Global catastrophic risks law approved in the United States 2023-03-07T14:28:06.278Z
Introducing the new Riesgos Catastróficos Globales team 2023-03-03T23:04:35.063Z
2022 ALLFED highlights 2022-11-28T05:37:00.765Z
Reslab Request for Information: EA hardware projects 2022-10-26T11:38:45.100Z
Takeaways from our interviews of Spanish Civil Protection servants 2021-11-24T09:12:52.711Z
The catastrophic primacy of reactivity over proactivity in governmental risk assessment: brief UK case study 2021-09-27T15:53:00.401Z
Meat substitutes: outside view 2021-01-19T09:37:02.823Z


Comment by JuanGarcia on Global catastrophic risks law approved in the United States · 2023-03-10T14:52:53.241Z · EA · GW

My understanding is this was mostly pushed by Jared Brown's team (ex-FLI)

Comment by JuanGarcia on A practical guide to long-term planning – and suggestions for longtermism · 2023-02-10T12:04:15.130Z · EA · GW

One of the best, most useful posts I've read on the forum. Terrific work, Sam.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Unjournal's 1st eval is up: Resilient foods paper (Denkenberger et al) & AMA ~48 hours · 2023-02-07T11:05:02.931Z · EA · GW

Thanks again for this fantastic initiative. Here's the official link to the final Denkenberger publication for those interested.

Is there a way to get email alerts whenever a new UnJournal evaluation gets published?

Comment by JuanGarcia on The Importance of Intercausal Impacts · 2022-09-05T11:39:52.033Z · EA · GW

I like the idea of being more intersectional in our thinking on how to approach the assessment of specific interventions.

On the topic of food, some ALLFED colleagues and I recently gave a workshop on the intersections between different EA cause areas:

On the topic of interventions improving various cause areas simultaneously, some of my colleagues have published scientific articles arguing that the type of work we're doing appears to be highly cost-effective for improving both the long-term future and saving lives in the short term / current generation. Obviously consider a conflict of interest as I work for ALLFED, but this seems very pertinent to the topic of the post.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Driving Education on EA Topics Through Khan Academy · 2022-09-05T11:19:15.517Z · EA · GW

I'd be happy to help explain how building capacity for responding to abrupt food catastrophes (nuclear winter, volcanic winter, collapse of electricity/industry, etc.) by rapidly increasing food production could help save lives and reduce the chance of civilizational collapse (see ALLFED - Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters)

Comment by JuanGarcia on Announcing: EA Engineers · 2022-07-06T14:41:48.872Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much for this effort. I just wanted to say again that EA engineers, including physical engineers, are always very welcome to apply for volunteering, internship and/or open positions at ALLFED - Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters.

Comment by JuanGarcia on New cause area: bivalve aquaculture · 2022-07-01T17:23:12.079Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the reply Noah. Are you working on this field or a related one?

Comment by JuanGarcia on EA organizations should be more coordinated · 2022-06-17T15:25:45.227Z · EA · GW

It's worth mentioning that the new Charity Entrepreneuship book How to Launch a High-Impact Nonprofit does go into some of the "concrete issues" questions you're asking. Particularly, the one on legal structure receives very good treatment (though somewhat lacking for non-US/UK orgs). They also go in some depth into media/website/aesthetics.

Comment by JuanGarcia on New cause area: bivalve aquaculture · 2022-06-15T10:23:02.798Z · EA · GW

I've seen a few people wondering how this relates to our work at ALLFED (@JoelMcGuire , @George Vii , @Brian Lui). 

Bivalves can be grown in sinergy with seaweed in what is know as integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems, which promise a consistent feedstock, in situ, with the co-benefit of recycling aquaculture waste (ref). They are also resilient to food trade restriction and the pests that affect land crops. They look like they could be significantly more resilient to changes in climate than land crops, thus being useful to counter falling agricultural yields in two ways like most resilient foods: 1) resilience - the higher the production of this food  is prior to an abrupt food production shock, the smaller the overall fall in food production capacity, 2) response - the fall in agricultural yields could be countered by rapidly scaling production of this food post-catastrophe. 

These are the things that we have yet to ascertain though. Uncertainty remains, but there definitely seems to be potential for bivalves and IMTA to compete in price and speed with other resilient food options, indeed contributing to a resilient food portfolio. It mostly depends on how growth rates would be  affected by changes in climactic conditions. Because bivalve cultivation is not very complex technologically it looks like it could not only contribute to resilience and response against global catastrophic food shocks involving an agricultural collapse, but also those originating from a  loss of critical infrastructures.

In short, I agree with the post and believe there could be significant potential for bivalves to increase food security overall and as a resilient food for extreme scenarios and would like to see more work on this. I proposed a project to look into this but we haven't yet got around to working on it (so many important projects to do, so little time... We could use a little help). Below I paste the rationale for working in this topic I wrote for my bivalve project proposal:

Ramping up bivalves could have significant potential food for GCR, seeing as to how they’re somewhat similar to seaweed (which is very promising as such),

  • Depending on how fast production can ramp up, they could be an excellent alternative food for both sun-blocking and loss of industry scenarios
  • they are similar to seaweed but very rich in protein and nutritious
    • Similar cultivation in longline systems, mussels are cultured on ropes that remain suspended in the water from a long line composed of buoys
    • 1/4 protein (wet weight), containing all essential amino acids
    • excellent source of iron, zinc, selenium, and B12.
  • feed on phytoplankton
  • are as plant-like as possible
  • do not require fish feed
  • do not require conversion of habitat
  • do not contribute to pollution
  • not likely to experience pain and suffering

General info here

Technical info here

Production and price info here

Clams cost approx 6 USD retail/person/day (on the medium side of cost). Of these calories 50-70% is protein

Comment by JuanGarcia on The chance of accidental nuclear war has been going down · 2022-05-31T17:15:26.589Z · EA · GW

How do you think the push to replace humans with AI systems in nuclear warfare decision making will affect the chance of accidental nuclear war going forward? I hear some countries have been considering it.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Vertical farming to lessen our reliance on the Sun · 2022-05-06T10:10:23.480Z · EA · GW

While you are correct that vegetable oil would be the most compact way of storing edible calories, we wouldn't be able to rely only on it as it misses several key nutrients, and it would still not solve the prohibitive cost of storing enough food to last for a multi-year catastrophe. We think strategic micronutrient supplement stocks could be cost-effective but haven't looked into it in depth yet.

Any type of food stock would be very useful on the onset of a catastrophe, but the cost-effectiveness of large-scale long-term food storage interventions is not great.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Vertical farming to lessen our reliance on the Sun · 2022-05-05T11:42:24.859Z · EA · GW

I agree the benefits of closed environments system that you bring up are considerable, in fact there are even more benefits than those mentioned (see this paper). I wanted to bring in some other considerations to enrich the discussion around this:

  • If the closed environment system depends significantly on sunlight-based renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, then it is not resilient to abrupt sunlight reduction scenarios such as nuclear winter.

  • There are many other possibilities outside of vertical farming for closed environment food production, many of which are significantly more efficient in their energy usage. I ran a simple estimation based on a yield of between 5-40 kg lettuce/m2/y and a calorie content of 150 kcal/kg, resulting on and energy efficiency in terms of electricity to calories of 0.1-0.9%. Compare to other systems with efficiencies around 20% such as single cell protein from CO2 (From one of my papers on closed environment food production methods for space/bunkers).

  • While transitioning to food production systems like these minimizes or even removes many risks (climate variability/change, including sunlight dependence as long as the energy system can be operated independently from sunlight as well, environmental pollution, pests, pathogens, trade restrictions etc), it could also maximize or introduce other vulnerabilities such as those that could cause a loss of electrical/industrial infrastructure. In other words, The interdependence between fuel extraction, energy production and industrial infrastructure could result in a multi-region or even global collapse of industry, and in a world in which we depend entirely on industrial infrastructure for food this could also destroy the entire global food system. You can find more info here. See this diagram from my colleague's presentation on this topic.

Comment by JuanGarcia on A primer & some reflections on recent CSER work (EAB talk) · 2022-04-12T15:30:14.011Z · EA · GW

Thank you, very useful. Happy to see CSER expanding to domains where ALLFED is working such as food shocks, critical infrastructure, volcano engineering, etc. Looking forward to collaborate more!

Comment by JuanGarcia on A tough career decision · 2022-04-10T20:07:07.581Z · EA · GW

As always it's great to read your thoughts Pablo, and I like your scheme for getting the best of both worlds. I think it's worth recommending that you build accountability to prevent yourself from drifting away from your stated plan or a similarly good one. Wishing you the best at Xanadu!

Comment by JuanGarcia on Case for emergency response teams · 2022-04-07T11:15:39.659Z · EA · GW

This looks like a much needed inititative. I'm interested to sign up for the reserve, it looks not unlike the type of work I've done in the past .

Comment by JuanGarcia on [deleted post] 2022-03-25T10:48:09.288Z

Ah it must have been that, thanks for letting me know

Comment by JuanGarcia on [deleted post] 2022-03-24T15:52:17.057Z

Sorry Pablo I did not even realize I reverted your change (don't even recall doing that). I'll be more careful going forward

Comment by JuanGarcia on [deleted post] 2022-03-24T11:52:36.578Z

I've made a complete revamping on the entry based on the current state of the art. Any feedback is welcome.

Comment by JuanGarcia on What psychological traits predict interest in effective altruism? · 2022-02-26T10:55:26.928Z · EA · GW

Has EA growth slowed? Has EA reached most of the people who were going to be interested in it? Where are you getting this from?

The Spanish-speaking community is growing fast. I assume there are other countries/languages that are yet to be significantly reached, all of which are bound to have some amount of people with significant E and A factors.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Comments for shorter Cold Takes pieces · 2021-12-09T16:15:19.103Z · EA · GW

In response to the following parts of your post:

  • "the only relevant-seeming academic field I found (Utopian Studies) is rooted in literary criticism rather than social science"
  • "most of the people there were literary scholars who had a paper or two on utopia but didn't heavily specialize in it"
  • "Rather than excitement about imagining designing utopias, the main vibe was critical examination of why one would do such a thing"

I know a scholar who heavily specializes in the study of Utopia from the social sciences perspective (history) rather than literaty criticism: Juan Pro Ruiz, coordinator of the HISTOPIA project (~30 researchers, link in English). In their latest project, they are:

"analyzing the locations and geographical spaces of utopianism - both of unrealized or merely imaginary utopian projects (literature, cinema, art...) and of utopian experiments tested with greater or lesser success (in the form of social movements or intentional communities) - throughout contemporary history (19th to 21st centuries), while making an exceptional foray into the Modern Age in search of precedents and long-term trends. [...] even testing the heuristic possibilities of the human body as a space for the realization of utopias and dystopias in the field of contemporary science fiction or the transhumanist movement."

I recently attended a symposium on Utopian thinking by Juan Pro in Madrid. He seemed extremely knowledgeable in the subject, and quite positive about the usefulness of serious Utopian exploration as a tool for navigating the present towards a better future. From the HISTOPIA web page:

"HISTOPIA seeks to go beyond the philological approach that predominates in Utopian Studies and to historicize the study of contemporary utopias and dystopias, showing how they respond to the contexts in which they arise, since they reflect the problems and frustrations of a society as well as the aspirations for change it contains, and the conditions of possibility that a particular cultural and emotional framework offers for developing them. [...] to recognize a new surge of the utopian impulse in the present times, asserting its need to provide a channel for the “hope principle” and stimulate the emergence of innovative ideas that constitute responses to the problems of the present. In short, the group explores the meaning of utopia (and its alternatives) for contemporary societies, as a mechanism for the construction of possibilities, a true laboratory of thought and action, in which we experiment with the forms of political, economic and social organization of the future."

I found this email online if you want to contact him: If you prefer, I could make an introduction.

Comment by JuanGarcia on [Linkpost] Don't Look Up - a Netflix comedy about asteroid risk and realistic societal reactions (Dec. 24th) · 2021-11-19T13:47:20.840Z · EA · GW

I'll be looking forward to see if/how they deal with the aftermath of the impact, and specifically with the agricultural collapse that would ensue which is probably the most severe consequence of an asteroid/comet impact.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses · 2021-10-01T10:41:52.826Z · EA · GW

I think I see what you're getting at, let me add a couple of things:

  1. Quorn's mycoprotein is produced from a different microorganism (Fusarium Venenatum), with different growth rates and processing steps than baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), so you are correct. It is more expensive than yeast, and also compared to the gas-based SCPs I mentioned.

Based on a conversation I had with an ex-Quorn scientist, the wholesale selling price of Quorn products is ~$3/kg wet (which makes sense given the intensive postprocessing and other additional steps). I'm uncertain as to how it would differ from yeast when comparing them in a similar state (e.g. drying as pretty much the sole post-processing step, which is the case of the values I gave for yeast and methane-based SCP), but I imagine that even then Quorn would be at least twice the production cost of yeast/methane SCP.

  1. A little clarification about my research: I did not run a TEA as such to calculate capital and operational expenditures of the gas-based SCP production systems. Rather, I used published values from TEAs run by SCP companies themselves as an input to my model. I used these for my goal of estimating the retail price in a catastrope and the ramp-up speed of fast construction of SCP factories in case of catastrophe.

I did not try to perform validation of the published values as I did not have access to the calculations run by those companies. Instead, I made sure that my results are robust to relatively large changes in the TEA results published by the SCP companies via sensitivity analysis. I'm happy to talk more about the methodology if you're interested.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses · 2021-09-30T12:59:45.061Z · EA · GW

Pretty much the only thing currently standing between us and bacterial SCP-based food (such as from methane or CO2/H2) is the lack of approval for use as a human food. Most or all of these companies have shown interest in the human food market, and a few of them are publicly pursuing it, such as Solar Foods. I expect they will be available in the next few years.

As Humbird mentions in the TEA and other sources confirm, the production cost of baker's yeast is well known (~$1.80/kg dry), so no need to run any numbers for that. I'm fairly confident SCP from methane will be lower cost at scale as I mentioned above, but not SCP from CO2. Methane SCPs will almost certainly be quite a bit cheaper than yeast in terms of cost per unit of protein.

Fun fact: these protein-rich SCPs will be so much cheaper than cultured meats, that SCP companies have been promoting their use as a raw material for cultured meat production.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses · 2021-09-29T14:09:16.713Z · EA · GW

Then again, I do believe that you can culture simple cells for a lower cost. I estimated the cost of producing protein-rich single cells from methane at $1-2/dry kg.

However, those numbers are for a bacteria that feeds on gas. The yeast analogy is much closer to mammalian cultures.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses · 2021-09-29T11:50:49.725Z · EA · GW

I found this really interesting:

Humbird first models a Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) where all parameters are similar to baker’s yeast [...] The analysis comes to $3.87/kg of wet (70% water) cell mass for the constrained yeast process. As yeast production at scale is already a highly optimized process over many decades, and the additional constraints mentioned so far are pretty close to the fundamental biological nature of animal cells, it seems unlikely that we can do better than a lower bound of $3.87/kg. Unfortunately, there are other constraints.

If you believe this analysis to be representative of reality, then it follows that cultured meat will never be able to reach parity with current chicken and pork meat prices. Together, these two make over 2/3 of global meat production.


Comment by JuanGarcia on What is your favorite EA meme? · 2021-09-21T18:02:28.563Z · EA · GW

Good point, but I don't see how you can produce a version of this meme without specific assertions of effectiveness of each of the interventions (without killing the funny) . Alas, it did not pass peer review.

Comment by JuanGarcia on What is your favorite EA meme? · 2021-09-21T10:29:47.553Z · EA · GW

Credit: Fernando Moreno (see also version 2 in post)

Comment by JuanGarcia on Report on Whether AI Could Drive Explosive Economic Growth · 2021-06-26T20:39:06.352Z · EA · GW

I suppose this was briefly touched upon as part of Objection number 1, but could you comment on the apparent coupling between economic growth and energy use? See for example:

Is there reason ro believe AI could produce a decoupling of the two?

Comment by JuanGarcia on EAGxVirtual 2020 lightning talks · 2021-01-28T09:09:12.075Z · EA · GW

Hello, Juan here. Here's the final version of the paper I mentioned we were working on during my talk for those who would like to know more:

Thanks for taking the time to transcribe the talks

Comment by JuanGarcia on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-11T18:32:55.859Z · EA · GW

Potential of microbial protein from hydrogen for preventing mass starvation in catastrophic scenarios

My name is Juan B. García Martínez, research associate of the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED). My colleagues Joseph Egbejimba, James Throup, Silvio Matassa, Joshua M. Pearce, David C. Denkenberger and I have researched the potential of microbial protein from hydrogen for preventing mass starvation in global catastrophic scenarios.

As members of ALLFED we are concerned by the fact that the current global food system is critically unprepared for extreme catastrophes of non-negligible likelihood, such as supervolcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts, nuclear wars or pandemics that disrupt food trade. Instead of giving up in the face of this fact, we study potential solutions that could help in such events.


Human civilization’s food production system is currently unprepared for catastrophes that would reduce global food production by 10% or more, such as nuclear winter, supervolcanic eruptions or asteroid impacts. Alternative foods that do not require much or any sunlight have been proposed as a more cost-effective solution than increasing food stockpiles, given the long duration of many global catastrophic risks (GCRs) that could hamper conventional agriculture for 5 to 10 years.

Microbial food from single cell protein (SCP) produced via hydrogen from both gasification and electrolysis is analyzed in this study as alternative food for the most severe food shock scenario: a sun-blocking catastrophe. Capital costs, resource requirements and ramp up rates are quantified to determine its viability. Potential bottlenecks to fast deployment of the technology are reviewed.

The ramp up speed of food production for 24/7 construction of the facilities over 6 years is estimated to be lower than other alternatives (3-10% of the global protein requirements could be fulfilled at end of first year), but the quality of the microbial protein is higher than most others. Results indicate that investment in SCP scaleup should be limited to the production capacity that is needed to fulfill only the minimum recommended protein requirements of humanity during the catastrophe. Further research is needed into more uncertain concerns such as transferability of labor and equipment production. This could help reduce the negative impact of potential food-related GCRs.

Time preference: late session.

Comment by JuanGarcia on Food Crisis - Cascading Events from COVID-19 & Locusts · 2020-04-30T10:42:06.865Z · EA · GW

One important caveat regarding flour fortification with vitamin D3 is that if the flour is used for baking bread, you could be losing 70% or even more of the added vitamin due to thermal degradation:

Regardless, experts seem to think it is a cost effective measure even without accounting for the COVID-19 prevention potential. These researchers estimatd the effectiveness at £9.5 per QALY gained, which admittedly sounds too good to be true: