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Yvain comments on Are wireheads happy? - Less Wrong

109 Post author: Yvain 01 January 2010 04:41PM

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Comment author: Yvain 01 January 2010 05:56:48PM 8 points [-]

I accept Benthamite's criticism as valid. It may not be obvious from the text, but in my mind I was definitely equivocating.

If we can't use preference to determine ethical utility, it makes ethical utilitarianism a lot harder, but that might be something we have to live with. I don't remember very much about Coherent Extrapolated Volition, but my vague memories say it makes that a lot harder too.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 January 2010 08:12:12PM 11 points [-]

I observe that you might have caught this mistake earlier via this heuristic: "Using the phrase "by definition", anywhere outside of math, is among the most alarming signals of flawed argument I've ever found. It's right up there with "Hitler", "God", "absolutely certain" and "can't prove that"." I should probably rewrite "math" as "pure math" just to make this clearer.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 01 January 2010 07:27:14PM *  0 points [-]

If we can't use preference to determine ethical utility, it makes ethical utilitarianism a lot harder [...]

The way "preference" tends to be used in this community (as a more general word for "utility", communicating the same idea without explicit reference to expected utility maximization), this isn't right either. The actual decisions should be higher in utility than their alternatives, it is preferable if they are higher utility, but the correspondence is far from being factual, let alone "by definition" (Re: "By definition, if you choose X over Y, then X is a higher utility option than Y"). One can go a fair amount from actions to revealed preference, but only modulo human craziness and stupidity.