80 karmaJoined Feb 2022Working (15+ years)


Would genuinely like to hear why people disagree that is what SBF is referring to when he speaks of "ethics". I believe most consequentialist EAs mean it when they say ethical rules keep their decision making in check. But SBF seems to disavow that as a personal choice - so if I'm misreading or misunderstanding this, open to hearing an alternate reading.

Curious - my understanding is that he's doubling down on the utilitarian calculus here. The "ethics" he's talking about here are the deontological constraints that many consequentialist/utilitarian EAs say provide an external check and balance. He's saying those guardrails are "just signaling and status games" for him.

And what happens when that double-checking comes back negative? And how much weight do you choose to give it? The answer seems to be rooted in matters of judgement and subjectivity. And if you're doing it often enough, especially on questions of consequence, then that moral framework is better described as virtue ethics.

Out of curiosity, how would you say your process differs from a virtue ethicist trying to find the golden mean between excess and deficiency?

I remain confused about "utilitarianism, but use good judgement". IMO, it's amongst the more transparent motte-and-baileys I've seen. Here are two tweets from Eliezer that I see are regularly re-shared:

The rules say we must use consequentialism, but good people are deontologists, and virtue ethics is what actually works.

Go three-quarters of the way from deontology to utilitarianism and then stop. You are now in the right place. Stay there at least until you have become a god.

This describes Aristotelian Virtue Ethics - finding the golden mean between excess and deficiency. So are people here actually virtue ethicists who sometimes use math as a means of justification and explanation? Or do they continue to take utilitarianism to some of its weirder places, privately and publicly, but strategically seek shelter under other moral frameworks  when criticized? 

I'm finding it harder to take people who put "consequentialist" and "utilitarian" in their profiles and about mes seriously. If people abandon their stated moral framework on big important and consequential questions, then either they're deluding themselves on what their moral framework actually is, or they really will act out the weird conclusions - but are being manipulative and strategic by saying "trust us, we have checks and balances"

Are Bribes Justified?

Have any EA interventions involved paying bribes to local officials, directly or indirectly? How would funders respond to a project that shows good evidence and great promise, but requires some allocation for "grease payments"? 

There are major "Keep Calm and Carry On" vibes in this community to the the FTX situation; ends don't justify the means, no true EA would commit fraud etc. But there is some serious thinking and discussion required to understand  when and to what extent actions considered unethical are acceptable in service of effective change.

Yes of course - as I wrote:

This does not mean we abandon the rigor and clarity that comes with assigning numbers and probabilities when faced with complex tradeoffs. Nor do we ignore them as information or inputs into our decision making.

The issue arises when those numbers are used in the aggregate, for non-substitutable things. For example, when faced with the two job policies I mentioned as an example, is the policy with greater net jobs objectively the "most responsible way" to go?