Posts

Should I fly instead of taking trains? 2021-12-26T10:34:32.018Z
How can I help first-year university students to settle on their academic interest? 2021-08-11T23:26:17.437Z
What novels, poetry, comics have EA themes, plots or characters? 2021-07-25T05:30:39.312Z
Is impersonal benevolence a virtue? 2021-07-18T08:24:33.272Z
What would a cheap, nutritious and enjoyable diet for the world's extreme poor people like? 2021-07-13T00:15:28.144Z
Lessons from Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar 2021-07-09T19:35:25.176Z
newptcai's Shortform 2021-07-04T06:08:15.254Z
Book recommendation -- The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard 2021-07-02T22:58:47.214Z
Thought experiment -- Does it still make sense to be an altruist if the world is coming to an end. 2021-07-01T02:17:11.642Z
Which cause should I choose -- Climate Change or Global Poverty? 2021-06-29T17:23:06.523Z
Should aid organizations accept ETH donations? 2021-05-16T23:48:09.908Z
How Epictetus May Help an Effective Altruist 2021-05-08T17:18:35.518Z
Should you do a PhD in science? 2021-05-05T22:35:07.881Z
Five Books of Peter Singer which Changed My Life 2021-05-04T08:07:38.112Z

Comments

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism | The New Yorker · 2022-08-09T07:42:19.977Z · EA · GW

It takes a lot of courage to look into the abyss and try to build a bridge across it. Most people would not even look into it.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Sleep: effective ways to improve it · 2022-06-08T06:38:20.719Z · EA · GW

I had trouble of having enough sleep lately. Often I woke up early and could not go back to sleep again. Last night I took 0.3mg melatonin and this morning I missed my alarm clock and slept for 9 hours straight! 😲

It may be because that I slept for only 6 hours the night before, but it has never happened before that I would not wake up by alarm clocks. But this is a promising beginning.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on A mental health resource for EA community · 2022-06-01T11:18:41.455Z · EA · GW

National suicide prevention chat now has different URL -- https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2022-03-07T23:45:18.739Z · EA · GW

Please remove Google resources, like Google fonts, from the website. It will make it easier to visit the website from certain countries.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on How are you keeping it together? · 2022-03-07T12:06:21.935Z · EA · GW

I wrote this last year. Maybe it can help -- https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/DXhcmybpFdpoxPNu7/how-epictetus-may-help-an-effective-altruist

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on The Case for Rare Chinese Tofus · 2022-02-23T13:27:20.764Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the tips. My mum happened to have left a bit of Suji in my freezer. I will give it a try.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on The Case for Rare Chinese Tofus · 2022-02-12T14:23:53.399Z · EA · GW

As a vegan who lives in China now, I am grateful that there are at least 15 different types of tofu in my local grocery store. My favorite is called vegetarian chicken -- https://baike.baidu.com/item/素鸡/265385

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on It's OK to feed stray cats · 2021-12-27T14:29:05.682Z · EA · GW

There is also the problem of the detrimental effect of a cat population on birds.

https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380

We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should I fly instead of taking trains? · 2021-12-27T02:41:49.261Z · EA · GW

Why does trading donations help? And how can I find people to trade donations?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Wikipedia editing is important, tractable, and neglected · 2021-12-01T07:43:10.468Z · EA · GW

Recent BBC report on people trying to spread misinformation on Wikipedia -- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-59325128

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Giving Tuesday 2020 · 2021-11-30T12:04:14.049Z · EA · GW

Unfortunately, it does not seem that I can do this from outside US. Maybe there should be a program which allow foreign donors to give money to a trusted organization to do it on their behalf in US.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Be a Stoic and build better democracies: an Aussie-as take on x-risks (review essay) · 2021-11-21T12:23:58.797Z · EA · GW

I wrote a blog to introduce EA to modern Stoics. https://newptcai.gitlab.io/blog/stoic-singer/

I think EA could also learn a few things from Stoics. Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars is a good and short book. http://www.johnsellars.org.uk/lessons-in-stoicism.html

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Ambitious Altruistic Software Engineering Efforts: Opportunities and Benefits · 2021-11-18T23:50:10.147Z · EA · GW

It is mostly designed to be as open as possible. In terms of function, it is mostly just a clone of twitter.com

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Sleep: effective ways to improve it · 2021-11-18T12:52:53.044Z · EA · GW

Don’t forget sleep apnea. I recently got a diagnosis and treatment. Felt much better now.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Ambitious Altruistic Software Engineering Efforts: Opportunities and Benefits · 2021-11-18T12:50:52.226Z · EA · GW

A quick comment on open source Twitter. There is one called mastodon. I tried it and it works well. Only problem is that no one is using it. That is the problem for any new social media.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Insomnia: a promising cure · 2021-08-22T06:18:02.887Z · EA · GW

It probably depends on each person's situation. When I read it, I was very worried about sleep. I had a very elaborate ritual to help me to fall asleep, which did not work that well. I think reading the book helped to me to adapt a more accepting attitude to insomnia. Now I actually do not think about insomnia much, but only follows some common sleep hygiene measures, like avoiding screen, sleeping on time and getting up on time, etc. It works reasonably well.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Insomnia: a promising cure · 2021-08-18T11:55:13.457Z · EA · GW

There's book on insomnia that has helped me a lot -- The Sleep Book: Sleep Well Every Night by Guy Meadows

An insight of this book is that, sometimes it's because we go to extreme length to fight insomnia that we make it worse. Accepting that insomnia is part of a normal human life, may actually reduces it severity.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on EA Survey 2018 Series: Community Demographics & Characteristics · 2021-07-31T14:05:07.679Z · EA · GW

No question about moral philosophy?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Some promising career ideas beyond 80,000 Hours' priority paths · 2021-07-25T10:05:05.613Z · EA · GW

I happened to have met someone working in formal verification. What they do is to use SAT solver to check if a railroad switching system works as expected. I don't think they would consider them doing AI security. But for software used in critical infrastructure (like railway), it is an important safe measure.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Candy for Nets · 2021-07-25T09:54:08.915Z · EA · GW

As we go I'm going to continue to try very hard not to pressure or manipulate her, while still giving advice and helping her explore her motivations here.

Where do you draw the line between education and manipulation? Do you consider punishment and reward necessary in educating children?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Testing Newport's "Digital Minimalism" at CEEALAR · 2021-07-25T09:41:26.655Z · EA · GW

Isn't 2h TV per day a bit too much? Why not read some books.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Is impersonal benevolence a virtue? · 2021-07-23T08:42:42.788Z · EA · GW

She is a virtue ethicist, so she believes the best way to live a good life to develop virtues in ourselves. The reason she gives it that being a virtuous person, on average, is the best bet to flourish, e.g., having good health, satisfying career, happy family, etc. But she rejects that "impersonal benevolence" is a virtue. Thus, for Hurshouse, a person can still be virtuous and live a good life even if she does not care at all about strangers whom she has never met. To be honest, this is the most problematic part I found in her thesis.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Is impersonal benevolence a virtue? · 2021-07-23T07:03:24.073Z · EA · GW

I like your answer. Thanks for all the replies!

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Open Thread: July 2021 · 2021-07-22T13:44:01.399Z · EA · GW

Just watched the documentary Seaspiracy https://www.seaspiracy.org/. I knew a trillions of acquatic animals are killed each year. But seeing the impact of the fishing industry on screen is really shocking.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on A ranked list of all EA-relevant documentaries, movies, and TV series I've watched · 2021-07-22T13:01:03.777Z · EA · GW

Seaspiracy is a great documentary. Truly shocking. I knew trillions marine animals are killed each year by fishing. But I did not realize the ocean may become empty in a few decades.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Is impersonal benevolence a virtue? · 2021-07-22T08:56:32.215Z · EA · GW

Of course Hursthouse's account of ethical naturalism could be mistaken. (I am not totally satisfied with it either). But I just don't see how morality can be seen as "objective" without appealing to human nature in some way. (I know Derek Parfit has a book On What Matters defending moral objectivity. But I have not had the guts to dive into it.)

As for "impersonally benevolence", I agree that it doesn't necessary has to conflict with the well-being of one's family. For example in Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality, Peter Railton argues that maybe to be it is may be the case that a do-gooder can do more good if he/she be a bit partial -- If you have a happy family, you may have a lot more energy to help strangers.

But I do think this is not necessarily always conflict free. For example, Peter Singer was once accused of being hypocrite because he and his sister put their mum with Alzheimer's disease in a caring facility, which cost a lot of money.

Singer has spent his career trying to lay down rules for human behavior which are divorced from emotion and intuition. His is a world that makes no provision for private aides to look after addled, dying old women. Yet he can’t help himself. “I think this has made me see how the issues of someone with these kinds of problems are really very difficult,” he said quietly. “Perhaps it is more difficult than I thought before, because it is different when it’s your mother.”

Did helping his mum motivated Singer to do more good later in his life? Maybe. But it would be very hard to do the calculations.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Is impersonal benevolence a virtue? · 2021-07-22T06:25:59.169Z · EA · GW

I feel that rejecting ethical naturalism necessarily implies rejection of moral objectivity. Thus we will have to accept ethical relativism, which amounts to moral nihilism.

There is a chapter of Strangers Drowning which tells the story of an American missionary who had worked in Africa with her family, including two young children. During their time there, her children was almost kidnapped by a mob. But she persisted and kept working there. Eventually, she had to come back to American for the benefit of one of her children, who has intellectual disability. But she felt bad about it breaking commitment to the church.

I think this example shows that indeed, for people who strive to be "impersonal benevolent", there would come a time to decide whose benefit comes first, the children or strangers? And the children may come to resent morality if the parents actually choose strangers.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Writing about my job: Internet Blogger · 2021-07-20T05:37:19.247Z · EA · GW

If you keep writing on a topic, maybe one day you can publish a collection of your blog posts as a book?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on All Possible Views About Humanity's Future Are Wild · 2021-07-17T04:22:09.345Z · EA · GW

I found it a bit baffling why people are afraid of a super AI take over. If they can do everything humans can do, why don’t let them take over the burden of exploring the galaxy?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Book Giveaway Impact Analysis (Doing Good Better in NZ) · 2021-07-13T15:46:15.938Z · EA · GW

I have a feeling that if the argument of EA can motivate a people has a lot to do with a person's natural disposition and circumstance. It would be hard for many people to give away the notation that "we should take care only of ours". And it's also difficult for someone with a lot of personal issues to think about others. People who have the time and energy to actually read a book of EA perhaps are already disposed to accept its ideas.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on What are the long term consequences of poverty alleviation? · 2021-07-13T00:05:51.262Z · EA · GW

"The graphs that show so much recent progress in the developing world—on poverty, on hunger, on education and infant mortality and life expectancy and gender relations and more—are, practically speaking, the same graphs that trace the dramatic rise in global carbon emissions that has brought the planet to the brink of overall catastrophe." -- The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Jumping in Front of Bullets vs. Organ Donation · 2021-07-11T01:57:35.886Z · EA · GW

How much time do you think you have to decide if to jump in front of the bullet? 1 second? 5 second? How far to the future do you want to consider? One generation or two? How likely the bullet will hit your livers or other organs suitable for donation? What if you live for too long afterwards and pass the age limit for organ donation? Will the shooter stop shooting immediately after seeing your sacrifice? Why? Who is the person you want to save? …. Whatever the end result of this analysis is, I don’t think it’s going to be helpful for you or anyone in a mass shooting.

I was once told that so many contrived variations of the famous trolley problem have been invented that there is a sub field of moral philosophy called trolleyology. Some thought experiment reviews something we don’t about the world or ourselves. Others are only useful for writing papers.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Lessons from Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar · 2021-07-10T19:50:17.933Z · EA · GW

It's a good book even just for entertainment. Hope you will like it.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on [Podcast] Suggest a question for Ben Todd · 2021-07-07T03:46:21.214Z · EA · GW

Some people want only their own or their family's happiness and do not care about strangers much, let alone future of generations. Do think the career advice on 80000 hours can still be helpful for them? In what way?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Book recommendation -- The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard · 2021-07-07T03:37:47.878Z · EA · GW

Another important argument from the book that I forgot to mention is that buying carbon offsetting is almost always wrong. Here is a podcast making the same argument -- https://www.climateone.org/audio/clearing-air-carbon-offsets

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Open Thread: July 2021 · 2021-07-05T20:30:05.164Z · EA · GW

If you are interested in carbon offsetting but not sure about it’s effectiveness, check out this podcast https://www.climateone.org/audio/clearing-air-carbon-offsets

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on newptcai's Shortform · 2021-07-04T06:08:15.470Z · EA · GW

I recently came across a search engine Ecosia and I would like to recommend it to EAs. The company promises to use its a portion of its profit to fund re-forestation projects. Their website claims that they have planted 128 millions trees since its launch. People who have looked into it (here and here) found the company is legitimate.

From my experience, it works well for most searches, but sometimes you do need Google. Fortunately it's very convenient to specify search engine in firefox. I found this is a very easy way to do a bit good which cost nearly nothing.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Open Thread: July 2021 · 2021-07-04T05:53:42.944Z · EA · GW

Hi, I would recommend you read Citizen's Guide to Climate Success by Mark Jaccard. The author is a Canadian economists who has advised many regional and national governments. Since he's Canadian, the book also talks about his experience with Canadian politicians. Here's a review I wrote -- https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/gtNxRnjLtZrqfskb7/book-recommendation-the-citizen-s-guide-to-climate-success You can just read the 1st and the last chapters if the book is too long for you.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Which cause should I choose -- Climate Change or Global Poverty? · 2021-06-30T02:07:39.194Z · EA · GW

Thanks. According to GivingGreen, carbon offsetting is indeed not very effective. So I am thinking of donating to organizations promoting policy changes such as Clear Air Task Force.

My impression on the impact of climate change mostly comes from Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency by Mark Lynas. There is an episode of 80000 hours podcast interviewing Lynas if anyone is interested.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on How do other EAs keep themselves motivated? · 2021-05-28T22:50:45.125Z · EA · GW

I listen to the podcast BBC world report every morning. It covers stories from everywhere and very often the news are not so good. Wars, conflicts, disasters, pandemic, etc. I listen to it not because I enjoy such things but to remind myself that there are many many people suffering on this world and I must do part to help.

I also like to read some ancient Roman Stoics, such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca to help myself to stay strong and not be overwhelmed by all the problems the world is facing now.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should aid organizations accept ETH donations? · 2021-05-19T14:05:04.360Z · EA · GW

I'm aware that Ethereum has just announced that they will switch to Proof-of-stake. I hope they succeed, but I am not optimistic about it. If you are patient enough, here are 1580 comments on this topic -- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27194586

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should aid organizations accept ETH donations? · 2021-05-17T08:03:00.881Z · EA · GW

Why is electric usage a weak argument? BitCoin alone consumes 144.28 TWh per year. That is more that what Sweden consumes a year. And what we get for this in return?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should aid organizations accept ETH donations? · 2021-05-17T03:46:03.758Z · EA · GW

Thanks. In the example raised in my question, I do agree that the donation is perhaps acceptable. Though the comparison with Bill Gates is perhaps not very appropriate. Microsoft does provide a tangible service. In contrast, the contribution of cryptocurrency to the world appears to be very much negative.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Would anyone be able to help me decide between Economics PhD offers? · 2021-05-13T16:06:36.003Z · EA · GW

Planet money podcast has an episode about how economists look for jobs themselves -- Episode 769: Speed Dating For Economists : Planet Money : NPR. Here's another episode about sexism in the field Economics, Sexism, Data : Planet Money : NPR. You may find them useful for your research.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should you do a PhD in science? · 2021-05-11T17:53:59.642Z · EA · GW

Oh, I am going to start advise undergrads on career choices soon. Many of them will want to go to graduate schools. So I would like to give them some cautions. Please let me know when your article comes out. Good luck with publishing it!

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should you do a PhD in science? · 2021-05-10T16:54:22.658Z · EA · GW

Have you published your results?

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should you do a PhD in science? · 2021-05-09T12:00:12.113Z · EA · GW

The survey includes also teaching positions.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Should you do a PhD in science? · 2021-05-09T11:59:37.772Z · EA · GW

That is true. But since US is already producing so many PhD, I guess it’s unlikely that a very large portion of these positions are filled with foreign produced ones.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on How to identify your local high impact career opportunities - process and tips from EA Sweden · 2021-05-04T20:03:14.894Z · EA · GW

I happened to have met some from this Stockholm based company Meepo. They donate a portion of their profit and made the App for The Life You Can Save pro bono. It may be interesting to check their job openings if you are in Sweden.

Comment by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) on Five Books of Peter Singer which Changed My Life · 2021-05-04T13:20:01.628Z · EA · GW

Thanks. That's an interesting article. Though as one of the comment says "What’s wrong with evolutionary biologists?" It is by nature a highly speculative domain. But if we accept evolution theory is the best way to explain how life evolves on earth, why cannot we use it to explain human evolution?