Excellent post, and the timing is great!
It may be possible to support good work by WHO and others with PR as well as cash, highlighting work they do in smaller countries where pandemics could start (Laos, Liberia, LA!)
There must be specific aspects of pandemic prevention which are neglected in some places, and a nonprofit or campaigning group could make the difference?
I can imagine donations/legacies from many who died or were affected by COVID-19, so there's no time to lose!
The growth of ALLFED.info could be a model? My first step was to find an author who wrote a book, and ALSO wanted things to happen, but you could equally pick a report from WHO or Gates or Michael Minha?
This journal could be useful:
Yes lobbying prevents charity / nonprofit registration in the USA, but advocacy doesn't.
Does this have implications for preference utilitarianism?
I'm fine with external measures of health, income etc. My concern about most wellbeing and life satisfaction theories would be a failure to distinguish between specific desires/wants and universal needs/values. Work in psychology by Abraham Maslow and Marshall Rosenberg points to positive wellbeing coming from satisfying a rather limited but universal list of needs or values. Economist Manfred-Max Neef has assembled these into a list of just 9 needs.
This seems to me much better than a single hedonic scale or global desire rating, and it also avoids the problem of how to deal with long term issues like climate change.
Hi Alexei - I love it!
I notice I felt happier just seeing the title, so on hedonic grounds you've succeeded already :-)
I'm scared to mention these two additional options, but perhaps they should be there for overall completeness in a brainstorm which isn't immediately requiring proofs on any of the options, and in a post where "Happy minds" is mentioned as an objective:
1. None of these solutions seem highly plausible, so that means we are not too far away from philosophies and concepts about immortality that are historically (but not exclusively) linked to major religions. Cultivating an "immortal soul" and going on to an "afterlife" may be high risk, and thought ridiculous by many, but on the plus side it is at least attemptable, within a single lifetime. The buddhist concept of "clear light" and "rebirth" (rather than reincarnation as in Hinduism) might also be interesting, as it doesn't rely on the concept of a soul. See also Shankara's "nonduality".
NB I'm not asking or recommending anyone to "get religion" or saying religion is "true" but that their concepts sometimes find analogues in science and reality, so can be useful for brainstorming completeness, that's all.
2. If we take a more reductionist / psychological approach and reduce the problem to ...
(a) despair in the futility of doing anything in an impermanent universe or
(b) fear of death and so a desire for immortality ...
... it might be worth considering despair work, distraction strategies, fear work, anti-depressants and other mind-altering strategies, so that these emotions become less problematic.
If someone suggested that these two strategies could also be psychological evasions, I'd have to agree, but maybe that applies to all of them?
The ultimate truth may turn out to be, "nothing works, and all life is doomed!" So perhaps we need ....
3. Acceptance therapy?
This has come up a lot, for example I was involved in discussions with Delhi and Seoul airport about installing a UV disinfector for baggage handling. We couldn't get good evidence in favour, whereas the evidence for ventilation was strong. It might be useful in very clean contexts, or changing rooms, or where ventilation/hand washing is not possible. A prime concern is that UV depends on line-of-sight, and sufficient time and proximity to the UV source.
I think there is evidence that wind or ventilation is highly effective both in hospital and domestic/public settings ( see findings tab of covidinfo.info, staff safety section ) as long as not with air lower than 40% relative humidity.
Are you sure hand washing, bleach/cleaning, humidity control and maybe room ionisers wouldn't be more reliable, effective and cheaper, perhaps in combination with ventilation?
Also, for those with high prevalence deficiencies, secondary prophylaxis with Zn, Se, D3 etc and co-factors for absorption from gut (Mg) or into cells (quercetin) could be very cost-effective, as it's already recommended for other health reasons, especially daily vitamin D.
Considering just one of those, humidity, here are two papers and a podcast on the role of humidity in preventing infection and (surprisingly) reducing severity:
Generally, with COVID19 and its virus, whenever an article is confident about a single technical or medical fix, I have found it worth being skeptical, and interrogating the data, and comparing to other options, especially if they seem boring, unglamorous, hard work or expensive by comparison.
At ALLFED we are wanting to use available data sources from UN, risk agencies and others to highlight vulnerability, exposure, risk and missing recovery capacity in food systems 18-24 months ahead, which gives time to build some capacity on a preparedness basis.
There is other data work to do which Prof David Denkenberger could tell you about.
Would you be interested to have a call about this?
>I like the idea of building "resilience" instead of going after specific causes.
That's almost exactly the approach we took in ALLFED, treating the more likely GCR and Xrisk scenarios as a "basket of risks"...
... and then looking at how to build resilience and recovery capacity for all of them, with an initial focus on recovering food supply.
We now have more than 20 EA volunteers at ALLFED, in a range of disciplines from engineering to history, so clearly this makes sense to people.
>For instance, if we spend all of our attention on bio risks, AI risks, and nuclear risks, it's possible that something else weird will cause catastrophe in 15 years.
Most likely a "cascading risk scenario" ... (as covid is, without yet being a GCR) ...
.... or what EA Matthijs Maas calls a "boring apocalypse".
>So experimenting with broad interventions that seem "good no matter what" seems interesting. For example, if we could have effective government infrastructure, or general disaster response, or a more powerful EA movement, those would all be generally useful things.
yes the DRR (disaster risk reduction) discipline gave us structures and processes, and enabled us to bridge across to UNDRR, a profession of disaster people, insights into preparedness-response-recovery which we are scaling up to whole-continent and whole-planet scale, etc
Brilliant to raise this topic, and I like what you wrote but both diagrams are weak. For me a good diagram shows very specifically how a single change will be achieved, and shows if there is too long a chain for success to be likely.
Regardless of diagrams, we all have conscious or unconscious theories of change, and many (especially in climate change) have been useless.
The classic unconscious theory of change is:
brainy guy does research > publishes > civil servants write a policy > wise politicians decide > funds are allocated > policy is implemented well
The main weakness here is that it's a very long chain, with many obstacles in each link.
Compare to coal industry's ToC, which they learned from Big Tobacco:
"create confusion about climate science" + "capture Congress" > block all carbon tax proposals nationally and internationally
Good ToC for EAs involves:
For "natural conservatives", this may sometimes involve finding ways of opposing harmful change, and proving that some policies are a bad idea, or need fine tuning.
Just a note that under the Sendai Process, UNDRR is now considering Xrisks, largely thanks to input from James Throup of ALLFED and Prof Virginia Murray, and will go on to consider cascading risks, sometimes called the "Boring Apocalypse" (ref EA Matthjis Maas).
I appreciate your post Brandon. I think there's a clear case that education and being able to exit survival level of poverty and knowing that your health and your children's education are secure enables people to focus on other things (demonstrated again in recent Basic Income research).
Development and poverty reduction is very helpful but perhaps not sufficient: response capacity and good leadership is also needed, as we have seen in the pandemic?
For finance ministries isn't the key first step some clarity on whether mental health spending improves mental health more than, say, improved housing, social security, children's parks etc?
(Obviously postpartum depression and other specific mental health issues could be an exception.)