Event: Complexity Weekend 5/21-5/23 2021-03-14T18:40:41.677Z
Evaluating a crowdfunding campaign to test an oral anthrax vaccine for wildlife 2020-10-12T05:06:42.252Z


Comment by Cienna on Open Thread: April 2021 · 2021-04-08T01:57:47.205Z · EA · GW

Good news:

Comment by Cienna on Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity · 2021-04-08T01:23:10.604Z · EA · GW

Another possibility for your list: getting family members who disagree politically to donate together to a common cause?

Comment by Cienna on Proposed Longtermist Flag · 2021-03-27T21:26:28.989Z · EA · GW

A more abstract one with some similar pieces...

Comment by Cienna on Proposed Longtermist Flag · 2021-03-27T21:23:42.016Z · EA · GW


Comment by Cienna on Proposed Longtermist Flag · 2021-03-27T15:10:48.221Z · EA · GW

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.

Comment by Cienna on Proposed Longtermist Flag · 2021-03-24T11:23:04.885Z · EA · GW

Here's the link to the SVG. I don't think you should have to pay for an SVG. I downloaded the JPG and put it through

And here's a TED talk I really enjoyed about flag design:

Comment by Cienna on EA Funds has appointed new fund managers · 2021-03-23T14:17:37.480Z · EA · GW

Congratulations to y’all on your new roles and responsibilities!!!

Comment by Cienna on Why do so few EAs and Rationalists have children? · 2021-03-15T03:32:07.991Z · EA · GW

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! 

Comment by Cienna on Trying to help coral reefs survive climate change seems incredibly neglected. · 2021-02-04T01:50:21.746Z · EA · GW

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. 

Comment by Cienna on Trying to help coral reefs survive climate change seems incredibly neglected. · 2021-02-04T01:36:40.379Z · EA · GW

RE "Are there still people to fund... in this space?" 
Here's a small one! This crowdfunding project is open until 2/18. An existing reef health monitoring program seeks supplemental funding to train volunteer divers from Adventure Scientists so they can expand their area. 

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 are usually delighted to talk about their work! 

Comment by Cienna on Trying to help coral reefs survive climate change seems incredibly neglected. · 2021-02-04T01:19:57.663Z · EA · GW

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! 

Comment by Cienna on Introducing a project on accountability in governance, plus a call for volunteers · 2021-01-10T12:53:11.194Z · EA · GW

Another type of related existing project is government-side community engagement tools, such as 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. 

Comment by Cienna on Idea: "Change the World University" · 2020-12-10T11:54:09.372Z · EA · GW

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.

Comment by Cienna on Idea: "Change the World University" · 2020-12-10T11:22:56.380Z · EA · GW

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.

Comment by Cienna on Idea: "Change the World University" · 2020-12-08T21:03:32.684Z · EA · GW

How would you separate the genuine idealists from the virtue signalers?

Comment by Cienna on Competitive Ethics · 2020-11-30T02:14:55.724Z · EA · GW

The call has now concluded. 8 participants, 2 hours, one great topic. Thank you again, mwcvitkovic

Comment by Cienna on Opportunity to increase EA org funding by ~$200K/year if a couple hundred EAs take 1 minute on Giving Tuesday · 2020-11-29T19:18:29.605Z · EA · GW

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.

Good luck!

Comment by Cienna on Competitive Ethics · 2020-11-28T04:24:16.866Z · EA · GW

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.

Call link:

Meetup description:

Comment by Cienna on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-11-18T12:18:38.483Z · EA · GW

Little Things by Julia A. F. Carney

Little drops of water, 
Little grains of sand, 
Make the mighty ocean 
And the pleasant land.

Thus the little minutes, 
Humble though they be, 
Make the mighty ages 
Of eternity.

Comment by Cienna on Why those who care about catastrophic and existential risk should care about autonomous weapons · 2020-11-18T01:03:11.008Z · EA · GW

Thank you so much for writing this! What sources would you recommend for keeping up with further developments in this area? 

Comment by Cienna on Evaluating a crowdfunding campaign to test an oral anthrax vaccine for wildlife · 2020-10-25T16:00:16.271Z · EA · GW

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?" 

Comment by Cienna on What is a book that genuinely changed your life for the better? · 2020-10-21T22:04:18.378Z · EA · GW

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.

Comment by Cienna on Evaluating a crowdfunding campaign to test an oral anthrax vaccine for wildlife · 2020-10-13T01:59:01.164Z · EA · GW

Thank you!