Michael_S comments on Should we be spending no less on alternate foods than AI now? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Michael_S 30 October 2017 02:02:22PM 4 points [-]

Really exciting work! This seems like an intervention that could potentially be funded with public resources more easily than AI safety research could, which opens up another avenue to funding.

I see how this could be very useful in the event of a nuclear war, but I do have some skepticism about how useful these alternative foods wold be for a less severe shortage. With a 10% reduction in agricultural productivity, why do you think alternative foods that don't need sunlight could be cheaper than simply expanding how much of useable land we devote to agriculture/using land to grow products that are cheaper per calorie?

Comment author: Denkenberger 31 October 2017 03:09:26PM 2 points [-]

As for the funding part of your comment, it is true that the agricultural risks are more mainstream than AI. We have been pursuing public resources (e.g. grants). However, I think EAs with their willingness to change their minds and openness to expected value calculations are ideal candidates to recognize the value of this early on and help get it off the ground.

Comment author: Michael_S 31 October 2017 06:14:32PM 3 points [-]

Sure, this material is most important for EAs. However, it could be used to raise funding from EAs that would then be used to secure even more funding from the public sector in a way that's more difficult for AI safety.

Comment author: Denkenberger 30 October 2017 04:34:48PM 4 points [-]

Thanks! Good question - for a 10% shortfall, it is more about alternate feed than alternate food. The natural gas digesting bacteria is currently being used as fish feed. We could utilize agricultural residues much better, first extracting edible calories directly, which has been done at both small and large scale. Then we take the left over of that and put it into a cellulosic or second-generation biofuel process that breaks the cellulose into sugar that people could eat. Finally, the leftover from that could be fed to animals. In addition, we might be able to have municipal collection of food waste to feed pigs. Just with agricultural residues, we could save/produce more than 10% of our current food consumption. Another possibility is growing mushrooms on logging residues that normally just decompose and feeding the leftover from that to animals, which has already been done. And we might even want to do some of this now to reduce the environmental impact of animals.