You said a few times about the difficulty of using the breath as an object of meditation. I can’t understate the importance of noting that friction as just another object.
My 10-day retreat was the most productive and important experience in meditation I’ve had.
I also completely agree on Metta (Loving-Kindness) being an absolutely fantastic technique.
I would also highlight Shinzen Young’s work as another systematic approach (he’s also been working on a ‘enlightenment tech’ with UofArizona (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/video/2021/jun/29/hacking-enlightenment-can-ultrasound-help-you-transcend-reality)
I’d be interested to here your views beyond suffering/pleasure on how the cognitive benefits could fit in here given that these could translate into useful abilities in waking life:
normal dreams are important for processing of experiences, memories, etc.
some evidence that lucid dreaming can improve motor performance in real life (not sure how robust)
likewise I’d expect there to be creative utility to influence a world without physical limitations (not dissimilar to video games)
Couldn’t resist clicking on this!
Going to put forward a provocation here: If nightmares are an expression of trauma, then wouldn’t it make most sense to target the root cause of poor mental health/trauma/PTSD?
Another provocation: can nightmares (presumably those not routed directly in a deeply traumatic event) be positive in anyway? One theory is that nightmares simulate threats and act out scenarios which could provide a survival benefit.
This leads me to a really interesting question - can nightmares (and dreams) be influenced to play an important role in healing trauma? Could teaching people to lucid dream give a person a sense of control again?
Interesting to see the sheer diversity of grants! How open is the Infra fund to funding career transition (e.g. grad school)? I previously applied in a rush but probably need to refine my application and justification a more. I’d be curious to know how open the fund is to this type of activity.
Also, I was curious, I see some individuals are receiving upwards of $50k for a few months of overhead while others are receiving well below $50k for 12 months worth of overhead. Can you explain the reasons behind this? Did these higher-granted individuals specifically develop a development plan justifying the associated costs or was the higher grant for other reasons.
I have doubts that biodiversity loss is dangerous or liable to cascade
Why not? Out of interest?
How is value is derived from conscious experience? Don’t you mean capacity to suffer is determined by degree of conscious experience , which in turn makes individual animals important/having value. This does not mean that species are valueless which then begs the question of, how are species valuable.
I am no ecologist or environmental scientist but I see biodiversity loss as a process not an outcome. The outcome is increased vulnerability of ecosystems to collapse.
You say you haven’t seen a good argument for (2). What argument’s have you read? I think the link between this and Civilizational Resilience is clear. For example, if important pollinator species go extinct this would have consequences for global food security and this would also likely be a risk multiplier for multiple X-Risks. The Future of Life Institute has a decent article. There is also likely a very high degree of error in our assessment of this area, so the implications could be a lot worse (or better) than we think given that natural systems (of which animals play essential roles in) I would be conservative here.
We also don’t have to spent all of EA resources on this. We can spend some. It doesn’t have to be a binary, prioritisation is just a best evidenced-based guest after all with significant uncertainty.
I also think from a moralistic point of view, conservation of nature and biodiversity, is important for the well-being of humans, for spiritual reasons, given how exposure to nature has deep implications for our well-being (connectedness to nature is positive correlated to altruism for example—though there is the question of cause and effect). We shouldn’t only be concerned about reducing X-Risks but also maximising human well-being and self-actualisation. Its the reason S-Risks are now a thing.
I agree with you especially on productivity losses. I lived in Lagos for a few months. My sense was that since I was there kidnappings and general civil unrest has increased (perhaps the former more-so outside of Lagos).
Interesting about your comments on blackouts. I lived in both a villa with its own generator as well as an estate with its own back-up gen. Surely an EA hub could find a location which provides this?
Have you seen Eko Atlantic by any chance? Has this made much progress and I wonder if this could this be a potential location in the medium future if the project actually manifests.
“Launch/promote EA for Africans. To be really frank, Cape Town is not Africa. Lagos or Nairobi (or even Joburg) would make a better base if this goal is the priority.”
Important comment—there is certainly a benefit for EA to balance productivity and efficiency with insulating itself from the issues it seeks to impact (e.g. GH&WB). Lived experience of a city like Lagos or Nairobi could be extremely valuable for many over access to surfing and good views of coastline. People willing to tackle the short and medium term problems of Africa should be willing to get knee deep in the reality.
My impressions is that safety in Lagos ha degraded further in the last few years so I wonder how this could be managed.
Not necessarily. It will depend heavily on the type of intervention and the issue . If the issue is rooted in entrenched cultural attitudes due to low education, conservative attitudes, and entrenched traditional values as I suspect would be the case in many low-income countries then an intervention may be prohibitively more expensive to implement in a low-income country.
Hey All, Akhil there is a good report which delves into the some of the topics highlighted here but it is focused on London. It also discusses how this specific sub-set of women’s safety relates to the domestic setting: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/urban-lab/sites/urban-lab/files/scoping_study-_londons_participation_in_un_womens_safer_cities_and_safe_public_spaces_programme.pdf
Caveat: one peeve I have with this report is that it omits the fact there is also high levels of urban fear in men also (for example on public transport this is 10% lower than women which seems to suggest high levels of fear in both sexes and therefore a bigger problem at play). None the less, extreme vast majority of sexual harassment/assaults on public transit occur against women.
It is much more worth the time to measure direct impact—how many people were prevented from falling ill. And indirect impacts—families who didn’t fall into poverty or economic hardship due to paying for treatment/lose of work earnings. Contributions in these areas imply an increase to well-being.
There are many areas that would be worth measuring well-being increases more explicitly though. Violence against women and girls is definitely one of them.
Thanks for the write up Akhil, one aspect of this cause area you may also like to be aware of is fear/feelings of safety in women. Beyond direct victimisation, fear of violence (which doesn’t require someone to be a victim although it is a primary factor influencing the duration and intensity of fear) also adds to the case for this being a cause area.
95% of women and girls in Delhi surveyed by the UN said they felt unsafe in public spaces.
I couldn’t find the study but this number sits around 60%+ in Europe’s larger cities (70%+ in London as I recall).
Correspondingly, there is a widespread impact. Fear will influence someone’s pattern of life which will have various health, economic, and social costs. Interventions which also reduce fear in women could therefore also be worth exploring.
I understand you probably haven’t had much chance to delve into interventions and root causes as you are focusing on building this as a worth-while cause area for investment but I would be interested to understand more on what are the cause/sources of violence (is it street crime, violence by male partners, etc.) .
On point one:
you’ve calculated the capital cost but how much energy does it take to run this system? Does this significantly increase the cost? I imagine this would be a major question for end-users.
could the usage of UVC bulbs conflict with any building fire regulations in any form from the heat generated (I imagine this is proportionate to the effect)?
If there were 12°C of warming, a majority of land where humans currently live would be too hot for humans to survive at least a few days a year. An increase of 13°C would make working outdoors impossible for most of the year in the tropics, and around half the year in currently temperate regions.But even with the cloud feedback loop, it would take decades for global temperatures to reach this level, and it seems very likely that we could adapt to avoid extinction (for example, by building better buildings and widespread air conditioning, as well as building more in the cooler areas of the Earth).
If there were 12°C of warming, a majority of land where humans currently live would be too hot for humans to survive at least a few days a year. An increase of 13°C would make working outdoors impossible for most of the year in the tropics, and around half the year in currently temperate regions.
But even with the cloud feedback loop, it would take decades for global temperatures to reach this level, and it seems very likely that we could adapt to avoid extinction (for example, by building better buildings and widespread air conditioning, as well as building more in the cooler areas of the Earth).
I thought (direct) X-Risks includes any risk which leads to humanity being permanently compromised? Wouldn’t this scenario make it potentially extremely difficult for humanity to make any meaningful technological progress due to impacts on agriculture, population growth, etc. etc.
I want to highlight one area of diplomacy which I think is particularly relevant to EA is Science Diplomacy—briefly touched upon at the start of the post. Would be curious to hear the OPs’ views.
“Science diplomacy refers to the role science can play in international relations, or how diplomatic efforts support international science.” (source)
I see a number of key areas here that EA aligned Diplomats could be influence:
Good and bad scientific co-operation: these outcomes can be both good and bad e.g. Democratic Country R and Country S co-operate to provide knowledge on pandemic prevention vs Authoritarian Country X and Country Y co-operate to exchange nuclear power expertise which could be misused for proliferation reasons.
Developmental assistance in engineering: diplomats facilitate engineering experts from their country help to provide new power, utilities, transport, infrastructure for a developing economy to help it ‘level up’.
Using science and engineering to inform foreign policy-making: e.g. understanding the risks of A.I. integrated into weapons systems informs foreign policy objectives.
A note for UK people: seems that the main route into a diplomacy career is only the UK Governments Civil Service Graduate Scheme—there does not appear to be a direct inroad into diplomacy where you are able to go through a robust training program. I think this is dissapointing.
Interesting post but not sure I agree with some of your definitions.
“Aesthetics determine how beautiful a thing is, which is simply a specific way of saying how interesting it is. ”
Bence Nanay describes Aesthetics in his work as:
“Aesthetics is about some special and unusual ways of experiencing the world. Not just artworks, but also nature and ordinary objects. ”
So aesthetics is less about a coherent style and more about the reaction to it. In the same sense we can’t claim Christianity has a ‘richer’ aesthetic because some people may react differently based on their culture, experiences, and knowledge about what they see.
I think EA’s aesthetic is already emerging in terms of its influence by 20 to 40 year olds who know how to build a functional and well-made website!
Hi Tereza, I currently work in a well known engineering consultancy in security analysis and urban resilience. But I am looking to transfer into Landscape Architecture. I currently have an offer to join Penn’s LArch masters. I’ve struggled to get funding to help me pursue this path but its great to see interest in the potential of architects from EA.
I think one area to look at could be the ‘Architect as Developer’ approach for implementing human and nature centric design in urban development. Currently, we all answer to developers who are primarily profit driven. the AaD approach provides more control to the designers who are generally more concerned with maximising user-centric outputs. Perhaps this is a reflection of what Charter Cities could be but at via a piece-meal approach.
I see one major vehicle of impact to be a new design movement, similar to the New Urbanist movement, that is EA aligned and prioritises altruistic outcomes in the most cost efficient manner. Perhaps Landscape Urbanism is a beginning point?
Would love to hear your thoughts given the tension between Architects and Landscape Architects.
Great post Richard, I can tell some hard work went into this. I found this particularly interesting because I was accepted to Penn’s Landscape Architecture Grad program (though I may not take this up due to lack of funding) - have you thought about connecting with some of the faculty? They’ve produced some interesting work such as this ‘World National Park’ concept.
I wonder if one solution is removing the bounding of just ‘climate change’ and instead expand things to Earth Systems Health/Integrity more broadly, perhaps using the Planetary Boundaries framework? https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html
My understanding is biodiversity losses, freshwater exhaustion, and land system changes are all interrelated anyway. And one of the underlying issues, in my humble opinion, is a dysfunction in humanity’s relationship with nature. As abstract as that sounds, valuing and feeling more connected with nature/environment more broadly may set strong values for preserving environmental/planetary integrity and increasing chances of flourishing—including on other planets should humanity become space-faring species and colonise habitable planets.
I didn’t immediately think of this but that’s a great thought.
There is quite a lot of interest (anecdotally speaking—I don’t have the numbers) of integrating nature into the urban realm. Depending on country, planning rules will require a ecological impact assessment.
At a larger scale—some thinkers push to the notion that the way to go is to find how we can recraft cities into a nature/urban hybrid so both humans, animals, plants, and other organisms can all thrive together.
If you’re interested in this topic, the New Landscape Declaration—a declaration written by Landscape Architects with a collection of essays has more ideas on the value of this area: https://www.lafoundation.org/resources/2017/11/new-landscape-declaration-book