Interview with Michael Tye about invertebrate consciousness 2019-08-08T10:13:06.880Z · score: 32 (15 votes)
Interview with Shelley Adamo about invertebrate consciousness 2019-06-21T14:40:41.115Z · score: 37 (17 votes)
Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects 2019-05-08T19:22:52.855Z · score: 31 (19 votes)
My recommendations for RSI treatment 2019-05-07T18:43:12.984Z · score: 60 (19 votes)
Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness 2019-04-28T17:52:52.679Z · score: 82 (36 votes)
The Evolution of Sentience as a Factor in the Cambrian Explosion: Setting up the Question 2019-03-11T17:54:10.089Z · score: 29 (13 votes)
Sharks probably do feel pain: a reply to Michael Tye and others 2019-02-04T13:51:50.241Z · score: 19 (12 votes)
Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience 2018-12-08T19:24:25.251Z · score: 53 (24 votes)


Comment by maxcarpendale on Who should give sperm/eggs? · 2020-02-09T10:23:51.928Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think you can travel to another country to donate eggs there. I think in general you get paid more in other countries if you are of certain demographics.

Comment by maxcarpendale on In praise of unhistoric heroism · 2020-01-26T19:52:57.396Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

There's is a trap that consequentialists can easily fall into that the author describes beautifully in this post. I think the solution solution within consequentialism is to see that consequentialism doesn't recommend that we we only praise the highest achievers. Praise and blame are only justified within consequentialism when they produce good consequences, and it's beneficial to praise a wide variety of people, most especially people who are trying their hardest to improve the world.

For a fuller spectrum account of what it is to live a moral life, you can add 'virtue consequentialism' to your consequentialism. This position is just the observation that within consequentialism, virtues can be defined as character traits that lead to good consequences, and it's useful to cultivate these.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Doing good is as good as it ever was · 2020-01-25T17:06:15.752Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I've been in the community since about 2011, and I've also noticed this happening in myself and quite a few others who have been in the community for a long time. I'm not aware of any data on the subject. Denise's explanation of this and this post sounds right to me.

Comment by maxcarpendale on EA Hotel Fundraiser 7: Pitch focusing on case studies with counterfactuals · 2019-11-23T17:36:22.804Z · score: 19 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I came to the hotel as I was finishing a contract for Rethink Prioritites, worked for them there for one month, then did indepenent research. Now I am employed at an EA org again, and I am paying cost price.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Opinion: Estimating Invertebrate Sentience · 2019-11-19T20:44:34.055Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW
I agree that sentience, at least as we've defined it, is an all-or-nothing phenomenon (which is a common view in philosophy but not as common in neuroscience).

What do you think of the argument that there may be cases where it's unclear if the term is appropriate or not. So there would be a grey area where there is a "sort of" sentience. I've talked to some people who think that this grey area might be taxonomically large, including most invertebrates.

Comment by maxcarpendale on How worried should I be about a childless Disneyland? · 2019-10-28T20:08:51.739Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, I meant it to be synonymous with agent.

Comment by maxcarpendale on How worried should I be about a childless Disneyland? · 2019-10-28T19:05:04.024Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Do you mainly see these scenarios as likely because you don't think there is likely to be many beings in future worlds or because you think that the beings that exist in those future worlds are unlikely to be conscious?

I had some thoughts about the second case. I've done some research on consciousness, but I still feel quite lost when it comes to this type of question.

It definitely seems like some machine minds could be conscious (we are basically in existence proof of that), but I don't know how to think about if a specific architecture would be required. My intuition is that most intelligent architectures other than something like a lookup table would be conscious, but don't think that intuitions based on anything substantial.

By the way, there is a strange hard sci-fi horror novel called Blindsight that basically "argues" that the future belongs to nonconscious minds and this scenario is likely.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Is there a clear writeup summarizing the arguments for why deep ecology is wrong? · 2019-10-28T17:54:18.583Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW


I personally would disagree that variety of experience is morally relevant. Obviously, most people enjoy variety of their own experiences, but that's already waded into the total hedonistic utilitarian equation because it makes us happier. So I don't think that we need to add it as a separate thing that has intrinsic moral value. Looking at diversity can also be aesthetically pleasing for us, but that gets waited in to the equation because it makes us happy, and so, again, I don't think we need to say it has intrinsic moral value. I don't think our aesthetic appreciation of biodiversity is a very significant source of happiness, though, compared to the well-being of the much larger number of animals involved.

I think what you said makes sense given that moral position. I haven't heard a name for the position that diversity of experience is intrinsically morally significant, but I have a friend who I think argued for a similar position, and I'll ask him.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Is there a clear writeup summarizing the arguments for why deep ecology is wrong? · 2019-10-26T10:05:38.491Z · score: 13 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Animal Ethics has written about this. Here are some of our relevant posts on the subject. Hopefully they are helpful.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Does improving animal rights now improve the far future? · 2019-09-19T09:13:31.803Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA · GW

Imagine you heard about alien civilization that was pivoted towards colonizing the stars. But most of these aliens had almost no moral recognition and some of them were raised in inhumane conditions to be killed for trivial reasons for the other aliens. If I heard about this situation, I would be pretty concerned about what the aliens would do when they started colonizing the stars. I wouldn't be rooting for them by trying to prevent existential risk instead of trying to improve their values.

But of course, that's a description of our society. There are some additional details about our society that make me more hopeful about it, but it seems quite weird to say that improving our values in this way wouldn't be important.

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-09-07T17:11:18.614Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your comment! I read your article and left a comment on it here. I'll try to think more about psychosomatics and add a section on it when I have time.

Comment by maxcarpendale on The Moral Circle is not a Circle · 2019-08-25T11:40:31.451Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

It seems to me like when most EA's are talking about an expanding circle what we are talking about is either an expanding circle of moral concern towards 1) all sentient beings or 2) equal consideration of interests for all entities (with the background understanding that only sentient beings have interests).

Given this definition of what it means to expand the moral circle, I don't think Gwern's talk of a narrowing moral circle is relevant. For the list of entities that Gwern has described us as having lost moral concern for, we did not lose moral concern for them for reasons having to do with their sentience. Even when these entities are plausibly sentient (such as with sacred animals) it seems like people's moral concern for them is primarily based on other factors. Therefore they should not count as data points in the trend of how our moral circle is or is not expanding.

Also, quite plausibly, a big reason why we have lost concern for these entities is because of an increasingly scientifically and metaphysically accurate view of the world that causes us to not regard these entities to be seen as special, to have interests, or even to exist at all.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Michael Tye about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-08-09T11:49:31.044Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you! :)

Thanks for mentioning C. elegans behavioural flexibility. I had meant to comment about that, but forgot to. That's a great paper on the subject.

I think people sometimes unfairly minimize the cognitive abilities of some invertebrates because it gives them cleaner and more straightforward answers about which organisms are conscious, according to their preferred theory.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Michael Tye about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-08-08T14:11:34.891Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

You are very welcome! :)

That passage is also one of my favourite parts of his answers, thanks for highlighting it.

I'll take a look at that David Pearce post, thanks for the link.

Thanks for pointing at the typo, fixed it now.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Ways Frugality Increases Productivity · 2019-07-19T19:45:38.658Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Another way that frugality can improve productivity is that it can reduce the amount of time you spend buying, looking after, organizing, tidying, and thinking about physical possessions (because you probably have fewer of them). Of course, people who aren't frugal don't necessarily have more things, but they tend to have more of them.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Six-month update and summer fundraiser at Wild Animal Initiative · 2019-07-17T17:50:43.818Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW


I'm particularly excited about the paper submissions and the increased academic expertise of your staff. That seems very important in getting this work taken more seriously.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Invertebrate Welfare Cause Profile · 2019-07-17T17:41:55.807Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Excellent post!

Staying within the phylum, snails are consumed by humans in many cultures[53] and have attracted some attention as an edge case of consciousness in philosophical circles. A representative from class Gastropoda would therefore be useful.

It looks like there is a small error here. Aplysia was included on the table and is from class Gastropoda.

Comment by maxcarpendale on What Do Unconscious Processes in Humans Tell Us About Sentience? · 2019-06-22T13:09:02.564Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Great article! I like the conceptual clarification that you do about what it means to say that a process is unconscious and how people use this term inconsistently in the literature. I've never seen that put so well and it's important.

I was wondering what you think of cases where a good idea 'spontaneously' occurs to someone while there thinking about something unrelated or while their mind is wandering. I only know anecdotes about this phenomenon, but I think it's a widespread phenomenon that most people would experience something like this themselves.

Some people have some of their best ideas in this way and it seems to satisfy both criteria for being an unconscious process. I am not sure if it's directly related to any of the potential consciousness indicating features, but it seems like an example of very complex cognition being unconscious. Albeit it's a bit murky how it occurs.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Shelley Adamo about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-06-22T12:50:27.347Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! Good thoughts!

I'm also not sure if we know how expensive emotions are. In particular, even if some emotions are complicated, I'm not sure if the basic conscious experience of pain is complicated (at least the affective part of the experience, maybe not the sensory part). It subjectively seems like quite a simple feeling, but I don't know much about this, and I'd like to learn more.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Shelley Adamo about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-06-21T15:05:39.396Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Shelley Adamo misunderstands first question in part c) of her answer. I didn't mean to suggest that biology was required for consciousness, just that biological organisms might be more likely to have underlying homology with humans, which could mean that they might be conscious while similarly complex AI would not be.I think that our best theories of consciousness suggest that at some point AI will be conscious.

An issue with a written interview like this is that you can't make clarifications on the fly to head off misunderstandings. I hope to improve on conducting these interviews in the future.

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-06-18T17:12:57.619Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

That's fantastic!

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-06-18T17:08:56.725Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the recommendations! I'll try to take a look at the evidence for eccentric training, I wasn't aware of that. I didn't go into any specific recommendations about strength training, because I expect that because I wanted to keep the post fairly short and because I expect my recommendations would depend a lot on specific case, and so couldn't be communicated well in a general post. But if it's as effective as you say, I definitely should have mentioned it.

I'm planning on updating this post at some point and I'll mention eccentric training and mention you in the acknowledgements if the evidence find it does look good.

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-06-18T11:55:20.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Tofan, I'm glad you got relief from that! That must be amazing for you! Sorry if this comment is a bit caustic, in general I'm critical, though undecided about Sarno. I tried it and it hasn't worked for me. I'm definitely aware of it, and I've read Sarno's books. Sarno insists that you might have to fully believe his theory to get the results, and it's possible I haven't succeeded in doing that, though I have 'tried on' the hypothesis. I've also tried out the "Curable" app and found that they advocate a less extreme and more plausible version of the psychosomatic pain hypothesis then Sarno.

I was planning on adding a section on investigating the possibility of your pain is psychosomatic, but I've left that out for now because I didn't feel I had a settled opinion on the subject or knew what to recommend.

Sarno says some things that I view as deeply problematic, like when he says that lifting techniques doesn't matter or when he recommends discontinuing physical therapies. His theory of unconscious rage being responsible for chronic pain is also Freudian, and Freud is quite discredited.

My leading hypothesis about why he gets the results that he does in some cases is that his treatment gets people to return to activity and helps remove the psychological contribution to pain. Some people are probably actually recovered enough that returning to his fine and even helpful. I also imagine for a lot of people (myself included) the secondary psychological reaction to the pain (such as viewing yourself as crippled and feeling helpless) is more significant than the pain itself.

What makes you think there is more scientific backing to the TMS theory than the RSI theory? It seems to be true that there is a lot that isn't understood about how chronic pain and RSI work, but TMS seems to me even more mysterious.

I like Paul Ingraham's analysis of Sarno here.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects · 2019-05-29T12:31:49.860Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, I fixed those typos.

I guess my basic reason for thinking so is because there is around six order of magnitude difference in how much meat a cow provides and how much meat a cricket provides. But if you think about which attributes provide evidence of consciousness, I don't think you'll find that cows do not have vastly more of these than do crickets and cricket consciousness seems like a reasonable hypothesis.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects · 2019-05-29T12:17:50.798Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

It's true that their minds are more divergent from ours, but I think that tends to mean there is more uncertainty about what they feel stress in response to, not that they feel less environmentally induced stress. Also, as I say in the post, the uncertainty makes it harder to improve their welfare.

I probably should have paid more attention to arguments about how they could have net positive welfare to have a more balanced post. Though I have seen a real bias in favour of eating insects (at least outside the EA community), and so I still see this post as contributing to a more balanced discussion of the issue. And for the reasons I given the post I still view it is unlikely that they have net positive welfare.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects · 2019-05-29T12:07:37.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

My impression is that experts are divided as to whether or not insects have phenomenal consciousness. Some people seem to have strong intuitions one way, and others have strong intuitions the other way. Ultimately I don't think we know enough about the subject for anyone to be too confident one way or the other, and given this uncertainty we should take precautions.

I didn't think it was worth getting into the question how likely it is that insects are conscious because it's something that I've written about extensively elsewhere (mostly in a forthcoming report). And there are other posts on the question. In hindsight maybe a paragraph on it would have been good.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects · 2019-05-29T12:05:45.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Haha, oh, I didn't know you wrote that page :) That's good enough for the future.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-05-29T12:02:49.317Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, I think this is a worry for his view. I do also personally assign a somewhat higher likelihood to invertebrate consciousness than modern AI consciousness because of evolutionary relatedness, greater structural homology, and because they probably satisfy more of the criteria for consciousness that I would use.

You might be interested in my next interview on this subject which will be with someone who discusses modern AI and robotics findings in the context of invertebrate consciousness, and comes to a more sceptical conclusion based on that.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-05-29T11:52:59.209Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think he may be answering the question in terms of sensory pain rather than affective pain. I was mainly interested in affective pain, I probably should have specified that in the question. In terms of sensory pain it seems to me like his answer make sense and is right because it makes sense that more nociceptors would give you a richer and more complex sensory pain. But it doesn't make sense in terms of affective pain.

I agree with Siebe that he is using 'suffering' in a nonstandard way. He seems to be using 'pain' to refer to 'acute pain" and 'suffering' to refer to 'long-lasting, non-acute pain.'

Comment by maxcarpendale on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2019-05-21T11:33:44.205Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, fair enough. I wish you good luck with your group and project :)

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-05-10T18:01:44.447Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you!

Yes, I remember hearing in the 80K podcast about how you prefer it, and I was quite interested in that. I still find it quite frustrating to use sometimes because of crashes and software incompatibility, but I guess if you can choose when to use Dragon and when to use a keyboard, you can just stop using it when it's being problematic.

I'm a bit reserved in my recommendation of it because I worry that it might take people to long to become good enough at it. I worry that people might either recover or quit using it in frustration before they start using it at a competitive speed.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Thoughts on the welfare of farmed insects · 2019-05-09T11:12:13.303Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! Hopefully it's not too derivative of your work. I want to look into this more in the future and hopefully be able to say some more novel and insightful things.

I mainly relied on the FAO sourcebook on edible insects which claims higher efficiency for crickets. It seems like most articles on the subject claim higher efficiency, but I haven't looked into it deeply enough to be able to determine that. I should probably have just relied on your article on that subject.

Yeah, I'm not sure about freezing. I mostly think we just don't know enough about it and the Wikipedia page seems pretty sceptical about freezing as a method of killing.

Sometimes when it's cold and I'm trying to sleep (like when I'm camping) I will manage a sort of sleep state, but one where I'm still feeling an unpleasant amount of cold. I guess I imagine that an insect's response to freezing could be like that for some portion of the time.

I guess it wouldn't make sense for the nervous system to send "avoid this" messages to the animal while the animal wasn't able to avoid the situation because it was too cold, but the nervous system can't get everything right in all circumstances.

Comment by maxcarpendale on My recommendations for RSI treatment · 2019-05-07T19:01:55.592Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA · GW

This might not seem like the most natural post for the EA forum, but I think it makes sense given the number of EA's I know who have some problems with repetitive strain injuries.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2019-05-04T12:13:19.325Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Jamie!

Nice article. Thanks for the link.

I don't think I agree with your claim in the article that degrees of sentience has been scientifically demonstrated. Is there a source you have in mind for that? I've been looking at the literature on the topic and it seems like the arguments that there do exist degrees of sentience are based in philosophy and none are that strong.

I guess the reason you are using sentientism rather than hedonistic utilitarianism is because you think the term sounds better/has a better framing?

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-05-01T12:58:13.290Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Re: 1) I'm not sure. I would say that the number of people who might be considered experts on the subject of invertebrate consciousness is very low.
I can't remember reading anything by these experts about who they consider to be the leading experts on the subject.

Re: 2) I have talked to him about it yet, but may do so at some point in the future. I doubt that anyone else has.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness · 2019-05-01T12:14:54.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you!

Great, I hadn't noticed that article. Reading it now

Comment by maxcarpendale on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2019-01-27T10:39:39.039Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think you may be right that I should pivot more in that direction.

Research on degrees of sentience (including if that idea makes sense) and what degree of sentience different invertebrates have might still be relevant despite the argument that you're quoting.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2018-12-09T22:05:46.514Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the link! I'm a pretty big fan of that book.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience · 2018-12-08T22:39:32.097Z · score: 15 (8 votes) · EA · GW

I think it's somewhat stronger than "doing work on one philosophical question is relevant to all other philosophical questions."

I guess if you were particularly sceptical about the possibility of digital sentience then you might focus on things like the Chinese room thought experiment, and that wouldn't have that much overlap with invertebrate sentience research. I'm relatively confident that digital sentience is possible so I wasn't really thinking about that when I made the claim that there is substantial overlap in all sentience research.

Some ways in which I think there is overlap are that looking at different potential cases of sentience can give us insight into which features give the best evidence of sentience. For example, many people think that mirror self-recognition is somehow important to sentience, but reflecting on the fact that you can specifically design a robot to pass something like a mirror test can give you perspective as to what aspects if any other test are actually suggestive of sentience.

Getting a better idea of what sentience is and what theories of it are most plausible is also useful for assessing sentience in any entity. One way of getting a better idea of what it is is to research cases of it that we are more confident in such as humans and to a lesser extent other vertebrates.

Comment by maxcarpendale on Five Ways to Handle Flow-Through Effects · 2017-05-25T16:33:07.962Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Another reason it might make sense to ignore flow-through effects is when you don't know whether they would be positive or negative. If you were absolutely unsure about the flow-through effects, and figuring them out seemed impossible, then it seems right that they would balance out and that you can expect zero value from them. Insofar as this is the case, you should ignore them.