Wiki Contributions


Does Moral Philosophy Drive Moral Progress?

this post reminds me of scott alexander's post on surviving versus thriving:

I propose that the best way for leftists to get themselves in a rightist frame of mind is to imagine there is a zombie apocalypse tomorrow. [...] It seems broadly plausible that there could be [a neurological switch] for something like “social stability”. If the brain finds itself in a stable environment where everything is abundant, it sort of lowers the mental threat level and concludes that everything will always be okay and its job is to enjoy itself and win signaling games. If it finds itself in an environment of scarcity, it will raise the mental threat level and set its job to “survive at any cost”.

i always thought there was something broadly true in this view, though there is a lot of variation it doesn't explain.

EA needs consultancies

When you have only one client, being an employee is generally a better deal than being a contractor (with the exception that sometimes they pay significantly more to compensate). See the recent ridesharing contractor debate as an example.

i think that depends hugely on the industry. in software, where i work, everyone i know who is a freelancer prefers to stay that way, even if they work for an extended period for just one customer, and german law (which puts up a number of rules about contractors working for a single customer) is seen as a nuisance by them (though it’s no doubt good for contractors who have less negotiating power).

EA needs consultancies

just adding to this, there is the ea consulting network whose members are all, well, ea-aligned consultants, though i don’t know exactly what competencies most people have.


Can money buy happiness? A review of new data

i don't think it's totally implausible, at least not if we believe that there is such a thing as basic needs, that people are significantly less happy if those aren't met, and that a certain amount of money (obviously allowing for some variation) allows one to fulfill them. that said, i think it's less plausible than a logarithmic relationship, but of course i say that having just read this post ...

edit: having thought about it a bit more, i can't really think of a basic need that has a sharp cutoff -- e.g. you're not either well-nourished or starving, but there are tons of points in between, and at any point money can provide marginal improvements -- so now i do think it's pretty implausible after all.

Animal Testing Is Exploitative and Largely Ineffective

those are both good questions. i tried to find base rates with a cursory search but came up empty-handed. maybe i just didn't use the right search terms, though. but even if the numbers here are the same as the base rate, i would argue that's still pretty bad, because the costs involved in animal testing are higher. i think it makes sense to judge animal-testing research more stringently than other research. though base rates would be useful to see e.g. how difficult it would be to improve methodologies and reduce the amount of unproductive research.

one thing i didn't make clear in the post but which i now realise i should've is that an experiment not getting published due to lack of statistical significance (or more precisely rejection of the null hypothesis) doesn't mean that research wasn't valuable -- it could have been rejected due to publication bias.

Launching 60,000,000,000 Chickens: A Give Well-Style CEA Spreadsheet for Animal Welfare

nice, thanks for doing this!

If you’re not eating meat, you have to replace the protein and calories. At baseline, flour is 4,464 calories/dollar and 134g protein/dollar.


Perhaps the most important number is the cost to prevent an animal from being farmed. Initial estimates were as low as $0.10/life, but later came under scrutiny. One estimate puts the cost at $5.70 to save a chicken life, with pigs being around $150. Since that implies costs scales about linearly with meat-produced, I’m assuming $636 to save a cow’s life, but these numbers are all speculative. Note also that these are estimates for one particular intervention.

i'm a bit confused here. what does saving a life entail? does it mean, say, getting the proteins you would've gotten from a chicken from plant-based sources instead? if so, the numbers seem to suggest that plant-based diets are more expensive than meat-based diets, which seems pretty unlikely to me? legumes, nuts, peas and soy-based product are all pretty affordable.

edit: also, the average american's calorie intake is significantly higher than the recommended amount. so one could argue that the same amount of calories don't always need to be replaced. but of course reducing calorie intake is not feasible for everybody.

What are things everyone here should (maybe) read?

a really great book for learning practical bayesian statistics is richard mcelreath's statistical rethinking. there is also a series of lectures on youtube.

Interview with Christine M. Korsgaard: Animal Ethics, Kantianism, Utilitarianism

Only seeing this now, but she does have sections in the book on thinking about species, habitat loss, eliminating predation and what she calls "creation ethics" among other things. I didn't get the feeling reading the book that she would be against welfare reform, but leafing through the pages now I couldn't find any passage that covers that topic explicitly. Thanks for the resources.

Interview with Christine M. Korsgaard: Animal Ethics, Kantianism, Utilitarianism

That's interesting and I think that's true to a certain extent, the bottomless pits of suffering and all that. Though Kantianism does make some pretty strong demands in its own way, for instance in the way that it really hammers home the idea of seeing things from others' points of view (via the Formula of Humanity), or in the way that it considers some duties to be absolute ("perfect").

I believe that Korsgaard also thinks we have duties to help others' promote their own good if it's at no great cost to ourselves, though these duties are not as strong as those not to violate other people's autonomy. I think maybe these sorts of duties lead to something like Effective Altruism, though I haven't really thought all of this through yet, or read much of the relevant literature, so what do I know.

Interview with Christine M. Korsgaard: Animal Ethics, Kantianism, Utilitarianism

Indeed, and a commenter there pointed out an interesting paper by Richard Yetter Chappell (pdf) which explores and argues against this claim by Korsgaard:

In utilitarianism, people and animals don’t really matter at all; they are just the place where the valuable things happen.

The title of the paper is "Value Receptacles". I haven't read it yet but I suspect it would be of interest to many here.

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