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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

130 Post author: Yvain 24 December 2010 09:26PM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 December 2010 07:08:44PM 16 points [-]

Giving blood is important to me. It is so important that I have chosen not to pursue relationships with other men in order than I can continue to give blood without lying to do so.

On the margins, I expect that each marginal pint of blood saves only a very small fraction of a life. As several readers pointed out, this doesn't mean that we should ordinarily be calculating on the margins, since it's not like you can use a pint of blood for something else instead; in terms of moral credit, you should think of yourself as part of a reference class of people who all choose to donate blood for around the same reasons, and who all get an equal share of the lives saved.

However, the Red Cross has already decided that they're willing to X out the entire homosexual community, and I would expect the reference class of those who refrain from sexual activity in order to continue donating blood to be small, and I would guess that if this entire reference class refrained from donating blood, not a single additional life might be lost.

Modern-day hospitals are not, so far as I know, blood-limited. They need a routine flow of blood in order to routinely save lives. They do not need more blood to save more lives. That's the impression I got, anyway; some quick Googling even said that they usually have enough blood to just use O-negative instead of matching types.

I hate to say this, but I think you're making the wrong sacrifices here. I estimate a very high information value for further investigation on your part; I would expect it to show that you were safe to stop donating blood and resume sexual activity without costing anyone one-twentieth of a life. If you're really feeling guilty or worried, resume sexual activity and send a donation to the Singularity Institute as a carbon offset. If you can speed up a positive Singularity by one minute that works out to around 100 lives, never mind increasing the probability.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 25 December 2010 11:45:12PM 6 points [-]

I think I was accidentally misleading by failing to add that I'm bisexual. Not giving blood reduces my pool of potential romantic partners by roughly 10%, and doesn't prevent me from having fulfilling relationships. I don't think I would abstain from sex in order to give blood even if I knew I could save a life with each donation. Even if that's an incredibly selfish decision, I'm just not that good a person.

Regardless, the support of everyone who replied is very much appreciated.

Comment author: katydee 26 December 2010 12:42:25AM *  0 points [-]

...technically, doesn't speeding up a negative singularity also save lives-- the lives of those who would otherwise have been born and then killed but were instead never born and therefore couldn't be killed? In fact, I think speeding up a negative singularity actually "saves" more lives than speeding up a positive one using this calculation-- a quick Google search indicates ~250 people are born every minute and ~100 people die every minute.

Comment author: Vaniver 26 December 2010 12:50:20AM 6 points [-]

Replace "save lives" with "extend lifespans." All the math will suddenly start working out better.

Comment author: soreff 26 December 2010 05:19:32AM 2 points [-]

Agreed, I retrospect I should have phrased the original question in terms of QALYs or some similar metric.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 December 2010 11:58:07PM 3 points [-]

In a fairly meaningful sense, no life has ever been saved before. Nobody has actually been prevented from dying yet. A positive singularity could change that.