Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

In response to Circular Altruism
Comment author: Roland2 22 January 2008 08:34:52PM 9 points [-]

Torture vs dust specks, let me see:

What would you choose for the next 50 days: 1. Removing one mililiter of the daily water intake of 100,000 people. 2. Removing 10 liters of the daily water intake of 1 person.

The consequence of choice 2 would be the death of one person.

Yudkowsky would choose 2, I would choose 1.

This is a question of threshold. Below certain thresholds things don't have much effect. So you cannot simply add up.

Another example: 1. Put 1 coin on the head of each of 1,000,000 people. 2. Put 100,000 coins on the head of one guy.

What do you choose? Can we add up the discomfort caused by the one coin on each of 1,000,000 people?

In response to comment by Roland2 on Circular Altruism
Comment author: AgentME 09 August 2011 09:09:09PM 3 points [-]

Agree - I was kind of thinking it as friction. Say you have 1000 boxes in a warehouse, all precisely where they need to be. Being close to their current positions is better than not. Is it better to A) apply 100 N of force over 1 second to 1 box, or B) 1 N of force over 1 second to all 1000 boxes? Well if they're frictionless and all on a level surface, do option A because it's easier to fix, but that's not how the world is. Say that 1 N against the boxes isn't even enough to defeat the static friction: that means in option B, none of the boxes will even move.

Back to the choice between A) having a googolplex of people have a speck of dust in their eye vs B) one person being tortured for 50 years: in option A, you have a googolplex of people who lead productive lives who don't even remember that anything out of the ordinary happened to them suddenly (assuming one single dust speck doesn't even pass the memorable threshold), and in option B, you have a googolplex - 1 of people leading productive lives who don't remember anything out of the ordinary happening, and one person being tortured and never accomplishing anything.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 15 July 2009 12:40:01PM 12 points [-]

Since there are people who do have tails that we can perceive just fine, it's almost certain that people who don't have tails really don't.

Comment author: AgentME 03 August 2009 08:45:38PM 12 points [-]

Unless people perceive others as having one less tail than they see.