Factory farming is a source of immense suffering. Over 70 billion chickens are slaughtered annually, up 10x over the last half century. Historically, as countries get richer, their meat consumption has increased dramatically. It’s reasonable to expect that over the next century, the scale of factory farming could increase several more times over. [https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production]
Factory farmed animals live lives of intense suffering. Cultivated meat (meat grown without raising actual animals) is a way to decouple animal suffering from meat production. From a longtermist perspective, a future in which cultivated meat has displaced factory farming seems far preferable to one where cultivated meat fails reach global scale.
The purpose of this project is to increase the chances of cultivated meat becoming cost-competitive with factory-farmed meat. My proposal is to create a website that:
Summarizes the current state of the cultivated meat industry
Provides a database of current “knowledge gaps” - areas where significant research / technological advances are required in order for the industry to be economically viable at global scale
Provides a roadmap that indicates technology dependencies and R&D priorities - what are the current bottlenecks, what will be the bottlenecks after those are resolved, etc.
Collects and summarizes relevant academic reasearch and technology demonstrations, and links them to the related entries in the knowledge gaps database
Provides career resources for people interested in the industry (jobs board, relevant research orgs, general career advice)
The goal is to help organize efforts across the industry - from basic academic research, to startup opportunities, to grant/subsidy prioritization. The website would be a place where people who want to make cultivated meat more likely to succeed can go to figure out what they should work on.
This idea is heavily inspired by Stripe’s Frontier carbon removal knowledge-gaps database (https://frontiergaps.softr.app/) and Ocean Vision’s carbon removal roadmap (https://www2.oceanvisions.org/roadmaps/). I think these are brilliant and could usefully be applied across a variety of emerging technologies, including cultivated meat.
Compile a database of current knowledge gaps and necessary technological advances required for cultivated meat to be cost-competitive at global scale
Create a roadmap outlining current and future bottlenecks, to prioritize/organize current R&D efforts
Provide career guidance for people who want to contribute to the industry
Publish these resources on an intuitive, easy-to-navigate website
(Personally) Become an expert on cultivated meat technology
Accelerate development and improve the likelihood for success of the cultivated meat industry
In doing so, help prevent billions of animal-lives worth of suffering
The vast majority of funding would be used for living expenses / salary while I work on the project (up to a year, depending on funding amount). There would likely be minor expenses such as cloud hosting/storage, access to various publications, other small costs related to project infrastructure. I doubt these would exceed 1-2% of the overall funding amount.
This is a more ambitious project than anything I’ve completed in the past. I’m confident that I have the skills necessary to do it, but I don’t have any single project I can point to and say “this proves I can accomplish it.” That said, here are some things I’ve worked on which demonstrate some of the required skills:
Web development: I’ve created 5-10 websites of varying complexity, including
A blog / personal website: https://www.jakegloudemans.com
A collaborative crossword editor for my family: https://crossword.gloudemans.fun
Backend for a matchmaking app - sadly no frontend to show, but this one involved several microservices and databases, connecting to external APIs, and user authentication
General experience breaking down complicated problems
Robotics projects - see https://www.jakegloudemans.com/projects for some examples
Prediction markets - only started this very recently, but demonstrates reasoning ability, analyzing things I initially am clueless about (https://blog.jakegloudemans.com/post/8-predictions-1)
AP Bio, AP Chemistry, college physics, lots of experience working with assorted mechanical/electrical hardware - I should have the technical/intellectual ability to understand industry-relevant reasearch and technical challenges
Just to be up front about it - I am not presently very knowledgeable about the technical details of cultivated meat! I have a great deal of interest in it and will enthusiastically, and I think quickly, learn as much as I can about it. But I don’t want to imply that I’m currently a subject matter expert.
One risk I can think of with cultivated meat is that it becomes cheap enough to out-compete the “humane meat” market - meat from animals that live generally pleasant lives - but not cheap enough to displace the vast majority of factory-farmed meat. In this scenario, it probably ends up net neutral or bad as it eliminates demand for humanely raised animals while not fixing the main problem of factory farms.
There’s also the fact that if cultivated meat does eventually dominate the meat market, the overall number of farm animals that ever live may be much lower. This leads to the thorny ethical question: is it better for there to be more people/cows/chickens who live lives full of suffering, or less people/cows/chickens who live much happier lives? If you feel strongly that the first option is better, than replacing factory farms with cultivated meat plants may be actively harmful in your view.
I have not currently received any other funding.