All of Xing Shi Cai's Comments + Replies

The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism | The New Yorker

It takes a lot of courage to look into the abyss and try to build a bridge across it. Most people would not even look into it.

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

I had trouble of having enough sleep lately. Often I woke up early and could not go back to sleep again. Last night I took 0.3mg melatonin and this morning I missed my alarm clock and slept for 9 hours straight! 😲

It may be because that I slept for only 6 hours the night before, but it has never happened before that I would not wake up by alarm clocks. But this is a promising beginning.

Thanks, updated!
EA Forum feature suggestion thread

Please remove Google resources, like Google fonts, from the website. It will make it easier to visit the website from certain countries.

We appreciate your feedback! We will explore how to better support users without Google access.

The Case for Rare Chinese Tofus

Thanks for the tips. My mum happened to have left a bit of Suji in my freezer. I will give it a try.

The Case for Rare Chinese Tofus

As a vegan who lives in China now, I am grateful that there are at least 15 different types of tofu in my local grocery store. My favorite is called vegetarian chicken --素鸡/265385

4George Stiffman6mo
Suji is incredible! We've been calling it "Shanghai tofu" in our book, since vegetarian chicken can sometimes be misinterpreted as a mock meat. Funny enough, if you freeze and thaw it a couple times, the crumb becomes very bread-like. Stew it in a creamy, sweet sauce, refrigerate it overnight, and it will have an almost "tres leches cake" consistency. Such a cool ingredient!
It's OK to feed stray cats

There is also the problem of the detrimental effect of a cat population on birds.

We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality.

To be clear, this was an indoor foster cat, formerly a stray.

Should I fly instead of taking trains?

Why does trading donations help? And how can I find people to trade donations?

It mostly helps when there are rule-bound matching funds available. Let’s say you think CATF is a very effective charity when it comes to issues you care about, and that Good Food Institute is somewhat less effective. Person B has the exact opposite perspective. If there’s an [] style matching opportunity, and you give $200 to CATF, [] will only match $100 of that ($300 total for CATF). Likewise for Person B and GFI: her $200 becomes $300 for GFI. If you find each other through the EA Forum and coordinate to split your $200 personal gifts and each give $100 to CATF and $100 to GFI, then EVERY dollar you both give will be matched. So each charity receives $400 instead of $300 from the same level of donations from you and Person B, as your giving is 100% matched — instead of 50% only.
Giving Tuesday 2020

Unfortunately, it does not seem that I can do this from outside US. Maybe there should be a program which allow foreign donors to give money to a trusted organization to do it on their behalf in US.

Be a Stoic and build better democracies: an Aussie-as take on x-risks (review essay)

I wrote a blog to introduce EA to modern Stoics.

I think EA could also learn a few things from Stoics. Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars is a good and short book.

Ambitious Altruistic Software Engineering Efforts: Opportunities and Benefits

It is mostly designed to be as open as possible. In terms of function, it is mostly just a clone of

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Don’t forget sleep apnea. I recently got a diagnosis and treatment. Felt much better now.

Ambitious Altruistic Software Engineering Efforts: Opportunities and Benefits

A quick comment on open source Twitter. There is one called mastodon. I tried it and it works well. Only problem is that no one is using it. That is the problem for any new social media.

2Yonatan Cale9mo
Does it have an advantage around promoting good discussions (or something similar), or is the main/only advantage being open?
6Ozzie Gooen9mo
Yea, I looked into it a bit. I'd imagine that an EA project here would begin by evaluating Mastodon more and seeing if we could either: * Use it as is * Fork it * Contribute to the codebase * Sponsor development to include features we particularly want I would love to see it take off, for multiple reasons.
Insomnia: a promising cure

It probably depends on each person's situation. When I read it, I was very worried about sleep. I had a very elaborate ritual to help me to fall asleep, which did not work that well. I think reading the book helped to me to adapt a more accepting attitude to insomnia. Now I actually do not think about insomnia much, but only follows some common sleep hygiene measures, like avoiding screen, sleeping on time and getting up on time, etc. It works reasonably well.

Insomnia: a promising cure

There's book on insomnia that has helped me a lot -- The Sleep Book: Sleep Well Every Night by Guy Meadows

An insight of this book is that, sometimes it's because we go to extreme length to fight insomnia that we make it worse. Accepting that insomnia is part of a normal human life, may actually reduces it severity.

2John G. Halstead1y
I tried that book and didn't find it helpful. Last time I checked there wasn't much evidence that the method he proposes works
Some promising career ideas beyond 80,000 Hours' priority paths

I happened to have met someone working in formal verification. What they do is to use SAT solver to check if a railroad switching system works as expected. I don't think they would consider them doing AI security. But for software used in critical infrastructure (like railway), it is an important safe measure.

Candy for Nets

As we go I'm going to continue to try very hard not to pressure or manipulate her, while still giving advice and helping her explore her motivations here.

Where do you draw the line between education and manipulation? Do you consider punishment and reward necessary in educating children?

Testing Newport's "Digital Minimalism" at CEEALAR

Isn't 2h TV per day a bit too much? Why not read some books.

1Kurt Brown1y
I plan to do a lot of reading already. And I don't anticipate watching 2h of TV every day, this is just my upper limit. If I think I'm watching too much, I'll change the rule--maybe to 6h/wk or less, or only with another person, etc.
Is impersonal benevolence a virtue?

She is a virtue ethicist, so she believes the best way to live a good life to develop virtues in ourselves. The reason she gives it that being a virtuous person, on average, is the best bet to flourish, e.g., having good health, satisfying career, happy family, etc. But she rejects that "impersonal benevolence" is a virtue. Thus, for Hurshouse, a person can still be virtuous and live a good life even if she does not care at all about strangers whom she has never met. To be honest, this is the most problematic part I found in her thesis.

Is impersonal benevolence a virtue?

I like your answer. Thanks for all the replies!

3Aaron Gertler1y
Thanks for the discussion! I realize that I was mostly explaining my own instincts rather than engaging with Hursthouse, but that's because I find her claims difficult to understand in the context of how to actually live one's life.
Open Thread: July 2021

Just watched the documentary Seaspiracy I knew a trillions of acquatic animals are killed each year. But seeing the impact of the fishing industry on screen is really shocking.

A ranked list of all EA-relevant documentaries, movies, and TV series I've watched

Seaspiracy is a great documentary. Truly shocking. I knew trillions marine animals are killed each year by fishing. But I did not realize the ocean may become empty in a few decades.

Is impersonal benevolence a virtue?

Of course Hursthouse's account of ethical naturalism could be mistaken. (I am not totally satisfied with it either). But I just don't see how morality can be seen as "objective" without appealing to human nature in some way. (I know Derek Parfit has a book On What Matters defending moral objectivity. But I have not had the guts to dive into it.)

As for "impersonally benevolence", I agree that it doesn't necessary has to conflict with the well-being of one's family. For example in Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality, Peter Railton argue... (read more)

6Aaron Gertler1y
The best answer here, the one that actually lets us try to live our lives by reasonable ethical principles, seems to me like "morality isn't conflict-free and humans aren't perfectly consistent". The whole point of EA is that standard "ethical" systems often fail to provide useful advice on how to live a good life. No one can be perfectly virtuous or benevolent; all we can do is act well given our circumstances and the options in front of us. How does this interface with the question of objective morality? You can either say "morality is objective and people are bound to fall short of it", or "morality is subjective and I'm going to do what seems best to me". Either way, as a subjectivist who judges other people through the lens of my own moral opinions, I'm going to judge you by how your actions affect others, rather than by whether they all hang together in a rigorous system.
Is impersonal benevolence a virtue?

I feel that rejecting ethical naturalism necessarily implies rejection of moral objectivity. Thus we will have to accept ethical relativism, which amounts to moral nihilism.

There is a chapter of Strangers Drowning which tells the story of an American missionary who had worked in Africa with her family, including two young children. During their time there, her children was almost kidnapped by a mob. But she persisted and kept working there. Eventually, she had to come back to American for the benefit of one of her children, who has intellectual disability... (read more)

5Aaron Gertler1y
Which of the four items on Hursthouse's list do you think are impossible to reject without embracing relativism? And why do you think those ideas are necessarily linked together? I may be confused, but I don't see why "ethical naturalism" has to be tied to virtue ethics. It seems wholly consistent to me for people to believe in objective morality, and to believe that this morality is impartial benevolence. It also seems reasonable to believe that if everyone really tried to practice impartial benevolence, we'd end up with a healthy and thriving society. Imagine a small village where all children are communally cared for by adults who love them equally — must this be impossible or unnatural? There's a chapter of Strangers Drowning which tells the story of Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman, who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to highly effective charities while raising children who seem healthy and happy (they just had their third!). This is very unusual even in rich countries, but is a perfectly reasonable strategy for people who can afford it. (I work with another family doing the same thing, and their children also seem happy and healthy.) I think this example shows that you can strive to be far more "impersonally benevolent" than most people while still providing for your family, with the result that hundreds of other families live better, happier lives.
Writing about my job: Internet Blogger

If you keep writing on a topic, maybe one day you can publish a collection of your blog posts as a book?

I've wanted to do this for a while, but haven't yet amassed enough material on a topic to consider it a very coherent work. But someday...
All Possible Views About Humanity's Future Are Wild

I found it a bit baffling why people are afraid of a super AI take over. If they can do everything humans can do, why don’t let them take over the burden of exploring the galaxy?

I recommend The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity [] by Kelsey Piper
6Aaron Gertler1y
There are lots of places you can read about this. Two of my favorite "starter" posts are: * Superintelligence FAQ [] * Wait but Why on superintelligence []
Not all actions humans are capable of doing are good.
Book Giveaway Impact Analysis (Doing Good Better in NZ)

I have a feeling that if the argument of EA can motivate a people has a lot to do with a person's natural disposition and circumstance. It would be hard for many people to give away the notation that "we should take care only of ours". And it's also difficult for someone with a lot of personal issues to think about others. People who have the time and energy to actually read a book of EA perhaps are already disposed to accept its ideas.

What are the long term consequences of poverty alleviation?

"The graphs that show so much recent progress in the developing world—on poverty, on hunger, on education and infant mortality and life expectancy and gender relations and more—are, practically speaking, the same graphs that trace the dramatic rise in global carbon emissions that has brought the planet to the brink of overall catastrophe." -- The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Jumping in Front of Bullets vs. Organ Donation

How much time do you think you have to decide if to jump in front of the bullet? 1 second? 5 second? How far to the future do you want to consider? One generation or two? How likely the bullet will hit your livers or other organs suitable for donation? What if you live for too long afterwards and pass the age limit for organ donation? Will the shooter stop shooting immediately after seeing your sacrifice? Why? Who is the person you want to save? …. Whatever the end result of this analysis is, I don’t think it’s going to be helpful for you or anyone in a ... (read more)

Lessons from Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar

It's a good book even just for entertainment. Hope you will like it.

[Podcast] Suggest a question for Ben Todd

Some people want only their own or their family's happiness and do not care about strangers much, let alone future of generations. Do think the career advice on 80000 hours can still be helpful for them? In what way?

Book recommendation -- The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard

Another important argument from the book that I forgot to mention is that buying carbon offsetting is almost always wrong. Here is a podcast making the same argument --

3John G. Halstead1y
Yep - that's a key argument and I think he is right. Offsetting is likely harmful in my view.
Open Thread: July 2021

If you are interested in carbon offsetting but not sure about it’s effectiveness, check out this podcast

2Melissa Bedinger1y
Just because I'm excited this is being discussed here...this Kate Aronoff article [] might be good further reading.
3Madhav Malhotra1y
I also recommend this ProPublica Report [] !
newptcai's Shortform

I recently came across a search engine Ecosia and I would like to recommend it to EAs. The company promises to use its a portion of its profit to fund re-forestation projects. Their website claims that they have planted 128 millions trees since its launch. People who have looked into it (here and here) found the company is legitimate.

From my experience, it works well for most searches, but sometimes you do need Google. Fortunately it's very convenient to specify search engine in firefox. I found this is a very easy way to do a bit good which cost nearly ... (read more)

3Aaron Gertler1y
The "Ecosia" link was broken, but I fixed it. You'll need to use https:// links in Markdown comments if you want them to work.
Open Thread: July 2021

Hi, I would recommend you read Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard. The author is a Canadian economists who has advised many regional and national governments. Since he's Canadian, the book also talks about his experience with Canadian politicians. Here's a review I wrote -- You can just read the 1st and the last chapters if the book is too long for you.

1Yevgeny Liokumovich1y
Thank you for the recommendation! I will read Jaccard's book.
Which cause should I choose -- Climate Change or Global Poverty?

Thanks. According to GivingGreen, carbon offsetting is indeed not very effective. So I am thinking of donating to organizations promoting policy changes such as Clear Air Task Force.

My impression on the impact of climate change mostly comes from Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency by Mark Lynas. There is an episode of 80000 hours podcast interviewing Lynas if anyone is interested.

How do other EAs keep themselves motivated?

I listen to the podcast BBC world report every morning. It covers stories from everywhere and very often the news are not so good. Wars, conflicts, disasters, pandemic, etc. I listen to it not because I enjoy such things but to remind myself that there are many many people suffering on this world and I must do part to help.

I also like to read some ancient Roman Stoics, such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca to help myself to stay strong and not be overwhelmed by all the problems the world is facing now.

Should aid organizations accept ETH donations?

I'm aware that Ethereum has just announced that they will switch to Proof-of-stake. I hope they succeed, but I am not optimistic about it. If you are patient enough, here are 1580 comments on this topic --

Should aid organizations accept ETH donations?

Why is electric usage a weak argument? BitCoin alone consumes 144.28 TWh per year. That is more that what Sweden consumes a year. And what we get for this in return?

Given that we are talking about Ethereum, Bitcoin's energy usage is completely irrelevant to this discussion expect for Ethereum having the best chance to stop Bitcoin from wasting so much energy.
4Will Bradshaw1y
Is this based solely on the electricity usage? You haven't given any other reason why we should assume that crypto money was obtained unethically - and the electricity reason seems to be a pretty weak one to me.
Would anyone be able to help me decide between Economics PhD offers?

Planet money podcast has an episode about how economists look for jobs themselves -- Episode 769: Speed Dating For Economists : Planet Money : NPR. Here's another episode about sexism in the field Economics, Sexism, Data : Planet Money : NPR. You may find them useful for your research.

Should you do a PhD in science?

Oh, I am going to start advise undergrads on career choices soon. Many of them will want to go to graduate schools. So I would like to give them some cautions. Please let me know when your article comes out. Good luck with publishing it!

Should you do a PhD in science?

Have you published your results?

2Abby Hoskin1y
We are writing up the paper now! We sampled in 2019 and 2020. We used the PHQ9 to measure to depression and the GAD7 to measure anxiety. Happy to answer any questions if you have :)
Should you do a PhD in science?

The survey includes also teaching positions.

Should you do a PhD in science?

That is true. But since US is already producing so many PhD, I guess it’s unlikely that a very large portion of these positions are filled with foreign produced ones.

How to identify your local high impact career opportunities - process and tips from EA Sweden

I happened to have met some from this Stockholm based company Meepo. They donate a portion of their profit and made the App for The Life You Can Save pro bono. It may be interesting to check their job openings if you are in Sweden.

Great suggestion! They've been on my radar since they launched the TLYCS-app but I didn't think of adding them to the list. I added them as an opportunity now :)
Five Books of Peter Singer which Changed My Life

Thanks. That's an interesting article. Though as one of the comment says "What’s wrong with evolutionary biologists?" It is by nature a highly speculative domain. But if we accept evolution theory is the best way to explain how life evolves on earth, why cannot we use it to explain human evolution?

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