Wiki Contributions


Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

I'm focusing on the prudential angle here, but I'd also be quite sympathetic to an author who was mad that their work was used in this way without their permission, even if it was later taken down.

Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

My more detailed response is:

  • I am generally pro more audio content, and sceptical of the goodness of current copyright laws.
  • <0.01% seems overconfident to me.
  • Once something is up on the internet, it's up forever. Taking it down post-facto doesn't actually undo the damage.
  • You only need one person to sue you for things to go quite badly wrong.

As such, flagrantly violating the law on a fairly large scale (and the scale is an important part of the pitch here) seems like a dubious idea. Especially if you also go on public record in a way that suggests you know it's illegal and don't care.

Suffering-Focused Ethics (SFE) FAQ

It's good, I think, for some sort of public document like this to exist on the Forum.

That said, I'd prefer if it distinguished more carefully between the parts that aim to describe SFE, and those parts that aim to defend it. For example, section 2 seems mostly descriptive, but then goes on to say (to paraphrase) that the relationship between antifrustrationism and preference-satisfaction theory is that the former is better.

(As described elsewhere, I also really don't like the whole "practical SFE" thing, and think adding that sort of term to the discourse is unhelpful.)

(Disclaimer: I'm unsympathetic to SFE, which may make my comments here come across as a bit more adversarial than I'd really endorse.)

Suffering-Focused Ethics (SFE) FAQ

I strongly agree with this. I've had lots of frustrating conversations with SFE-sympathetic people that slide back and forth between ethical and empirical claims about the world, and I think it's quite important to carefully distinguish between the two.

The whole "practical SFE" thing also seems to contradict this statement early in the OP:

1.2 Does SFE assume that there is more suffering than happiness in most people’s lives?

No, SFE’s core claim is that reducing suffering is more morally important than increasing happiness. This normative claim does not hinge on the empirical quantity of suffering and happiness in most people’s lives. 

This may be true for some diehard suffering-focused EAs, but in my practical experience many  people adduce arguments like this to explain why they are sympathetic to SFE. This is quite frustrating, since AFAICT (and perhaps the author would agree) these contingent facts have absolutely no bearing on whether e.g. total utilitarianism is true.

Listen to more EA content with The Nonlinear Library

These responses do seem curiously blithe about the question of whether or not this is legal.

Is capitalism the root of all evil?

If it did, I am surprised why no one focused on that rather than the title. For me Capitalism is the cause or one of the biggest contributors or the maintainer to many of the issues we are facing, Global poverty and climate change to name a few.

I might give you climate change – though I would note that e.g. communist states also have very bad environmental records (see e.g. the Aral Sea), so there is still some work to be done to strengthen that case.

I don't agree with global poverty – I currently think  capitalism has historically been, and will continue to be, one of the most important forces bringing people out of poverty.

People say a lot of silly things regarding the connection between capitalism and poverty. There might be a more sensible case for a link between the two, but I haven't heard it yet.

Is capitalism the root of all evil?

Thank you for being open minded. In terms of factory farming and capitalism, can I ask you if you don’t think that factory farming came as a result of capitalism? And wether countries with less developed capitalist systems (if you even can call them capitalists) have less animal suffering?

I can certainly see a story where capitalism was the genesis and remains the driver of factory farming. But the more fundamental problem is that most people don't see animals as morally important, and that applies across nearly all economic systems.

There's a complicating factor here, which is that capitalism makes countries rich, and rich people want to eat more meat, so it's possible that that is most of the driver here. One could respond to that that in that case making countries rich is bad on net, but I think any path to a good world is going to involve making everyone in the world a lot richer, so if factory farming is near-inevitable in rich countries (in the absence of good technological alternatives) then I'm reluctant to blame capitalism, as opposed to humans in general.

I would be interested in seeing data on factory farming in less capitalist countries (e.g. the Soviet Union), compared to more free-market countries of similar wealth (if one can find any).

Should aid organizations accept ETH donations?

In contrast, the contribution of cryptocurrency to the world appears to be very much negative.

Is this based solely on the electricity usage? You haven't given any other reason why we should assume that crypto money was obtained unethically - and the electricity reason seems to be a pretty weak one to me.

Is capitalism the root of all evil?

Many EAs, me included, are pretty sympathetic to capitalism as an economic system – certainly much more so than many other communities that place a strong emphasis on helping others.

This certainly isn't universal within EA, but it is common. Personally, I think this has become a bit of a tribal signal within EA, such that people are a bit too ready to downvote anti-capitalist content. That said, given this context, it's probably a good idea to ask questions like this in a somewhat more measured style, and provide some concrete arguments that people can engage with.

(One thing that would significantly update me in an anti-capitalist direction, for example, would be to provide evidence that capitalism leads to significantly more factory farming than other economic systems, even accounting for differences in wealth.)

Is capitalism the root of all evil?

To clarify, when meerpirat say that people on the EA Forum are volunteers, they don't (I assume) mean that there is some dedicated team of volunteers whose job it is to answer Forum questions.

Rather, they simply mean that most users of the Forum are not paid to use it.

(I'm not sure if you were in fact confused about this, but I thought your comment above potentially implied that you were, so I wanted to make this clear just in case.)

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