Matthew Barnett's Shortform

Is it possible to simultaneously respect people's wishes to live, and others' wishes to die?

Transhumanists are fond of saying that they want to give everyone the choice of when and how they die. Giving people the choice to die is clearly preferable to our current situation, as it respects their autonomy, but it leads to the following moral dilemma.

Suppose someone loves essentially every moment of their life. For tens of thousands of years, they've never once wished that they did not exist. They've never had suicidal thoughts, and have a... (read more)

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A person could be split on two parts: one that wants to die and other which to live. Then the first part is turned off.

2Dagon17dYou don't need it anywhere near as stark a contrast as this. In fact, it's even harder if the agent (like many actual humans) has previously considered suicide, and has experienced joy that they didn't do so, followed by periods of reconsideration. Intertemporal preference inconsistency is one effect of the fact that we're not actually rational agents. Your question boils down to "when an agent has inconsistent preferences, how do we choose which to support?" My answer is "support the versions that seem to make my future universe better". If someone wants to die, and I think the rest of us would be better off if that someone lives, I'll oppose their death, regardless of what they "really" want. I'll likely frame it as convincing them they don't really want to die, and use the fact that they didn't want that in the past as "evidence", but really it's mostly me imposing my preferences. There are some with whom I can have the altruistic conversation: future-you AND future-me both prefer you stick around. Do it for us? Even then, you can't support any real person's actual preferences, because they don't exist. You can only support your current vision of their preferred-by-you preferences.
2Matthew Barnett17dGood point. Although, there's still a nonzero chance that they will die, if we continually extend the waiting period in some manner. And perhaps given their strong preference not to die, this is still violating their autonomy?

Matthew Barnett's Shortform

by Matthew Barnett 1 min read9th Aug 2019151 comments


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Crossposted from the AI Alignment Forum. May contain more technical jargon than usual.

I intend to use my shortform feed for two purposes:

1. To post thoughts that I think are worth sharing that I can then reference in the future in order to explain some belief or opinion I have.

2. To post half-finished thoughts about the math or computer science thing I'm learning at the moment. These might be slightly boring and for that I apologize.