Narrowing in on Cause X

BLUF: Since we've unsuspectedly committed moral atrocities in the past and do not appear to have 100% solved ethics, our Bayesian prior should be that we are probably committing some sort of moral atrocity today. Since utilitarian axioms dictate that not doing a vast amount of net-good when it's possible to do so is a… Continue reading Narrowing in on Cause X

Designing an Ideal Utilitarian Welfare Scale

BLUF: I formalize my conception of an ideal utilitarian welfare scale here and state why I think total, non-negative, act, hedonic utilitarianism is right.Epistemic Status: This is in very philosophical territory, so I am still very uncertain this is true. Future qualia research could definitely upend this. However, I believe this scale is currently the… Continue reading Designing an Ideal Utilitarian Welfare Scale

Free Will Is But an Unspecified Feeling in the Brain

Does free will exist? Our answer will depend on our exact definition of it. My definition is from my conception of what I think most people mean when they talk about free will: a person in a past environmental state X with a mind state Y and the same 'random' quantum mechanical inputs Z, could… Continue reading Free Will Is But an Unspecified Feeling in the Brain

Economic Policies that Optimize for Future People

BLUF: This isn't a profoundly deep postβ€”it just shows my current, general views on a variety of current economic issues. I do not believe future people are intrinsically less valuable than the people existing today. In fact, I think they might be more valuable because their lives will intrinsically be more worth living as their… Continue reading Economic Policies that Optimize for Future People

Understanding the True Cost of Land-Use Projects

Update: My team's paper earned the coveted Outstanding rating! Further, our paper won the Rachel Carson award, which "is presented to a team selected by the Head Judge of ICM Problem E for excellence in using scientific theory and data in its modeling." Over 4,800 collegiate teams from around the world were competing in Problem… Continue reading Understanding the True Cost of Land-Use Projects

Counterfactual People Are Important

BLUF: The moral weight of future counterfactual people is a massive, yet neglected, variable in the abortion debate. In my opinion, accounting for this variable virtually solves the abortion debate at the societal, should-it-be-legal level. When looking at the morality or desirability of abortions, many people claim, "if my sibling with X-serious-disability were aborted, then… Continue reading Counterfactual People Are Important

The Exponential Impact of Socially-Contagious Philanthropy

If doing any significant amount of good was basically intractable, it would be more permissible for individuals to ignore the utilitarian imperative to do the most good. However, doing incredible amounts of good is in the reach of many of us. We don't necessarily have to research and contribute to Multiverse-wide Cooperation via Correlated Decision… Continue reading The Exponential Impact of Socially-Contagious Philanthropy

Making Total Utilitarianism More Intuitive

BLUF: If total utilitarianism's obligation to create new beings seems non-intuitive, think of increased numbers of beings as increased duration of subjective experience. We are allowed to redefine population as duration because subjective experience is fundamentally impersonal and based on physics, where there is no room for personhood. Utilitarianism usually states that maximizing the quality… Continue reading Making Total Utilitarianism More Intuitive

Suspend Moral Self-Judgement for Higher-Quality Reasoning

I think most people have an intense psychological need to feel they are 'good'. After all, if we are not 'good', we probably have extra work ahead of ourselves to set ourselves straight ethically and at the very least, preserve our social standing. Some of us do moral calculus all the time in order to… Continue reading Suspend Moral Self-Judgement for Higher-Quality Reasoning

The DoD can Further Optimize its Retirement System

BLUF: The DoD could probably save money, increase servicemember compensation, and better optimize talent management if it further increased TSP contributions while reducing 20-year retirement pensions. Introduction to the Military Retirement: For decades, the DoD had a retirement system where after 20 years of active-duty service (and upon leaving the service) a servicemember (SM) was entitled… Continue reading The DoD can Further Optimize its Retirement System

Our Obligation to Add Beings to the World

Bryan Caplan brings up some solid points in his post, "Where are the Pro-Life Utilitarians?"Β  I still am inclined to feel that abortions are ethically permissible the majority of the time, but I obviously need to formalize my intuitions, look more closely at this, and possibly change my position if the cost-benefit analysis is clear… Continue reading Our Obligation to Add Beings to the World

Risk-Tolerance is Not a Thing

Traditional finance literature says that individuals may choose theirΒ risk-tolerance in order to adequately model their financial preferences. A person who chooses a high-risk financial option is willing to deal with greater variability; a person who chooses a low-risk option prefers outcomes with low-variability. Underlying these notions is the idea that risk-tolerance is a stand-alone, unique,… Continue reading Risk-Tolerance is Not a Thing

Welfare Stems from Fundamental Physics

It's pretty clear that our subjective experiences stem from activities going on in the brain.Β  You can even test this out by physically altering the brain in various ways, and its owner will report different subjective experiences. Consider, for instance, a concussion: damage to the brain can lead to memory loss, vision impairment, pain, and… Continue reading Welfare Stems from Fundamental Physics

A Singleton Government is not as Dangerous as Omnicidal Agents

Back in November of 2018, I had a brief discussion with the economist (polymath, really) Robin Hanson on Twitter and I'm pretty sure I inspired him to write this blog post.Β  We were discussing essentially whether a strong, central government or free individual agents are going to pose a greater threat to future society.Β  He… Continue reading A Singleton Government is not as Dangerous as Omnicidal Agents

Our Responsibility to Reduce Personal Risk

Insofar as the {expected value of the world with us alive} minus {the expected value of the world with us dead} is positive, we have an obligation to remain alive.Β  Therefore, it is unethical to bear personal risks of death when the expected benefits of doing so do not outweigh the expected marginal benefit of… Continue reading Our Responsibility to Reduce Personal Risk