Ben Millwood

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Ya, this would be denying the hypothetical. There may be ways to prevent this, though, by making descriptions of lives more explicit and suffering-free, like extremely short joyful lives, or happy animal lives, for animals with much narrower welfare ranges each.

Yeah these are good ideas, although they come with their own complications. (A related thought experiment is how you feel about two short lives vs. one long life, with the same total lifetime and the same moment-to-moment quality of experience. I think they're equally valuable, but I sympathise with people finding this counterintuitive, especially as you subdivide further.)

It could be that their intuitions about "net positive" are the biased ones, or, more plausibly, in my view, there's no objective fact of the matter (denying moral realism).

The sense in which I'd want to call the view I described "objectively" biased / irrational, is that it says "this state of affairs is undesirable because a better state is possible", but in fact the better state of affairs is not possible. Again, it's denying the hypothetical, but may be doing so implicitly or subconsciously. The error is not a moral error but an epistemic one, so I don't think you need moral realism.

for the benefit of other readers, Linch also posted this to LessWrong's open thread

I'm surprised this hasn't already happened (unless it has?)

Surely someone reading this has a way of getting in contact with Paul?

It sounds like you're discussing how we can maximise utility in the presence of resource constraints: given some fixed resource pool, we should perhaps aim to support less than the maximal number of people with those resources, so that each can have a larger share of them.

IMO there's nothing wrong with this reasoning in itself, but it doesn't apply to the repugnant conclusion, because the repugnant conclusion operates at an entirely different level of abstraction, with no notion of (or interest in) what resource consumption is necessary to achieve the hypothetical alternatives it presents. It's purely a question of "supposing these are the situations you have to choose between: one where there are a few people with very good experiences, and one where there are very many people with barely-good experiences, how do you make that decision?" Replying to this with "actually we should pick a medium-sized group of people with medium-good experiences" is like answering the trolley problem by saying "actually we should fit emergency brakes to trolleys so they don't hit anyone". It's not wrong exactly, but it doesn't address the problems raised by the original argument.

I think some of what makes the repugnant conclusion counter-intuitive to some people might simply be that when they hear "life barely worth living" they think of a life that is quite unpleasant, and feel sad about lots of people living that life. This might either be:

  • People actually thinking of a net-negative life, e.g. because people with net-negative lives often still want to live because of survival instincts and/or hope for improvement, so people are thinking of "a life barely worth suffering through in the hope that it gets better", which is not worth living for its own sake,
  • People thinking of lives that are net positive, but are easily instinctively compared to lives that are better, causing them to seem sad / tragic as an outcome for what they fail to be, even though they are good for what they are.

If I'm right, then you may already see surprising results when people compare things like "a small population of people with lives barely worth living" and "a large population of people with lives barely worth living", which I expect people to be much more ambivalent about than "a small population of people with good lives" vs "a large population of people with good lives".

(Obviously it makes sense to feel less strongly about the former comparison, but I also think people will feel more negatively rather than just more indifferent towards it.)

(To be clear, I'm conjecturing reasons why someone might be biased / irrational in rejecting the repugnant conclusion, but I don't mean to imply that all rejections are of this kind. People may have other, more principled reasons as well / instead.)

Not sure what you're getting at here -- the whole point of the repugnant conclusion is that the people in the large branch have lives barely worth living. If you replace those people with people whose lives are a generous margin above the threshold, it's not the same question anymore.

In principle, normal markets should work this way. That is, if there's a market that won't settle for a year, but you think next week the price is going to go up a bunch, you will want to buy it now, and then sell it when the price goes up. If lots of people do this, the price goes up now, instead of next week (and in fact, if everyone saw that coming, it went up last week instead, and so on). If the market is reasonably liquid and/or there are market makers, you're not committing yourself until settlement, you can just sell out of your position when the price corrects (or when you give up on it doing so).

If, on the other hand, the market is not reasonably liquid, then I don't think iterated markets fix your problem, because people don't have a strong reason to expect the next market forecast to match the actual probability, so they can't profit by trading on that basis.

1DayAfrica has some discussion about supply shortfalls:

to be clear, Ozzie only claims that OpenAI say they care about safety, not that they actually do care.

I think this isn't relevant to the person in the UK you're thinking of, but just as an interesting related thing, members of the UK parliament are protected from civil or criminal liability for e.g. things they say in parliament: see parliamentary privilege.

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