[content warning: suicide, human extinction. Might be a bad idea to listen to if you suffer suicidal tendencies.]
We speak to Jason, who would take extreme measures to end all suffering. However, lacking extreme powers, he recommends doing good as efficiently as possible, and offers these resources:
Givewell – researches charities for effectiveness.
80,000 hours – Have a greater social impact with your career.
He also provided us with a link to the World Happiness Report
Other things mentioned in this episode:
Jeremy Bentham – founder of utilitarianism. Steven was right – he was one of the earliest advocates of animal rights from the very beginning.
Utility Monsters (also in comic form)
There are a few responses to Utility Monsterism, here’s a link with some quick lay-person summaries. But my favorite is PhilGoetz, who argues that humans are utility monsters, so it’s kinda a non-issue – we’ve all decided we’re cool with Utility Monsterism.
VHEMT – the voluntary human extinction movement
Those Who Walk Away From Omelas (pdf) – short story by Ursula LeGuin
Scott Alexander’s retelling of the final act of Job (and sadly, according to comments there, he wasn’t the first to think of it – a Christian philosopher beat him to it by a few years. Still, Scott’s version is FAR more entertaining!)
The Hedonic Treadmill – Not that Treadmilly? (Ctrl-F for “Hedonic Adaptation” to get to the relevant part in the linked page)
Turns out, the idea that people adapt to negative events and return to their previous set-point is a myth. Although the exact effects vary depending on the bad event, disability, divorce, loss of a partner, and unemployment all have long-term negative effects on happiness. Unemployment is the one event that can be undone relatively easily, but the effects persist even after people become reemployed. I’m only citing four studies here, but a meta analysis of the literature shows that the results are robust across existing studies.
The same thing applies to positive events. While it’s “common knowledge” that winning the lottery doesn’t make people happier, it turns out that isn’t true, either.
Also very famous among Rationalists is Singer’s book “The Life You Can Save”
80,000 Hours states that being a Tobacco CEO causes so much harm that it cannot be countered by donating all earnings to altruism, no matter how effective.
Larks of Effective-Altruism.com argues that maaaaaaaybe it could be?
Either way, the best course of action is obvious – become a Tobacco CEO and do a really shitty job.
Suffering is Valueless (most relevant section quoted below)
I believe moral value is inherent in those systems and entities that we describe as ‘fascinating’, ‘richly structured’ and ‘beautiful’. A snappy way of characterising this view is “value-as-profundity”. On the other hand, I regard pain and pleasure as having no value at all in themselves.
In the context of interpersonal affairs, then, to do good is ultimately to make the people around you more profound, more interesting, more beautiful – their happiness is irrelevant. To do evil, on the other hand, is to damage and degrade something, shutting down its higher features, closing off its possibilities.
While we’re on the topic, why the heck is it that generally the happier a place is, the higher the depression and suicide rate? Lots of guesses, nothing sounds definitive.
LessWrong post on being Adaptation Executors
A fictional portrayal of Neil Armstrong on Orgasmium (which serves as Eneasz’s example of why such a world would be awful)
We ended with a joke about Coherent Extrapolated Volition