DonorsChoose (recommended by an Experiment friend). I haven’t seen yet whether these projects do report back, but the infrastructure is there for following up about whether the project went as expected.
I used to do transcribing with timestamps. I met some cool people and learned a lot about the topics I was working on that way. It was a good remote flex-time freelance job for me at 20. I rarely do transcription work anymore, but I would be happy to do a call about what I learned and my setup with anyone considering this line of work.
RE #3, the company's website includes a helpful infographic. It sounds like they added an optogenetic control on the Z chromosome (I couldn't find anything more specific than that). The breeding hens contain one altered and one normal Z chromosome, and the breeding roosters are normal. Female chicks receive a normal W from their mother and a normal Z from their father and are "wild-type", but male chicks receive an edited Z chromosome from their mother and a normal Z chromosome from their father. Shining blue light on all the eggs "deactivates" the edited Z chromosome in male eggs, disrupting development when the embryo is "only two layers of cells." Maybe we can find out more about how the optogenetic control works if someone with paid Academia.edu access searches for Dr. Yuval Cinnamon's papers? I tried a title search and didn't find anything.
If you had other small predators around to keep the rodent populations in check, such as weasels and hawks, maybe you could get away with removing snakes. Rodent population booms are undesirable because rodents carry diseases which can be infect humans, pets, and livestock. Rodent poison isn't a good alternative because the poisons also kill scavengers (dogs, owls, etc.) that eat the poisoned rodents, and are harmful at sub-lethal doses. Birds of prey aren't enough to keep a rodent population in check because they can't access most of the places where rodents like to hide, so predators are also needed which can travel along the ground and enter burrows.
Predator removal has been tried repeatedly, usually with negative consequences on the ecosystem. Australia in particular has lots of case studies about humans trying to manage small pests without enough predators, and Yellowstone has a famous case study about the value of reintroducing predators. Keeping predators around is unpleasant, but the human effort involved in compensating for their absence is expensive.
I think keeping the non-venomous snakes mostly covers this concern though!
The only upside I know of provided by venomous snakes specifically is that they are a source of very complex specialized proteins with potential medical applications, such as anticoagulants and vasoconstrictors.
RE nature walks, I’ve found personally that I get a lot more perspective and relief when I’m somewhere it smells really “green”. A thickly verdant yard is better than an impoverished forest. I think it may have something to do with what the plants give off: a small, full greenhouse has that restorative effect on me without the walking.
(No biomed background, just an avid reader of science news) Maybe you already ruled this out based on your specifics, but could lab-grown mini-organs be a suitable third option for your experimental ideas? That in-between choice might offer an end-run around both the mouse-to-human translation problem and the overhead and slowness of experimenting with human subjects within the time frame of a Master’s. Caveats: your estimate of the moral status of mini-brains, the smaller existing knowledge base of how to care for them and interpret results, and possibly cost. I don’t know if there are existing mini-organ models for Alzheimer’s as there are mouse models, sorry.
I was missing something important before about the aspirational nature of a flag. While the star held something true about there being actually hard, knock-out problems to solve along the way, I think the inevitability of the star-less version is more suitably aspirational.
There is not one singular problem to solve, there are many, and the other shapes already hold that. With the star, I had put an oppositional teleology before the indefinite striving for betterment, and that was out of order. That was more 'per ardua ad astra,' "through adversity to the stars," this is more 'sic itur ad astra,' "such is the way to the stars." Let us not be defined by the battles we have won, but by the ideals we pursue, through and beyond whatever difficulty may come...
I've kept the star's color. The hope is that the future is better in both quantity and quality, so having the color brighten as the area expands shows that it's not just more of the same. I'm annoyed with the gradient technically, I think it breaks the simplicity rule of flag design by making it a lot harder to draw the flag from memory or print it in a standard way. Oh well. SVG here.
I'm interested in writing about this with someone; anybody interested in writing arguments with me about why biodiversity matters? I don't expect it to make the leaderboard of urgent problems, but as a slow important problem I think it's a contender.
Here's a sketch of the argument that convinced me: we want our life support system to handle as many challenges as it can on its own, with as little maintenance as possible. Nature is not a closed system, so the challenges are multi-factor and co-occurring. High biodiversity provides already established stabilizing loops, redundant pathways of nutrient cycling, adaptive strategies, and a variety of pre-existing species and ecosystems which can colonize new niches as conditions change. The more parts are available, the more complex and robust nature's networks can be, hopefully thereby requiring less human management in order to continue to provision and protect life. Loss of biodiversity is a loss of information, resilience, redundancy, and other resources all at once.
I think biodiversity hasn't gotten as much attention as people might be willing to give it. I don't know why, but here are some guesses. Maybe...
more clarity is needed about how biodiversity contributes to other goals.
"biodiversity" is at the wrong level: maybe it's a subproblem or tool, and the cause area has a different name.
"biodiversity" as a concept is too vague or poorly connected to evoke mental imagery or motivate action.
the principles and how they fit together haven't been articulated clearly/succinctly enough.
it's hard to get really good at thinking about "biodiversity" because it contains something mentally costly, like patience, perspective-taking, predicting, counterfactualizing, or systems thinking.
more true causal stories are needed explaining how biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, which lead to personal everyday benefit.
building biodiversity is an upfront investment with a long payoff horizon, so it may not be financially competitive as other projects, except in specific cases with a fast, easy-to-capture payoff.
we've still got some biodiversity, so it may be less urgent than other cause areas despite being important.
more post-mortems of failed interventions are needed to address disappointment, counteract the appeal of non-intervention, and reassure funders that ecological interventions can be cost-effective.
more here-now-small-doable localized intervention recommendations are wanted, with a tangible signal for whether the intervention is working (such as water quality, or return of an indicator species). For instance, planting milkweed for monarchs was clear, tangible, and doable, so lots of people planted milkweed (at least suboptimally, possibly counterproductively).
more practice and guiding examples would help about how to compare very different interventions' possible expected value, and select ones that pay for themselves. For instance, I wonder whether oyster seeding or herbivore exclosures around oaks would support more biodiversity 30 years later per $1,000 spent? Per 100 volunteer hours spent? Which interventions include a way to economically capture part of the increased value of ecosystem services provided? Could beaver reintroduction be paid for with almond futures?
I haven’t found a communication nexus, but I’d love to hear about it if there is one! Looks like there are some Facebook groups and a LinkedIn group, but I don’t know how active they are. Most of the activity I’ve seen is in a closed Keybase group.
I’ve run into at least half a dozen other systems mindset folks who have heard a little about EA and want to know more. We tried to set up a learning discussion during Complexity Weekend but got stuck on scheduling conflicts. Cross-pollinating might look like someone who practices both presenting at a Heartbeat event, or for an EA group organizer to volunteer as a Complexity Weekend organizer.
Systems thinking shares the question: where and how can one intervene to achieve large improvement for small investment, minimize off-target effects, and have the improvement actually stick instead of revert?
Thank you very much for writing this up! - This 2010 paper estimates that over 100 newborn boys die in the US annually from circumcision and related complications. - Alexithymia, poor recognition of one's emotions, is another condition that may result from circumcision. Paper here. I wonder if the stereotype of American men being out of touch with their emotions is related to this? - RE sentience: Intact America claims that as adults, some men still remember the experience of being circumcised as infants. Cross-check: some adults still remember being born. - Some US-based charities that work toward ending infant male circumcision are Doctors Opposing Circumcision, Intact America, and Bloodstained Men. I've donated to Intact America several times; I appreciate that they thought to check who is initiating, and as of recently are focusing on trying to get nurses to stop suggesting the procedure to new moms in the hospital.
Comment by Cienna on [deleted post]
I've worked in indoor air quality for three years and I'm not aware of any products that capture CO2 below the industrial scale, unfortunately. If you come across anything, I'd love to know!
I've tried the indoor plants approach and tested CO2 levels with Kitagawa tubes, and all the data showed was when the HVAC system was running... There are already lots of plants outdoors, and they're lower-maintenance there, so it's worth checking whether your HVAC system could be doing its job better of bringing outdoor plant-enrichened air to you. - Are the filters clogged? Houses sometimes have a 5" filter hidden in the unit in addition to the return filters. - Are the coils dirty? - Are the vents open? - Are the ducts insulated and in good repair? - Are the filters the right size and MERV rating for the unit? - Could the unit be upfitted with a filter that has more surface area, so that it restricts the airflow less? Going from a 1" filter to a 2" or 4" filter can increase the airflow. If not, look for a filter with more pleats per inch.
If you've got great ventilation - or no authority over the ventilation - and you're still experiencing poor indoor air quality, a HEPA air cleaner with carbon can't fix CO2 but it'll get most other contaminants.
Fine print question: is Manrico Sebastiano, the principal investigator, a WDA member? If not, the prizes would be $1000 and $500 respectively, per the challenge grant terms here: https://experiment.com/grants/wda2021
Fun fact for readers: if you too have a wildlife health project idea, this Wildlife Disease Association challenge grant is recurring on Experiment.com! I think this is at least the fourth time.
At time of writing, this project is in second place by number of backers (47).
If he’s seeking to work directly in Gambia on development, perhaps becoming an agricultural researcher or adviser - like an ag extension agent - would be a way for an individual to help many people in his community. According to Access Gambia’s agriculture page, 80% of the population work in agriculture. Considering the difficulty of the short rainy season, maybe he could identify additional crops, specific cultivars, cover crops, co-plantings, or techniques well-suited to the local particulars that would increase agricultural productivity.
Continuing to play with the space, light cone, time, warning light, and blue dot elements, here's another. I'm not trying to symbolize longtermism specifically here, but I do think this arrangement fits something present.
I like the thinking behind the color choices in the original, so I tried to do that too.
- Eigengrau instead of black: Eigengrau is the almost-black color humans see when we close our eyes in darkness, darkness as perceived by human vision. It's black with visual artifacts of uncountably many points of light. It rhymes with how we see space, and represents the eyes-closed opposite of enlightenment.
- pale yellow instead of white: stark white feels lifeless/barren/rhetorical, while sunlight is a human universal. Technically that color would be rather more blue, but I didn't want 3:1 in cold's favor, and our experience of sunlight is "warm".
- global blue : I like ocean blue, but global blue is traditional and recognizable.
- almost-red shocking pink: this color was tricky and unsatisfying. True traditional red is associated with the vigorous bloodshed of war. Amber felt slower, like plasma seepage and electronic running lights. But comparing them side by side, this weird in-between color feels more right. I don't know from whence it comes and it's troubling me, and that feeling seemed to fit, so I went with the red-pink. And disagreeing about whether this particular shade is red or pink would be the kind of moving-concepts-around time-wasting disagreement that so often distracts resources from problem-solving.
Four-pointed star: a focus, or flaw that draws focus - orienting star (compass star, North star, Star of Bethlehem, LessWrong, Alcor, Quaker star) - how stars or points of light appear to us, for reasons I'm not competent to explain - Once I saw the bright "shadows" created by bubbles on the surface of water concentrating sunlight on the stone below, and at a certain depth the anti-shadows looked like curved four-pointed stars. - the shape of a wound created by an X-shaped cut
Semicircle: the known world - as a sphere: planet, sphere of influence - as a hemispherical bubble: habitat, growth, celestial heavens of antiquity - as an arc: arc of history/narrative, rise and fall
The darkness is unknown. Can contain risk, ignorance, space, void, death, etc. as you like.
Enlightenment is a growing buffer between the world and the unknown. Can contain hope, mercy, knowledge, skill, empathy, consciousness, energy etc. as you like.
Darkness holds three corners, and light one. However, darkness holds less than half the area.
The expansion of hope/mercy/enlightenment has both a linear and a non-linear growth aspect.
This star/wound/pain/warning/flaw connects the three, or is in all three. It sometimes obscures what's going on between the other three. It's the central focus. It's in the middle of everything.
From left to right, there's a progression in time from the beginning in void to the post-world end where enlightenment dominates, yet cannot eliminate the unknown.
Does the story arc get interrupted, or obscured? And is this burst of pain an event in time, or a constant element? Is the wound in the middle opening or closing? Does pain orient or distract?
In retrospect, I may be guilty of being quite influenced by other brands I like. I was not consciously thinking of these when I was working on this design, so I'm not sure how much is my fault and how much is convergence/overlap. - Black triangle on top-left, yellow on the right: I have previously considered myself anarcho-capitalist. - red and black Quaker star: I don't know what the Quaker star symbolizes, but I like the connotations of humility, principles, service, and insistence on a kinder future. I don't "identify" as anything religious, but I occasionally attend the local Friends' Meeting.
The result also reminds me of Jordan Peterson's work: in a world made of chaos, order, suffering, and matter, one needs a negative motivation, a positive motivation, a foundation to stand on, and a direction in which to go. "Life is suffering," but what you do about that is up to you.
Made using Amadine. An editable SVG version is here in case you want to build on it further.
Congratulations to y’all on your new roles and responsibilities!!!
Comment by Cienna on [deleted post]
Higher sensitivity and standards. People in these communities take life, responsibility, long-term planning, and suffering more seriously than usual. Some are waiting longer for the sake of being a better parent when they do have kids. It's emotionally intense, living in constant empathic contact with another person who has full depth of feeling and perception, but who starts out with little skill at reasoning, shielding, or emotional self-regulation. I'm told one doesn't fully grasp the seriousness and scope of the project until after the kids have arrived, and I suspect the non-parents in this community have a better guess than the average non-parent about how consequential, meaningful, and intensive the raising of another person will feel. That's quite a commitment!
I like this project shape: trying to keep a solved problem solved. We have functioning reefs to study. We already know some of the conditions they like. Our knowledge might not have to be as thorough to protect a system that is already working at scale compared to the level of knowledge needed to design, launch, and scale a solution to an unsolved problem.
This may be a good opportunity to ask professionals in the area about challenges to their work, since they'll already be expecting to answer questions publicly in the discussion section of the raise. In my limited experience, researchers on Experiment.com are usually delighted to talk about their work!
A brief answer from NOAA: "Coral reefs provide coastal protection for communities, habitat for fish, and millions of dollars in recreation and tourism, among other benefits." Like jetties and quays, reefs dissipate wave energy, lessening the impact of storms on the shore and coastal investments. Young and small fish can hide from larger fish in the nooks and crevices of reefs, helping more of them to reach adulthood and build up fishery stock.
Reef Resilience has additional numbers and citations under the "Economic Value" tab if you're curious!
Another type of related existing project is government-side community engagement tools, such as https://publicinput.com/. Their software makes it easier for city governments to ask questions and seek feedback from their residents. I know Jay started out with the goal of trying to get elected representatives in direct conversational contact with their constituents, and I think it'd be worth asking him why he went this direction instead.
I think there’s another source of jadedness: things being made unnecessarily difficult. I was explicitly told in school by instructors, “we’re going to make this harder than it needs to be, in arbitrary ways, because real life is like that sometimes, and you need to figure out how to handle it psychologically. Better that you learn to deal with pointless assignments and needlessly difficult problems and petty teammates and vague instructions now than in a job.” Being forewarned made it bearable, I was even grateful for it. And then I forgot this when I changed schools, the new place provided the same kind of challenges but didn’t say so explicitly, and I got frustrated and hurt by the work being unnecessarily difficult.
I think some who aren’t warned correctly intuit that someone is deliberately making life harder than it needs to be, and conclude the deck is being stacked against them, instead of concluding this adversity is being created to give them opportunities to learn mental strategies for not getting jaded.
Hmm. I apologize, I don’t actually know whether idealists and virtue signalers differ in productivity. I think the motivation matters for what someone will put up with on the way to their goals; maybe some problems are easier for virtue signalers to solve.
I like it! Good job finding a small one-time change that would add up to a big difference over time.
Visa, PayPal, and some others already have discounted credit card processing rates for charities. How do you plan to respond to a boilerplate reply saying they’re already providing a discount for charities? I’m concerned that the existing nominal discount will “check the box” for some people that the credit card processing companies “care”.
Do you have a plan for negotiating if you get an interested response? In my limited experience with vendor pricing negotiations at work, counterparties are usually more amenable to a narrowly limited ask that demonstrates you understand the value they are providing. “Can I get a discount on the oversize box fee?” or “Can I get a discount on these 7 standard items?” are easier to say yes to than changing a whole category multiplier, where they would have to actually do the math.
This might look like asking for
transaction fees to be waived on only Giving Tuesday
a specific, deeper discount that still covers their expenses for providing the service
a fee rebate program that could be. implemented separately from their payment processing
Also, if you target multiple processors, you might be able to play them against each other.
Thanks for the fascinating post! This inspired me to arrange a discussion with some philosophical Meetup friends who have had similar thoughts in this direction. Anyone interested is welcome to join the conversation! It will be Sunday, November 29th at 7 PM ET.
Update: I now think it's a problem with the first impression. A title with shorter words that stirred the imagination might perform better. I remember feeling the draw of effort to understand what the title meant.
Compared with "Growing edible algae on the Moon" - title was partly misleading - raise was overfunded with plenty of time to spare - Might have been "Assessing fresh spirulina as a space food at HI-SEAS"
"What is the ethanol resistance of lignin biocoating?" - accurate title - raise failed at 1/3 - Might have been "Can lignin keep cardboard from getting soggy when I soak it in beer?"
If too many syllables and not enough imagery in the first impression is why the raise failed to gather interest, then I made the same mistake when titling this post! Maybe it should have been "Why isn't this project to vaccinate deer against anthrax getting funded?"
I love this question, and I'm looking forward to reading others' answers! Thanks for asking it!
The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane by Matthew Hutson I was wrestling with the inescapable thought "I don't want to live as a hypocrite" before I first read it in 2012. I hadn't known becoming more rational was a thing other people knew how to do. Somehow the book's cheerful, mostly forgiving take on how sometimes people are better off irrational gave me the grace I needed to both start seeking ways of mind I could respect in myself, and to appreciate my magical thinking. This book set me up with a growth mindset toward becoming a mind I enjoy.
Biopunk by Marcus Wohlsen This really stretched my imagination about what a single competent person can do. I picked it up for the biology, and ended up thinking about agency, responsibility, risk, and the archetype of the maverick.
I think I'd have learned this stuff another way if I hadn't read these books. However, these genuinely contributed to me growing in openness, agency, and self-respect.