In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Oxford philosopher William MacAskill about effective altruism, moral illusions, existential risk, and other topics.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today, I'm speaking to William Mccaskill Wills and associate professor in philosophy at
Lincoln College Oxford
dated at Cambridge Princetonian Oxford. He may in
actually the youngest tenured professor of philosophy in the world and he's one of the
primary voices in a movement in philanthropy known as effective, altruism movement, which he started.
The friend and the co founder of three nonprofits based on effective altruist principles. What we can
Eighty thousand hours and the center for effective, altruism, he's. Also the author
book, which I just started, reading, which is really good, and the title is
doing good, better, effective AL
tourism in a radical new way to make a difference, and there is no
that will is making a difference. Don't have two hours to spend
a whole conversation which I absolutely loved. Please listen to the last few minutes of this podcast so that you please know that tangible affect the converse
it had on me, and now I give you will Macaskill
well I'm here with Will Macaskill will thanks for coming on the podcast, thanks for having me
about you when you did your appearance on TIM, Ferriss Podcast, and
that was a great interview by the way I am now in the habit. So
get him of poaching. Your pot, your podcast guests,
is the third time I've done this, I I did it with Jocko Willink than
PC and Eric Weinstein, the
petition Dc Motor, both great conversations,
and now I have will here, and so I just one thing I do is I try not to recapitulate the interview that that was done with TIM.
So we will not cover much of the ground. You did there,
so I recommend that interview 'cause. That was fascinating and you you have a
fascinating bio, much of which we will. We will ignore because you described it with TIM, but you know
So just tell me what it is you
doing in the world and how you come to be thinking about the things you things you think about
yeah. So I'm, where the a couple of hats associate, professor of philosophy
at the University of Oxford, with a focus on ethics,
and political philosophy, little bit of overlap
and I'm also the ceo of the center for the about altruism, which is a non profit design
and to develop him
remote, the idea of effective altruism, which is the use of your time in my
need to do as much good as you possibly can, and using evidence and careful reasoning and high quality thought in awe.
To ensure that when you try to do
good, you actually do as much good as possible. Whether that's the
cavity Orthia career through what you buy and helps you choose what
The cause is where you can have the biggest impact and
put that way it seems like a purely common sensical approach
to doing good in the world. I think, as we get into this conversation for people who are not familiar with your work or d, effective, altruism movement they'll be some
tries to learn just how edgy certain of your positions are, which is why this will be a fascinating conversation. So I should say up front that you have a book
battle, doing good, better, which I have only started, I regret to say, but it's a very well
written and very interesting book, which I recommend people read. It covers
many things we buy again. I won't cover in this conversation, but tell me about the play pump. You start your book
with this story and it really encapsulates MA
much of what is wrong and what much of what is
actually right with philanthropy yeah. So the play pump was developed.
In the late 1990s, and it was- and I
dear that, legally caught the attention of
People around the world, but especially in philanthropic development communities, and so the play pump was built in South Africa
and the idea behind it was there was a way
if providing clean water to pour villages
didn't currently have clean water. I'm a class
sub Saharan Africa and South Africa,
where it was a combination invention. It was
children's merry go around, so children would push this
being looked just like a merry go round, but the force from the children pushing it would pump.
In water up to a reservoir to provide clean water for the community so
It looked like a win win. The chilled
the village would get the first playground, immunity and the
people of the village. Would I'm get clean water and
took off. For that reason that reason so the media loved her panel
ideas had pumping water, this child's play, it's the magic roundabout and it got huge.
Not funding the first lady Laura Bush. At the time most part, the Clinton Global Initiative gave it
seventeen million dollars in funding to roll this out across Earth
It won the World Bank development marketplace awards for being such an innovative invention, Jay Z,
promoted it beyonc it really. It was like it was the thing with in development for awhile and
I first heard about it I thought wow, what an amazing idea. This is
great, that you can do two things at once:
this year, making children happy, but then also providing water to seems such a good.
Sample of an everyone, of course was like vanity well intentioned behind it. Yes, I I I I should say read that section of your book: it's which right, which again is the first few pages.
The effect on the reader is really perfect.
Because you find yourself on the wrong side of this particular phenomenon, because it you just think, oh, my god, that is the greatest idea ever right yeah. This is a
Merry go round for kids. That has the effect of
doing all of this.
Annoying labor that was otherwise done by women. You know pumping his hand, pumps so now continue
The depressing conclusion yeah, as you might expect, there's
Kristen the story, which is just simply the in reality the play.
It was a terrible idea from the start, so uh
like a normal, merry go round which spins freely once you push it in order to pump the clean water, you need constant talk, so
see pushing this thing would be very tiring for the kids, I mean
that fall off and break limbs. Sometimes the children would vomit from the spending, but the main problem was that they would just send
to get very tired. It wouldn't want to play on this thing all day, but a community still needed this water, and so is normally LE
stop to the elderly, women of the village to push this brightly colored play pump around and round all hours of the day, a task he found very undignified into meaning
and then secondly, just wasn't even very good as a pump and often
replacing very boiling, but very
functional Zimbabwe hand, pumps which, when you actually ask the communities they prefer, that would pump more
water with less effort, but actually one slash three of the place. They were
a number of other problems too. They would often break that down. They had initially be
an idea that maintenance would be paid for with billboards on these,
as it was, but no no, no address
then companies. Actually she wanted to pay for that, and so
these things were often left in disarray and no maintenance would happen to them either
this all came to light in a couple of investigations and thankfully, in what's in, what's actually a very admirable and a rare case, people who are funding this, especially the case foundation, acknowledged
this had being a big mistake and then said yet we just made a mistake with no longer going to keep funding this
what about the man who had invented or was pushing the idea of the pump yeah, so the people who are pushing it play pumps international and have a field.
Find? It continued continue to go ahead with it. They didn't accept the criticism. This is perhaps a phenomenon
you're very familiar with you, yes,
and so actually the organization does still continue in a vastly diminished capacity. Today, there still producing play pumps sponsored by companies like Colgate, Palmolive and Ford Motors.
What is unusual in the world of doing
it is the actually these could is. This actually was investigated. Criticism came to light and people willing to back out, but the lesson from this is just that. What seem like you know, good intense,
isn't good enough? What seems like a really good idea? It just seems like yeah. This is amazing, is
revolution. A new idea, actually can just not be very effective, can even do more harm than good. What we need to do if we want to really make a big difference, is the actually investigating. How much does this thing cost? How many people's lives
What's the evidence behind this and the many other things that we could
spending our money on that much less sexy in the play pump to do vast amounts of good, and that's why it's absolutely clue.
So if we really do want to use our time and money to make a difference that we think about what are the different ways, we could be spending this time or money
What's the evidence behind the different programs we could be doing and what's the one that's going to do, the very most good seems to be there at least three.
Elements to what you're doing that are very powerful. And the first is the common sense component, which really is not so common as as we know, which is just to actually study the results of one's actions and the and in the spirit,
science, see what works and then stop doing what doesn't work, but the other element is, you are committed. I know you're personally committed
and to some degree I guess you can just tell me how much the ea community is also committed explicitly to
giving until it hurts me get giving a what many people would view
as a heroic amount of of one's wealth to
the poorest people in the world or to the gravest
problems in the world, and we will talk
Peter singer in a moment because you certainly been inspired by him in,
and the third component is too
no longer be taken in by
certain moral allusions, where the the the thing that is sexiest or most disturbing is ends? Often the gravest need or doesn't represent the greatest need
and to cut through that in a very unsentimental way, and this is where people's moral intuitions are going to be pushed around. So, let's start with the second piece 'cause, I think the first is
is uncontroversial. We want to know what is actually effective, how far down the path with Peter,
singer. Do you go in terms of what I heard? You say? I've watched a few of your talks at this point. I've heard you say things
more or less a line you perfectly with with singers level of commitment which, where he more or less argues. I don't think he has ever recanted this- that you should give every freeze sent to help
the neediest people on earth today. It's morally indefensible to have
anything like what we
consider a luxury when you're looking at the zero sum trade off between
spending, a dollar on ice cream or whatever, whatever it is and save in yet another life. So just to just tell me how much
you've been inspired by singer and where you may differ with his piss take. So I think this just to flaming's, which of both accurate. So the first is the obligation flame. Just how much are we required to get
r and b to sing a argues that we have no obligation to give? Basically everything we can and argues for this was saying imagine if you just walking past a child than a shallow pond and rescued that child
and or failed to vascular child. Now that would be morally abominable. What's the difference between that and spending,
one thousand dollars on
and because you're gonna highly when you're my suit the cost you a thousand pounds. That would just be you know no job while justification told North wouldn't be a justification for ten thousand pounds, I'm
and so for that reason he argues yeah. We have this obligation there's another fee
as well, which we call this excited, which is,
I use the story of imagine if you're walking past a burning, building and you're on, and you see the chart as a child that you kick the door down, and you know you save that child I'm on this
gaming the thoughts just wouldn't it be amazing, wouldn't you feel like that was really special moment in your life. You feel like this hero and imagine, if you did that said
times in a year, you know if you save one child
burning building another time you take a bullet for someone a third time. You know you say someone from Japan
You think your life is really special and pretty good about yourself and that truth, the
after actually yeah. We can do that if single yeah, we can do much
more than that hero, who runs into the burning building and save that child's life. Just by deciding to use the money in a different way and pay,
these two framings obligation and opportunity- and I actually just think both are true. Many people in the effect of autism community don't actually agree with the obligation framing. They think they're doing what they do, because it's part of their values, but there's no sense in
obligated to do it
agree with singers arguments. I think that, certainly, if you can help other people to very significant extent, such as by saving a life while not sacrificing anything of model significance,
then you're required to do it. I mean in my own case. I just think the level at which I am at least approximately just maxing out, and how much good I can do is just
Nowhere close to the level at which I think wow. This is like a big sacrifice for me, and so that's a big sacrifice in financial terms.
You know as an academic Albion, a good middle class income and I'm planning to give away most of my income over the course of my life. So in financial terms it looks like a big sack base, but in terms of my personal well being I don't think it's like that. All I don't think money is actually a big factor and if you look in my own personal happiness, if you
but the literature on well being. This is also the case beyond even quite a low level of about thirty five thousand dollars per year. The relations
between money and happiness is very small indeed, and when some ways of measuring it's nonexistent. In fact,.
And then, on the other hand, being part of this community of people who are really trying to make the world better, I'm just value awarding actually just has these positive.
Effects in terms of my own well being so. That kind of answer is just that: yeah in theory agree just even if it was the case that.
No, I would think that yeah. This is a model of the requirements so on, but then in practice it's actually just not really much of a sacrifice for me. I don't think
just linger there, because I have heard you say in response to challenges of the sort that singer often receives well, if you can live comfortably n do
Good. Well, then, that's great! That's a bonus! There's, nothing! Nothing wrong with living comfortably
and now you have just claim that you're living comfortably, but in fact it by most people,
view you about, I think, said so, spell out how how much do you? What what it? What is? Actually your commitment to giving money away, yeah point such as giving money I sent,
two thousand and nine. I made a commitment to give everything above twenty thousand per year, inflation and purchasing power, parity adjusted to Oxford's, two thousand and nine right. So now that's about twenty four thousand pounds or current exchange rate. That's something like
eighty thousand dollars and just to then give everything above that and not to wait to the
that you do that every year not to do the and then, with my
same as well. I just don't spend as much time as I can,
and you actually think that would or will scale with vastly increased
opportunity, if you get dragged into a start up next week,
where now your making
millions of dollars at some point you aspire to to keep it. Why
we've said it now. Absolutely I mean I think you know,
of money? I've are interning over the last year as much greater than when I was a postar cool, page, the student and in fact that's just been a possum happier that middle to give away more, I'm I mean the one where the the biggest weather have with my commitment is just value of my time. So the certain ways you can spend money in order to save time, even out of making food for yourself being more willing to get a taxi places on the bus. That's interesting. That means, I think, I'd be making a mistake. If my pledge, so I have a, can a balancing act, one is just because I'm using my time,
to build up center of activism, and so on promote these ideas. I want to ensure that have as much time as possible to do that, but then, at the same time, I don't want to say: oh well, people should be giving or is really good for people to be giving their money effectively. But I don't do that 'cause my time so valuable that just seem kind of hypocritical. So I also just want to demonstrate like yeah. You can do this and just actually just a really
good life is not nearly as much of a sacrifice, as it might seem less linger there for a moment, because I think that
if you are not following singer
for all the way, so that the implications of his argue,
it is really that there should be some kind of equilibrium state where
you are more or less indistinguishable from the people you're
helping at a certain point because you've helped them so much so you if, if you are living a comfortable life.
Really, at all made by a comfortable life by western standards, you are still from singers view,
culpably standing next to the shallow pond watching yet another child drown, and so I'm not
how you draw that line and obvious at me. You a and, needless to say, there's no judgment in this, because what the scheme you have just sketched out is already qualifies you for sainthood in in most people's world view at this point
they had it. So how do you think about that yeah? So why don't I give even more? So I think I think, even on you, even if you endorse kind of pure utilitarianism, just to maximize the amount good you can do. I think that, just for practical reasons that doesn't
in the you should move all of your you know keep donating until the your living on two dollars per day. I'm not sure, then I'm rich country, because the opportunities you have to spend- let's just solely
focus on money, lots of other ways of doing good of doing good. But if you just say: ok, I'm going to live normal, you know keep going in my own job and just donate as much as I can until I'm running like. Firstly, I think
you, know, that's going to damage your ability to earn more later. It means that there's risks of yourself burning out, which is, I think, very significant. If you're going to wear a hair shirt three years and then complete
give up and morality altogether, that's much worse than just donating a more moderate amount, but for the rest of your life, and
then also in terms of yeah, your productivity in your work as well just actually really important to ensure that you've got the right balance between how much we're donating such that you can do it positively and then. Finally, in terms of the influence you have another people, I think
you're able to you know if you're able to access all the old model, something that people actually really aspire towards think yeah? This is this amazing way to live a life and look at these people are able to do in a very significant amount and still have a really great life. That's much more powerful, except actually make mean that
many other people go and do the same thing, and it's just one. Other person does the same thing as you do you've doubled your life's impact like a very big part of the equation where those, if you're.
Walking around utterly miserable just
you can donate the x the that last sent to fight global poverty. You know you might seem a little bit like an anti hero. I think that's very important to the nation, so I actually think that when it comes to the practical implications, singers ideas, it doesn't lead you to donate everything above your two dollars per day. I'm
instead, you kind of max at the optimal amount is actually quite quite higher level, which is
maximizing. The amount of good you'll do over the course of your lifetime. Bearing in mind the ability to say, get promotions or changed,
earn more the value of your time and showing your productive and ensuring a good little model to other people as well, and so I actually think that yeah the case that which I try and maximize my
impact is way far away
from the line at which I think this is really really a big. You know big hardship me and I think that's true, at least for many
Yes, it, this is really a fascinating area. Is it's going to get more fascinating because it's it just become straight.
The closer you look at it now. I I'm totally convinced by your opportunity framing and while I had heard it put that way before
Your emphasis on that is very attractive and very compelling, and, and so
remind our listeners of it by dint of having
sources you have, and if you listen to this podcast in any developed country, you almost by definition, have vast resources relative to the poorest people on earth and that this puts you in a position to
Quite literally save the child. From the burning building any moment you decide to write a check for what. What is it that
actually, in your view, is sufficient to save a life.
Even if you already this best guess from Givewell donating to against Malaria Foundation is three thousand four hundred dollars more, statistically speaking, on average save a life and their keen to emphasize that. That's just an estimate, a lot of kind of assumptions go into that, and so on, but they're very careful, very sceptical. It's the best.
No estimate that I know of so that that opportunity is always there and I guess,
one of the challenges from a filling through
quick point of view, and they just the point of view of
things on maximizing one's own, psychological well being is
to make that opportunity as salient as possible, because, obviously writing a check doesn't feel like Russian
cross the street and grabbing the child out of the burning building
and then being rewarded by all the thanks. You will get from from your neighbors, but if you could fully internalize the ethical significance of
fact something like that reward is available to us at least that's what your argument. I'm convinced that is a good way of seeing it and and so therefore,
taking those opportunities more and more and making them more emotionally real seems like a very important project for all of us who have so much
the other side, the the the sing arian obligation side. I think
fraught with other issues, and so I just want to explore those little bit
the problem we're dealing with here is that we are beset
by many different forms of moral illusion where we effortlessly care about things
that are in the scheme of things, not all that important and can't be goaded to care about things that are objectively and subject.
Only when you actually connect with the lives of the people suffering these conditions. The most important problems on earth
The classic example, is you know a girl falls down a well,
one girl it's one life and what you see is
wall to wall coverage on every channel for twenty four hours, tracing the rescue, successful or uh
why's of this little girl an yet a genocide
to be raging in Sudan, and not only do
we can't, we be moved to care, so we so relle
probably can't be moved to care that the news organizations just can't bear to cover it.
I mean they. They give us a little bit of it, just because it's their obligation, but it's it's five minutes, and
they know that. That's that's a losing prop.
Position for them anyway. So that's the situation. We're in
That seems like a bug, not a feature of our ethical hardware
it exposes an interesting paradox here, because because the
most disturbing things are not
reliably the most harmful in the world and
most harmful things are not reliably the most disturbing, and you can talk
but this isn't the positive or negative side. We can talk about the goods, we don't do and we can talk about the harms people cause, and so this is an example from my first book, the end of faith,
to find out that your Gran Father flew a few bomb
missions over Dresden in the war is one thing to find out that
he killed a woman and her children with a shovel is another. Now Hyun, doubt
we would have killed more women and children flying that bombing mission, but given the difference between key
plane from thirty thousand feet by dropping bombs and killing up close and personal, and this, where the paradise
it comes in. We recognize that it would take a different kind of person with a very different. So
head of internal motives, intentions and
but in a global properties of his mind and emotional life. To do the latter versus the former
well it completely ordinary person like ourselves could be, by dint of circumstance, detached enough from the consequences of his actions so as to drop the bombs from the plane.
It takes a proper psychopath or somebody who was pushed into psych opathy by his experience to kill p,
people in that way with a shovel and to flip this back to philanthropy. It is a very different person. Who
throws out the appeal from UNICEF, casual,
ignoring the fact that he has
Morgan, yet another opportunity to save alive
drowning in a shallow pond, doesn't want to get his shoes wet, and so the
utilitarian equation between
you know I live life and life which singer is obligation. Story rests on, doesn't acknowledged,
fact that it really would require a different person to ignore suffering that was that salient or to perpetrate in the case of of creating harms
suffering that sad salient and yet we are being asked to view
TIM is equivalent for the purpose of parsing the ethics. So I think this important distinction between assessing acts and assessing a person assessing a person,
character, and I think normally, when we go about doing model reasoning most of the time we're talking about people's characters. So is this a good person in general? Can I trust them to do good things in the future as the sole person, I want to say
it with, whereas model philosophers often talking about acts, and so I think
singer as well? Would it could be that it's in some sense, so much worse person who kills someone then, who, like intentionally, kill someone than who just walks past attending child I'm needing tirelessly with that, because in part, the idea that much worse to kill people intentionally is a far greater modeled wrong. The
in our society than merely failing to save someone right. Let me just the difference between an active, coma
in an omission I think it brings in a different variable here I mean I agree that that that is a difference that we find
really salient. But what I'm
talking about here is in both cases. You are decline,
I need to help someone on the side of not doing good and in both cases in war. You are you knowing,
killing people but they're, just very different circumstances of his death, yeah, yeah levels of silence, and so I'm. I agree that it's kind of I would also just be the
I have leveled by someone who wasn't moved by the more salient causes of suffering in human in some way
but when we think about model protests, I think it's absolutely crucial to pay particular attention to those causes suffering the Vatican of mechanized to have the salient stepped away from them. I mean, if you look at the orders that were given to SS guards in terms descriptions of how to to the Jews in the holocaust. Every step has been taken to the move, the humanity to turn it into a completely, but not
evil and its flu that it's almost mechanization of suffering, and I think you meant he's committed some of the worst alongs in its history, and I think that that's also going to be two today. So when you look at back to the factory farm,
if you look at the way we incarcerate people, so you know if we saw a country as happens, that was regularly a flow, no flogging flitting, corporal punishment on its criminals, think of absolute bar about
check a practice, but yet putting someone in a prison cell for several years
harm to them. I think it's like considerably worse the punishment reflecting on them. It doesn't give us that same like emotional resonance, and I think in so far as this is track records throughout human history of people doing
absolutely abominable acts, not realizing that it was morally problematic a toll even taking it's common sense, precisely because the ways in which the harm caused had been stripped away. It's been made stab mile, as with the case of the SS cards that should give us pause. When there's some case of you know it's the home, the
how does this property of being made style should make as well? They are we in that situation again? Are we just thinking yeah? This is core common sense, normal part of practice, but only because of the way that things been flamed and the really powerful, for I think from
you know singers arguments are thinking back steam? Poverty is well maybe when that situation now with respect to us in the west compared to the global poor. So if we look back to think of Louis the 16th or something or imagine some monarch with.
Who's incredibly wealthy with its people starving all around him. Thank God! That's absolutely horrific is. Does
seems so different from the way that we are a moment- everyone in a rich country
so UK's Kazin. Basically, most of the population of in the is ten percent of the world's population, even once you've taken into account the fact that money goes further overseas. I imagine most of listeners of this podcast to them the top few percent
If you're running above fifty five thousand dollars per year, you're in the richest one percent of the world's population- and this is
very unusual state to be in it's only in the last two hundred years that we've seen such a radical divergence between rich countries in the pilot.
Is in the world. So it's not something that our model intuition, I think, is really caught up to that. In the spirit of things,
what are the ways in which we could be acting in
way. That seems radically wrong from the perspective of future generations, but that we take for common sense. I you know, I think sing is definitely puts finger on a possible candidate, which is the fact that the fact that we, you know have what, by historical standards in global standards, is immense wealth, a men's luxury and it's come to a common sense, a normal just used on yourself, oven to think of it, as in some sense. Some of these.
This is that we belong to all of humanity. Okay, we're gonna, keep digging in this particular hole, because this is this is where we are gonna reach moral cold. So you do you
debate with Giles Fraser for intelligence, squared which I was amused to see,
that I I had actually debated him as well. He liked you
much more than he liked me. I think, probably because you weren't telling him his religion was bullshit. I can lead to the judges, houses, a priest, but I thought he raised a very interesting point in your your debate
and your answer was also interesting. So I'll just take you back to that moment again where, in a burning house with a child who can be saved, but in this house there is a Picasso on the
call in another room, and you really only have a moment to get out
there with one of these precious objects intact
and Giles suggested that, on your view, the Picasso is worth so much that you really should save it, because you can
sell it and turn it into thousands and
the bed nets that will save, presumably thousands of lives and not sure
it's actually the conversion from bed net to life. But in any case we're talking about
multi million dollar painting, let's say fifty million dollars painting and
your child or the child is just one life, and so he put that to you, I think, expecting perhaps not, but expecting that
a knock down argument against your position and you just bit the bullet there. So perhaps you want to respond again to that. Yes, always Berman. You have so the first question the first thing to calve. Yes, that Giles asking this has a philosophical thought: experiment see you strip away extraneous factors like. What's the media gonna think of this and what you know apps, also kind of, are you gonna be able to live with yourself afterwards as a matter of human psychology and someone to stripping away those things? Just have the pure thought experiment of well, you can save the
child. You can save this Picasso and sell it by bed nets and the question I asked him was well suppose uses to burning buildings and one this single child and on the other,
running building, there's, let's say it's one hundred children that you could save and
the only way you can save those one hundred children is by taking this Picasso off the wall and using it to pop open the door
the building such that one hundred children can go through now
what you to do- and I think in that case it's very clear that you want to save the one hundred
even if you're, using this painting as a means to doing so. The fact that that's using that as a means doesn't seem relevant and the reason I quite like this thought experiment.
Really shows what a model e unintuitive world within that. Actually the situation,
then right now is. Is that there's a burning building? It's just it's behind you, though, even in front of you and that there is that those one hundred children whose lives you can potentially save that are
behind you in the not salient to you, and so I think, like child child
wanting to say, was the isn't this very uncompassionate, but actually I think this is just far more sophisticated compassion
on the side of the world who are whose lives are just as important who are just as in need of someone who's right in front of you. You know that shows a much more sophisticated, that much more genuine form of compassion than just simply being
by what ever happens happens, we will sail into at the time and so yeah. It's like a conclusion that show like the weird conclusion the witness comes in how we are the world as have Molly unintuitive world. We happen to find ourselves in which is that like get out, save the painting and Molly speaking, save the painting and therefore save hundreds of lives. I'm having said that, of course, I wouldn't blame someone I think like again, as we talked
in terms of natural human psychology. It's like perfectly natural to save the person who's right in front of you arms. I wouldn't blame anyone for doing that, but if we're talking about moral philosophy and what the morally correct choices, then I think you just have to have to save the one hundred
Also, you wouldn't blame them and
sides of the same coin. I mean you wouldn't blame them, because you're acknowledging how counter intuitive it is to save the Picasso and not the child,
and so you're you're, really putting the onus on the world on the situation on all the contention facts of our biology and our our circumstance. That causes us to not be starkly consequential list in this city,
So my concern there is that that's not
and one of the reasons why I don't tend to call myself a con
specialist, even though I am one because for me, consequentialism or historically, consequentialism has
in so often associated with just looking at the
birds of bodies on both sides of the balance, and that's how you understand the consequences of inaction and judges, its moral merits, but there's
Porta within that an and yeah. You just acknowledge that there was more to it than that, but you weren't inclined to put those consequences also into the picture, so
like the question whether you could live with yourself right and that's, I think, that's the spectrum of effects certainly include,
whether you can live with yourself and it includes to come back to the
the moral paradox here, it also includes what kind of person you would have to be
in the Picasso and not the child. Given all
the contingent facts we just did not get given how weird the world is or given how not Optima
as the world is to produce a person who could just out
rhythmically, always save a hundred lives over one every time
no matter how the decision is couch. We can even make
situation more perverse. So you know I uh,
I have two daughters, I don't have a
so on the wall, but certainly I have something that could be sold that could buy enough bed nets to save more than two lives in Africa
right so the house burns down tonight. I have a choice to
that my daughter is or grab this thing whatever. It is, and I reason thus
they haven't been convinced by you in this podcast that saving at least three lives.
Africa is better than saving my two daughters and I
only a contingent
property of my own biology
and its attendant selfishness, an my you know: the drive toward kin selection and all the rest that has caught
it's made to even be biased toward my daughters lives over the lives of faceless children in Africa. So I'm convinced and
I grab the valuable thing and sell it and donate it to give well and it's used for bed nets, and so
I think even you given eh
thing, you believe about the ethical imperative of this singer.
Style argument would be horrified,
and rightly so, that I was capable of doing that
that horror, or at least that distrust of my psychology, I think some
prizes and intuition we have about all of the other consequences.
Turn play here, that we that we haven't thought much about and again this is a very complicated area,
I I see that
if you know about my analogy with the the moral landscape,
various peaks of well being, I could imagine
alternate pecan the moral landscape where we are
much beans as to really care about all lives,
Eric Lee as much as we care about our own children's lives. So I feel
I love my children, but I actually also fee
all the same love for people in Africa.
I've never met, and it's just as available
to me and therefore my disposition not to privilege my children is not a sign of any lack of, can
action to them. It's just
I. You know I am the no, the Dalai Lama squared I've got that. Can I'm up. You know the body such as compassion and I've got that connection everywhere. So I grabbed the book.
So an, I can feel good about saving more lives in Africa, but my concern is that, let's, let's just acknowledge that
another peak on the moral landscape, but
between where we are now where we love our children more than than those we haven't met and would be, would
Do it as an act of pathological, altruism to let the
burn and just grab the Picasso based on our knowledge that we could do more good with it if we wanted to become the
Dalai Lama style Altruist,
or maybe this uncanny or unhappy valley between these two peaks, that we would have to traverse where there is some there would
something Socio pathic about
bill, indeed, to run this calculus and be motivated by yes. So this time to say here so one thing yeah I wanna set like. I also don't describe myself as a consequence, the state income, the correct thing to do is to animal decision is, have a kind of
a variety of my lenses. My phd was on this topic. I'm have a variety of my lenses and take the action. That's the best kind of compromise between the competing model, views that seem most plausible, some of which consequence lest others might be known, consequence list, and I do think that the case you know this and I just am-
those consequences. 'cause. Everyone should agree that consequences matter. Another very neglected army terms of the impact that we can have in the world. Will it that we've been?
and so I think the case where you got special obligation-
It's a family, member or child or offend, is very different from the question when is just strangers,
think it's at least a reasonable model view to think I just do you have this special obligation to my friends. It certainly vandy deep part of common sense to think I do have a special obligation to my child and if I can save my child, even if it was they were right in front of me, I can say one child. I can save ten ten changes. I should say my child.
And so I think that's quite a different case. Although I do have a man's love, maybe we should just plant a flag there, because I think that's interesting. I I don't know what national obligations actually consistent. Apart from some argument that one
we're just we're hardwired that way, and it's hard to get over this hard wiring, but too we are better off.
Are honoring those obligations it so that it does it does resolve to consequences in some way of our of our world would be much better. If we ignore those
those those hardwired obligations or a sense of obligation, then I think there's an arg
for ignoring them. So so we can. We can table that yeah, but then the second question, which is very important, taking us back to the Picasso, is this.
And this is a way in which model philosophy can often become very confusing to people who don't do it is the model floss was doing in these Thor? Expel
So when they say, oh well put aside all of these other considerations that are normally of elephant and then they expect to still have reliable intuition, even in this very, very strange fantastical case, and so I do think
in the case of when you are bringing back factors like, I may actually psychologically capable of doing this. How am I going to like think about myself when I like here, like this child screams and like late at night, every day
course that's incredibly relevant and then simply, I think again. The kind of flosser tends to focus on what acts of the past well, as in terms of the life decisions we make biggest decisions tend to be more like. What's what person should I be? What my big projects I'm an, I think, cultivating yourself, the sort of to become the sort of person who's empathetic enough that you won't in this situation. Simply
do the calculations and just go and save the Picasso? You know I think about might well be like, but you just going to be a personal, do more good over the long run. If you don't do that, that's why it's going to be okay, so I can you want to just English between what's the best democratic sit to have in the best,
to I have my is plausibly one. That means you do the wrong thing. The number of times that's very interesting, so, let's just
I don't want to interrupt you if you had much more. He wanted to say there, because every one of these,
this is so interesting.
It's been my gripe with certain caricatures of utilitarianism consequentialism, which so the idea that
if you can sacrifice one to say five will then you should. You know you're going to your doctor's office for a check up and he realizes he's got the eyes of other patients who need your organs, so they just grab you and
and steal your
and you now are dead. But if you just look at the
a larger consequence
living in a world where at any moment any of us could be sacrificed by society to save five others.
None of us want to live in that world and I think for a good reason, and so you have to grapple with
a much larger spectrum of effects when you were going to talk about consequences, so you just you.
Acknowledged one here. Where is that to be the case,
the person you want to be? Who is really going to do good in the world and to be tuned up appropriately to have the right social connections to other human beings? You may in
I want to be the kind of person who privileges
love of one's friend,
the family, over
loving kindness to all human beings, because if you can't feel those by
times with friends and family that has
moved and not enough of the moving pieces in your psychology, so that you're, not the kind of person who is going to care about the suffering of others as much as you might yeah. So any another example of this is a number of people. I know the consequences mindset with respect to the dietary choices, just kind of a knowledge that you know,
animal suffering is really bad, and you know animals have real nonhuman animals have real model status that we should respect and won't eat some very bad forms of meat. But fact, if I'm chicken on that grounds, but for something like beef or lamb, the animals, I think just have reasonable lives, not amazing lives but lives that are definitely worth living better than if for them, if they never existed.
You actually think that's true of factory farmed before just or you're, not talking about
total grass FED yeah. My pastor is big. I mean it's hard. It's affect the from a coma in the way that you can. You can't keep them in nearly as badly as you cannot check and bam as for like which channels have lives that
living or not so really hard question, but there are only some people who will kind of justifying that sort me, because
what you're doing by buying that meat is increasing. The demand for a certain type of meat then means that more animals of that type come into it
sense and those animals have good lives. So the question is well: who is it bad for then? It's not bad for the cow eating, because that cares already dead is not bad for the cow that you bring into existence. 'cause it wouldn't have existed other ways,
but then I just like, I can imagine in my own case psychologically believing both that animal suffering is incredibly important, and
you know you should care a lot about animals and then also kind of just eating their flesh it just. I don't think it's a psychological possibility for me, you're a vegetarian, so I'm vegetarians mean another case given by
by that profit. Is you know your grandmother? He loved very much you've got very closely tion ship with her home when she dies just throw it in the garbage. Does
questions well who's that bad. For you know, it's not bad, not bad for her 'cause she's no longer with us,
Again, it just seems like there's this
person but serviceable. Let's us knowledge Ing, so it's easy to cash that intuition out again in the form of consequences. In my
which is yes, it's not bad for your grandmother, because she's, presumably not there
to experience anything, but the sense that there's something sacred about
the sense that one's love of a person needs to be honored by an appropriate
framing of their death. That is good
good for everyone else, who's yet living right and if we just chuck darlow
ones in the trash that would have implications for how we feel about them.
Now we feel about them is the thing that causes us to recoil
from treating them that way, once once they've died, and this is going to become more and more pressing, these kinds of seemingly impractical bounce.
Philosophising will become more more pressing when we can really all
personal lives and moral intuitions to a degree that is
So, let's just imagine you had a pill that allowed you to just no longer be sad right. So this is the
perfectly targeted antidepressant. That has no other downside. No other symptoms, you know farmer.
Actually. We may, in fact, that that lucky me, maybe not, but imagine a pill that, just if your, if your grease trick
you take this pill, Ann, you are no longer grief stricken and you can take it in any dose. You want now, your child
who's died or your mother has died and you're in grief
then? The question is: how long do you want to be sad for what is normative? You know now
Would it be normative thirty seconds after
your child has died right. In fact, you may still be in the presence of the body to just pop that pill in a sufficient dose to be restored to
perfect equanimity. I think most of us would feel that that is some version of
chuck in your grandmother in the trash it doesn't honor the connection I mean what what does love mean? If you don't shed a tear when the person you love most, it has
died, but finding what is normative there is is really a
challenge. I don't know that there's any principle we can invoke
after that. We're going to find that it's going to convince us that we have found the right point, but whatever feels comfortable at the end of the day, there, I think is encapsulate NG
all of the the the consequences that we feel or imagine. We would feel in those circumstances and a loss
connection, other people certainly a consequence that we're worried about yeah, absolutely and also just if you never felt sadness at your child's death, like injury or death to your child, like I'm sure humans, as a matter of fact, with that for like take less what your steps to protect the children and so on the whole. The whole host of I think, with the bad consequences
near quite closely and yeah. I, in terms of the general framing, I agree with you in terms of frustrations a consequence, the some where they create these cases where sort of the well the facts are just abstracted away. This is true for the question of how much to give as well where
in these debates, as normally imagines that that is just the super human person who could just give all of their income to the lowest level and then not have any of the areas of the life affected negatively. But that's just a fiction. I mean, I think, if someone thinks well
should give ten percent, because if I give more than likely to burn out than like yep that's, you should be legal, your plate, attentive to your own psychology, and that's like a really important consideration. Where's, that Cisco thing, that in arguments about consequences and for some reason, the critics- and sometimes the proponents tend to miss out- tend to be very kind of simplified use of the consequences. Again, the problem comes back to the singer side of this conversation, which is, if you're, only giving ten percent. Then you you are still standing next to the shallow pond
It is one of those slippery slope conditions where you're just once. You acknowledge that there is this. The juxtaposition of your casual indulgence of your wants, any one of which is totally dispensable
you could sacrifice it and your life would be would be no worse off.
immediate need of someone who's intolerably deprived by dentist.
Your bad luck, I'm mean your privilege is a matter of
lock entirely and all
the variables that that produce it, no matter how self made you think you are. You didn't pick your jeans, you, you didn't pick the side
in which you were born. You can't account for the fact that you were born in a place that is not now Syria fractured by the
first civil war in memory Ellon Musk, is as
both made as anyone. He can take absolutely no
possibility for his intelligence, his drive, the fact that he could make it to America and America was stable and he
put in a time when there was immense resources to help him do all the stuff that he's doing so again. You're still you're still at the pond, and
it feels like the conversation you would want to have with the person who says well. If I give any more than ten percent, I'm just going to screw me up and I'm not going to give much and I'm not going to be happy, I'm not going to be effective.
It sounds like there's still more Peter singer style,
therapy to do with that person, which is listen, come on twelve percent. Four,
ten percent- that's really moving you into his own of discomfort and there is no stop
stopping point short of a listen. I could
make more money. If you would let
get on an airplane now and fly to the meeting I'm now going to miss, because I don't have enough money for a ticket and then
begin to invoke some of the. I think you call it earning to give principals right so which we can,
but but unless you're gonna bring in other concerns there, where you can just you can be more effective at helping more drowning children in shallow ponds. You don't have an argument against singer yeah, I think so. There's a distinction, inconsequential ascetics between will get schooled actual, was among possible ism and I'm, supposing you have
three options. You can stay home and study, you can stay home and watch tv or you can go to the pub with your fence and the best option is staying home at studying then going to the popular fence and then worst is staying home and watching tv.
But now you know that if you stay home then, as a matter of fact, you will just watch tv if you aren't study, even though you want to even though, is the best thing to do so now the question is: should you stay home or should you go to the pub and actual list say? Well, you should go to the pub you should just accept the fact that you're going to be fallible or week will do a model in the
sure possible lists would say no. You ought to stay hooked. You ought to stay in home at study. Therefore, you ought to stay home
Think this is a really important distinction. When it comes to these questions are demanding. That's because you could argue well what you ought to do over the in your entirety of your life is maximize your donations until you hit the point at which the money you're spending is just leading to more donations. That would be the kind of. Therefore you just ought to maximize that just now list view point. The actual us would say well what, as a matter of fact, are you actually going to do in the future? If you think this,
donations by a certain amount. Now, if it's the case that in the future you're going to say screw that like say, I ask you to give away all your savings and then you think will actually that means that in the future they probably going to say screw this and just not continue, even though I think believes I ought to continue, then you kind of should take that into account, and so I'm much more sympathetic to the actual list line.
As the people. I know, and I think that has quite radical implications 'cause. It means the
How demanding is this view is
could be dependent on what a person's particular psychology is like, and I actually think that's kind of right once we accept. That
Like level of model motivation is just a kind of starting facts about your mental make up in the same way as your iq is in your height and so on. You know if
is the case that I don't know if this will be a good analogy that you know
wait. I can save lives by doing slam dunks, and I can't to slam dunks, sadly, that I'm candy slam dunks, then it just be like well. You just set asking me to do something. That's not like physically capable of doing.
I think that you just can apply the same thing to level of moral motivation as well, when I'm saying, if I say to someone who isn't very modeling motivated-
Oh, you should give away all of your money over the course of your life, and you can just say: well I'm not. Firstly, perhaps I'm just not actually capable
not really but more importantly, if I try and do this, then I'm going to not continue to do it in the future, and so the prototype refers to say well, ok, try it with a certain amount, it's much more important
ensure you keep doing this over the long run, rather than that you max out in the short run, and so then start giving take easy steps that might start to kind of change of psychology in certain beneficial ways. So you know start giving a few percent of your income if you like, you know, feel very nervous about doing this start to talk to people for whom this is just a normal part of their life like become friends with these people, see how it's like doesn't actually affect your life and kind of really bad ways, and you know: do the over perhaps superior vs. That's the sort of approach I'd want to advise
and if Peter singer being a consequentialist would say well, if that's what's going to get the best results, that is what we would advise as well, whereas it's easy, I think- and this is partly because of the way Peter frames. It is easy to think that.
Because this is the conclusion and PETA says about so long to not donate all of your disposable income that we should go out on probating people who don't do that, but that's not what you know. It's not what he believes it's going to take him common sense, Nonconsequentialist,
statics and where you just blames. If someone does something wrong, you blame them, whereas I think consequences use this term long quite different way:
so there's a few things going on there yeah why? I think.
And now it's just that there is a
testing power and it really an unforeseeable power in meeting new
people put in yourself in new circle.
This is where you're having different behavior model to you. Having conversations you you didn't know you were going to have and MRS at France's it correctly from
wrong. I think you are you
basically always interested or for a very long time. I've been interested,
moral philosophy, an issues of this sort. So it's not a total surprise. Your life is taken. This turn, but you didn't start your philanthropic work
until you met one other person who shared your interest. Yeah I mean for me that was huge. I felt very guilty for a number of years 'cause. I was peeing
Vince by the p to sing about commits, but wasn't doing anything I was dating a few percent of my I just I pendant thinking like this is
really big deal. The very alienated felt somewhat like a sucker like everyone else is just kind of you know, living the high life and I'm in a seem to be like much more concerned about, is my money and then just mean all it took was one other person to form this tiny little. Try the school community me and him
to be like oh great now I can act in this way and the animal part of my brain that it's very, very uncomfortable about doing things that are, you know not associated with a pack as it were, was you know very significantly believed, and in my own case, like start off with, like okay cool, active Tempus,
then as these things, you know, as I got more used to the idea that yeah ok, I think I could give more than that, and then at least that for a very long time. I think I thought well, you know this will just be kind of consigned to
the way I spend my money I'd never change what career I was going to do on the basis of this
is now as well and like no actually like. I can you know, even if it meant that I left philosophy and did other things like. Actually that would be partly that's because I'm much more,
you have learned a lot more about myself. I think it could be happy in five in a number of different things. Also just over time. These sorts of considerations of doing good just become part of this. Okay becomes almost boiling. In fact,
um certainly starts to feel a lot less model ized. It feel
in the same way when you might make think major life decision. You just think. Well how does this fit into my long term projects? You know including my relationships like when I want to be in ten years and so on. It just feels like it's a consideration like that it starts to feel much less. Like will Marley. I ought to do this and
feel guilty Fido and blame myself and that's been quite a common phenomenon, in fact, even among the people to go into effect to out to them, via this obligation, flaming in being convinced by Peter Singer, which is once you start putting
into practice: those kind of kind of guilt feelings to go away,
just to feel more like you know, one major
factor in your decision making kind of, like any other, which is been really interesting. Psychological thing. Well, it is interesting,
is the your emphasis on again. The opportunity side is very important that I do
because I've obviously lived with the conclusions of of Peter singer's argument for
a long time and felt felt there
relevance in a way which is it, which is not the same thing as having a
coherent argument against them, but just feeling like well I
and with that way. So now I don't have to be too explicit about
what I am going to do right so and what you have
is by bringing in this other piece of Louis and here's forget.
But the moralizing here is an opportunity,
as you can take in every day,
ok, this is something yeah, I believe quite strongly. So so, since I've started taking these actions, I feel much
put aside all like model philosophy and so on. I just feel
I'm living a much more authentic Thomas life than I would have been otherwise, and I think this is true for a lot of people. I think that we live in a society where incentives, a such the large companies vast fortunes, basically manipulating you to believe that it's really important to buy clap to you, don't need, and that isn't gonna actually benefit you, even though I think deep down, many people will like, if you look at, have children act like MA, often much more compassionate much
more likely to think well, there's children, just like me on the other side of the world. We can easily help crucial that we do that. You know in their own way, and so I actually think that
acting where altruism is much bigger. Part part. Your life is like for most people.
January. Living up to your own values is like being part of like self actualizing part of becoming who you really are, and we don't realize that because advertising distorts so significantly what what we think a good life consists in number good life doesn't mean just molly good. It just means good the sort of life you
on deep reflection can wanna live via cell, and so I think, yeah we don't even need to get into these models, lost the arguments really, but just once you start really reflecting on what things most important. What would you want? Your life look like at the end of your life. I think you'd want altruism, not all of it necessarily to be to be a core component. Yes, this comes back to the salience issue is just it in so far as you can make a good. You are doing
or can do salient and make the the consequences of not doing it. Salient it to bring singer in here it does that that selling its does. The philosophy for
you know so yeah you don't. You know that the the SH the kid in drowning in two
as of water doesn't
require an argument before you feel impelled to save him. What our culture has done to us is provide a competing form of salience, which is truly captivating and,
as they predictable result now bring in the component of time here,
because that's obviously time is money in summer
way and mister. How?
How could you justify or could you justify, having kids? Given your view? Yes, I think I'm like I want to say again, no even within consequences and a crucial thing is not letting this is phase two citric, I think originally from tear, which is not letting the best be the enemy of the good. Now, and
I think for kids in particular this this it's had like Betty significantly, so Julie Weiss is a close friend and initially was just. She was in a working as a social worker in prisons and even then donating about half of an income. So she wasn't really like I'm trying to do as much as she could and she thought a lot about this question of whether to have children. She
she now has two and again it was this idea of test. Do I want to if I'm engaging out, like altruism, said, to do good? Do I want to do it in this hash, a sort of way where everyone can see that I have like made really significant personal sacrifices in my life, such the? I am now this little model. It looks like some quick, competitively miserable existence
or her blog posts which talks about the so called cheerfully more. Do I want to say you like yeah? No, it's like still at the stage where I've been able to do so much good in a way that I feel like is only really made my life better, and I generally think the answers. Clearly the latter and so
with when it comes to children is just like. I would immediately want to be lately where the of people trying to open up to my eyes, but I think that could go with like, can go really badly long and
yeah. I almost what is it like? The conversation of like what's cost benefit analysis of having kids is a like a step to farms. I think we should just do it. Look if you, if you having kids, is very important for you, like you know how like have a family. This is for many people, a very important part of having like not having enough meaningful life. Do you think you have kids? I currently don't intend to I'm still only twenty nine zero. Many of time to add change my mind, I mean it's, not it's not a commitment or anything are fixed thing. I'm probably, I feel like the work I'm doing like I get such meaning from the work I'm doing and for the Organization of Bill, and so on quite feels like I already have a child, and since I'm happy to trading it for him, I was to you know, have these of a very big commitment to my life, but, like I say that something that might change of the yes, Sir, yes
another. I just want to keep searching the space for hidden assumptions that we, we might not agree with her that that we might have different different views on. Is it implicit in these considerations? I guess it is at least a star usually stated that
all lives are equal. Yes, so I think the project of effective altruism does have the premise that its the lives of equal value- I'm, I don't think, and then, if there's like in a wheel, normative, come to effect to optimise courses and intellectual project of how can we benefit others by as much as possible and there's a second the question of all? What does that mean for the lights? Webp to sing of C argues means a lot, and I think the best view would be something like you know when it's at least at least should be a significant part of your life and help others as much as possible and that's kind of a statement within effective, altruism, but not to go. As far as saying in every decision you make in life, you have to act as if, like if it's a choice between your child and this that and the stranger,
the you know, you have to privilege the two strangers lives of your child's life or so on, and I think you know in the concept of fact, autism. The thing I really wanna identifies the fact that it is this incredibly important concept. Part of morality that's currently reading a collected, they should be agreed upon by almost older from all perspectives. So you know it would be entailed by utilitarianism a consequence some, but also by
many other model views as well. All you need is the premise that you know the welfare well
being of all matters to some extent is more important to help people more than less and then,
if you do an ad in this moment of component for people who are very wealthy by global standards, it's important. You know it's important to use a lease of significant proportion of your resources to trying to get that's the concept. I think it's like
both very important and should be very widely agreed upon by all sorts of different moral perspectives, whereas the further claim of just this should be the whole of your life or all of your decisions should be made from this entirely impartial standpoint is, I think, then
at least recently a lot more controversial, and I think you can easily have the former without needing to commit yourself to the latter again, this slippery things come in here, so, for instance, if we, if we, if there's two children who were
hostage and we can only save one and one we have ever
reason to believe, will be the next AL
entering into she usually creative and
influential work that will better the world in ways and probably
save many other lives
and the other is just destined to be not a sociopath say, but just
average and averagely unproductive person by comparison with Turin. Who do we save now? I think we'll
respond to that. I have my own answer, but yeah I mean so. I think this is a key
just now, where again we're just talking about the impartial consequences, 'cause, that's suppose they both go strange.
To you and then yeah in these sorts of cases, where
when you saving lives, that is the benefit to the person
and then there's also, all these indirect benefits of what they going to do.
And yeah. My view is that those indirect benefits or indirect consequences are just as important as the dialect. Once and again, you can see this by other thought experiments. So now imagine the xy.
Person who's going to save one life or you can save another persons life who can then
You know immediately press a lever that will direct a trolley to save ten office. In that case, like many clear the what to save the one person who can pull the lever and now in this description is you've given of the person on the verge of a can secure the island shooting or something that is just to the
case. There is someone who's gonna then go on, and it's just the case again that these people, who are gonna, be benefited in this indirect way of kind of not salient so they, I think you should believe. Supposing sound hearing will do the man of God of saving hundred lives. I think that you should think of it as seven hundred one lives versus having one and that's not to come in a tool in the character of the people, while ensuring didn't can't take owner
for his intelligence or something- and you know we need to distinguish that, except then think about the implications here. So this is one of those situations where
more information becomes
as well. So let's say we agreed with that and now prior to rescuing hostages or saving lives. We now feel tempted to because again, this many of these circumstances are our tree
garage cases by their very nature, which is to say, we can only say
one life as opposed to two. So then, why shouldn't cops and doctor
is an all other lifesavers pull the school records
on kids before they save them to see who has the higher iq or who seems more promising, because you know the
result of doing that. A million times will be to select for more productive, more useful people who will then build better societies, presumably and save lives in so far,
we could make that information as
clear as well. This kid is the
who standing next to the lever, that's going to save ten more people, it becomes
a no brainer on on this consequential consequentialist logic and yet
a society where we made these truths explicit and we send-
and we don't have this veil of ignorance, which tells us know know all
kids lives, are equal, whether they're here there in Africa, we have to save them. If we remove
veil of ignorance, it seems to me there is something toxic
about that and it is in some ways similar to
just checking grandma in the trash after she dies because you've realized well wait a minute. She doesn't feel anything. I'm capable now
seeing this clearly enough of no
feeling anything she's, just a bag of chemicals. This point and my time and resources could be better spent not having a funeral but yeah yeah, helping the next kit yeah. So I think I'm yeah. This is, I think, just a really tricky issue and it definitely comes up with health care of wet. If you think about how to privatize some, you know, do you? Would you prioritize a treatment to help someone who's like healthy and work at like otherwise healthy? But I'm you know who's just say it's like chronic back pain for someone who's thirty years
and as otherwise otherwise be very productive. Verses can appeal. It police have kaffir someone who's, seventy five and well the tires. Normally when we do privatize health care privatization, we don't look at those like long run consequences. We just look at how much is our one person being benefited bus another in the kind of direct effects, and one argument for that at least, is the fact that this seems to be a correlation between how much can people? How can a productive? Are they going to be for society and well? How much can they already pay for better health care and so on? But I think the only takes you some of the way and then a second thought is exactly this question. Well, what sort of society do we want to live in?
What sort of signals and messages do we want to send about concern for people where I think if we lived in a society where it's like, oh you're, no longer useful to us we're going to so you in the trash, metaphorically speaking, or we're not going to give you any we're, not gonna help you in the same way that we can help people who are more useful yeah. I imagine now, I'm not talking just about the character of individuals for the character of society. Certainly at least that sends, I think, like has pretty bad messages with the specter am to productive messages with specter messages we do want to convey like egalitarian, isn't, concerned everyone, and so I think, the as yet really sticky kind of even just a bit like comparing wishes that sale it. Let's talk about just a few cases
that are obviously relevant and the source that show up in the news. He takes something like the price of drugs, so this has happened more and more now. You have pharmaceutical companies that just suddenly raise the price of some lifesaving medication and
really motivated by just a a purer profit motive, the interest. You know what what what the market will bear and in some cases we know what the market can't even hope to pair, but they they still go for it anyway, seemingly, and yet you have this problem
of incentives. So if you're not going to, I think most people's intuition here is well. This is just wrong.
You've got kids who are going to die because you are trying to make an extra buck, so the government has to step in and
a no no you got to you got to limit the price of an MP pen at whatever it is a hundred dollars. You can't you can't raise it six hundred percent in a day, but then that obviously cancels the incentives to innovate. The next
in dollar drug who's, going to going to the space if at any moment, the profits that were recouping your investment yeah can be just cancel by the hysteria of the marketplace. So how do you think about that? Yes, so on the
I do think yeah and I know a lot of people who yeah. I think that
it's completely a model for there to be any sorts of patents on parks and so on. I think that's just not taking into account disincentive effect, and so I do think that there is this. Balancing act is very tricky like patents, a basically to belongs, trying to make a right where, in response to a market, failure of one form which is the on the is that expensive and companies can cut to the benefits you put in place. Another wrong, which is giving a company of
legitimate monopoly for a certain period of time, and you can hope that these two wrongs cancel out and so then, where this balancing act is like. How long should just patents? Last for what sorts of you know like like regulations, you should have in terms of how much does cost and so on. I do think that's just this tricky balancing act, question of wanting to obviously get medical care to as many people as possible and then, at the same time, incentivizing innovation and development. That's huge benefits, kind of in the long run, because it seems like the genetic which you know. Twenty years is not that long.
The grand scheme of things then suddenly provides vast benefits to absolutely everybody. What about just having the government? Do this? Just just just just acknowledge that there are certain things that only a disinterested government can do with tax dollars that the market can't
yeah. I mean I think that should happen a lot more, especially on the door, the conditions. So this is ninety ten effect where I'm ninety percent of our than D O Medical on tv goes on conditions that affect only ten percent of the world's population. So it not sure if this number is light, but something like the amount of on the spending
male pattern. Baldness is far exceeds spending on a malaria. One can imagine yeah and that's just a clear like clear demonstration of the way in which markets cannot be optimal for social welfare, and so I do think that you are having to like you know, potentially an awful lot more on government spending. You know on the school kind of basically such especially on those sorts of drugs that there isn't as much of a market for because the people who suffer for them from them are very poor. Not able to pay is
much yeah, I'd love to see really quite considerably more that having the scary thing is that we are so short sighted, that weather
market is just so blind to our deeper interests that, at least in this space that
forget about the difference between poor and rich. We can't get motivated to generate the next gen
of life, saving antibiotics, because these are drugs that you only take once a decade
yeah, but when you need them, the this is the only thing standing between you and death rather often yeah, and we have you know we're we've burn through all around about eggs and yet we're there's endless energy to produce the next
invite a present or any other medication.
You're going to take on a daily basis, and yet we are dealing with a crisis of antibiotic resistant bugs now
I mean another idea that can be quite good and fixing. This is advanced market commitments, so a government would say
I will buy a certain numbers.
You develop a malaria vaccine with sufficiently.
I will buy a certain quantity of this. A certain price of the issue is, if place
something just the research directly than you is a government on know it's hard to know what to fund like, what's actually going to be most promising and you lose the benefit of kind of market competition and that driving innovation
was, if you say look, this is huge cash prize to whoever wins the development of this thing in the form of a spy commit like legally committing to buy a certain number of this, then you can potentially get the best of both worlds, and you do that in exchange, for you know them, but giving up patent rights in certain ways. One arm, that's the sort of thing is: have it can go fairly. Recent idea from com,
including Michael Kramer, and that's the sort of like economic innovation as it were, that can potentially get the best of both worlds. Yeah, that's
as well another great idea, but I remember what it was like to be struck by the play pump idea and not see the downside, but not,
we've seen kids get bored with that particular play pump. Yet it strikes me as if as a great idea
now, when you think about
spending money and lots of money on things that are not obviously addressing
starkist human need, but on men,
peoples account are the sorts of things that make life worth living so the space program right now. Undoubtedly, you can talk about some when we
about existential risk or anything else that has perhaps
the longer time horizon, but given its its gravity
can rise to the level of even our most immediate concerns. You could imagine
The space program is, in the end, necessary for the survival of the species, but I guess I'd like
focus on the things like the space probe.
But also like you know, museums and the arts and things that make life worth living, but in any
given comparison with the shallow pond
or the child in it doesn't seem to survive scrutiny. How do you think about spending vast resources as we do on those things? Yeah I mean, I think those two questions, so one is just and what should I as an individual do and then I think the answer is really very clear, because these things, all that again vast amounts of funding- I mean, if
you you know like, for example, most most famous museums have huge stockpiles of paintings and works of art and never see the light of day and if they sold off no even a fraction of them. Ten percent of them that have no, they never need, would need to take the donations with decades. Only some people would be seeing them if they're in five
love, no one, which is the current situation so because these ideas of any compelling speak to people
tend to be very well funded and so,
even for someone who cares a lot about the arts. Let's say I think the marginal dollar there's just not really going to be achieving much
and so that I think, is relatively clear for the society
he's a whole yeah. I think it's
the. I do find it hard just like why we allow people who just don't have the basic needs met the fact that people are spending money on no may
the projects that make them feel very good or like import like think of important and so on? Yeah. I find it hard to justify so an example Oxford from my College in Oxford, for
if everyone in the world was spending money in effect and what I thought was the up to away with Oxford exist. The answer I think is yes,
and then would the lawns of Oxford be so immaculately kept, and I think the answer is no, and so I think
if the world were full of money were being spent in the way it was up to me in terms of social welfare. We still would have a lot of you know. Things live in technical, technological innovation, artistic scientific model pro
this, but I think in the world where then at the moment, we're just so far away from that were so far in the direction of funding things that
to people who had already very well off the
making think the moment at shouldn't go just those courses. This may seem
Ok, the will during lateral move, but at there's actually a point of connection my mind: what what's your feeling on how to IDR
just the migrant crisis and just what's your view of immigration and the ethics there. This is a great question of philosophy hitting the real world. I think, because
the philosophers answer is just all I think they should be open borders, I just don't think they should be banned is between different countries. I think people have a right to move between difficulties in that preventing someone who's very poor from entering a rich country is just like you know. I imagine you have you had a market place within the town and you had to kind of body guards that would just preventing people who just wants to come into that market place and fade, so they can feed their family and you're just physically stopping them from doing so. We think that was
horrible thing to do, but it seems it's analogous with the question of border control and then simply from an economic perspective as well. Free trade of goods across countries was up globalization's generated huge amounts of value through specialization fleet side of labor. With do just the same,
send Skype, you a philosopher's answer, but then, when she stopped actively make actually going to say what what policies should we have in place again, you could have taken all of these messy and chemical factors, so, for example, in the UK, do I think it was good
the UK had massive immigration from the E. U in like in the twentieth century, so the twenty first century,
and I guess I have to say that as a matter of fact. No, I don't think it was good because it leads to massive anti immigration sentiment that led to the? U K, voting to leave the e? U which I
It's a far worse consequences than the benefit from more additional immigrants, and so I take that as like. Quite an important lesson for me, as a philosopher in general, which is you've got to be aware of equilibrium effect
yeah, but it also then means the I'm. What I would want to do with respect immigration is yeah, can't you know campaign for the rights of immigrants for the importance. The counter, like so many of the myths about immigration being bad for the country of like people have this view like this, a fixed number of jobs or something and the immigrants take those jobs well, as basically from a per capita economic standpoint and constantly do much. Actually, by far the biggest economic effect is the effect on the immigrant is themselves, but that would have to be like more gradual change.
Like people's in a culture view points not to toot, I'm not have to be much slower process, and then there is also the wadi about killing the goose that lays the golden
exit were here. I think the fact that we've got some countries with really good institutions that amazingly productive
thanks quite unusual. I think we should you know thank the we lucked out the fact that countries like the US
in the UK full of very very many problems, actually work that well that's
unusual place to be in as a human near and so the kind of Vision institute
and then the vision I have in the long run would be something like open borders. And then I want to be very, very cautious in the can a step that we take to get that I'm interested in what the link
does between that question and well yeah. So it is just come down to an equilibrium effect, which is so there's this.
This massive disparity in the quality of institutions and quality of life across borders, with
which motivates the urge
migration, both second
MIKE and political, so we're talking about refugees and we're talking about economic migrants as well life
better on the other side of the wall hands millions of people want to cross over
it was more or less equivalent on both sides of the wall. With this there's no good reason to come to the US, because the US is very likely due
it is bad or just as mediocre as the Middle EAST or N Africa. If, in fact that is,
What would happen if we truly open the borders? I think
there may be a
misleading picture, we get from the consequences of the tree
all of the immigration we get and enjoy as as cheap labor essentially and it obviously improving the lives of those who come to our society is yep yep benefit from our lawn order in our our institutions. But if you just a
imagine opening on
all the borders to the developed world, well then, and let's just turn that
do a proper thought experiment not only open the borders but make it easy
and, in fact, effortless to come right. So it's not you don't have to get into a boat and risk. You know them,
Terranean we're going to pay for you to come,
because we are committed to your well being and we're opening the borders to give you our life, then in reality, you're going to import mill
upon millions of people whose social attitudes and
him into things like free speech and everything else. That is at the bedrock of
of making life in the first world as good as it is. Their commitments are going to be no better. Once they arrive, then they were in air.
Dan or or anywhere else, and so yeah. I mean principle. I
ethically agree that that are default should be
All lives are, are
equivalently, valuable and we are just lucky and that
and that luck imposes
kind of moral burden on us to spread the lock in so far as we can, but so much of what is good
in human life is the result of us being able to take
certain institutions and cultural achievements for granted, or not
constantly having to man the barricades and defend free speech from people
You want to have cartoonist killed right so, as
Opening the borders would just import more and more people who are forget about just to take the explicit case, which are the narrow case, which I spent a lot of time. Focusing on.
Of the problem of jihadism and islamic islamist theocracy, forget about that
but for the moment, if you're just going to solve the migrant crisis by
in the borders of Europe to anyone who wants to come out of the horror show of of the civil war.
In Syria and Iraq. Well, you're going to get a certain small percentage,
people heard jihadists and so that so the question is how many
too many there, obviously most won't be jihadis
you're going to get a much larger percentage of people who, while they may have no simple
with the jihadists or very little sympathy, they will have
social attitudes that make them highly resistant to assume
the values of the west there
we're going to want their daughters to never be caught, holding the hand of a man who is not a blood relative or their husband? If they are there going to be tempted to execute and uh
killing on her
so say, they're not going to want cartoons of the prophet published in a newspaper and all of this whole commitment to for lack
better word theocracy that doesn't actually entail
suicide bombing, but also doesn't entail. Making life in our society is good in the way that we would define good. So the question is
moral imperative of opening the borders as fast as
possible. Given the need right,
how much are you willing to a road, the good thing,
and therefore have to and to subsequently hafta, to allocate your resources toward defending
the good things, and they say I love you.
Actually. I view most of my career at this point as a massive
opportunity cost most of what I say
in my time. Talking about. I do
not find intellectually interesting, but I find it
clean, morally necessary right in this area of the clash. But
science and religion. You know the cut of the moral reasoning I put toward things like honor killing MIKE I
I'm like well. How is it even possible that I am living a life where I even have to know what the phrase honor killing means right, much less spend anytime talking about it, but if we decide
to open the borders. The entire world becomes Jerusalem essentially, and so that's
it's a yeah, I mean so this is, you know, yeah one aspect of the journal like other
the moment, we don't really know what, like massively increased immigration would be like, I think of it more like I mean there's actually
few things you can do so one is simply just turned
for set on more or less just how many people are you like going into the country I'm a second is like also in terms of which countries like one
nothing just like. Why is there not an open border between Canada and the US like?
I don't see any for this, like that. This, like that, so on similar, like very limited,
So in those cases where you think, just you know between the? U yeah: U K, yes, incredibly difficult to get a visa and you can.
To come to the UK, you can't even just come and volunteer if you're coming from the US units.
Can come and give you labor for free, so there's a number of the sections there and you could think
unlike on a broader scale as well. So if you, even if you think like you for some cultures, is going to be much greater kind of cost in terms of the clash of cultures, so then the second from is from countries which countries letting more more
and from different cultures, I'm hello and then some some countries might have quite a ways out security impact on culture. Our like you know, as well as his productivity. I'm addition to me to come.
Novelty and so on, but then that's also something that we can just very in terms of our immigration policy, which we do to some extent at the moment. But we could do much more so
Finally, as well as that, there are some things that for
no big, whether you often is just well image,
the coming and they're gonna be bad for the country. Economically, they're gonna, you know, take jobs to compete with low income workers and so on, use up infrastructure as well like the line into such as leaving belt, I mean you could just I can
for those to costs. Five taxes like I think the idea of having like an immigrant taxes is perfectly reasonable, because it's like well can I come into the country is a huge benefit for you, but so far he hadn't been cond like contributor
into the public services that you're going to be using that and then
use those taxes to ensure that the people who may
he made worse off by immigration such as though
lower skilled workers, who are competing alike, have other benefits such that like actually ends up being a win win for everyone, so,
this. Just I completely agree with you. If I had like a button that could just open all the borders right now, I would not do that. I think it would be chaos, but that is like the longer my name
and I think in general, like later, mixing of cultures tends to
that's. My optimistic belief is that the better viewpoints will prevail in the marketplace of ideas and over the long run
uhm, but then this is difficult question of law if that
if that were the aim, how would we get, and I'm very sympathetic to the idea that you want to go very slowly and carefully and monitor and is a you know, various ways in which you can make that could make that transition
very gradual. So I guess a final topic would be embarrassed that we
spend three hours on this, because this is an area of mutual interest and huge consequence potentially, but just the
the area of existential risk and
in our mutual AI concerns there, but I want to connect it to the very
ethical issue of population ethics, which is perhaps you can describe. Let's
talk for a moment about why population ethics is
think about, and it seems
we're talking about existential risk when we're talking about the survival of the species were talking about? Not just everyone now we're talking about all future generations who may yet be une created by our misadventures or the asteroid impacts. We don't
event or the ai that kills
or whatever it is so yeah when it comes to so essential, whisks things like to kill all of us. Clearly the death of the seven billion PETE deaths of seven billion people in the plan. That would be a bad thing, but then the big philosophical question is of the hundreds of trillions of people who are yet to come. So even if the human race just lives as long as our closest ancestor at the same population levels, the weather out now, that would be about five hundred million people still to come in the future. So the number of people who might exist who would no longer come into existence if we an asteroid hit us tomorrow, is absolutely vast, and so the question is what what should we think about that? And that gets
into the field of population ethics, which I think is one of the most difficult areas of ethics and perhaps the most important, certainly one of the most important areas for ethics. No reason it's so important is because I'm you know these,
huge decisions like different views and population ethics radically affect. What are global priorities ought to be.
But also that I think you can demonstrate that the common sense views about population ethics are definitely wrong.
So the common sense view seems to be that morality is about making people happy, not making happy people
There's not there's no moral reason to have one x. The person can exist in the future. Even if that person has a good life. Could you not really benefiting them? You just bring them into existence, even if they have a good life. I'm I think that's going to be a long,
and it's a little hard to explain. There's a few reasons. So one is that, if you,
being someone into existence with a horrible life like life of torch, one hundred years of torture, and then they die, people say: oh yeah,
not really bad
I have to say that this is some asymmetry where it's bad to bring into existence.
Terrible lies, but not good to bring into existence. Good lives yeah,
but the more general reason is, if you imagine you can
this extra the person I'm calling to the population,
let's say well being level six, which is like reasonably good life. If you have the view that there's nothing good
but that, then you have to save the world in which highly doesn't exist as as good as the world in which heavy exists it well being level. Six,
but now he consider another option at a highly to the population
and well being level eight. If a guy,
you think well, this is not good to add happy people to the population would have to say that,
no heavy is as good as the world with heavy at well being level eight, but now you,
said that the world, without it well being level, eight is as good as the world without it well being level six,
clear that the world will have it well being level. Eight is better than the world without it well being level. Six is better for one person works for now
and so we seem to have gotten a contradiction based on this assumption. That is not good to add. You know people whose lives have
worth living and if you added a billion Harris or ten billion aries at level, eight all of
suddenly. You have completely changed the he Donnick picture of
world? This is a much happier world than would have otherwise been the case. Yeah yeah,
right, so once we reject that, then
does ask ok. Well, how do we evaluate different populations of different size
and one view called. The total view is just that. You should just maximize the amount of happiness in the world and if you
can increase happiness by by having more happy people by increasing the population size, just as you can increase happiness by extending someone's life and making them happy, then
that's a good thing to do now, do you want to bring in the repugnant conclusion in conclusion, yeah, so Derek profit who is mentioned already came up with the what seems like a counter example to this view, which is, if you mention a population. You know this kind of bliss utopian world of this ten billion people who have incredibly happy lives. Just as happy is the people who have the best
lives today. Let's say they will live a hundred years, since his wonderful and now suppose take that world, and I compared it with a different world which have people who would just a nice just worth living there, like you know pretty drab, nothing much happens in them. In part,
Casey says the listen to music in the potatoes, so overall they were like yeah. I guess it was better for me to be alive and I'm not a life, but only just Nick. If you know, if I could just into
the rest of my life in a coma, it only mildly against that, so
their well being lifetime. Well, beings like zero is the other one, but
this is some number of them, like some very large number of them. On the total view, it would have to save
not just some number of people with these to the arab allies that Bailey worth living. That's a better world than the world of ten billion people with absolutely x ecstatic blissful life
because all of these tiny little drops of well being across, let's say
Quadrillion, the integral just adds up to a great
volume. Then the
very large amounts of well being among these are ten billion people who are living these wonderful lives and if it's Ashley just say that if it's not obvious to you listeners, you can see. Every part explains this. So if I recall in in
is is in persons, you can get from the condition, a condition be in a step wise fashion. So you can imagine a world where people are still extraordinarily happy, almost as happy as you could possibly be, but show us a little bit less happy,
but there are many more of them than in condition a and that clearly that's a better world, because we're just talking about we're talking about one person who's as happy as you could possibly be in condition a and Inca
should be we're talking about millions who are just a hair, less happy than as happy as you can be. But now you keep going
in a step wise fashion until you reach the world where people are are have
just a minimal possible positive life. But there are, you know,
trillions upon trillions of them. So it is a slippery slope and less
we're going to a wreck. Some kind of barrier that suggests will know. There's a minimum standard of
positive iti that we're not going to go pass. We're no longer going to care about the aggregate if we can't go to the Louvre and eat pastries and drink cappuccino
in any case as a what's a what's. How do you think about okay yeah? So this is you start to sketch an argument with forms? The basis of, of course, was an economist gold impossibility, theorem, Minister Skinny were escapee term, but just means there are sets of statements that represent intuitions, that we have very very deeply that we think yes meeting that nicely
just got to be true. Morally speaking, and some of those conditions are things like adding more happy, people to the world doesn't make a not changing. Anything else doesn't make the world works, for example, or the. If you can make everyone better off, that's a better world, so you can take collections of those statements and show that they mutually inconsistent
and that's why population ethics are so hot, and so I mean and uh
case, is you don't even need to just compare
the world of one person with a mill
and people have like slightly worse off. You can get there
by saying. Well, take one person, who's extremely well off and now just add a whole bunch of happy people,
you know, they've got really good lives, not quite as good as the first one, but still really good live
particles at me of addition, and maybe even that makes that first person a little bit better off as well. So for this person say okay, it will lease to say: that's not bad tweet, say obviously that's not bad, and now I just take that
large, a population and say okay. Well now, just suppose we could rearrange things such that this one person is made a bit west little bit worse off. Everyone else is a blow up to his level, so in
this is the total welfare of this population, the average welfare and it's more egalitarian. It seems like any principle, should endorse that.
But through that exact, same mechanism of just adding a bunch, more happy people and then kind of like
bring the oils in yeah, balancing yeah, bring them all up to this Agallah terrian situation. Again you get you end up with this private calls for the opponent conclusion, and so the question is: what do we do? So some philosophers just actually want to basically give up and ethics as a result of this 'cause. They find it so hard prophet said to me that it prefer to just give up on ethics, basically than believe the repugnant conclusion. I think that's much too strong, I think so, there's an awful lot of different theories of
listen effects. I think the best one is the total view, even though it has the seemingly the pardon implication, and so I believe that not on the basis of Marlon Tuition but on the base is a philosophical argument, looking at all the different possible positions, and that means that when we think the extension whiskey becomes extremely important indeed that loss of the let's say five hundred civilian lives in the future. On the total view, that's just as bad as if there was another planet that was about to be hit with the asteroids at five hundred million people online at the moment who, let's say they were when gonna be producers just to fix. My mission is just as bad kind of Molly speaking, in which case it
sure thing that you know we continue humanities great store. They were able to continue into the future, becomes overwhelmingly important. On that total view. This could be a very lazy way out, but I think about the repugnant conclusion and some of the other paradoxes that Parfitt introduces for
which neither he nor anyone else has an adequate answer kind of like the pair,
boxes of Zeno. Where
before anyone had figured out how to sum the infinite series and so the the paradoxes. If you're going to walk
to be, you first have to walk halfway, so you're at the midpoint
in NBA, and then you have to walk halfway between the
had half the remaining distance and then
half again and half again, and you can you? Can you
imagine an arrow being shot out of a boat or to target it first has to go halfway than half again and half again, and so no one ever arrives anywhere, because you keep cutting,
the remaining distance in half? Well, obviously, the world doesn't work that way.
Took awhile for mathematicians to understand the answer to that seeming paradox and I think it
I actually forgot forgotten the history here, but I think it was some centuries
in philosophy before anyone had an adequate response to Zeno. So I feel like that it does have that character for me a little bit where it's just ok,
it is true that you can go in the stepwise way and get to this conclusion where lives that are barely
better than not having existed at all the worst imaginable, but still positive life is bad.
There are insufficient number than billions of
on billions of ecstatically happy creative, intelligent,
unimaginable e, happy, creative, intelligent beans of a sort. We could only hope to be that
seems flat out wrong, and yet there's no question: you can keep cutting the distance in half. So I think the analogy is a reasonable one and I think it's reasonable to hold out hope for what particles theory x, which can get all the intuitions light and there's been some great work happening at Oxford's, including by graduate student, I'm supervising which
showing this will now start getting a bit technical, but there's certain technical assumptions made in these impossibility, theorems that don't actually seem that model irrelevant like and that welfare is discrete thousand continuous, which means that
This is basically the idea is, is a fundamental increments of well being so. The difference between ten point, one in ten point two and nothing in between, and you actually do need to that assumption. In order to make the impossibility theorems work and some plus was Oxford, including not clock. My graduate student has been showing you can avoid those
impossibility theorems. If you relax this assumption and get of you wear for any given well being level such that the increase of well being, if that sufficiently great,
then there's a sufficiently small increase of well being in terms of adding people
such that no amount of that will outweigh this large amount of well being, and that seems quite thank you seem quite powerful seems quite general
for those people who have a lie. Whited's to the impossibility, theorem says things like wanting to avoid how to put in a conclusion- and I think it seems like a very powerful way out, but it has a cost
as you might have expected, cost is grab that Picasso off the wall and leave your child and the cost is that it makes well being non. Separable is again the technical term, but what that means is that the decisions you ought to make today become the time
by in part by how many people have already existed and how well off the beaten where it seems like if, with decision making a decision about how much should we cab accentual
ask intuitively. It seems irrelevant like how many Egyptian,
were there any very Egypt and how well off with a and so on,
so this is actually there are some thought, experiments in reasons and persons that cover this territory, where it can, it could seem like the value of every present life is conditioned upon.
How happy the ancient Egyptians were yeah. I forgot the details of that, but, and that seems really strange, but if what you care about, for example, if what you care about is just you know in part the average happiness of everyone, then, when you think, should I
Should we increase the population with more people in order to know whether that's increasing average happiness or decreasing it? We need to know well how well off with all these people in the distant past. That starts to seem really weird as well
your students work doesn't rely on the average measure. Does it because the average measures is scary, one as in you just kill all the unhappy people today and you re of raise the average as yeah? It doesn't rely on the office. It's some of the complex like diminishing marginal value function. I can't wait to see it so keep keep me in the loop on that Don's. So, let's just do a final pass on
this issue of existential risk and how you think about that
reasonableness of thinking about allocating time to things that seem.
To the untutored ear, highly speculative in terms of pressing concern yeah. So I'm I mean I first got introduced to the topic when I first met Toby ORD in two thousand and nine and told me, but given what we can, this conversation that we change my life in this direction and when he first mentioned that
concerned by extension risk. I thought he is literally insane. I had a very negative, the action to it, and it was so, as I thought
kind of reasonable 'cause. It sounds kind of Sci FI, but then overtime, I think had he
influenced by Bostrom or is with his boss from of the like the first guy in this space or or not so I I mean yeah Nick Boss, the millions he Caskey with the two people who, I think were most leading concern about this issue and Toby was influenced by bus them as arcs. What's what's your
but then over time I mean just first the thought of just yeah. Well, one of them some of the most important things for human civilization to be doing well, one is just not committing suicide, as you know, as a species seems like actually kind of common sense. That would be a really important part of it. Helping to
sure this. The human story continues into the future, I'm you know, we talk a lot about environmental stewardship and I'm you know, preserving the planet for future generations. This is just that, I'm taking even more so
yes, the again here and similarly in a week when we watch disaster movies, like you deep impact and movies about asteroids hitting
So on you know, it's just uncontroversial. That of course, is of crucial importance to blow up this asteroid and save everyone save everyone in the planet.
And part of the reason for that is because of the because it's important to achieve all the things we're going to achieve in the future
I do think people. Some people have an intuition, though, that what is important,
play in ethics, is just not causing suffering.
More mitigating suffering and so that, if you could concoct a scenario where the lights just go out,
right. So that way, you know what's wrong with all of us dying in our sleep tonight. Painlessly well,
It's clearly, not a matter of suffering, because if it's painlessly so some people, I think, have a
then say it too. Obviously, a quite and I'll
stick one, but a sense that there's not actually
something wrong with that. It's like that from it's only our parochialism. That makes us feel like there's something wrong with that, but, as we've just suggested, the other side
height of the of the ledger, is all of the good that
never gets done, all of the happiness that never gets to live as a result of that cancellation in
if we live as a species for
billions of years
and migrate to populate the stars. The vast majority of good
chances are in the future and to pull
stopper on those is to cancel in advance all of the creativity and insight and beauty that could be enjoyed. So I mean you have to
about that in order to care about existing,
otherwise otherwise you're. Just then
concern is really just how painful it might be to get hit by NASA.
Right or suffer some other collision with reality that kills us and so yeah. So I think the.
I mean there are some people have that kind of nihilistic bent, though, once you start ask them well
Supposing you mom died painlessly tonight. Would you feel sad about that? Would you think that is a loss because they weren't able to continue to live most people say yes like when my own case yeah. I would not want to die painlessly tonight, because not because it's gonna be I'm gonna suffer because of the loss of the benefits, hello, a clue in the rest of my life to think about the same thing, but on the global scale. I think the second aspect of the thing that I certainly used to- and people often find weird, is then just the particular focuses the people have which often relate to very.
New technology, so developments in synthetic pathogens, so the ability, the fact that in the coming years, more and more we're going to have the ability to just create man made, viruses
your engineering as another extension risk the fact that even now, we just have the technology to radically alter the earths climate and it's actually not even that expensive and then. Finally, when that gets a lot of attention as well as artificial intelligence and then I think that people yeah then get weirded out there 'cause. It sounds science fiction, but I think people often just don't realize like actually. Firstly, how advanced some of the technology we already dealing with is- and secondly,
Secondly, yet just how fast is going. And thirdly, it's not like anyone thinks this is definitely going to kill us all. You know the coverage of a I is to store, was your terminators and so on. Don't you know anyone who really believes that
you know even Elon Musk known personally, but when he talks about the stuff, what he's just getting carried away sometimes, but what is to do is just it's going to be like developments artificial Intel
over the coming century, very possibly going to be one of the biggest technological transitions of the twenty first century and as with many very major technological transitions in the past. But I think especially this one has the potential to go extremely well.
There's the potential to go extremely badly, and so it seems pretty reasonable. When we're talking about problems in the scales, I think to have a conversation about.
How can we ensure that we harness the benefits and avoid the risks?
listeners are somewhat aware of my views on this matter, and I have a TED talk coming out in a couple of weeks that that them and
Fourteen minutes, so I won't inject that here. But do you differ from
bostrom at all in your of the problem? Or do you basically see it the way he sees it?
yeah I mean I will definitely confess to not being a specialist on this topic, so I have to defy the law, but
I yeah, I think, Possum in general, I'm in general, I'm kind of very sympathetic. I think the very significant I'm risks to creating agents that are much smarter than yourselves out of it like extremely a powerful, artificial intelligence that behaves in open scare, quotes creative ways and and the if you've got agents that are I'm much more powerful than yourself much smarter that have certain goals. There are certain instrumental goals that which are catching the sources and stopping people who might want to destroy you or have you stop your goals, which looks pretty dangerous
in terms of how they might interact with humans. I think one difference of emphasis, so a lot of discussion, a eyes on the insuring things go well, is focused on. What's called safety, especially respect so hard to take off like where we move from, you know pretty good now artificial intelligence is very smart one to May into human levels and then play to the human level general intelligence in a very short period of time, the commands of yes, I'm I'm as possible. I don't think anyone thinks it is most likely scenario, and so instead, I kind of at least in terms of what I tend to think about focus on is more just
if this is a gradual transition, but a completely kind of assaulting one. Ultimately, how do we ensure that we you, like yeah? We use this new technology in this transition in a way that's going to be as good as
possible, so allow them merely thinking about the binary if we continue as usual or everyone gets killed instead. Thinking will actually. This is like
one of maybe one of the turning points of human civilization. It could easily just going along direction like if you know, if we don't think very seriously about what's the model right thing to do. Is it the case that spending to the stars is like the model imperative? If so, what should society look like and so on? I think there's very clear risks of
and instead where we could set off an alarm to Jack, to be yeah. I want to like personally one hundred and two have people thinking more about this very logical question of
morally speaking. What are we is laced like actually kind of achieve, yeah and that's not quite captured by the mirror, like kind of buying the way you do we live. What do we die
right and even, if you imagine, a perfectly
well behaved ai,
which is which of the all the safety concerns are solved. Then you still have the question of how do we politically
Anomic Lee absorb the emergence of what is in fact the perfect labor
giving device. So you know how do you spread the wealth given that you now have a machine that it will generate as much wealth as possibly can be generated?
I don't have a mechanism to spread that wealth. If we don't have it and ethics in a politics that now d links people
survival, an the val
you of their of their place in society from what they produce, because
now we're in a world where you don't actually shouldn't have to produce anything I mean, should there should be no more drudgery, you know if you get this machine doing all that it can do for a long enough. So
it's humbling to realize that, even in the special
case of knowing that the ai is safe, we've solved what what Bostrom calls the control problem or the safety problem. We still have a map,
the challenge. Now, if it was just handed to us, I would expect total chaos yeah so
Well, it's really been great to talk to you. Yeah, it's been absolutely yeah, it's been them absolute joy. I hope it's just the first of many occasions,
ugly and you're doing a it's. It's really heartening to see some
I'm doing philosophical work, where the translation between the thing
mean and the good in the world is in no sense in direct or hypothetical
I mean you're, so obviously changing minds and the change that is being accomplished is translating Direc
Klay into doing good and arguably the most tangible good they can be done, is you you found you've created, really an amazing niche for yourself, so it's yeah, it's sitting, exciting movement to be part of, I hope, to write your
hotels in that direction, because it's obviously a good
to go in and be very happy with that here want to be contained.
So I love that conversation. I'm not sure that came across enough as I struggled to cover all the philosophical bases and wanted to cover, but as a closing, I just wanted to tell you what I loved about it more or less. All I do
now is talk about ideas and write about ideas and try to oppose bad ones with good ones, and I'm
constantly making arguments and exploring issues for the purpose of changing people's beliefs.
And either solidifying or changing my own in the process, but far too often,
The real world consequences of changing a person's mind aren't obvious.
If I convince you that there's more of a conflict between science and religion than you realized or that Islam knee
reform in a way that Mormonism doesn't
or that free will is an illusion or that artist
intelligence will pose special dangers in the future. There often isn't a clear course of action to take.
If I, if I can bench of any of those things, what are you going to do differently tomorrow? The best I can hope for as results of this kind of work is it. Your thing can speak differently about these issues, and this will gradually changed
world we're living in, but from time to time, one finds a topic where a good argument can lead directly to action
factor in certain cases. Accepting the argument
or realizing that you don't have a counter argument, demands action
and we'll have got one of these top
fix in hand and he's just hammering away on it and the affair.
Altruism movement, which he essentially started with a friend,
is doing something very interesting. Now I've obviously
thought about these issues before and giving
money to worthy causes, has been something I've been doing for a very long time, but I've never been especially systematic about it.
And I've never been satisfied with the relationship between my
behavior and my ethical philosophy, podcast
I don't think there's a great argument against Peter singer's framing of the issue where all of us, by virtue of not
given almost all of our wealth away
in by a shallow pond watching yet another child died because we don't get our clothes wet. I am convinced that the basic analogy is sound. The most that I can say, I think, is that this isn't the whole store.
And at this negative judgment about our inaction, leave something out of the picture, but uh
not convinced that it leaves so much out that the basic claim is false. It clearly isn't false:
each of us spends time and money on are less than
in a world where millions of people drew no
fault of their own
suffering, the worst forms of deprivation, deprivation, which is
They were ever to appear directly on your doorstep, so that you couldn't ignore it
Five dollars on lunch in a restaurant? This is after doing a podcast with will now was this lunch essential to my survival,
Was it essential for me to eat out in a restaurant to pursue some economic and
that would allow me to help the poorest people on earth in a way that I couldn't otherwise, no.
When I could have eaten home far more cheaply and probably sent twenty three dollars to some worthy charity.
On this analysis, I may not be exactly the same as a person who just washed a child drown in a shallow pond, but I'm not entirely different either.
Only the lack of salience that will a nice
talk about accounts for that difference. It's only
because the misery and death of people, far away from Maine, hasn't been made sufficiently Vivi,
So that I can no longer ignore it, and I
of advertising by deciding not to pay as much attention to it.
They might certainly not so much that it provokes a crisis where I feel myself all we
standing by the pond watching another
I don't really have an argument against this bleak picture,
saying something else which is
I want to live in a world where restaurants that serve good food exist, and I also want to eat in them. I think we have to get to a few
sure in which such abundance is the common inheritance of all humanity.
Merely paralyzing about singers analysis.
No, he doesn't mean it to be that way, but
There's no way you can or will live up to its implications and
you'll come away feeling that you should so, if your film
topically and ethically sensitive
you go down this path with singer, you
I was still live more or less the way you want, but you periodically feel like a total hypocrite.
This on the opportunity of giving cuts through this
forget about measuring yourself against a standard of perfection and just realized that, by dint of sheer good luck, you get to do, trim
and is good in this world. Whenever you want,
child from a burning building. You really can
This isn't merely a metaphor. You can
save a life today or over the course of the next year.
A life that would otherwise not be saved, but for your action,
but the lives that you're not saving
or didn't save. Yesterday, when you were just playing with your kids at the beach
to live in a world where you get to play with your kids at the beach, but you also get to rescue someone else's kid.
From a burning building from malaria or cholera or civil war, you get to do that.
So I want to translate this insight into action and
save alive through the podcast every month, just systematically month after month.
Now the current estimate of what it takes to do. This is three thousand five hundred dollars so each month, the fur
Three thousand five hundred dollars that comes into the podcast will go
play to the number one rated Charitygivewell dot. Org,
is currently the against Malaria Foundation, which distributes the bed nets. That will- and I were talking about
somewhere in the range of four
the eight hundred thousand people die every year from malaria. A majority are
children and pregnant mothers. In fact, according
UNICEF children under five.
Represent seventy eight percent of the deaths from malaria, something like one thousand two hundred dollars a day from this disease. This is a very good thing to prevent
Obviously so, thank you will you are philosophising, is having a ten
enable effect on the world.
You are the proximate cause of this change in my behavior
an now through this podcast
or how ineffectual or frustrating the convo
patients are, and there have been a few that have been just pure pain. Every month I gay
to rush into a burning building and save a life
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Transcript generated on 2019-10-05.