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siodine comments on [Link] Reddit, help me find some peace I'm dying young - Less Wrong

24 [deleted] 18 August 2012 03:17PM

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Comment author: siodine 19 August 2012 07:28:54PM *  -1 points [-]

Shouldn't this community be tabooing this behavior (going for fuzzies rather than optimal philanthropy) even though it might be a reasonable personal decision? I think by upvoting Konkvistador's comment and post, this community is enforcing obviously suboptimal norms and making this behavior acceptable and even appreciated (16 karma to gwern's 0?). By tabooing this behavior, this community could enforce the opposite reaction (i.e., fuzzies for optimal philanthropy while humiliation and shame just purchasing fuzzies [actually suboptimal charity]).

Comment author: [deleted] 19 August 2012 07:55:32PM *  6 points [-]

I guess. But then to be consistent we should probably also make a norm against buying medicine for relatives too. This is only a half joking proposal since there are excellent arguments in favour of not spending more on last ditch attempt treatments. Also the general Hansonian argument on the uselessness of medical spending our society indulges in.

Oh and since we are on this topic we should shame everyone who uses cryonics because that clearly isn't optimal charity. And we don't want people to be selfish.

A strange thought has struck me, if it is de facto ok for me to be selfish for myself, why isn't it ok for me to be selfish on someone's else's behalf? I'm pretty sure I'm selfish enough on say my daughters behalf that its worth at least a few lives when we do the number crunching.

I just care more about some people than others. I'm generally ok with this. I don't recall a rule carved into the fabric of reality demanding I care about all humans equally. And if there is one... pshaw... no thanks I'm going to follow something that's more fun and in tune with my values. I wouldn't take objective morality that wanted me to stone adulterers seriously either, why should I treat this hypothetical one thus?

Neither do I aspire to eventually take such a rule seriously. In fact I would find a society where I couldn't treat some people preferentially a horrible one to live in as I have pointed out in a different context. This has been my ethical stance for quite some time.

Comment author: siodine 19 August 2012 08:17:57PM *  0 points [-]

So, that was a long winded way of saying, "okay, if this community taboos buying fuzzies rather than optimal philantropy [note: there's a lot to unpack in that], then what's to stop this community from sliding down the undesirable slope towards ultimately tabooing any nonessential personal spending?"

The answer is simple. While completely avoiding nonessential personal spending is suboptimal in the most obvious sense it's, as you alluded to, unmaintainable. I.e., a society like that is likely to die from emigration and stagnation.

Here's an example of tabooing and how it works in realistic terms: Large SUVs, especially in certain areas, have become taboo for their environmental impact. Now, you could say, "if we're going to taboo large SUVs for their negative environmental impact, why then don't we all ride bicycles, because that's obviously where this is leading, isn't it?" But, no; that isn't where it leads at all. The taboo is an communal awareness of an obviously bad thing.

On lesswrong, and in this context, we could start with tabooing pet charities, and quickly move towards your example, but I'm doubtful that we would find that we'd want to take that to dystopic levels. And this reminds me of a common criticism of consequentialism in yvain's faq:

7.1: Wouldn't consequentialism lead to [obviously horrible outcome]?

Probably not. After all, consequentialism says to make the world a better place. So if an outcome is obviously horrible, consequentialists wouldn't want it, would they?

(also, personal objections are irrelevant in the context of a community taboo; "but I drive a hummer because I want a warmer climate!")

Comment author: [deleted] 19 August 2012 08:46:12PM *  1 point [-]

"okay, if this community taboos buying fuzzies rather than optimal philantropy [note: there's a lot to unpack in that], then what's to stop this community from sliding down the undesirable slope towards ultimately tabooing any nonessential personal spending?"

Just for reference it should be pointed out that people have already attacked people spending money on medicine or buying cryonics based on this reasoning on LW.

Comment author: siodine 19 August 2012 09:08:33PM *  -2 points [-]

To be clear, you mean people have attacked others for investing in cryonics for themselves rather than, e.g., a GiveWell charity. All I have to say regarding that is that it's been, as you say, attacked rather than tabooed, and that I think it should be attacked (or without the negative connotation of attack, 'questioned').

The issue of cryonics being a worthwhile expenditure is currently somewhat unclear, and I don't see it being tabooed soon. Knowingly buying fuzzies (in the context of charity) over more optimal charity is clear.

To put in within my previous analogy, cryonics is on the slope towards driving a prius rather than a bike, and you're more towards driving a hummer than a prius.