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TheOtherDave comments on Firewalling the Optimal from the Rational - Less Wrong

86 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 October 2012 08:01AM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 09 October 2012 11:24:35PM 0 points [-]

If giving someone justice makes their experience of life worse and makes their community's experience of life worse, ought I endorse giving them justice? If so, why?

Comment author: [deleted] 10 October 2012 01:47:00AM *  0 points [-]

That's not going to be easy to answer in the abstract. If you'll forgive me answering a question with another, do you think you would argue that we should deny or grant freedom and justice entirely on the basis of an assessment of befits? Is the consent of the person granted or denied these things a nonissue, or does that get rolled into the assessment of benefits? Does anyone have a right to their freedom even if it does harm?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 October 2012 02:24:24AM *  1 point [-]

Well, switching from questions about endorsed targets to questions about decision procedures is tricky, because issues of reasoning under uncertainty come into play. In practice, we don't usually know enough about benefits to make those kinds of decisions, so we make them on the basis of other considerations, such as rights, and in general I endorse that.

But if we can agree to ignore uncertainty and pretend that we actually know enough to assess benefits, then yes, pretty much. If I am somehow certain that an act will leave you and everyone else worse off, I ought not perform that act; that doesn't somehow become false when issues of consent or of rights are involved.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 October 2012 04:08:39PM 1 point [-]

If only you had ruled Thebes, we would have one more stubborn girl and one less interesting play.

You may be right, but political doctrines consist in indefinite descriptions of classes of people, individual cases being the province of judges. So I think our two views are simply compatible: it is possible without contradiction to have as a matter of legal principle that everyone be accorded justice and freedom, while in individual cases, this law is made to fit practical concerns where necessary.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 October 2012 04:37:14PM 1 point [-]

Sure; if we're only talking about legal considerations, I mostly agree with you. And I'm not sure I'd have done any better than Creon.

Comment author: ciphergoth 10 October 2012 06:29:31PM 0 points [-]

I think there is terminal utility in you getting to do what you want, even if no-one benefits. However obviously other things can outweigh that.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 October 2012 06:38:43PM 0 points [-]

I'll note that "no-one benefits" is different than "it leaves me and everyone else worse off."

So, what kinds of things can outweigh that terminal utility, and on what basis do they do so?

Comment author: ciphergoth 10 October 2012 08:15:59PM 1 point [-]

Oh all sorts of things - I'm not a strong defender of freedom. I'll happily, say, prevent a drunk friend from doing something very dangerous. I don't mean that that's where all or even most terminal utility comes from - I just mean that it isn't literally zero, that there are at least some costs it's enough to outweigh. Assuming as you do that I somehow have certain knowledge, and supposing someone about to die wants to watch a terrible movie that won't make them happy, and I have the option of silently removing it from the list of options so that they end up with a better choice, there is still some value in them getting what they wanted.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 10 October 2012 08:47:46PM 1 point [-]

Fair enough.
For my own part, while there are all sorts of things that might lead me to endorse the watching of a movie that would make someone unhappy -- that is, there are values other than happiness -- and some of those values might be best achieved in practice by letting individuals choose, them getting what they wanted isn't in and of itself one of them.