Let's make nice things with biology. Working on biosecurity at iGEM. Organizing East Bay Biosecurity from Toronto.


A Biosecurity and Biorisk Reading+ List

I asked an epidemiologist for some paper recommendations and got the following (which I haven't yet read):

I have also had my mind blown a little bit by Virulence evolution and the trade‐off hypothesis: history, current state of affairs and the future. Learning more about viral evolution and evolutionary epidemiology has been fun, but/and I remain uncertain how helpful this is in thinking about high-potential-consequence biorisks.

A Biosecurity and Biorisk Reading+ List

Interesting observation! To be honest, I hadn't thought much about this list from the perspective of it being a portfolio of (types of) expertise, rather than a list of interesting + useful topics.

For what it's worth, epidemiology is one of four topics (along with cell biology, microbiology, and immunology) included under recommended Technical knowledge/Basic science in Gregory Lewis’s “ultra-rough” Global Catastrophic Biological Risks Reading List:

Epidemiology: A sketch of infectious disease epidemiology: surveillance and outbreak detection, some basic understanding of infectious disease dynamics (e.g. R0, attack rate, compartment models).

I do feel that 60% classical epidemiology (if I'm understanding your distinction right; your link gave the definition as "the study of the determinants and distribution of disease in populations") would be too high a weighting in a portfolio aimed at reducing global catastrophic biorisks. I think my reasoning there is based on a belief that GCBRs are most likely to arise from deliberate misuse of biology, and preventing that deliberate misuse is higher priority than developing better responses to natural pandemics. I don't feel terribly confident in this; my response here is pretty off-the-cuff, and I'll try to give this topic more thought.

A Biosecurity and Biorisk Reading+ List

Excellent― one thing I was hoping to get from posting this was links to resources I hadn't encountered yet, so I really appreciate this.

Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

I think it's great to collect responses to posts in this kind of highlights-from-the-comments-on style.

I especially enjoyed the testimonies from various Christians in EA; I fit the "generally godless" descriptor one person used, but I am glad to hear of Christians finding convergence between EA ideas and their own charitable commitments.

This relates to a thing I've long wondered, which is whether there ought to be a version of the GWWC pledge that fits better with zakat, i.e. committing 2.5% of one's surplus wealth to the most effective causes, instead of 10% of income (which fits better with Jewish ma'aser ksafim / Christian tithing traditions).

AMA: Toby Ord @ EA Global: Reconnect

You recently shared a rather sweet anecdote about your daughter volunteering to be the youngest person in the world to take part in a COVID vaccine trial. This got me wondering: how do you think about parenting in relation to your career and commitments as an effective altruist? What crucial considerations (if any) do you think EAs should take into account when thinking about whether or not to become parents?

A Biosecurity and Biorisk Reading+ List

Oh, that's great to hear! That's very much the use case I was hoping this list might help with. As I said in the meta section, if you're feeling unsure what to read next from this rather long list, please feel free to ask for suggestions in the comments!

AMA: Holden Karnofsky @ EA Global: Reconnect

How has OpenPhil's Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness strategy changed in light of how the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded so far? What biosecurity interventions, technologies or research directions seem more (or less) valuable now than they did a year ago?

Don't Be Bycatch

I really liked the encouraging tone of this― "from one little fish in the sEA to another" was so sweet― and like the suggestion to instigate small / temporary / obvious projects. Reminds me a bit of the advice in Dive In which I totally failed to integrate when I first read it, but now feels very spot on; I spent ages agnoising over whether my project ideas were Effective Enough and lost months years that could have been spent building imperfect things and nurturing competence and understanding.

How to run a high-energy reading group

These are great ideas! I love all of the practical zoom-call-management suggestions. Splitting into breakout rooms based on upvoted questions in a Google doc sounds quite fun, I may have to try that.

AMA: Ian David Moss, strategy consultant to foundations and other institutions

Are there theory-of-change-level misconceptions that you commonly find yourself correcting for your clients? What are some of the strategic mistakes you frequently see made by institutions on the scale you advise?

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