Bob Jacobs

I'm a student of moral sciences at the university of Ghent. I've also started an EA group in Ghent.


Aging Research
Working at EA Organizations
Invertebrate Welfare
The Ethics Of Giving
The Germy Paradox
Reducing Wild Animal Suffering Literature Library
Moral Economics
Tiny Probabilities of Vast Utilities
Quantitative Models for Cause Selection
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Utilitarianism Symbol Design Competition

I too would like to know whether this is resolved and who the winner is. Also, I see that since I submitted my entry you've edited your post to talk about symbols instead of flags and added the phrase: "Avoid mathematical symbols since these are less suitable for broader outreach". But I had already submitted my flag with a mathematical symbol on it. Does this mean that my work is now retroactively made ineligible?

Maximizing impact during consulting: building career capital, direct work and more.

Nice post and nice sequence, although I think you forgot to put this post in the sequence itself? I don't see it in there:

Utilitarianism Symbol Design Competition

I already worked on a project like this previously:

Flag utilitarianism

Yellow stands for happiness, that which utilitarianism pursues

White stands for morality, that which utilitarianism is

The symbol is a sigma, since utilitarians care about the sum of all utility

The symbol is also an hourglass, since utilitarians care about the (longterm) future consequences


If you don't like the rounded design I can also make it more angular:

The size of the symbol, the angles, the proportions of the flags etc can all be changed if you have specific preferences. The main idea is the sigma that also functions as an hourglass.

I do however worry whether it's wise to make symbols for philosophical ideas. I like designing these things, but you run the risk that these symbols can be used to make people strongly identify themselves with these ideas, instead of them being things that people can dispassionately examine and perhaps reject. I would advise everyone to say things like: "I like utilitarianism" or "I believe in utilitarianism", instead of "I am a utilitarian". Let's make sure ethical ideas don't become as rigidly polarized as political ideas.

EDIT: If you want to redesign this flag, go right ahead! I'm planning to donate the prize money if I win, so if you improve on my design and also donate the prize money, that would actually make me very happy.

Department Voting

Do you know similar voting methods that worked on a small scale?

I haven't seen the use of categories and columns before, but the voting systems I used have already seen a bunch of analysis and real world use (the electo-wiki I linked to is a good starting point if you want to look into it). If with "small scale" you mean "you and a bunch of friends need to find a place to eat" I wouldn't use columns and categories (takes too long), but would instead use a simple Approval Vote. If you have a specific scenario in mind, feel free to message me and maybe I can help you out.

What are the next steps in terms of research / action?

I'm not a professional voting theorist, so I'm going to wait and see if someone finds a flaw in the idea of using columns, categories or departments. If not, I might be able to publish it in a couple years if my university/a journal is interested. I think from an activism perspective we should first focus on introducing a better voting system. Something like Approval Voting would be easier to explain/get the public on board with than this more complex electoral reform. If I run into some people that are passionate about voting reform I will certainly share this idea with them, but for now I don't really have an audience for it beyond this forum. If you have a project in mind, feel free to message me.

Making More Sequences

No problem!

Good question! I asked the mods if they could put Lukas' name underneath the sequence, since he wrote it. The sequence does show up on the sequences-page, so I'm guessing that when they changed my name they simultaneously removed it from my page, but forgot to subsequently add it to Lukas' page. That's just a guess though. Should I message the mods about it?

Making More Sequences

Thanks! I actually already made that sequence, you can find it here:

EA Forum feature suggestion thread

Vaidehi_agarwalla and I thought it might be a good idea to have sequences within sequences. For example: Vaidehi created sequences for the ea-survey results per year, because sometimes you want to only look at the survey results for that one year. Other times you want to look at all the survey results. If we add a new survey sequence every year it will clutter up the sequence page, but if you put them in one larger sequence it will take up less space and it will allow people to either read everything in one go, or select the "sub-sequence" they want to read and stop there.

Bob Jacobs's Shortform

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.

Creating A Kickstarter for Coordinated Action

Hey Lumpy, good post and I support the project.

You might be interested to know that these things were already discussed on this platform. I made a post about Making a crowdaction website and gabcoh also wrote a post on this topic. On Less Wrong there is even a whole sequence about this idea.
I don't have much programming skills, but I might be able to help in other ways (graphic design, mechanism design). I can also bring you in contact with other people that are working on this project like: Ron (co-creator of collaction), DonyChristie (a programmer who already build a prototype website) and gabcoh.

80,000 Hours: Where's the best place to volunteer?

Hey Aaron, great post.
Maybe this isn't the best place to ask this, but should posts like these be tagged with the 80,000 Hours tag? We've discussed the tagging system in my recent post, but I'm still not sure when certain tags should be used. When I look at the 80,000 hours tag, almost all posts are from the 80,000 hours account. But the two bottom ones aren't. So should this tag to be used exclusively by the 80,000 hours account, or should it be used when people talk about 80,000 hours in general? And is mentioning them/their research in the post enough, or should the post be about 80,000 hours before you can tag it?

Of course, I'm just using 80,000 hours as an example. What I'm really asking is if we should create a tag guideline. Something like the New Tag Guidelines from Less Wrong. (I would be willing to write it if you want)

Also, for a totally unrelated comment. Congratulations on  your satisfying karma-score milestone: 

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