PhD Student @ Columbia University
141 karmaJoined Jul 2018Pursuing a doctoral degree (e.g. PhD)New York, NY, USA


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I have a million arguments against this post and maybe in the past I'd have engaged with each of your points and arguments more thoroughly but I lost my patience for these things. I'll just say this: know that this post (as well as the comments), how they are completely ignorant of the emotional and economic ramifications of unplanned pregnancies, how they completely ignore self-autonomy, are the last straw. I've been in this movement for seven years, modeled my career after it, but especially in light of recent events it made me realize I just can't keep justifying the direction it's taking. This is the tip of the iceberg of why this movement is so male-dominated. And no, I am not outraged of this because it's not 'woke' to discuss these things, or because it's taboo. These things never bothered me. It's because by adopting  this perspective you consider to be more encompassing you're really just falling to the same pitfall as the majority of people in human history and ignoring half of us, whether we currently live or will live in the future. Signing off.

Okay I'll address the rest of the argument. You're also not giving a lot of context. It's hard to understand but based on your whole comment I can also see it being possible that you bumped into situations where people were trying to sort out interpersonal issues privately, and you got wind of it and tried to make it public. 

There is a world of difference between those situations and situations where people are not intellectually honest, which is most of the situations OP describes and discusses.

And it makes the last part of your comment even more uncalled for.

I'm sorry I just disagree. We are an applied ethics movement. Maybe the only one in the world. We should hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards. And yet we benefitted from a scheme that, legal or not, ruined a lot of people's lives. Utilitarianism or not, we need to do everything we can to atone. If we don't, it could ruin our psyches, our ethical standards, our perception and our trajectory.  

Answer by nongigaAug 29, 20222

(1) Effects of cybersecurity on geopolitics, or individual privacy. These are two different areas and they seem to me like one bad actor can cause a lot of suffering or lead to suboptimal futures, but I don't know of any EAs who looked deeply into it.

(2) Reproductive health and the costs of childbearing, possibly from a policy angle. I think as a community we decided to bite the bullet and become total utilitarians, and I see some discussions on how it should play out in terms of contraception and choosing to have more children but all of these come across to me as not very well-informed. There are only 2 posts I found about it are by isabel and they touch very specific topics. So I think an analysis of why people are having fewer children, what policies will help people choose to have more children, and a thorough analysis to settle all the discussions around contraception and abortion, including an attempt to quantify the suffering and counterfactual involved in childbearing and childcare, would be appreciated.

Tae so I guess now you can tell your friend that you've Called off the EAs :P

I don't think this post made the strong assumptions about population ethics you assume. 

More unplanned pregnancies does not necessarily equal larger population. In fact, at the very beginning the post highlights that there are twice as many abortions as unplanned births and more unsafe abortions than unplanned births. Including the still births, that is a lot of preventable human suffering. Is it worth those unplanned births?

I also think it's a bit ignorant to deny sub-Saharan Africa a technology we enjoy -  would you also be against birth control use in the US?

Probably not, because the introduction of birth control and family planning did a lot of good - it allowed women to take a lot more control over their lives, some of it translated into the flood of women entering the workplace in the 60's. Roe vs. Wade alone was correlated with a much reduced crime rate in the US. Without contraception, I would have never dared to pursue a PhD and dedicate my career to EA. Is a world where half the population can't plan their futures a better world?

Additionally, more birth control does not equal fewer children. Israel has more access to birth control and legal abortion than many western countries, and it has a higher birth rate than the global average. Secular women in Israel alone have a higher birth rate than any other OECD country. Similarly, Eastern Europe has a lower birth rate than Western Europe despite having more strict control over abortion and birth control.

So the counterfactual does not mean fewer live births necessarily. And maybe it's wiser to try and shape a culture to be more pro-natalist rather than rob people of their choices. With the longtermist framework in mind and the timeframes of childbearing and raising we have the time to do these things, rather than reach for interventions that maximize the single metric that is population size in the short term but could have negative implications on culture and suffering.

I think in order to be against an intervention  that gives people more choice you need to make a very strong argument. I also think that you're probably reaching this conclusion because you're underestimating the burden of childbearing. There is a reason why so many women choose to have unsafe abortions rather than give birth.

I actually have given artificial wombs a little thought. I do think they'd be great: they could eliminate a very common suffering, give more options to LGBTQ people, aid in civilizational resilience, and definitely increase the number of wanted children people have in practice. They make sense within many different ethical frameworks.

I also think we're very, very far from them. I'm a systems biologist in a lab that also ventures into reproductive health, and we ostensibly know very little about the process of pregnancy. My lab is using the most cutting-edge methods to prove very specific and fundamental things. So at the same time, I am skeptical we will see it in our lifetimes, if ever.

(1) I never purported that communicating that monkeypox is transmitted mostly among MSM is tone-deaf in itself. Like I wrote at the end of my comment, I think this information is important. I think it is the way in which you communicated that made it come across as tone-deaf.

(2) the definition of an STI is:

infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The contact is usually vaginal, oral, or anal sex. But sometimes they can spread through other intimate physical contact. This is because some STDs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact. [link]

Based on this definition monkeypox is just as much an STI as herpes and HIV. A short google search about it seems to communicate that it's not being called an STI right now since it can cause stigma and stigma can hurt response efforts. But regardless definition has nothing to do with it. You can include it on an STI panel even if it's not strictly an STI, if it is more effective to do that to curb its spread.

(3) I do maintain that paying people to abstain is not an effective intervention. Sex isn't exactly a rational pursuit, and it'd be impossible to reinforce that.  Also the CDC does encourage condom use and there is an early study purporting to find monkeypox in semen.

I'm a microbiologist but not an expert in STIs and to me if this is being passed among mostly MSM, reducing the types of skin-to-skin contact that MSM have more often than others, should reduce the spread. Even if it won't bring cases down to 0.

I think your post comes across as a little tone-deaf in a way that can be counter-productive.  

"Is it worth worrying about?" "Basically no. The disease remains highly confined to the gay community."

Comes across as a disregard to the LGBTQ community. Mostly because of the historical context in which we live.

This sentence echoes many things that were said during the AIDS pandemic, which prior to COVID was the closest we got to GCBR in the past 100 years and in many metrics is closer to a GBCR than COVID.  Historically there was a very intentional disregard for the AIDS pandemic because  its devastating effects were mostly confined within the LGBTQ community. [link] The Reagan administration famously told the CDC "act pretty and do as little as possible." This policy lead to a lot of preventable deaths and suffering.

"simple solutions like paying gay men to abstain from sex becomes impractical" 

Is it a simple solution? I never heard of any sort of successful policy where people were paid to stop having sex. I think abstinance-only sex-ed shows that it's very hard to convince anyone to stop having sex even when people are taught to internalize to avoid it categorically and the stakes are high (other STIs, teen pregnancy...). I think you should either remove this sentence or give some thought & add something about encouraging using protection and STI testing that includes monkeypox. More practically, I do think these policies have a better track record too.

This information is important, and you spent significant time reading on it and writing it up. It's important to communicate it without hurting a whole group of people, and I think that with a bit more thinking it can be done.

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