geoffreymiller comments on Projects I'd like to see - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: geoffreymiller  (EA Profile) 16 August 2017 09:36:00PM 3 points [-]

I agree that growing EA in China will be important, given China's increasing wealth, clout, confidence, and global influence. If EA fails to reach a critical mass in China, its global impact will be handicapped in 2 to 4 decades. But, as Austen Forrester mentioned in another comment, the charity sector may not be the best beachhead for a Chinese EA movement.

Some other options: First, I imagine China's government would be motivated to thinking hard about X-risks, particularly in AI and bioweapons -- and they'd have the decisiveness, centralized control, and resources to really make a difference. If they can build 20,000 miles of high-speed rail in just one decade, they could probably make substantial progress on any challenge that catches the Politburo's attention. Also, they tend to take a much longer-term perspective than Western 'democracies', planning fairly far into the mid to late 21st century. And of course if they don't take AI X-risk seriously, all other AI safety work elsewhere may prove futile.

Second, China is very concerned about 'soft power' -- global influence through its perceived magnanimity. This is likely to happen through government do-gooding rather than from private charitable donations. But gov't do-gooding could be nudged into more utilitarian directions with some influence from EA insights -- e.g. China eliminating tropical diseases in areas of Africa where it's already a neocolonialist resource-extraction power, or reducing global poverty or improving governance in countries that could become thriving markets for its exports.

Third, lab meat & animal welfare: China's government knows that a big source of subjective well-being for people, and a contributor to 'social stability', is meat consumption. They consume more than half of all pork globally, and have a 'strategic pork reserve': https://www.cnbc.com/id/100795405. But they plan to reduce meat consumption by 50% for climate change reasons: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/20/chinas-meat-consumption-climate-change This probably creates a concern for the gov't: people love their pork, but if they're told to simply stop eating it in the service of reducing global warming, they will be unhappy. The solution could be lab-grown meat. If China invested heavily in that technology, they could have all the climate-change benefits of reduced livestock farming, but people wouldn't be resentful and unhappy about having to eat less meat. So that seems like a no-brainer to get the Chinese gov't interested in lab meat.

Fourth, with rising affluence, young Chinese middle-class people are likely to have the kind of moral/existential/meaning-of-life crises that hit the US baby boomers in the 1960s. They may be looking for something genuinely meaningful to do with their lives beyond workaholism & consumerism. I think 80k hours could prove very effective in filling this gap, if it developed materials suited to the Chinese cultural, economic, and educational context.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 10 January 2018 07:11:36PM 0 points [-]

I didn't mean to imply that it was hopeless to increase charitable giving in China, rather the opposite, that it's so bad it can only go up! Besides that, I agree with all your points.

The Chinese government already provides foreign aid in Africa to make it possible to further their interests in the region. I was thinking of how we could possibly get them to expand it. The government seems almost impossible to influence, but perhaps EAs could influence African governments to try to solicit more foreign aid from China? It could have a negative consequence, however, in that receiving more aid from China may make Africa more susceptible to accepting bad trade deals, etc.

I don't know how to engage with China, but I do strongly feel that it holds huge potential for both altruism and also GCRs, which shouldn't be ignored. I like CEA's approach of seeking expertise on China generalist experts. There are a number of existing Western-China think tanks that could be useful to the movement, but I think that a "China czar" for EA is a necessity.