[SEQ RERUN] Burch's Law

by Tyrrell_McAllister1 min read6th May 20115 comments


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Today's post, Burch's Law, was originally published on 08 March 2007. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

Just because your ethics require an action doesn't mean the universe will exempt you from the consequences. Manufactured cars kill an estimated 1.2 million people per year worldwide. (Roughly 2% of the annual planetary death rate.) Not everyone who dies in an automobile accident is someone who decided to drive a car. The tally of casualties includes pedestrians. It includes minor children who had to be pushed screaming into the car on the way to school. And yet we still manufacture automobiles, because, well, we're in a hurry. The point is that the consequences don't change no matter how good the ethical justification sounds.

Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go here for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.

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Had been no cars, how many lives would be spared? A negative number, I think.

The same is not true of SUVs I imagine.

Seems to me that another generalization here is "the universe does not care about your good intentions."

Which can be taken in a Lovecraft direction — blind uncaring universe — but also in a Dennett direction — caring about other people's intentions is one of those adaptations that make persons different from the rest of the universe's matter.

[-][anonymous]10y 1

I agree. Eliezer definitely explores the Lovecraftian version of the generalization, and the Dennett version is sort of an ongoing theme in some of his other posts.

Gambling rings do sometimes buy up large chunks of lottery tickets, I am not sure about hedge funds but I wouldn't be surprised.

ah, someone did point that out, at the end.