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Two Discussions About Spreading Vegetarianism as a Cost Effective Meme to Make The World a Better Place

Pablo Stafforini: It is really, really hard to produce a convincing argument against same-sex marriage–almost as hard as coming up with a credible defense of meat consumption.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Pablo, as a long time follower of thy’s anarcotranshumanism I would expect you to accept eating meat on the basis of increasing the total ammount of conscious animals in the universe. If it were not for our meat consumption, there would be far fewer cow brains hanging around…..

Pablo Stafforini::Diego, there are three problems with this argument. First, it assumes that non-human animals raised for food have on average lives with a preponderance of happiness over suffering. This assumption is highly questionable in light of the ap…palling conditions present in modern factory farms. Secondly, it ignores that other sentient beings would likely exist if the land and resources currently allocated to factory farms was given a different use as a result of diminishing demand for animal products. Finally, it neglects the effects of vegetarianism in raising public awareness of the significance of non-human animal suffering. Because most people are not utilitarians and subscribe instead to a common-sense morality that regards edibles as things devoid of moral status, the interests of non-human animals currently raised for food are not going to be taken seriously until humans stop eating such animals altogether.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Though smart, I think those are insufficient reasons for anti-consumptionists. First, most

http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=125


countries that produce meat do not have particularly bad coditions for cattle’s life, at least no…t in Brazil, the main exporter. I would be shocked if Nozickian cows in Brazil would rather die… On the second, if there was no cattle, only a few tropical territories would comport other sentient beings, most grass farms would just be dedicated to agriculture. On the third, I think non-vegetarians build up a strong tribal hatred against vegetarians when they are confronted with the fanatical ones. People would be more friendly to primates if they didn’t connect that with having to abstain from their favorite chicken wing. Sure your arguments shifted my probability density distribution for “Against X For (meat-consumption)” but I do not think their strenght has tipped the balance.

Jonatas Müller Your second problem goes the opposite way for me: wild animals should in general have lives which, if not bad in average (they probably are), have some extremely bad parts, so I’d see their existence as a negative (and their destruction a g…ood/neutral side of cattle farming). Beef seems to be one of the least objectionable types (along with fish), while chickens and pigs have it much worse (both live in bad conditions, pigs may have more sentience and chickens more suffering per kg of meat). Raising public awareness to animal well-being seems to be the most important effect in avoiding meat.

Pablo Stafforini: The state of cattle is not representative of that of animals generally, since cows suffer less on average than do members of all the other major species raised for food:

http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-per-kg.html

On the second ob…jection, I refer you to the detailed investigation of Gaverick Matheny and Kai Chan:

http://research.ires.ubc.ca/kaichan/articles/Matheny_and_Chan_2005_JAEE.pdf

I’m not persuaded by your reasoning regarding the final objection. Do you really think it’s possible for the man on the street –as distinct from the sophisticated utilitarian– to take the interests of all animals seriously while he continues to eat some of them?

Jonatas, I fully agree with your final point: I am myself a vegetarian primarily because of the effects that public advocacy of this diet has on other human beings (though I didn’t originally stop eating meat for that reason). Concerning t…he second objection, it is unclear to me whether the sort of animals that would exist if factory farms disappeared would on the whole suffer more or less than factory-farmed animals currently do. (See the paper cited above for further discussion.) Of course, things become quite complicated if we treat vegetarianism as part of a package deal including a general commitment to minimising suffering, since such a commitment would also require us to alleviate the pain of animals in the wild.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Nice paper. “However, if chickens were made to have lives of reasonable worth, then as long as they had lives that were perhaps 10% as pleasant or valuable as the lives of wild animals, then chicken meat and egg purchases could increase the… net amount of moral value in the world.”
It tipped the balance against pork. I’m unpersuaded with chicken’s given their tiny brains, and if my position on consciousness were not based on this

http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/content/abstract/215/3/216

maybe I’d be willing to tip it for industrial chicken.
So bye bye pork, and let’s go for wild chicken…

Thor Ribeiro: I can even see the cow wondering in proper Elisabethan english, “Would it have been better, had I not lived at all?”

Leah McKelvie: Assuming that the Jonatas and Pablo are talking about lacto ovo vegetarianism and not a vegan diet, I disagree. The interests of nonhuman animals who are raised for food are not going to be taken seriously by people who merely give up eating their… flesh. In fact, that’s an indication that they don’t take their interests seriously at all.

Promoting something that reinforces speciesism is not only a bad idea in the long run, it doesn’t even make sense in the short run. It sends the false message that vegetarianism makes a significant difference in actual animal suffering. It often doesn’t. It can even increase it, if someone goes from eating beef to loading up on eggs and dairy, or goes semi-vegetarian and starts eating chickens or fishes instead of beef.

Jonatas Müller It may also be an intermediary step which may increase the chance for taking further steps. Though what you said applies to the acts of eating or not some meat, there are also the close acts of talking to people about it, making publicity, …eventually convincing legislators to make animal conditions better (with support from other “semi-vegetarians” or whatever they are called), discouraging use of animal furs, inventing in vitro meat or other meat alternatives, etc. These are all hard to quantify individually, but I think that together the people who take these actions can have a considerable result.

This may be even more powerful than being completely vegan, because if a vegan person has a non-vegan child, then all the efforts are in vain in a global sense.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Let me disagree with Jonatian hypothesis here. As natural selection taught us, it is NOT always the case that the intermediate incremental steps towards a value-peak are better than their immediate neighbours. This is true meme-wise as wel…l. Just like the best order of ammount of appendix to have is (best) none (Intermediate) small (worst) very small, the best order of how much animal originated stuff could be (best) 0 (medium) current standards minus pork and industrial chicken and (worst) vegetarian that eats dairy and eggs.

We all carry an appendix because evolution sucks as a designer, maybe utilitarians ought to consider the possibility that we should all maitain a meat-eating life even though there are better lives in an ideal world.

In any case, both issues will be corrected by transhumanist technologies, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, in the unlikely event that we survive the 21st century.

There is WAY more value at stake in terms of catastrophic risks f…rom human technology and natural causes than there is for vegetarianism. We just feel like discussing vegetarianism because feeding habits occupy large space of our savannah brains (take Kosher and muslim anti-pork as tribe determining examples)
I’ve delved into the discussion because it was intelligent and with someone I admired for long (Stafforini), that is, for fun.
But a real utilitarian should know better than trying to argue people out of their feeding habits and work avoiding actual cataclysm that could destroy 80% of earth’s biodiversity

 

Two Years Later, another Discussion Unfolds…

G Diego Vichutilitarian How about we are a social species, therefore we’d better share eating rituals. Evil meme-clusters have always thrived through making their members unable to eat things that other groups eat. I would not like Effective Altruism community to do the same. What do you guys think about private vegetarianism?

Here’s a simple choice: eat some meat (at the very least, thereby consume about 10 times its weight in plant matter – that which it took to produce it [and don’t forget the water consumption that went into its production], require a sentien

t being to experience suffering for almost its entire life [factory farmed meat], and pollute the earth with excrement the animal produced while it was alive) or eat some non-animal-based food.

You make this choice EVERY TIME you eat.

Lukas Gloor 

  • That strikes me as a very weak argument, Diego, as the reasons for veganis(his)m aren’t arbitrary dogma but instead about the very thing Effective Altruism is about.

    Jenna Gatto 

How much plant matter does a person need to eat over its life time to get all of the nutrients it needs, especially when you cut meat out of the diet? And if you think about it that way, if for every ounce of meat you eat does that mean you

 need to eat 10 times that amount of plant matter to get the same nutrients, and what type of resources went into that before it got to your kitchen table?
Not all animals we eat have suffered, and I know I’m “lucky” that a large majority of my diet comes from animals either I, my father, or my family hunts and fishes for me to eat, but is that still not a question of economic stability to be able to afford those products in the grocery store that are not factory farmed.
Human and pet excrement can not be composted for organic farming due to the amount of chemicals that we eat on a regular basis. If it is not composted it goes into a sewer somewhere. And while in NJ we are lucky enough to have systems that have been updated since the 1970s, I now live in a place where combined sewer outflows still predominately exist and therefore flow into local waterbodies. So if people cannot eat organically, which is still something that has a lot to do with education and social standpoint, we too are polluting the earth regardless of whether or not we eat meat.
Essentially you need to give up anything that has gone through a factory, and eat only things you can grow and hunt yourself to be able to live in a way that can live up to the statement you have made. And while I too wish this was possible for everyone, this is a much bigger step then the choices people can make at a grocery store, especially if they are not financially able.

Adriano Mannino ‎”Private vegetarianism”? WTF. From a utilitarian point of view, it’s very clear that we must promote *public veganis(his)m*. If you can convince just two people to go vegan, this already has *twice* the impact of your own private veganism. So influencing others (in order to establish/via establishing social norms) is much more important than your private consumption.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

  • Okay, I’ll try one last controversial idea, then I’m done: People have very strong opinions (not at all rational) about eating, and sharing food. Those, it seems to me, are inscribed in one’s head at some point in life, just like swear words. We allocate prejudices in an emotional part of us. This is why swearing in other languages doesn’t feel weird.

My guess is that being vegan is sufficiently disconforting for you and people around you that 1)You lose more influence in other Effective Altruist goals than you gain by eventually causing vegetarians 2) This one I claim strongly (90% conf

idence): You spend a lot of cognitive energy on finding food, and specially on discussing food. If this energy was spent on charity evaluation, donatable work, or technology research, it would benefit all sentient beings much more.

3) This is also true if it was used just to donate/develop in vitro meat, which fosters the same goals. I think it doesn’t feel the same because eating rituals, like swearing and politics, have highjacked part of our moral brain (safer for

 memes to be there). *META: this discussion is going to my old blog, if you’d like me to take off your name, please tell me now* 4) The timing doesn’t seem right to help farm animals yet. Too many humans suffering from Malaria, Schistosomosis, Tuberculosis, Ageing.

5) This one I claim mildly (50%): It seems to me that people who end up promoting eating rituals got stuck in the same way some atheists stop their intelectual life once they can forever battle against those who are not yet atheists. Sure 

you can spend a life vociferating against God, and sure, there is no God, but as Luke Muehlhauser said: “Atheism is just the beggining”. Becoming a vegan is awesome, it means you understand sooo much… but it seems to me to be just the

Adriano Mannino 

Diego, what’s your point? Opinions can be strong *and* absolutely rational and justified.
Do you have an argument against anti-speciesism? The issue has been debated for 40 years now and not a single halfway rational arg

ument in favor of speciesism has been produced.
Do you have an argument against consequentialism?
If not, then it’s obvious that “private vegetarianism” is utter nonsense.

Ah, now you’ve added a second and third comment. I’m afraid you are wrong. We are utilitarian anti-speciesists/vegans and not stupid. It’s totally false that we spend a lot of energy finding and discussing food. We don’t.

We do, of course, support in-vitro meat. But we believe that anti-speciesist meme-spreading has the greater marginal effect. And for psychosocial reasons, it’s very important to combine it with the spread of veg commitments. (Your “eating ritual” talk is totally misleading.) So long as people have no problem with continuing to eat food that causes unnecessary suffering to non-human animals, we have not succeeded in spreading anti-speciesism.

Read this: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/veg-ads.html and this http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html, for instance.

And this:
http://masalladelaespecie.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/questions_priority_interspecies.pdf

<<8. CONCLUSIONS
We have seen that there is a wide difference between the number of humans and the
number of those nonhumans who are harmed due to their use by humans. Of course some of
the figures and estimations that have been considered here are obviously approximate, but
they are based on real data and seem to be reasonable ones. Figures concerning well-being are
more speculative: obviously so, since we lack any data which could actually make
experiences accessible. However, they are plausible enough to allow us to consider the
question in a fairly realistic way. Given this, it seems we can draw some conclusions from the
line of reasoning presented above.
By now, the main one is likely to be expected. No human activity directly affects
negatively a so high number of individuals as humans’ consumption of nonhumans does. And
we all can make a change here. Hence, in as much as we accept any of the different normative
criteria mentioned above (maximization, additive equality, maximin, sufficiency concerning
outcomes, as well as responsibility and equality of means or lack of oppression) we will have
to give up the consumption nonhuman animals.
In fact, the reason why this practice harms
so many animals is simply that each of us as individuals contributes to it. And, as it has been
argued above, the gains we obtain out of that practice do not compensate the harm nonhumans
suffer. There is a huge asymmetry between the enjoyment humans get from being able to
experience some tastes and the harm that nonhuman animals suffer due to it at an individual
level. This can be assessed in a very simple way. Consider the life of a trout in some fish
factory. Suppose someone eats that trout in one meal. Two things must be weighted against
each other here: (a) The cost of the difference between the enjoyment that the one who eats
this trout gets from that meal and the enjoyment he could get from eating a meal without
animal products. (b) The suffering and the deprivation of enjoyment which death implies that
has been inflicted on that fish. Suppose, for instance, that the meal lasts twenty minutes (that
is, 1200 seconds) and that the animal has spent close to twenty months in the fish-farm (let us
say 600 days). Suppose, also, that this trout which could have lived for some six or seven
years. According to an intrinsic potential account, this means that this animal suffers a
deprivation of five years of life. This means that the difference between a minute of the
eater’s enjoyment of that meal and a minute of his possible enjoyment had he chosen a nonanimal meal is equal to almost one month of suffering for the fish, plus a deprivation of three
months of life (assuming the intrinsic potential account). Or, that such a difference during a
couple of seconds of tasting is equivalent to a day of suffering plus the deprivation of more
than three days of life for the fish. Of course, if we assume an account of the harm of death in
relation to the maximum level of happiness the results are still more asymmetric. Similar
equations can be considered for other animals and other meals.
But there is an even more significant consequence that is suggested by what we have
seen thus far, which may affect us not just as potential consumers of nonhuman animals but
also as agents with the ability to transform our surrounding reality. We may think that we not
only have negative duties not to engage in unjust practices. We may also accept that we
should do something to stop them. If so, we should note that the conclusions presented above
entail that spreading an animal-free lifestyle is a far more efficient way of improving the
world than working to improve the situation in which humans are. This conclusion seems at
first paradoxical. But it is far from being some odd consequence which we can infer from
some peculiar theory. Quite the opposite, it follows from a wide range of positions that are
commonly held. In fact, it seems to follow quite naturally once we set aside our speciesist assumptions. This also suggests that challenging speciesism might be the most useful task we
can assume if we want to make the world a better place.>>

Adriano Mannino 

Speciesism is false. If we accept that, and given the enormous amount of domesticated and especially also wild animal suffering there is in the world, it follows quite trivially that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the..

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) ($6000)/(917+238) = $5.19 to create a new vegetarian. *Terrible calculation which does not factor work-hours of the gigantic veg-crowd, and most important, opportunity cost due to disconfort caused (which I admit is not measurable)* 2)

 The paper you indicated has the same issue….. Also , it calculates based on obviously false assumptions, like that the life of a trout is one of suffering. Or that farm cows (which when a child I took care of often) are suffering all the time. They may suffer when dying, when being vaccinated (so do we), when being separated from children-cow (so do we). 3) We agree that factory farming sucks, and I don’t eat pigs on that basis (unless in discorforting situations) 4) Paper also uses “deprivation of years” as indicator of suffering, but clearly an animal does not suffer if it does not exist anymore, for this one, the Logic of the Larder argument works. 5) I’d suggest, as life advice not related to Veg, that one link is maximum one can send per discussion and expect being read, though I made an exception here 6) I am also in favor of being a vegetarian, say, twice a week, something which preserves some animals, does not activate neuro-triggers of morality, and spreads the word, without causing unconfortable discussions in which people feel attacked, and assassins, which sometimes happens with non-vegans in discussions. 7) You argue a good case, and if the facts you pointed out were true (if the paper was mostly true) I would follow to your conclusion. I suggest we agree on opinions of the form “If XYZ is the case, the world should do WFP” we are disagreeing over XYZ being or not the case. 🙂

Adriano Mannino 

Ad 1): The crucial figure, calculated in the above link, is this: We can prevent about 100d of suffering on a factory farm by donating a single dollar (!) to the Humane League or to Vegan Outreach (the actual number may be several times hig

her). Which human-related cause trumps this? Please tell me.
1.1) Most suffering (by *far*, see 
http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html) occurs in nature. That’s why anti-speciesist meme-spreading is likely to be extremely effective in the long run. Animal farming seems doomed anyway (in-vitro meat is just around the corner). But we have to hurry up and put anti-speciesist memes in place in order to ensure that we will abolish wild animal suffering when we have the technology to do so (this is an argument for targeting powerful people too). If we also factor in the urgent need to prevent future (Darwinian) panspermia and terraforming, we’ve got a good candidate for the title of the most important ethical issue.

Ad 2): The paper is not based on these assumptions. It does say that any kind of animal farming is based on/reinforces speciesism (which is true and which provides a strong reason to oppose it). Also, it’s a fact that *the vast majority* of farm animals are factory farmed and have terrible lives.

Ad 4): Whether we accept Logic of the Larder reasoning or not, animal farming should be abolished. Speciesism must go and we can’t credibly argue against it if we support slaughtering non-humans for trivial purposes because people wouldn’t even dream of subjecting humans to this kind of treatment. If we focus on suffering, then the Logic of the Larder does not apply; if, on the other hand, our focus is a happiness/suffering balance, then it does apply but the conclusion that we should abolish factory farming still stands: Opportunity costs. With the resources that go into animal farming we could be creating many more (and happier) sentient beings. And as I said, we absolutely need anti-speciesism in order to save the gazillions of animals that are suffering in nature. But we can’t promote it if we accept practices that people would never accept and would in fact consider most serious crimes (!) if done to mentally equivalent humans (“human farming”).

Ad 6): Why should we shy away from activating morality-triggers? Anti-speciesism is a very basic moral meme and it’s important that more and more people understand and accept it as that – and more and more people do, there’s some data suggesting that the number of vegans has been increasing exponentially. (By the way, if for whatever curious reason you’re not ready to join the cause, *at least* abstain from hurting it by describing what we’re about in terms of “eating rituals” etc.) An ethically similar historical struggle was anti-racism. Would you have suggested not activating morality-triggers there as well? And I hope you realize that it’s simply unavoidable that there will be uncomfortable discussions and that (some) people will feel attacked. I totally agree that we should try to minimize negative emotions, though, and my tone of voice is usually different from the one I’ve chosen here. But you’re a fellow rationalist and I was – quite frankly – shocked by the “private vegetarianism” proposal, which strikes me as extremely irrational and harmful (given utilitarianism, which, I take it, is a shared premise).

Ad 7): As far as I can see, you should follow to the conclusions. Or you should provide better arguments to block them and prove us wrong.

The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering www.utilitarian-essays.com

Adriano Mannino 

Addendum to 1.1): Anti-speciesist meme-spreading is important for in-vitro meat as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of getting society to accept this “unnatural” product (compare the tragic fate of genetically modified food in

 Europe). If people accept that species-membership is no reason for discriminating against sentient beings and to consider their well-being less important, they will be much more willing to switch to in-vitro meat and promote it structurally. It’s extremely important to speed this process up.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) On Wild-Suffering. Sure, wild suffering is awful, and I hope for less of it ASAP. I don’t think the best avenue for getting anti-speciesism is to start by changing to veto-this-food people’s eating habits, because I think that is pretty

 fucking hard. There must be lower hanging fruit out there. 2)If there is one thing I can claim being really immensely good at, it is dodging lone-bystander bias. I am the first transhumanist,immortalist, cryonicist, and perhaps singularitarian in my country (185 000 000 people), and I fought against accusations of crazyness and social stigma from a very early age.You should consider VERY INFORMATIVE *that means, a lot of bits, or the equivalent of a large N study* that despite having done all that, I have not managed to establish dietary restrictions under socially constraining situations (going out with friends, visiting girlfriends family etc…) This is not only non-pork or non-redmeat situations, but also trying to implement a kurzweil slow-carb diet. It is just massively, massively hard to summon the energy of fighting this battle every meal out. And I am, along with the science of positive psychology, and Shawn Achor, of the opinion that we have a single candle of willpower. When we burn it, it burns for all things we may need willpower to, and we are short of that amount. We have to learn to divide the candle wisely, for if it burns up we enter “what the hell mode” and if it doesn’t, there is only limited quantitites of it.

Adriano Mannino 

So that’s Brazil? What about the “gigantic veg-crowd” that you mentioned above? It should make veg life quite easy. I know some Brazilian vegetarians and vegans and they seem to be doing OK. 😉
Actually, there’s been a big debate within the

 animal rights movement about whether there is lower hanging fruit. One might think there is – but I have come to accept the conclusion that there is not. Animal welfare reforms are very costly and don’t do too much in the end (and my country – Switzerland – is the paradigm example). I don’t think we can avoid promoting veg eating (and an expansion of veg agriculture and the veg supply) if we are to promote anti-speciesism. (Incidentally, animal farming is also one of the primary causes of global warming, which might increase global catastrophic risks. And it probably also increases the planetary biomass and thus the amount of wild animal suffering – which might well be the main reason to fight it. Furthermore, animal farming is co-responsible for world-hunger: 1kg of meat = up to 10kg of soy and other plant food that could be eaten directly.) As I said, people who get the anti-speciesist meme *will want* to avoid products based on animal exploitation. Also, you shouldn’t underestimate the positive psychological and social effects of behavioral veg commitments – they greatly assist meme-spreading. Last but not least, veganism has become *very easy* to practise in many countries. In Switzerland it’s basically a matter of which shelf you go to in the store (and you can get veg food in every restaurant). As for social difficulties, I think there are easy ways to minimize them and to even make being veg a fun experience. For one thing, there is a growing consensus among young and rational people (i.e. within most of my social circles) that there’s an ethical imperative to go veg. Many of them can be converted very easily – and if you’re not the only one doing it, it’s fun (and psychologically positive!), you can try out new stuff, offer to cook for non-veg people etc. And I think it’s possible to talk about it in a friendly and non-antagonizing way to non-veg people. So is it really a “battle” that needs to be fought out every meal again? Not in my experience. And if you encounter people who don’t respect your dietary choices (!), why don’t you tell them that they should go fuck themselves? OK, let’s make an exception for the girlfriend’s family. But otherwise there’s really no reason to waste time with stupid people. (That’s bad quite independently of the veg question anyway.) And if you spend time with the right folks (namely young and intelligent people), the veg thing should be no problem and you should find many great and low-cost (in fact, almost free) anti-speciesist influencing opportunities.

I congratulate you on standing up for transhumanism etc. I agree with all those causes (though in part only for instrumental reasons, e.g. I don’t think that death per se is a problem, I think the abolition of suffering should be our focus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism_(bioethics)http://www.hedweb.com/abolitionist-project/reprogramming-predators.html – so I’m with the Pearcean brand of transhumanism/transanimalism, not with Bostrom or the Singularitarians), but I believe that spreading anti-speciesist memes as fast as possible and making sure that technology will be used to abolish (wild) animal suffering too (which might well be the dominant factor in the utilitarian calculation!) is *even more important*.

I agree about willpower and the candle analogy. But as I said, it’s quite difficult for me to believe that it’s “so fucking hard”, socially. Also, I’m not sure whether you have granted the issue enough priority. We might disagree about what the most important thing is, overall, but I don’t think utilitarians can reasonably disagree on the fact that anti-speciesist/veg meme spreading and donating to animal charities is very important and cost-effective indeed. *At the very least*, I believe, one must admit that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the poverty-related causes that www.givingwhatwecan.org promotes. I wonder whether your assessment of how hard it is to be veg would be different if you had granted the issue higher priority? And if it does deserve higher priority, then it also has a greater claim to the willpower-candle.

Abolitionism (bioethics) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abolitionism is the bioethical school and movement that endorses the use of biot…See More

Adriano Mannino 

One last point. You write: “Steering Transhumanists and Singularitarians as close as possible to their dreams…”
Unfortunately, there are many transhumanists who are speciesists or even egoists (they’re especially numerous among immortali

sts and cryonicists, a bit less so among singularitarians, but still to an alarming degree – see the irrational reactions of the Less Wrong crowd when confronted with anti-speciesist arguments or considerations in the philosophy of personal identity that undermine egoism). I’m not saying you are one of them, but the quote could certainly have been made by them: It’s about achieving “our dreams” etc. I am *deeply morally opposed* to those guys. It’s not about “our dreams”. It’s primarily (if not exclusively) about abolishing suffering in an impartial and objective way. So let me be frank: I wonder whether your opposition to prioritizing anti-speciesist/veg meme-spreading had anything to do with an understanding of “what it’s all about” in terms of “our/my dreams” rather than in terms of the best possible impartial minimization of suffering (and, maybe, the maximization of happiness).

David Pearce 

When are we ethically entitled to harm another sentient being? The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009)
http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/
boldly expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. Payi

ng for nonhuman animals to be factory-farmed, exploited and killed so we can eat their flesh is impossible to reconcile with such a commitment.

Of course we’re all prey to weakness of will. But does giving up meat and animal products really call for heroic self-sacrifice? Humans are not obligate carnivores. Our only excuse is not just lame but weak-minded: “But I like the taste!”

Transhumanist Declaration

humanityplus.org

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

I suggest we have a fundamental disagreement over what should be preserved. I think our values should be preserved. Values that can only be states in language, thus only formulatable by a species that commands language. I think that the values that should be preserved are some mix of Yudkwosky’s CEV: “That in which we would agree if we grew smarter and stronger togheter.” and David Lewis’s dispositional theory: “Lewis offers that X is a value to you (roughly) if and only if you would desire to desire X if you were perfectly acquainted with X and you were thinking and deliberating as clearly as possible about X.” I am doing a masters on what that would be. I do not think that negative utilitarianism is the best form of it. Personally,emotionally, I am a positive utilitarian, increasing positive feeling as I go about. I think some form of simple utilitarianism is probably the best pragmatic approach (for it maintains agreement among those fighting for the worlds good, without in-group out-group bias and stupid minor disagreements unworth fighting over). If new persons would arise whose commant of emotions, intelligence, cooperation, friendliness, and love are greater then our own (augmented humans, aliens, computers) I would gladly ascribe them the task of determining which values we would like to preserve. While this does not happen, I’ll do my best to understand things that we value, summarize them, and improve quality of CEV, or reduce the existential risk of permanently curtailing our values. Yudkwosky’s Fun Theory is very bad (probably his life lacked fun), Bostrom noticing that Flamboyant displays are great is very good. Richardson and Boyd noticing Double Inheritance in culture is very good, and Seligman and the Positive Psychology crowd have been assessing a lot of useful info, with PERMA being the summit of values we currently have. I’ll try to build on the shoulders of those giants, and output a serious well build, wide list of which values we should preserve, and why. Wish me luck! Thanks for the discussion. You too David!

 

Altruistic Awesomeness, Your Challenge

So you woke up in this universe, containing not only yourself, but a planet in which you live, a few billion galaxies, religious grandmothers, cookies, weekends and downloadable series which you can watch any time. Eventually you noticed people are way more intentional than cookies, people always want something. Everyone told you, also, that you happen to be a person.

Then you asked the obvious question:  ¿What do I want?

Let us assume you are a very intelligent person (we know you are ¿right?)

Not just that, you have a deep grasp on biological evolution, and what life is.

You understand intelligence better than average, and you know the difference between a soul and an evolutionarily designed gadget whose function is tangential to being an optimization program which optimizes for some rough guidelines brought forth by genes and memes in a silent purposeless universe.

You know human thinking works mainly through analogies, and that the best way to explain how the mind works involves some way of dividing what it does into simpler steps that can be accomplished by less intelligent systems. That is, you realize the explanation of intelligence amounts to explaining it without using “intelligence” as part of your explanation.

You know that only a fool would think emotions are opposite to reason, and that our emotions are engineered by evolution to work in a fluid and peaceful coalition with reason, not only as best friends, but as a symbiotic system.

You have perused through the underlying laws of physics, and not only you found out schröedinger’s equation, but you understood that it implies a counter-intuitive series of things, such as: There are many-worlds splitting all the time into even more worlds, and I am splitting just like everything within this model. In fact, there is a tree of greater and greater amounts of branches, so I can always trace my self back, but there are too many selves forward. You wonder if you are all of them, or just one, and which.

Everett branches of a person, splitting into the future

You basically have intelligence enough (which probably would correlate with some nice IQ measurement, on the 125+ range…. but NEVER worry about IQ, that number is just a symbol to remind you that you are smarter than most of your teachers, your village elders, etc… and give you motivation to actually DO the stuff you’ve been considering doing all this time, IQ is, basically, a symbolic statement that you can disrespect authority)

Then you thought: Wow, it turns out I feel very good being Nice to other people. I am a natural altruist.

How can I put my intelligence to work for a better world, without being sucked into the void of EVIL-DARKNESS [your choiche of master-evil here, be it capitalism, common sense, politics, religion, stupidity, non-utilitarian charity etc…]

Since you grasp evolution, you do know that there is no ultimate-morality. There is no one great principle, just in the same way as there is no one great god.

On the other hand, it seems that happiness is great, and the best parts of life, both for you, and for your friends, are those parts which are Awesome, amazing, fantastic, delicious, unbearably happy, unimaginably joyful. This of course, opposed to those parts which are miserable, unfortunate, sad, ennui, so awful you want to cry.

So you decided you want to have a life that is 1) Awesome 2) Altruistic.

Now, you ask the second question:

¿What should I do?

Then all your intelligence was put to work on that, and you started finding out what the other Awesome Altruists were doing lately. You stopped reading Vogue and Newspapers, and read about people who loved mankind and tried to do stuff. Ghandi, Mandela, Russell, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie, Frederic II, Nick Bostrom, Bono, Bentham, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Bakunin, Ettinger, Mother Theresa, Marx, among a  few others.

“Let us understand, once and for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.”
— T. H. Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”, early advocate of evolutionary theory)

You have started to analyse their actions counterfactually. You learned that the right question, to figure out what really matters is: ¿What is the difference between our world in which X did what he did, and our world in case X had not done that?

You noticed people have a blind spot relating to this question, and they always forget to ask “¿Would someone else have done that, had X not done that?” and you have stored a special cozy place in your brain that cintilates a huge neon sign saying “If YES, then X work does not make a difference” every time you ponder the issue.

So you noticed how the most important altruistic acts are not just those that have greater impact, and stronger effect. You realized that the fewer people are working on something of impact and effect, the more difference each one makes. There is no point in doing what will be done by others anyway, so what should be done is that which, if you did not do it, would not get done at all.

Applying this reasoning, you have excluded most of your awesome altruists of people it would be great to be like.

Some remain. You notice that from those, it turns out they are all either very powerful (moneywise) or tranhumanists. You begin to think about that…..

¿Why is it, you ask, that everyone who stands a chance of creating a much much better universe is concerned with these topics?

1) Promoting the enhancement and improvement of the human condition through use of technology

2) Reducing the odds of catastrophic events that could destroy the lives of, say, more than 50 million people at once.

3) Creating a world through extended use of technology in which some of our big unsolved problems do not exist anymore. (Ageing, unhappiness, depression, akrasia, ennui, suffering, idiocy, starvation, disease, impossibility of creating a back up of one self in case of car crash, not having a very, very delicious life, bureocracy and Death, to name a few problems)

It is now that you begin to realize that just like science is common sense, applied over and over again at itself, Just like science is iterated common sense, transhumanism is iterated altruistic awesomeness.

Sometimes, something that comes from science seems absurd for our savannah minds (splitting quantum worlds, remote controllable beetles, mindless algorithms that create mindful creatures). But then you realize that if you take everything you grasp as common sense, and apply common sense once again to it, you will get a few thing that look a little bit less commonsensical than the first ones. Then you do it again, a little more. And another time. All the steps take you only a little bit further away from what your savannah mind takes as obvious. But 100 steps later, we are talking about all the light coming from a huge exploding ball of helium very far away which disturbs space in predictable ways and that we perceive as sunlight. We call this iterated common sense Science, for short.

Now ¿what if you are a nice person, and you enjoy knowing that your action made a difference? Then you start measuring it. It seems intuitive at first that some actions will be good, saying the truth, for instance. But in further iterations, when you apply the same principles again, you find exceptions like “you are fat”. As you go through a few iterations, you notice the same emotional reaction you felt when common sense was slipping away while you learned science. You start noticing that giving for beggars is worse than for organized institutions, and that your voting does not change who is elected, you notice education pays off in long term, and you understand why states are banishing tobacco everywhere. You realize the classic “prevention is the best remedy”. Here is the point where you became a humanist. Congratulations! Very Few have gotten through here.

It turns out, though, that you happen to know science. So there are more steps to take. You notice that we are in one of the most important centuries of evolution’s course, because memes are overtaking genes, and we just found out about computers, and the size of the universe. We are aware of how diseases are transmitted, and we can take people’s bodies to the moon, and minds throughout most of the earth surface, and some other planets and galaxies. So you figure once we merge with technology, the outcome will be huge. You notice it will probably be in the time of your life, wheter you like it or not.

It will be so huge in fact, that there is probably nothing that you can do, in any other area whatsoever, that stands an awesome altruistic chance against increasing the probability that we will end up in a Nice Place to Live, and will not end up in “Terrible Distopian Scenario Number 33983783, the one in which we fail to realize that curing cancer was only worth it if it was not necessary to destroy the earth to calculate the necessary computations to perform the cure”.

Dawkins points out that there are many more ways of being dead than alive. There are more designs of unsustainable animals. Yudkwosky points out there are many more ways of failing in our quest to find a Nice Place to Live. Design space is huge, and the Distopian space is much greater than the Utopian Space. Also, they are not complementary.

So you kept your Altruistic Awesomeness reasoning with your great intelligence. Guess what, you found out that other people who do that call themselves “transhumanists”, and that they are working to either avoid global catastrophic risks, or to create a world of cognition, pleasure, and sublime amazement beyond what is currently conceivable to any earthling form.

You also found out there are so few of these people. This gave you a mixed feeling.

On the one hand, you felt a little bit worried, because no one in your tribe of friends, acquaintances, and authorities respects this kind of thinking. They want to preserve tradition, their salaries, one or another political view, the welfare state, teen-tribal values,  status quo, ecology, their grades, socialist ideals, or something to that effect. So you were worried because you identified yourself as something that is different from most who you know, and that not necessarily holds the promise of gaining status among your peers because of your ideals, which relate to the greater good of all humans and sentient life, present and future, including themselves, who simply have no clue what the hell are you talking about, and are beggining to find you a bit odd.

On the other hand, when you found out that there are few, you felt like the second shoes salesman, who went to an underdeveloped land and sent a message for the king after his friend, the first salesman, had sent another, from the northern areas of the land.

First Salesman: Situation Hopeless, they don’t wear any shoes…

Second Salesman: Glorious Opportunity, they don’t have any shoes yet!

It took you a long time, to learn all this science, and to deeply grasp morality. You have crossed through dark abysses of the human mind under which many of our greatest have failed. Yet, you made through, and your Altruistic Awesomeness was iterated, again and again, unappalled by the daunting tasks required of those who want to truly do good, as opposed to just pretending. The mere memory of all the process makes you chill. Now, with hindsight, you can look back and realize it was worth it, and that the path that lies ahead is paved, unlike hell, not with good intentions, but with good actions. It is now time to realize that if you have made it through this step, if all your memes cohered into a transhumanist self, then congratulations once again, for you are effectively part of the people on whom the fate of everything which we value lies. ¿Glorious opportunity, isn’t it?

Now take a deep breath. Insuflate the air. Think about how much all this matters, how serious it is. How awesome it it. Feel how altruistic you truly are, from the bottom of your heart. How lucky of you to be at one time so smart, so genuinely nice, and lucky to be born at a time where people who are like you are so few, but so few, that what you personally choose to do will make a huge difference. It is not only glorious opportunity, it is worth remarking as one of life’s most precious gifts. This feeling is disorienting and incandescent at the same time, but for now it must be put in a safe haven. Get back to the ground, watch your steps, breathe normally again and let us take a look at what is ahead of you.

From this day on, what matters is where you direct your efforts. ¿How are you going to guarantee a safer and plentier future for everyone? ¿Have you checked out what other people are doing? ¿Have you considered which human values do you want to preserve? ¿Are you aware of Nick Bostrom who is guiding the Future of Humanity institute at Oxford towards a deep awareness of our path ahead, and who has co-edited a book on global catastrophic risks? ¿Do you know that Eliezer Yudkowsky figured it all out at age 16 after abandoning high-school, and has been developing a friendly form of artificial intelligence, and trying to stop anyone from making the classic mistakes of assuming that a machine would behave or think as a human being would? ¿Did you already find out that Aubrey de Grey is dedicating his life to create an institution whose main goal is to end the madness of ageing, and has collected millions for a prize in case someone stops a mouse from ageing?

The issues that face us are not trivial. It is very dangerous to think that just because you know this stuff, you are already doing something useful. Beware of things that are too much fun to argue. There is actual work that needs to be done, and on this work may lie the avoidance of cataclysm, the stymie of nanotechnological destruction. The same line of work holds the promise of a world so bright that it is as conceivable to us as ours is to shrimp. A pleasure so high that the deepest shining emotions a known drug can induce are to deppressed orfan loneliness as one second of this future mental state is to a month of known drugs paradisiac peaks. To think about it won’t cut it. To talk about it won’t cut it. There is only one thing that will cut it. Work. Loads of careful, conscious, extremely intelligent, precise, awesomely altruistic, and deeply rewarding work.

There are two responsible things to be done. One, which this post is all about, is divulgating, showing the smart altruistic awesome people around that there are actual things that can be done, should be done, are decisive on a massive level, and are not overdetermined by someone else’s actions with the same effects.

The other is actually devising utopia. This has many sides to it. No skilled smart person is below threshold. No desiring altruistic awesome fellow is not required. Everyone should be trying. Coordination is crucial. To increase probability of utopia, either you decrease probability of distopia, cleaning the future space available of terrible places to live, or you accelerate and increase odds of getting to a Nice Place to Live. Even if you know everything I’ve been talking about until here, to give you a good description of what devising utopia amounts to, feels like, and intends, would take about two books, a couple dozen equations, some graphs, and at least some algorithms… (here are some links which you can take a look at after finishing this reading)

This post is centralizing. If you have arrived to this spot, and you tend to see yourself as someone who agrees with one third of what is here, you may be an awesome intelligence floating around alone, which, if connected to a system, would become an altruistic engine of powers beyond your current imagination.

I’m developing transhumanism in Latin America. No, I’m not the only one. And no, transhumanism has no borders.

Regardless, I’ll be getting any work offerings (¿got time? ¿got money? ¿Got enthusiasm? send it along) in case someone feels like it. I’ll also advise (as opposed to co-work) any newcomers who are lone riders. Lone wolfs, and people who do not like working along with others in any case.

Here, have my e-mail: diegocaleiro atsymbol gmail dotsymbol com

There is a final qualification that must be done to the “¿got time?” question. Seriously, if you are an altruist, and you are smart as we both know you are. ¿What could possibly be more worth your time than the one thing that will make you counterfactually more likely to be part of those who ended up the misery of darwinian psychological tyranny, and helped inaugurate the era of everlasting quasi-immortal happiness and vast fast aghasting intelligence which defies any conception of paradise?

If you do have a proper, more than five-lined intelligent response to the above question, please, do send it to my e-mail. After all, there is no point at which I’ll be completely convinced I arrived at the best answer. I’ve only researched for 8 years on the “¿what to do?” question. To think I did arrive at the best possible answer would be to commit the Best Impossible Fallacy, and I’m past this trivial kind of mistake.

Otherwise, in case you still agree with us two hundred that transhumanism is the most moral answer to the “¿What Should I do?” question….Then —> Please send me your wishes, profile, expertise, curriculum, or just how much time do you have to dedicate to it. This post is a centralizer. I’m trying to bring the effort together, for now you know. There are others like yourself out there. We have thought up a lot about how to make a better world, and we are now working hard towards it. We need your help. The worst that could happen to you is losing a few hours with us and then figuring out that in your conception, there are actually other things which compose a better meta-level iteration of your Altruistic Awesomeness. But don’t worry, it will not happen.

Here, have my e-mail: diegocaleiro atsymbol gmail dotsymbol com

Two others have joined already. (EDIT: After Writing this text there are already six of us already) The only required skill is intelligence (and I’m not talking about the thing IQ tests measure), being a fourteen year old is a plus, not an onus. As is having published dozens of articles on artifical intelligence. Dear Altruistic Awesome, the future is yours.

But it is only yours if you actually go there and do it.

Can a Smart Person Argue About Being Vegetarian?

EDITED: I included a posterior discussion with Adriano  at the very end of the text.

I always thought it was impossible to get any interesting information on being a vegetarian, given the fact that people who care about it are either fanatically against it, or fanatically for it. But turns out a smart guy I mentioned before, Pablo Stafforini, was up to the task, without further adue:

Pablo Stafforini: It is really, really hard to produce a convincing argument against same-sex marriage–almost as hard as coming up with a credible defense of meat consumption.Diego Coelho Caleiro: Pablo, as a long time follower of thy’s anarcotranshumanism I would expect you to accept eating meat on the basis of increasing the total ammount of conscious animals in the universe. If it were not for our meat consumption, there would be far fewer cow brains hanging around…..

Pablo Stafforini::Diego, there are three problems with this argument. First, it assumes that non-human animals raised for food have on average lives with a preponderance of happiness over suffering. This assumption is highly questionable in light of the ap…palling conditions present in modern factory farms. Secondly, it ignores that other sentient beings would likely exist if the land and resources currently allocated to factory farms was given a different use as a result of diminishing demand for animal products. Finally, it neglects the effects of vegetarianism in raising public awareness of the significance of non-human animal suffering. Because most people are not utilitarians and subscribe instead to a common-sense morality that regards edibles as things devoid of moral status, the interests of non-human animals currently raised for food are not going to be taken seriously until humans stop eating such animals altogether.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Though smart, I think those are insufficient reasons for anti-consumptionists. First, most

http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=125


countries that produce meat do not have particularly bad coditions for cattle’s life, at least no…t in Brazil, the main exporter. I would be shocked if Nozickian cows in Brazil would rather die… On the second, if there was no cattle, only a few tropical territories would comport other sentient beings, most grass farms would just be dedicated to agriculture. On the third, I think non-vegetarians build up a strong tribal hatred against vegetarians when they are confronted with the fanatical ones. People would be more friendly to primates if they didn’t connect that with having to abstain from their favorite chicken wing. Sure your arguments shifted my probability density distribution for “Against X For (meat-consumption)” but I do not think their strenght has tipped the balance.

Jonatas Müller: Your second problem goes the opposite way for me: wild animals should in general have lives which, if not bad in average (they probably are), have some extremely bad parts, so I’d see their existence as a negative (and their destruction a g…ood/neutral side of cattle farming). Beef seems to be one of the least objectionable types (along with fish), while chickens and pigs have it much worse (both live in bad conditions, pigs may have more sentience and chickens more suffering per kg of meat). Raising public awareness to animal well-being seems to be the most important effect in avoiding meat.

Pablo Stafforini: The state of cattle is not representative of that of animals generally, since cows suffer less on average than do members of all the other major species raised for food:

http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-per-kg.html

On the second ob…jection, I refer you to the detailed investigation of Gaverick Matheny and Kai Chan:

http://research.ires.ubc.ca/kaichan/articles/Matheny_and_Chan_2005_JAEE.pdf

I’m not persuaded by your reasoning regarding the final objection. Do you really think it’s possible for the man on the street –as distinct from the sophisticated utilitarian– to take the interests of all animals seriously while he continues to eat some of them?

Jonatas, I fully agree with your final point: I am myself a vegetarian primarily because of the effects that public advocacy of this diet has on other human beings (though I didn’t originally stop eating meat for that reason). Concerning t…he second objection, it is unclear to me whether the sort of animals that would exist if factory farms disappeared would on the whole suffer more or less than factory-farmed animals currently do. (See the paper cited above for further discussion.) Of course, things become quite complicated if we treat vegetarianism as part of a package deal including a general commitment to minimising suffering, since such a commitment would also require us to alleviate the pain of animals in the wild.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Nice paper. “However, if chickens were made to have lives of reasonable worth, then as long as they had lives that were perhaps 10% as pleasant or valuable as the lives of wild animals, then chicken meat and egg purchases could increase the… net amount of moral value in the world.”
It tipped the balance against pork. I’m unpersuaded with chicken’s given their tiny brains, and if my position on consciousness were not based on this

http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/content/abstract/215/3/216

maybe I’d be willing to tip it for industrial chicken.
So bye bye pork, and let’s go for wild chicken…

Thor Ribeiro: I can even see the cow wondering in proper Elisabethan english, “Would it have been better, had I not lived at all?”

Leah McKelvie: Assuming that the Jonatas and Pablo are talking about lacto ovo vegetarianism and not a vegan diet, I disagree. The interests of nonhuman animals who are raised for food are not going to be taken seriously by people who merely give up eating their… flesh. In fact, that’s an indication that they don’t take their interests seriously at all.

Promoting something that reinforces speciesism is not only a bad idea in the long run, it doesn’t even make sense in the short run. It sends the false message that vegetarianism makes a significant difference in actual animal suffering. It often doesn’t. It can even increase it, if someone goes from eating beef to loading up on eggs and dairy, or goes semi-vegetarian and starts eating chickens or fishes instead of beef.

Jonatas Müller: It may also be an intermediary step which may increase the chance for taking further steps. Though what you said applies to the acts of eating or not some meat, there are also the close acts of talking to people about it, making publicity, …eventually convincing legislators to make animal conditions better (with support from other “semi-vegetarians” or whatever they are called), discouraging use of animal furs, inventing in vitro meat or other meat alternatives, etc. These are all hard to quantify individually, but I think that together the people who take these actions can have a considerable result.

This may be even more powerful than being completely vegan, because if a vegan person has a non-vegan child, then all the efforts are in vain in a global sense.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Let me disagree with Jonatian hypothesis here. As natural selection taught us, it is NOT always the case that the intermediate incremental steps towards a value-peak are better than their immediate neighbours. This is true meme-wise as wel…l. Just like the best order of ammount of appendix to have is (best) none (Intermediate) small (worst) very small, the best order of how much animal originated stuff could be (best) 0 (medium) current standards minus pork and industrial chicken and (worst) vegetarian that eats dairy and eggs.

We all carry an appendix because evolution sucks as a designer, maybe utilitarians ought to consider the possibility that we should all maitain a meat-eating life even though there are better lives in an ideal world.

In any case, both issues will be corrected by transhumanist technologies, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, in the unlikely event that we survive the 21st century.

There is WAY more value at stake in terms of catastrophic risks f…rom human technology and natural causes than there is for vegetarianism. We just feel like discussing vegetarianism because feeding habits occupy large space of our savannah brains (take Kosher and muslim anti-pork as tribe determining examples)
I’ve delved into the discussion because it was intelligent and with someone I admired for long (Stafforini), that is, for fun.
But a real utilitarian should know better than trying to argue people out of their feeding habits and work avoiding actual cataclysm that could destroy 80% of earth’s biodiversity

 

Two Years later another discussion:

 

  • G Diego Vichutilitarian

  •  How about we are a social species, therefore we’d better share eating rituals. Evil meme-clusters have always thrived through making their members unable to eat things that other groups eat. I would not like Effective Altruism community to do the same. What do you guys think about private vegetarianism?

    Boris Yakubchik 

Here’s a simple choice: eat some meat (at the very least, thereby consume about 10 times its weight in plant matter – that which it took to produce it [and don’t forget the water consumption that went into its production], require a sentien

t being to experience suffering for almost its entire life [factory farmed meat], and pollute the earth with excrement the animal produced while it was alive) or eat some non-animal-based food.

You make this choice EVERY TIME you eat.

Lukas Gloor 

  • That strikes me as a very weak argument, Diego, as the reasons for veganis(his)m aren’t arbitrary dogma but instead about the very thing Effective Altruism is about.

    Jenna Gatto 

How much plant matter does a person need to eat over its life time to get all of the nutrients it needs, especially when you cut meat out of the diet? And if you think about it that way, if for every ounce of meat you eat does that mean you

 need to eat 10 times that amount of plant matter to get the same nutrients, and what type of resources went into that before it got to your kitchen table?
Not all animals we eat have suffered, and I know I’m “lucky” that a large majority of my diet comes from animals either I, my father, or my family hunts and fishes for me to eat, but is that still not a question of economic stability to be able to afford those products in the grocery store that are not factory farmed.
Human and pet excrement can not be composted for organic farming due to the amount of chemicals that we eat on a regular basis. If it is not composted it goes into a sewer somewhere. And while in NJ we are lucky enough to have systems that have been updated since the 1970s, I now live in a place where combined sewer outflows still predominately exist and therefore flow into local waterbodies. So if people cannot eat organically, which is still something that has a lot to do with education and social standpoint, we too are polluting the earth regardless of whether or not we eat meat.
Essentially you need to give up anything that has gone through a factory, and eat only things you can grow and hunt yourself to be able to live in a way that can live up to the statement you have made. And while I too wish this was possible for everyone, this is a much bigger step then the choices people can make at a grocery store, especially if they are not financially able.

Adriano Mannino ‎”Private vegetarianism”? WTF. From a utilitarian point of view, it’s very clear that we must promote *public veganis(his)m*. If you can convince just two people to go vegan, this already has *twice* the impact of your own private veganism. So influencing others (in order to establish/via establishing social norms) is much more important than your private consumption.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

  • Okay, I’ll try one last controversial idea, then I’m done: People have very strong opinions (not at all rational) about eating, and sharing food. Those, it seems to me, are inscribed in one’s head at some point in life, just like swear words. We allocate prejudices in an emotional part of us. This is why swearing in other languages doesn’t feel weird.

My guess is that being vegan is sufficiently disconforting for you and people around you that 1)You lose more influence in other Effective Altruist goals than you gain by eventually causing vegetarians 2) This one I claim strongly (90% conf

idence): You spend a lot of cognitive energy on finding food, and specially on discussing food. If this energy was spent on charity evaluation, donatable work, or technology research, it would benefit all sentient beings much more.

3) This is also true if it was used just to donate/develop in vitro meat, which fosters the same goals. I think it doesn’t feel the same because eating rituals, like swearing and politics, have highjacked part of our moral brain (safer for

 memes to be there). *META: this discussion is going to my old blog, if you’d like me to take off your name, please tell me now* 4) The timing doesn’t seem right to help farm animals yet. Too many humans suffering from Malaria, Schistosomosis, Tuberculosis, Ageing.

5) This one I claim mildly (50%): It seems to me that people who end up promoting eating rituals got stuck in the same way some atheists stop their intelectual life once they can forever battle against those who are not yet atheists. Sure 

you can spend a life vociferating against God, and sure, there is no God, but as Luke Muehlhauser said: “Atheism is just the beggining”. Becoming a vegan is awesome, it means you understand sooo much… but it seems to me to be just the

Adriano Mannino 

Diego, what’s your point? Opinions can be strong *and* absolutely rational and justified.
Do you have an argument against anti-speciesism? The issue has been debated for 40 years now and not a single halfway rational arg

ument in favor of speciesism has been produced.
Do you have an argument against consequentialism?
If not, then it’s obvious that “private vegetarianism” is utter nonsense.

Ah, now you’ve added a second and third comment. I’m afraid you are wrong. We are utilitarian anti-speciesists/vegans and not stupid. It’s totally false that we spend a lot of energy finding and discussing food. We don’t.

We do, of course, support in-vitro meat. But we believe that anti-speciesist meme-spreading has the greater marginal effect. And for psychosocial reasons, it’s very important to combine it with the spread of veg commitments. (Your “eating ritual” talk is totally misleading.) So long as people have no problem with continuing to eat food that causes unnecessary suffering to non-human animals, we have not succeeded in spreading anti-speciesism.

Read this: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/veg-ads.html and this http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html, for instance.

And this:
http://masalladelaespecie.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/questions_priority_interspecies.pdf

<<8. CONCLUSIONS
We have seen that there is a wide difference between the number of humans and the
number of those nonhumans who are harmed due to their use by humans. Of course some of
the figures and estimations that have been considered here are obviously approximate, but
they are based on real data and seem to be reasonable ones. Figures concerning well-being are
more speculative: obviously so, since we lack any data which could actually make
experiences accessible. However, they are plausible enough to allow us to consider the
question in a fairly realistic way. Given this, it seems we can draw some conclusions from the
line of reasoning presented above.
By now, the main one is likely to be expected. No human activity directly affects
negatively a so high number of individuals as humans’ consumption of nonhumans does. And
we all can make a change here. Hence, in as much as we accept any of the different normative
criteria mentioned above (maximization, additive equality, maximin, sufficiency concerning
outcomes, as well as responsibility and equality of means or lack of oppression) we will have
to give up the consumption nonhuman animals.
In fact, the reason why this practice harms
so many animals is simply that each of us as individuals contributes to it. And, as it has been
argued above, the gains we obtain out of that practice do not compensate the harm nonhumans
suffer. There is a huge asymmetry between the enjoyment humans get from being able to
experience some tastes and the harm that nonhuman animals suffer due to it at an individual
level. This can be assessed in a very simple way. Consider the life of a trout in some fish
factory. Suppose someone eats that trout in one meal. Two things must be weighted against
each other here: (a) The cost of the difference between the enjoyment that the one who eats
this trout gets from that meal and the enjoyment he could get from eating a meal without
animal products. (b) The suffering and the deprivation of enjoyment which death implies that
has been inflicted on that fish. Suppose, for instance, that the meal lasts twenty minutes (that
is, 1200 seconds) and that the animal has spent close to twenty months in the fish-farm (let us
say 600 days). Suppose, also, that this trout which could have lived for some six or seven
years. According to an intrinsic potential account, this means that this animal suffers a
deprivation of five years of life. This means that the difference between a minute of the
eater’s enjoyment of that meal and a minute of his possible enjoyment had he chosen a nonanimal meal is equal to almost one month of suffering for the fish, plus a deprivation of three
months of life (assuming the intrinsic potential account). Or, that such a difference during a
couple of seconds of tasting is equivalent to a day of suffering plus the deprivation of more
than three days of life for the fish. Of course, if we assume an account of the harm of death in
relation to the maximum level of happiness the results are still more asymmetric. Similar
equations can be considered for other animals and other meals.
But there is an even more significant consequence that is suggested by what we have
seen thus far, which may affect us not just as potential consumers of nonhuman animals but
also as agents with the ability to transform our surrounding reality. We may think that we not
only have negative duties not to engage in unjust practices. We may also accept that we
should do something to stop them. If so, we should note that the conclusions presented above
entail that spreading an animal-free lifestyle is a far more efficient way of improving the
world than working to improve the situation in which humans are. This conclusion seems at
first paradoxical. But it is far from being some odd consequence which we can infer from
some peculiar theory. Quite the opposite, it follows from a wide range of positions that are
commonly held. In fact, it seems to follow quite naturally once we set aside our speciesist assumptions. This also suggests that challenging speciesism might be the most useful task we
can assume if we want to make the world a better place.>>

Adriano Mannino 

Speciesism is false. If we accept that, and given the enormous amount of domesticated and especially also wild animal suffering there is in the world, it follows quite trivially that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the..

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) ($6000)/(917+238) = $5.19 to create a new vegetarian. *Terrible calculation which does not factor work-hours of the gigantic veg-crowd, and most important, opportunity cost due to disconfort caused (which I admit is not measurable)* 2)

 The paper you indicated has the same issue….. Also , it calculates based on obviously false assumptions, like that the life of a trout is one of suffering. Or that farm cows (which when a child I took care of often) are suffering all the time. They may suffer when dying, when being vaccinated (so do we), when being separated from children-cow (so do we). 3) We agree that factory farming sucks, and I don’t eat pigs on that basis (unless in discorforting situations) 4) Paper also uses “deprivation of years” as indicator of suffering, but clearly an animal does not suffer if it does not exist anymore, for this one, the Logic of the Larder argument works. 5) I’d suggest, as life advice not related to Veg, that one link is maximum one can send per discussion and expect being read, though I made an exception here 6) I am also in favor of being a vegetarian, say, twice a week, something which preserves some animals, does not activate neuro-triggers of morality, and spreads the word, without causing unconfortable discussions in which people feel attacked, and assassins, which sometimes happens with non-vegans in discussions. 7) You argue a good case, and if the facts you pointed out were true (if the paper was mostly true) I would follow to your conclusion. I suggest we agree on opinions of the form “If XYZ is the case, the world should do WFP” we are disagreeing over XYZ being or not the case. 🙂

Adriano Mannino 

Ad 1): The crucial figure, calculated in the above link, is this: We can prevent about 100d of suffering on a factory farm by donating a single dollar (!) to the Humane League or to Vegan Outreach (the actual number may be several times hig

her). Which human-related cause trumps this? Please tell me.
1.1) Most suffering (by *far*, see 
http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html) occurs in nature. That’s why anti-speciesist meme-spreading is likely to be extremely effective in the long run. Animal farming seems doomed anyway (in-vitro meat is just around the corner). But we have to hurry up and put anti-speciesist memes in place in order to ensure that we will abolish wild animal suffering when we have the technology to do so (this is an argument for targeting powerful people too). If we also factor in the urgent need to prevent future (Darwinian) panspermia and terraforming, we’ve got a good candidate for the title of the most important ethical issue.

Ad 2): The paper is not based on these assumptions. It does say that any kind of animal farming is based on/reinforces speciesism (which is true and which provides a strong reason to oppose it). Also, it’s a fact that *the vast majority* of farm animals are factory farmed and have terrible lives.

Ad 4): Whether we accept Logic of the Larder reasoning or not, animal farming should be abolished. Speciesism must go and we can’t credibly argue against it if we support slaughtering non-humans for trivial purposes because people wouldn’t even dream of subjecting humans to this kind of treatment. If we focus on suffering, then the Logic of the Larder does not apply; if, on the other hand, our focus is a happiness/suffering balance, then it does apply but the conclusion that we should abolish factory farming still stands: Opportunity costs. With the resources that go into animal farming we could be creating many more (and happier) sentient beings. And as I said, we absolutely need anti-speciesism in order to save the gazillions of animals that are suffering in nature. But we can’t promote it if we accept practices that people would never accept and would in fact consider most serious crimes (!) if done to mentally equivalent humans (“human farming”).

Ad 6): Why should we shy away from activating morality-triggers? Anti-speciesism is a very basic moral meme and it’s important that more and more people understand and accept it as that – and more and more people do, there’s some data suggesting that the number of vegans has been increasing exponentially. (By the way, if for whatever curious reason you’re not ready to join the cause, *at least* abstain from hurting it by describing what we’re about in terms of “eating rituals” etc.) An ethically similar historical struggle was anti-racism. Would you have suggested not activating morality-triggers there as well? And I hope you realize that it’s simply unavoidable that there will be uncomfortable discussions and that (some) people will feel attacked. I totally agree that we should try to minimize negative emotions, though, and my tone of voice is usually different from the one I’ve chosen here. But you’re a fellow rationalist and I was – quite frankly – shocked by the “private vegetarianism” proposal, which strikes me as extremely irrational and harmful (given utilitarianism, which, I take it, is a shared premise).

Ad 7): As far as I can see, you should follow to the conclusions. Or you should provide better arguments to block them and prove us wrong.

The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering www.utilitarian-essays.com

Adriano Mannino 

Addendum to 1.1): Anti-speciesist meme-spreading is important for in-vitro meat as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of getting society to accept this “unnatural” product (compare the tragic fate of genetically modified food in

 Europe). If people accept that species-membership is no reason for discriminating against sentient beings and to consider their well-being less important, they will be much more willing to switch to in-vitro meat and promote it structurally. It’s extremely important to speed this process up.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) On Wild-Suffering. Sure, wild suffering is awful, and I hope for less of it ASAP. I don’t think the best avenue for getting anti-speciesism is to start by changing to veto-this-food people’s eating habits, because I think that is pretty

 fucking hard. There must be lower hanging fruit out there. 2)If there is one thing I can claim being really immensely good at, it is dodging lone-bystander bias. I am the first transhumanist,immortalist, cryonicist, and perhaps singularitarian in my country (185 000 000 people), and I fought against accusations of crazyness and social stigma from a very early age.You should consider VERY INFORMATIVE *that means, a lot of bits, or the equivalent of a large N study* that despite having done all that, I have not managed to establish dietary restrictions under socially constraining situations (going out with friends, visiting girlfriends family etc…) This is not only non-pork or non-redmeat situations, but also trying to implement a kurzweil slow-carb diet. It is just massively, massively hard to summon the energy of fighting this battle every meal out. And I am, along with the science of positive psychology, and Shawn Achor, of the opinion that we have a single candle of willpower. When we burn it, it burns for all things we may need willpower to, and we are short of that amount. We have to learn to divide the candle wisely, for if it burns up we enter “what the hell mode” and if it doesn’t, there is only limited quantitites of it.

Adriano Mannino 

So that’s Brazil? What about the “gigantic veg-crowd” that you mentioned above? It should make veg life quite easy. I know some Brazilian vegetarians and vegans and they seem to be doing OK. 😉
Actually, there’s been a big debate within the

 animal rights movement about whether there is lower hanging fruit. One might think there is – but I have come to accept the conclusion that there is not. Animal welfare reforms are very costly and don’t do too much in the end (and my country – Switzerland – is the paradigm example). I don’t think we can avoid promoting veg eating (and an expansion of veg agriculture and the veg supply) if we are to promote anti-speciesism. (Incidentally, animal farming is also one of the primary causes of global warming, which might increase global catastrophic risks. And it probably also increases the planetary biomass and thus the amount of wild animal suffering – which might well be the main reason to fight it. Furthermore, animal farming is co-responsible for world-hunger: 1kg of meat = up to 10kg of soy and other plant food that could be eaten directly.) As I said, people who get the anti-speciesist meme *will want* to avoid products based on animal exploitation. Also, you shouldn’t underestimate the positive psychological and social effects of behavioral veg commitments – they greatly assist meme-spreading. Last but not least, veganism has become *very easy* to practise in many countries. In Switzerland it’s basically a matter of which shelf you go to in the store (and you can get veg food in every restaurant). As for social difficulties, I think there are easy ways to minimize them and to even make being veg a fun experience. For one thing, there is a growing consensus among young and rational people (i.e. within most of my social circles) that there’s an ethical imperative to go veg. Many of them can be converted very easily – and if you’re not the only one doing it, it’s fun (and psychologically positive!), you can try out new stuff, offer to cook for non-veg people etc. And I think it’s possible to talk about it in a friendly and non-antagonizing way to non-veg people. So is it really a “battle” that needs to be fought out every meal again? Not in my experience. And if you encounter people who don’t respect your dietary choices (!), why don’t you tell them that they should go fuck themselves? OK, let’s make an exception for the girlfriend’s family. But otherwise there’s really no reason to waste time with stupid people. (That’s bad quite independently of the veg question anyway.) And if you spend time with the right folks (namely young and intelligent people), the veg thing should be no problem and you should find many great and low-cost (in fact, almost free) anti-speciesist influencing opportunities.

I congratulate you on standing up for transhumanism etc. I agree with all those causes (though in part only for instrumental reasons, e.g. I don’t think that death per se is a problem, I think the abolition of suffering should be our focus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism_(bioethics)http://www.hedweb.com/abolitionist-project/reprogramming-predators.html – so I’m with the Pearcean brand of transhumanism/transanimalism, not with Bostrom or the Singularitarians), but I believe that spreading anti-speciesist memes as fast as possible and making sure that technology will be used to abolish (wild) animal suffering too (which might well be the dominant factor in the utilitarian calculation!) is *even more important*.

I agree about willpower and the candle analogy. But as I said, it’s quite difficult for me to believe that it’s “so fucking hard”, socially. Also, I’m not sure whether you have granted the issue enough priority. We might disagree about what the most important thing is, overall, but I don’t think utilitarians can reasonably disagree on the fact that anti-speciesist/veg meme spreading and donating to animal charities is very important and cost-effective indeed. *At the very least*, I believe, one must admit that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the poverty-related causes that www.givingwhatwecan.org promotes. I wonder whether your assessment of how hard it is to be veg would be different if you had granted the issue higher priority? And if it does deserve higher priority, then it also has a greater claim to the willpower-candle.

Abolitionism (bioethics) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abolitionism is the bioethical school and movement that endorses the use of biot…See More

Adriano Mannino 

One last point. You write: “Steering Transhumanists and Singularitarians as close as possible to their dreams…”
Unfortunately, there are many transhumanists who are speciesists or even egoists (they’re especially numerous among immortali

sts and cryonicists, a bit less so among singularitarians, but still to an alarming degree – see the irrational reactions of the Less Wrong crowd when confronted with anti-speciesist arguments or considerations in the philosophy of personal identity that undermine egoism). I’m not saying you are one of them, but the quote could certainly have been made by them: It’s about achieving “our dreams” etc. I am *deeply morally opposed* to those guys. It’s not about “our dreams”. It’s primarily (if not exclusively) about abolishing suffering in an impartial and objective way. So let me be frank: I wonder whether your opposition to prioritizing anti-speciesist/veg meme-spreading had anything to do with an understanding of “what it’s all about” in terms of “our/my dreams” rather than in terms of the best possible impartial minimization of suffering (and, maybe, the maximization of happiness).

David Pearce 

When are we ethically entitled to harm another sentient being? The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009)
http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/
boldly expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. Payi

ng for nonhuman animals to be factory-farmed, exploited and killed so we can eat their flesh is impossible to reconcile with such a commitment.

Of course we’re all prey to weakness of will. But does giving up meat and animal products really call for heroic self-sacrifice? Humans are not obligate carnivores. Our only excuse is not just lame but weak-minded: “But I like the taste!”

Transhumanist Declaration

humanityplus.org

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

I suggest we have a fundamental disagreement over what should be preserved. I think our values should be preserved. Values that can only be states in language, thus only formulatable by a species that commands language. I think that the values that should be preserved are some mix of Yudkwosky’s CEV: “That in which we would agree if we grew smarter and stronger togheter.” and David Lewis’s dispositional theory: “Lewis offers that X is a value to you (roughly) if and only if you would desire to desire X if you were perfectly acquainted with X and you were thinking and deliberating as clearly as possible about X.” I am doing a masters on what that would be. I do not think that negative utilitarianism is the best form of it. Personally,emotionally, I am a positive utilitarian, increasing positive feeling as I go about. I think some form of simple utilitarianism is probably the best pragmatic approach (for it maintains agreement among those fighting for the worlds good, without in-group out-group bias and stupid minor disagreements unworth fighting over). If new persons would arise whose commant of emotions, intelligence, cooperation, friendliness, and love are greater then our own (augmented humans, aliens, computers) I would gladly ascribe them the task of determining which values we would like to preserve. While this does not happen, I’ll do my best to understand things that we value, summarize them, and improve quality of CEV, or reduce the existential risk of permanently curtailing our values. Yudkwosky’s Fun Theory is very bad (probably his life lacked fun), Bostrom noticing that Flamboyant displays are great is very good. Richardson and Boyd noticing Double Inheritance in culture is very good, and Seligman and the Positive Psychology crowd have been assessing a lot of useful info, with PERMA being the summit of values we currently have. I’ll try to build on the shoulders of those giants, and output a serious well build, wide list of which values we should preserve, and why. Wish me luck! Thanks for the discussion. You too David!

 

 

We need you!

We need you!

No fim do ano passado me lembro de ter assistido a propaganda do Singularity Summit 2009 e ela ter me passado um sentimento de “Transhumanists of the World, rise!”. Claro que na verdade a conferencia foi sobre singularidade, que é apenas uma subtopico do transhumanismo. Visitando o site da associação mundial transhumanista (agora Humanity Plus) é possível constatar que não existem muitos transhumanistas por ai, pelo o que me lembro a contagem estava em torno de 5.000. Que de fato praticam e escrevem a respeito, com certeza existem talvez menos que centenas. Mas esses poucos tem feito barulho recentemente! Surpreendentemente no Brasil também. Nos meses passados tem aparecido um crescente numero de reportagens de capa a respeito:

Capa da Superinteressante de Novembro de 2009: A pílula da inteligência

Capa da Scientific American edição 90, de Novembro de 2009: A pílula da inteligência

Capa da Superinteressante de Janeiro de 2010: Imortalidade

Capa da Filosofia edição 43, de Fevereiro de 2010:  Transhumanismo

Entrevista com Nick Bostrom, Revista Filosofia No. 48

Matéria sobre o Paradoxo de Fermi e o Futuro da Humanidade, Revista Filosofia No. 47

Nos paises desenvolvidos a exposição na mídia de temas tranhumanistas é ainda maior. Só o fundador da associação transhumanista, Nick Bostrom, já participou de quase 400 entrevistas para revistas como a Times e canais como a CNN. Se com tão poucos transhumanistas ativos já temos feito tanto barulho imagino quando aqueles outros milhares começarem também a se envolver.

O fato é que querendo ou não, você racionalista e amigo da tecnologia terá um papel fundamental no futuro próximo. Cada vez mais esses temas estão sendo divulgados e cada vez mais eles irão parar na discussão da mesa de jantar da pequena elite intelectual que controla a opinião das massas. Por isso não se sinta surpreso de se encontrar cada vez mais freqüentemente na posição de defensor das “loucuras” tecnológicas e acima de tudo nunca tema se colocar ativamente nesse papel. São aqueles que se dispuserem a energicamente causar uma mudança de opinião que serão os primeiros e principais responsáveis pela implementação dos avanços tecnológicos.

Alem dessas situações domesticas também não se acanhe em participar nos meios públicos de divulgação da informação como blogs, sites, revistas, emissoras de TV e rádio. Você tem uma responsabilidade e um papel fundamental no futuro das pessoas com quem você se importa e no futuro da humanidade como um todo, exerça essa responsabilidade.

Dois bias que podem acabar com a humanidade

Um bias cognitivo é uma tendência inerente que temos, ao pensarmos ou analisarmos certas situações,  de cometer desvios sistematicos da racionalidade. Existem dois bias não listados em nenhum livro sobre bias cognitivos que considero como os principais no que concerne a avaliação de potencias riscos catastroficos à raça humana.

Bias Observacional

Tratei de modo mais axiomático deste bias em outro post. Aqui tentarei expor ele de maneira mais concreta. Imagine um jogo de computador baseado na evolução com pequenas entidades auto replicadoras que geram algoritmos comportamentais nessas peculiares entidades e um ambiente virtual. A simulação reinicia periodicamente a cada T segundos e as populações são extintas sem deixar rastros. O evento só ocorre caso as entidades não tenham desenvolvido um conjunto muito especifico de algoritmos. O leitor poderia imaginar que essas nossas entidades teriam uma tendência a evoluir este certo algoritmo, pois de outro modo seriam extintas. Mas esta impressão está errada pois durante toda a historia de uma dessas populações de entidades virtuais muito provavelmente não há qualquer razão especifica para que esta população tenha desenvovido este algoritmo e caso, sem aviso, o programa se reinicie a população vive caso possua o algoritmo e é completamente devastada caso contrario: não há a chance de que as entidades que sofreram o holocausto passem as gerações futuras a informação de quem um cataclismo acontecerá e que só aquelas populações com o algoritmo sobreviverão; não há a chance de nossas pobres entidades aprenderem evolutivamente deste horrendo acontecimento pois cada vez que ele acontece o jogo é reiniciado do zero. Apesar de estar sob o risco de extinção essas ingênuas populações nunca ficam sabendo deste fato simplesmente porque as que sabem morrem e as que não são extintas por possuírem o algoritmo não estão sob este risco para se informarem dele. Se há uma pressão evolutiva agindo seria uma seleção por ignorância. Alem disso se assumirmos um crescimento populacional maior que zero, se você é uma dessas entidades, a maior probabilidade é que esteja mais próximo do tempo T de extinção do que mais longe. Isto é uma conclusão facilmente obtida a partir da SSA, se você um uma entidade aleatória que não sabe quando será extinta, mas sabe que a maioria das entidades esta mais próxima do fim do que do começo então você deve assumir que está mais próxima de ser extinta do que não. Uma população de entidades rudimentares, em seus começos, pode ter um futuro vasto a sua frente. Enquanto que uma população já extremamente evoluída e adaptada ao ambiente provavelmente esta no seu fim. É fácil constatar que nós partilhamos da mesma ignorância destas ingênuas e ledas entidades. Nós só estamos vivos, pois não fomos extintos, logo não podemos usar esse dado para calcular nossa probabilidade de extinção. O dado de ha quanto tempo não fomos extintos muito menos, pois o que se da é o inverso, quanto mais tempo permanecemos vivos maior a probabilidade de sermos extintos no instante seguinte. Temos, portanto de usar outros meios indiretos.

Bias da Intencionalidade

Durante a imensa maioria da historia da humanidade os eventos naturais eram em sua maior parte inevitáveis e matavam muitas menos pessoas do que os eventos humanos evitáveis. Naturalmente que aqueles que sabiam evitar a sua própria morte através de outro ser humano sobreviviam em oposição aos que não conseguiam e aqueles que desnecessariamente despreendiam energia em evitar eventos inevitáveis – mantendo o resto constante – tenderiam a não sobreviver frente a grande escassez energética. Esta situação criou um bias – até pouco tempo vantajoso – de se preocupar muito mais com perigos intencionais do que não intencionais. Esse é talvez o principal bias a desviar a atenção da humanidade para os principais eventos catastróficos. Só muito recentemente tem-se dado conta de um destes muitos perigos: o aquecimento global, – talvez as custas de identificar paises ou industrias como as culpadas – enquanto os outros inúmeros males permanecem na penumbra.

The most important problems and what to do

by Jonatas

The most important problems of the universe: (1) suffering; (2) lack of intelligence; (3) new imperfect life being created unintentionally in unreachable (due to the speed of light) places; (4) the end of the universe (by heat death or something else). Other relatively minor problems can be fixed with time by fixing problem 2. Problems 3 and 4 seem to be impossible to completely fix, although maybe problem 3 could be diminished by a type of class action by all intelligent beings in the universe to replace imperfect life in their nearby planets, and problem 4 could be delayed by slowing the subjective passage of time in conscious beings (by accelerating their rate of functioning, this could be done to extreme levels in artificial beings, effectively multiplying by many times the remaining time in the universe). Mortality is not really a major problem (see Daniel Kolak’s open identity theory, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kolak).

What we should focus the most on doing now: (A) making the population sympathetic to and willing to work for transhumanism (this includes trying to diminish opponent forces, such as religion, and in general trying to propagate the whole mindset that leads one to accept transhumanism), which has the potential to solve problems 1 and 2 for us – and fixing problem 2 will fix many other minor issues with time (such as lack of knowledge; mortality; creation of virtual paradises; etc.); (B) preventing global catastrophic risks (the most important of which seems to be bio- or nanotechnological terrorism, which is not something that exists now), something that we have little to do about now, except trying to convince legislators and politicians of the risk, without making them averse to goal A.

About the relationship between goals A and B: avoiding goal A will do little to help B. In fact, putting too many security restrictions on goal A has the potential to make less ethics-conscious individuals advance the technology first. Instead, the technology should be advanced as fast as possible, with some restrictions, and there should be created a global power with strict international surveillance for bio- or nanotechnological terrorism.

About artificial intelligence: it is not per se going to solve problems 1 and 2 for us, unless it acquires consciousness and replaces us completely (but I don’t see that happening in the near future). As long as there is still lack of intelligence in people, bad political decisions and all stupidity related problems would continue to exist, and the same with suffering. Artificial intelligence, if properly planned, should not be considered a relevant global catastrophic risk, because it can be easily contained (inside reality simulations, or through many limitations, such as physical, in terms of knowledge, of accessibility, etc.) and because if it is very intelligent it should not have unproductive behavior.

Once we can fix problems 1 and 2 for us with transhumanism, we can explore all planets nearby, and if we find forms of life that still have problems 1 and 2, we can either solve these problems for them (giving additionally knowledge, immortality, virtual paradises, etc.) or replace them. Advanced aliens should be expected to do the same.

What impedes people to solve these problems or to see the need to solve them? (Z) Thinking that education will solve problem 2; (Y) Thinking that problem 2 doesn’t need to be solved because we are so intelligent already; (X) Thinking that suffering is somehow necessary and shouldn’t be avoided; (W) Thinking that it is against their God’s rules to fix these problems. The absurdity of these (Z, Y, X, W) should be already evident to who is reading this, so there’s no need to explain it.

A filosofia de Nick Bostrom, Parte 1

Esse Post é o primeiro membro de uma serie de varios posts sobre a filosofia de Nick Bostrom. O objetivo dessa serie de posts é introduzir o leitor ao pensamento de Bostrom e a tópicos importantes do transhumanismo. Neste primeiro momento irei introduzir as motivações subjetivas bem como os princípios teóricos básicos sob os quais se fundam a filosofia deste pensador. Ele esta assim organizado:

1. O Bostrom
1.1 Formação
1.2 Preocupações
2. A Filosofia de Nick Bostrom
2.1 Bases
2.1.1 Tentando saber mais que deus, conhecimento indexical e a SSA
2.1.2 Efeitos de Seleção Observacionais e Riscos Existenciais

1. O Bostrom

1.1 Formação

Graduação em Filosofia, Matemática e Ciências da Computação na Suécia, onde estabeleceu um novo record de desempenho. Trabalhou como stand-up comedian por algum tempo para depois fazer um mestrado em Economia, outro em Neurociência e outro em Filosofia. Em seguida realizou seu doutorado em Filosofia, tese que entrou para o Hall de melhores dissertações do ano cujo tema era uma formalização do principio antrópico: A Self Sample Assumption. Tem atualmente, 37 anos e é diretor do Instituto Para o Futuro da Humanidade desde os 33 anos. Já arrecadou mais de 13 milhões de dólares em verba através de bolsas para pesquisa, prêmios e doações.

1.2 Preocupações

Talvez o melhor modo de entender a sua filosofia seja começando por entender que tipo de preocupações parecem habitar a mente deste pensador. Como todos nós Bostrom é um macaco das savanas num mundo moderno que não é o dele. Mas para ele a sua savana é o universo e a sua tribo a humanidade, sem duvida é um macaco um tanto quanto estranho. No entanto, para a esmagadora maioria da humanidade a savana é algo menor que um bairro e a humanidade algo entre 20-1000 pessoas. Este ultimo fato é talvez a maior fonte de preocupações para o Bostrom. Porque estamos fora do ambiente no qual evoluímos não sabemos lidar com nosso novo ambiente. Claro que existem inúmeras coisas que se mantiveram constantes como as leis da física, fatos sociais básicos e nossas emoções em geral. No entanto a pequena parcela que mudou pode ser crucial para determinar nosso sucesso futuro como espécie. Inicialmente temos novos desafios no campo do conhecimento que são extremamente difíceis de superar dado a nossa maquina cognitiva, tais como entender mecânica quântica, neuroquímica ou o problema da consciência. Para alem disso temos desafios no mundo exterior que podem se tornar importantes pressões evolutivas, tais como entender os riscos e potenciais da tecnologia – o que inclui desde inteligência artificial até farmacologia – ou entender e lidar com os novos riscos naturais eminentes tais como choque com grandes asteróides e aquecimento global. Passamos 90% do nosso passado evolutivo tendo que fugir de leões na savana, caçar mamutes, achar parceiros e formar alianças em grupos de até 100 pessoas. Nada disso exigia pensamento preditivo que extrapolasse uma ou duas décadas, menos ainda algo que extrapole a duração vida media de um homem primitivo – 40 anos. Nada disso exigia que entendêssemos o comportamento de possíveis futuras inteligências artificiais ou que lutássemos inutilmente contra catástrofes naturais transvertidas de poderosas divindades. Não nos era exigido que tivéssemos uma memória de trabalho muito maior que três ou quatro espaços para que processássemos informações a respeito do ambiente e de quem fez o quem com quem em pequenas tribos. Nossa navegação espacial foi moldada para conseguir acertar uma lança na caça que foge em velocidade e, no entanto, audasiosamente a usamos para enviar naves tripuladas ao espaço. Surpreendentemente não temos saído muito mal desse empreendimento pretensioso chamado civilização moderna, no entanto modificamos nosso ambiente cada vez mais rápido e como resultado ele se distancia velozmente das antigas savanas. Nosso cérebro talvez esteja próximo de não ser mais adaptado o suficiente para o ambiente que ele próprio criou. Para que a sobrevivência da humanidade e do que ela valoriza ser possível é necessário transcender o invólucro que era só a semente, é necessário o transhumanismo. O primeiro fato inelutável sobre essas modificações é a sua ineroxabilidade: a tecnologia veio e vem crescendo exponencialmente e estimativas conservadoras calculam que por 2050 nosso modo de vida terá mudado tão radicalmente a ponto de se tornar irreconhecível. Se fizermos essas modificações da maneira certa aquilo que valorizamos não será destruído e seremos de fato transhumanos – mais humanos – e a vida se tornará mais próxima da perfeição. Se fizermos a coisa errada e nada do que consideramos humano esteja lá daqui a 40 anos, então a humanidade terá se extinguido. Se, além disso, não restar mais vida inteligente então a galáxia sofrera uma grande perda, uma vez que somos a única vida inteligente de que temos noticia. Pense em duas historias para nossa galáxia, e talvez para o universo: a matéria começa a se condensar pela força da grávidade, estrelas surgem, aglomerados cada vez maiores, estrelas morrem e nascem e surgem os planetas, em algum deles surge a vida e através de milhões e milhões de anos ela evolui até que surge uma espécie que se espalha pela galáxia, a enchendo de vida e significado, bilhões e bilhões de seres conscientes com os mais diversos e complexos estados mentais. Na outra historia essa espécie é destruída e a galáxia permanece para sempre fria, gélida, silenciosa e inabitada. A colonização da galáxia, entes super inteligentes, uma consciência e um entendimento muito mais profundos do universo e um bem estar e uma felicidade muito maior podem estar nos aguardando nos próximos séculos, bem como pode estar nos aguardado a total destruição, e qual porta nós iremos abrir depende das nossas ações agora. Ou a raça humana vai transcender a sua insignificância cósmica e a sua chama vai brilhar pelo universo e a galáxia será adornada com os ramos, as flores e os frutos do que agora é somente semente ou nós seremos completamente eliminados da face da terra e toda a nossa existência será vã. Existem diversos jeitos de nos modificarmos para enfrentar melhor esses desafios e fazer a coisa certa. Inicialmente podemos memeticamente tentar modificar nosso aparelho cognitivo, aprendendo sobre nossos bias cognitivos – tendência a sistematicamente desviar do pensamento racional  – e de como evitá-los. Alem disso podemos quimicamente aumentar nossa capacidade cognitiva com o uso de nootrópicos tais como modafinil e aricept. O mais importante, no entanto, é dar atenção aos nossos futuros desafios e pensar seriamente as questões que podem fazer o diferencial entre uma galáxia pulsante de vida e uma inabitada. Para abordar essas difíceis e relevantes questões Bostrom fundou o movimento conhecido como transhumanismo: um movimento intelectual e cultural que se funda da crença de que devemos usar a ciência e a tecnologia para alterar a vida humana para melhor. Nessa seção tentei dar uma visão do que subjetivamente move esse filosofo a pensar o que pensa. A seguir analisaremos os aspectos teóricos que são as pedras fundamentais sob a qual ele constrói sua filosofia.

2. A Filosofia de Nick Bostrom

2.1 Bases

2.1.1 Tentando saber mais que Deus, conhecimento indexical e a SSA.

O instrumental teórico de Bostrom gravita em torno de um único conceito: A Self-Sample Assumption (SSA). Em termos precisos a SSA consiste em assumir que você é uma amostra aleatória da sua classe de referencia, sendo a classe de referencia o grupo de entidades que se assemelham a você em aspectos relevantes. Por exemplo, imaginemos o seguinte experimento mental: o mundo consiste de 100 calabouços habitados, cada um deles, por um único ser humano. 10 são pintados de branco e 90 de vermelho. Você acorda num calabouço escuro, qual probabilidade você irá atribuir para que o seu calabouço seja branco? Naturalmente será 10%. Esse raciocínio intuitivo pode ser formalizado se você considerar que sua classe de referencia for a dos humanos e que ela tem tamanho 100 e que destes 100, 10 estão numa sala branca e 90 em uma vermelha, assim segue naturalmente que se você é um humano e não sabe a cor da sua sala, a probabilidade de que a sua sala seja branca é de 10 em 100, ou seja, 10%. A SSA tem a forma do condicional bayesiano P(Eu sou tal que … | O Mundo é tal que…) – no exemplo anterior: P(Eu estou na sala branca | Existem 100 salas habitadas no mundo, 10 brancas e 90 vermelhas). Este resumo simplista revela algo de fundamental ao pensamento bostroniano. Aquele que já olhou uma noite estrelada num céu despoluído e divagou sobre o universo, as estrelas e a sua formação, planetas com vida e nosso papel no cosmos teve talvez um instante do estado de consciência que constantemente permeia os escritos deste filosofo sueco. A SSA parte de uma observação do estado do mundo (“O mundo é tal que…”) para uma reflexão sobre a nossa posição nele (“Eu sou tal que..”). Uma das pedras fundantes deste conceito foi colocada por David Lewis em 1979 em seu artigo “Attitudes De Dicto and De Se”, neste artigo Lewis abordava uma limitação dos dois tipos de ocorrências em enunciados que eram canônicos na época: as ocorrências de re e as de dicto. As ocorrências de re – da coisa – dizem respeito a coisa no mundo e fixam a referencia, ocorrências de dicto – do dito – dizem respeito ao que quer que seja que a intensão do nome pegue no mundo. Por exemplo, quando digo: ‘O Diego poderia ser o rei da Dinamarca”‘ , se tomo ‘Diego’ como de dicto então isso significa que seja lá ao que o nome Diego se refira caso o mundo pudesse ser diferente, essa coisa no mundo poderia ser o rei da Dinamarca. Se tomo ‘Diego’ como de re então me refiro a um Diego especifico no mundo, que não é o rei da Dinamarca. No primeiro caso a sentença é verdadeira e no segundo falsa. Na época se acreditava que qualquer fato poderia ser expresso apenas com esses dois tipos de modo de se referir a algo. No entanto, Lewis mostrou no artigo que existiam fatos que caiam fora do alcance deste tipo de referencia: os fatos indexicais. Por exemplo, seja a descrição completa do estado microfisico deste ambiente, existe um tipo de conhecimento que é sempre inalcançado por esse tipo de descrição: os famigerados conhecimentos indexicais. O conhecimento de que você é você, e eu sou eu. Chalmers afirma jocosamente que nem Deus tem conhecimento sobre os fatos indexicais e é esse tipo de conhecimento que o Bostrom tenta focar com a SSA. As ocorrências de se seriam, portanto, todas as ocorrências que fazem referencia a pessoa que tem o conhecimento ou enuncia a sentença. “Eu sou narigudo” é um conhecimento que algumas pessoas podem ter e outras não. Por mais que alguém não narigudo olhe para o Diego e saiba “O Diego é narigudo” isso não é o mesmo tipo de conhecimento que só o Diego (e as pessoas narigudas) podem ter: “Eu sou narigudo”.
Esse tipo de conhecimento de se não é mera especulação filosófica, em inúmeros ramos da ciência e do nosso pensamento intuitivo usamos freqüentemente conhecimentos indexicais. Um exemplo apontado por Bostrom desse uso é na cosmologia. Se, como diz o modelo cosmologico mais aceito, o universo é infinito e contem processos aleatórios como radiação emitida por buracos negros então qualquer observação de qualquer evento será feita com probabilidade um. Uma vez que existem infinitos processos aleatórios e existe uma probabilidade finita de gerar observadores nesses processos que sofrem uma alucinação, qualquer observação possível sempre será feita, mesmo que por um observador que é um cérebro que acaba de ser ejetado de um buraco negro. No entanto queremos usar o fato de que observamos o universo tal como ele como evidencia para uma teoria que prevê que ele é deste modo que o vemos. Para realizar isso temos que levar em consideração a informação indexical de que nós observamos o universo dessa maneira. Esse fato indexical, ao contrario do simples dado empírico observacional, tem o poder de alterar a probabilidade de que uma dada teoria seja verdadeira. Por exemplo, Bostrom fala de duas teorias cosmológicas: uma prevê que a radiação de fundo é 3K e a outra que é 7K. Observamos que a radiação de fundo é 3K e queremos usar isso como evidencia em favor da primeira teoria. O simples fato de que observamos uma radiação de fundo não falseia nenhuma das teorias, pois em ambas o universo é infinito e a observação de uma radiação de 3K é sempre feita em algum lugar com probabilidade 1, a diferença é que na primeira teoria ela é feita muito mais freqüentemente do que na segunda. Assim se considerarmos o fato de que nós fizermos essa observação isso diz algo é favor da primeira teoria, pois nela essa observação é muito mais provável que na segunda. Para realizar essa inferência temos que primeiro nos considerar como membros da uma classe de referencia de observadores do cosmos e em seguida estimar a probabilidade de que o cosmos seja de um jeito ou de outro analisando como o fato de observarmos ele de um jeito afeta a probabilidade de que essa observação seja feita com maior ou menor freqüência. Alem disso Bostrom expõe inúmeros outros experimentos mentais alem do já citado nos quais isso se faz necessário, dentre eles temos o seguinte:

O mundo consiste de Deus e uma moeda justa. Deus joga a moeda e se der cara ele irá criar duas salas: em uma colocara um homem de barba negra e em outra de barba branca; se der coroa ele irá criar apenas uma sala com um homem de barba negra. Quando um homem vem a existência e não sabe a cor da sua barba, qual a probabilidade ele deve atribuir para que ela seja negra se ele é informado por Deus que a moeda deu cara. Nesse caso a classe de referencia desse homem são os habitantes do mundo: um homem de barba negra e um de barba branca e ele deve atribuir uma probabilidade de 50% para que sua barba seja negra. Se, no entanto ele for informado que a moeda deu coroa, sua probabilidade vai para 100%. Mas e se Deus nada informa sobre o mundo para esse pobre barbudo? Quando ele vem a existência, se faz a luz e ele observa que sua barba é negra, que probabilidade ele deve atribuir da moeda ter dado cara? Se assumirmos que a classe de referencia no caso são os homens de barba negra, temos que a probabilidade de que um homem observe uma barba negra no mundo onde a moeda deu cara é de 50% e no que ela deu coroa é de 100%. Assim, a observação “A minha barba é negra” faz com que seja duas vezes mais provável que ele esteja no mundo onde a moeda deu coroa do que na que deu cara e conseqüentemente a probabilidade de ter dado cara é de 1/3 e a de que tenha dado coroa 2/3. No entanto, a maioria das pessoas – segundo a sua intuição – diria que é igualmente provável. Para lidar com casos igualmente ou mais complexos do que esse se faz necessário uma formalização axiomática da nossa intuição, faz-se necessário a Self-Sample Assumption, faz-se necessário raciocinar como um membro aleatório da sua classe de referencia.

Alem disso a SSA pretende modelar nossas intuições com respeito ao principio antrópico: o principio antrópico diz que o universo tem de ser tal que ele proporcione à nós observarmos ele da maneira que observamos. Isso implica, dentre outras coisas, que ele tem de permitir vida inteligente como a nossa. A SSA talvez possa ser vista como um caso geral desse principio, que vale universalmente para qualquer observador e qualquer observação. Alem disso ela tem a vantagem de ser mais precisa e facilmente matematizavel.

2.1.2 Efeitos de Seleção Observacionais e Riscos Existenciais

Uma conseqüência particularmente interessante da SSA é de que nunca observaremos eventos que são incompatíveis com a nossa existência. Como conseqüência existe uma vasta gama de fenômenos que são inobserváveis pela sua própria natureza, eles estão vedados pelo o que Bostrom chama de Efeito de Seleção Observacional. Por exemplo, se no nosso experimento mental Deus jogasse um dado de 3 lados de modo que as duas primeiras opções permanecem como a anterior e se desse três ele não criasse nada os homens criados nunca iriam podem estimar corretamente a probabilidade da terceira opção se realizar dado que nunca a observariam. Se dado que você existe em uma sala a probabilidade que o dado tenha dado 3 é 0, então dado que o dado deu 3 a probabilidade de que você observe isso é 0. Temos um fenômeno interessante em que a existência de algo o torna automaticamente inobservável. Se a freqüência de um evento não influencia a nossa probabilidade de observa-lo então isso significa que não podemos aprender com a experiência sobre eles. Estimar a sua probabilidade com base na experiência direta estará sempre fadada ao fracasso pois a probabilidade de experienciarmos tais eventos é constante e igual a zero independente de quão prováveis eles sejam. Um tipo particular desse evento são os eventos de extinção em massa. Existem certos eventos que poderiam aniquilar por completo a raça humana, tais como grandes asteróides, inteligência artificial dando errado, supervulcanismo, etc., tais eventos constituem Riscos Existenciais. Ao estimar a probabilidade de sermos extintos não podemos usar o fato de que nunca fomos extintos como critério. Existem outros métodos indiretos de realizar esse tipo de estimativa como, por exemplo, ver com que freqüência esses eventos ocorrem em outros planetas. Nas seções seguintes contextualizarei melhor os efeitos de seleção observacionais e darei alguns exemplos de Riscos Existenciais em potencial.

Em futuros posts dessa série, abordarei os seguintes tópicos:

2.2 Riscos Catastróficos Globais
2.2.1 Introdução
2.2.2 Dois principais bias
2.2.3 Outros bias
2.2.4 Principais Riscos
2.2.5 Conseqüências

2.3 Transhumanismo
2.3.1 Melhor impossível: A status quos bias
2.3.2 Imperativos Éticos
2.3.3 Human Enhancement
2.3.3.1 Cognitive Engancement
2.3.3.1.1 Antigos
2.3.3.1.2 Químicos
2.3.3.1.3 Outros
2.3.3.1.4 Uma heurística para modificar a evolução
2.3.3.2 Life-Span Enhancement

2.3.4 Transhuman Enhancement
2.3.4.1. Uploading de Mentes
2.3.4.1.1 Técnicas
2.3.4.1.2 Riscos: imediatos e de longo prazo
2.3.4.2. IA
2.3.4.2.1 Projeções
2.3.4.2.2 Riscos