Posts

Lobbying governments to improve wild animal welfare 2022-08-02T06:21:59.049Z
Reducing aquatic noise as a wild animal welfare intervention 2022-07-18T16:12:56.276Z
Wild animal welfare in the far future 2022-07-08T14:02:36.607Z
Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum 2022-01-21T15:20:48.823Z
Surveys related to animal advocacy 2020-08-12T19:38:27.013Z
Collection of good 2012-2017 EA forum posts 2020-07-10T16:35:58.229Z
How much do Europeans care about fish welfare? (An analysis of relevant surveys) 2020-06-22T15:08:05.604Z
A cause can be too neglected 2020-04-03T16:41:55.283Z
Estimates of global captive vertebrate numbers 2020-02-18T17:05:36.160Z
Accuracy issues in FAO animal numbers 2019-12-02T14:56:47.306Z
Effective Animal Advocacy Resources 2019-10-24T10:41:12.057Z
Corporate commitments breakdown 2019-08-28T16:53:06.105Z
List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading 2019-08-20T18:05:03.872Z
saulius's Shortform 2019-08-13T15:04:34.562Z
Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent 2019-07-08T08:01:43.368Z
35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year 2019-04-02T13:16:07.994Z
Rodents farmed for pet snake food 2019-02-20T19:54:28.356Z
Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments? 2019-02-01T10:24:26.297Z
List of possible EA meta-charities and projects 2019-01-09T11:28:29.773Z
Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen 2018-08-08T20:56:25.455Z
A lesson from an EA weekend in London: pairing people up to talk 1 on 1 for 30 mins seems to be very useful 2018-06-12T11:38:39.913Z
Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs 2017-05-10T22:33:21.864Z

Comments

Comment by saulius on Open EA Global · 2022-09-01T08:04:11.820Z · EA · GW

We should at least try this once and see what happens

Comment by saulius on Animal Welfare Fund: April 2022 grant recommendations · 2022-08-30T12:03:00.664Z · EA · GW

yes, what Linch said is correct in terms of my reasoning. I think that collecting pregnant females from the wild decreases the number of cochineals who die young, but I imagine that it doesn't decrease long-term cochineal populations much, otherwise it would be unsustainable. It took me a long time to get my head around all this and I'm still unsure about a lot of stuff, due to a lack of information and it being a bit confusing.

Comment by saulius on Animal Welfare Fund: April 2022 grant recommendations · 2022-08-30T11:56:30.665Z · EA · GW

 I think the counterfactuals here are tricky to think about and I wouldn’t confidently claim that wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes.

I totally agree, this is all very speculative.

And, if current demand were to sustain or increase it seems like a marginal increase in industry would come from the farmed side. E.g., 

This makes sense and substantially increases my probability that the grant is net-positive.

One thing to think about here is whether to make the research public. If it’s public, I’d still worry about it causing more suffering than it prevents because we don’t know how it might impact the supply and what will be the future of carmine. But if it’s not public, then I’m not sure how the research would make an impact. I imagine that it would be public because it’s by a university. I would consider first commissioning an economic analysis of how synthetic carmine would alter farmed and wild-caught quantities.

Comment by saulius on Animal Welfare Fund: April 2022 grant recommendations · 2022-08-26T06:25:18.082Z · EA · GW

Cameron Semper ($40,000): Research funding to explore biosynthetic alternatives for the production of carmine.

I worry that this might increase rather than decrease animal suffering. Here is my old comment on it:

I just wanted to inform that I looked into the possibility of doing public campaigns against carmine and decided that it would not be a good idea. The main source of suffering in carmine production seems to be due to farmers adding many cochineal juveniles that suffer from natural deaths early in their life, just as they would in uncontrolled wild populations. However, around 80% of carmine is wild-harvested and I found out that they actually harvest pregnant females before they lay most of their eggs. Hence, wild harvesting prevents the very same type of suffering that farming introduces. And I think it prevents more suffering because the scale is bigger. I am not totally sure about all this, it wasn't easy to find reliable information about the industry, but based on what I found I decided to not look any deeper. I also didn't manage to come up with any way to decrease the number of farmed cochineals but not wild-harvested cochineals. If someone wanted to look into this industry deeper, please contact me and I can share sources that I found.

Comment by saulius on Are you allocated optimally in your own estimation? · 2022-08-21T15:27:58.571Z · EA · GW

I don't think that deferring to manager is always optimal, and I'd support EA tenure for some EAs too (I even suggested a mechanism of how that could work for less trusted researchers). Sorry that I didn't make it clear in my comment, I just thought that you did a good job at presenting the pros of researchers doing what they want, so I wanted to give arguments for the other side to paint a fuller picture :)

Comment by saulius on Are you allocated optimally in your own estimation? · 2022-08-21T14:50:00.200Z · EA · GW

Well, I work as a researcher in animal welfare, but I think that longtermist stuff is orders of magnitude more important, so if I was left to do whatever I want, I'd start looking into longtermism and try to find my place there. And I might quit my job and do that one day, but I'm not fully sure if researchers would have more impact if left to do what they want.

In terms of which cause to work on, OpenPhil thought more about which cause should receive how much money than I or probably any other researchers did. So I'm unsure if allocation between causes would be better if everyone did what they wanted. Maybe more people would work on interesting, obvious, or high-status problems. This applies not just to major cause-areas, but also to problems within causes.

In terms of what concrete projects to work on, I think that managers often know better what research would be more impactful because they are often more senior. And maybe researchers need less coordination and are more motivated if they work on what they want, but I think that the impact the project will have depends much more on the topic. And it's great to be able to abandon projects when they no longer seem impactful, but needing to justify abandoning to your manager seems like a good safeguard against abandoning projects too much. And that is all I'd need to do to abandon my current project if I had a good reason to do that.

In practice, I sometimes was allowed to work on what I wanted, and sometimes I was given projects, and I haven't noticed a clear correlation in which projects end up seeming more impactful in retrospect. I'm thinking about my two projects that seem most impactful per hour spent. In one case, I was passionately opposed to doing the project, argued against it in person, and wrote a longish document about why it's a bad idea. I was told to do it anyway and I'm happy I did. In another case, everyone I talked to told me that the project I wanted to do was a very bad idea. I did it anyway during a free week we have at Rethink Priorities where we can do whatever we want, and later people who opposed the project agreed that it was a good idea. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Comment by saulius on What happens on the average day? · 2022-08-17T16:37:13.033Z · EA · GW

Humans kill 800,000 cows, 1.6 million sheep, 4 million pigs, 200 million chickens, and 300 million fish.


I think you mean 300 million farmed fishes. But there are also wild-caught fishes. According to fishcount, “It has been estimated (in 2019) that between 0.79 and 2.3 trillion* fish (i.e. 790,000,000,000 to 2,300,000,000,000) were caught from the wild”. That’s 2.1 billion to 6.3 billion wild fishes killed per day. It doesn’t include illegal and unreported fishing (which would increase numbers a lot) and bycatch (some estimates on that here). Of course, we kill many more wild fishes by pollution, etc. And these are just finfishes, the number of shellfishes humans kill are many times higher.

Comment by saulius on Megaprojects for animals · 2022-08-11T11:29:55.450Z · EA · GW

Something I have heard from many campaign groups is that having research conducted in their country in their own language would be really useful for working with local goverments, companies and producers.

Are there any particular existing texts that would be useful to translate to other languages? Perhaps the Welfare Footprint books on hens and broilers? This wouldn't be as good as research conducted in their own country but perhaps still useful and probably very easy to organize and fund.

Comment by saulius on Lobbying governments to improve wild animal welfare · 2022-08-02T09:59:02.338Z · EA · GW

No, I never looked into it, it didn't seem relevant for interventions I was examining. I'm unsure for what WAW interventions it would be relevant. Looking at my list, the only one where it's very relevant seems to be "Eradicate or reduce populations of invasive species that suffer a lot (e.g., have very many offspring) or otherwise create a lot of suffering (e.g., parasites like screwworms)." But even then, species longevity seems to depend a lot on what the future of humanity (or TAI)  will look like and no one knows the answer to that.  We are currently causing a mass extinction event and no one knows how long it will last. 

Comment by saulius on What are the ethics of eating carnivorous animals? · 2022-07-23T07:56:14.935Z · EA · GW

My opinion on fish: I worry that consuming wild-caught fish increases the general demand for fish, and that extra demand is fulfilled by fish farming, which can involve a lot of suffering. As you can see in the graph below, wild fish catches have been stable for many years because we can't sustainably catch more wild fish than we do now.

But this may not apply for all species of wild-caught fish. 

But there are many other complicating factors. For example: 
* Wild animal welfare effects of catching wild fish likely dominate, and they are complex and we are clueless about them, just like we are clueless about everything else
* Michael St. Jules pointed out that in some cases reducing the demand for wild-caught fish prevents unsustainable fishing which increases how many fish will be caught in the long-term. So it's unclear what to do if you are worried about suffering during capture which can be long and intense (more on that suffering here).
* If eating wild fish increases fish farming, the effects of that are also complicated. Fish farming is limited by the amount of feed fish that can be caught from the wild. But those are also mostly fished at capacity, or over capacity. Some plan to farm insects in trillions and feed them to farmed fish for a protein source to supplement feed fish. It's possible that those insects will be sentient and will suffer in farms. The bigger demand for fish, the more likely this will happen.

So yeah, it's super complicated.

Comment by saulius on What are the ethics of eating carnivorous animals? · 2022-07-23T07:28:35.808Z · EA · GW

Yes, it's discussed in some articles by Brian Tomasik that you can see here.

Comment by saulius on The EA forum post-writing algorithm (95% > 100 karma, n> 100) · 2022-07-23T06:59:13.028Z · EA · GW

Actually, you a right, I regret making the first point.  For some reason I felt like I should refute every point you made and I was unfair on you in this one. It does take me embarrassingly long to write concisely but it's not because of references to obscure stuff of the kind you talk about. It's mostly because I need to weave out bad arguments (like that one in my comment), and because I change the structure of an article  over ten times which is a bad habit. Also because I'm generally slow at formulating sentences, especially in English (which is my second language). This is rather unique to me but it is true that writting clearly and efficiently is a skill and not everyone has it.

I do think you make some good points in your post, I didn't downvote it. I think that I kind of attacked you when in my mind I was defending myself from the feeling of remorse about spending months of writting things that no one might read. I apologize for that. Ironically,  I regret not spending more time on my comment.

Comment by saulius on The EA forum post-writing algorithm (95% > 100 karma, n> 100) · 2022-07-22T23:15:36.381Z · EA · GW

I understand where you are coming from. But this post seems a bit mean towards writers. I feel that I am the kind of writer it is directed at so I want to defend myself. 

Making something short and sweet takes a lot of work. My writing for myself includes references to obscure stuff I read, conceptualizing, etc. And sometimes my posts have a target audience of only a few people and I don’t care if anyone else reads it.[1] Hence, it doesn’t seem worth it to spend weeks or months converting my notes into something that would be optimal for the reader (yes, it can take months).

I caveat a lot for a lot of reasons. One of them is that I’m afraid that five minutes after posting, someone will point out a mistake that is obvious to most, and that comment will be upvoted more than my post, and then people won’t even read the post or my other posts because if I didn’t know X, then I must be stupid, and I will lose my job and respect of most of my friends. The alternatives are not posting anything, losing sleep, or doing even more research. A few extra words for you to read sometimes seems like a fair price to avoid any of these.

I write for the EA forum because I want to do good not to reap karma that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on anything. Also, writing posts of the kind you described is far from the easiest way to get karma if anyone wanted it.

  1. ^

    For example, I spent months on trying to evaluate Reducing aquatic noise as a wild animal welfare intervention. I came away with no strong conclusions. I thought that converting my notes into something somewhat readable is better than nothing because:

    • Maybe someone will be interested in funding it
    • Maybe someone will be interested in career in this
    • It might prevent someone from doing the same research

      Maybe I should’ve said the target audience in the beginning of the post. Although I’m not sure if anyone falls into any of these categories. And if anyone does, perhaps they wouldn’t mind that much the text not being optimal for reading as they might be very interested anyway.
Comment by saulius on The EA forum post-writing algorithm (95% > 100 karma, n> 100) · 2022-07-22T23:15:13.328Z · EA · GW

I understand where you are coming from. But this post seems a bit mean towards writers. I feel that I am the kind of writer it is directed at so I want to defend myself. 

Making something short and sweet takes a lot of work. My writing for myself includes references to obscure stuff I read, conceptualizing, etc. And sometimes my posts have a target audience of only a few people and I don’t care if anyone else reads it.[1] Hence, it doesn’t seem worth it to spend weeks or months converting my notes into something that would be optimal for the reader (yes, it can take months).

I caveat a lot for a lot of reasons. One of them is that I’m afraid that five minutes after posting, someone will point out a mistake that is obvious to most, and that comment will be upvoted more than my post, and then people won’t even read the post or my other posts because if I didn’t know X, then I must be stupid, and I will lose my job and respect of most of my friends. The alternatives are not posting anything, losing sleep, or doing even more research. A few extra words for you to read sometimes seems like a fair price to avoid any of these.

I write for the EA forum because I want to do good not to reap karma that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on anything. Also, writing posts of the kind you described is far from the easiest way to get karma if anyone wanted it.

  1. ^

    For example, I spent months on trying to evaluate Reducing aquatic noise as a wild animal welfare intervention. I came away with no strong conclusions. I thought that converting my notes into something somewhat readable is better than nothing because:

    • Maybe someone will be interested in funding it
    • Maybe someone will be interested in career in this
    • It might prevent someone from doing the same research

Maybe I should’ve said the target audience in the beginning of the post. Although I’m not sure if anyone falls into any of these categories. And if anyone does, perhaps they wouldn’t mind that much the text not being optimal for reading as they might be very interested anyway.
 

Comment by saulius on Critiques of EA that I want to read · 2022-07-14T15:17:39.279Z · EA · GW

Perhaps some of these criticisms might be even more useful if they were framed as opportunities. For example:

  • "EA is neglecting trying to influence non-EA organizations" -> "EAs could try to influence non-EA organizations more"
  • "Alternative models for distributing funding are [...] under-explored in EA" - > "we should explore alternative models"

I'm not sure if this matters much but I think it puts the focus on what can be done (e.g., what projects EA entrepreneurs could start), rather than on people feeling bad about what they already did and then defending it.

Comment by saulius on Wild animal welfare in the far future · 2022-07-11T15:37:42.019Z · EA · GW

I'm curious why do you want to upload animals into a simulated environment? What would be the point? Would that be intrinsically valuable according to your beliefs?

Comment by saulius on Some research questions that you may want to tackle · 2022-07-09T07:53:14.991Z · EA · GW

Hey, thanks for writing this, there are some interesting ideas here. A bit of a nitpick, but I’m not sure that your “estimate 250 million fish years are spent in agony each year as wild fish are killed by asphyxiation or being gutted alive” is quite accurate . You are extrapolating from the length of time it takes for herring, cod, whiting, sole, dab and plaice to suffocate to all wild-caught fish. But I think that all of these are rather big fish and they likely were studied and mentioned by FishCount because it takes so long for them to suffocate. For example, 17%–65% of all wild-caught fishes are anchovies (295–908 billion fishes per year), and this video claims that “anchovies die immediately when they are out of water.” (though I don’t know how reliable that video is). I tried to estimate the same things (after reading the same text) here. I estimated that 0.7–49 million herring, cod, whiting, sole, dab, and plaice are suffocating in the air after being landed at any time (and didn’t make an estimate for other fishes). Also, there’s already some research on humane slaughter of fish, some of it is funded by Open Philanthropy, I don’t know if it is neglected or not.

Comment by saulius on Wild animal welfare in the far future · 2022-07-08T16:56:38.971Z · EA · GW

Yes, you had expressed this thought in this article (which I link to somewhere in this text) and that's what influenced me to use quotes. But I still want to differentiate between animals who are farmed for food or other purposes on space settlements, and animals who are freely roaming in spaces created for humans to explore (similar to nature reserves). Perhaps the latter group could be called "managed animals". For example, in the case of Bernal Sphere,  animals would be farmed in a dedicated sector of a space settlement (as you can see in this illustration):

Just for the record, I think that it's unlikely that animal farming will stick around for millions of years if humans colonize the space with such space settlements, but as you point out in that article, it is possible (e.g., if at least some humans want "authentic" meat).

Comment by saulius on New cause area: Violence against women and girls · 2022-06-07T12:38:31.632Z · EA · GW

I haven't read the report but I just want to point out that there is some possibly related research by an EA organization Founders Pledge on women's empowerment. In particular, they review a charity No Means No Worldwide which teach courses to kids to prevent sexual assault. I apologize if this is not very relevant.

Comment by saulius on What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism? · 2022-04-16T21:32:54.531Z · EA · GW

This project might be of interest.  They tried to answer the following questions:
How can people with non-utilitarian ethical views, such as egalitarians and justice-oriented individuals, find a place in the effective altruism community?

And are effective altruism methods helpful when we seek to reduce systemic inequalities and social injustices?

And they tried to find the best charity to donate to for these goals.

Comment by saulius on Are there any uber-analyses of GiveWell/ACE top charities? · 2022-04-16T12:04:45.023Z · EA · GW

Michael Dickens did something like that in 2016 here. The web app doesn't seem to work anymore (you can see how it looked here) but you can still access the spreadsheet from the internet archive here.

Comment by saulius on The Wicked Problem Experience · 2022-04-14T11:41:17.721Z · EA · GW

I'm going to point aspiring researchers who ask me what it's like to work at an EA think tank to this article. This is exactly my experience for many projects where the end result is an article. It's a bit different when the end result is a decision like "what charity to start".  

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2022-03-25T09:25:53.300Z · EA · GW

ah, thanks so much for pointing this out, happy to see that funders already have this idea on their radar and I don't need to do anything :)

Comment by saulius on We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize · 2022-03-23T14:40:48.743Z · EA · GW

I just wanted to point out that if you want to participate but don't necessarily need $100,000, you can pledge to donate a part of the prize if you get it.

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2022-03-23T12:33:56.313Z · EA · GW

Why don’t we fund movies and documentaries that explore EA topics? 

It seems to me that the way society thinks about the future is largely shaped by movies and documentaries. Why don’t we create movies that shape the views in a way that’s more realistic and useful? E.g., I haven’t read the discussion on whether Terminator is or is not a good comparison for AI risks but it’s almost certainly not a perfect comparison. Why don’t we create a better one that we could point people to? Something that would explore many important points. Now that EA has more money, that seems plausible. In 2021, OpenPhil gave grants totalling $77.6 million for work on the potential risks from Advanced AI. The budget of a movie with an all-star cast and special effects like Don't Look Up is $75 million. But the difference is that the movie might make money, maybe even more money than its budget. It’s not obvious to me that even something extravagant like this would be a bad investment because it might make it easier to make progress on AI policy and other stuff for years to come. Of course, movies wouldn't have to be so high budget, especially at the start. And better approach would probably be creating documentaries. Maybe a series like Vox Explained for various EA issues or for longtermism. I think it could become popular because some of the EA ideas about how far future might look seem more interesting than a lot of sci-fi, and also more novel to most people. And this is not just about AI. E.g., I can imagine a nuanced documentary about wild animal suffering that also talks about why we should think twice before spreading nature to other planets. 

Anyway, this is just a shower thought, I imagine that this has been discussed before but just wanted to post it in case it hasn’t been discussed enough. And note that I never worked on AI so I don’t know what I’m talking about in that part of my text.

Comment by saulius on We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize · 2022-03-08T11:40:05.322Z · EA · GW

That said, writing a good blog takes a lot of time, and note that the expected value for any particular blogger will be relatively low. If 100 bloggers apply (which we expect to be a lower bound given the traction), it's $5k for the work of a part-time job over a year.

I worry that this creates a weird dynamic. Only people who are financially well-off already can afford to invest a lot of time for a small probability to win a lot of money. These are normally not the people who need money the most. And if these people started blogging because of the money, they might not be very motivated to continue once they get this $100,000. At the same time, some talented writer who can't afford to spend a lot of time on blogging will continue to not be able to do that. Also, I hope that you will give feedback to applicants to prevent someone from putting a lot of time into this hoping that they get the money and then never getting any money. I guess I'm surprised about this $100,000 or nothing granting approach, it doesn't seem optimal to me. 

Just to illustrate, my thought process after reading this post was that maybe I should reduce my hours at work and start a blog. But then I thought that I'm really privileged to be able to do that and that this format further rewards privileged people.  And that if I got $100,000, I might take some time off from EA work and blogging which I wouldn't do otherwise.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding some things. It's also unclear to me how developed a blog should be before you apply.
 

Comment by saulius on We're announcing a $100,000 blog prize · 2022-03-08T11:18:07.722Z · EA · GW

I'm curious why do you expect blogging to  "often be done by people who aren't members of the EA community"? Are you advertising this in other places and is this your way of trying to get more people into EA? Do you want long-time members of EA community to apply as well? Sorry if that's too many questions.

Comment by saulius on Why the expected numbers of farmed animals in the far future might be huge · 2022-03-05T16:15:12.330Z · EA · GW

Unfortunately, I don't

Comment by saulius on Why the expected numbers of farmed animals in the far future might be huge · 2022-03-05T10:58:01.905Z · EA · GW

Nice post! One intervention could be specifically arguing against including factory farming in space colonization plans. But methods and the tone for doing that might have to be very different from what animal advocates mostly use now. We'd have to be very careful and strategic about how we do that because doing it badly would make future efforts much more difficult. We could also fund and encourage research how to colonize space without animal farming.

If they get good at factory farming in space colonies, then it will be more difficult to switch to other options later. It's like we are selecting which branch of a tech tree we will go for in a video game right now but it's in real life.

Comment by saulius on Open Thread: Spring 2022 · 2022-02-24T21:47:27.019Z · EA · GW

This is totally not my area but since no one else answered in six days, I'll just say that Founders pledge has a report on best climate change interventions with some charity recommendations at the bottom. Also, there is this post, though I don't know if recommendations are up to date there. And probably there is much more EA stuff that I don't know about on this topic.

Comment by saulius on Potential Theories of Change for the Animal Advocacy movement · 2022-02-10T15:59:10.059Z · EA · GW

Hmm, maybe you are right. Maybe we can only predict the business-as-usual scenario of humanity where there is economic stagnation with enough clarity to make useful conclusions from those predictions. I guess my only point then is that medium-term strategy like this is a bit less important because the future will probably not be business-as-usual for very long.

Well, we could also think about which scenarios lead to the most moral circle expansion for people who might be making decisions impacting the far future. So e.g., maybe expansion of animal advocacy to developing countries is less important because of this consideration? I don't know how strong this consideration is though because I don't how decision-making might look in the future but maybe nobody does. I guess doing many different things (which is what the author suggests) can also be good to prepare for future scenarios we can’t predict.

Comment by saulius on Potential Theories of Change for the Animal Advocacy movement · 2022-02-10T13:34:50.186Z · EA · GW

Hi James. This is a great and valuable analysis and I’ve learnt a lot from it. One thing that I think would be valuable is more cross-over between this sort of medium-term (30-50 years) thinking, and ideas from longtermism. I don’t know much about longtermism but here is my attempt to do it:

  • Holden Karnofsky (co-CEO of Open Philanthropy) says “I estimate that there is more than a 10% chance we'll see transformative AI within 15 years (by 2036); a ~50% chance we'll see it within 40 years (by 2060); and a ~2/3 chance we'll see it this century (by 2100).” I would like this possibility to be incorporated in analyses like this. Most primitively, maybe  transformative AI could accelerate cultured meat research a lot. But I imagine that it affects scenarios in other ways too because it would change the world a lot and I would like people who are thinking about AI to comment on what those ways could be.
  • One potential scenario that is missing is human extinction. Toby Ord gave 1 in 6 chance of humanity not surviving the next 100 years in his book The Precipice.
  • There could be a global catastrophe (e.g., very bad pandemic or large-scale nuclear war followed by nuclear winter) which might make humanity take a big step backwards. What is the fate of factory farming in those scenarios?

Scenarios like the ones above make me think that what factory farming looks like in 50 years is a bit less directly important. Even if we get rid of factory farming, the world is quite likely to change unrecognisably soon afterwards (if not before), perhaps into something where factory farming is not that relevant anyway. Such possibilities also make it harder to plan for the future. What we do in animal advocacy could have an effect on the far future which might be more important. But then it might be better to think about how we affect various far future scenarios directly. However, I still think that the analysis you wrote is very useful, I’d just like for us to build on it with some input from longtermists.

Comment by saulius on What brand should EA buy? If we had to buy one. · 2022-02-05T21:24:36.648Z · EA · GW

It may or may not be a good idea to do a documentary about wild animal suffering but I don't think that Attenborough would agree to do it because his passion seems to be about preserving nature. Advocating for caring for wild animal suffering would slightly go against this view because it would make it seem like nature preservation stuff he is advocating for has some cons too.

Comment by saulius on For vegetarians: Is there plausibly a kind of fish farm that would make eating fish ethical? · 2022-02-02T09:22:59.031Z · EA · GW

Also note that many farmed fish are carnivorous so other smaller fish are caught from the wild and killed to feed them. There is some suffering in how they are caught. E.g., those fish are left to suffocate in the air which is like maximally stressful for them, although it depends on species how long they are suffocating. Maybe most die quickly, I'm not sure. And they have to spend some time in really crowded nets. I don't know much about enviromental impacts of all this. But maybe it doesn't matter much because they can't catch any more of those fish from the ocean than they do now anyway so I'm not sure if the fish you would eat would change how many they catch.

Also, they are starting to farm insects to feed fish (to supplement protein from wild-caught fish which I think is currently limiting how fast fish farming can grow). Are insects sentient? Do they suffer in farm conditions? We don't know but I'd rather we didn't farm trillions of them just in case the answer to both questions is a yes.

Comment by saulius on For vegetarians: Is there plausibly a kind of fish farm that would make eating fish ethical? · 2022-02-02T09:15:25.196Z · EA · GW

Most people don't care where their fish comes from. So I imagine that even if you eat a fish from a good farm, the person who would've otherwise eaten that fish will now buy some other fish which might come from a bad farm. Well, it's more complicated but you get the general idea, you increase the demand for fish and the question is how that extra demand will be fulfilled rather than where your particular fish comes from. I'm not sure to what degree this is actually the case. To make this argument formally, you'd have to look at cross elasticities of demand or some other economics stuff that I don't know about.

I'm also not sure how good farms can actually be right now when we don't seem to know that much about what is needed for each fish species to have good welfare right now (again, this is not my area, so please don't cite me on this). 

Comment by saulius on Is mindfulness good for you? · 2022-01-28T17:18:52.514Z · EA · GW

Totally agree. I think the analysis in the post is useful but proponents of meditation claim that it has many benefits beyond what is examined here. I think that this short lesson (6min 39s) from Sam Harris is a good answer to this post. And what he says corresponds to my personal experience.

Comment by saulius on Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum · 2022-01-28T12:19:42.031Z · EA · GW

I agree that there might be easier ways to solve some of the problems I raise. Perhaps there being someone responsible for posting the most relevant articles from the EA forum and elsewhere in the EAA Facebook group would be good. I’d consider donating someone to do that one day a week. There also already are newsletters and they encourage reading but not commenting or posting. And from the comment by JP Addison, it seems that in the long run this problem might be solved within the EA forum in a similar way that I proposed too so I am happy :)

Perhaps one place to start would be to start a conversation in the EAA Facebook group asking folks whether they read or post on the forum, why or why not, and if there is anything that would make the EA forum more useful for them. I would be happy to volunteer to start that conversation on Facebook if you think that would be helpful.

I felt some hesitation about this. I imagine that people will say that they don't have time for that because they need to be doing their jobs of actually helping animals. And I sympathize with this position. I don’t want to make animal advocates feel like they have to do this other thing on top of their (often taxing) day job. So I guess I think it’s good to ask about this in the EAA Facebook as long as the question doesn’t make them feel this way.

Also, a lot of people in that group are being paid to do corporate or legislative campaigns, so most of their thoughts are about how to do that better. It's not always a good idea to share those thoughts and tactics publicly, it's better to share them within the Open Wing Alliance network. And while innovation on how to pursue corporate campaigns is great, I also think we need to experiment with other approaches. There already are conferences where animal charity employees are encouraged to give talks and listen to talks, maybe that partly solves problems that I wanted the forum to solve.

I’m now realizing that I’m holding two somewhat conflicting beliefs. First, I think that the EAA community as a whole should do more exploring of different approaches to help animals. And I think it’s important for people who are trying things in different countries to participate in that exploration as desk researchers like me lack context. On the other hand, if you take almost any particular employee of an animal charity, I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to do this because they are already doing a lot with their job. I guess that’s why I feel so awful whenever I need to ask busy EAA charity employees for input for my research, even though sometimes I really need it. And this likely limits my impact a lot. I felt that an EAA forum could go around some of these issues by making it so engaging to participate in these conversations that it doesn’t feel like work (because I think that the EA forum has done a good job at that). But yeah, I’m not sure it would work and there could be better ways to solve these issues.

Comment by saulius on Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum · 2022-01-25T11:45:21.776Z · EA · GW

Sounds like perhaps there should be more developers working on the EA forum? I imagine that it wouldn't be too hard to hire for such a position, and my uninformed intuition is that someone working on this would compare favourably to a marginal Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund grant although I don't have a good feel for that. Of course, I understand that it takes time to train staff and that software projects do not scale easily.

Comment by saulius on Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum · 2022-01-22T22:06:12.711Z · EA · GW

A flatmate suggested that the minimum viable product of EAA forum would be a skin on the EA forum where only animal-related posts are shown.  I guess this would at least make it easier for animal people to browse through the latest posts without seeing what might not be relevant to them. Maybe that could be done within the EA forum by modifying how tag-filters work. That is, by allowing someone to see only posts tagged with selected tags in the frontpage. But I feel it's important that there is a way to do that easily, otherwise busy animal charity directors might still not do it. Maybe there could be animal welfare meta-tag or something and then we could advertise a link to that meta-tag to animal activists. By meta-tag I mean a tag that includes multiple other tags. If we don't do the EAA forum, it might still be worth at least doing that.

Comment by saulius on Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum · 2022-01-22T21:30:26.480Z · EA · GW

Interesting, I didn't know that. Yes, there is a trade-off between how much work we put in the forum and the probability that it get's used.  But even if something like this would substantially increase the probability of it being used, it doesn't mean that it's not worth doing without it for the  chance that the EAA forum does take-off, even if you think it's somewhat slim (not that you were implying that).

Comment by saulius on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2022-01-21T15:21:24.175Z · EA · GW

ok, I made it into a post, thanks for the suggestion :)

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2022-01-21T15:00:28.872Z · EA · GW

I guess this would also not necessarily have to be research. E.g., a grant for corporate campaigns where payout depends on the commitments they won. I imagine multiple problems with this and it's probably a bad idea but perhaps it's worth consideration in some cases.

Comment by saulius on EA Forum feature suggestion thread · 2022-01-21T13:17:07.281Z · EA · GW

Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) forum

EDIT: I made this suggestion into an EA forum post so I deleted it from here to avoid duplication. The post contains the text that was originally here.

Comment by saulius on "Should have been hired" Prizes · 2022-01-19T14:59:46.819Z · EA · GW

Oh wow,  literally just minutes I independently made a similar suggestion in a shortform here. My idea is a bit different because I propose that people would apply to EA funds (or other funds) to do research and would be paid after their research is done, depending on how good/impactful their research was.  I thought I should mention it here because pursuing any one of these two ideas would probably be enough.

Comment by saulius on saulius's Shortform · 2022-01-19T14:44:02.559Z · EA · GW

Research grants with outcome-based payouts

If I 1) had savings that cover over a year of my living expenses, 2) wasn’t already employed at an EA think tank, and 3) wanted to do EA research independently, I would probably apply to EA funds to do research on unspecified topics (if they would allow me to do that). I would ask them to give funds not now, but after the research period is over (let’s say 6 months). At the end of the research period, I would produce text that shows instances where I think I had impact and include reasoning why what I did may have had impact. Note that this could include not just published articles, but also comments or in-person communications with trusted advocates that changed how a certain organization does something, reviews of work of others, wikipedia article edits, etc. The amount of funds that I would receive would depend on EA funds manager’s opinion on how good or impactful my work was (or how good of a chance what I did had to be impactful). I imagine that there would be pre-agreed sums of money the manager could choose from. E.g.:

  • No significant effort to achieve impact - $0
  • Significant effort to achieve impact in ways that were plausible but most likely didn’t materialize - $8,000
  • Some expected impact - $15,000
  • High expect impact - $25,000
  • Very high expected impact - $40,000

Before the research period, there could be a consultation with the EA fund manager who is going to evaluate my work about what kind of work they think might be promising. Such consultations could also happen during the research period.  Also, the research topics wouldn't need to be something completely unspecified. E.g., it could be "something related to welfare reforms for farmed animals" or it could also be a fully specified topic.

I think that this is better than the traditional approach of applying for a grant to research a specific topic for the following reasons:

  1. More direct motivation to do good. In the traditional approach, the incentive is to create a grant proposal that looks good on the surface (since I imagine that EA funds managers don’t have time to investigate grants very deeply). Then the financial incentive to do a good job can be less clear.
  2. You can switch research directions on the go. This is good because of three related reasons:
    1. It allows you to switch to more impactful research directions. I previously wrote this comment “To me, the main disadvantage of being funded through a fund is that I would be tied to a research topic and a timeframe in which I would have to complete the project (or at least that’s how I imagine it). Working at an organization allows me much more flexibility. I can begin researching a topic, see that it’s not as tractable as I thought, and then drop it. Alternatively, I can increase the scope of the project, or change it into something different, depending on what I feel will be more impactful. All of these scenarios happen often because the more I work on the project, the more informed I am about the most promising directions of that project.” This type of grant promise would allow flexibility for research being funded by a fund.
    2. Relatedly, ability to work on whatever sparks your interest in the moment, freedom to do whatever you want. I sometimes read something on this forum, and want to read, or spend all day writing a comment on it. When I do it, I’m usually very productive while doing it because I work on what is interesting to me at the time. If I had a grant to do research on a specific topic, then I would be less likely to do any of this because I would feel pressure to research whatever I was paid to research.
    3. Whenever I need to work on something, I don’t want to do it. And when I try to do it anyway, I am often less creative as I just want to get it over with.  I’ve talked with some other people who had a similar issue.[1]  I think that the structure I proposed would partly but not fully solve this issue for me at least.

Here are cons I can think of:

  1. If you can work on anything, it can lead to too much indecisiveness about what to do. Sometimes it’s good when it’s decided what you should do and you don’t need to think about it.
  2. It might create a nebulous pressure to do good that is difficult to act on, which could lead to stress.
  3. One could fear that what they did was impactful but disagreed with the views of the assigned EA funds manager. In that case maybe other EA fund managers could get involved but that wouldn’t fully mitigate the problem.

I’m not going to compare this option with working for an EA research organization but I think that there are cons and pros compared to that too. I imagine that this sort of thing could be the right choice for some people.

I thought about this only for two hours so I’m probably missing some important considerations. Also, I don’t know if this is a new idea, I haven’t checked.. It reminds me of certificates of impact but it’s a bit different. If EA funds managers thought that this is a good idea, they could encourage people to apply in this way, and maybe make a separate application form for that.

Any thoughts?

  1. ^

    To illustrate, I had multiple situations where I worked on some EA side project and was making a lot of progress in my free time and then my employer allowed me to work on it in my work time and my rate of progress per hour slowed down a lot. I think that for me this is because when I have to do something, I am motivated by negative incentives (fear of failure and hence losing my job, or doing job that is below what is expected of me and hence people thinking less of me (perfectionism)) more than by positive incentives (making an impact and impressing other people). This talk made me see that. 

Comment by saulius on EAA is relatively overinvesting in corporate welfare reforms · 2022-01-17T17:46:31.497Z · EA · GW

There should be easier ways to argue against exploitation of digital minds than taking down a growing industry worth trillions of dollars and employing a significant portion of the World's workforce. E.g., direct advocacy for digital minds which can happen in the future when digital minds start being a concern. Future advocates will have a comparative advantage in helping digital minds so it might make sense for us to use our comparative advantage for helping current animals, especially since the EA movement is likely to grow.

Also, I think that what Sebo argues in his talk though is there being more advocacy for animal rights and veganism. That would be enough to have some of the effects that he is talking about. 

Also, I do wish that people advocating for  changing people's views would be  much more concrete about future scenarios where this end up mattering a lot. That would allow to see if what they are advocating is really the best way to influence those scenarios.

Comment by saulius on EAA is relatively overinvesting in corporate welfare reforms · 2022-01-17T17:03:53.752Z · EA · GW

This sounds like a legitimate concern that I don't remember seeing raised elsewhere. Thanks for raising it! We'll pass it along to the Welfare Footprint Project.

Comment by saulius on EAA is relatively overinvesting in corporate welfare reforms · 2022-01-17T16:42:25.146Z · EA · GW

I'm not saying that we shouldn't think about ending factory farming at all. I was just arguing against favouring interventions just because it's easier to imagine how they would completely eliminate factory farming because it's so far away.  Also, I wouldn't think about the endgame a lot at this stage when we are so far away from it. 

Apart from reasons I discussed in the original comment, I'd like to mention one more reason why I think that. It's very likely that due emerging technologies (AI, cultured meat, large-scale insect farming, etc.), environmental problems, political changes, possible global catastrophises, etc., the World might look very different by the time we are in the endgame (which I imagine in at least 50 years). And it's difficult to predict how it will look. Hence it's also very difficult to plan for it. Furthermore, interventions that are tractable now may not stay tractable forever (e.g. people may grow numb to corporate campaigns). Hence, any plan we come up with now will likely need to be changed anyway. It still makes sense to think a bit whether our current actions will be valuable in various plausible future scenarios though.

Comment by saulius on What are some artworks relevant to EA? · 2022-01-17T10:22:36.280Z · EA · GW

For animations, these two came to my mind:

Comment by saulius on EAA is relatively overinvesting in corporate welfare reforms · 2022-01-12T09:57:30.398Z · EA · GW

BCC broilers already can grow to the same slaughter weight.[1] Though I do remember reading that it might be more optimal for producers to slaughter them before they reach the same weight.  But that would also mean that they are live for fewer days, which might mean that they suffer less, since I imagine that the last days when they are very heavy might be more painful than average. In any case, 5-10% in average weight wouldn't outweigh estimated 50% difference in suffering.

That said, if you think that a significant portion of suffering comes from slaughter, then the difference in slaughter weight is more concerning.  And there are people who think this because they weigh excruciating suffering very highly. E.g. Brian Tomasik thinks that the pain during chicken death is equivalent to the pain experienced throughout 10 days of chicken life. That still wouldn't come close outweighing 50% decrease in suffering during life though. But perhaps I will mention this to the Welfare footprint project. I don't know if they take these considerations into account because the section on broiler slaughter is not yet uploaded to their website.

  1. ^

    Here is a quote from Welfare Footprint Project:

    We analyzed the following scenarios, for which data on broiler welfare was available: (1) a baseline scenario represented by the use of conventional fast-growing breeds (e.g., Aviagen Ross 308, 708, Cobb 500) reaching a slaughter weight of 2.5 Kg at 42 days and (2) a reformed scenario, represented by the use of a slower-growing strain (ADG: 45-46 g/day), reaching the same slaughter weight in 56 days. This is a growth rate consistent with typical figures achieved by various of the breeds approved under the BCC, also referred to as medium- or intermediate-growing broilers, also falling within the acceptability of other welfare certification schemes.