RogerAckroyd's Shortform 2021-01-09T15:12:18.641Z


Comment by rogerackroyd on RogerAckroyd's Shortform · 2021-02-14T12:37:44.510Z · EA · GW

I think there might be some interest among the EA community in recent social media discussions about Scott Alexander and SlateStarCodex. My impression is that among some committed leftists the movement will face suspiscion rooted in its support from rich people, its current demographic profile, because some leftists are suspiscious of rationality itself and because the movement might detract from the idea that the causes popular now among leftists are also objectively the most important issues facing the world. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Blameworthiness for Avoidable Psychological Harms · 2021-02-09T16:44:55.005Z · EA · GW

I agree that ignoring psychological harms completely is arbitrary. Many people would prefer moderate physical pain to public humiliation and this seems pretty hard-wired in our psychology.

 At the same time, in the current climate claims of psychological harm are clearly used strategically. People supposedly feel unsafe if a colleague has political views that they disagree with for example, which clearly is not some sort of universal fact of human psychology. Certain claims of emotional harm should be discounted not because they are necessarily false, but because indulging them leads to a bad equilibrium. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Killing the ants · 2021-02-08T15:23:09.418Z · EA · GW

The problems of feral cats seems to receive a fair amount attention among mainstream animal protection and animal rights groups. Eg there are campaigns to neuter them (humanely) to prevent over-population etc. Birds are fed by many humans but it is unclear to me whether that is net-positive in long run, much less an effective intervention. Rodents and bugs receive less attention, quite possibly rightly so. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Religious Texts and EA: What Can We Learn and What Can We Inform? · 2021-02-02T09:35:53.975Z · EA · GW

The religious texts I am familiar with contain calls for charity, but not much on making it effective. 

It is also worth considering that the relation between the contents of religious texts and their adherents actual actions is kind of complicated. Very often even devout followers do not follow the prescriptions of their religious texts, but the content of religious texts clearly have some influence. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on What I believe, part 1: Utilitarianism | Sunyshore · 2021-01-11T12:07:46.677Z · EA · GW

I am attracted to utilitarianism, but also find some of the possible implications off-putting. But there are also some objections I have from first principles. 

One objection is that any numbers we use in practice just have to be made up. (This objection might be especially serious if we take animals into account, which I think we should.) So maybe utalitarianism  is the "correct" theory but if I don't have access to the correct utilities it is not clear whether I should use some made up numbers to do the expected utility calculations. One might compare with theorems saying that individual rational choice is equivalent to maximizing a von Neumann-Morgenstern utility function. Yet very few people, even economists, try to do that in practice and it is not clear that people would be less irrational in practice if they tried to do calculations with their expected utility in various circumstances. 

A second theoretical objection I have is that if we suppose there is any chance that humanity, or sentient life, will survive forever, then the universe will contain infinite amounts of pain and pleasure, all calculations become divergent, and the theory gives no guide at all. You might object that this is impossible with current scientific theories, but the conclusion goes through no matter how small the probability is. Surely there is a 1/Ackerman(1000) chance that our current understanding of physics is wrong? 

Comment by rogerackroyd on How much (physical) suffering is there? Part II: Animals · 2021-01-10T14:41:56.751Z · EA · GW

The fish numbers for suffering only include farm fish, not wild-caught fish if I understand correctly? Regarding the elephant example, it seems a lot of the elephant neurons are in the cerebellum, not the celebral cortex. Humans apparently have three times more neurons in the cortex than elephants, explaining our superior cognitive capacities, and possibly indicating we have more capacity for pain and pleasure. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on RogerAckroyd's Shortform · 2021-01-09T15:21:47.519Z · EA · GW

On 80000 hours webpage they have a profile on factory farming, where they say they estimate ending factory farming would increase the expected value of the future of humanity by between 0.01% and 0.1%. I realize one cannot hope for precision in these things but I am still curious if anyone knows anything more about the reasoning process that went into making that estimate.  

Comment by rogerackroyd on jackmalde's Shortform · 2021-01-09T15:17:02.242Z · EA · GW

I think of welfare reforms as being excellent complements to work on cultured meat. By raising prices, and drawing attention to the issue of animal welfare, they may increase demand for cultured meat when it becomes available. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on The Conflicted Omnivore · 2020-12-31T10:23:40.831Z · EA · GW

Like the author of the OP I am excited about the possibility of cultured meat to reduce animal cruelty. If we want people to switch to vegetarian diet on a large scale it seems the most realistic way. Now, I am perhaps more optimistic than the author about the possibility of humane farms. The country where I live has stronger animal welfare laws than the US, and indeed than almost all of the world, and I do think that a non-trivial portion of the meat eaten in my country has been ethically produced. In longer-term, to avoid back-sliding of the standards, cultured meat seems like clearly the best solution anyway. 

(In making that judgement I of course am saying that I think raising and killing animals for meat is morally acceptable in principle. I have given the matter some thought, and while I am not 100% convinced that is the case I certainly lean towards that view.) 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-15T17:00:36.018Z · EA · GW

Thank you. That is rather different from my view of sentience in some ways, I appreciate the clarification. 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA) · 2020-12-14T10:42:52.886Z · EA · GW

Conditional on invertibrates being sentient, I would upgrade my probability of other things being sentient. So maybe bivales are sentient, some existing robots, maybe even plants. I would take the case for hidden qualia in humans seriously as well. Do you agree, and if so, would this have any impact on good policies to pursue? 

Comment by rogerackroyd on Open and Welcome Thread: December 2020 · 2020-12-14T10:29:37.379Z · EA · GW

Hello everybody, I have been lurking on the forum for a while and thought I would introduce myself. I encountered EA earlier this year and while I am not as altruistic as many of you, I have become more altruistic than I was before. I have increased my donations, and reprioritized them to hopefully more effecient causes. I have also become almost vegetarian, a lifestyle change I never thought I would attempt. 

I have no overaching moral theory. I am attracted to utilitarianism, but I also think there are lots of practical and theoretical problems with it so I am not going to pretend I am committed to it.  

I have been very struck by the arguments for the importance of animal welfare. I have a lot of moral uncertainy on the topic, since any attempt to formulate ethical rules involving animals raises difficult questions in the philosophy of consciousness, utilitarianism versus other ethical theories, the inter-individual comparison of utilities and population ethics. Still, my intuition says that industrial scale animal cruelty is bad, and nothing in my attempts to philosophize makes me think that intution is wrong.