Remove An Omnivore's Statue? Debate Ensues Over The Legacy Of Factory Farming

by scottxmulligan2 min read26th Oct 202128 comments

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Creative Writing ContestEffective altruism art and fictionEthics of personal consumptionFarmed animal welfare
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February 21st, 2167
The New York Daily

There have been cries from locals in Healy, New York, about taking down the statue of Jerry Whittaker. Whittaker was renowned in his time for his breakthroughs in the field of oncology, with his discoveries saving an estimated five million lives.

For the past one hundred and thirty years, he has been the poster child of his hometown: Healy, New York. After his death in 2073, a statue was erected in his honor; however, at a recent town hall meeting Friday, his legacy has come into question. 

A group of students at Heatherheight University in Healy have taken issue with the prominent display of an omnivore in the town center. They submitted a petition calling for the removal of the statue last week which prompted the town council to move ahead with setting a date, February 27th, for a vote on the future of the statue.

"The statue whitewashes the history of Whittaker. It was well known the horrors of the factory farming system in Whittaker's time yet he continued to engage in an omnivorous lifestyle. He once said that he considered moving away from meat consumption but then claimed, he would miss bacon and cheese a little too much, laughing about it with the interviewer. We want the statue removed. It makes no sense to celebrate someone who supported the genocide and torture of animal lives," said Michael, a third-year at Heatherheight, who spoke during the meeting in support of the removal.

Others disagree. Owner of Smith's Bakery on Lever street, John Gill said, "It's ridiculous. They try to cancel people for anything and everything these days. Back then, that kind of stuff was normal. We're going to have to take down every statue in the world if we continue down this road."

There are some who favor a middle of the road approach where the statue would be kept but a new paragraph be added to the description at the foot of the statue. It would explain some of the moral complexity of Whittaker's history. Alyson Regalia, librarian at Winchester explained, "We're just asking that this blindspot of Whittaker be included somewhere in the memorial to show that even noble people can engage in heinous acts. It's possible to honor his legacy while acknowledging even Whittaker had faults."

The fate of Whittaker's statue remains to be seen. All town council members have been quiet about how they will vote on the 27th.

But even if the statue remains up, the question of how to reconcile with the history of factory farming and the legacy of those who supported it remains an important one.  

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My own fantasy is that people will eventually be canceled for failing to display sufficient moral uncertainty. :)

Ha!

Yeah, that's something where I think it would be a correct invocation of the rule if we wanted to implement the rule, but I don't think we want to implement the rule, so it's just funny. :P 

To me this seems like essentially a "cheap shot" -- you could write basically this story in support of very many positions. Imagine a story that's like "wow, this guy was a utilitarian, even back then people knew utilitarianism could lead to unacceptable conclusions, we're getting rid of his statue" or whatever. In fact, you could probably write a story like this against certain ideas in EA animal thought.

Yeah, IIRC both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis wrote about how anyone can just say "the future will agree with me," as a way of getting support for your ideas, but nobody really knows about the future and probably everyone is wrong because the future will be more complicated than anyone thinks, and so arguments from the future are bad logic and invalid. (I think that Lewis's is a bit of the Screwtape Letters and that Chesterton's essay is in "What's Wrong With The World.") So I endorse this complaint.

But I didn't include that in my description because I do in fact think veganism will take over the world once the technology gets far enough, so that wasn't my true objection to the story.

It seems that people object most to statues of those who became rich, famous, or powerful from doing something objectionable. For instance, you get rich from slavery, become a philanthropist, then get a statue for being a philanthropist,  cf Edward Colston in the UK. People mind less if you so happen to do something objectionable, but that's not your reason from prominence. 

Therefore, the story would have much more oompfh if it was about a factory farming magnate who, say, set up a university with the proceeds, instead of just a guy who ate meat. You could have had quite a lot of fun teasing out those parallels. 

This story is on an issue where I do not agree with the standard EA consensus, so I feel as if my voice may be useful as an example of a 'person not yet persuaded', since that group is presumably the target audience for this fiction.

My body has completely switched over from 'relaxed, cheerful, listening to a story' to 'under threat'; sweating, faster heartbeats, soldier mindset instead of explorer, how-do-I-defend-myself-as-fast-as-I-can. I think this will not be a good story to make other people like EA more. I think it will make them like EA less.

To help clarify my position, I am starting with the position that 'cancel culture' is bad. A good deal of my horror and shock is that of presenting one of the things I like least about our current culture as a perpetual feature, blazed in titanic letters a hundred and fifty years in the future. But putting that side - this does not feel to me like a persuasive argument. It feels like an attack. It isn't saying "you should join us," it's saying "join us or we will destroy your memory." It doesn't read to me as "the future will condemn you," but as "we will make the future condemn you." I don't actually feel this story is persuasive or illustrative or teaches useful thinking habits. I think it's a threat: "You'll be shunned if you don't sign up with us."

But I - I think that the image of Good as that which can cooperate, Good as that which can be trusted, Good that you can relax and be safe and explore in the presence of because it won't try to hurt you - is worth preserving. And I don't think this story does. I think reading this story will drive away people who doesn't already agree with you (based on my current emotional state) and fire up the people who already do (based on the upvoting), and I don't think these are good things to try to do.

Or it could just be that I'm treating this story unfairly because it pushed one of my buttons. That's also wholly possible.

Interesting! I totally didn't interpret the story as being particularly supportive of cancel culture or indicating that the statue should be removed. I read it more as a straightforward meditation on what extrapolating various current trends might look like, without doing much to nudge the readers towards a particular stance on those trends or on that outcome. 

That is 100% reasonable and I am probably not behaving reasonably! But I think the fact that I did freak out suggests that the way I read the story is at least plausible and that people having my reaction is a risk?

I appreciate your perspective on the piece. It's very interesting. I think when it comes to recognizing animal welfare, different things work for different people. So I think your criticism is valid and I can see this piece potentially pushing some people away from the movement who may feel targeted or shamed which is a limitation of it. (especially if they identify with Whittaker in the piece) That said, Emrik and Dicentra did a very nice job articulating some of my goals with it. 

Ultimately, I think it just tries to shake up how someone might view animal welfare by seeing it through the lens of a version of the future of our society.

For example, someone may read it, and at first, feel offended by the idea that how we treat animals in the modern day will be viewed as abhorrent in the future, to the point where we start retroactively holding otherwise morally upstanding people in history accountable for their association with the treatment. After the initial reaction, I hope it inspires some thought and discussion. 

What about our current system may be viewed as abhorrent? Is it really that bad? Is it fair to compare it to morally irreprehensible actions of the past? Is this piece just hyperbolizing the issue to an extreme unrealistic degree? What other issues of today may we look back on with disgust over how we acted? Why do we currently accept these issues as normal? Is that even a valid exercise in determining the morality of actions? Is this exercise helpful in identifying actions we do today that may be immoral? 

Regarding cancel culture, I really don't think this piece has an opinion regarding it. (My personal view probably aligns more with you regarding the toxicity of the current version of it which seems to be more about morally grandstanding than actually trying to understand what happened, why it happened, and doing something meaningfully about it. Oftentimes, it leads to internal battles in communities where already marginalized members get further marginalized for not having the 'right' opinions at all times which I think is not conducive to intellectual inquiry.)

Thank you for your thoughtful critique.

I am glad you are not unhappy with my post! I apologize if I am being too aggressive in this and I don't want to offend you.

But... I do identify with Whittaker. And I don't really feel that my opinion on how someone might view animal welfare has been altered, because - I feel threatened, and that isn't a good state to change your mind in? Insofar as I have reactions, they aren't scout-mindset I-desire-to-open-my-mind-to-the-topic, they're soldier-mindset I-am-under-intellectual-attack-and-must defend myself. I grant that you are probably correct that the future will condemn eating meat, but I still want - in terms of 'desire', not 'endorsed desire' - to come up with counterarguments, with the only required analysis being 'will this allow me to defend myself', not 'is it true'.

I don't think that most people operate by first feeling offended, then kindly and rationally considering the offensive argument. I think that doing that is a high-level skill that is difficult to learn, and that the more you offend someone at first, the more they're going to want to push back and the less they're going to want to listen to you. I can observe this in myself and theorize that it is responsible for phenomena I have observed in others, I expect  a large portion (probably a large minority?) of other readers who are not already convinced you are right to become offended when you make your explanation, and I expect that, as a result, the story will not work well for purposes of convincing people.

It's a tough balance. Different things will work with different people in terms of animal welfare arguments. I also think that art can manifest in many ways. There is a place for delicate and tender art, and other art should be more pointed and direct.

Do I think the majority of people who read this story will be offended to the point where they will become more anti-vegan as a result? Not really. Do I think some people will read it and reflect? I think so. Even people who were initially offended? Possibly. I think you're right in that it is an idealistic belief to think that the initially offended will sit back and reflect on why they feel that way; however, for those people who don't reflect, I am confident there are other avenues of animal welfare advocacy that will be effective and I don't believe this story will undermine that work in a meaningful way.

Can it inspire some interesting conversations between vegans and non-vegans? I hope so. Do I think it will turn someone vegan? Most likely not but it doesn't really have to. I think in a lot of ways, the animal welfare art community is about planting lots of seeds to get people to think more critically and deeply about these issues and the animals that were slaughtered for their lifestyles. Then in combination with the work of GFI and others making plant based alternatives cheaper/tastier/convenient, and the education community (earthling ed for example) we will continue to see a shift toward veganism. 

Also, the goal for a piece like this isn't just to convince people to go vegan. It's also to make vegans reflect about their own engagement on the issue. Do they truly believe what they live? Sometimes, vegans will hide from their true opinions in order to not come across as confrontational or aggressive but if you truly believe animals are being slaughtered and enslaved by the trillions, is there an appropriate way for you to channel that anger and passion somewhere in the discourse and by not doing so, are you complicit in the actions of the people around you?

You said you feel threatened by a piece like this which paints the current treatment of animals as something that will be viewed as horrific in the future and understand you may contribute in a small way to that? What do you make of the current treatment of animals in our society? (I'm very open to hearing your thoughts, even if they may be very different than my own)

I am perfectly willing to have a long, point-by-point disagreement with you! I'm going to divide it into three threads, though; one for the actual argument about veganism, one for a side note about your second-to-last paragraph, and one for the meta-argument about pointy persuasion vs nice persuasion. This post is for the last; that is, for the statement:

"There is a place for delicate and tender art, and other art should be more pointed and direct."

I'm going to disagree. I think that, in terms of 'ideological art', there is a place for art that persuades by attempting to convince someone that you are on their side, and a place for art that persuades by attempting to convince someone that they really should be on your side, and a place for art that rallies and inspires people who are already on your side, and a place for art that genuinely instructs on a basis that has nothing at all to do with persuasion.

But I don't think there's a place for 'pointed and direct' art in terms of persuading people. I think that most persuasion is marginal, and comes by a long series of individual debates at the end of each of which the person you're talking to feels "Yeah, that was a good point, you're a decent person." I think "Guided by the Beauty of our Weapons" (https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/24/guided-by-the-beauty-of-our-weapons/) is instructive here, but especially the quote,  “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they fight you half-heartedly, then they’re neutral, then they then they grudgingly say you might have a point even though you’re annoying, then they say on balance you’re mostly right although you ignore some of the most important facets of the issue, then you win.” But central to this is the step from fighting you to fighting you half-heartedly, and there is no way to get someone to take that step by offending them.

In my worldview, people largely change their minds via positive affect ("I like these people and these ideas, I want to associate with them") and negative affect ("those people are jerks, whatever they're for, I'm against"), and most argument consists of first subconsciously deciding what you want to believe, then steadily trying out arguments until you find one that you can buy, and - it's not that you can't be truth-seeking, I try to be truth-seeking, but I try with great difficulty, aware of what I desire to be true and aware that what I desire to be true does not systematically correlate with what is true. Biases are hard, and one of the biases is "I am biased to dislike people who are mean to me, them and everything they care about." And I think that when you get someone's back up, they are then harder to persuade to the cause that offended them, for quite a while until the effect fades.

I play role-playing games. I often think in terms of - dice rolls, probabilities. And one common mechanic in D&D and similar games is that each time you make a roll to succeed against a particular condition - some spell or poison or magical effect - you get +1 to the next roll to keep resisting it. Because you've fought it before and you can throw it off. Scott Alexander likes the cowpox metaphor; unpersuasive arguments for cause A inoculate you against potentially persuasive arguments for cause A, because you've already dismissed argument A. In that context, the EA community picking arguments for the sake of persuading people needs to be choosing not only for what will persuade some of their potential audience, but for what won't offend any of their potential audience, because every EA story read as 'an attack by EA on us' will make every person who has that reaction harder to persuade of EA in the future.

(Part 2 of 3, threaded because I want to discuss different things you bring up in different places.)

"Also, the goal for a piece like this isn't just to convince people to go vegan. It's also to make vegans reflect about their own engagement on the issue."

I believe that the EA writing contest was established to fund the creation of art that would persuade people who are not currently EA of EA causes and make them think more highly of EA. Insofar as I am wrong, I am wrong; insofar as I am not wrong, art-for-rallying-the-base is not actually bad, but is off-topic for the contest.

(Part 3 of 3, threaded because I want to discuss different things you bring up in different places.)

"You said you feel threatened by a piece like this which paints the current treatment of animals as something that will be viewed as horrific in the future and understand you may contribute in a small way to that? What do you make of the current treatment of animals in our society? (I'm very open to hearing your thoughts, even if they may be very different than my own)"

I appreciate it!

For clarification: I would not describe myself as "feeling threatened" in the sense of "my position is unstable," so much as I would say that I felt, as of the time I read the story some hours ago, as "threatened" in the sense that someone who was being subject to extortion might feel threatened; that is, threatened meaning having been made the subject of a threat. I do not rationally expect anyone is going to burn down my house - but that was the kind of reaction I had.

I do recognize that, as I eat meat and consume dairy products, I am engaging in a potential evil. My opinions on this are complicated, but I have not stopped doing so.

To begin with, I am a total-sum utilitarian; that is to say, I do not think the repugnant conclusion is repugnant. Creating people who would prefer to live is doing them a favor. Creating someone on condition he later die for you is ethical as long as he would agree that, yup, existing had totally been worth it, and as long as his life didn't cause enough suffering (in side effects) to counterbalance it. So for this reason, I default to non-vegetarianism.

There is still the 'factory farming is uniquely terrible' argument! I have a great deal of sympathy for this argument! However, I think the case is weaker than it seems.

First, I am not in fact convinced that animals have qualia? Like, that is kind of a weak argument, just multiply the probability that animals have qualia by the total sum of the utility conditional that they do and go on from there? But - we really don't understand where consciousness comes from or how it works and I don't really know that there's anything actually inside a chicken's skull capable of suffering. So I do want this point made before I go on with the second, more important one:

I believe in the hedonic treadmill; that is, that people vastly overestimate and underestimate how much their happiness will change based on predictable factors (see https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/23/the-price-of-glee-in-china/ for a recent extreme case). I know enough history to know that the past was really extremely horrifyingly terrible - and, yet, mass suicides are not a common feature of life at any period in history, even those periods where nobody believed in a morally-relevant afterlife. Mass suicides did still happen occasionally, but (a) only under really extreme circumstances and (b) by people who did not know about the hedonic treadmill. So while I have no doubt that factory farming is worse for animals than conventional farming (other than the doubt of whether or not the animals are morally relevant), the question of "is it literally worse than death" is a much harder one.

You could still argue that, even if these arguments were persuasive, I should avoid eating meat anyway, just on the off chance it's a moral catastrophe. My response to that really just is that I am uncomfortable around Pascal's Mugging arguments and while I feel that I should probably investigate them I don't feel that I am compelled to obey every request that goes "Change your behavior or be at fault for a moral catastrophe!" I feel that being shaped like that is bad, because then anyone can just extort you effortlessly. Low-probability arguments that might be important are going on a queue based on probability, where I investigate one at a time as I have time. Right now I'm trying to figure out which religion is true, if any. Next on the queue is a Serious Long-Term Investigation Of Animal Welfare, but I expect it will take a while to get there.

If you want me to unpack anything, I'm happy to do that! Alternatively speaking, if you'd like to provide me with material for my eventual investigation, I'd also be happy to add it to the list. But so far I don't have any specific plans for changes to my behavior.

I'm not sure if you're implying this: 'the neutral point of welfare is close to the point at which someone commits suicide'

If so, I'd argue that these points are often very far apart: there's tremendous evolutionary and social pressure against suicide, as well as that people can suffer immensely but hope the future will be better.

Therefore, I don't expect suicide rate to be very predictive of quality of life.

I was absolutely implying this! That was a fundamental part of my system, which went unspoken and which I am happy to defend.

And it's why I pointed out that you don't seem to have even semicommon mass suicide in the classical world, before the rise of Judeo-Christian beliefs on Heavenly and Hellish fates, when people think of the afterlife as grey fuzz if they think there is an afterlife and when culture often considers it morally heroic to commit suicide, rather than sinful. It seems more common, then, but even then it's very rare, almost always only in cases where people have strong predictive reason to believe things are about to get much worse and not going to get better, even though they don't know about the hedonic treadmill.

(I think the most common case is 'we're about to be captured by an extremely cruel enemy, tortured, maybe killed, maybe worse, almost certainly enslaved if we survive' - and even then I don't think most of the population of sacked cities kills themselves first, it's just something you hear about a noticeable minority of people doing, in what is basically the worst situation that can happen.)

And evolutionary pressure against suicide is what I presume produced the hedonic treadmill. "Whatever happens, on the macro scale you will be happy slightly above the suicide rate" seems like a great thing for evolution to engineer in, and I'm not really surprised it did.

Evolution has many dials other than just emotional affect, and we would naively expect evolution to use all of them if it can.

I can understand that, logically speaking, but it does not suffice to convince me. This is especially true because of the % of people who attempt suicide, don't die, and say later it was a giant mistake and they regret it. I could imagine a world in which people were usually or even often wrong both about committing suicide and not committing suicide, but it seems to me like a lot of added complexity.

To begin with, I am a total-sum utilitarian; that is to say, I do not think the repugnant conclusion is repugnant. Creating people who would prefer to live is doing them a favor. Creating someone on condition he later die for you is ethical as long as he would agree that, yup, existing had totally been worth it, and as long as his life didn't cause enough suffering (in side effects) to counterbalance it. So for this reason, I default to non-vegetarianism.

I think this is built on a false premise. Correct me if I misread your argument with this example. We have 1,000,000 chickens on a factory farm. You are assuming their lives are net util even if their lives may be miserable. (which I think is the repugnant conclusion? I've never really liked the framing of it either) Let's break this down. Of those 1,000,000 chickens, 500,000 are male chicks. They are killed after birth because they are deemed worthless. I don't believe these were net util lives. I believe they were negative lives. Therefore, the repugnant conclusion doesn't come into play here with these lives. The other 500,000 are females. Many of them live a life full of torture from birth, due to genetic modifications that have crippled some of them and made life painful for others. (These genetic modifications include inducing egg production and increasing the amount of meat on their bodies.) They are slaughtered about 7 weeks into their existence. Some of these lives I believe are net negative. I will assume that some of these chickens lead net util lives. Even then, the marginal net util of the sample of females I believe is outweighed by the treatment of their male counterparts.

Additionally, there are other negative externalities which you are not acknowledging, they include the following:
- Environmental Impact
- Psychological trauma of the slaughterhouse workers
- The land that is repurposed for factory farming. Mass plant agriculture requires less land and therefore, we can assume some of the land will be repurposed. This is an assumption but I believe nearly any purpose for the land, whether that be rewilding the terrain or building infrastructure for humans would be a better purpose for the land.


There is still the 'factory farming is uniquely terrible' argument! I have a great deal of sympathy for this argument! However, I think the case is weaker than it seems.

First, I am not in fact convinced that animals have qualia? Like, that is kind of a weak argument, just multiply the probability that animals have qualia by the total sum of the utility conditional that they do and go on from there? But - we really don't understand where consciousness comes from or how it works and I don't really know that there's anything actually inside a chicken's skull capable of suffering. So I do want this point made before I go on with the second, more important one:

Qualia is a complicated subject regarding animals since they can't explicitly tell us about their experiences. However, this is a limited view and can cast doubt on the qualia experience of humans as well. Even though animals may not be able to communicate their experience in English, we have other analyses that lead us to value animal welfare. There are couple different arguments here that animal welfare advocates will make:

1. We don't care about qualia. We care about suffering. Based off the research of many animals, we believe many of them feel pain. To simplify, these experiments are typically done by shocking an animal (negative stimuli) and then analyzing the animal's behavior against said stimuli in the future. Animals such as dogs/cats/pigs/even crustaceans will try to avoid the negative stimuli in the future. This is one way of trying to understand whether animals suffer.

2. Based off what we know about the human brain, we have no reason to cast doubt over the qualia experience of many animals. The current conception of consciousness (correct me if I'm wrong any neuroscientists in the crowd) is that consciousness is the interaction of the thalamus and the cortex. This thalamus cortex connection is believed to be what constitutes consciousness or rather our level of consciousness. Obviously, consciousness is weird and we can say all things are conscious (Koch) but I think we can both agree you are not operating on the same level of a chair for example. (which someone like Koch who believes all things are conscious also subscribes to) If we accept this view of consciousness, then all animals with a brain or more precisely, the thalamus cortex connection deserve the benefit of the doubt of consciousness as we would give a human who may be non-verbal. It's important to note this view excludes two groups (one of which being some animals): Plants and certain animals like oysters which have nerve ganglia clusters but no brain. It is an ongoing debate in the vegan community about animals like oysters and the different levels of consciousness we ascribe to different beings. Some believe we should give oysters the benefit of the doubt while others believe that this is too slippery of a view and at that point, why not give plants the benefit of the doubt too?

I believe in the hedonic treadmill; that is, that people vastly overestimate and underestimate how much their happiness will change based on predictable factors (see https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/23/the-price-of-glee-in-china/ for a recent extreme case). I know enough history to know that the past was really extremely horrifyingly terrible - and, yet, mass suicides are not a common feature of life at any period in history, even those periods where nobody believed in a morally-relevant afterlife. Mass suicides did still happen occasionally, but (a) only under really extreme circumstances and (b) by people who did not know about the hedonic treadmill. So while I have no doubt that factory farming is worse for animals than conventional farming (other than the doubt of whether or not the animals are morally relevant), the question of "is it literally worse than death" is a much harder one.

(see above argument on male chicks, I believe humans, too, taken away from their parents upon birth, live for a couple days in torturous conditions, and then are slaughtered, lived net negative lives. Increasing the number of these lives is just increasing the amount of suffering of the world.) I don't understand this argument about mass suicides. Some people live net negative lives and won't off themselves because they think suicide is a net neutral decision. (infinite bad and infinite good possibility after death) I don't see how them persisting is justification of net util.

You could still argue that, even if these arguments were persuasive, I should avoid eating meat anyway, just on the off chance it's a moral catastrophe. My response to that really just is that I am uncomfortable around Pascal's Mugging arguments and while I feel that I should probably investigate them I don't feel that I am compelled to obey every request that goes "Change your behavior or be at fault for a moral catastrophe!" I feel that being shaped like that is bad, because then anyone can just extort you effortlessly. Low-probability arguments that might be important are going on a queue based on probability, where I investigate one at a time as I have time. Right now I'm trying to figure out which religion is true, if any. Next on the queue is a Serious Long-Term Investigation Of Animal Welfare, but I expect it will take a while to get there.

I do not find these arguments persuasive and therefore I do not wish to engage in a discussion on Pascal's Mugging.

Thank you.

I am happy to read your arguments! Again, I do not intend to carry out a serious investigation of the topic until I have the time and energy to do it with full charity towards both sides and the ability to actually update, but I am glad to have evidence I can evaluate with more focus and in more detail when I do.

"You are assuming their lives are net util even if their lives may be miserable. (which I think is the repugnant conclusion? I've never really liked the framing of it either) Let's break this down."

Not quite. I am assuming their lives are not subjectively miserable even if they look like they are objectively miserable. That's what I mean by 'net util.' There are situations where people who look objectively happy commit suicide and situations where people who look objectively unhappy actively and strongly desire to keep living.

"Additionally, there are other negative externalities which you are not acknowledging[.]"

And there's additional positive externalities I'm not acknowledging! I would need to carry out a serious exploration of all the externalities and of the entire situation to feel comfortable making a decision on my own instead of trusting my most-trusted authorities, who eat meat.

"1. We don't care about qualia. We care about suffering."

I think it is possible for pain to exist without suffering, but I'm not sure suffering can exist without the-thing-I-am-labeling-qualia. I think that pain-without-suffering is possible either because the brain interprets pain in a non-suffering manner, or because there is nothing there to notice the pain - if I'm unconscious, there may be pain signals in my nervous system, my body may be flinching, but I do not suffer because I'm unconscious, so there's nobody there to suffer. These seem to be cheap examples that the thing is possible. I do not know whether or not it is true.

By "qualia," what I fundamentally mean is "the thing that makes pain into suffering and pleasure into joy." And I think I do require that in order to care about pain.

"The current conception of consciousness (correct me if I'm wrong any neuroscientists in the crowd) is that consciousness is the interaction of the thalamus and the cortex."

I am not a neuroscientist in the slightest and this is one of the things I would need to launch a serious investigation of when I launch a serious investigation, which I am not doing right now but which I agree is the highest launch-serious-investigation-priority once I have tried to figure out whether literally infinite positive and negative utility are relevant thanks to the existence of an afterlife.

"Some people live net negative lives and won't off themselves because they think suicide is a net neutral decision. (infinite bad and infinite good possibility after death) I don't see how them persisting is justification of net util."

And this is why I attempted to clarify (possibly in another thread?) that I feel that similar patterns persisted in classical antiquity, back before Hell and Heaven were common beliefs.

OK, back to the specific chicken welfare question:

"They are killed after birth because they are deemed worthless. I don't believe these were net util lives. I believe they were negative lives..."

I'm not sure if this helps, but I tend to think of comparing utilities across lifetimes as imagining serial reincarnation. Like, I-the-force-looking-out-from-behind-Bill-Friedman's-eyes lives through each life in turn.

But, in that case, lifespan matters. Two days of good life is two days of good life; two days of bad life is two days of bad life. Living for 2000 days in one body seems to me equivalent to living in 2 days in 1,000 bodies, except for how it changes the goodness or badness of those days.

But in that case - I mean, I don't actually know whether the male chicks' lives are worth living, because I haven't done the serious in-depth investigation required to know this, but if they were negative and female lives were positive, 7 years = 2556 days = each female outweighs 1278 males.

... But, also, I don't know if female chickens' lives are worth living! Or males! I do not know the answer and the investigation is on the queue.

I didn't read this short story as supporting cancel culture at all. To me, the good guys in this story are the people who advocate for recognising that people can have both good and bad sides. And the main point of celebration is that they're talking about factory farming as a troubling past history, just like they talk about slavery today. Did you read it differently?

I... hmm. I'd guess the basic thing going on is irrational defensiveness of the sort where any documentary about the Israel/Palestine mess is going to get blasted by both sides because it is clearly and obviously biased in favor of the other side, regardless of how balanced it actually is? Like, writing a story about cancel culture in the future that doesn't condemn it is endorsing it? I'm trying to unpack my brain's explanation and I'm really not finding it a very convincing explanation.

I think the best I can come up with, in defensive-mode not explanation-mode, is: If this was a news article today, it would be pro-cancel-culture. It is not the style of article Scott Alexander would write, which would be an elaborate analysis with lots of graphs, it is not the kind of article a right-wing source would write, which would be scornful and mocking; it comes across in style as resembling the sort of thing that is neutral on the face of it but Really We Know What Opinion The New York Times Has About This Sort Of Thing.

This still doesn't look very convincing to me, to be clear! But I'm trying to explain my reaction. Which is not wholly reasonable but I will still defend as representative of a large portion of your target audience.

(And I don't really see the middle-of-the-road people as all that middle-of-the-road, or all that portrayed-as-unambiguously-good. Everyone back in the past wasn't all sorts of good things. If you had to put signs on all the past people of all the evils they didn't condemn, you've got 1 bit of useful information and 99 bits that could be compressed down to 'he was born in 1465 and had the standard opinions of his time and place except.' So, in that case, I did read it differently.)

(And - I sort of assume that factory farming will disappear as soon as tasty cheap synthetic meat shows up? Everyone will convert to vegetarianism when that happens. Once tasty cheap synthetic cheese and eggs and milk show up, everyone will convert to veganism. Then they will forget that veganism mattered and we will end up with Cordelia Vorkosigan, who 'doesn't eat anything but vat-protein if she can help it' and this comes up practically never because why would it? So that didn't really read to me as 'point of glory' so much as 'yup, plausible element of the future.')

And - I sort of assume that factory farming will disappear as soon as tasty cheap synthetic meat shows up? Everyone will convert to vegetarianism when that happens. Once tasty cheap synthetic cheese and eggs and milk show up, everyone will convert to veganism. Then they will forget that veganism mattered and we will end up with Cordelia Vorkosigan, who 'doesn't eat anything but vat-protein if she can help it' and this comes up practically never because why would it? So that didn't really read to me as 'point of glory' so much as 'yup, plausible element of the future.')

I think it's common in history for people to be extremely moralizing about a past economic necessity after the economic conditions change, even/especially if the same people would've acted just like their ancestors in history. 

I agree completely.

I read the forum in an app that doesn't show tags.

I was like "surely this is fake" but I wasn't certain. So props for getting the tone right and choosing something which just might happen today and I might happen in the next 100 years (80% very quick forecast)

Love this! Brilliant.

Also, "renown" -> "renowned".

Thanks for checking it out! And whoops... Fixed!