Semi-regular Open Thread #35

post by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2016-12-30T22:28:48.381Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 31 comments

We used to have Open Threads on this forum. I was hoping someone would bring them back. No one did. So now I'm the change I want to see in the world.

Use this thread to post things that are awesome, but not awesome enough to be full posts. This is also a great place to post if you don't have enough karma to post on the main forum.

Also Happy New Year!


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Patrick · 2016-12-31T01:36:38.406Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The EARadio podcast is back on iTunes. (The podcast is an aggregation of publicly available talks relevant to EA, such as those from EA Global.)

It had been delisted for the better part of a year, but I failed to noticed because I don't use iTunes. (The most likely reason for its delisting is that it didn't specify whether it contained explicit language, which is now an Apple requirement.)

Subscription links:

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2017-01-06T23:15:20.574Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How hardcore or entry-level is it?

Replies from: Patrick
comment by Patrick · 2021-06-11T01:24:58.629Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This isn't your first EA podcast. This is not so much because the content is difficult, but because it has relatively low production value (it's just EA conference talks in podcast format). The 80,000 Hours Podcast, Hear This Idea, and The FLI Podcast are more entertaining and polished while still being similarly informative, and I'd recommend listening to those first.

comment by IanDavidMoss · 2016-12-30T23:59:47.523Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

In my ongoing and perhaps quixotic quest to bridge the worlds of EA and arts philanthropy, I have a blog post up at Stanford Social Innovation Review that gives effective altruism a shout-out. I also have a more detailed opinion piece on domain-specific EA coming out in the spring print edition of SSIR.

comment by AlexMennen · 2017-01-01T02:05:42.760Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Do any animal welfare EAs have anything to say on animal products from ethically raised animals, and how to identify such animal products? It seems plausible to me that consumption of such animal products could even be morally positive on net, if the animals are treated well enough to have lives worth living, and raising them does not reduce wild animal populations much more than the production of non-animal-product substitutes. Most animal welfare EAs seem confident that almost all animals raised for the production of animal products do not live lives worth living, and that most claims by producers that their animals are treated well are false. However, there are independent organizations (e.g. the Cornucopia Institute's egg and dairy scorecards) that agree that such claims are often false, but also claim to be able to identify producers that do treat their animals well. Thoughts?

Replies from: AviN
comment by AviNorowitz (AviN) · 2017-01-01T19:38:22.621Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I believe funding work on corporate engagement to improve farm animal welfare probably has much higher expected value than any personal decisions about diet. There are limitations in this area regarding room for more funding, but Compassion in World Farming USA is an effective organization that seems to have room for funding in corporate engagement:

That being said, I personally find these questions interesting, and here are some thoughts.

I believe the average beef cattle in the US has net positive welfare. So in terms of direct effects on farm animal welfare, I believe eating beef increases welfare. There are indirect effects though, and some are presumably negative, including climate change, and mice and birds killed in fields for feed production. Other indirect effects might be positive (i.e. reducing insect suffering). There are other reasons why people might want to avoid beef though, such as the view that killing animals for food is inherently wrong, or the view that unnecessary harm to an animal (i.e. castration without anesthesia) cannot be offset by X number of happy days on pasture.

Beef cattle might be alone in this regard. I thought that the average dairy cow in the US might have net positive welfare but I did some more investigation and now believe their welfare is somewhat net negative. Other potential candidates for animals in the US with net positive welfare may be other small ruminants (sheep, goats) but I couldn't find much evidence on the welfare of these animals.

The overwhelming majority eggs in the US come from hens raised in battery cages, which I believe experience strongly net negative welfare. Moving from conventional eggs to cage-free eggs probably substantially reduces suffering. I believe avoiding eggs completely would eliminate suffering even further though, because cage-free has its own animal welfare problems.

"Organic" in the US probably means at least somewhat improved welfare in some animal products (eggs, pork, dairy), and not in others (chicken, beef). Generally organic in the US prohibits extreme confinement, which is relevant for egg-laying hens (bans battery cages), the mothers of pigs raised for pork (bans gestation crates), and dairy cows (bans tie-stalls which ~10% of dairy cows are housed in). Organic dairy also requires that the cows spend some time on pasture.

I haven't spend much time looking at other animal welfare certifications, but I'm skeptical of most of these. I'd note though that Open Philanthropy has issued a grant to the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) which suggests to me that GAP certifications are meaningful. That doesn't mean, however, that GAP certified animal products are from animals with net positive welfare.

I should note that farmed fish probably have net negative welfare, and eating farmed fish is probably particularly harmful because of how long they live (~20x as long as chickens raised for meat). I believe wild fish is probably similarly harmful, because supply of wild fish seems to be constrained and so demand for wild fish probably mostly just increases supply of farmed fish. I mention this because many people have the impression that eating less meat and more fish would reduce farm animal suffering, and I believe this view is likely very wrong.

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2017-01-05T03:48:19.916Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

"Organic" in the US probably means at least somewhat improved welfare in some animal products (eggs, pork, dairy), and not in others (chicken, beef).

Could you explain why the same factors don't apply to chicken?

Replies from: AviN
comment by AviNorowitz (AviN) · 2017-01-07T04:55:46.094Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Organic prohibits extreme confinement such as battery cages, but all broiler chickens (raised for meat) in the US are free to roam around in a shed. The main welfare issues come from rapid growth, poor lighting, poor air quality, overcrowding, transport, and slaughter. Organic broiler chickens must have outdoor access, but this is probably less important than the other welfare issues, and there are no requirements regarding the size of the outdoor area or that the chickens must use it.

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2017-01-08T18:25:09.016Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for this.

Is chickens not going outside a major problem? Their having the option to go outside but choosing not to seems to suggest they prefer inside, and would be worse off if forced to go outside.

Replies from: AviN
comment by AviNorowitz (AviN) · 2017-01-11T16:58:32.983Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It's probably a relatively minor problem. I've read that the chickens often don't go outside because they are afraid of predators and do not like the small barren lots provided, but are more likely to go outside into areas with tall grass and bushes to hide in. I've also heard an anecdote from a friend with pet chickens (rescued egg-laying hens) that the chickens would go outside to a balcony to dustbathe for a few minutes and then quickly come back indoors. (Though in this case, the indoor alternative was a comfortable apartment rather than an uncomfortable shed.)

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2017-01-11T23:05:36.312Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for writing this.

comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2017-01-02T18:23:00.715Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How often do people want to see Open Threads? Are they useful?

Replies from: Castand, IanDavidMoss, Tom_Ash, Sanjay
comment by Castand · 2017-01-03T23:36:45.340Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Monthly or perhaps every 2 months.

comment by IanDavidMoss · 2017-01-03T17:02:09.111Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I would be happy to see them once every other month or so.

comment by Tom_Ash · 2017-01-03T23:19:40.342Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

When we did them once a month they got only a few comments, but I'd say that's no problem and they're still helpful. We added that link to them in the sidebar, so that's a reason to keep them up. We should change the intro text to explicitly welcome people new to EA with any sorts of questions or observations.

Replies from: Peter_Hurford
comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2017-01-03T23:21:58.035Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Standardizing / fixing the intro text sounds good to me.

Is there a way to get the sidebar link to automatically update?

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2017-01-05T21:20:23.831Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, the .impact team has the details - probably neatest if I don't post it here!

Replies from: Tom_Ash
comment by Tom_Ash · 2017-01-05T21:23:02.974Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

(There's a whole set up procedure for them that they follow, including there being once a month. It's part of their procedure for doing the EA Newsletter to post an open thread with its contents at the same time. What sort of a board member are you not knowing every single detail? :p ;) )

comment by Sanjay · 2017-01-03T15:22:40.500Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think it's useful to have a place to post for those who don't have enough karma for a full post. As for "things that are awesome, but not awesome enough to be full posts", isn't the EA facebook group to be a suitable place for this?

comment by Linch · 2017-01-05T23:57:56.984Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

META: The EAForum is usually a vehicle for people to launch reasonably well-researched, interesting and informative articles that they've written, typically ones that are relevant to a decent proportion of the EA population.The comments are then used for subtle disagreements, criticisms, and clarifications.

However, some of the recent posts have been of the form "Hey what do you think of X?" or "Do people have links to Y?" or "Should we do Z", which seems more appropriate for reddit or a Facebook group. Ie, treating it like an actual forum rather than a metaphorical forum.

Do people think (like me) that the classical norms governing the EAForum makes more sense? Or should we allow it to organically develop (or encourage it to develop) into more a forum style communication, with short top-level posts and lots of back and forth?

I am hoping that having regular open threads will solve the problem,so that people who want indexable conversations can be satisfied and people who go to EAForum for the long posts will be happy as well.

Replies from: Peter_Hurford, nexech
comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) · 2017-01-06T03:42:33.443Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Agreed, my hope is that Open Threads will allow the "Hey what do you think of X?" or "Do people have links to Y?" or "Should we do Z" conversations to take place in a better location.

comment by nexech · 2017-02-28T18:36:41.031Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I also think there is some demand for less-formal discussion here (such as in Open Threads, like you say) because of the current somewhat-low population at

I agree that a subreddit could fill this niche, however i am not aware of any currently existing subreddit for this.

comment by Fluttershy · 2017-01-03T00:53:57.980Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good Ventures recently announced that it plans to increase its grantmaking budget substantially (yay!). Does this affect anyone's view on how valuable it is to encourage people to take the GWWC pledge on the margin?

Replies from: Castand
comment by Castand · 2017-01-03T23:38:46.888Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

A sharper way to put the question would be by how much this news should make us discount GiveWell's claims about a $1000 donation can do. (Also because not everyone's going to take the GWWC pledge of course. The key thing is simply that they donate and donate wisely.)

comment by laurencrosta · 2017-03-10T14:30:59.850Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

What is the most pressing healthcare issue in Haiti right now? What can we do to help the situation in Haiti? Is it too late? What is currently being done to help Haiti?

comment by nexech · 2017-02-28T18:40:05.278Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

In Bostromian AI Safety people often talk about human-level intelligence, defined roughly as more efficient mental performance than humans on all tasks humans care about. Has anyone ever tried to sketch out some subsets of human abilities that would still be sufficient to make a software system highly disruptive? This could develop into a stronger and more specific claim than Bostrom's. For example, perhaps a system with 'just' a superhuman ability to observe and model economics, or to find new optimization algorithms (etc) could be almost as concerning to a more vaguely defined 'human-level intelligence' AGI.

comment by glenbanks · 2017-02-08T09:49:40.000Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

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