I'm a quantitative biologist with a PhD in evolutionary theory and currently working in microbiome and metagenomics data analysis and methods development. https://mikemc.cc


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What posts do you want someone to write?

I'd be really interested in reading an updated post that makes the case for there being an especially high (e.g. >10%) probability that AI alignment problems will lead to existentially bad outcomes.

My understanding is that Toby Ord does just this in his new book The Precipice (his new AI x-risk estimate is also discussed in his recent 80K podcast interview about the book), though it would still be good to have others weigh in.

Quantifying lives saved by individual actions against COVID-19

This version that has been making the rounds on twitter makes the point even plainer: Flattening the pandemic curve source

The syntax for embedding images is ![alt text](url). For this and other forum formatting issues, try googling along the lines of "markdown insert image" or "markdown cheatsheet" (still what I do despite using markdown regularly)

Linch's Shortform

We recorded some of the talks and intend to edit + upload them, we're writing a "how to organize a conference" postmortem / report, and one attendee is planning to write a magazine article

That all sounds useful and interesting to me!

Would another post like this be helpful?

I think multiple posts following events on the personal experiences from multiple people (organizers and attendees) can be useful simply for the diversity of their perspectives. Regarding Catalyst in particular I'm curious about the variety of backgrounds of the attendees and how their backgrounds shaped their goals and experiences during the meeting.

Linch's Shortform

Thanks for your report! I was interested but couldn't manage the cross country trip and definitely curious to hear what it was like.

The Intellectual and Moral Decline in Academic Research

Can you clarify the point you're trying to make with the reference to spurious correlations, Will? I don't think the author is trying to make any deep claim about causation here, but just pointing out that a growing amount of taxpayer money is wasted due to retractions. (I appreciate the point from other commenters that this is still presumably a small fraction of the total funding though and so might not be as big a concern as the author suggests.)

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Just a note that the reproduction number can decrease for other reasons; in particular if and as the disease spreads you might expect greater public awareness, CDC guidance, travel bans, etc leading to greater precaution and less opportunity for infected individuals to infect others.

"Altruism-driven research" (EA meets... plant pathology?)

Small suggestion to include the full citation at the top of the post along with the link; The article and journal titles in particular are useful context.

Garrett KA, Alcala-Briseno R, Andersen KF, Brawner J, Choudhury R, Delaquis E, Fayette J, Poudel R, Purves D, Rothschild J, Small I, Thomas-Sharma S, Xing Y. 2019. Effective altruism as an ethical lens on research priorities. Phytopathology PHYTO-05-19-0168-RVW. DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-05-19-0168-RVW.

12 of 14 of authors (including first and last authors) are at the University of Florida and one is at Louisiana State University, both major universities in the US Southeast, and one author is at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Laos.

"Altruism-driven research" (EA meets... plant pathology?)

Thanks for posting this! Very interesting to see effective altruism being directly discussed in this context. I was curious whether EA had been discussed in other academic biology journals. Entering "effective altruism" into the Pubmed search bar brings up four articles,

  1. Funding Conservation through an Emerging Social Movement. Freeling BS, Connell SD. Trends Ecol Evol. 2019 Oct 12. pii: S0169-5347(19)30276-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.09.002. [Epub ahead of print]

  2. Impediments to Effective Altruism: The Role of Subjective Preferences in Charitable Giving. Berman JZ, Barasch A, Levine EE, Small DA. Psychol Sci. 2018 May;29(5):834-844. doi: 10.1177/0956797617747648. Epub 2018 Apr 16.

  3. Effective altruists ought to be allowed to sell their kidneys. Tonkens R. Bioethics. 2018 Mar;32(3):147-154. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12427. Epub 2018 Jan 25.

  4. Framework for integrating animal welfare into life cycle sustainability assessment. Scherer L, Tomasik B, Rueda O, Pfister S. Int J Life Cycle Assess. 2018;23(7):1476-1490. doi: 10.1007/s11367-017-1420-x. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

The last three fall into categories I might have expected -- psychology, ethics, and animal welfare. But I find #1 particularly notable because it is going to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (also known as TREE), which is a high impact review journal that is widely read within ecology and evolution. I suspect this TREE article will be more widely seen by scientists than the Phytopathology article in the OP, though perhaps the title of the article will only appeal to the subset of TREE readers working in conservation biology.

EA Giving Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019: Instructions for Donors

After doing a 5$ practice donation, I re-examined the instructions at https://www.eagivingtuesday.org/instructions/us-500-or-more and understood you are suggesting get to the "confirm donation page" before the 8am start time. But I think if the recommendation to start the donation prior to 8am was in the "In a nutshell" section I would have figured it out sooner. You might consider editing the third sentence in the first bullet of the "In a nutshell" section to something like "We recommended starting the donation process prior to the official match start so that you are able to click the final "Donate" button within the first second after the match start time of December 3rd, 2019, at 08:00:00am EST (05:00:00am PST)."

I think part of my (slight) confusion might be captured in your language "We're recommending donating within the first second"; by "donating" you mean click the final Donate button whereas I naturally interpret this as meaning do the entire donation process.

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