Fergus Fettes

68 karmaJoined


This comment makes me sad, I'm sorry you got brigaded and I'm sorry you have had such bad experiences with this topic. It is a truly difficult and painful area to read about.

But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Even if you are right on every point and all of this was made up by a bunch of evil racists, it should be very easy to prove them wrong, just by eg. doing any of these studies carefully.

Otoh, if this material reflects something true about the world, it has significant implications and needs to be faced with an open heart at some point.

Great post! I'm not sure how this proposal will fare, given the politics surrounding it, but I think you have done justice to the topic.

I think the reproductive choice angle has the highest potential traction, and in general I agree that democratizing this technology is better than trying to ban it. (I gave a talk at a digital humanities conference in Germany this year on the topic, just trying to raise awareness and encourage discussion.)

Another angle that you don't seem to cover is surrogacy. In Full Surrogacy Now Sophie Lewis makes the case for radically expanding surrogacy-- which implicitly includes IVF and pre-implantation screening, so it might be the quickest way to start accelerating progress in this area. As she points out in the book, population from the global south is often used for surrogacy by those who can afford it, since it was banned in wealthier countries. So some of them should already have some experience with the technology.

Would you at least concede that the topic is worthy of open-minded study? It seems like the potential is huge if there is any truth to it.

And furthermore

  • if it is true, it seems like no amount of burying ones head in the sand is going to help
  • and if it is not true, further research should show this.

Seems like the only reason not to do the research would be to hide from uncomfortable facts-- facts which could be used to hugely improve human welfare, and which will not go away if they are not faced.

Thank you! Glad I got someone else to crawl out of the woodwork, welcome to the EA forum :). (I'm also more of a lurker.)

The paper you linked is indeed fantastic, I think it might be my favourite piece of writing ever. I read it after I wrote this hence why I didn't talk about it. There are two other things I would point towards w.r.t to the topic of panpsychism:
- The Computational Boundary of the Self (another great one from Levin)
- If Materialism is True, the United States is Probably Conscious (by a fella called Schwitzgebel)

And w.r.t what you are saying about being surrounded by diverse beings-- I think thinking about cyborgs and engineered entities is a great way to prepare the ground for this kind of moral shake-up, but the more I look into this the more I think that we are already surrounded by weird and wonderful beings-- distributed group entities at all levels, ecology, economy, politics, sociology.

I am still thinking and reading about these topics a lot, and in the next months I'll have some free time to maybe do some more writing about it.

In a way I see why animal welfarists are avoiding panpsychism at the moment-- the absolute hellscape of welfare that is the meat industry definitely feels more pressing than, like, figuring out how to measure the welfare of the USA or the brazilian rainforest or so. Though maybe in the long run, seeing these entities as agents with hedonic valency will be a good and useful way of talking about their health and the way they act in the world. What is the impact of tictok on the mental health of the entity that is the USA? Maybe this is actually a very good and important framing, and useful?

Lets see!

Great work.

I think the headline is very fair. I agree with other commentators here saying 'ah but how the tides will turn'-- but you clearly take this into account and say as much in the headline.

Lets not get too complacent or, ahem, count our free roaming domesticated junglefowl.

OTOH if we get something like the results of the Malan 2022 field experiment 'for free' once we have PTC parity, I feel like the ball will be well and truly rolling and well get scale-ups and hopefully a phase transition sometime thereafter, maybe with a few other clever interventions.

Again, great work and thanks!

Downvoted because it was very uninformative on the topic that matters most. Just saying 'there are a range of estimates' is about as unhelpful as you can be w.r.t a datapoint.

If I take the time to read through the linked papers I will return with a more substantive comment.

Also the fact that the scene ended with the most pessimistic estimates highlighted was annoying.

Edit: also the title is clickbaity and unsupported-- I get the impression they don't really know what the word 'probably' means beyond what they read in a pdf about SEO?

The latter is just a far, far smaller harm per person--far less than 1/100 as great.

Surely it makes more sense to compare the upside-- someone forming a long lasting and loving relationship.

Maybe that's extreme, but taking a balance of outcomes I doubt it would be 1/100.

Also strange that you chose to say 1/100 and also 100x as many people-- surely if you have high confidence in those numbers then that would balance out by definition? Or is the somewhere where you think this sort of scale insensitivity is valid?

Re 5)

Would also like to plug inciteful which seems pretty similar to connectedsearch, which I have had a lot of good results with, and semanticscholar

Also probably worth watching this space, it shows potential too :).

And while I'm at it, I feel obliged to plug the jolly pirates who make research possible for the rest of us:

  • Sci Hub <- top tip, if you cant get a paper, just add 'sci-hub.ru/' to the start of it, without even cutting off the http etc, like so:


Hello all,

long time lurker here. I was doing a bunch of reading today about polygenic screening, and one of the papers was so good that I had to share it, in case anyone interested in animal welfare was unfamiliar with it. The post is awaiting moderation but will presumably be here in due time.

So while I am making my first post I might as well introduce myself.

I have been sort of vaguely EA aligned since I discovered the movement 5ish years ago, listened to every episode of the 80k podcast and read a tonne of related books and blog posts.

I have a background in biophysics, though I am currently working as a software engineer in a scrappy startup to improve my programming skills. I have vague plans to return to research and do a phd at some point but lets see.

EA things I am interested in:

  • bio bio bio (everything from biorisk and pandemics to the existential risk posed by radical transhumanism)
  • ai (that one came out of nowhere! I mean I used to like reading Yudkowskys stuff thinking it was scifi but here we are. AGI timelines shrinking like spinach in frying pan, hoo-boy)
  • global development (have lived, worked and travelled extensively in third world countries. lots of human capital out there being wasted)
  • animal welfare! or I was until I gave up on the topic in despair (see my essay above) though I am still a vegan-aligned vegetarian
  • philosophy?
  • economics?
  • i mean its all good stuff basically

Recently I have also been reading some interesting criticisms of EA that have expanded my horizons a little, the ones I enjoyed the most were

But at the end of the day I think EAs own personal brand of minimally deontic utilitarianism is simple and useful enough for most circumstances. Maybe a little bit of Nietzschean spice when I am feeling in the mood.. and frankly I think fundamentally e/acc is mostly quite compatible, aside from the details of the coming AI apocalypse and [how|whether] to deal with it.

I also felt a little bit like coming out of the woodwork recently after all the twitter drama and cancellation shitstorms. Just to say that I think you folks are doing a fine thing actually, and hopefully the assassins will move on to the next campaign before too long.

Best regards! I will perhaps be slightly more engaged henceforth.