Tristan Katz

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Hi, sorry I somehow missed this until just now - far too late! Still I feel I need to say that I think you've missed the point. With windmills it is not necessarily the case that the average bird will live a shorter life. If some birds are killed by windmills, then others will have more to eat or will have more habitat (whatever factor it is that otherwise limits this bird population) and will then succumb to that death later. Or perhaps with windmills their main predator will just scavenge on the dead birds, rather than predating them. The point is, there is no reason to assume that the average life will be shorter - either way, some factors are limiting the population, and without directly comparing them we just cannot make this claim.

Establishing a norm of caring about wild animals is good, but it seems to me that you are only encouraging people to care about human-caused harms, rather than the welfare of wild animals generally. There is a risk that people only care about the dirtiness of their own hands, rather than the animals themselves.

I hope that makes sense.

I think my argument will be even clearer if I talk about mitigating AI risk. Imagine if all AI safety orgs operated independently, even competing with each other. It would be (or arguably already is) a mess! There would be no 'open letter', just different people shouting separately. And surely AI safety could be advanced further if the already existing orgs worked together better.

So yes, choice is good, but to some degree we are and should be working towards common goals.

I like the analogy, and I found myself agreeing a lot with your suggestions, but I think there is a danger in this analogy:

It portrays EAs as functioning very individualistically, and this could ultimately be ineffective.

Imagine a market where many of the buyers want to make a cake (say the cake represents improving global health - other people may go to the market for other reasons, but many go for the same reason: in this case, cake). Each only has a little bit of money though, not enough to buy all the ingredients for a cake, so they buy one hoping that others will buy the others, and that they will be working off the same recipe. Inevitably, though, they have different ideas of the cake they want to make and what you end up with is a mess of different ingredients. The buyers DO get to eat something, but it isn't cake. What this represents in the real world is that EAs have targeted several individual health problems, but they haven't actually worked towards reducing global health/poverty as a whole.

Now imagine an alternative market where the buyers coordinate. They know they all want cake, so they discuss together what the best recipe would be. Then, when they have one, they organise who should buy what - and then together they are able to make a damn good cake. In the real world, this would mean tackling global poverty in a coordinated way, which involves addressing systemic change. 

What I'm pointing out is that if the buyers were to coordinate they might be able to do far more good. I think this is currently a big problem in EA, that we don't coordinate or think strategically enough. We focus on what individual donors can do, and thereby miss out on tackling the bigger problems. So, I like your analogy, but I don't want people to think that what we ought to have is a classic free market with self-interested actors. Rather, we should have a free market with (at least some) actors working for (at least some) common good(s).

Thanks for the detailed and informative post. My response is a bit critical, but I mean it constructively:

After reading the title of the post, I was hopeful to hear about the potential ways that AI could be used to reduce wild animal suffering - and so a bit disappointed to see this only as a minor consideration in section 8.3. Give that it is wild animals that we are concerned about here (not just removing our guilt), surely we should be looking at their lives as a whole, not just how we affect them directly. So when we look at something like wind turbines, we shouldn't just be interested in how many birds are killed by them - we should be interested in how this changes the lives of such wild birds in general (including those that don't get killed, and now have greater access to food or habitat).

My own opinion is that your consideration in 8.3 "HWC deaths may be less painful than counterfactual deaths" could very well be correct. There seems to be no good reason for thinking that it is incorrect. Therefore, to advocate for these solutions to HWC seems to be a very non-ideal way at improving WAW. Given the uncertainty here, it seems that we should focus not on reducing the deaths that we cause, but rather on reducing the most painful kinds of deaths. These are unlikely to be from things such as wind turbines - and much more likely to be from disease, starvation etc. I think this needs to be the central focus of the discussion.