All of Rockwell Schwartz's Comments + Replies

Examples of someone admitting an error or changing a key conclusion

Last week, EA NYC had a lightning talks event themed around "Something I Changed My Mind About" and I'd encourage others to host similar events as a low-key and fun way to encourage this community norm.

Cause Exploration Prizes submission: bivalve aquaculture

I appreciate the effort you've put into this and I hope in this comment I don't discourage this sort of investigation. I think it is laudable and valuable, and I hope you continue doing research on potential cause areas. That said, there are several assumptions this works off of that I think are at best questionable, if not outright incorrect. Some of these were noted in the comments of your earlier post, but do not seem to be addressed in this updated version. I am concerned by this given the potential significant harm of EAs adopting bivalve farming as s... (read more)

3Brian Lui9d
Thanks so much for your response Rockwell, really appreciate it. The detailed inspection of the supporting evidence is really valuable for me, because it helps improve the quality of the thesis and so that we all have a more accurate understanding of the benefits and drawbacks. I’d also like to share my thoughts in more detail on some of the points you raised. I believe that plants comprise the largest category of protein because they are much cheaper than meat or seafood. They are an inferior good [] in an economic sense, compared with meat as a normal good, and seafood as a luxury good. As incomes rise, people consume a higher proportion of meat. (This is also why asking people to substitute plants for meat generates resistance) For a less technical viewpoint, evidence comes from a poll [] of people's food preferences of their most liked foods. Going through the list and excluding the items that don't contain significant amounts of protein, it looks like almost all of the most liked foods are entirely meat, or mostly meat. There are one or two exceptions such as Bibimbap or Fajitas, which have only a small amount of meat. Generally, plant foods are not the favorite foods unless they are made into sweet desserts. It seems intuitively obvious to me that bivalves substitute for meat, since if you want to substitute for a normal good, you’d be willing to do so with a luxury good but not with an inferior good. But I don’t have a citation for that. A blogpost [] about this says: “A recent meta-analysis and systematic review reviewed the available research on this subject (both peer-reviewed and conducted by advocacy organizations to inform their decision-making). So what have we learned? Trying to convince peop
Fill out this census of everyone who could ever see themselves doing longtermist work — it’ll only take a few mins

Can you explain how the locations listed as potential places for people to move were selected? Are they locations that have a certain number of longtermist org headquarters that don't accommodate remote employees? I'm biased, but I was surprised NYC wasn't listed. And in general, I think this sort of suvery can end up propagating certain community-level perceptions through what is included and what is omitted (e.g. implying Boston, DC, and SF are longtermist hubs, but NYC is not).

New cause area: bivalve aquaculture

Non-EAs are receptive to a proposal to substitute bivalves for other meat. They are not receptive to proposals to go vegetarian/vegan. Bivalves are also healthier than plant-based meat. Therefore, bivalves are the most effective way to reduce overall animal suffering.

I'd like to see evidence for each of these three claims, as I don't think they're all (wholly) accurate.

And, as discussed a bit in other comments here, I also have serious concerns about what bivalves experience.

Supposing bivalves are in fact capable of suffering, might it still be economical to farm them in a way that causes almost no suffering? Presumably they don't suffer from confinement the way most animals do...
EA NYC is Hiring for Multiple Roles

Thank you! Expect to see some major updates on the NY EA Center space in the next week or two!

Snakebites kill 100,000 people every year, here's what you should know

Thank you for this write-up! I want to flag that in addressing this problem and possible solutions, there are also significant implications for (wild) animal suffering—e.g. Rileyharris's note about antivenom requiring "milking" of captive snakes and Cienna's comment about predator-play interactions—and I would hope any solution would take this into account in a meaningful way.

I burnt out at EAG. Let's talk about it.

I'm sorry you had this experience. I'm glad you're doing better, were able to put names to some of what happened, and shared it here.

I did not have the exact same experience, but I did have a week of retreats pre-EAG. By Monday, I was too tired to maintain a conversation with my travel partner and I have spent most of the week catching up on sleep and feeling uncharacteristically antisocial.

Two actionable ideas:

  1. Although it makes sense logistically to pair EAG(x)s with retreats and other events, spacing them out might be better. At a minimum, we should impl
... (read more)
Yes to Swapcard all year round!! People didn’t reply to my messages from Sunday evening, but I guess it’s solvable as most people have their emails there.
I feel anxious that there is all this money around. Let's talk about it

Here's a link to two other thoughts that seem less directly relevant to your question. 

FYI, this just links to this same Forum post for me.

Thanks, fixed.
I feel anxious that there is all this money around. Let's talk about it

but it concerns me that entry level positions in EA are now being advertised at what would be CEO-level salaries at other nonprofits

I share these concerns, especially given the prevailing discrepancy in salaries across cause areas,  (e.g. ACE only just elevated their ED salary to ~$94k, whereas several mid-level positions at Redwood are listed at $100k - $170k) and I imagine likely to become more dramatic with money pouring specifically into meta and longtermist work. My concern here is that cause impartial EAs are still likely to go for the higher salary, which could lead to an imbalance in a talent-constrained landscape.

My concern here is that cause impartial EAs are still likely to go for the higher salary, which could lead to an imbalance in a talent-constrained landscape.

I have the opposite intuition. I think it's good to pay for impact, and not just (e.g.) moral merit or job difficulty. It's good for our movement if prices carry signals about how much the work is valued by the rest of the movement. If anything I'd be much more worried about nonprofit prices being divorced from impact/results (I've tried to write a post about this like five times and gave up each time). 

Announcing Alvea—An EA COVID Vaccine Project

EA Consensus
I agree that there is not a consensus and my impression is that this is an area of genuine inconsistency among EAs, though I can't speak to the distribution. I have had conversations with several EAs who either share Marianne's sentiments or feel a significant degree of uncertainty about where they stand, both specifically about Alvea and more generally about tradeoffs of this nature. I don't see their perspectives typically expressed or represented here on the Forum.

Caveating as a Norm
My impression is that even among animal-focused EAs who agr... (read more)

Announcing Alvea—An EA COVID Vaccine Project

I'm disappointed this comment was heavily downvoted as even if people have strong disagreements it is at least a valid perspective to raise. I would like to hear more from the Alvea team about why they went this route and if there were opportunities for harm reduction.

I mean, it seems like given the potential upside of the project, the downside from animal testing would have to be quite large to be worth avoiding (or the cost of avoiding it very low). The comment also implies a consensus about EA that seems straightforwardly wrong, i.e. that we have strong rules to avoid harm for other beings. Indeed, I feel like a very substantial part of the EA mindset is to be capable of considering tradeoffs that involve hurting some beings and causing some harm, if the benefits outweigh the costs.