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George_McCandless comments on Circular Altruism - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 January 2008 06:00PM

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Comment author: George_McCandless 22 January 2008 07:28:34PM 0 points [-]

I'm sorry, but I find this line of argument not very useful. If I remember correctly (which I may not be doing), a googolplex is larger than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. Nobody has any idea of what it implies except "really, really big", so when your concepts get up there, people have to do the math, since the numbers mean nothing. Most of us would agree that having a really really lot of people bothered just a bit is better than having one person suffer for a long life. That has little to do with math and a lot to do with our preception of suffering and a feeling that each of us has only one life. Worrying about discontinuities in this kind of discussion seems almost puerile.

A more interesting discontinuity that we run into quite frequently is our willingness to make great efforts and sacrifices to save the lives of children and then decide that at the age of 18, young men cease to be children and we send them off to war. What happens in our brains when young men turn 18? Sure these 18 year olds are all testosterone fired up and looking for a fight, but the discontinuity of the moral logic is strange. Have you talked about this at all?

(By the way, one of the saddest museums in the world is in Salta, Argentina, where they display mummies of children who were made drunk and buried alive to placate a now long forgotten god, but that is getting off the point.)

Comment author: Strange7 02 July 2011 03:34:36PM 2 points [-]

What happens in our brains when young men turn 18?

They've probably already had sex once by then, and thus a fair chance to pass on their genes. Notice that we're not as eager to send 18-year-old women off to war.

Comment author: Dojan 27 October 2011 03:22:56PM *  9 points [-]

Nobody has any idea of what it implies except "really, really big", so when your concepts get up there, people have to do the math, since the numbers mean nothing.

This applies just as much to numbers such as million and billion, which people mixes up regularly; the problem though is that people dont do the math, despite not understanding the magnitudes if the numbers, and those numbers of people are actually around.

Personaly, if I first try to visualize a crowd of a hundred people, and then a crowd of a thousand, the second crowd seems about three times as large. If I start with a thousand, and then try a hundred, this time around the hundred people crowd seems a lot bigger than it did last time. And the bigger numbers I try with, the worse it gets, and there is a long way to go to get to 7'000'000'000(# of people of earth). All sorts of biases seems to be at work here, anchoring among them. Result: Shut up and multiply!

[Edit: Spelling]

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 27 November 2011 05:18:04PM 1 point [-]

This is an excellent point, but your spelling errors are distracting. You said "av" seven times when you meant "a", and "ancoring" in the last line should be "anchoring".

Comment author: Dojan 28 November 2011 06:07:13AM 0 points [-]

Wow, I must have been half asleep when writing that...

Comment author: Dojan 02 December 2011 05:08:12PM *  6 points [-]

This is further evidenced by the fact that most people dont know about the long and short scales, and never noticed.