stefan.torges

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Net value of saving a child's life from a negative utilitarian perspective?

Answering this or similar questions will be challenging for any worldview that takes into account second-order and long-run consequences of actions, not just negative utilitarianism.

Saving a child has many such effects that will be very difficult to account for: not just effects on loved ones but also effects on the ecosystem, climate change, demand for meat, the economy more generally, etc. So assessing the grief experienced by loved ones is probably only a small piece of the answer to your overall question. At the same time, it might be particularly salient or important because the bond is personal and irreplaceable. If this life is not saved, we can do little to offset that harm.

For what it’s worth, a negative utilitarian theory might also include the frustration of preferences in the evaluation of an action. To the extent that the child wants to continue living, this would provide reasons to save them, even by negative utilitarian lights. Whether this is a decisive reason is another matter of course. 

If you do find negative utilitarianism or other suffering-focused views compelling, I think it makes more sense to ask the question: according to this view, what could be the very best thing I could be doing with my time and money? Most people who have asked this question have come up with interventions that seem much more impactful than saving lives directly -- regardless of whether the latter would overall be a good thing. Here is one person's attempt to answer this very difficult question: https://reducing-suffering.org/

Forecasting Newsletter: April 2020
and 10% for Nicolás Maduro.

The time horizon for this is "before 1 June 2020." That seems reasonable.

Focusing on Career & Cause Movement Building

Thanks for writing this! This seems to be very important if we want the community to tap increasingly into professional networks.

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

I agree with all of what you say here. Building things for others can often go badly wrong. Thanks for sharing this perspective!

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

I was referring to the option "Building the EA and related communities." If building such institutions is a form of community-building, then this gives some indication of its importance compared to other areas. Now, it might be the case that respondents didn't have this in mind when answering and if they did, they would give it a much lower score.

How Europe might matter for AI governance

Do you think these points make Europe/the EU more important than the US or China? Otherwise, they don't give a reason for focusing on the Europe/the EU over these countries to the extent that this focus is mutually exclusive, which it is to some extent (e.g., you either set up your think tank in Washington DC or Brussels, you either analyze the EU policy-making process or the US one).

Reasons to focus on the EU/Europe over these countries are in my opinion:

  • personal fit/comparative advantage
  • diminishing returns for additional people to focus on the US/China (should have noted this in the OP)
  • threshold effects
How Europe might matter for AI governance

Maybe I misunderstood. What's the point of highlighting only this statistic? It does not seem very representative of the report you're linking to or the overall claim this statistic might support if looked at in isolation.

EDIT: I didn't mean to imply intent on your part. Apologies for the unclear language. Edited original comment as well.

How Europe might matter for AI governance

This strikes me as an isolated example of Europe leading on one metric. I plan to write something more comprehensive, but I think just seeing this statistic could create a wrong impression for some people.

(edited to remove accusatory tone)

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