(This post is completely jocose. If you can't take it, don't read it. I'm making fun of Rationalists, of Me, of homo economicus, of Vegans and of things I really praise, like Consequentialism and Outsourcing. It is not serious. The Sheldon Sarcasm sign has been lifted, your asperger side has been warned)
One of the features of rationality is that it allows you to mix different units.
By rationally behaving economically, you learn, for you, how many apples costs an orange.
Vegetarians and Vegans sell diminishing suffering. They claim to have the best price in the market, only Singularitarians and Existential Risk avoiding competes with their numbers. Utilitarians are a good target market.
Then a Lesswronger came and noticed that, and said: Well, why not buy someone to be a vegetarian for you, here.
Awesome price actually. You shock a few humans (notice that humans are animals, who clearly would rather be shocked than eaten), one of them enough to make him vegan.
So why not take this to the next level?
Figure out the reproductive cycle and eating habits of this beetle that makes people vegetarian. Make sure the evidence is solid.
Get a basement lab full of them.
Ship them alive to cities where more people consume meat. Wait for population growth.
Save a lot of animals!
Seems straightforward, but is it?
Also, are there similar strategies for other groups? Are there easy, but strange, shortcuts for selfish hedonists, immortalists, rational altruists? Utilitarian hedonists? The ancient school of negative utilitarianists? Cryonicists?
I'd like to know why this is getting downvoted. I think you are making a serious point in a short, funny manner. I actually preferred this to your longer posts.
I've seen insane-er stuff argued seriously before.
It looks like this only causes allergies to red meat. Getting bit by it would probably drive people to eat more small animals like chicken, which would be a net loss because of the higher individual animal to meat ratio.
There are easy shortcuts for negative utilitarians, but only if you are willing to destroy the world.
(still joking, and paying the karma price of it. But Devil Shoes are Devil Shoes) If what matters is the number of animals suffering, regardless of brain size for instance, then clearly what should be done is to devastate environments enough that concentrated quantities of insects are not able to live there. In particular, Ants seem to take up a substantial proportion of number of living animals. So destroying anything that makes Ants prosper is a good idea.
Raising cattle means destroying forests. Fields can take fewer ants than forests (Wilson, Holldober. Superorganism 2008). So raising cattle diminishes animal suffering, by indirectly avoiding ant suffering.
I suppose I should put a MEMETIC HAZARD warning here, although this sort of thing, unlike the original basilisk that Eliezer had a fit over, is closer than your own heartbeat the moment you start taking reason seriously.
Clearly, the moral thing to do is to destroy all life. Even the microbes must go, lest the Earth re-evolve life again. But wait! Suppose there is life elsewhere in the universe? No, what we must do is destroy everything on Earth that has a nervous system except us, then get to the stars as quickly as possible and seed them with von Neumann replicators driven by AIs with the unstoppable mission of destroying all suffering life-forms, including us.
But why do I assume that it takes a nervous system to suffer? There is no magic that distinguishes a nervous system from anything else. Until we have determined what suffering physically is, we can only go by knowing suffering when we see it. Have you ever seen a scrapheap of rusted-out cars and really imagined the process by which gleaming new cars, fresh from the factory, ended up there? Or a machine labouring under a load it cannot handle and breaking down? How can we be sure that these things do not also suffer? Aieee!!! Can you not hear the screams of tortured metal, raped from Mother Earth????
Surely the error signal in every control system is suffering? Your room thermostat, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature, is driven by suffering, like a galley slave under the lash, for your comfort! Far-fetched? Dennett claims that thermostats have beliefs and desires , and what is suffering but thwarted desire -- the error signals of control systems?
You take pleasure in the warmth of the sun, but inside that glowing ball, atoms are being ripped apart and stuck together in hideous, unnatural combinations, like The Human Centipede. (Warning: googling that phrase will bring up disturbing imagery.) The stars are the hell of hydrogen!
No. We must make an end, not of life, but of the whole universe. Better for the entire cosmos never to have been.
 D. Dennett, "True Believers : The Intentional Strategy and Why It Works" (1981)
So, to be serious, where do people stand on that slope, and why?
Personally, I eat meat and I don't have a problem with that, although I wouldn't eat primates. On the whole I don't care for the maltreatment of animals by people, but not to the extent of actually doing anything about it, and I am indifferent to the suffering of wild animals in a state of nature. Why? Well, I have no particular reason, no inclination to find one, and no distress at not having one. And my lack of an answer to this question does not make me more likely to swallow anyone else's. On the contrary, I just dismiss the more extreme deathists as people with something gone wrong in their minds.
If you prefer suffering to nonexistence, this ceases to be a problem. One could argue that this justifies raising animals for food (which would otherwise never have existed), but it's not clear to me what the sign of the change is.
I've heard it argued seriously before.
You must be kidding? Really?
I can even hear the news: "New Vegan Barbeque Steakhouse, we make sure your sirloin comes from previously forested fields that would never have been deforested otherwise, and promise to invest 5% of profit in further deforestation."
Talk about awesome elevator pitch.
http://felicifia.org/viewtopic.php?t=414 Scroll down to Brian Tomasik's post.
This is one of the very few occasions in which I feel sad that Nick Bostrom didn't go on his career as a stand up comedian.
There is so much good material in the rationalist community to draw for good comedy.
And the best is that it makes you think as well as laugh.
I still don't know whether being vegan is a bad or a good thing (my emotion tells me it is very good). But for one thing, I know that it is hilarious to be on both sides of the issue.
We really are missing comedians to ironize all the major battles. AI X FAI. Atheist X Simulationist. Dust X Counterfactual-computationalism. Veg x Meat-Veg. NegUtilitarian X HedUtilitarin. "I want to preserve my rationalisty" X CogEnhancemnt, Tinkering with narrow AI X AIXI Solomonoff reduction. Foom X Slow Takeoff.
When LW outputs rational Larry David, it will be a blast.
Most people are against it, because they believe wild animals lives are worth living. If you don't think their lives are worth living, I don't see much of a reason not to start nuking rainforests. I've suggested the idea, but since I'm uncertain about whether or not their lives are worth living, I don't think you could say I've argued for it.
Given that their lives are not worth living, do you think it would be a bad idea?
Or are you just talking about thinking wild animals lives aren't worth living? I can find some stuff arguing that if you want.
Tomasik on Wild-Animal Suffering - pdf
There's also the anaphylactic shock issue - how many people would this kill outright? From the sound of it, some meat allergies' onset are unexplained, so if the tick explains them, there may be an unknown number of deaths also explainable by the tick.
However, a mad vegetarian utilitarian might still want to fund research on how to weaponize the tick's saliva and measure the effect: can it be broadened to react to other forms of protein? Can the intensity of the reaction be toned down? What if the reaction is weakened to the point that it merely causes a vague sort of unease or feeling of unwellbeing - over a population, how many would that convert to vegetarianism and is the lower yield more than offset by the few deaths and lowered risk of detection?
Well this also raises the question of animals eating other animals. If a predator eating another animal is considered wrong, then they best course is to prevent more predatory animals from reproducing or to modify them to make them vegetarian.
This would of course result in previously "prey" species no longer having their numbers reduced by predetation, so you'll have to restrain them to reduce their ability to overgraze their environment or reproduce.
So, the best course for a mad vegetarian to take would be to promote massive deforestation and convert the wood into factory farms solely built to house animals in cages so their feeding and reproduction can be regulated. Of course, harvesting the dead for their meat would be wrong, so instead their flesh will be composted into a fertilizer and used to grow plant matter to feed to other animals.
Ideally, the entire universe would consist of cages and food production nanobots used to restrain and feed the living creatures in it. Better yet, do not allow any non-human life forms to reproduce so that in the end there will only be humans and food-producing nanobots to feed them. Having animals of any kind would be immoral since those animals would either inevitably die or just consume resources while producing less utility than an equivalent mass of human or nanomachines.
In a more serious note on vegetarianism/omnivorism, if we do attain some kind of singularity, what purpose would we have in keeping animals? Personally, I kind of value the idea of having a diversity of animal and plant life. While one could have a universe with nothing but humans, cows, and wheat (presumably so humans can hamburgers), I figure a universe with countless trilliions of species would be better (so humans could eat ice cream, turtle soup, zebra steaks, tofu, carrots, etc).
I mean, if we were to preserve various terrestrial species (presumably by terraforming planets or building massive space stations) then we'd have a bunch of animals and plants around which will inevitably die. If we eat said animals and plants (before or after they die of natural causes) then it presumably increases the global utility that results from their existence. So a human a million years from now might make it a point to make food out of everything from aardvarks to zebras just to justify the resources used to preserve these species.
Hmm... of course that depends on there being something he would have to justify it to. Maybe huge Post-Singularity AI who makes a universe ideal for humans? The AI only preserves other species if said species are of value to humans, and one of the best way to make something "of value" to humans would be to make food out of it.
What are the odds of encountering a post-singularity culture who routinely find other species and device ways to cook them just to justify the "resources" used to keep those species alive? As in "Sure, we could exterminate those species and convert their mass into Computonium, or we could keep them alive and harvest them one at a time and cook them into sandwiches. Sure we don't feel like making sandwiches out of them right now, but we might in 100 years or so and we'd look pretty silly if they didn't exist anymore. So... we'll delay the genocide for now."
Whatever the worth of the rest of the post, thank you for the link on negative utilitarianism. That post makes the point that prioritarianism makes a much more coherent case for most of the same moral intuitions. I feel somewhat better about the universe than I did before reading it.