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sp1ky comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: sp1ky 18 April 2012 04:46:20AM -2 points [-]

A good article, if your goal is to save as many lives as possible from perishing. But I'm going to say, for most people, this is not their goal. Yes, if you ask someone directly "would you save a painting, or save 1000 lives", they would almost all say "lives of course". But in reality, people don't have an emotional attachment to 1000 people they have no idea about.

In my case, I really don't care if 1000 lives are lost if I don't do something. I know that makes me sound like a bad person. But what are people really? We're a self-replicating gene machines. There's 6 billion of us in the world. There is inherently very little value in saving 1000 lives out of 6 billion. It's like saying "if you give us money we can prevent a loon from destroying 1000 iPads just because he feels like it". Now, if in this world there were only 5000 iPads left, then I might consider preserving those doomed 1000 iPads.

I think you should apply this argument towards something else, and it really needs it: animal conservation efforts. The amount of disproportionate money and focus spent on certain animals over others is highly unfair. It happens because people give money according to their emotional attachment. Hence, whales over basking sharks, or seal pups over frogs, for example. Biodiversity is an asset with unlimited potential, but before we can gene sequence it all, we're losing this diversity in front of our lives. It's like, nature has served to us on a plate amazing designs patterns and strategies, but we don't care.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 April 2012 08:33:30PM 0 points [-]

So, clearly, the best way to optimize your utility function is to start a gene bank for freezing tissue samples from every species. You can clone them back if they turn out to be useful. It's a lot cheaper than conservationism, I assure you.