There are *a bajillion* jobs working on plant-based foods right now

2019-07-12T16:13:09.700Z · score: 72 (37 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team · 2018-12-20T22:13:09.261Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Good question! And thanks for your point, we should have linked to definitions of terms.

I think that we were able to conduct effective technical research in this space largely because we spoke to a ton of founders of companies and thoroughly read the published scientific literature. Additionally, we split up tasks to maximize specialization/expertise within each domain that we cared about. Those would be my two primary pieces of advice. We did not have a strong background in these subjects before beginning, so I would not let that deter you from diving in.

Companies obviously don't want to share their trade secrets, so you can't expect to learn everything about the field but a dedicated EA, especially with a strong science background, can develop a strong enough understanding to make a career-relevant decision about the state of the field.

Comment by scottweathers on Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team · 2018-12-20T22:07:04.912Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey, Jamie, thanks for your thoughts! I'll speak for myself, as our entire team hasn't had time to review your comment yet.

Your comparison to CE's approach is fair, although there are a number of differences. We did consider opportunities outside of plant-based/clean meat but I was not involved with the research at that point. Our decision criteria within this space was informed primarily by our judgment as EAs and as a team with experience in business/consulting of the factors likely to matter most for impact and success of the company.

I definitely agree that the broader conceptualization of impact is a critical framework to consider. However, I don't necessarily think that our two approaches are mutually exclusive. For example, a high-quality chicken/fish substitute could do just as much to advance the field of plant-based products as a high-quality burger (or perhaps even more, given the large number of beef products on the market now). We considered the factor you're highlighting to some extent in our decision-making, as you can see in our selection of developing a product in an Asian economy, which could spur the creation of new products/companies in this area if done successfully. Our approach in clean meat - to focus on intermediary technologies, e.g. cell lines, media formulations, etc. is also informed by your approach, as this likely would do more good by advancing the field as a whole than by having direct impact.

Comment by scottweathers on Rethink Priorities Plans for 2019 · 2018-12-19T21:27:22.928Z · score: 23 (12 votes) · EA · GW

Great to see such a strong focus on farmed animal welfare from a research organization! This list of prioritized questions looks strong to me. A few others worth considering:

  • Developing a stronger method of estimation for the number of broiler chickens and layer hens in corporate supply chains. I'd also like to see this done for fish. There is already a working group at animal groups focusing on this and I'm happy to put you in touch.
  • Estimating the rate of displacement of animal products from plant-based startups, e.g. Just (formerly Hampton Creek), Impossible Foods, MorningStar Farms, etc. This could have large implications on the degree to which EAs should focus on for-profit entrepreneurship.
  • Developing a prioritized list of states (or other countries) that would be most open to ballot initiatives to improve the lives of farmed animals, based on the wordings you test in surveys. I would particularly be interested in ballot initiatives that expand the Overton Window for what is possible in farmed animal welfare.
  • Identification of new tactics and strategies that mainstream advocacy organizations could implement beyond corporate campaigns (or variations thereof).
  • Estimation of the impact of "whole carcass utilization" by animal protein source. Theoretically, encouraging food companies to use the entire body of an animal (e.g. a chicken back or neck, as opposed to breast) could reduce their harm without changing the overall amount of meat they purchase. However, it could also be the case that the industry is so efficient at using the entire body of an animal that this would have no impact. I wouldn't prioritize this question high on your list, but the answer would be useful for my current work.

I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions - happy to discuss further.

Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team

2018-12-12T22:03:27.727Z · score: 73 (33 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups · 2017-11-15T19:57:11.058Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Shoot me an email! We aren't at the stage to use many volunteers right now but we'd love to hear from you.

Comment by scottweathers on Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups · 2017-11-14T17:43:32.692Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent to hear! Please get in touch! :)

Comment by scottweathers on Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups · 2017-11-14T17:43:12.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! We started there and are definitely considering several ideas on that list.

Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups

2017-11-14T14:59:32.618Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on How Two EAs Got Published in the New York Times · 2017-10-30T19:38:50.235Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Totally agree, it's very random. I would warn folks who pitch against trying to read the tea leaves of why any individual editor didn't respond to your email, because you're probably wrong. It's also tough on your sanity!

If the piece is time-sensitive, I can see the value of the strategy you're suggesting, but it carries a fair amount of risk if you're trying to pitch op-eds in multiple places. If you're placing regular news articles, as opposed to op-eds, that strategy would probably be OK (so long as you say that you've pitched other journalists if they ask).

Comment by scottweathers on How Two EAs Got Published in the New York Times · 2017-10-30T19:36:11.728Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! I agree with the value of warm intros, given that this can be in tension with brevity.

I also think the email could've been improved in the ways you suggest, thanks!

How Two EAs Got Published in the New York Times

2017-10-30T18:22:50.303Z · score: 19 (21 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on The Moral Obligation to Organize · 2017-03-02T19:10:13.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Great point! We are uncertain about the "obligation" part, absolutely. We would love it if other folks would think about the exact nature of the responsibility/obligation/etc. to organize. While I agree that there may not be any obligation to organize, specifically, I think there is decent evidence that it is among the most high-impact activities we can take. Given that I do believe in an obligation to high-impact things, I think we should strongly consider it.

The Moral Obligation to Organize

2017-02-16T23:31:54.214Z · score: 11 (21 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on Accomplishments Open Thread - May 2016 · 2016-05-10T16:48:43.628Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Love that you do this, Gleb!

This past month, I finalized my internship at the WHO. I'll also be traveling to the World Health Assembly this May for my current job. Over the summer, I'll be working on cost-effectiveness research at the WHO, alongside my current job.

Gleb interviewed me for his "Everyday Heroes of Effective Giving" series, which is a really awesome thing that makes me sound way more badass than I really am!

I've also been doing a lot of the Humane League's "Fast Action Network" items - these are things like emailing / tweeting at major companies to go cage-free. I think these are very small things that have extremely high expected value. I'd encourage anyone interested in animal welfare to sign up and participate!

Finally, I took a much needed vacation to Panama. Rest is important!

Comment by scottweathers on PAF: Off to a Good Start · 2016-03-24T16:16:07.808Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Hey, Eric! This is a great project. I'm most likely headed to Harvard next year for a Masters degree - let's stay in touch, I'd love to help out.

Comment by scottweathers on Charity Entrepreneurship Research Summary · 2016-03-22T15:05:30.115Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · EA · GW

This is really excellent work, Joey! It seems like replicating your research / providing feedback on interventions is fairly high in expected value terms. If there are any EAs that have helpful knowledge on this, I'd encourage them to do so.

Comment by scottweathers on Call for papers for a special journal issue on EA · 2016-03-22T14:13:24.557Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Zack!

Comment by scottweathers on Call for papers for a special journal issue on EA · 2016-03-17T17:46:32.078Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Will!

I have several ideas in mind but wouldn't feel confident submitting right now, because I don't know the norms of philosophy publication. I'd love to have someone who's written for philosophy journals (preferably an EA) provide a guide to EAs who might want to submit articles. Is there anyone who might be able to address these kinds of questions?

Comment by scottweathers on Accomplishments Open Thread - March 2016 · 2016-03-06T23:18:42.298Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · EA · GW

Again, I love this, Gleb!

1) I wrote a response piece in openDemocracy defending EA that got 218 shares on Facebook. I also reached out to Lisa, who wrote the original article, and we had a good chat - definitely friendly and I think the debate helped both of us advance our goals/interests.

2) I finally published an article on the EA forum covering the "meat eater problem" that I've been trying to publish for ages. This represents a ton of hard work and thinking that I've done over the last several months. I intend to follow it up with another blog post on many of the questions that I still don't have answers to.

3) The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the bill I'm working on, just reached 100 co-sponsors! This is a major achievement - many of the co-sponsors were added on after I met with representatives' staffers.

4) I was accepted into global health masters programs at Harvard and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine! I haven't decided which program to do yet, but that's probably what I'll be doing next year :)

Comment by scottweathers on Charity Science 2.5 Year Internal Review and Plans Going Forward · 2016-03-03T14:37:36.283Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · EA · GW

This is an excellent article, Joey. Every single non-profit could learn a ton about transparency, measurement, and estimating impact from the approach you've taken. I'm impressed by Charity Science's impact, but far more impressed by your approach to figuring out the marginal value your organization adds. I'm going to send this article to organizations in the future.

Full disclosure, I'm an advisor to Charity Entrepreneurship's project and have been very impressed by the approach they're taking on that project as well.

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-03-02T21:25:04.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Gleb! I definitely struggle with the PR aspect of this - it's certainly a weird topic but one that I think matters a lot.

Definitely think that we should include increased meat consumption in our cost-effectiveness analysis for interventions that increase income. My guess is that this amount is much smaller than for interventions that save lives, like bed nets, but that's certainly an open question.

I agree with Brian's remarks on chicken consumption in India - it didn't seem the case when I looked at the data.

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-03-02T21:20:51.341Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Zach! Point 3 seems especially important to me and something that I may highlight more in future articles.

I wanted to dive more into point 1 about environmental stress, but it's so difficult! I genuinely don't know whether eating beef is unethical or not - Compassion by the Pound's welfare numbers are pretty positive for cows but their climate impact is much larger than chickens/pigs. I think it's fairly clear that veal is bad, but hamburgers? It's one question I'd like to see someone dive into.

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-03-02T21:13:28.862Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yep, I think the discussion around how much we value different animal lives is pretty central to this. I think it deserves a post on its own - perhaps that's the next thing I'll write!

I think you're right in theory about interventions with constant returns, but I'm not sure many interventions actually behave this way. To take GiveDirectly, I see one of the most large (potential) benefits being that developing countries may begin cash transfer systems after seeing GiveDirectly's success. To that end, $50 million looks very different from $150 to $300 in how quickly countries will hear about their successes, how much media attention GiveDirectly receives, etc. It's probably very impossible to predict where these cut-offs are - I'm just trying to highlight that optimizing our donations is of course what we should aim for, but pretty hard when many of the benefits come from policy changes from a diverse set of actors.

Good points, Carl!

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-03-01T12:05:45.160Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Kbog! Responding to a few claims:

I agree we won't ever have a single response, but that's not my intention. I just think this is an important enough problem that far more EAs should be taking it seriously and considering it as they donate/work (the EA response).

On chickens - yes, most chicken lives currently are probably very net-negative. However, the authors' numbers say cage-free and market (non-breeder) chickens raised for meat live net-positive lives. If you disagree with the authors' numbers, that's a totally fair argument and I'd love to hear it. However, given the huge movement towards cage-free just in the past year and the numbers above, we may have many chickens living net-positive lives in the immediate future. This seems important to me as we discuss predictions about the next 50-100 years.

Re: shaky ethical assumptions: I agree that this is controversial and a view not held by many people. I'd love to hear arguments about why this ethical view is not correct!

Thanks for your link, I meant to put it in my post but forgot.

I was using a broader "we" as in "humanity will develop meat alternatives," not that any particular Effective Altruist will do it. I don't much care who does it.

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-03-01T11:53:05.133Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Vidur! I didn't make it totally clear, but I don't think that individuals should split their donations. The main argument that I'm trying to make is that the distribution of our donations across the EA movement are heavily human-centered, and that's a mistake based on expected value. I didn't want to dive too deep into this but that's the claim I was trying to make.

Broadly speaking, I'd like to see a much higher proportion of our dollars go to animal organizations. I could see this being fixed from a decent sized group of people moving their donations over or a major organization like OPP fixing it.

Comment by scottweathers on The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response · 2016-02-29T22:04:25.127Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Buck! You're definitely right in the short term. However, I think that the time frame we need to operate on is likely at least 1 generation, considering that's about the amount of time someone will be eating meat if their life is saved by a health intervention. Perhaps even longer depending on the extent to which health interventions influence fertility.

You're absolutely right on wild animal suffering, and I hope someone with more knowledge on this will chime in. I didn't include it in the article because I find most of the arguments extremely speculative, but it's not fair to entirely remove that from the equation, either.

The Meat Eater Problem: Developing an EA Response

2016-02-29T21:28:47.908Z · score: 17 (23 votes)
Comment by scottweathers on Requesting feedback to shape research into possible conditional cash transfer charity · 2016-02-12T20:05:22.213Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This all sounds great! I can see your reasoning on why CCTs might have a larger counterfactual impact. Your 3rd and 4th bullet appear quite strong to me - CCTs give you flexibility that other interventions wouldn't.

The demand/supply question is an important one. Like a lot of these questions, however, demand/supply will probably come down to the specific communities you decide to work in, which makes it hard to predict at the outset.

Thanks, Kieran!

Comment by scottweathers on Requesting feedback to shape research into possible conditional cash transfer charity · 2016-02-12T02:16:56.135Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Why would CCTs have a larger counterfactual impact than other interventions? This seems like an important point to make explicit, both for you and for everybody else.

I second @Telofy's point - I'm sure there are plenty of drawbacks to CCTs over other programs, but this seems like a question best addressed by a specialist. My gut says that administering the costs & monitoring the behavior you're promoting in a CCT program (depending on what that is) may cost more than simply giving out vaccines, vitamin-A supplements, etc. It also seems like there are more ways to mess up a CCT intervention than a simple direct service intervention. HOWEVER, all of this is bracketed with a huge disclaimer: just go talk to an expert who knows more.

I'd add "graduating additional grades" to the list of potential conditions.

Comment by scottweathers on Accomplishments Open Thread · 2016-01-08T03:33:04.145Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

This is a great idea, Gleb!

1) I published a blog on the Life You Can Save about the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, a bill many EAs should love. I also coordinated with students in North Carolina to write several letters about the bill, which I'm delivering to Senator Burr's office. A staffer for Burr, who I spoke to over the phone, said he was considering the bill.

2) I became an adviser to Charity Entrepreneurship, helping Joey Savoie and their team pick which intervention they should focus on in India.

3) I used Charity Science gift cards to spread ideas about effective giving to my friends/family, gave a significant amount of money to a ton of great EA organizations, convinced my family to donate to the Humane League, and wrote a year-end giving piece that exposed people who aren't Effective Altruists to the kinds of ideas we think about a lot.

4) Finally, I made personal progress in finishing and submitting all of my grad school apps! :)

Comment by scottweathers on Intentional Insights and the EA Movement – Q & A · 2016-01-03T23:29:27.129Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

One of the reasons I like Intentional Insights is that it has the potential to spark interest in EA among people who probably wouldn't become interested in EA otherwise - the counterfactual argument here is stronger than for GWWC or other meta-charities because Gleb is reach out to a group that's less close to EA.

I also think that we should really encourage and incentivize projects like this - we need more people doing EA outreach. There is absolutely no guarantee that this project will succeed, but Gleb has shown evidence of success and the expected value seems fairly large.

Comment by scottweathers on Support Promoting Effective Giving - Intentional Insights · 2015-12-22T03:18:01.458Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Happy to see this project. It's a useful experiment and think it could have value in moving non-EA money towards effective projects!

Comment by scottweathers on Effective Altruism Outreach winter fundraiser · 2015-12-18T16:53:46.958Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Done! Donated.