Stephen Beard

69 karmaJoined Edinburgh, UK


I'm a chartered accountant with a background in the start up scene. I'm in the process of a career change, leaving my role as Financial Director of a beer company and instead going back to university to retrain as a computer programmer. I've known and endorsed the key ideas behind EA for four or five years, but I'm new to the EA forum. I'm really interested in most of the key EA areas, but my background is more starting/founding projects and less academic research - so while I love the thought provoking posts, deep down I'm hoping for an exciting idea to pop up that I can get engaged with in some capacity.
The causes that get me most excited are climate change (in particular carbon capture) and economic development (I'm definitely not mainstream on my views on this one). I don't have any interest in AI doomsday scenarios and although I strongly support health interventions in poorer nations as being the best use case of EA thinking to date, I think it can be misleading to focus solely on this at the expense of less easily measured or higher risk projects.


Hi Locke - I'm not 100% sure how seriously nuclear Armageddon is taken in the EA community as I'm also pretty new. I'm just starting a piece of research to try and highlight where specific de-carbonisation efforts will be found (focused on a specific country - in my case Canada). Even though I haven't started I strongly suspect the answer will be agriculture, as it accounts for a very large proportion of emissions, there are many proven, scalable low cost solutions and it seems to me to be very neglected from a funding point of view (I say that based on some brief research I did on the UK) compared to other areas like electric vehicles and renewable energy.   

Hi Dem, I don't really have a defined framework for thinking about existential threats. I have read quite a lot around AI, Nuclear (command and control is a great book on the history of nuclear weapons) and Climate Change. I tend to focus mainly on the likelihood of something occurring and the tractability of preventing it. On a very high level I've concluded that the AI threat is unlikely to be catastrophic, and until a general AI is even invented there is little research or useful work that can be done in this area. I think the nuclear weapons threat is very serious and likely underestimated (given the history of near misses it seems amazing to me that there hasn't been a major incident) - but this is deeply tied up in geopolitics and seems highly intractable to me. For me that leaves climate change, which has ever stronger scientific evidence supporting the idea that it will be really bad, and there is enough political support to allow it to be tractable - which is why I have chosen to make it the area of my focus. I also think economic development for poorer countries (or the failure to do so ) is  a huge issue on a similar scale to the above, but again I believe that it's too bogged down in politics and national interests to be tractable.  

Thanks Kim - I had a read, a very interesting high level summary on these topics.

Thanks - leaving aside the debate on whether nuclear power is unfairly underrated by Drawdown, I'd certainly agree with some of the criticisms. It's a great opening list of ideas, but it excludes unproven solutions which rules out obviously essential solutions like carbon capture and storage. They do not give a cost effectiveness ranking to the solutions and tractability doesn't seem to be a major consideration (from listening to the podcast they have clearly considered this, but not in the depth that EA folk would probably like). Really it's these criticisms that I'd like to start an EA project to address.  I view their work as very helpful starting place, and given the scale of the task of evaluating hundreds of different solutions in depth I have plenty of respect for what they've done.  

Hi All, 

Just introducing myself! I've been an advocate of EA for a number of years but I'm new to the forum. I've spent a while reading though various posts and it's great to see a forum with such a reasonable, open minded and friendly tone. 

Like most people here I'm really interested in how humanity responds to existential threats (e.g. climate change) and global living standards (e.g. economic development in poorer regions). My background has been working in a start up - so I feel very comfortable starting projects, getting things off the ground, discovering something doesn't quite work and then consigning it to the failure list :P 

If anyone has a great idea that they want help getting off the ground then I'd love to hear from you. I'm hoping to have more free time to devote to projects soon as I'm leaving my job as a Financial Director to go back to university to retrain as a computer scientist :)