All of dominicroser's Comments + Replies

Why do you find the Repugnant Conclusion repugnant?

There was a somewhat unusual short philosophical paper this year signed by lots of philosophers which claimed that avoidance of the repugnant conclusion should not be seen as a necessary condition for an adequate population ethics. I guess it's driven by a similar concern you have here: the repugnant conclusion is much less obviously repugnant than its name makes it seem.     

On Sleep Procrastination: Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour

I love this post. It singles out a very specific problem and tackles it very thoughtfully.

On website blockers: I have also quitted them regularly but since I have started using ColdTurkey I have quitted much less. I think it's better than other blockers. 

For myself, family life has done the trick of making me go to bed at a reasonable hour. But as soon as my wife and kids are gone for a day or two, I (regrettably!) just stay up forever. One of the reasons why I do so (and which doesn't come up on your list) is that my mood often happens to be very good when I stay up late and I also enter flow states more easily when working late at night.

Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions

Great!
And just to add a small comment: The country of origin does not only affect transport distance but also the legal standards for animal welfare (and to a lesser extent how much GHGs are involved in production). My impression is that many people overrate this. They think "Oh yes, there is horrible animal farming elsewhere  - but I only eat meat from my own country and surely everything is much better here." It would be nice to have something to counter this objection.

Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions

This is really nicely done and it is exactly what many are looking for. Thank you so much! 

If it is to be shared more widely it might help to add a remark about how sensitive the results are to which country the animal products are from and whether they're organic or not. The reason for this being that many in the public sphere (and not infrequently wrongly) assume that this makes a crucial difference.

1VilleSokk1yThank you Dominic! There is already a paragraph about transportation on the methods page of the website. I will add a paragraph about organic food as well.
Space governance is important, tractable and neglected

This is tangential but I wonder whether there are side-benefits for unrelated areas if humanity collectively engages in thinking about how it would design a space governance framework. Some past thinkers used the literary device of utopias in order to think about real-world problems. In the same way, putting us in the mindset of creating rules for space governance from scratch could be a helpful exercise and helpful priming in order to solve other (short-term, earth-bound) problems. 

Timeline of the wild-animal suffering movement

Nice and helpful -- thanks!

I've always been fascinated by the biblical vision of a perfect world which features the lion and the lamb (etc) living together peacefully: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_lamb_and_lion

It might be interesting to sift through the history of humanity in order to collect further pre-1970 visions which lament WAS or which feature a utopia without WAS. I know extremely little about Buddhism, Hinduism, etc but given the links between humans and animals via rebirths: isn't the Nirvana as a state without suffering also the... (read more)

What are EA project ideas you have?

WHAT: A book like "Strangers Drowning", but focused on the "E" of EA rather than the "A" of EA.

WHY: narrative can be such a tremendous force in changing people's lives. It's often more powerful than argument (even for brainy people).

There's already a lot of world literature and newspaper stories on people who have been tremendously altruistic. There is much less literature about people who have been tremendously altruistic and -- this is key -- have been motivated by their altruism to care about effectiveness a... (read more)

Existential risk as common cause

Thanks for this! Very interesting.

And really sorry for replying only now -- I somehow missed this and only saw it now.

--- On population increase: yes, many Christians work towards population increase but it's equally true that many Christians don't. An interesting side remark is that the influential passage Genesis 1,28 on which pro-natalism is often based calls for *filling* the earth. Arguably, humanity can claim to have unlocked this achievement. We can tick it off our To-Do-List. (Also, in terms of background information, my view that determi... (read more)

Against anti-natalism; or: why climate change should not be a significant factor in your decision to have children

Great to put the climate externality of a child explicitly in relation to other positive and negative values that come with having a child. Thanks for doing this and doing it so well.

A question: where else in the population ethics debate can I find the kind of reasoning that you employ? More specifically, where else can I find (1) lists of the bazillion positive and negative externalities of an additional child and (2) some argument -- however weak -- that takes us beyond agnosticism on the question whether an additional child is overall a *net* positive o... (read more)

3MichaelPlant2yHello Dominic, I do something of this in my DPhil thesis [http://www.plantinghappiness.co.uk/doing-good-badly/] in chapter 2. I'm pretty uncertain whether the Earth is under- or overpopulated whatever one's views on population ethics.
Khorton's Shortform

Thanks a lot for this pointer!

An odd observation: He cites someone who's done such stuff before -- John Nolt, a philosopher. He himself is professor of the psychology of music. I think the calculations of both of them are extremely useful (even if extremely speculative). But there's a big question here: what prevented *scientists* from offering such numbers? Are they too afraid of publishing guesstimates? Does it not occur to them that these numbers are utterly relevant for the debate?

3Khorton2yThat's a really good question! Maybe there just genuinely is too much uncertainty for any estimates, in their views. I'd honestly even be interested in deaths currently attributable to climate change, but I'm sure even that is a hard problem.
Growth and the case against randomista development

If the case for growth in rich and poor is very different (possibly negative in the one but not the other case), then it starts to matter a lot whether we can promote growth in poor countries without promoting growth in rich countries as a side-effect. I don't know how the proposed interventions fare in this respect?

Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge

You asked for other examples. The following two examples are certainly not the most relevant but they are interesting:

-- Benjamin Franklin, in his will, left £1,000 pounds each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, with the proviso that the money should be invested for 100 years, with 25 percent of the principal to be invested for a further 100 years. As a result, Boston wound up in 1990 with a fund of over $5 million, Philadelphia with $2.3 million.) [copy-pasted from a book review by Joseph Heathe in Ethics]

-- From Cliff Landesman's 1995... (read more)

6vaniver1yAlso of note is that he gave conditions [https://books.google.com/books?id=zKFfAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA18#v=onepage&q&f=false] on the investments; the money was to be lent to married men under 25 who had finished an apprenticeship, with two people willing to co-sign the loan for them. So in that regard it was something like a modern microlending program [https://www.historynet.com/ben-franklins-gift-keeps-giving.htm], instead of just trying to maximize returns for benefits in the future.
1SjirH2yThanks! These are useful examples.
Taking advantage of climate change concerns to channel donations to EA-recommended organizations at low marginal cost (proposal and call for more research)

Also, some ways of mitigating climate change have (positive or negative) side benefits* for humanity's ability to solve other upcoming challenges, such as AI safety or pandemics. And from an EA perspective, these latter challenges might possibly be higher priority than climate change. Thus, there's a further avenue for EAs who do not care much about climate change to "harness" the current societal focus on climate change for EA-aligned goals.


*For example, I'm thinking of side benefits of strategies such as:

-- strengthening global cooperation

-- spreading a radically technology-friendly mindset among greens

-- fighting anti-science trends in society

-- etc

Introducing Good Policies: A new charity promoting behaviour change interventions

A very general remark on this: "There are plenty of potential weaknesses to advocacy-based interventions compared to more direct interventions. One large concern we have is understanding the impact of organisations in this space."

Federally organized constituencies (Switzerland, US, etc) are a great thing for political scientists: you can compare the effect of policies or advocacy campaigns in different sub-national jurisdictions which are very similar. (Not sure whether this is of any help in your case, though).

PS: Just to add: fantastic initiative. Curious to hear how it's developing!

Existential risk as common cause

I've written a blogpost on whether Christians should share the emphasis that many EAs put on the long term, including extinction risks. Since this fits nicely with your aim in this blogpost -- i.e. whether *many* worldviews should prioritise existential risks -- I thought I'd mention it here: https://eachdiscussion.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/how-much-should-christian-eas-care-about-the-far-future-part-i/

3technicalities3yThanks for this. I'm not very familiar with the context, but let me see if I understand. (In a first for me, I'm not sure whether to ask you to cite more scripture or add more formal argument.) Let's assume a Christian god, and call a rational consequence-counting believer an Optimising Christian. Your overall point is that there are (or might be) two disjoint ethics, one for us and one for God, and that ours has a smaller scope, falling short of long-termism, for obvious reasons. Is this an orthodox view? 1. "The Bible says not to worry, since you can trust God to make things right. Planning is not worrying though. This puts a cap on the intensity of our longterm concern." 2. "Humans are obviously not as good at longtermism as God, so we can leave it to Him." 3. "Classical theism: at least parts of the future are fixed, and God promised us no (more) existential catastrophes. (Via flooding.)" 4. "Optimising Christians don't need to bring (maximally many) people into existence: it's supererogatory [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supererogation]." But large parts of Christianity take population increase very seriously as an obligation (based on e.g. Genesis [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1%3A28&version=KJV] 1:28 [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1%3A28&version=KJV] or Psalm [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+127%3A3%E2%80%935&version=KJV] 127 [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+127%3A3%E2%80%935&version=KJV] ). Do you know of doctrine that Christian universalism [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Commission] stops at present people? 5. "Optimising Christians only need to 'satisfice' their fellows, raising them out of subsistence. Positive consequentialism is for God." This idea has a similar structure to negative utilitarianism, a moral system with an unusual number [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/2pNAPEQ8av3dQyXBX/existential-risk-as-common-cause#BTWzaZyrzLyeqmm9r] of ph
Effective Impact Investing

Thanks for the *great* discussion.

One question that was raised is whether there is a trade-off between Impact Investing and donations. I am not sure whether one of the biggest reasons for the existence of such a trade-off has been mentioned so far: People who invest socially responsibly feel more comfortable about owning that money and may therefore be less prone to donations. Conversely, people who feel that they are earning their money in illegitimate ways may feel under more pressure to give it away.

I don't have any data to support this claim. It&... (read more)

Effective Altruism and Religious Faiths: Mutually Exclusive Entities, or an Important Nexus to Explore?

Thanks so much, Sophie, for this very rich and helpful text!

I'd be very interested to hear more about this claim: "In Judaism, “tzedaka” is the idea of donating a certain portion of one’s income to /effective/ charities on a regular basis." Is there anyone specific I could ask or anything specific I could read on the relation of tzedaka and effectiveness?

[Two minor corrections: I think the reference to Eric Gregory's work is missing. And, churches going back to Wesley (such as the United Methodist Church) have much more than half a million members -- a pity they don't follow Wesley's advice....]

1Julia_Wise6yI was curious about this too - I haven't seen tzedaka connected with effectiveness before. (Yes, also noticed that churches descending from Wesley have a lot more people than mentioned here - there are around 10 million Methodists.)
Suggestions thread for questions for the 2015 EA Survey

Doesn't seem to personal for me (and, generally speaking, a good idea)