PhD in physics (thermodynamics of ecosystems) and in moral philosophy (animal rights), master in economics, researcher in health and welfare economics at KULeuven, president of EABelgium, environmental footprint analyst at Ecolife


What is the argument against a Thanos-ing all humanity to save the lives of other sentient beings?

I wrote some counter-arguments, why we could prefer human lives from an impartial (antispeciesist) perspective:

Why EA groups should not use “Effective Altruism” in their name.

Good points, but I'm a little tiny bit skeptical. So those people who join the group under the name of PISE but would not have joined the group when it was called Effective Altruism Erasmus, I wonder if that is due to the reasons that were mentioned (that the -ism suffix reminds of something religious, makes the name too unfamiliar, too difficult, associated with elitism...). If that would be the case, I would be surprised if those people are potentially high impact effective altruists. To put it overly simplistic: suppose someone would not join because of the word altruism in the name. The person does not like that word or does not even know what it means (like I don't know what "Marnaism" means). How can such a person (who has such a cognitive bias towards words, is so hypersenstitive to the use of a single word, thinks that an -ism word is too difficult, makes strange associations with religion, or does not even know what altruism means) expected to become a rational, intelligent, self-critical, scientifically literate high impact effective altruist? In the PISE group there are members who should come to the conclusion that if the name were different, they would not have joined? Do the group members realize that? 

Differences in the Intensity of Valenced Experience across Species

About split brain; those studies are about cognition (having beliefs about what is being seen). Does anyone know if the same happens with affection (valenced experience)? For example: left brain sees a horrible picture, right brain sees picture of the most joyfull vacation memory. Now ask left and right brains how they feel. I imagine such experiments are already being done? My expectation is that asking the brain hemisphere who sees the picture of the vacation memory, that hemisphere will respond that the picture strangely enough gives the subject a weird, unexplainable, kind of horrible feeling instead of pure joy. As if feelings are still unified. Anyone knows about such studies?

Differences in the Intensity of Valenced Experience across Species

That anti-proportionality arguments seems tricky to me. It sounds comparable to the following example. You see a grey picture, composed of small black and white pixels. (The white pixles correspond to neuron firings in your example) The greyness depends on the proportion of white pixels. Now, what happens when you remove the black pixels? That is undefined. It could be that only white pixels are left and you now see 100% whiteness. Or the absent black pixels are still being seen as black, which means the same greyness as before. Or removing the black pixels correspond with making them transparent, and then who knows what you'll see? 

EA's abstract moral epistemology

Thanks for the answers, really appreciate it

An introduction to global priorities research for economists

Thanks, this is exactly what I needed. Now I also need a list of researchers who are interested in collaboration on one of these research topics :-)

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D


about the 10.000 years assumption: that is only used to calculate a high estimate of clean meat R&D. I'm not so worried if that is an overstimate.

My calculation assumes indeed no diminishing returns for clean meat R&D. I don't expect diminishing returns in the short run, when so much need to be researched. In my model, the decreasing neglectedness accounts for diminishing returns. When funding and investments by others increses to 1 billion dollars, the cost-effectiveness decreases with a factor 10. Anyway, the point is that clean meat R&D is a good opportunity in the short run, for the next 10 or 20 years.

ACE's CEA methodology is different indeed, but Im not convinced that it is really incomparable to mine. A basic assumption is that ACE's top charities who are not involved in clean meat (i.e. the charities except Good Food Institute), are not capable of eliminating animal farming before clean meat can.

The CEA of leafleting could be an overestimate indeed. The study that I did, was not randomized controlled.

About missing the impact of animal advocacy: I'm sceptical about the possibility of attitudinal change: just like the expectations of leafleting were too high (not strong evidence of behavioral change), the expectations about other animal rights advocacy could be too high as well. The case for clean meat is different: in the past we already have striking examples of animals being replaced by more than 90% within 50 years due to new technologies (e.g. horses -> cars, whale oil -> kerosene, messenger pigeons -> telephone/telegraph, sheep wool -> synthetic fibers, animal insulin -> human recombinant DNA insulin, rabbit skin tests for cosmetics -> human skin tissueand perhaps now movie animals -> CGI animals). These transitions were independent from animal rights campaigning.

I do see much room left for attitudinal change, in particular moral circle expansion (see e.g., but perhaps after 10 or 20 years, when clean meat is already well on track and lost its opportunity for more funding (and returns diminished). Also, once people automatically decrease their animal meat consumption, they suffer less from cognitive dissonance, which means attitudinal change might become easier.

I'm skeptical about the welfare reforms strategy. For me to be indifferent between the current welfare reforms and an X% reduction of animal farming, I think X is very low, probably lower than 10%. For example cage free eggs: I don't believe that, if all battery cages were abolished and chickens had free range, that count for more than a 10% improvement in welfare, and probably a 0% in animal rights. Given moral uncertainty, I put some probability on a rights-based ethic where animals should not be used as merely a means. Also, some of the future possible welfare reforms could be so difficult, that clean meat (or animal-free eggs) will arrive sooner, making the welfare reforms campaigns obsolete. Also, welfare campaigns are also much less neglected than clean meat R&D.

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

Sorry, I'm not following. The gain is independent of C, and hence (at given U and F) independent of the expected time period. Assume x is such that cell-based meat enters the market 1 year sooner (i.e. x=F). Accelerating cell-based meat with one year is equally good (spares U=0,1.10^11 animals), whether it is a reduction from 10 to 9 years or 100 to 99 years. Only if C/F would be smaller than a year, accelerating with 1 year would not work.

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

Thanks! I assumed indeed a zero discount rate, because I believe the disutility of farm animal suffering in the future counts the same as the disutility today. Perhaps one could use a very small discount rate, to account for a human extinction probability, but then again, when humans are extinct, there will be no more farm animal suffering. I guess a higher discount rate matters when utility measures greenhouse gas emisions saved. Reducing 1 ton CO2 now is more important than 1 ton later (because in the future the carbon absorption capacity by forests, oceans and carbon capture and storage technologies will be bigger). However, I think cell-based meat will enter the market within 10 years, so I don't expect C/F to be very big.

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

The basic (in my opinion realisitic) assumption is that other people invest in cell-based meat R&D anyway, and that in the business-as-usual scenario (where you do not fund anything) no other strategy (technology, intervention, vegan outreach campaign,...) will be able (even with more funding) to abolish animal farming before cell-based meat enters the market at competitive prices. Suppose cell-based meat arrives within a few decades and eliminates animal farming in say 50 years, whereas another, next best strategy would eliminate animal farming in 100 years. Suppose that this other strategy was less costly, for example requiring only 10 million euro funding per year over a period of 100 years to abolish animal farming, whereas cell-based meat would require 100 million euro funding over 50 years. And suppose that other strategy was more neglected, for example receiving only 10 million euro funding per year, compared to 100 million for cell-based meat. Even then, extra funding for that other strategy would not be effective when it is impossible to speed it up such that it will eliminate animal farming within 50 years. When that other strategy takes more than 50 years anyway, it will become obsolete anyway in the business-as-usual scenario where cell-based meat arrives earlier and eliminates animal farming earlier. A global coordination such that all cell-based meat funding goes to that other, less costly strategy, is not effective (not so feasible). Hence, the most effective thing to do for us, is to accelerate that cell-based meat research, such that it enters the market one year earlier. That saves an extra year of animal suffering and greenhouse gas emissions. If other strategies received more funding, there is a likelihood that they make cell-based meat obsolete, and this consideration is included in the 10% probability of cell-based meat eliminating animal farming.

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