Posts

Possible way of reducing great power war probability? 2019-11-28T04:27:19.768Z
Americans give ~4%, not 2% 2019-11-03T19:10:13.012Z
Remote local group leaders? 2019-10-13T21:43:20.814Z
David Denkenberger: Loss of Industrial Civilization and Recovery (Workshop) 2019-02-19T15:58:01.214Z
Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED) Progress Report & Giving Tuesday Appeal 2018-11-21T05:20:37.922Z
Cost-Effectiveness of Foods for Global Catastrophes: Even Better than Before? 2018-11-19T21:57:05.518Z
[Paper] Interventions that May Prevent or Mollify Supervolcanic Eruptions 2018-01-15T21:46:27.407Z
How you can save expected lives for $0.20-$400 each and reduce X risk 2017-11-27T02:23:44.742Z
Should we be spending no less on alternate foods than AI now? 2017-10-29T23:28:39.440Z
Futures of altruism special issue? 2016-12-18T19:16:02.114Z
Saving expected lives at $10 apiece? 2016-12-14T15:38:38.561Z
Advice Wanted on Expanding an EA Project 2016-04-23T23:20:02.455Z
Essay Competition on Preparation for Global Food Catastrophes 2016-03-17T01:49:12.131Z
Investment opportunity for the risk neutral 2016-01-25T15:29:48.579Z
My Cause Selection: Dave Denkenberger 2015-08-16T15:06:25.456Z

Comments

Comment by Denkenberger on Some quick notes on "effective altruism" · 2021-03-28T07:27:11.968Z · EA · GW

Though I was surprised when I read the results of the first EA survey because I was expecting the majority of non-student EAs would donate 10% of their pretax income, I don't think that saying that EA donations are extremely low is quite fair. The mean donation of EAs in the 2019 survey was 7.5%. The mean donation of Americans of pretax income is about 3.6%. However, with a significant number of EAs outside of the US giving less, the fact that many EAs are students, and the since I think that the EA mean is by person rather than weighted by donation (as the US average number is), I would guess EAs donate about 3-5 times as much as the same demographic that is not an EA. I do think that we could do better, and a lot of good could come from more donations.

Comment by Denkenberger on Why I find longtermism hard, and what keeps me motivated · 2021-02-25T05:15:20.253Z · EA · GW

Nice piece! Though this does not work for all longtermist interventions, some find it motivating that AGI safety, alternative foods, and interventions for losing electricity/industry (and probably other interventions) likely save lives in the present generation more cost-effectively than GiveWell top charities. This book argues that doing more to mitigate catastrophes can be justified by concerns of the present generation.

Comment by Denkenberger on Big List of Cause Candidates · 2021-02-18T23:47:05.974Z · EA · GW

Congratulations on winning the comment award! I definitely agree we should broaden the scenarios at which we look. You can see some work on the long term future impact of lesser catastrophes here and here.

  • Solar storm disruption

Yes, and other catastrophes that could disrupt electricity/industry, such as high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon causing an electromagnetic pulse, coordinated cyber attack on electricity (perhaps narrow AI enabled), or an extreme pandemic causing the desertion of critical jobs may be important to work on.

  • CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and other climate change rendering the atmosphere unbreathable (this would be a good old fashioned X-risk, but seems like one that no-one has discussed - in Toby's book he details some extreme scenarios where a lot of CO2 could be released that wouldn't necessarily cause human extinction by global warming, but that some of my back-of-the-envelope maths based on his figures seemed consistent with this scenario)
  • CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and other climate change substantially reducing IQs

Even 7000 ppm (0.7%) CO2 only has mild effects, and this is much higher than is plausible for Earth's atmosphere in the next few centuries.

  • Various 'normal' concerns: antibiotic resistant bacteria; peak oil; peak phosphorus;

It is possible that overreaction to these could cause large enough increases in prices to make poor of the world significantly worse off, which could cause political instability and eventually lead to something like nuclear war. But I think it is much lower probability than those that could directly reduce food supply abruptly by order of magnitude 10%.

  • substantial agricultural collapse; moderate climate change;

I think the moderate climate change, perhaps 2°C over a century, is difficult to find a direct route to a collapse. However, it would make a 10% food production shortfall from extreme weather more likely. And there are many other catastrophes that could plausibly produce a 10% food production shortfall, such as:

1 Abrupt climate change (10 C loss over a continent in a decade, which has happened before)

2 Extreme climate change that is slow (~10 C over a century)

3 Volcanic eruption like Tambora (which caused the year without a summer in 1816: famine in Europe)

4 Super weed that out-competes crops, if a coordinated attack

5 Super crop disease, if a coordinated attack

6 Super crop pest (animal), if a coordinated attack

7 Losing beneficial bacteria abruptly

8 Abrupt loss of bees

9 gamma ray burst, which could disrupt the ozone layer

  • major wars;

This could be a 10% infrastructure destruction, so I think it could destabilize. Disruption of the Internet for an extended period globally could also cut off a lot of essential services.

  • reverse Flynn effect;

Even if the Flynn effect has stalled in developed countries (has it?), I still think globally over this century we are going to have a massive positive Flynn effect as education levels rise.

Other concerns that I don't know of, or that no-one has yet thought of

Agreed, which is a reason that resilience and response are also important.

Comment by Denkenberger on Religious Texts and EA: What Can We Learn and What Can We Inform? · 2021-02-04T07:09:08.686Z · EA · GW

It sounds similar to this project from 5 years ago.

Comment by Denkenberger on How does Amazon deforestation actually work? It's not about soy. · 2021-01-29T19:50:48.638Z · EA · GW

succeeded by land speculators and poor ranchers from other regions, attracted by low-price lands; they’ll put down the remaining forest to raise cattle and subsistence agriculture – with productivity decreasing each year, until they exhaust soil nutrients. 

Indeed, swidden (slash and burn) agriculture was common historically (including in Europe and the southern United States). However, now that we can replace nutrients with artificial fertilizers, it seems like that would be more profitable. Do you have data on what fraction of the land is just abandoned?

Comment by Denkenberger on Things I recommend you buy and use. · 2021-01-29T04:58:37.429Z · EA · GW

Nice list! How many times can you wear a pair of the silicone earplugs?

Comment by Denkenberger on Money Can't (Easily) Buy Talent · 2021-01-27T03:55:55.939Z · EA · GW

I agree with Peter - ALLFED has been training up volunteers and we could bring on a lot more talent full-time (both our volunteers and from the general EA pool) if we had more money.

Comment by Denkenberger on Actually possible: thoughts on Utopia · 2021-01-25T03:59:17.442Z · EA · GW

Nice post - I think it is good to reflect on what we might achieve, rather than only focusing on reducing X risk.

But unlike Heaven, Utopia, if something like it ends up getting built, will be a specific, concrete, physical world, with attendant frictions and problems, idiosyncrasies and contingencies; its own ways of distributing resources, resolving/preventing conflicts, and so on; and ultimately, with fundamental limitations on what can be done.

I’m not sure how feasible these are, but would personal universes address some of these issues?

Comment by Denkenberger on Notes: Stubble Burning in India · 2021-01-16T22:23:25.500Z · EA · GW

Although stubble burning is an effective way to deal with crop residue in the short term, the practice is pretty bad for the soil.

For one, you lose the nitrogen in the residue to the air through burning. With all the cattle in India, I would think you could just feed the residue to them, and this says it could make up about 50% of their diet. And you might be able to grab some human edible calories first through the leaf protein concentrate process. There is also cellulosic ethanol or cellulosic sugar, though those are likely not economical now.

Comment by Denkenberger on International Cooperation Against Existential Risks: Insights from International Relations Theory · 2021-01-15T04:21:59.843Z · EA · GW

I agree that IR is important for EA. I would be particularly interested to hear your opinion on collapse of civilization scenarios here.

Comment by Denkenberger on EA and the Possible Decline of the US: Very Rough Thoughts · 2021-01-12T04:44:07.503Z · EA · GW

I was surprised you did not mention nuclear war as a cause of the decline of the US. If you take Luisa Rodriguez's average estimate of US-Russia nuclear war, 0.38% per year, that's about 20% chance in 50 years. And that does not take into account possible US-China nuclear war. I think even if nuclear winter did not happen, just the war would cause a significant decline in the US. So would that meet your definition?

Comment by Denkenberger on Is Earth Running Out of Resources? · 2021-01-10T02:18:17.965Z · EA · GW

More concerning than jet engines might be the high efficiency natural gas turbines for generating electricity. However, it looks like Ruthenium is even better than Rhenium for these applications. And in general, you can avoid rare earth metals and just accept slightly lower performance for combustion turbines, wind turbines, electric car motors, LED lights, solar cells, etc.

Comment by Denkenberger on Everyday Longtermism · 2021-01-06T05:55:48.200Z · EA · GW

I believe the framing in the 80,000 Hours podcast was something like when we run out of targeted things to do. But if we include global warming, depending on your temperature increase limit, we could easily spend $1 trillion per year. If people in developed countries make around $30,000 a year and they donate 10% of that, that would require about 300 million people. And of course there are many other global catastrophic risks. So I think it's going to be a long time before we run out of targeted things to do. But it could be good to do some combination of everyday longtermism and targeted interventions.

Comment by Denkenberger on What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)? · 2021-01-02T00:43:55.759Z · EA · GW

I was glad to see some discussion of potential irrational behavior. As was mentioned recently on the EA forum, I think there is a tendency for rational people to assume that other people will behave more rationally than they actually will. I think we have seen a lot of irrationality in the handling of COVID. And I think it would be far worse in the case of larger catastrophes. I think I remember reading that if something like half or three quarters of one's close family and friends died, there was a high chance of one becoming schizophrenic.

I think the fact that so many thoughtful people think collapse of civilization is likely from slow climate change (e.g. 50/50 chance for 4°C temperature rise according to Mark Lynas in his 80,000 Hours podcast), which is far less extreme than 50% of people dying, should give us pause. I tend to be more optimistic, but I do recognize the possibility that stressors could be handled poorly.

Comment by Denkenberger on Big List of Cause Candidates · 2020-12-28T23:13:44.240Z · EA · GW

Great list! It reminds me of Peter McClusky's "Future of Earning to Give" post showing that there is plenty of room for more funding of high impact projects.

Comment by Denkenberger on What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)? · 2020-12-28T04:45:20.250Z · EA · GW

Here, food stocks is defined in the source paper as a group of “92 products” used “to reconstruct 50 years of aggregated food reserves, expressed in caloric equivalent (kcal), at the regional and global scales.” (Laio et al. 2016)

This is a great reference in that it does more than just look at stocks of grain. It does it for the end of each year, which is a pretty favorable case. The stocks of food would be considerably less right before harvest in the northern hemisphere, I would estimate ~3 months of food instead of 6. Also, their number is assuming 2880 kcal per day per person, which is appropriate to account for waste, but would not account for edible food fed to animals. But I agree with your rationing vegan number of approximately seven months if the catastrophe happened at the end of the year (but about half that for the worst timing scenario).

Comment by Denkenberger on What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)? · 2020-12-27T22:44:37.940Z · EA · GW

I am also excited to see work on such an important, neglected topic.

While I haven’t looked into this much, I feel fairly convinced that hundreds of thousands or millions of people could survive using traditional approaches to agriculture in parts of the world with more moderate climate effects (and basic mitigation strategies, like switching to crop types that are more resilient to temperature and precipitation fluctuations).

ALLFED has indeed found a number of cool tolerant crops that could likely grow in nuclear winter conditions in the tropics. However, they are generally planted far away from the tropics, so if there were not long distance cooperation, the situation would be bad. Even without long distance cooperation, artifacts have moved thousands of kilometers, but I think it takes thousands of years. One possibility would be relocating crops from nearby mountains, but that would only work in specific circumstances.

On the other hand, there could be long distance movement of people, perhaps with remaining above ground fossil fuel and current ships. But then places where agriculture is easier in nuclear winter such as Oceania could be overwhelmed with migrants.

The carrying capacity of the Earth for hunter-gatherers is thought to be around 10 million if the survivors regress to pre-paleolithic levels of technology (if they lose, for example, flakes, handaxes, controlled use of fire, and wooden spears) (Taiz, 2013). 

It appears that this is not the correct reference for that quote. Taiz says that the global population was 10 million in 8,000 BC and another one of your references said that by then the hunter gatherers had covered the globe and had 10 million population (some say only 1 million) and they would generally have had those pre-paleolithic technologies. Ellis says 100 million hunter gatherers would be possible with prehistoric technology, which is much higher than the actual population in 8,000 BC (though it would be consistent with your statement).

Several experts, including ALLFED director David Denkenberger, have affirmed this conclusion — they do not expect humanity to dip below the minimum viable population even in relatively extreme sun-blocking scenarios.

To be clear, I don’t expect it, but I think extinction is a non-negligible probability.

Before getting into the likelihood that society would recover from civilizational collapse under these starting conditions, I’ll briefly discuss whether we should expect human civilization to actually collapse in my sense in this scenario.

Doesn’t appear to be public?

Comment by Denkenberger on What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)? · 2020-12-27T19:35:21.600Z · EA · GW

Regarding case 1, with a pandemic leaving 50% of the population dead but no major infrastructure damage, I think you can make much stronger claims about there not being 'civilization collapse' meaning near-total failure of industrial food, water, and power systems. Indeed, collapse so defined from that stimulus seems nonsensical to me for rich quantitative reasons.

 

If there were a pandemic heading toward 50% population fatality, I think that it is likely that workers would not show up to critical industries and there would be a collapse of industrial civilization. I looked into whether the military could replace those workers, and it did not look feasible. Whether there would be further collapse of large-scale cooperation is less certain. If that cooperation is maintained, I agree it would be possible to have agricultural productivity similar to preindustrial Europe. However, it would mean a very rapid scale up of hand/animal farming equipment, and hand powered wells, carts that could be drawn by animals, etc (which ALLFED is planning on investigating). Some people say that modern crop varieties would actually do worse than traditional crop varieties if there were no artificial fertilizers and pesticides. If that were true or if scaling of tools were difficult, then we could have much worse agricultural productivity than preindustrial Europe.

Loss of rapid communication would likely imply fragmentation of large countries, if it is true that empires can only be maintained with I think a ~14 day communication radius (I thought the reference was here, but maybe it was something cited there). Furthermore, it is possible that cooperation outside of 100% groups is lost, particularly because of fear of the disease. In this case, I think it is likely with current preparation to only be able to do hunting and gathering. In addition, the hunting and gathering population density could be much less than historic, because the overshoot in population density could mean that plants and animals that are good to eat could be driven to extinction by desperate humans. 

Though it is possible that current food storage could be protected well, it is not clear to me that there would be a strong defense advantage. The desperate attackers would have weapons as well. If we go significantly above the carrying capacity and food is distributed fairly equally, then everyone would starve.

Comment by Denkenberger on Books / book reviews on nuclear risk, WMDs, great power war? · 2020-12-26T08:10:11.491Z · EA · GW
  • Feeding Everyone No Matter What
    • I believe this is mostly focused on interventions to mitigate how bad nuclear winter would be, if it happened.

Yes, there is more detail on the nuclear risk in this paper. And this paper on a fault tree model of the chance of nuclear war.

Comment by Denkenberger on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-15T07:56:02.262Z · EA · GW

Another option for engineering is work on alternative foods for catastrophes - there are many engineering projects listed here.  You could volunteer/intern at ALLFED even as an undergrad.

Comment by Denkenberger on "Patient vs urgent longtermism" has little direct bearing on giving now vs later · 2020-12-13T19:11:09.950Z · EA · GW

Yes, with how under invested in GCR mitigation is now, I think it is better to have many resources for longtermism sooner.

Comment by Denkenberger on Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists · 2020-12-07T23:24:57.342Z · EA · GW

That is true if you sell more when the market is down, you will have less to donate later. But I would think that the higher expected return would overwhelm this. This is what the Princeton endowment argued-I think their portfolio got cut in half around 2008, and then they did a bigger payout as a percentage. But they said that because they had invested with high expected return, they were still in much better situation than investing cautiously. It would be great in your next project to have some visualizations of how the investments perform over time and what the payouts are. Then we could see how much charity smoothing there would be for the primary donor (given some value function, which I would argue should have a larger downside than logarithmic because of inefficient cutting), and consequently how much more valuable it is for small donors to be uncorrelated. I'm looking forward to reading about your new model.

Comment by Denkenberger on Uncorrelated Investments for Altruists · 2020-12-04T05:10:54.666Z · EA · GW

I loved the article on  investing like an alien. I'm very glad to see your recognition that one can indeed beat the market long term with value and momentum, because most EAs have been skeptical of this. Though I agree with the general principle of the advantage of uncorrelated assets, I am skeptical that shorting the market cutting your expected return in ~half is optimal. You may be modeling payouts to charity proportional to asset value, like a foundation is roughly managed. In my experience, when the market is down a lot, the payouts would increase as a percentage, because donors would not want to have inefficient cuts in charities. So this would reduce the value of an individual's holdings increasing during those times. But even if we assume the payout is proportional to the portfolio value, sometimes that might mean half as much payout, which would make the marginal value double. However, this will be a very small percent of the years over the long term. And if you go from 20% return to 10% return, that is a factor of roughly 17 lower appreciation over 30 years. So I would think it would be more valuable to have that higher return than less correlation.

Comment by Denkenberger on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-12-03T07:19:11.716Z · EA · GW

Agreed, and actually Americans donate closer to 4% of pretax income.

Comment by Denkenberger on ALLFED 2020 Highlights · 2020-11-28T04:48:23.139Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the feedback. We do think there is a compelling case for saving expected lives in the present generation cost effectively. On the long-term future, we do not have a quantitative model for how important extinction versus unrecoverable collapse versus negative trajectory changes are in these scenarios (and in terms of mitigation from interventions). So I would say it is closest to:

reducing numbers of deaths and global instability is just a good proxy for reducing existential risk

 

As Nick Beckstead said:

In this way, our situation seems analogous to the situation of someone who is caring for a sapling, has very limited experience with saplings, has no mechanistic understanding of how saplings work, and wants to ensure that nothing stops the sapling from becoming a great redwood. It would be hard for them to be confident that the sapling’s eventual long-term growth would be unaffected by unprecedented shocks—such as cutting off 40% of its branches or letting it go without water for 20% longer than it ever had before—even taken as given that such shocks wouldn’t directly/immediately result in its death. For similar reasons, it seems hard to be confident that humanity’s eventual long-term progress would be unaffected by a catastrophe that resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths.

Comment by Denkenberger on Where are you donating in 2020 and why? · 2020-11-28T00:05:25.236Z · EA · GW

Thanks, MichaelA! On neglectedness, it is true that $3 million is very large in this space. However, the Open Phil funded group decided to propose to work on alternative foods that they already had expertise in. This includes cellulosic sugar, duckweed, forest products including inner bark, mushrooms, and sprouts. With the exception of cellulosic sugar, these alternative foods are higher cost than the ones that ALLFED is prioritizing. Low cost is important for feeding nearly everyone and maintaining stability of civilization. Therefore, we don't believe that the highest priority sun-blocking solutions (cellulosic sugar, methane single cell protein, hydrogen single cell protein, cold tolerant crops, greenhouses, seaweed, and leaf protein concentrate) are significantly less neglected now. Furthermore, the Open Phil funded project is generally not working on interventions for losing electricity/industry, so that remains highly neglected.

Comment by Denkenberger on [Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund · 2020-11-23T05:36:46.812Z · EA · GW

I confirmed with them that the donor has the control of where the money goes, unless they deem it a hate group. And they are also okay with transferring to another DAF.

Comment by Denkenberger on Why those who care about catastrophic and existential risk should care about autonomous weapons · 2020-11-16T02:42:05.057Z · EA · GW

Thanks - I think there are scenarios where AWSs could pose a GCR.

A large-scale nuclear war is unbelievably costly: it would most likely kill 1-7Bn in the first year and wipe out a large fraction of Earth’s economic activity (i.e. of order one quadrillion USD or more, a decade worth of world GDP.)

I've seen mortality estimates and produced one of my own, but I haven't seen economic damage estimates. Do you have a reference for this?

Comment by Denkenberger on Nuclear war is unlikely to cause human extinction · 2020-11-10T04:34:57.405Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the post. The updated nuclear winter modeling is Coupe 2019 - it has similar results to the 2007 work. The new work was funded by Open Phil. I agree that extinction is quite unlikely, but I think there are a few routes to get there. Many people mention the lower climate impacts in places like New Zealand, but they do not consider the possibility of refugees overwhelming New Zealand. You may very well be right that some food storage will be protected, but I don't think it's guaranteed that people could or would forcibly repel the desperate people trying to get food. Furthermore, if there is an eventual collapse of anthropological civilization (cooperation outside tribes), we may have to go back to hunting and gathering, and there is evidence that that transition may not go well (The Secret of Our Success book). And the current hunter gatherers generally don't have much food storage, so they would likely die out.

But then I agree with Max Daniel that even if extinction is unlikely, I think worse trajectory changes have significant probability, which is supported by the poll of GCR researchers here.

As Robock points out, even without firestorms (simultaneous burning of a large area), some smoke can go into the upper troposphere and be lofted into the stratosphere. Indeed, this has been demonstrated for wildfires (which are not firestorms).

Comment by Denkenberger on N-95 For All: A Covid-19 Policy Proposal · 2020-11-01T18:50:13.808Z · EA · GW

Note that the shield claims to block droplets, but not aerosols. Aerosols will go around any shield. Even this shield with some loosefitting fabric only blocked ~10% of aerosols. Making it tight fitting with an elastic band improves it. But really what would be much safer is surgical mask material or N-95 material that is tightfitting.

I do think that appearance is critical, at least in developed countries. In my experience, most people use only cloth masks, which block about 1/4 of aerosols. Moving to a surgical mask blocks about three quarters, which is an enormous improvement. There are concerns about long reuse of mass that are designed to be disposable, but they are doing UV treatment, and an easy thing is just putting it in an oven at about 80C for 45 minutes. A compromise could be a surgical mask underneath an attractive cloth mask, which is still easier to breath than N-95. Surgical masks seem to be easily available, and some are even attractive.

Comment by Denkenberger on Towards zero harm: animal-free and land-free food · 2020-10-24T19:18:15.645Z · EA · GW

We found that the economics of hydrogen single cell protein could be promising in a catastrophe if it had low cost energy. Basically look at where aluminum refining is done-cheap hydropower or coal (which could have carbon sequestration).

Comment by Denkenberger on Towards zero harm: animal-free and land-free food · 2020-10-24T19:14:36.607Z · EA · GW

I'm glad that GFI is including fermentation now. Greenhouses can be good, but I would be cautious of artificial light (vertical farming). What advocates typically don't say is the energy use and cost - even if we used all the electricity in the world, we could only feed ~5% of people and even with current electricity costs, it would be >$100/dry kilogram.

Comment by Denkenberger on [Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund · 2020-10-19T02:30:53.000Z · EA · GW

I'm fairly sure I could change custodians if that happened (like people can do with retirement accounts).

Comment by Denkenberger on [Question] Pros/Cons of Donor-Advised Fund · 2020-10-15T02:59:50.436Z · EA · GW

Calculate the expected return of the investments based off a 7 year mean reversion (GMO) or 10 year mean reversion (Research Affiliates).

Comment by Denkenberger on No More Pandemics: a lobbying group? · 2020-10-08T18:35:52.635Z · EA · GW

Sounds very promising.

Nuclear war:
Already has lots of activism happening (e.g. CND)
Less likely to cause severe (extinction-level) catastrophes than bio risks

I would agree that there is a lot of activism on preventing nuclear war and reducing arsenals, but there is not much on having backup plans.

I agree that the existential threat from engineered pandemics is probably greater than nuclear war, but the existential threat from natural pandemics is probably less than nuclear war.

Comment by Denkenberger on CEA Mid-year update (2020) · 2020-10-08T02:20:25.250Z · EA · GW

This is very helpful. Did you do any benchmarking for retention? Do you know what the convention is for counting part-time versus full-time, interns, student employees, etc.? Voluntary versus involuntary turnover?

Comment by Denkenberger on Halffull's Shortform · 2020-09-26T19:39:30.068Z · EA · GW

Some of the agricultural catastrophes that the solutions that the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED) are working on address include super crop disease, bacterium that out competes beneficial bacteria, and super crop pest (animal), all of which could be related to genetic modification.

Comment by Denkenberger on Estimation of probabilities to get tenure track in academia: baseline and publications during the PhD. · 2020-09-22T06:50:21.994Z · EA · GW

In the US, about half of people who start PhD programs get the degree. Also, a big factor that I thought I commented about here (I guess they removed comments) is that most tenure track positions at least in the US are teaching intensive, so there is not much time for research.

Comment by Denkenberger on How do political scientists do good? · 2020-09-17T00:06:38.635Z · EA · GW

This says a trebling of grain prices is likely if there is an abrupt 10% food production shortfall. Rice price ~tripled in a year in 2007 - the shortfall was small but there were a lot of export restrictions. There has been some work on the correlation of food prices and riots and other political turmoil.

Comment by Denkenberger on How do political scientists do good? · 2020-09-16T04:11:49.768Z · EA · GW

Good questions-usually when EAs talk about loss of civilization, they mean a loss of electricity/industry globally, or a loss of cooperation outside the tribe globally (loss of cities, the anthropological definition of civilization). One recent 80,000 Hours podcast guest estimated 10% chance of collapse of civilization with 2°C slow global warming. This has a survey with large variation in the percentage loss in value of the long-term future associated with full-scale nuclear war and with 10% agricultural shortfalls (e.g. regional nuclear war, such as India Pakistan). This has a poll with large variation in the percentage loss in the value of long-term future associated with either 10% or global loss of electricity/industry. This has a collection of existential risk estimates, and some relate to loss of civilization.

Comment by Denkenberger on Net Salary after Tax deductions US · 2020-09-10T03:47:30.446Z · EA · GW

I believe the 50% of AGI tax deductible limit refers to donating appreciated stock. Here is one AGI calculator. Here's a good post on charity and taxes in the US. Aaron Hamlin might be good to contact about how stock from your company is treated.

Comment by Denkenberger on Net Salary after Tax deductions US · 2020-09-09T17:24:04.479Z · EA · GW

That's great that you are considering giving so much! When people say what percent of their income they are donating, usually they use the pretax income, which is the adjusted gross income (AGI) in the US. This is less than the total compensation because of things like benefits, some contributions to retirement, etc. I am not sure how stock options work, so hopefully someone else can join in on this. Unfortunately your calculator does not tell you the AGI, but you could probably find one that does. It seems to me that the calculator is giving broadly reasonable results. Basically, your net income doesn't decrease as much as your charity amount because of the tax advantage. It used to be that the maximum you could give with a federal tax advantage was 50% of AGI, but that got changed to 60% a couple years ago. And I've read that this year it is actually 100%. Of course even if the tax advantaged limit is 60% of AGI, you could still give more.

Comment by Denkenberger on Calling on EA members to help fight infectious disease · 2020-09-07T04:15:38.027Z · EA · GW

I would be interested in hearing about it, and why you think it is better than things like this that can filter 99.7% for ~$20.

Comment by Denkenberger on How do political scientists do good? · 2020-09-07T03:16:32.655Z · EA · GW

I think it would be useful to get a political science take on the question of what the probability might be of collapse of civilization/long-term future impact at different levels of severity of catastrophe. Intuitions vary orders of magnitude on this.

Comment by Denkenberger on Introducing the Legal Priorities Project · 2020-09-07T02:04:48.289Z · EA · GW

Nice! Did you consider having nuclear war as an additional focus area?

Comment by Denkenberger on It's Not Hard to Be Morally Excellent; You Just Choose Not To Be · 2020-08-30T22:22:15.911Z · EA · GW

My philosophy is to earn like upper middle class, live like middle class, and donate like upper class. One can typically accomplish this by roughly maintaining the consumption per person that one has earlier in life (e.g. college or grad school). Sure, there is temptation to have consumption creep as is happening in most of one’s peers, but it is not technically difficult like rock climbing, or nearly as bad as living with hunger on a diet. An exception for this being effective may be if one’s consumption is visible to those who determine how fast one advances in one’s career, and they don’t appreciate one’s choosing of charity.

Comment by Denkenberger on The applicability of transsentientist critical path analysis · 2020-08-22T21:02:58.554Z · EA · GW

I appreciate the work you put into this and I particularly like the visualizations. I assume Mt means million metric tons, but then you say the biomass is 7 Mt. Plant biomass is 550 billion tons carbon, which means about 1 trillion tons dry matter. So what do you mean? Also, you say “4 B + 30 B = 32B” – is this some rounding issue?

Comment by Denkenberger on A New X-Risk Factor: Brain-Computer Interfaces · 2020-08-18T18:16:07.195Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this important work. For reference, some estimates of existential risk from nuclear war are one or two orders of magnitude higher than in The Precipice, e.g. here.
When you were discussing the difficulty of overthrowing a BCI dictator, I couldn't help thinking resistance is futile.

Comment by Denkenberger on Cost-Effectiveness of Air Purifiers against Pollution · 2020-08-09T18:38:43.026Z · EA · GW
Putting these numbers together, we arrive at $5230 per DALY for India and $15200 per DALY for Austria (model here).

This is actually a very good deal in developed countries, where they typically pay ~$100,000 per DALY. This would imply that nearly all non-rural buildings in those countries should have HEPA filters, especially because there are economies of scale. The fact that they don't I think indicates that the economics are not nearly as good when you take into account ventilation (related to Ben's comment). Also, I think there is very large uncertainty in the health benefits.

Comment by Denkenberger on Addressing Global Poverty as a Strategy to Improve the Long-Term Future · 2020-08-09T05:37:23.041Z · EA · GW

Thanks!