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Alexei comments on Are wireheads happy? - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: Alexei 11 July 2011 05:55:29AM 2 points [-]

I really like your point about the environment. I am wondering if you can make a broader post discussing that kind of reasoning. For example, could one argue using this logic that an individual voter makes no difference, therefore voting, on the individual level, is pointless? (The solution would be to organize massive groups of people that would vote the same way.) What other examples fall under this reasoning? And what are some examples that seem like they should fall under this reasoning, but don't?

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 July 2011 04:39:39PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks for bringing that up. I've actually argued the opposite in the case of voting. Using timeless decision theory, you can justify voting (even without causing a bunch of people to go along with you) on the grounds that, if you would make this decision, the like-minded would reason the same way. (See my post "real-world newcomb-like problems".)

I think a crucial difference between the two cases is that non-pollution makes it even more profitable for others to pollute, which would make collective non-pollution (in the absence of a collective agreement) an unstable node. (For example, using less oil bids down the price and extends the scope of profitable uses.)

Comment author: agrajag 14 November 2011 10:24:26AM 5 points [-]

Getting this point across is difficult, and it's a common problem. For example, I'm from Norway and favor the system we have here with comparatively high taxes on the high earners, and high benefits. When I discuss economics with people from other political systems, say Americans, invariably I get a version of the same:

If I'm happy to pay higher taxes, then I can do that in USA too -- I can just donate to charities of my choice. As an added bonus, this would let me pick which charities I care most about.

The problem is the same as the polluting though: By donating to charities, I reduce the need for government-intervention, which again reduces the need for taxes, which mostly benefit those people paying most taxes.

That is, by donating to charities, I reward those people who earn well and (imho) "should" contribute more to society (by donating themselves) but don't.

So that situation is unstable: The higher the fraction of needed-support is paid for trough charitable giving, the larger is the reward for not giving.

Comment author: SilasBarta 14 November 2011 03:20:24PM 1 point [-]

Glad to hear your take on the issue and know that I'm not alone in having to explain this. Coincidentally, I just recently put up a blog post discussing the unilateral disarmament issue in the context of taxes, making similar points to you (though not endorsing higher tax rates).

Comment author: phob 20 December 2013 09:37:24PM 0 points [-]

This is a really good point. On the other hand, it is a more convincing argument for stronger interventionist policy than it is against charity.

Comment author: Alexei 11 July 2011 11:48:30PM 2 points [-]

Oh, I see! I missed the key factor that by playing strategy NOT X (not polluting) you make strategy X (polluting) more favorable for others. And, of course, that doesn't apply to voting. This helps draw the line for what kind of problems you can use this reasoning. Thanks for clarifying!

Comment author: asr 21 January 2012 03:47:24AM 2 points [-]

It does apply to voting. The fewer the number of voters, the more valuable an individual vote is....

Comment author: Randaly 21 January 2012 04:55:08AM *  0 points [-]

Using timeless decision theory, you can justify voting (even without causing a bunch of people to go along with you) on the grounds that, if you would make this decision, the like-minded would reason the same way.

Given that probably only ~2,000 people know of TDT at all, only ~500 would think of it in this context, these people aren't geographically concentrated, these people aren't overwhelming concentrated in any one political party, at least some of the people considering TDT don't believe that it is a strong argument in favor of voting (example: me), and the harms from voting scale up linearly with the number of people voting, it's exceedingly unlikely that TDT serves a significant justification for voting. (As a bit of context: in 2000, Bush won Florida by over 500 votes.)