What's Best for the World

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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby Dr. Diaphanous » Thu Mar 01, 2012 11:52 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Spoiler:
Well, not really, but they aren't considered evil. In spite of murdering more people in a week than have ever existed on Earth. Because without them, everyone else in the galaxy would be dead. So creating and then murdering 50 billion a day was not an 'evil' act.


Sounds pretty damn evil to me. I don't know enough about the dynamics of that universe to know whether "everyone would be dead", but it seems almost impossible to justify that policy.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Spoiler:
Well, not really, but they aren't considered evil. In spite of murdering more people in a week than have ever existed on Earth. Because without them, everyone else in the galaxy would be dead. So creating and then murdering 50 billion a day was not an 'evil' act.


Sounds pretty damn evil to me. I don't know enough about the dynamics of that universe to know whether "everyone would be dead", but it seems almost impossible to justify that policy.


Here it is. Yeah, it's complex. The thing to remember is, the people that were gate-cloned wouldn't have existed otherwise, and then they are tortured to death. On the surface it's the worst act in the galaxy, yet, somehow, isn't.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby Byrel » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:56 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Spoiler:
Well, not really, but they aren't considered evil. In spite of murdering more people in a week than have ever existed on Earth. Because without them, everyone else in the galaxy would be dead. So creating and then murdering 50 billion a day was not an 'evil' act.


Sounds pretty damn evil to me. I don't know enough about the dynamics of that universe to know whether "everyone would be dead", but it seems almost impossible to justify that policy.


Here it is. Yeah, it's complex. The thing to remember is, the people that were gate-cloned wouldn't have existed otherwise, and then they are tortured to death. On the surface it's the worst act in the galaxy, yet, somehow, isn't.


Meh. Saying it is better than attempting to murder 15 billion people isn't quite a stellar recommendation.

Back to choosing the best path for your life. A bunch of strangers on the internet (even intelligent and compassionate strangers) is the wrong place to go for help. The closest decision I've made to this is trying to identify a religious calling. I felt drawn (I believe by God; you may think it comes from elsewhere. No matter) to serve my fellow man, but I didn't know how. The best advice I got was never from people I admired, but didn't know. The people who could identify with my desire to serve and advise me in seeking my calling were always people I knew and respected. I don't know who that would be in your case; maybe a father or mother, a pastor, or a mentor. Maybe an older brother or sister. Most people have (or will at some point) struggled with what they "ought" to be doing. People who can empathize and love you are really the best source I know of in this sort of challenging situation.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby wanderer... » Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:07 am UTC

Wow, thank you all for your thoughtful replies! I apologize for not responding sooner (the downside of posting during midterms!), but I'm caught up now and will pass your ideas along to my friend.

In response to a couple comments questioning her motivation, I can say for sure that she has good intentions and does plan to follow through with them; I think the combination of being both very logical and very well-meaning just has her rather stuck right now. I really appreciate all the different perspectives and specific suggestions you've all shared, from simple community service acts to whole career plans, and the links to other resources she might find helpful (for that matter, I might too!). The 80,000 hours site looks especially relevant to her - thanks Rium!

I think you also make a good point, Byrel, that ultimately the people who know her best in real life will be the most helpful, but I'm hoping that these suggestions from the online community will at least provide a good starting point. I think sometimes it's easier to talk to people who don't know you, who don't have expectations and aren't around to bug you. We'll see if she agrees with me! :)

Thanks again,
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby TranquilFury » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:54 am UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:She's asking the wrong question, you shouldn't ask what's best for the world, the world doesn't have it's own goals and motivations.


"What's best for the world" doesn't mean helping the "world" (the spheroid of magma and rock) or the "world" (some kind of hive mind). It means helping a the individuals on the world while minimizing harm to individuals on the world, with (number of people helped x average amount of help*) as high as you can get it. And I'm not saying the world has "motivations", but there are many things that are beneficial to a great many people if not everyone. e.g. adequate healthcare, nutrition, security, liberty, access to xkcd.

*Yes, I know. But you can certainly make some kind of rough assessment.

TranquilFury wrote:Ask your friend what's in her own best interests, tell her to do what she loves doing, then figure out how to make a living at it. Or if she has some lofty goal, work to obtain whatever power necessary to achieve that goal.


What makes her interests any more important than anyone else's? I guess you could say one has more knowledge of one's own needs and more control over one's own life, than of someone else's. That's true to an extent. But if you put yourself or those close to you above other people in importance, you have set the stage for a multitude of evils. The advice you gave would encourage a politician to declare him/herself dictator for life. Or encourage a chemical company CEO to allow dangerous chemicals to be dumped in a river. Going by one's own best interests is not the way to go if it affects others.


What makes her interests more important to her than anyone else's? That they're hers. If she actually puts the well being of a stranger above her own, if that IS her interest, there's nothing you can say to her that would keep her from giving all her possessions to charity and going off to volunteer in some destitute country. There is nothing wrong with being selfish, it's human nature, and if people recognize this up front it prevents a lot of guilt, drama, and wasted time. Politicians and CEOs already act to the benefit of their own wealth and power, their mistake is confusing wealth and power for an end rather than as the means to an end. If you don't want other people harming YOUR interests, you need to impose a risk or cost onto those that would damage it. A simplistic example on how this plays out: A chemical plant is obviously going to want to get rid of it's waste products as cheaply as possible, and cities don't want their water sources contaminated, so the cities need to exert their power to make dumping chemicals in the river more expensive to the chemical plant than disposing of them safely. In reality this ends up as a risk/benefit decision ,if it's still cheaper to dump in the river after accounting for the risk of legal action, boycotts, and the impact on other goals, people are still going to dump in the river.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby TranquilFury » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:00 am UTC

wanderer... wrote: I think the combination of being both very logical and very well-meaning just has her rather stuck right now.

I'll clarify a bit, you can't create a goal with logic, that has to be an emotional or instinctual decision, and most people have their non-survival/sex motivations implanted by their culture. Only once you know what your ultimate objectives are and why they exist can you pursue them on a purely rational basis.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby Dr. Diaphanous » Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:02 pm UTC

TranquilFury wrote:If she actually puts the well being of a stranger above her own, if that IS her interest, there's nothing you will spray to her that would keep her from giving all her possessions to charity and going off to volunteer in some destitute country.


Well maybe the world would be a better place if more people did give away their surplus possessions to where they are most needed, or if more people did spend time selflessly helping others rather than doing everything for themselves.

TranquilFury wrote:There is nothing wrong with being selfish, it's human nature


Well my human nature is to beat you to death for disagreeing with me, then take your food and daughters. But I don't do that, even if it was legal.

TranquilFury wrote:A simplistic example on how this plays out: A chemical plant is obviously going to want to get rid of it's waste products as cheaply as possible, and cities don't want their water sources contaminated, so the cities need to exert their power to make dumping chemicals in the river more expensive to the chemical plant than disposing of them safely. In reality this ends up as a risk/benefit decision ,if it's still cheaper to dump in the river after accounting for the risk of legal action, boycotts, and the impact on other goals, people are still going to dump in the river.


So if they find a nice slum where there are no anti-pollution laws in place, then it's perfectly fine for them to dump their chemicals there?
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Re: What's Best for A Galaxy Far Far Away

Postby TranquilFury » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:33 pm UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:If she actually puts the well being of a stranger above her own, if that IS her interest, there's nothing you will spray to her that would keep her from giving all her possessions to charity and going off to volunteer in some destitute country.


Well maybe A Galaxy Far Far Away would be a better place if more people did give away their surplus possessions to where they are most needed, or if more people did spend time selflessly helping others rather than doing everything for themselves.

TranquilFury wrote:There is nothing wrong with being selfish, it's human nature


Well my human nature is to beat you to death for disagreeing with me, then take your food and daughters. But I don't do that, even if it was legal.
If you wouldn't do it given the chance w/ no risk of adverse consequences, then it isn't in your nature. It may put you at a competitive disadvantage against those who would, should such a circumstance ever come up. I'm not saying it's better to be selfish, just that it's not problematic, and is very common in humans.
TranquilFury wrote:A simplistic example on how this plays out: A chemical plant is obviously going to want to get rid of it's waste products as cheaply as possible, and cities don't want their water sources contaminated, so the cities need to exert their power to make dumping chemicals in the river more expensive to the chemical plant than disposing of them safely. In reality this ends up as a risk/benefit decision ,if it's still cheaper to dump in the river after accounting for the risk of legal action, boycotts, and the impact on other goals, people are still going to dump in the river.


So if they find a nice slum where there are no anti-pollution laws in place, then it's perfectly fine for them to dump their chemicals there?

I'm not saying it's in MY interests for them to dump toxic waste somewhere the locals are powerless to stop them, I'm saying they'll do it if it has the best expected value. As for human nature, instincts are still useful in many circumstances, If the situation requires immediate action and you don't have a trained response, it's perfectly fine to act on instinct. Just make sure to verify after the fact whether that was the right decision, so you are better able to handle a similar situation in the future.

My point is that the OP's friend needs to figure out what HER interests are, then pick a problem for her interests and work on fixing it. For example, If she has children and wants them to get a good education, it would be a good idea to work toward education reform. If she loves fresh fish from a local river, it might be a good idea to check pollution levels there and work at cleaning up upstream. If no problems present themselves overtly, go look for them in the riskiest parts of your plan, but limit the scope to one or two problems at a time.
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Re: What's Best for A Galaxy Far Far Away

Postby Dr. Diaphanous » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:01 am UTC

TranquilFury wrote:If you wouldn't do it given the chance w/ no risk of adverse consequences, then it isn't in your nature. It may put you at a competitive disadvantage against those who would, could such a circumstance ever come up. HULK not saying it's better to be selfish, just that it's not problematic, and is very common in humans.


But it often is problematic, as in this example.

TranquilFury wrote:HULK not saying it's in MY interests for them to dump toxic waste somewhere the locals are powerless to stop them, HULK saying they'll do it if it has the best expected value. As for human nature, instincts are still useful in many circumstances, If the situation requires immediate action and you don't have a trained response, it's perfectly fine to act on instinct. Just make sure to verify after the fact whether that was the right decision, so you are better able to handle a similar situation in the future.


Maybe if you have your hand on a hot iron you could act on instinct. But I don't think our hypothetical corrupt CEOs act like that on instinct, nor is the OP looking to find out what her instinct is.

TranquilFury wrote:My point is that the OP's friend needs to figure out what HER interests are, then pick a problem for her interests and work on fixing it. For example, If she has children and wants them to get a good education, it would be a good idea to work toward education reform. If she loves fresh fish from a local river, it might be a good idea to check pollution levels there and work at cleaning up upstream. If no problems present themselves overtly, go look for them in the riskiest parts of your plan, but limit the scope to one or two problems at a time.


Fair enough. But my point is, if she doesn't plan on having children, it would be exactly as good to work towards educational reform as if she does.
Last edited by Dr. Diaphanous on Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:11 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's Best for A Galaxy Far Far Away

Postby TranquilFury » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:21 pm UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:
TranquilFury wrote:HULK not saying 'tis in I's interests for they 2 dump toxic waste somewhere the locals be powerless 2 stop they, HULK saying they'll do it if it hath the best expected value. As for human nature, instincts be still useful in many circumstances, If the situation requires immediate action and you don't have a trained response, 'tis perfectly fine 2 act on instinct. Just make sure 2 verify after the fact whether that be'd the right decision, so you be better able 2 handle a similar situation in the future.


Maybe if you have you's foot on a hot iron you could act on instinct. But I don't think our hypothetical corrupt CEOs act like that on instinct, nor be the OP looking 2 find out what she instinct be.

Of course they do, one very strong human instinct is ingroup loyalty/outgroup alienation. Virtually everyone that pursues power or money as an end rather than a means, does it because that's what their peers expect them to want, and/or because it feels good to them to exert power over other people.

Also: HULK SMASH PUNY WORD SUBSTITUTION FILTERS.
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby hawkinsssable » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:10 pm UTC

re: Corrupt User & gate-cloned torture - if I understand correctly (which I probably don't) you're saying that causing harm / pain / deaths are morally neutral, so long as you can replace any lives you take. That seems... a little back to front to me.

I'll agree that it's not immediately obvious or provable that any being, people included, suffer from being killed. There are probably definite harms to the people close to them (say, grief, and a whole lot else if you're financially dependent on the deceased), but that wouldn't be true for clones. Still - if you torture somebody, you are clearly and unambiguously harming them. This can (arguably) only ever be okay if a) it's causing more good than harm, or b) the thing you're torturing doesn't have a moral right not to be tortured.

I think you said that the cloned thingamajigs don't have a right not to be harmed because they wouldn't have existed otherwise. That seems really weird to me - largely because it also seems to imply that parents have the right to abuse their children in any way they wish, including torturing them to death. It seems to me that the morally relevant factor re: torture is whether or not something (or someone) can experience pain, not who created it. If it can, you're going to need a pretty good justification to inflict pain on in - and IMO, "well, it wouldn't have existed otherwise" doesn't do the trick. Creating, torturing and killing 50 billion clones a day to save every lifeform in the universe is only really worth it if it spares > 50 billion new, unique people equivalent pain / death every day.

re: Battlemoose & genetically engineered food - I don't really have very much to add, except that the academic debate on the (substantial) risks and (far from proven) benefits of genetically modified foods is alive and well and, I would say, very far from conclusively in favour of genetically engineered food. I don't have many references on hand, but Vandana Shiva has co-authored several good papers like this one.

On Topic According to good old Peter Singer, the best things you can do are become a vegetarian and greatly reduce animal suffering and donate as much expendable income as you can (without burning yourself out) to charities operating in the Third World.* According to Marxists everywhere, the very best thing you can do is to contribute to bringing about a Marxist revolution through endless campaigning and social activism, eventually ending the miserable state of affairs that creates starvation in the third world and misery in the first (while doing good along the way.) According to libertarians like Ayn Rand, the best world is... I think... one where nobody has any moral obligations towards anybody else and the morally deserving intellectual capitalist elite are able to thrive. And probably the best thing you can do is to convince others to become libertarian and maybe pour some money into grossly overfunded libertarian think-tanks like the CATO institute.

[snip]

The sad fact is that it can be very hard to do good from within a certain profession. All the pharmaceutical expertise in the world isn't going to help you develop medications for the unprofitable most-neglected diseases that kill off boggling numbers of people in the third world. IMO, social work is one of the occupations where you get to do the most good (for the least pay!) - until, of course, the Australian government ignores the Australian Association of Social Workers once again and continues eroding the scope of your job and the amount of good the profession can achieve.**

[snip]

I was trying to reach some kind of point, but I think I've lost it. It started something like this, though: genuinely trying to do good is equally compatible with fighting for OR against GM crops / nuclear energy / Marxist revolution / moving social work and welfare away from unified public service to quasi-markets with for-profit and non-profit organisations fighting to meet KPI's.

So for me, in my pretentious way, the most important things are to: a) genuinely care about others and act accordingly, even when this requires personal sacrifice, and b) have the sense of humility necessary to c) think carefully and critically about the goals you're trying to achieve and how compatible with point (a) they actually are.


*despite their flaws, both books are relevant and might be worth a read
**(link for if you're interested and have uni access to academic databases)
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Re: What's Best for the World

Postby Annihilist » Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:30 am UTC

If you asked me I would say Voluntary Human Extinction.

So don't ask me.
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