All of RayTaylor's Comments + Replies

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Yes that would be better.

(But be careful of sunburn, especially in the tropics and at altitude!)

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

The decision may be between IR melatonin and ER 5-HTP which is a precursor:

"For some people, taking melatonin will help induce and maintain sleep. However, melatonin supplements usually only work if a person has low levels of melatonin in their system (this situation is commonly found in elderly persons). In other words, if you have normal levels of melatonin, taking melatonin supplements won't be as effective in helping you sleep.

That's where 5-HTP comes in. Since it works on serotonin as well (a... (read more)

1Derek15dThanks. I tried 5-HTP a few years ago and didn't notice any benefit, but maybe I'll give it another go.
Sleep: effective ways to improve it

More than you would think - a lot from kitchen, some from (newer) furniture, some faecal matter from mites, house dust which is largely human skin, cleaning chemicals, ozone, positive ions (the bad ones) from laptops especially Macbooks, mould spores, etc. 
but in may countries the original source of 'household' (indoor) air pollution is actually from outside the home: (read more)

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

The main effect is on training the subconscious to associate certain times of day and places with sleep, and other times/places with activity. 

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Being outside daytime and keeping the bedroom area for nighttime use are both known to be helpful which is why they are part of CBT sleep hygiene. 

You're right that it's not linked to vitamin D, which is via the skin not the eye/pineal/melatonin circuit.

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

I find the ReTimer glasses much easier to use, £120 and portable for travelling.

Sleep: effective ways to improve it

Thanks for opening this topic. It's important to realise there are different kinds of sleep problem, so different people will need different solutions:

  1. sleep onset 
    (which tends to be due to stimulation too late at night; CBT sleep hygiene works well for this, if done diligently, and limiting coffee etc)
  2. early morning waking 
    (which tends to be due to stress-anxiety-depression or large amounts of alcohol)
  3. low sleep quality 
    (which can be due to a range of things but alcohol and the wrong medication is a classic cause; Mirtazapine is popular, but h
... (read more)
No More Pandemics: a grassroots group?

Yes interested, have messaged.

Another good model is EIA (Environmental Investigations Agency) and their very targeted policy and action work on HCFCs, which led to the ozone-depleting gas emissions being discovered in China recently.

I think World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and IMF have a strong incentive to help prevent future pandemics, and they have much more money to deploy than WHO.

CMU Prof  Loh is working on this and has a project: 

Dignity as alternative EA priority - request for feedback

Thanks for raising this Tom.

"Dignity" is among 9-80 considerations, all of which are highly solvable.

That's 7-80 depending how you list/categorise/boundary them ...

... and Tom I'm sorry if this response appears to complicate what would otherwise be a simple pleasure-dignity duo!

Economist Manfred Max-Neef has 9 which don't translate too well from Spanish but here they are: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation, creation, identity and freedom. In this scheme/categorisation, dignity could be part of identity, protection

... (read more)
No More Pandemics: a grassroots group?

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 could be a model? My first step was to find an aut... (read more)

No More Pandemics: a grassroots group?

Yes lobbying prevents charity / nonprofit registration in the USA, but advocacy doesn't.

Life Satisfaction and its Discontents

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.

3MichaelPlant1yYes, very probably. There are many different types of preference/desire theories ('preference' and 'desire' are generally used interchangeably), depending on which sorts of desires count - I say a bit about this in the paper and provide some links to further reading. If, as I argue, life satisfaction theories of well-being are really a type of desire theory going by another name, that the concerns apply to those life satisfaction/desire theories. I note that my objections are to a particular class of desire theory, so someone attracted to desire theories in general might just switch to a different one (e.g. from a global to a summative desire theory). Re Maslow and Rosenberg, whether well-being comes from those things depends on what you think well-being is, which is the substantive topic at hand. If the best theory of well-being is that it consists in life satisfaction then whether hypothesised 'universal needs' are, in fact, determinants of well-being is a factual question - we need to go ask people about their life satisfaction, collect some data, and crunch the results. Maybe, in fact, the proposed need for "identity" makes very little difference to life satisfaction. However, if one argues that well-being literally consists in the fulfillment of universal needs, e.g having your need for "identity" met is intrinsically good for you, then that well-being "comes from" those things is true by your definition. It's not all obvious to me that a pluralistic conception of well-being is theoretically preferable (that is, one where more than one thing is instrinically good for us). As I mention right at the end of the paper, one awkward issue is how to combine different seemingly incommensurable goods - how does one trade-off units of 'identity' vs 'affection' if one wants to have high well-being ? Another challenge is providing a compelling story for why, whatever goods are chosen, it is those, and only those, that are good for us.
4RomeoStevens1ythe matrix of the Neef model is pretty cool. []
How to Survive the End of the Universe

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 (b... (read more)

2avturchin1yInterestingly, if no God exists, then all possible things should exist, and thus there is no end for our universe. To limit the number of actually existing things, we need some supernatural force, which allows only some worlds to exist, but which is not part of any of these worlds.
Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics

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 domesti... (read more)

What opportunities are there to use data science in global priorities research?

Hello Evelyn

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?

Ray Taylor

The case of the missing cause prioritisation research

>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 atten... (read more)

Do research organisations make theory of change diagrams? Should they?

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 im
... (read more)
Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future

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 re... (read more)

2MichaelA1ySuper cool to hear that UNDRR will be considering existential risks! Are there any links to public statements or white papers or whatever mentioning that yet? If not, could you say a little more about this new consideration might entail for their work? (I'd also understand if it's too early days or if this info is somewhat sensitive for some reason.)
5MichaelA1yJust wanted to add the link and abstract to the boring apocalypses paper, for any readers who may be interested: Governing Boring Apocalypses: A new typology of existential vulnerabilities and exposures for existential risk research [] (That's indeed just the abstract; not sure why it's three paragraphs long. Also, disclaimer that I haven't read beyond the abstract myself.)
1bshumway1yYes, the US pandemic response in particular is evidence that the wealth of a country does not seem to be the most important factor in effective response to threats. Also, the “boring apocalypse“ scenario seems much more probable to me than any sort of “bang” or rapid extinction event and I think there is a lot that could be done in the realm of global development to help create a world more robust to that kind of slow burn.
HLI’s Mental Health Programme Evaluation Project - Update on the First Round of Evaluation

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.)

EA Cameroon - COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention in the Santa Division of Cameroon Project Proposal

It's nice to see the photo - is that the team, and are there more details about the people doing the project somewhere?

What will be the monitoring and evaluation of outcomes, and how will spending be accounted and tracked.

1brb2432yHello Ray, That is a part of the team. Community leaders (not pictured) will be also engaged in recording the show in local languages and answering questions regarding details of any of the preventive measures in their local communities. The idea is to collect baseline data on following the preventive measures (and case incidence, if possible) in a town within the radio and newspaper reach and in a comparable town outside of the reach of the two. After one month, the results will be evaluated and further steps taken accordingly. The spending will be accounted and tracked by EA Cameroon. It may be a great idea to post updates on spending.
COVID-19 in developing countries

so glad to see this discussion

who are you RootPi and can you reach me at

COVID-19 response as XRisk intervention

Excellent, especially as I very much agree!

Is there a Price for a Covid-19 Vaccine?

We didn't get a vaccine for SARS-1 in time to be useful, and we don't have one for the 4 endemic coronaviruses, and it seems very likely that covid19 will become endemic/seasonal, so it is possible that much money spent on vaccines will be wasted, as many don't work, and most arrive after the 3rd and final wave. Also they may give only 6-12 months protection so may need to be repeated annually, and it's hard enough getting people to do an annual flu vaccine.

So if you really have that money available, it may be better to spend it on

# im... (read more)

2gavintaylor2yThe author mentioned veterinary vaccines near the end of the post. I search around this and was surprised to find there are already commercially available veterinary vaccines [] against coronaviruses (that link lists 5). This raised my expectation that a human coronavirus vaccine could be successfully developed.
How bad is coronavirus really?

It depends if you define "coronavirus" as the virus, or the whole cascading scenario we are in, and whether you take account of fear, coms and incompetence*.

If you consider India, where the scenario includes a national lockdown and secondary deaths from involuntary migration, loss of health services, malnutrition, impoverishment, a huge hit to the economy etc, this is really bad, and comparable to the 1930s, even in the context of malaria etc.

(Apology for not adding links/refs - I'm v busy on ALLFED pandemic work.)

If we had had preparedness ... (read more)

Prioritizing COVID-19 interventions & individual donations

Thank you for this excellent post and analysis Ian - I've been working on the pandemic since January and still learned a lot.

1. This "crisis" seems to me a huge opportunity for changes in how we do education. I'd love to see posts on that, or does someone have links?

2. I think working on covid could more broadly help with preparedness for cascading risks, GCR and Xrisk. Sahil Shah at is learning and doing a lot on this, with FAO, WFP and others, but it would be great to see metta level work also, pulling out lessons learned ... (read more)

1IanDavidMoss2yHi Ray, thanks for these reflections and ideas. In response to your first question, I know someone working with EdTech Hub [] on this issue. You can find their COVID-19 response here [] .
Setting Community Norms and Values: A response to the InIn Open Letter

I have noticed similar challenges in other movements on and offline. Two approaches have proved helpful (contact me for refs fore the first):

(a) an ombudsman service (ombudsperson?) which can initially be tried out in one part of a movement. This can be accessed by those in official positions as well as users or people affected by an EA's behaviour. The people involved don't have to be older, but do tend to have a "calm, considered" nature. Such a service typically doesn't go as far as offering a full mediation or arbitration serv... (read more)

Introducing CEA's Guiding Principles

William I wonder if EA is also, whether we accept this or not, a part of a wider/older historical effort?

I don't mean just people like Esther Duflo at the MIT Poverty Lab, health economists, bottom billion / development economists, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and its social wellbeing research, Oxfam, IDS Sussex, public health people, epidemiologists and (obviously) utilitarian philosophers ....

... but also older roots such as Quakers like prison reformer Elisabeth Fry and anti-slave trade groups, or various buddhists and Christians prioritising health... (read more)

EA Survey 2018 Series: How welcoming is EA?

I'm appreciating this exchange. I wonder if part of the problem stems from the word welcoming*, especially as selection bias naturally tends to neglect those who didn't feel welcome. This could especially be a problem for assessing how welcome women feel, if what's happening is that many quickly don't feel welcome and simply leave.

One way to overcome this would be to set up a contact list for a group of male and female people attending an intro event. Even 10 of each (and 5 others) could be useful, not for statistical significance but f... (read more)

Which nuclear wars should worry us most?

For me, the ones we should worry about are the ones which are most likely in the next 5-9 years.

If I understand the history (eg. several occasions when a USSR-USA nuclear war was almost triggered due to software errors) and the scenario analysis (ie. all the ways something similar could happen via the smaller nuclear powers) - the biggest near term likelihood is of an "accidental" regional nuclear war in the Middle East, perhaps because one country erroneously believes it is being attacked, or because one country has had its chain of command hac... (read more)

Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA

I'm not sure that offsetting is better than nothing - it may actually be harmful:

1. Offsetting fools people into thinking that their emissions from (eg) flying can be "made harmless" in some way, whereas the bald physical reality is that for flight emissions, they are the most dangerous emissions, in the most fragile part of the atmosphere (apart from ESAS methane release, and long term impact of HCFCs and HFCs).

2. It's harmful to help persuade people it's fine to pollute and pay, rather than actually reduce actual emissions, espec... (read more)

Effective Altruism Is Exploring Climate Change Action, and You Can Be Part of It

yes nice summary

I liked the Founders Pledge work on this also:

I agree there's an overlap with poverty and catastrophic risk. I used to work on cloud feedbacks and options for slowing global warming, but (seeing the slow progress of governments) I switched to working on a possible consequence of climate change, namely multiple bread basket failure (MBBF) and abrupt global famine, and how to prevent that. So with David Denkenberger I co-founded - could ALLFED be considered a climate initiative in the new review?

Why not to rush to translate effective altruism into other languages

Concerning translation, it can be a mistake to imagine it's necessary to translate the whole of texts, or large texts.

Instead, translating a title and summary, or first paragraphs, or a contents page or back cover of a book, can be enough to help people decide in if they want to translate the whole thing into their own language, or read with the help of google/dictionary.

Why not to rush to translate effective altruism into other languages

If anyone out there is interested in supporting EAs in India, or visiting EAs in India, please feel free to message me via ....or join the Effective Altruism India Facebook group

Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED) Progress Report & Giving Tuesday Appeal

Thanks Aaron!

"what's the path to reaching policymakers?"

I like this question, and obviously we don't want a Yellow Brick Road, leading to a grand figure with no practical power.

[A quick reply, without references, so please read as illustrative/descriptive rather than definitive. This isn't a full answer to your question Aaron, but I hope it gives some impressions of how things are developing in our approach.]

Initially we were keen on reaching policymakers, and we still are to a considerable degree, but we've discovered the fo... (read more)

Why we have over-rated Cool Earth

I think a step back might help.

First we might decide that effective campaigning on climate might have more per dollar effectiveness in medium and long term than local action. Jim Hanssen himself, or WWF, or EIA, or Operation Noah, or COIN, or Plane Stupid might therefore be better causes even if they cant demonstrate short term carbon reduction.

Second, carbon is not the only or even the most powerful warming gas, so in the long term, we might think organisations like WWF and EIA (UK) working on super-powerful greehouse gases like HCFCs have done more than ... (read more)

Should there be an EA crowdfunding platform?

Perhaps a trial version could be created which is not for money, but just for kudos?

EA-GoKudoMe ?!

Two links on how to create a crowdfunding platform:

Long Term Future Fund: November grant decisions

Thanks for sharing your thinking.

You must have got some interesting applications, and individual EAs might want to fund or help fund them.

Could there be a way now or in future to facilitate exchange of info to maker this possible? (With politeness?)

I imagine this has come up before. What were the unsolved blocks?

[Declaring an interest: I submitted and didn't get funded.]

9Habryka3yI personally don't see a major problem with this, but do think that individualized applications were very valuable to us in making the grant decisions (i.e. we asked specifically how a project will affect the far-future, a question that might not be asked in a standardized application). Obviously we would never want to share applications without asking the applicants first, but it seems pretty plausible to me to add a checkbox that you can check in your application, which if checked will publish your application publicly so that other funders can also take a look.
Effective Altruism Making Waves

Nice. And even more so if you broaden the definition of EAs to include people who would have been EAs now if EA material had been available at their college eg. older people and mathematically inclined Quakers and Universalist Unitarians.

Remote Volunteering Opportunities in Effective Altruism spans across Poverty Alleviation, Health and GCR/X-rsik with GCR impact on food importing nations and developing countries as a priority.

We need researchers, developers, financial, IT/web, country specialists, major languages and actually almost anyone can be found a role of some kind, so if you want to save the world (really!) contact or Ray on +447765477305

Why Groups Should Consider Direct Work has high value direct work - do contact us!

(poverty prevention / recovery from GCR catastrophe)

0adamaero3y []
Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

Don't just try to be more inclusive, include!

ie. go to where women and BME people already are, find those who also want their altruism to be effective, and see how they are ALREADY organising themselves, and support that....

....rather than imagining that we can co-opt THEIR skills and talent into OUR network!

It may be that we are not the ones who are best placed to shift the EA network to something more welcoming to women and BME people. I'm not saying effort isn't worthwhile, and valuable in itself, it is. but forming an alliance may be much more viable... (read more)

Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA

did this happen at the MeetUp? outcomes?

0Denis Drescher5yOops, too long ago; I don’t remember. But I don’t think I updated any more that evening. Not entirely sure.
Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA

Good points, but I would go further, having worked in this field both with meteorologists and politicals.

Individual Offsets are easier than behaviour change to do, so a handy sop to guilty conscience of middle class people, who want to keep driving and flying, so perfect for self-deception.

More here:

Thus offsets at individual and local level = advanced greenwash, wrapped up as an environmental project.

In fact, most offsets are deeply flawed and many, particularly renewable energy projects (which may he... (read more)

Effective Altruism, Environmentalism, and Climate Change: An Introduction

Great Evan! Will try to contact you.

On Global Catastrophic Risks, relative risk of extreme weather vs abrupt climate change etc and health+food system recovery it's worth contacting Prof David Denkenberger an EA from GCRI.

(I work with him on, and before I came to EA on, which is an alternative to climate engineering, more like climate restoration, with support from NASA and Prof Peter Cox and others - difficult but possible.)

I think you should maybe include a section on common weaknesses of both EAs and... (read more)

Save the date for EA Global in August!


I hope there will be a way for people living in other continents to connect virtually?

.... so that in future there could be an event in China, India, Maldives etc?

(Maldives and Seychelles are among the easiest countries for all nationalities to get visas)

A Long-run perspective on strategic cause selection and philanthropy

Appreciating this thread.

Is there an online forum or group or email list where global catastrophic risk and responses is discussed seriously?

0RyanCarey7yHere is one of the best places for discussion. The other is LessWrong. I hear FLI ( also has a blog platform planned. CSER [] , GCRI [], MIRI [] and GiveWell [!forum/newly-published-givewell-materials] also provide updates on their progress from time to time,