Research Engineer @ National Renewable Energy Laboratory
643 karmaJoined Nov 2014Working (6-15 years)


I develop software tools for the building energy efficiency industry. My background is in architectural and mechanical engineering (MS Penn State, PhD University of Maryland). I know quite a bit about indoor air quality and indoor infectious disease transfer, and closely follow all things related to climate change and the energy transition. I co-organize the local EA group in Denver, Colorado.


Answer by MatthewDahlhausenMay 26, 2023102

Liz Specht at the Good Food Institute wrote this response in the NewScientist:

*"Scientists developing cultivated meat agree that R&D-scale methods won’t work for large-scale production. The non-peer-reviewed environmental impact study you reported on assumed commercial production of cultivated meat would rely on pharmaceutical-grade media to feed the cells – which food manufacturers won’t need to use (13 May, p 11).

Its findings deviate from other published research and don’t reflect current or anticipated practices. Recent peer-reviewed data demonstrates that food-grade ingredients can support animal cell growth, and producers are actively developing the supply chain for these ingredients.

A peer-reviewed study in The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, based on input from many cultivated meat companies and media suppliers, showed that producing cultivated meat at scale using renewable energy could lower climate emissions by 92 per cent and use 90 per cent less land than conventional beef.

Just as we wouldn’t assess the environmental impact of solar panels based on 1980s prototype production methods, we shouldn’t assess cultivated meat’s potential impact using R&D-scale processes. To deliver on cultivated meat’s potential to help satisfy growing demand for meat, reduce climate impacts and create space for more sustainable farming, governments must develop sustainable, large-scale production."*

Possibly cheaper, and less ozone production.

This article hasn't been peer-reviewed, so don't read into the results too much. The CO2e/kg estimates are 10-100x higher than previous studies. And while the author doesn't claim a conflict of interest, all the authors are at UC Davis in the same college as the Clear Center, a beef-industry funded advocacy organization. I don't think academic work should be dismissed outright for an apparent unstated conflict of interest, but it does warrant extra scrutiny. I'd be much less skeptical if this came out of another university.

Here's a related comment from last year: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/nopFhTtoiyGX8Bs7G/uvc-air-purifier-design-and-testing-strategy?commentId=ZywtAzPB2Ci5PLfPC

UV systems have been around for ~100 years. They work great in some specific applications. Newer UV-C technology is a marginal improvement, but doesn't significantly address the cost, design expertise, and maintenance challenges that have kept UV systems from widespread use. Air filters are generally better for most applications. I do expect we will see more UV-C systems in particular applications, but it is far from the one-technology-to-rule-them-all solution that the EA community seems to think it is. This follows a historic pattern of the EA community generally over-hyping singular technology solutions to major problems in other cause areas, probably because of the techno-optimist worldview that many EAs have.

See ASHRAE's guidance on filtration and air cleaning technologies for more details and comparisons: https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/filtration-disinfection

I agree with a succinct, workable change based on your recommendations:

(1) EVF board seat should be elected by GWWC members in good standing.

I'd be interested in a chart similar to "Proportion of GWWC Pledgers who record any donations by Pledge year (per cohort)", but with 4 versions (median / average donation in $) x (inclusive / exclusive of those that didn't record data, assuming no record is $0). From the data it seems that both things are true: "most people give less over time and stop giving" and "on average, pledge donations increase over time", driven entirely by ~5-10% of extremely wealthy donors that increase their pledge.

Do you think the EA community comparative "smartness" is real, or is it an example of the Lake Wobegon Effect compared to other youthful social-do-gooder movements?

It's comedy, but it's also pretty spot on. My only nitpick is it should be 200 years, not 400 years. Not doing harm would be a big step forward in addressing poverty in developing countries.

  • Many developing countries are under crippling debt that forces them to forgo basic services for their citizens. Around half of this debt is taken out by dictators and never used to help the citizens of the countries responsible for the debts. . There are many instances where IMF and World Bank insist on collecting debts in full knowledge that the funds weren't used for the benefit of the citizens, and that doing so will kill many people through famine or lack of basic services.

  • As recently as last decade, governments were still paying money to former slave owning families as compensation for their financial loss when slavery was banned. Haiti is an iconic example. I can't think of an instance of large national government paying reparations for the harm it caused through slavery.

Sure the West isn't to blame for everything, but it is far from innocent in the perpetuation of poverty.

If sections 1 and 2 were their own post, I wouldn't have strongly downvoted, but I probably wouldn't have upvoted either. Investing advice isn't new or interesting to me.

There is some interest in investing; our local group even ran a 6-week course on socially responsible investing in the fall that was well received. Importantly, the person giving it didn't use it as an advertising opportunity. They were just genuinely interested it the topic and sharing what they learned.

Is it ever ok for EAs to share one of their for-profit solutions? Yes, but generally only in response to a specific request. For example, if someone posts on the EA groups slack channel they are interested in productivity resources, it would be ok to mention your productivity tool in response. Unprovoked advertising is never well received, because advertising doesn't have the best interest of the audience in mind.

"Group differences in IQ is right around the corner, and if you’re going to maintain any kind of commitment to rationalism you’re going to have to either stop yourself before getting on that train or take it to its logical destination."


Eugenics or "human biodiversity" isn't a new idea and is incredibly toxic to most people. It has no place in the EA movement. If you let it anywhere near the movement, the only people that will remain are contrarian right-wingers that care more about being edgy and provocative than helping people or other animals. And also those who enjoy hanging around contrarian right-wingers (maybe they find them endearing or something? idk).

Speaking as a group leader for a local EA group, if someone tried to start a conversation on HBD and its assumed "logical destination" at a group meetup, I would immediately and permanently ban them from the group. It is incredibly hard to bring in different perspectives that lead to good decisions and better normative ethics. One conversation like that is enough to permanently lose many people I want in my group. If banning a few disagreeable right-wing "rationalists" who like to talk about HBD means lots of other people stay, I'll gladly take that trade-off.

For those who think a ban is too harsh: go read the article linked to in this post, read several other top posts from the author, and read the comments from the blogs followers.

There are plenty of contributions right-wing ideas and disagreeable rationalists can make to the EA movement. Many of the movements best ideas come from those who identify that way. Just not the kind demonstrated in this post.

[EDIT] I'm puzzled by the disagreement votes, so adding some more context: In the linked blog post, Richard Hanania writes "A free market in ideas is like a free market in any other good or service. It ends up with Asian and white men on top who are there because they’re simply better than everyone else. Movements uncomfortable with this naturally get swallowed by wokeness."

I think it's pretty clear that what Richard Hanania and the post author mean when they say "anti-woke" is that they think EA should entertain operationalized racism and sexism. Anti-racism and anti-sexism are commitments wildly shared by EA community builders. If being anti-racist and anti-sexist is "woke", the majority of EA has been "woke" for a long time and does better because of it.

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