Vasco Grilo

Research associate @ ALLFED
Working (0-5 years experience)
748Lisbon, PortugalJoined Jul 2020



I enjoy running, swimming, cycling, hiking and playing piano.

How I can help others

Analyses involving desk-based research combined with quantitative modelling or back-of-the-envelope calculations. I really like cost-effectiveness analyses!


Thanks for writing this!

You may want to consider creating a topic for "Samotsvety", where posts such as this could be tagged.

Hi Ben,

Thanks for sharing!

It looks like plane is better. Trusting your numbers, you would save about 200 $ and decrease your travel time by 8 h. I think donating to Founders Pledge's Climate Change Fund (CCF) removes at least 1 tCO2e/$ (see "Conservative impact analysis example of innovation in
neglected tech" of this report), so you could potentially remove 200 tCO2e with the savings. This is much larger than the difference of CO2 you estimated, and so I guess it greatly outweights other environmental impacts too.

In addition, I think there are even more effective options than CCF, e.g. donating to the Long-Term Future Fund.

In Bayesian reasoning, if two distributions for the same parameter are normal, then their combination is too; its mean is the average of the two primary means, weighting by the respective precisions (inverse variances).

I think this refers to the inverse-variance method. I am not sure under which conditions it should be applied, but it minimises the variance of a weighted mean of 2 estimates of the same variable of interest.

Thanks, great to see how sequencing wastewater may eventually help us stop a pandemic. Great work!

Thanks for commenting, Kirsten.

A carbon footprint isn't an equal fraction of the carbon emitted in the world, it's the amount you personally emit.

I agree, but I would say the carbon footprint of the mean human can be calculated by diving the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the total population.

There's no equivalent for x-risk; the world would not be safer if you didn't exist.

I think there is an equivalent for x-risk to some extent. For example, GHG emissions contribute to x-risk from climate change. Similarly, in the same way that some people have a larger carbon footprint, I guess some people have a larger x-risk footprint. For example, people in the apocalyptic residual (see Bostrom 2019) working in a BSL-4 lab would have a larger x-risk footprint than a typical rural farmer in Kenya.

However, I agree the concept of footprint is flawed in many ways. This post was just a calculation I found interesting, and fun to do. As I said above:

In any case, effective donations and other actions are:

  • Better seen as a great way of increasing impact. Thinking about them as a form of offsetting could limit our ambition and lead to a smaller impact.
  • Often complementary instead of mutually exclusive.

I liked the analogy, thanks!

I would be happy to see more work trying to determine whether the seed-pollen ratio is below or above the optimal, based on empirical data and an explicit model of movement building (e.g. building on Owen Cotton-Barratt's model). Intuitions of people involved in movement building would probably be a key input to such work.

Thanks for all the detailed explanations!

Whether the move from A to A+ improves things depends on whether or not B is available.

In my mind, whether A+ is better than A only depends on the goodness of the difference between them:

  • 1) Increase in wellbeing for 10 M people.
  • 2) Additional 10 M people with positive wellbeing.

I think both 1) and 2) are good, so their combination is also good. Do you consider 1) good, but 2) neutral? If so, I would argue the combination of something good with something neutral is something good.

Would you replace your excellent moments with marginally good ones to marginally improve all of the marginal ones and marginally increase your overall average and total welfare?

I definitely would, but I can see why my intuition would push against that. For a typical life expectancy, and magnitude of excellent moments, marginally increasing the goodness of the marginally good moments would probably not be enough to increase total welfare.

The aggregation required in NAE depends on welfare being cardinally measurable on a common scale across all individuals so that we can take sums and averages, which seems plausibly false.

I agree a common scale is required. However, at a fundamental level, I believe wellbeing is a function of the laws of physics and elementary particles. So, as all humans are subject to the same laws of physics, and have very similar compositions, I expect there is a (very complicated unknown) welfare function which applies quite well to almost all individuals.

It's assumed there is positive welfare and net positive lives, contrary to negative axiologies, like antifrustrationism or in negative utilitariaism.

In 2 or 3 surveys in the UK, Kenya and Ghana, most people said they would prefer having lived their lives rather than not having been born (see Chapter 9 of What We Owe to the Future). Naturally, this does not mean that most people have net positive lives, but I would say it is strong evidence that it is possible to have net positive lives (e.g. I think there is at least 1 person in the world with a net positive life). If not in the present, at least in the future.

You need to separately rule out this kind of lexicality with another assumption (e.g. welfare is represented by (some subset of) the real numbers with the usual order and the usual operation of addition used to take the total and average), or replace NAE with something slightly different.

I agree, but I do not think that kind of lexicality is plausible. How can one produce something infinitely valuable from finite resources?

This is the updated link for the (same) Colab model. Due to technical difficulties, I am not able to edit the post.

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