Timothy Chan

I'm interested in s-risks, wild animal suffering, and suffering-focused ethics.

Topic Contributions


Artificial Suffering and Pascal's Mugging: What to think?

Assuming the parts about sentience work, someone who is both rational and altruistic (a rational altruist, as you say) might still have normative reasons not to run these trainings. 

Some (non-exhaustive) reasons I can think of, that are based around, or are compatible with an expected value framework (some of these assume that at least some suffering is due to running the trainings - e.g., through suffering subroutines which may result in incidental s-risks, or that there are forgone opportunities to reduce suffering/increase happiness elsewhere) include: 

  1. Asymmetry ideas in population ethics (e.g., 'making people happy, not making happy people'). 
  2. A position of diminishing returns (or zero returns after a certain point) on the value of happiness.
  3. Ideas objecting to intrapersonal or interpersonal tradeoffs of creating happiness at the price of creating suffering (in this case you might have multiple expected (dis)values to work with).
  4. Value lexicality that says that some bads are always worse than goods in some or any amount (some conceive this as listing and comparing expected (dis)values on vectors).
  5. Different forms of negative utilitarianism. (It is worth emphasizing that the expected (dis)value of happiness and suffering depend on both our subjective valuation of the experiences we imagine to occur, and the subjective probability that these experiences actually occur.)

These could be motivated by the thinking that the (dis)value of suffering and happiness are orthogonal and don't 'cancel out' each other. I think Magnus Vinding's book on SFE has more clearly presented insights than I can offer - so checking that out could be useful if you'd like to learn more.

Invertebrate pain and suffering: What do analgesic studies tell us?

That's an excellent point. If analgesics also reduce reflex responses towards noxious stimuli, then in some cases analgesics could be diminishing nociceptive responses while not inhibiting conscious (reportable) pain. 

I don't know much about how analgesics affect nociceptive reflexive responses in humans. According to the abstract of this study on non-human primates (haven't looked into the study in detail),  "depending on the dose, nociceptive reflexes [are] facilitated or inhibited" by morphine. So this possibility might prevent us from updating too much to "analgesics are preventing pain when they inhibit nociception" to the extent that the analgesics are inhibiting reflexive nociceptive responses.

One way this might not be an issue is if someone thinks consciousness is "smeared spatially and temporally" or if they think nested minds are possible. For them, through analogies in function, they might think the reflexive responses themselves could be in pain. But then again, there are probably fewer people who think like this than people who think invertebrates feel pain.