All of Stijn's Comments + Replies

The crux of the cultivated meat feasibility debate

Thanks for the question, had to think a while. About infeasibility of cultivated meat, best counterevidence for me would be seeing a massive disinvestment in cultivated meat R&D, a consensus among researchers openly saying that it is too difficult to make progress.

Another crucial thing that would change my mind, is evidence about the feasibility of plant-based meat, that substitution towards plant-based is faster than I would expect (faster than cultivated meat innovation). This would mean seeing a fast increase in the number of vegans, and especially conservative male meat identifiers switching to plant-based meats.

9Linch2moOk, thanks for that! Things that will update my mind include: Social proof: The biggest thing that will change my mind is if Open Phil science team or other EA researchers that I trust generally update towards cost-competitive cultured meat being the most viable and plausible route to reducing factory farming (among many possible options). Of course that might be too late to be useful; I will also update somewhat if the top biotech VCs made major investments into cultured meat, and (to a noticeably lesser extent) if the most prestigious traditional VCs made significant investments in the sector. I will probably also update if top ~10 Metaculus forecasters or other top forecasters a) believe something very different and b) demonstrated to me that they spent considerable time looking into this. Near term costs that aren't VC etc subsidized: Humbird's analysis claims costs of >$200/kg using wild-type animal cells, so if I see credible evidence of <$100/kg in the near future (say next 3 years), I'd consider that a moderate refutation of Humbird's model, even though his endline numbers were lower. At the very least, I'd want to dig into how they did that. If they did it entirely through metabolic engineering improvements, I'd consider this less of a ding against Humbird than if they did it through other efficiencies. Amino acid + other input prices: There are a number of things that will update me towards providing/using cheap amino acids is easier than I thought. Eg, Humbird thinks you need very pure amino acids to grow cultured meat. Many cultured meat proponents think you can do it with less. But this is an empirical question: You can just try to make cultured meat using less optimal concentrations of amino acids. There are a number of other statistical tests and empirical arguments that can convince me. Hygiene: I think I can change my mind if I see either direct or indirect evidence that cheap hygiene at scale is much easier than I think. Conceptual/analytic fr
The crux of the cultivated meat feasibility debate

The more I think about it, the more I start to believe that cultivated meat is feasible, and that your examples offer some evidence.

So consider the function of flying. You may say that the function of flying with wings cannot be fulfilled with technology, that  imitating nature does not work . But your examples refer to humans flying with technologies that use wings. But humans are much heavier than birds. With airplanes, we can fly faster, over longer distances and carry heavier weights, things that biological organisms were never capable of doi... (read more)

4Linch2moWhat evidence would cause you to change your mind?
Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

One more addition to the cultivated meat feasibility discussion:

I argue why we have to make a distinction between the functions (e.g. taste, nutrition,...), the products (e.g. muscle-based meat, plant-based meat) and the production processes (e.g. animal-based meat, cell-based meat).  I expect that cell-based meat is feasible (can reach price parity with animal-based meat), but that we are uncertain about the time frames for innovation (of cell-based meat)... (read more)

New intuitions for cultured meat

I wrote a comment in a previous discussion about why I think cultivated meat can be expected to become at least as efficient/cheap as animal-based meat:

The basic idea is that animals were not evolved to maximize meat production. Just like horses were not evolved to maximize transport efficiency and hence were replaced by cars, plants were not evolved to maximize turning solar energy into electricity and are replaced... (read more)

4Thomas Kwa2moPigs are ~50% meat by mass, but less than ~0.01% insulin by mass. And animals are pretty well optimized for producing animal bodies with minimal food consumption, so the possible gains are * factor of ~2 from not producing the rest of the animal * Small factor from turning food into meat more efficiently than evolved animals * Small factor from turning energy into food more efficiently than evolved plants * Large factor from producing energy more cheaply than we produce crops for animal feed
9kyle_fish2moI don't think cars, solar panels, and recombinant insulin are analogous technologies here. Cars and solar panels won out because they are completely new approaches to transportation and solar energy capture that are not constrained by the biology of the systems they're replacing. Cultured meat seems severely handicapped by its reliance on the growth of animal cells and tissues. Recombinant insulin is still manufactured in biological systems (bacteria and yeast), but they are much simpler than mammalian cells and can efficiently express a protein that is only present in tiny amounts in the pig pancreases it used to be purified from.
2Linch2moCars are not mechanical horses.
Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

Concerning "it is a matter of time": the only worry that I see, is that it would take so long to develop cultivated meat that in the meantime we would have already abolished animal farming (or decreased it to such a degree that cultivated meat has little additional value) because of e.g. plant-based and fermentation-based protein. But I consider that unlikely (lower than 10% likelihood). Oh, and even if humans would be all plant-based vegans by then, then we still have the many carnivorous animals (pets,...) who may benefit from cultivated meat. Hence, I t... (read more)

Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

Please sure do! That would be very interesting.

Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

I would expect that cultivated meat can reach price parity with animal-based meat, based on 'first principles'. Assume that all biological functions in an organism can be replicated with technologies, and that these technologies can reach the same efficiency as the biological functions that reached high efficiency due to evolution and natural selection. That is a realistic assumption, because no laws of nature have to be violated. To grow muscle tissue, we need oxygenation, so we invent a technology, call it 'lungs'. We need nutrients (amino-acids, sugars,... (read more)

2Neil_Dullaghan2moThanks for sharing your perspective. The prediction "it is only a matter of time" has an effect on how to allocate EA resources depending on how long that matter of time is, even with additional resources going towards it, so I'd be curious what time period you'd assign for this and how you came to think that. Even without having to construct brains, eyes, ears, tails, feathers, Humbird thinks it will still be very expensive at the moment since creating the immune system is so hard to create- so you need pharma grade standards with are expensive (one can disagree with this assumption or think eventually it won't be true, as CE Delft do, but I'd be interested in clearer reasoning as to why one thinks it's likely) I'm not sure why you assume the production unit for animal-based meat consumes 50% of resources for its construction (growth)?
6Linch2moI think this is a good start. I do have some internal notes on why (I think) this is the wrong way to do first-principles reasoning, for reasons that I plan to elaborate on later. Can speed up/prioritize publication if you (or other readers) think this is important for your thinking or decision-relevant for you.
Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

What is the packing density of muscle cells in muscle tissue (meat)? Why not use that packing density as an estimate for the maximum possible packing density of muscle cells in a bioreactor?

2Linch2moThis is a good question. I don't know how high the packing density is in muscle tissue, but I assume it's very high. Note that the theoretical model of bodies and bioreactors are pretty different, e.g., bodies are much more structured and the problems of creating muscle cells and creating the scaffolding for such cells is coupled within the human body. AFAIK, almost all attempts to make cultured meat is trying to solve the "create cell slurry" problem first and worry about scaffolding later, nobody (and this might be betraying my ignorance) is trying anything like making artificial fascia that grows contemporaneously with muscle cells in a bioreactor. I'm not entirely sure why, I assume there are strong technical reasons that I don't (yet) know for this.
The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion

Yes, my theory favours B, assuming that those 100 billion additional people have on expectation a welfare higher than the threshold, that the higher X-risk in world A does not on expectation decrease the welfare of existing people, and that  the negative welfare in absolute terms of having a miserable life is less than ten times higher than the positive welfare of currently existing people in world A. In that case, the added welfare of those additional people is higher than  the loss of welfare of the current people. In other words: if there are ... (read more)

The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion

Hi Kevin,

thanks for the comment.  My theory mostly violates that neutrality principle: all else equal, adding a person to the world who has a  negative welfare is bad, adding a person who has a welfare higher than treshold T is good, and in its lexical extension, adding a person with welfare between 0 and threshold T, is good (the lexical extension says that if two states are equally good when it comes to the total welfare excluding the welfare of possible people between 0 and T, then the state that has the highest total welfare, including that o... (read more)

1Kevin Kuruc5moThanks! Makes sense.
The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion

My theory would be like critical level utilitarianism, where necessary people, possible people with negative welfare and possible people with high positive welfare have zero critical levels, and possible people with low positive welfare have a critical level equal to their own welfare. So people can have different critical levels, and the critical level might depend on the welfare of the person. 

The problem of identity could become difficult, when we consider identity as something fluid or vague. If for example copying a person (a kind of teleportatio... (read more)

The problem of possible populations: animal farming, sustainability, extinction and the repugnant conclusion

That's a good summary, except that the threshold is chosen democratically by those who definitely exist. If these people choose not to ignore those people who don't definitely exist and have welfare between 0 and T, then it reduces to total utilitarianism

4alexrjl5moHow do you approach identity? If ~no future people are "necessary", does this just reduce to critical-level utilitarianism (but still counting people with negative welfare, can't remember if critical level does that)? Are you ok with that?
The most successful EA podcast of all time: Sam Harris and Will MacAskill (2020)

Yep, in my new EA Fellowship group, one participant also mentioned that podcast as basic inspiration to join EA. Proof by anecdote.

Teruji Thomas, 'The Asymmetry, Uncertainty, and the Long Term'

I think the beatpath method to avoid intransitivity still results in a sadistic repugnant conclusion. Consider three situations. In situation 1, one person exist with high welfare 100. In situation 2, that person gets welfare 400, and 1000 additional people are added with welfare 0. In situation 3, those thousand people will have welfare 1, i.e. small but positive (lives barely worth living), and the first person now gets a negative welfare of -100. Total utilitarianism says that situation 3 is best, with total welfare 900. But comparing situations 1 and 3... (read more)

What is the argument against a Thanos-ing all humanity to save the lives of other sentient beings?

I wrote some counter-arguments, why we could prefer human lives from an impartial (antispeciesist) perspective:

Why EA groups should not use “Effective Altruism” in their name.

Good points, but I'm a little tiny bit skeptical. So those people who join the group under the name of PISE but would not have joined the group when it was called Effective Altruism Erasmus, I wonder if that is due to the reasons that were mentioned (that the -ism suffix reminds of something religious, makes the name too unfamiliar, too difficult, associated with elitism...). If that would be the case, I would be surprised if those people are potentially high impact effective altruists. To put it overly simplistic: suppose someone would not join because of... (read more)

Though I like thinking about words with a skeptical lens, I am not convinced this is a large concern. The name of a new thing will produce both predictable and random reactions from humans. 

 My expectation is that rational, intelligent, self-critical, scientifically literate humans are humans, which comes with a certain degree of randomness to their behaviors. There will be variations in what they feel like doing on a given day, and a low-stakes decision like "Do I want to go to this presentation by a group I haven't heard of?" is not much eviden... (read more)

Differences in the Intensity of Valenced Experience across Species

About split brain; those studies are about cognition (having beliefs about what is being seen). Does anyone know if the same happens with affection (valenced experience)? For example: left brain sees a horrible picture, right brain sees picture of the most joyfull vacation memory. Now ask left and right brains how they feel. I imagine such experiments are already being done? My expectation is that asking the brain hemisphere who sees the picture of the vacation memory, that hemisphere will respond that the picture strangely enough gives the subject a weird, unexplainable, kind of horrible feeling instead of pure joy. As if feelings are still unified. Anyone knows about such studies?

Differences in the Intensity of Valenced Experience across Species

That anti-proportionality arguments seems tricky to me. It sounds comparable to the following example. You see a grey picture, composed of small black and white pixels. (The white pixles correspond to neuron firings in your example) The greyness depends on the proportion of white pixels. Now, what happens when you remove the black pixels? That is undefined. It could be that only white pixels are left and you now see 100% whiteness. Or the absent black pixels are still being seen as black, which means the same greyness as before. Or removing the black pixels correspond with making them transparent, and then who knows what you'll see? 

2MichaelStJules1yI would say my claim is that when you remove pixels, what you see in their place instead is in fact black, an absence of emitted light. There's no functional difference at any moment between a missing pixel and a black pixel if we only distinguish them by how much light they emit, which, in this case, is none for both. I'd also expect this to be what happens with a real monitor/screen in the dark (although maybe there's something non-black behind the pixels; we could assume the lights are transparent).
EA's abstract moral epistemology

Thanks for the answers, really appreciate it

An introduction to global priorities research for economists

Thanks, this is exactly what I needed. Now I also need a list of researchers who are interested in collaboration on one of these research topics :-)

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D


about the 10.000 years assumption: that is only used to calculate a high estimate of clean meat R&D. I'm not so worried if that is an overstimate.

My calculation assumes indeed no diminishing returns for clean meat R&D. I don't expect diminishing returns in the short run, when so much need to be researched. In my model, the decreasing neglectedness accounts for diminishing returns. When funding and investments by others increses to 1 billion dollars, the cost-effectiveness decreases with a factor 10. Anyway, the point is that clean m... (read more)

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

Sorry, I'm not following. The gain is independent of C, and hence (at given U and F) independent of the expected time period. Assume x is such that cell-based meat enters the market 1 year sooner (i.e. x=F). Accelerating cell-based meat with one year is equally good (spares U=0,1.10^11 animals), whether it is a reduction from 10 to 9 years or 100 to 99 years. Only if C/F would be smaller than a year, accelerating with 1 year would not work.

1Thomas Sepulchre1yI totally agree with you, the gain is independent of C. In your original post, you give a scenario where the cell-based meat enters the market in 100 years, while you seem to believe that an actual estimate would rather be ten years or less. I wondered if this was because you overestimated C, or underestimated F (both affect the timeline, but only F affects the gain) I now understand that you overestimated C, so this doesn't affect your prediction about the gain Thanks for clarifying!
The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

Thanks! I assumed indeed a zero discount rate, because I believe the disutility of farm animal suffering in the future counts the same as the disutility today. Perhaps one could use a very small discount rate, to account for a human extinction probability, but then again, when humans are extinct, there will be no more farm animal suffering. I guess a higher discount rate matters when utility measures greenhouse gas emisions saved. Reducing 1 ton CO2 now is more important than 1 ton later (because in the future the carbon absorption capacity by forests, oceans and carbon capture and storage technologies will be bigger). However, I think cell-based meat will enter the market within 10 years, so I don't expect C/F to be very big.

1Thomas Sepulchre1yThanks for your response! This makes cell-based meat R&D actually less effective : without discount gain=x ⋅UC⋅CF In term of farm animal suffering, you estimation is U=0.1⋅1011, and C = 1010 . So for each euro invested, you'll avoid the suffering of CF farm animals. The smaller the time we have to wait before cell-based meat enters the market, the less we should donate. (This is basically because if cell-based meat enters the market in 10 years, instead of 100, its neglectedness is 10 times smaller, therefore your donation is ten times less effective) [EDIT] It actually depends on why you think it will be 10 years instead of 100 : if you think it's because funding will be bigger, then the neglectedness is smaller. If, instead, you think that's because the cost is smaller (C = 109), then, as previously stated, it doesn't impact the effectiveness of the donation
The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

The basic (in my opinion realisitic) assumption is that other people invest in cell-based meat R&D anyway, and that in the business-as-usual scenario (where you do not fund anything) no other strategy (technology, intervention, vegan outreach campaign,...) will be able (even with more funding) to abolish animal farming before cell-based meat enters the market at competitive prices. Suppose cell-based meat arrives within a few decades and eliminates animal farming in say 50 years, whereas another, next best strategy would eliminate animal farming in 100... (read more)

2ABlank1yGotcha. I was thinking about a much simpler situation where we're comparing two interventions to accomplish equally valuable goals, rather than two interventions to accomplish the same goal, where finishing one makes the other obsolete. I was also assuming that we are able to coordinate on what to fund. But in the situation you described, it makes sense to fund the cheaper intervention only if we can put together enough money for it to overtake the one that's already being funded, like 555,555,555 euros in your example. But that number is assuming we can just linearly spend money to make stuff happen sooner. If your belief that is true, then it makes sense that people funding other strategies to abolish animal farming should coordinate to instead fund cell based meat. (Unless those other strategies also produce a significant amount of utility in the short term that falls short of abolition.) I don't know nearly enough about this stuff to evaluate your claim that cell based meat will probably be the thing that ends animal farming, but it seems like something that's important if it's true, and i think you should post your reasons for believing this as a new top level forum post.
The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

I quickly made a guesstimate: (you can also compare it with shaybenmoshe's guesstimate below)

The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

I'm surprised by the level of agreement between our assumptions. In your model, 200 M$ funding is required to advance clean meat with 0,7 years, whereas I assumed 100M$ and 1 year. You assume a lower greenhouse gas saving: 50% of the current 7,8 Gton CO2 emissions, whereas I assumed an increase in meat consumption in businass as usual scenario, and a reduction of 1 ton CO2 per vegan year, that means a reduction of around 10 Gton (assuming 10B people), but you assumed a 25% probability of success, whereas I assumed 10%. But with more lognormal error di... (read more)

1ShayBenMoshe1yI too was surprised when I first read your post. I find it reassuring that our estimates are not far from each other, although the models are essentially different. I suppose we both neglect some aspects of the problem, although both models are somewhat conservative. I agree that it is probably the case that cell-based meat is very cost-effective at greenhouse gas reduction, and I would love to more sophisticated models than ours.
The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D

I partially agree. In my second, high estimate model, cell-based meat arrives in 100 years. However, it more likely arrives sooner, e.g. in 2030. From then on, carbon offsetting starts to count. I agree that we should discount future emission reductions, due to the urgency of the climate problem and the possibility of early threshold values in the climate system being passed. But 10 years is not so long.

The problem with person-affecting views

The intransitivity problem that you address is very similar to the problem of simultaneity or synchronicity in special relativity. Consider three space-time points (events) P1, P2 and P3. The point P1 has a future and a past light cone. Points in the future light cone are in the future of P1 (i.e. a later time according to all observers). Suppose P2 and P3 are outside of the future and past light cones of P1. Then it is possible to choose a reference frame (e.g. a non-accelerating rocket) such that P... (read more)

1jackmalde1yThanks, I'll check out your writings on VCLU!
2MichaelStJules2yWhen you say "we do not invest in _ research", do you mean EAs specifically, or all humans? It's worth noting some people not associated with EA will probably do research in each area regardless. I'm having trouble understanding this probability. I don't think it can be interpreted as a single event (even conditionally), unless you're thinking of probabilities over probabilities or probabilities over statements, not actual events that can happen at specific times and places (or over intervals of time, regions in space). Letting X = humans go extinct XA = non-human animals go extinct RX = we invest in X-risk reduction research (or work, in general) RW = we invest in WAS research (or work, in general) Then the probability of "if we do not invest in X-risk reduction research (but we invest in wild animal suffering reduction research instead), humans will go extinct and animals will not go extinct" looks like P(XandnotXA∣∣(notRX)andRW)while the probability of "if we do invest in that X-risk research, humans will not go extinct" looks like P(notX|RX)The events being conditioned on between these two probabilities are not compatible since the first has notRX, while the second has RX. So, I'm not sure taking their product would be meaningful either. I think it would make more sense to multiply these two probabilities by the expected value of their corresponding events and just compare them. In general, you would calculate: E[V|RX=r,RW=s]Where V is the value, RX is now the level of investment in X-risk work, RW is now the level of investment in WAS work and V is the aggregate value. Then you would compare this for different values of r and s, i.e. different levels of investment (or compare the partial derivatives with respect to each of r and s, at a given level of r and s; this would tell you the marginal expected value of extra resources going to each of X-risk work and WAS work). With X being 1 if humans go extinct and 0 otherwise (the indicator function),
Probability estimate for wild animal welfare prioritization

As mentioned, those percentages wher my own subjective estimates, and they were determined based on the considerations that I mentioned ("This estimate is based on"). When I clearly state that these are my personal, subjective estimates, I don't think it is misleading: it does not give a veneer of objectivity.

The clarifying part is that you can now decide whether you agree or disagree with the probability estimates. Breaking the estimate into factors helps you to clarify the relevant considerations and improves your accuracy. It is better t... (read more)

Probability estimate for wild animal welfare prioritization

the personal probability estimates are pulled out of my 'air' of intuitive judgments. You are allowed to play with the numbers according to your intuitive judgments. Breaking down the total estimate into factors allows you to make more accurate estimates, because you better reflect on all your beliefs that are relevant for the estimate

1Open_Thinker2yWhat is the actual calculations you used? For the wild animal welfare lower bound: 0.99 * 0.99 * 0/75 * 0.99 * 0.95 * 0.9 * 0.8 * 0.9 * 0.8 * 0.9 * 0.9 * 0.8 * 0.95 * 0.95 = 21% ? How do you determine whether something is 0.90, 0.95, 0.99, or some other number? In your summary, you state that animal causes have a combined 7/12 chance of being the top priority, whereas human causes have a combined 5/12 chance. However, the error margins are huge, with the original wild animals priority having "wide-margins" of 25-90%. It does not seem to me that there can be any conclusive determinations made with this when the options are so close relatively and the margins so wide. The calculation is entirely subjective based on your own admission. I am afraid that giving it a veneer of objectivity in this way is in fact misleading, not clarifying.
Probability estimate for wild animal welfare prioritization

Suppose we can choose between A: adding one person with negative utility -100, versus B: adding thousand people, each with small positive utility +1. If the critical level was fixed at say +10, then situation A decreases social welfare with 100, whereas B decreases it with 900, so traditional critical level theory indeed implies a sadistic conclusion to choose A. However, variable critical level utilitarianism can avoid this: the one person in A can choose a very high critical level for him in A, the thousand people in B can set their critical levels in B ... (read more)

Probability estimate for wild animal welfare prioritization

Perhaps I'm too sloppy with the terminology. I've rewritten the part about suffering focused ethics in the main text. What I meant is that these theories are characterized by a (procreation) asymmetry. That allows the avoidance of the repugnant sadistic conclusion (which is indeed called the very repugnant conclusion by Arrhenius).

So the suffering focused ethic that I am proposing, does not imply that sadistic conclusion that you mentioned (where the state with everyone experiencing extreme suffering is considered better). My personal favorite s... (read more)

2Pablo2yAs long as the critical level is positive, critical-level utilitarianism does imply the sadistic conclusion. A population where everyone experiences extreme suffering would be ranked above a population where everyone is between neutrality and the critical level, provided the latter population is sufficiently large. The flexibility of the positive critical level can't help avoid this implication.
Defending the Procreation Asymmetry with Conditional Interests

I'm still not perfectly convinced: there still seems to be a symmetric formulation. You describe it in terms of pushing instead of pulling. But what about the symmetry between expressions "an existing individual in X pushes the situation from X to Y", versus "an existing individual in Y pulls the situation from X to Y"? Why would there be no money pump in pulling cases if there could be a money pump in a pushing case?

That being said, my gut feeling tells me that your reference to game theoretic instability or money pumps is similar... (read more)

1MichaelStJules2yIn the pushing case, if you make one choice, you're sometimes compelled to change your mind: if you've chosen X, the individuals in X can push you towards Y. In the pulling case, the reasons to change your mind don't apply in the option you've chosen: if you've chosen X, the individuals in Y can't pull you towards Y, because those claims don't come from X. The claims in Y for Y over X only make a difference if there are also claims in Y for X (or something else) over Y that they defeat, which is captured by "in Y, a stronger overall interest in Y than in X" or "in Y, a stronger overall interest in X than in Y" (or equality). I'll break it down into cases to illustrate: Suppose "an existing individual in X pushes the situation from X to Y". Then: 1. If you choose X, an individual who exists in X has a claim to Y over X, so you have reason to change your mind to Y, and this reason only applies in X, which you've chosen. That's a reason to change your mind to Y, although it may ultimately be outweighed if there are other claims (but first by other claims in X, and then if there's an overall claim in X to Y over X, i.e. in the same direction, also by claims in Y). If there are no other reasons to be concerned with, then this is not a stable solution, since you have an overall reason in X to change your mind to Y, and no other reasons in any other outcome to change your mind. 2. If you choose Y, we don't have enough information to say anything (we don't know if the individuals in Y have claims to anything else). The claim in X to Y over X does not apply here, since you didn't choose X, although there could be other claims. If there are no other reasons to be concerned with, then this is a stable solution, since you have no reason in Y to change your mind. Now, instead suppose "an existing individual in Y pulls the situation from X to Y". Then: 1. If you choose Y, an individual who exists in Y has a claim to Y over X, so you have a reason to not change your mind t
Defending the Procreation Asymmetry with Conditional Interests

It seems that with the formulation of the Comparative Interest principle, you already assume an asymmetry. Consider the symmetric (equally reasonable) formulation, by writing ‘better’ instead of ‘worse’ and switching X and Y: An outcome X is in one way better than an outcome Y if, conditional on X, the individuals in X would have a stronger overall interest in outcome X than in Y and, conditional on Y, the individuals in Y would not have an even stronger overall interest in Y than in X.

With this formulation, the procreation as... (read more)

2MichaelStJules2yThis is a good point, and I should have put more thought into this. I think there's a pretty good reason to accept my original principle that does not apply to the modified one: mine implies a kind of stability by focusing on arrow tails, while the modified one does not seem to. I did write "stable (in a sense somewhat similar to a decision/game-theoretic one)", but didn't expand further on this or consider your modified principle. I'll do that here. We first consider the interests of those existing in the given outcome for person-affecting reasons and then only consider the interests in the opposite direction from the other outcome as a potential defeater if the first interests actually pointed towards the other outcome. This is to ensure we don't change our minds back and forth between the two outcomes. (I see now that we might want to extend the consideration of the interests in the opposite direction to cycles of length > 2.) That is, if X is worse than Y in my way, and you choose X, you would realize it was a mistake after considering the interests in X that you actually observe and you would wish for Y to have happened instead, and may even try to make the future closer to Y, undoing the work you did for X. In my view, it's absurd to choose outcomes which you know you will prefer to not have happened. I think we can defend this on grounds of rationality, e.g. avoiding things like money pumps and Dutch books. On the other hand, with your modified principle, if X is better than Y, and Y happens, the interests of the individuals in X are not the same as the interests in Y, which is the outcome that actually happened. Supposing you choose Y, if there's a pull from Y to X that would cause you to change your mind about choosing Y, I claim now that it should be from the individuals in Y as they are in Y because that's your reality (the individuals in X may not even exist), but the modified principle considers overall interests from Y only in the opposite directio
Some solutions to utilitarian problems

Now that's a suggestion :-) My intention is to do academic economic research about the implications of such population ethical theories for cost-benefit analysis. My preliminary, highly uncertain guess is that a variable critical level utilitarianism results in a higher priority for avoiding current suffering (e.g. livestock farming, wild animal suffering), because it is closer to a negative utilitarianism or person affecting views, compared to e.g. total utilitarianism which prioritizes the far future (existential risk reduction). And my even more un... (read more)

When should an Effective Altruist be vegetarian?

I don't follow the logic of the argument, but at first sight it seems scary. Suppose a really hate my ex-girlfriend. In fact, I hate her so much that I want to kill her. I am even willing to pay $6000 to an assassin to do the job. But instead I kill her myself and give the 6000 dollars to SCI to save a life. (I can even steal all her money after I killed her and give it away to effective charities) "If you would happily pay this much (in my case, $6000) to kill someone, you probably shouldn't abstain from killing that person." If this is how effective altruists would defend their meat consumption, it will discredit the whole idea of effective altruism.