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It's hard to use utility maximization to justify creating new sentient beings

Sure, but there's still a meaningful question whether you'd prefer many moderately happy puppies or few very happy puppies to exist. Maybe tomorrow you'll think of a compelling intuition one way or the other.

Message Length

You lay it out very nicely. But I'd quibble that as long as your nth-order Markov chain isn't exceptionally small and fully deterministic, there might be room for more explanation. Maybe there's no explanation and the data is genuinely random, but what if it's a binary encoded Russian poem? When you've exhausted all self-contained short theories, that doesn't mean the work of science is done. You also need to exhaust all analogies with everything in the world whose complexity is already "paid for", and then look at that in turn, and so on.

It's hard to use utility maximization to justify creating new sentient beings

I just thought of an argument that pulls toward average utilitarianism. Imagine I'm about to read a newspaper which will tell me the average happiness of people on Earth: is it 8000 or 9000 "chocolate equivalent units" per person? I'd much rather read the number 9000 rather than 8000. In contrast, if the newspaper is about to tell me whether the Earth's population is 8 or 9 billion people, I don't feel any strong hopes either way.

Of course there's selfish value in living in a more populous world, more people = more ideas. But I suspect the difficulty of finding good ideas rises exponentially with their usefulness, so the benefit you derive from larger population could be merely logarithmic.

Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses.

our modern civilization, or whatever it should be called, asks the average individuals less than it asked in the past (both mentally and physically)

You're probably right about the physical part, but I don't see how the mental part can be true. A few centuries ago most people didn't even read or write, let alone learn algebra in school.

Industrial literacy

There's no obligation to give up gifts we don't understand - otherwise we'd have to give up sleep, and people before the discovery of oxygen would have to give up breathing. But we do have an obligation to be grateful for such gifts, which may have been the point of the post.

What should experienced rationalists know?

A note of caution here. Econ is one of those disciplines where many people think they grasp the fundamentals, but actually don't. I think if someone can't give worked examples (with numbers or graphs) for concepts like deadweight loss, comparative advantage, or tax incidence, their intuition probably points in subtly wrong directions, and would benefit from learning this stuff systematically.

"Zero Sum" is a misnomer.

Unlike "zero-sum game", a meaningful concept that the post carefully analyzes and extends, "negative-sum game" seems to have no meaning at all.

Against Victimhood

I mostly agree. Though it can be hard for a person to tell when this advice applies, as it's a bit absolutist, like "drink more water". Some kind of reasonable-person criterion could work here, like "if you say this is causing you X worth of problems, but you aren't taking reasonable steps that cost less than X and could help with these problems, then maybe stop complaining so much."

Maybe Lying Can't Exist?!

Under typical game-theoretic assumptions, we would assume all players to be strategic. In that context, it seems much more natural to suppose that all evil people would also be liars.

Why? Maybe some evil people are ok with kicking puppies but not with lying - that's part of their utility function. (If such differences in utility functions can't exist, then there's no such thing as "good" or "evil" anyway.)

Open & Welcome Thread - September 2020

Wouldn't more moral uncertainty make people less certain that Communism or Nazism were wrong?

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