth being a ten-billionth to a thousandth of a human,  rather than a twenty thousandth to  10 humans, still outputs a mean cost-effectiveness ratio of CCCW to MIF of ~1.3. 

So though it is a pretty significant factor, choosing different values there seems unlikely by themselves to directionally change the output.  

I also don't think that the expected moral weight of more than twice that of a human is that intrinsic to Muehlhauser numbers. Seems like it is more like something of an artifact that comes from putting a log-normal distribution to that confidence interval. 

But I also I think it is all somewhat beside the point that could really be at play:

  • It's unclear that one can compare the “near-termist, human-centric” worldview, to the “near-termist, animal-centric” worldview by just working to put them on the same metric, and then crunching the EV. And further, I don’t think subscribers to the “near-termist, human-centric” worldview will be swayed much (potentially at all) by analysis like that.
  • So idk and I am always confused by this but when I thought about this more a few years ago, I personally think the decision framework might be more along the lines of like: how much credence do I give to "near-term human-centric", and according to it how good is MIF. And how much credence do I give "near term animal-centric", and according to it centric how good is CCCW. And that is more how one gets at how one ought to allocate funds across them.

My understanding is that there is still more money within farmed animal welfare and global poverty than opportunities for funding.

For farmed animal welfare, as per the title: ”We need more nuance regarding funding gaps”, I think it is indeed more nuanced than “there is more money than opps for funding in farmed animal welfare.” 

Quickly consider the likes of:

  • Some of the more outstanding bigger orgs can absorb much more funding, pretty productively (think e.g. THL, GFI, CIWF, MFA, etc.) Across those outstanding big groups alone, quite likely we could easily do an additional ~>$10M/yr on what we do right now.
  • Also, there are some programs that could be scaled up a lot. E.g., pumping further $’s into open access PB research.
  • For some specific types of promising work, like monitoring and evaluation, the bottlenecks do seem to be more about funding (e.g., see FAF’s recent state of the movement report)

On the other hand: 

  • As a concrete example, right now finding opps in parts of SE Asia or the Middle East seems much more of a bottleneck than finding the funding for that.
  • Similarly so, as you probably know, for work on invertebrates ;)

So both opportunity and funding bottlenecks apply at the movement level for farmed animal welfare. But, the nuance is that they really apply to quite differing extents to different parts of the movement.

Hey! Good q :) Apologies for the slower reply- I was OOO for a few weeks. 

So in addition to all those grants being for EA Superstars... I think we may have just made an error in the copy and pasting process between Google Docs and posting here and on the ea funds site. :) 

Specifically the "*" elsewhere (e.g., on Contentful) indicates bolding or italics and we had all these heading parts bolded or italicized (for other grants too) previously. 

I have removed all the * now.

Thanks for asking about it!   

First, I think this is a  really good flag on an important issue and a great first post :)   

As others mentioned CIWF have a good Octopus farming report highlighting the terrible consequences for animal welfare (underrated but I believe that Octopus could live 2-3 years in these conditions). I believe CIWF also presented the report to the Animal Welfare Intergroup of the European Parliament! They have also written to various places (governments, governors etc.) trying to have the practice outlawed or shut down. 

Specifically within some of the key countries in Europe for this, namely Spain and Italy, Equalia and Essere Animali respectively might have interest in working on this. Though so far I am unsure how much either have worked on this. 

However, I guess I’d say prospects for nipping this in the bud from a legislative perspective seem unclear to me. As in, say a country like Spain outlaws the practice of farming octopus (which in itself may be pretty unlikely), then I think a big multinational company like Nueva Pescanova (the company claiming to start the first commercial octopus farm) perhaps just goes to some other country they work in (and they are present in 20ish). 

Further, research labs all over the world (US included) continue to chip away at farming octopus. And if one of the big seafood/fish farming countries in east asia (think Japan and/or China) takes up the helm, which they may as they have both big seafood companies and big domestic markets for octopus, I am really not sure we have the political power there yet (or will for some time) to try and nip it in the bud there. 

A line of reasoning that I am maybe a bit more optimistic about is that perhaps we can nip this one in the bud from a capital perspective? 

Nueva Pescanova (the company claiming they’ll be selling farmed octopus in 2023) has some seemingly poor financials. They went through a debt equity swap earlier this year and had basically declared bankruptcy and then restructured in ~2015

They are reportedly planning to invest over 50M euro to create the farm. The farm will produce 2400 tonnes of finished product annually. The wholesale price for the wild type of this octopus product is ~11,000 euro/tonne (p.13). If that is the wholesale price, it gives ~26M euro turnover a year. I think it also takes more than a year to raise octopuses to be adults so they may not see that for 2-3 years, so maybe that should be modelled as being time discounted. 

Then the running costs for the port facility would involve reportedly employing 450 staff (at ~20k euro each that would come to 9M euro/year). It will also take the equivalent of at least something like a few tonne’s of fishmeal per tonne of octopus (fishmeal at ~1250 euro per tonne) and would guess they have to use feed somewhat more expensive for octopus. Electricity sounds like a big factor too given they wanted to go ahead with the farm in the canary islands (rather than having the farm in Galicia, Spain the companies, headquarters, they looked to the canary islands because the electricity bill there would not be excessive). So might I’d tentatively guess they could be looking at millions of dollars per production cycle in electricity costs.  

All that is probably why they are seeking a grant from the EU to fund this first farm. Otherwise they could be looking at least several years until getting a positive ROI on it. So I think that could be a good thing to target efforts against, as if the EU doesn’t offer funding, plausibly this farm doesn’t go ahead. But maybe Nueva Pescanova would just go ahead with it anyway though, and just absorb some greater initial losses though.  

Same food for thought at least! I guess would be curious to find groups who might want to target that capital side of it now. 

> Also, how do you judge their expected marginal cost-effectiveness? Do you do back-of-the-envelope calculations? Compare to previous projects with estimates? Check the project team's own estimates (and make adjustments as necessary)? All of the above? Any others?

It varies by project and depends on who the grant investigator is. 

If a) the project is relatively well-suited to a back of the envelope and b) a back of the envelope seems decision-relevant, then we will engage in one. Right now, a) and b) seem true in a minority of cases, maybe ~10%-25% of applications depending on the round to give some rough sense. However, note that there tends to be some difference between projects in areas or by groups we have already evaluated vs projects/groups/areas that are newer to us. I’d say newer projects/groups areas are more likely to receive a back of the envelope style estimate. In cases where we do them, we generally look to compare to one’s we have previously done. If the project team submits an estimate (which tends to be relatively rare, again perhaps in that 10-25% range and they can be of varying quality), a fund manager will certainly review and note thoughts during the grant investigation. 


More generally, here are some of the main general things that I’d say we like to look at to judge marginal cost-effectiveness (though note again the extent really depends on the fund manger and the specifics of the application): 

  1. Do they seem to be operating in an area that seems high-impact?
    • Things to look at include:
      • Is it work regarding a large scale and neglected animal population?
      • Or work in a neglected but large-scale geography?
      • Or does this seem like a promising addition to the philanthropic alt-protein ecosystem?
      • Or does this intervention have a relatively promising track record? E.g., corporate campaigns.
  2. Also, do their plans in that area seem reasonable?
    • Things to look at include:
      • Do their plans seem detailed and concrete, and exhibit a relatively deep understanding of the relevant issues?
      • How well do they respond when some alternative approach is suggested?
  3. Combining 1 and 2, when applicable, does some quantitative back-of-the-envelope calculation suggest they impact a high number of animals per dollar spent? Metrics include:
    • How many animal lives improved per dollar in expectation?
    • Or how many farmed animal lives averted per dollar spent in expectation?
    • Or perhaps how many $’s influenced per $ donated?
  4. Are we aware of any going ons regarding that group that should give us pause?
    • Things to look at include:
      • What level of staff retention have they had recently?
      • Has someone reached out to report some infraction that (reportedly) hasn’t been dealt with properly by the group?
      • Are there credible reports of concerns about how the group interacts with other groups in the movement?
  5. What is that group’s current financial position?
    • Things to look at include:
      • Relative to their annual budget, how much funding do they have in reserve?
      • What amount of funding are they expecting to raise from other sources?

The investigator produces a brief write-up summarizing their overall thinking, and assigns a vote to the application. 

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