Ethics Demands Speed

BLUF: For problems that we are destined to solve, the impact of solving them can be thought of as {how quickly one’s efforts expedite a solution} times {the utility of each moment of that expedition}.

We are already well on the path to solve a few great ethical challenges that face us. A clear example, in my mind, is factory farming. The science is already here that these animals are very likely to be experiencing immense suffering, we are quickly coming up with replacements for meat to satisfy stubborn consumers, and moral advocacy efforts are leading people to become sentientists, reducetarians, and vegans. It’s only a matter of time until the will of the populace leads politicians to pass legislation to drastically tax animal products and improve the conditions of factory farms, or outright shut them down.

There is a lot to be done between now and the end of factory farming, so I don’t mean to detract from the efforts still required at all. In my mind, this is still a very neglected cause area with room for many people to spend decades devoted to it. That being said, I would bet a lot that factory farming will be done away with in the western world by 2100, and hopefully much sooner. Perhaps the simplest moral question then for one to ask is “when?”

There are a variety of ways to measure one’s impact in a cause area. How much does one increase the probability of a solution coming to fruition times the marginal utility of said solution? The other clearest metric to me is how much sooner will a solution be enacted via one’s efforts? If my actions cause a tax spike on animal products to arrive two weeks early and in those first two weeks, we see a reduction in demand of animals by 50 million, which leads to a reduction in supply by 40 million, I am responsible for preventing the suffering of these 40 million animals. That’s a huge impact. On the contrary, if I didn’t do anything for these factory farms when I could have statistically sped up tax-hikes by 2 weeks, then the suffering of those 40 million animals is on my hands.

Ethics demands speed.

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