Matt Vincent


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Does anyone here have qualms about the moral status of the embryos that are discarded in this process? I'm aware of the OP's views on the issue, and I recently addressed them elsewhere, but I'm curious about the average viewer of this page.

Thanks for the response. I realize that this is a very belated reply, and that it would have done a lot more good prior to the release of your How-To-PSC essay. Nevertheless, I'll respond to a few of your points.

For one thing, an embryo that was conceived from the gametes of two humans doesn't "grow into a human" or "develop into a human"; it is a human. I'm not saying that this necessarily confers moral worth, but it does jog the question of which trait does, and you don't provide a strong alternative.

In defense of the ZEF's potentiality: before fertilization, an arbitrary pair of sperm and egg isn't a coherent object any more than union of my left sock and the moon is a coherent object. In contrast, after fertilization, it's the sperm and the egg that cease to be coherent objects. The egg releases chemical signals to reject additional sperm, the successful sperm's cell membrane disintegrates, and the former contents of the gametes are bound together within one structure: the zygote.

I think that natural pregnancies are more nuanced than that, although I do agree that it involves an ongoing moral disaster to some extent. I don't think it's immoral for a woman to become pregnant despite the high miscarriage rate--just as I don't believe it was immoral for a woman living 1,000 years ago to become pregnant, even though a third of her children who were born would die by the age of 5. Instead, I think that there's an imperative on society to develop medical technology that prevents (pre)natal deaths.

I find this post very encouraging, but I can't shake a particular concern about the approach that it recommends.

From extrapolating past experiences, it seems like every time I try (or even succeed) at something ambitious, I soon find that somebody else already did that thing, or proved why that thing can't work, and they did it better than I would have unless I put in ten times as much effort as I did. In other words, I struggle to know what's already been done.

I notice that this happens a lot less often with mathematics than it used to. Perhaps part of it is that I became less ambitious, but I also think that part of it was formal education. (I finished a BS in math a few years ago.) I do think one of the major benefits of formal education is that it gives the student a map of the domain they're interested in, so that they can find their way to the boundary with minimal wasted effort.

I would be completely on-board with this if there was a method of improvement other than IVF embryo selection, since I consider human embryos to have moral value. Even if you don't, unless you're very sure of your position, I'd ask you to reconsider on the basis of the precautionary principle alone--i.e. if you're wrong, then you'd be creating a huge problem.

I'm sorry if I'm just being too much of a dodo to perceive the mystery, but your scenario seems easily accounted for. You can use a Bayesian network to infer causality if and only if you have valid data to fill it with. Of course wearing large pants does not cause one not to exercise, but no real set of data would indicate that it did. Am I missing something?

EDIT: shortly after writing this, I read up on faithfulness and Milton Friedman's thermostat, so the "if and only if" part of my comment isn't quite accurate. Still, the pants size scenario doesn't seem like one of these exceptional cases.

Statements of the sort "we shouldn't balance the risks and opportunities of X" are substantive only where X is closely related to a fundamental principle or a terminal goal. Since nobody really wants superhuman AGI for its own sake (in fact, it's just the opposite: it's the ultimate instrumental goal), "we should balance the risks and opportunities of AGI" is an applause light.

Agreed. Zvi's proposition also simply doesn't align with first-world people's motivations, as far as I can tell. In short, first-worlders have a lot of other interesting ways that they can use their time.

The notion that money isn't important or that "knowledge is the real wealth" wasn't intended to be a universal law; it's only applicable in cases where money is sufficiently abundant (as the title says). The scenarios you list do not meet that condition, so they are not situations that the OP intended to address.

With an additional decade of political battles to scrutinize, I see this sort of thing playing out with things like immigration policy, and possibly COVID policy, too.

From what I can gather, there are plenty of Republicans who would be willing to make a one-time amnesty concession in exchange for securing the border. However, Republican politicians are aware that if they give any ground on amnesty in this particular case, then Democratic politicians are very likely to 1) drag their feet on the securing-the-border part of the deal, and then 2) cite the previous amnesty policy as precedent for future amnesty policies in the court of public opinion.

Doesn't this depend on whether one is referring to fluid intelligence or crystal intelligence? Human babies may have the same crystal intelligence as adult pigs, but they have much higher fluid intelligence.

I think what happened here is that the vegetarian failed to realize that the component of intelligence that people find morally significant is fluid, not crystal, and then he equivocated between the two. EY realized what was going on, even if subconsciously, which is why he trolled the vegetarian instead of disputing his premise. Finally, Fallible failed to pick up on the distinction entirely by assuming that "intelligence" always refers to fluid intelligence.

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