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maxikov comments on Link: Rob Bensinger on Less Wrong and vegetarianism - Less Wrong

11 Post author: Sysice 13 November 2014 05:09PM

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Comment author: maxikov 14 November 2014 12:29:07AM 5 points [-]

This article heavily implies that every LessWronger is a preference utilitarian, and values the wellbeing, happiness, and non-suffering of ever sentient (i.e. non-p-zombie) being. Neither of that is fully true for me, and as this ad-hoc survey - https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10152860272949228 - seems to suggest, I may not be alone in that. Namely, I'm actually pretty much OK with animal suffering. I generally don't empathize all that much, but there a lot of even completely selfish reasons to be nice to humans, whereas it's not really the case for animals. As for non-human intelligent beings - I'll figure that once I meet them, or the probability of such encounter gets somewhat realistic; currently there's too much ambiguity about them.

Comment author: RobbBB 02 December 2014 07:17:46AM 1 point [-]

I was mainly talking about LessWrongers who care about others (for not-purely-selfish reasons). This is a much milder demand than preference utilitarianism. I'm surprised to hear you don't care about others' well-being -- not even on a system 2 level, setting aside whether you feel swept up in a passionate urge to prevent suffering.

Let me see if I can better understand your position by asking a few questions. Assuming no selfish benefits accrued to you, would you sacrifice a small amount of your own happiness to prevent the torture of an atom-by-atom replica of you?

Comment author: maxikov 02 December 2014 09:15:17PM 0 points [-]

We may be using different definitions of "care". Mine is exactly how much I'm motivated to change something after I became aware that it exists. I don't find myself extremely motivated to eliminate the suffering of humans, and much less for animals. Therefore, I conclude that my priorities are probably different. Also, at least to some extent I'm either hardwired or conditioned to empathize and help humans in my immediate proximity (although definitely to a smaller extent than people who claim to have sleepless nights after observing the footage of suffering), but it doesn't generalize well to the rest of humans and other animals.

As for saving the replica, I probably will, since it definitely belongs to the circle of entities I'm likely to empathize with. However, the exact details really depend on whether I classify my replica as myself or as my copy, which I don't have a good answer to. Fortunately, I'm not likely to encounter this dilemma in foreseeable future, and probably by the time it's likely to occur, I'll have more information to answer this question better. Furthermore, especially in this situation, and in much more realistic situations of being nice to people around me, there are almost always selfish benefits, especially in the long run. However, in the situations where every person around me is basically a bully, who perceives niceness as weakness and the invitation to bully more, I frankly don't feel all that much compassion.

Comment author: RobbBB 03 December 2014 02:41:09AM *  0 points [-]

Yes, I'm using 'care about X' to mean some combination of 'actually motivated to promote X's welfare' and 'actually motivated to self-modify, if possible, to promote X's welfare'. If I could, I'd take a pill that makes me care enough about non-humans to avoid eating them; so in that sense I care about non-humans, even if my revealed preferences don't match my meta-preferences.

Meta-preferences are important because I frequently have conflicting preferences, or preferences I need to cultivate over time if they're to move me, or preferences that serve me well in the short term but poorly in the long term. If I just do whatever I 'care about' in the moment at the object level, unreflectively, without exerting effort to shape my values deliberately, I end up miserable and filled with regret.

In contrast, I meta-want my deepest wants to be fairly simple, consistent, and justifiable to other humans. Even if I'm not feeling especially sympathy-laden on a particular day, normative elegance and consistency suggests I should care about the suffering of an exact replica of myself just as much as I care about the suffering inside my own skull. This idea generalizes to endorse prudence for agents that are less similar to me but causally result from me (my future selves) and to endorse concern for agents that will never be me but can have states that resemble mine, including my suffering. I have more epistemic warrant for thinking humans instantiate such states than for thinking non-humans do, but I'm pretty sure that a more informed, in-control-of-his-values version of myself would not consider it similarly essential that moral patients have ten fingers, 23 chromosome pairs, etc. (Certainly I don't endorse decision procedures that would disregard my welfare if I had a different chromosome or finger count, whereas I do endorse procedures that disregard me should I become permanently incapable of experiencing anything.)

If I wish I were a nicer and more empathic person, I should just act like a nicer and more empathic person, to the extent I'm able.

Comment author: maxikov 03 December 2014 04:57:18AM 0 points [-]

I would distinguish several levels of meta-preferences.

On level 1, an agent has a set of object-level preferences, and wants to achieve the maximum cumulative satisfaction of them over the lifetime. To do that, the agent may want sometimes to override the incentive to maximize the satisfaction at each step if it is harmful in the long run. Basically, it's just switching from a greedy gradient descent to something smarter, and barely requires any manipulations with object-level preferences.

On level 2, the agent may want to change their set of object-level preferences in order to achieve higher satisfaction, given the realistic limits of what's possible. A stupid example: someone who wants one billion dollars but cannot have it may want to start wanting ten dollars instead, and be much happier. More realistic example: a person who became disables may want to readjust their preference and accommodate new limitations. Applying this strategy to its logical end has some failure modes (e.g. the one described in Three Worlds Collide, or, more trivially, opiates), but it still sort of make sense for a utility-driven agent.

On level 3, the agent may want to add or remove some preferences, regardless of the effect of that on the total level of satisfaction, just for their own sake.

Wanting to care more about animals seems to be level-3 meta-preference. In a world where this preference is horribly dissatisfied, where animals are killed at the rate of about one kiloholocaust per year, that clearly doesn't optimize for satisfaction. Consistency of values and motivations - yes, but only if you happen to have consistency as a terminal value in the utility function. That doesn't necessarily have to be the case: in most scenarios, consistency is good because it's useful, because it allows us to solve problems. The lack of compassion to animals doesn't seem to be a problem, unless the inconsistency itself is a problem.

Thus, it seems impossible to make such change without accepting that carrying about animals is good or that having consistent values is good in a morally realist way. Now, I'm not claiming that I'm a complete moral relativist. I'm not even sure that it's possible - so far, all the arguments for moral relativism I've seen are actually realist themselves. However, arguing for switching between different realist-ish moral frameworks seems to be a much harder task.