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Strong Longtermism and Dobbs v. Jackson

There may also be a significant secondary effect of subsequent decisions by the Supreme Court becoming more ambitious. For example, already, Clarence Thomas said he thinks rights for same-sex marriage should be targeted. Also, recent cases allowed a redistricting map that disfavors minorities, allowed looser environmental protection, made it easier to carry a gun in New York, and one was considering changing the balance of power within states in favor for republicans with regards to the states' election laws.

So in the case of same-sex marriage rights, there is potential for reduced compassion of people, and in the case of environmental protection, there is reduced appreciation of the longterm future of the planet.

While restricting abortion might cause more compassion for the unborn, compassion for the rights of women might be disregarded. Also, undermining the appreciation of the longterm future of the planet might subtract from any gained compassion for the future.

In my view, it seems like the only thing that will happen for sure is political instability.

A laundry list of anxieties about launching my blog: any feedback appreciated!

Regarding titles, ultimately, the content is what is most important. Titles can be just a way to remember where a certain blog post is or to tell someone else where it is. Even if it doesn't make sense initially, I imagine after your content is read it is likely that the reader will see how the title fits the content.

Regarding coming across as a "know-it-all," I would say just put in caveats and notes about the limitations of your knowledge. Perhaps you could make the posts somewhat open-ended in that regard and edit them later with updates.

Regarding readability, maybe you could experiment with sending a draft of your post to different people to have them rate how readable/understandable it is, and then make appropriate adjustments.

Regarding it not being read, maybe it is valuable to be out there if at least somehow does eventually read it. 

Regarding potentially looking like you are advertising yourself, I would say not to think about it and let your posts be people's basis for making judgements about your intent. This might be related to trust. Trust takes time to build, so it might take a while for people to realize you're not just advertising yourself.

Regarding the first two EA concerns, my response would be that EA is supposed to be a self-correcting community. It should be expected that they will have thoughts about what you post. It is helpful to the EA community that you have disagreements.

Regarding changing opinions, maybe you could make posts that are updates to previous ones and somehow make it noticeable that it is typical for you to make posts that are updates to previous posts.

Regarding getting things wrong, I would offer the same advice as for the issue of coming across as a "know-it-all."

Regarding your doctor title, people may seem it as normal that a doctor would have a blog. My understanding is that all kinds of people write opinion pieces/blogs.

Regarding the stereotype about doctors, maybe don't think about it and let your writing eventually lead to whatever judgements people may make of your understanding about mental health. If you express yourself well enough, they should form an accurate impression of your view of mental health.

I can tell you my experience with setting up a blog, and maybe you can glean something from that.

I had made my own Reddit page so I could write about the mission of The Borgen Project. I was interning for them and thought that a blog would be a helpful way to draw attention to them and their cause. I didn't have much in mind that I would write about, but I was having difficulty fundraising for them so I was just trying random things.

For the Reddit blog, I listed various statistics about global poverty and raised various questions and speculations in the hopes that I would bring about a large conversation. No one responded to my posts. I am not sure whether anyone read the posts. I did not make many posts. The blog wasn't that productive maybe because of the underlying reasons I had for making it in the first place. I did get somewhat excited when I was working on it. I thought that it might develop into a lively discussion.

The Role of Individual Consumption Decisions in Animal Welfare and Climate are Analogous

I recently told myself that I would never eat any animal product again, and I have been trying to buy things that are not made from animals or tested on animals. 

The main reason for my veganism is that I can have such a diet and not miss animal products at all, so why not? I am not certain/convinced of the impact of my lifestyle's decision. I do think if a significant number adopt such a lifestyle it would have a huge impact on factory farming.  My understanding is that, in other places, veganism is not as convenient/feasible as it is in the United States (where I live). However, the remedy for that doesn't seem that difficult to achieve to me. I imagine other countries' capacities for vegan lifestyles could easily be brought to the same level as the United States' capacity. 

I have not driven a car for the past few months. I plan to get a bicycle to get where I need to. (I have not had anywhere that I needed to go for the past few months.) Also, when I need to get somewhere farther, I plan to use some kind of public transportation like a train or bus. I even plan to avoid using planes if possible.

Digital people could make AI safer

The existence of digital people would force us to anthropomorphize digital intelligence. Because of that, the implications of any threats that AI may pose to us might be more comprehensively visible and more often in the foreground of AI researchers' thinking.

Maybe anthropomorphizing AI would be an effective means through which to see the threats AI poses to us because of the fact that we have posed many threats to ourselves, like through war for example.

Arguments for Why Preventing Human Extinction is Wrong

That's an interesting way of looking at it. That view seems nihilistic and like it could lead to hedonism since if our only purpose is to make sure we completely destroy ourselves and the universe, nothing really matters.

Arguments for Why Preventing Human Extinction is Wrong

I read this post about Thomas Ligotti on LessWrong. So far, it wasn't that disconcerting for me. I think that because I read a lot of Stephen King novels and some other horror stories when I was a teenager, I would be able to read more of his thoughts without being disconcerted. 

If I ever find it worthwhile to look more into pessimistic views on existence, I will remember his name.

Arguments for Why Preventing Human Extinction is Wrong

That is a good point. I was actually considering that when I was making my statement. I suspect self-delusion might be the core of the belief of many individuals who think their their lives are net positive. In order to adapt/avoid great emotional pain, humans might self-delude when faced with the question of whether their life is overall positive.

Even if it is not possible for human lives to be net positive, my first counterargument would still hold for two different reason. 

First, we'd still be able to improve the lives of other species.

Second, it would still be valuable to prevent much more negative lives that might happen if other kinds of humans were allowed to evolve in our absence. It might be difficult to ensure our extinction was permanent. If we took care to make ourselves extinct and that we somehow wouldn't come back, it's possible that within, say, a billion years the universe would change in such a way as to make the spark of life that would lead to humans happen again. Cosmological and extremely long processes might undo any precautions we took.

Alternatively, maybe different kinds of humans that would evolve in our absence would be more capable of having positive lives than we are. 

 

I don't think I am familiar with anything by Thomas Ligotti. I'll look into them.

St. Petersburg Demon – a thought experiment that makes me doubt Longtermism

In David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World  there is a chapter about infinity in which he discusses many aspects of infinity. He also talks about the hypothetical scenario that David Hilbert proposed of an infinity hotel with infinite guests, infinite rooms, etc. I don't know which parts of the hypothetical scenario are Hilbert's original idea and which are Deutsch's modifications/additions/etc.

In the hypothetical infinity hotel, to accommodate a train full of infinite passengers, all existing guests are asked to move to a room number that is double the number of their current room number. Therefore, all the odd numbered rooms will be available for the new guests. There are as many odd numbered rooms (infinity) as there are even numbered rooms (infinity).

If an infinite number of trains filled with infinite passengers arrive, all existing guests with room number n are given the following instructions: Move to room n*((n+1/2)).  The train passengers are given the following instructions: every nth passenger from mth train go to room number n+n^2+((n-m)/2). (I don't know if I wrote that equation correctly. I have the audio book and don't know how it is written.)

All of the hotel guests' trash will disappear into nowhere if the guests are given these instructions: Within a minute, bag up their trash and give it to the room that is one number higher than the number of their room. If a guest receives a bag of trash within that minute, then pass it on in the same manner within a half minute. If a guest receives a bag of trash within that half minute, then pass it on within the a quarter minute, and so on. Furthermore, if a guest accidentally put something of value to them in the trash, they will not be able to retrieve it after the two minutes. If they were somehow able to retrieve it, to account for the retrieval would involve explaining it with an infinite regress.

 

Some other things about infinity that he notes in the chapter:

It may be thought that the set of natural numbers involves nothing infinite. It merely involves a finite rule that brings you from one number to a higher number. However, if there is one natural number that is the largest,  then such a finite rule doesn't work (since it doesn't take you to a number higher than that number). If it doesn't exist, then the set of natural must be infinite.

To think of infinity, the intuition that a set of numbers has a highest number must be dropped.

According to Kant, there are countable infinities. The infinite points in a line or in all of space and time are not countable and do not have a one to one correspondence with the infinite set of natural numbers. However, in theory, the infinite set of natural numbers can be counted. 

The set of all possible permutations that can be performed with an infinite set of natural numbers is uncountable. 

Intuitive notions like average, typical, common, proportion, and rare don't apply to infinite sets. For example, it might be thought that proportion applies to an infinite set of natural numbers because you can say that there an equal number of odd and even numbers. However, if the set is rearranged so that, after 1, odd numbers appear after every 2 even numbers, the apparent proportion of odd and even numbers would look different.

Xeno noted that there are an infinite number of points between two points of space. Deutsch said Xeno is misapplying the idea of infinity. Motion is possible because it is consistent with physics. (I am not sure I completely followed what he said the mistake Xeno made here was.)

This post reminds me of Ord's mention in the The Precipice about the possibility of creating infinite value being a game changer.

Arguments for Why Preventing Human Extinction is Wrong

2. Negative Utilitarianism

    This is the view that, as utilitarians (or, more broadly, consequentialists), we ought to focus on preventing suffering and pain as opposed to cultivating joy and pleasure; making someone happy is all well and good, but if you cause them to suffer then the harm outweighs the good. This view can imply anti-natalism and is often grouped with it. If we prevent human extinction, then we are responsible for all the suffering endured by every future human who ever lives, which is significant.

Taking that further

It might be that the suffering that would happen along the way to our achievement of pain-free, joyous existence will outweigh our gained benefits. Also, our struggle for such a joyous existence and the suffering that happened along the way might have been a waste because nonexistence is actually not that bad.

Moral presumption

It seems that an argument for moral presumption can be made against preventing extinction. We already know there is great suffering in the world. We do not yet know whether we can end suffering and create a joyous existence. Therefore, it might be more prudent to go extinct.

 

 

2. Negative Utilitarianism

    This is the view that, as utilitarians (or, more broadly, consequentialists), we ought to focus on preventing suffering and pain as opposed to cultivating joy and pleasure; making someone happy is all well and good, but if you cause them to suffer then the harm outweighs the good. This view can imply anti-natalism and is often grouped with it. If we prevent human extinction, then we are responsible for all the suffering endured by every future human who ever lives, which is significant.

    3. Argument from S-Risks

    S-Risks are a familiar concept in the EA community, defined as any scenario in which an astronomical amount of suffering is caused, potentially outweighing any benefit of existence. According to this argument, the human race threatens to create such scenarios, especially with more advanced AI and brain mapping technology, and for the sake of these suffering beings we ought to go extinct now and avoid the risk.

    4. Argument from “D-Risks”

    Short for “destruction risks”, I am coining this term to express a concept analogous to S-Risks. If an S-Risk is a scenario in which astronomical suffering is caused, then a D-Risk is a scenario in which astronomical destruction is caused. For example, if future humans were to develop a relativistic kill vehicle (a near-light-speed missile), we could use it to destroy entire planets that potentially harbor life (including Earth). According to this argument, we must again go extinct for the sake of these potentially destroyed lifeforms.

Counterargument that is relevant to all three

We already know that there are many species on Earth, and new ones are evolving all the time. If we let ourselves go extinct, in our absence, species will continue to evolve. It is possible that these species, whether non-human and/or new forms of humans, will evolve to live lives of even more suffering and destruction than we are currently experiencing. We already know that we can create net positive lives for individuals, so we could probably create a species that has virtually zero suffering in the future. Therefore, it is upon us to bring this about.

What's more, the fact that we have such self awareness to consider the possible utility of our own species going extinct might indicate that we are the species that is empowered to ensure that the existing human and nonhuman species, in addition to future species, will be ones that don't suffer. 

Maybe we could destroy all species and their capacity to evolve, thus avoiding the dilemma in the latter paragraph. But then we'd need to be certain that all other species are better off extinct.

Why should I care about insects?

A suggested explanation for our indifference

During a  cursory reflection on my own perspective of insects after reading this, it occurred to me that maybe interpretable behavior and reactions are what reaches out to our minds and causes emotions.

 Animals like cats, dogs, and hamsters experience the environment like we do. Similar things are perceived as threats, resources, etc. So while they do not talk to us, their actions and reactions are easy to empathize with. Their actions and reactions can speak to us in a way, telling us that they are confused, scared, curious, etc. Also, their actions can serve as a kind of common language between us, such as a dog barking telling us there may be a threat, or a herd of mammals running from a certain direction telling us there is probably a threat coming from that direction. 

Insects, on the other hand, experience the environment in profoundly different ways. To experience what they experience would be akin to being shrunk to the size of a marble and seeing refrigerators as giant statues and slight breezes as dangerous winds. 

So, without a shared experience of the environment, their actions and reactions don't speak to us, nor do they have any semblance of a common language, and so they don't reach out to our minds and cause us to feel emotions.

Given this explanation is true, my response

Obviously, we have evolved without an experience of the environment that is common to insects. Therefore, it is in our nature to be indifferent to insects.

However, that is not a justifiable excuse to be indifferent to them. A legacy of not having a common grounds with them is not a reason to continue ignoring and being indifferent to them.

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