Comment author: Denkenberger 03 November 2017 05:34:47PM 1 point [-]

For the $10/life, were you referring to this? A solution to the low prestige, low citation, but important research is a doubly altruistic researcher who is willing to work for no money and few citations. By the way, I haven't been able to find data, but I think most research is unfunded. This is certainly true in the humanities, but even in STEM, my experience is that most grad students outside the top 50 U.S. universities are unfunded. And professors at colleges with no grad students are many times expected to produce research, typically unfunded.

Comment author: Denkenberger 03 November 2017 05:20:50PM 2 points [-]

What do you think of neglectedness popping up in Owen's model when he was not trying to produce it? And his general logarithmic returns? I do agree with you that even if the cause area is not neglected, there could be cost effective interventions, as I argue here. But I would still say that within interventions, neglectedness is an important indicator of cost effectiveness.

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: DonyChristie 30 October 2017 07:20:37PM 3 points [-]

Truly one of the most satiating interventions on the menu of causes!

Could you go more into the full list of what the food alternatives look like, and how tractable each of them are?

Comment author: Denkenberger 30 October 2017 09:58:45PM *  4 points [-]

:) There is lots more detail here, but briefly:

1) If the sun is not completely blocked during a global catastrophe, the cooling of the upper layer of the ocean would cause overturning, bringing nutrients to the surface. Over a longer period of time, macronutrient (e.g. nitrogen) fertilization could allow the ramping up of fishing to feed the global population. This might even be economical now. Figuring out how to retrofit ships for fishing would be a good near-term project. We could also harvest deeper fish in a catastrophe that are not economical now.

2) Processes already demonstrated to convert natural gas to edible calories with bacteria are also technically viable. Work here would be figuring out how to retrofit existing breweries and chemical plants.

3) Extracting food from leaves: grinding leaves and extracting leaf protein concentrate: again, figuring out how to scale up quickly.

4) Mushrooms: again scale up investigation.

5) Current cellulosic biofuel techniques with agricultural residues as feedstock produce an intermediate product of sugar. Though there are currently few biofuel plants like this, it may be possible to quickly retrofit existing chemical production plants, as was done with automobile factories in the U.S. to produce airplanes for World War II. Waste from mushrooms consuming wood could then be fed to:

6) ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) (already been done),

7) cellulose-digesting beetles (needs more research because current insects raised for food are not cellulose-digesting), and

8) rats (needs more research).

Furthermore, bacteria can make fiber digestible by non-cellulose digesters, so this may work for:

9) chickens (needs more research) and

10) as a backup plan even humans (needs more research).

11) Leaves can be eaten directly by ruminants and rabbits (needs more research for common leaves.)

12) The tropics would generally stay unfrozen, but even though crops currently grown outside the tropics would be able to tolerate the lower light, precipitation, and temperature, they generally would not be adapted for the high UV levels. One exception is crops being grown on the Tibetan plateau because of the thin high-altitude atmosphere (more detail here). This needs experiments to confirm.

So basically, some of the alternate foods are already commercialized, but we need to figure out how to scale them up quickly. Other of the foods are more speculative, and would need research and development. I also have a paper (not yet published) that estimates current cost of alternate foods. The most promising ones from this perspective are fish, cellulosic sugar, leaf extract, natural gas digesting bacteria, and Tibetan wheat. Does that answer tractability?

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 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.

Comment author: DavidNash 20 October 2017 09:01:38AM 2 points [-]

It could be that we are politically engaged and read about every event that happens but the majority of people don't pay much attention to politics. So Trump getting 30%+ is based on a lot of those voters having read 1 or maybe 2 favourable things about him and nothing else, similar with Democrat voters.

For example, Fox news averages 3 million viewers, which is less than 1% of the population.

Comment author: Denkenberger 26 October 2017 05:10:49PM 1 point [-]

I assume this means 3 million viewers at any one time - the total number of people who primarily get their news from Fox would be much larger.

Comment author: Denkenberger 10 October 2017 12:59:52AM 1 point [-]

Does the need to exist of future generations qualify?

Comment author: Denkenberger 24 September 2017 01:33:07AM 1 point [-]

Was there any discussion about effective volunteering?

Comment author: Denkenberger 07 September 2017 02:44:06AM 0 points [-]

Thanks for all your work. Will you be reporting on the forum donations as a percent of income?

Comment author: Denkenberger 29 August 2017 01:10:19AM 4 points [-]

This is similar to the US poverty line. In the book Strangers Drowning, which featured some EAs, there was a guy trying to live on the global average income in ~1980. That was really extreme because inflation adjusted global per capita income has risen a lot since then.

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