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I don't think the distinction you are making works, because then the decision to not abort for non-medical reasons would be impermissible, since it affects the full life of a moral patient. Yet I highly doubt that bio-ethicists believe that, while you are allowed to abort a child for ~ any reason, you are not allowed to choose to not abort them.


Perhaps I have done a poor job of getting across my objection here, so here is a short dialog to demonstrate what I see as the absurdity:

Bioethicist lab tech: Good news! We managed to fertilize six healthy embryos for you. I have their genetic results right here.

Jane: Awesome! Does it say if they have blue or brown eyes?

Bioethicist lab tech: Sure does; one has blue eyes, five have brown eyes.

Jane: Great, lets go with the blue eyed one.

Bioethicist lab tech: Sorry, I can't let you do that. It's immoral. Bioethicists say so.

Jane: Why?

Bioethicist lab tech: Because choosing would affect the blue eyed child.

Jane: It seems like they would probably be happy with the outcome since it would mean they get to live a happy life... please can you make an exception?

Bioethicist lab tech: I can't do that... but, psst - there is a loophole. After you get an embryo implanted, you can get another genetic test done, and then abort them if they're the wrong eye colour.

Jane: Urgh, that sounds gruesome!

Bioethicist lab tech: Don't be so dramatic. Once they're inside you, it's just birth control.

Jane: Wait, you said choosing an embryo in vitro would be bad because it would affect the child... surely aborting them would also affect them?

Bioethicist lab tech: That's a misconception common among those who haven't studied bioethics. Actually, once they're dead, they can't be affected, simple as.

Jane: I'm not sure I follow but lets keep going. Then you'd implant the blue eyed one next?

Bioethicist lab tech: Nahh, you might have to do this several times.

Jane: What? I might have to have five abortions according to this absurd scheme? Doesn't this seem like unnecessary medical procedures with the potential for side effects?

Bioethicist lab tech: Potentially. Also, you'll have to wait till you get the genetic testing each time to see the eye colour, because I can't officially tell you which one I chose - that would be too close to embryo selection, regulations don't allow it.

Jane: That's crazy! Surely the later in pregnancy, the worse abortion is for the baby?

Bioethicist lab tech: Oh no, it's permissible at any point. Even if the fetus can feel pain it's not a person, doesn't matter one bit, no need for anesthesia. You can get rid of them at any point from week zero to week 40

Jane: Can I get rid of it before week zero?

Bioethicist lab tech: No, are you some kind of monster? That would affect the future person. You have to wait till they're implanted. Then they're no longer a future person, just an inconvenience. 

First off, respondents were asked to choose one of four options regarding abortion, and I am not confident that we can necessarily infer their views on the specific case of an abortion decision made on the basis of non-medical fetal characteristics.

At the very least I think we can probably infer it for the 41% who said 'always or almost always acceptable'.

Even if we could, there's an obvious factor present in the abortion scenario (i.e., the strong autonomy interests of the pregnant person) that is absent from the embryo-selection scenario. 

I don't buy this. Surely there is just a strong autonomy interest in being able to decide which embryo, if any, you have implanted inside you - given that this will predictably lead to becoming pregnant?

First of all, thanks very much for gathering this great data.

It's really pretty shocking to me how badly this makes bioethicists look. To compare just two line items, and adding together the categories into just 'agree' and 'disagree' for simplicity:

  • 41%+46%=87% believe that abortion is acceptable
  • 34%+44%=78% think it is unacceptable to choose embryos based on non-medical traits.

I can understand saying 'allowed' for both cases, or saying 'disallowed' for both cases. But this combination seems very hard to justify. We are to believe that it is not acceptable to choose between ten embryos with ~60 cells each based on non-medical traits, even if we know they cannot all be implanted, so a choice must be made. And yet once the embryo has been implanted, grown into human form, with a brain and a heart, and perhaps the ability to survive on her own outside the womb - now we are somehow morally permitted to destroy it, even for the same reasons we were previously prohibited from entertaining, with no need to give any concern for her welfare whatsoever?

Above I aggregated the 'agrees' and 'disagrees' into two larger groups, but even broken down into the four smaller groups I struggle to find an interpretation which doesn't leave some significant fraction of respondents committed to what seems like a very problematic position. And this is hardly a niche gotcha; this seems like a very basic question that should occur almost immediately to someone thinking professionally about it.

This combination, and some of the other results other commenters have already pointed out, really makes me doubt the epistemic integrity of at least a significant fraction of the respondents. Normally I try to find charitable interpretations but here it really is hard to avoid the conclusion that these 'experts' are in favour of unlimited abortion because that is what their political/social tribe expects and then they have manufactured some post hoc justifications despite the clear contradiction with their other moral perspectives.

I would like to suggest a rule/norm that people or orgs should not post the same article they are ready posted multiple times over the course of a few months, especially if there was already discussion in the comments the first time, unless they have significantly new points to make.


Must be a big relief to get this over with, good work guys! Sounds like the commission generally approved of the post-FTX response. Hopefully a big load off your plate.

Protests are usually done by those in dire need of change: minorities, poor people, people whose identity is attacked, etc.

I think this is not true. Even the 2020 BLM protests, which skewed unusually non-white, were almost 50% non-hispanic white according to Pew, the first result I found when googling the question. This matches my impression that protests actually tend to be dominated by relatively well educated white people, which makes sense, because these groups dominate most forms of political activity.

In general EAs share a lot of demographic factors with typical (US) protestors:

  • Young
  • White
  • Highly Educated
  • Democrat / Left Wing

They diverge in some others, for example EAs being concentrated in STEM graduates over other less mathematical degrees.

minor edit: some ambiguity in how Pew is handling missing data, doesn't affect the bottom line, added second section.

If you previously liked the magazine these seem like relatively weak reasons to cancel it. 

Kelsey suggests that OpenAI may be admitting defeat here:

OpenAI also says that going forward, they *won't* strip anyone of their equity for not signing the secret NDA, which is a bigger deal. I asked if this was a change of policy. ... "This statement reflects reality", replied OpenAI's spokesperson. To be fair it's a Friday night and I'm sure she's sick of me. But I have multiple ex-employees confirming this, if true, would be a big change of policy, presumably in response to backlash from current employees.


Sounds like it is time for someone to report them to the NLRB.

It might be worthwhile reading about historical attempts to semi-privatize social security, which would have essentially created an opt-in version of your proposal, since individual people could then choose whether to have their share of the pot in bonds or stocks.

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