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The Belgian senate votes to add animal welfare to the constitution.

It's been a journey. I work for GAIA, a Belgian animal advocacy group that for years has tried to get animal welfare added to the constitution. Today we were present as a supermajority of the senate came out in favor of our proposed constitutional amendment. The relevant section reads:

In exercising their respective powers, the Federal State, the Communities and the Regions strive to protect and care for animals as sentient beings.

It's a very good day for Belgian animals but I do want to note that:

  1. This does not mean an effective shutdown of the meat industry, merely that all future pro-animal welfare laws and lawsuits will have an easier time.  And,
  2. It still needs to pass the Chamber of Representatives.

If there's interest I will make a full post about it if once it passes the Chamber.

EDIT: Translated the linked article on our site into English.

Congrats! I would also appreciate a full post, and would be interested to hear more about the process of passing the amendment. It would be great to recognize those who contributed to this work.

Very interesting. I’d personally appreciate a full post.

+1 for full post. And huge congrats. This must've been incredibly difficult work, for an ambitious goal, and you made it happen! So great.

Reddit user blueshoesrcool discovered that Effective Ventures (the umbrella organization for the Centre for Effective Altruism, 80000 hours, GWWC, etc) has missed its charity reporting deadline by 27 days.

Given that there's already a regulatory inquiry into Effective Ventures Foundation, maybe someone should look into this.

Hey Bob - Howie from EV UK here. Thanks for flagging this! I definitely see why this would look concerning so I just wanted to quickly chime in and let you/others know that we’ve already gotten in touch with relevant regulators about this and I don’t think there’s much to worry about here.

The thing going on is that EV UK has an extended filing deadline (from 30 April to 30 June 2023) for our audited accounts,[1] which are one of the things included in our Annual Return. So back in April, we notified the Charity Commission that we’ll be filing our Annual Return by 30 June. 

  1. ^

    This is due to a covid extension, which the UK government has granted to many companies.

The Netherlands passed a law that would ban factory farming.

It was introduced by the Party for the Animals  and passed in 2021. However, it only passed because the government had just fallen and the senate was distracted by passing covid laws, which meant they were very busy and didn't have a debate about it. Since the law is rather vague there's a good chance it wouldn't have passed without the covid crisis.

It was supposed to start this year, but the minister of agriculture has decided he will straight up ignore the law . The current government is not in favor of this law and so they're looking at ways to circumvent it.

It's very unusual for the Dutch government to ignore laws, so they might get sued by animal rights activists. I expect they will introduce a new law rather quickly that repeals this ban, but the fact that it passed at all and that this will now become a big issue in the news is very promising for the 116 million Dutch farm animals.

The results of the Dutch provincial elections are in. The Party for the Animals (the party that banned factory farming, but people ignored it) has increased its number of seats in the senate from 3 to 4 (out of 75).

Before you start cheering I should mention that the Farmer–Citizen Movement (who are very conservative when it comes to animal rights) have burst onto the scene with 16 seats (making them the largest party).

With farming and livestock becoming a hot button issue in the Netherlands there's a chance that animal rights will now become a polarizing issue, with a lot of people who previously didn't think about it becoming explicitly for or against expanding animal rights. While this would increase the amount of vegetarians and vegans, it remains to be seen if this will turn out positive for animal welfare overall.

Jobst and I want to improve AI-safety by supplementing RLHF with a consensus generating voting system. Last week we did a small experiment at a conference. Here is the poster we used to explain this idea to the attendants:

Here's the PDF

After years of using this forum I started to have problems with my writings not appearing on the frontpage and the mods not answering my messages the day I started criticizing EA.

This may very well be a coincidence in which case I genuinely apologize for the implied accusal. I still think it's important to mention it in case other people are having the same problem.

EDIT: After commenting this I suddenly lost a lot of karma due to downvotes:

EDIT 2: To respond to the reply, it's not all messages on the intercom, and it's been happening for a bit longer than the last couple days. But I can totally understand that you are overloaded right now so fair enough I'll drop that point. More importantly, it's not just happening with the comments on popular posts and not just with comments either.
I suddenly lost a lot of karma but I wanted to show some proof that I didn't make that up so I went to settings and changed it to "show downvotes" and set it to batch at the nearest hour. That way I could make a screenshot of it and provide some proof it happened.

EDIT 3: I think it's back to normal, and for the record I don't think the admins themselves went back and downvoted me.

Ben_West
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Hi Bob,
1. We have been responding to your messages in intercom, I don't know what you mean. It's true that our moderation team is slower to respond than usual because we are overloaded right now, but I think you can probably guess why we are overloaded.
2. You are probably commenting on popular posts and we don't show all the comments from those on the Frontpage. I think we never show more than 4 or 5. The forum is open source, so you can look through the code to see the logic we use to decide which comments to display, if you would like.
3. I don't know who's downvoting you. It looks like your notifications are batched, so you got notified about them all at the same time because your Vote Notifications setting is set this way.

Beauty vs Happiness Thought Experiment


Say a genie were to give you the choice between:

1) Creating a stunningly beautiful world that is uninhabited and won’t influence sentient beings in any way or 2) Not creating it.

In addition, both the genie’s and your memories of this event are immediately erased once you make the choice, so no one knows about this world and you cannot derive happiness from the memory.

Would you choose option one or two?
 

I would choose option one, because I prefer a more beautiful universe to an uglier one (even if no one experiences it). This forms an argument against classic utilitarianism.

Classic Utilitarianism says that I’m wrong. The choice doesn’t create any happiness, only beauty. This means that, according to classic utilitarianism, I should have no preferences between the two options.
 

There are several moral theories that do allow you to prefer option one. One of which is preference utilitarianism which states that it’s okay to have preferences that don’t bottom out in happiness. For this reason, I find preference utilitarianism more persuasive than classic utilitarianism.


A possible counterargument would be that the new world isn't really beautiful since no one experiences it. Here we have a disagreement over whether beauty needs to be experienced to even exist.


A third way of looking at this thought experiment would be through the lens of value uncertainty. Through this lens, it does make sense to pick option one. Even if you have a thousand times more credence in the theory that happiness is the arbiter of value, the fact that no happiness is created either way leaves the door open for your tiny credence that beauty might be the arbiter of value. Value uncertainty suggests that you take the first option, just in case.

What if there's a small hedonic cost to creating the beautiful world? Suppose option 1 is "Creating a stunningly beautiful world that is uninhabited and won’t influence sentient beings in any way, plus giving a random person a headache for an hour."

In that case I can't really see a moral case for choosing option 1, no matter how stunningly beautiful the world in question is. This would suggest that even if there is some intrinsic value to beauty, it's extremely small if not lexically inferior to the value of hedonics. I think for basically all practical purposes we do face tradeoffs between hedonic and other purported values, and I just don't feel the moral force of the latter in those cases.

A third way of looking at this thought experiment would be through the lens of value uncertainty. Through this lens, it does make sense to pick option one. Even if you have a thousand times more credence in the theory that happiness is the arbiter of value, the fact that no happiness is created either way leaves the door open for your tiny credence that beauty might be the arbiter of value. Value uncertainty suggests that you take the first option, just in case.

This summarises my view. Might as well choose first option just in case.

Say you had to choose between two options:

Option 1: A 99% chance that everyone on earth gets tortured for all of time (-100 utils per person) and a 1% chance that a septillion happy people get created (+90 utils pp) for all of time

Option 2: A 100% chance that everyone on earth becomes maximally happy for all of time (+100 utils pp)

Let's assume the population in both these scenario's remain stable over time (or grow similarly), Expected Value Theory (and classic utilitarianism by extension) says we should choose option 1, even though this has a 99% chance of an s-risk, over a guaranteed everlasting utopia for everyone. (You can also create a scenario with an x-risk instead of an s-risk). This seems counterintuitive.

I call this the wagering calamity objection.

EDIT: This is not the 'very repugnant conclusion' since it's not about inequality within a population, but rather about risk-aversion.

This sounds similar to the "very repugnant conclusion".

Gunman: [points a sniper rifle at a faraway kid] Give me $10 or I'll kill this kid.

Utilitarian: I’m sorry, why should I believe that you will let the kid live if I give you $10? Also, I can’t give you the money because that would set a bad precedent. If people know I always give money to gunmen that would encourage people to start taking hostages and demanding money from me.

Gunman: I promise I will let her live and to keep it a secret. See, I have this bomb-collar that will explode if I try to remove it. Here's a detonator that starts working in 1 hour, now you can punish me if I break my promise.

Utilitarian: How do I know you won’t come back tomorrow to threaten another kid?

Gunman: I'm collecting money for a (non-effective) charity. I only do this because threatening utilitarians is an easy source of money. I promise I'll only threaten you once.

Utilitarian: So you're saying the mere existence of utilitarians can generate cruel behavior in people who otherwise wouldn't? Guess I should consider not being a utilitarian, or at least keeping it a secret.

EDIT: Will someone explain why this is worth (strong) downvotes? This seems like a pretty natural extension of game theory; If you reveal you’re always open to sacrificing personal utility for others you leave yourself more open to exploitation than with a tit-for-tat-like strategy (e.g. contractualism), meaning people are more likely to try and exploit you (e.g. by threatening nuclear war). If you think I made a mistake in my reasoning why leave me with less voting power and why not click on the disagreement vote or leave a comment explaining it?

EDIT 2: DC's hypothesis that it's because of vibes and not reasoning is interesting, although I find the hypothesis that some EA's strongly identify as utilitarian and don't like seeing it questioned also plausible (they don't seem to have a problem with a pro-utilitarianism argument having a child in mortal peril, e.g. the drowning child experiment). There's a reason thought experiments in ethics often have these attributes; I'm not trying to disturb, I'm trying to succinctly show the structure of threats without wasting the readers time with fluff. So for example, I choose a child so I don't need to specify a high amount of expected DALY's per dollar, I choose a sniper rifle because then there doesn't need to be a mechanism to make the child also keep the agreement a secret, I choose a bomb-collar because that's a quick way to establish a credible punishment mechanism, etc etc.

DC
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People were probably just squicked by the shocking gunman example starting the first sentence with no context and auto-downvoted based on vibes, rather than your reasoning. You optimized pretty hard for violent shock value with your first sentence, which could be a good hook for a short story in other contexts but here hijacks the altruistic reader with ambiguously threatening information. I don't personally mind but maybe it's triggering for some. Try using less violent hypotheticals or more realistic ones, maybe

EDIT: Biden Backs $8 Billion Alaska Oil Project. I don't know why someone gave this shortform an immediate -9 downvote, but for those EAs that still care about climate change, thank you.

A massive and controversial new oil production project in Alaska is under review by the US Department of the Interior.

ConocoPhillips' massive Willow Project would be a climate disaster, locking in at least 30 years of fossil fuel production on sensitive Arctic ecosystems near Indigenous communities. It would unleash high levels of pollution - roughly the equivalent of 66-76 coal plants worth of carbon to the air - and directly undermine President Biden's climate goals.

The Biden administration has the power to stop this massive fossil fuel development. Click here to send them a letter (2 minutes).