Luke Eure

449Joined Sep 2021

Comments
26

This is a super interesting idea! I like this push for more object-level thinking. I live in Kenya - may be worthwhile to do in the poorer regions here. Heading home for Christmas and maybe I will bring back a suitcase full, then travel around the northern deserts handing them out.

 

Making this really practical, here are the things I'm thinking through on actually doing this:

  • Deciding whether or not to do this:
    • Is any other organization already doing this in the region I would be going to?
    • What is the most likely cause of death in the specific area I would go to? Is it easily treatable?
    • Do more research into these 1/100 - 1/1000 life-saving impact estimates - is this realistic?
  • If I decide to do it:
    • Where do I buy antibiotics in the US? What kind do I buy?
    • will I get in trouble at customs bringing these in?
    • how will I explain to people how to use these antibiotics (especially in regions where I don't speak the language, which may be the areas of highest need?

I'll report back if I go through with this!

 

A few other thoughts:

Strongly agree with your thoughts on safety.

"Just directly physically doing things seems to be high-impact in general" - interesting. Of the four top charities, seems like only Malaria Consortium physically does stuff. The other three seem to fund and support existing organizations who are doing highly effective physical things (1).

In that spirit: I can potentially fund a person or two to go around handing out antibiotics! Let me know if you are reading this and are thinking of doing it but worried about funding.

"I’d guess that each course saves more like 1/100 life rather than 1/1000". Where does this come from? I have no intuition around how likely antibiotics are to help people, so would like to understand better!

 

1. descriptions of four charities from a 5-minute readthrough of their summaires on GiveWell

  • Malaria Consortium: Seems to actually on the ground distribute medicine
  • AMF: Does not actually distribute bednets - funds already existing distributors
  • Helen Keller: "provides technical assistance, engages in advocacy, and contributes funding to government-run vitamin A supplementation programs" - 
  • New Incentives: Provides funding to people to incentivize them to receive vaccines from already government-provided clinics

I'm super excited about this! Seems like there's a lot of potential. Just a few half-thought observations and data points below in case helpful.

A potential  worry about the restaurant-first approach - anecdotally it seems like hip restaurants in places like NYC/Boston/Philly may already doing quite a bit with tofu in different varieties. The mechanism by which food goes from "being used in chic restaurants" to "drastically changing the volume of tofu eaten" probably needs some proving.

 For example the first (non-random) restaurants I looked up has Mustard Seed Crusted Tofu with spaghetti squash. The second just has glass noodles with roasted tofu, which maybe supports your point that it's limited varieties of tofu being used.

It may be unrealistic to expect a modern American restaurant to devote more than a couple dishes to "non-Chinese" dishes. (maybe this is averted if the main channel is things like lasagnas and grilled "cheeses" like you're trying).

 

Potential inspiration: Mtofu is a newish company in Kenya that is markets flavored tofus, eg chorizo substitutes: https://m.facebook.com/mtofukenya/

Hi Guy, I wrote up an update here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/Ee4q4RhbjZTG9DKZ8/update-on-pestering-embassies-to-reduce-non-policy-barriers

I'm happy to give more detail if it's helpful! I don't really think anything I did was particularly impactful due to not understanding the system well enough, and due to "advocacy from Americans" being less of a limiting factor than "political capital within the embassy"

Thank you! Agreed that EA as a community often overlooks the value of protests and social change. Excited to look more deeply into the report

On “backfire” - do you have any view on backfire of BLM protests? I’ve been concerned with the pattern of protest -> police stop enforcing in a neighborhood -> murder rates go up. Seems like if this does happen, it really raises the bar as the long run positive effects protests like this need to achieve in order to offset the medium term murder increase.

But maybe I’m thinking of this wrong. Or maybe this wouldn’t be considered backfire - more of an unintended side effect?

Source: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2022/06/what-caused-the-2020-spike-in-murders.html

Thank you so much! Let me write to Kneedler. May do a FOIA request later too

Absolutely, it's a lose-lose, unforced error.

 

For channels see my comment to Guy Raveh with what I've done so far!

Thanks! See my comment to Guy Raveh with what I've done so far!

Agreed - would love more work visas! Way more impactful. Would love lots more people to work on that as well.

So far what I have done:

  • 3 months ago, talked to a couple friends at the embassy (peers, not super high up)  to understand what the root issue is. They basically said it is a staffing issue, and my sense is that it isn't a high priority. When other mutual friends have asked how to get a visa. In at least one case, when another mutual friend asked, an embassy friend gave tips on how to do the expedited process. You wouldn't get these tips if you don't have a friend at the embassy
    • haven't involved them much since as they don't have power over this, and I don't want to make it personal
  • over the past few months, corresponded with the consular section of the US embassy in Nairobi expressing my frustration and asking who I could talk to to understand the issue. got pat responses - eventually they said "To keep both applicants and our staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of appointments for all of these categories is much lower than normal." which is infuriating BS
  • A few months ago I contacted both my Senators (Iowa) through their online contact forms, asking if they could direct me to anyone. No response
  • This week I wrote a blog post (I have extremely limited reach, post has gotten 33 views) explaining the situation
  • Tweeted this blog post at the US embassy, no response
  • Contacted a journalist friend to see if this was a newsworthy thing that any outlet might pick up. She said potentially, but didn't know anyone specifically who would write on it.
  • I submitted tips online to Kenyan newspapers The Standard and The Daily Nation, African news source The Continent, and the NYT, WSJ, Foreign Affairs. Don't expect anything to come of these
  • This week I emailed Dana L Banks (NSC Senior Director for Africa - got her contact through a of mine friend in Kenya in Democrats Abroad), on the issue. She actually responded! She volunteered that this is an Africa-wide issue (already seemed that way to me but nice I guess to hear they're thinking of it that way). She  Forwarded it to Maureen Farrell (Director for Horn of Africa - NSC)
    • I have found it very hard to find organizational information about the NSC online - don't really know how important these people are)
  • While writing this comment I got a response from Maureen Farrell! They "share my concerns" and gave me the contact of someone at the US State Dept Kenya Desk. I'll email her and follow up.

Next steps

  • write to Mr. Eric W. Kneedler as Weaver suggested below
  • follow up with new contact at Kenya Desk in state dept
  • maybe submit a op-ed proposal to Africa Quartz if I want to write an op-ed myself
  • maybe find some more people to tweet at either in state department or people who work in immigration policy and might have leverage to do something on this

Would love any feedback / further advice on this!

Love this idea! Excited to see this go into action. If the fund gets high returns I think it would be great to have a large pool of funds under control of a broader base of EAs (assuming a lot of EAs contribute to the fund). And I think the brand building getting EA in direct contact with early stage entrepreneurs (and in front of the eyeballs of everyone reading eg TechCrunch and seeing EA Snowball fund listed as a funder) could be powerful.

Biggest concern in my mind is that this becomes a low tier VC - establishing it as a “premium” brand that founders want to have as a funder would be critical I think, so that the EA founders don’t just say “we’ll I’d rather just get an extra 100k from my existing funders and not have to deal with this Snowball fund”

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