Will's very quick summary/hot take(s):

  • The bottom line is that different biological species don't experience time all that differently:
  • If such differences [in subjective experience of time across species] exist, they probably span no more than two orders of magnitude, with humans falling roughly midway on the scale
  • Thus subjective experience of time is not a huge deal for animals' moral statuses.

Will's favourite excerpts:

Some of the clues are neurological. If the brain is like a computer, we might be able to measure the brain’s clock speed by looking at the speed at which it can transmit signals. Parrot and songbird brains pack many more neurons per cubic millimeter than elephant and whale brains, allowing the smaller, denser bird brains to transmit signals much faster.

[...]

Considering differences in the subjective experience of time could change the way we allocate resources to different types of animals. Currently, if one wants to approximate differences in moral status or capacity for welfare using a measurable metric, the best one can do is appeal to neuron count, brain-to-body-mass ratio, encephalization quotient, or something similar. One interesting aspect of the temporal experience proxies I’ve identified is that the rankings of animals they generate differ fairly dramatically from rankings based on brain-size metrics. Honey bees only have about a million neurons, but their rate of subjective experience appears to be much faster than big-brained animals like elephants. Incorporating consideration of differences in the subjective experience of time into our prioritization process (perhaps weighting temporal experience metrics equally with brain-size metrics) would change our overall ranking of animals.

[...]

  • If such differences [in subjective experience of time across species] exist, they probably span no more than two orders of magnitude, with humans falling roughly midway on the scale

A curveball: digital minds

  • While not considered in Schukraft's paper, digital minds could have vastly different subjective experiences of time, and for me this is where welfare implications could potentially come into play in a big way:

Hardware with higher serial speeds can be used to run digital minds faster. Current  computer clock speeds are measured in gigahertz, millions of times greater than firing  rates of human neurons; and signal transmission speeds can similarly exceed the  conductance speed of human nerves. It is therefore likely that digital minds with  humanlike capabilities could think at least thousands of times (and perhaps millions) faster than humans do, given a sufficient supply of hardware. If a digital mind packs thousands of subjective years of life into a single calendar year, then it seems the  former (“subjective time”, not wall-clock time) is the correct measure for such things as  the amount of well-being gained from extended life (Bostrom and Yudkowsky, 2014). (Shulman & Bostrom, 2021)

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Will's favourite excerpts, continued:

An LSD trip might seem to extend for days when in fact it was over in an afternoon.

;P

See also: