Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Yellow Button And Anti-Natalist Agendas

We've heard about the Red Button and the Green Button. All well and good. Now suppose there's this newly installed Yellow Button: Pressing it means you instantaneously remove all human beings from the earthly equation. Poof they go.

If you'd prefer for things to be a bit more restrained and even-handed, amend the hypothetical so that pressing the Yellow Button means you incapacitate each human's reproductive function. This way, all unsuspecting individuals still get to live out the rest of their lives despite their newfound inability to procreate.

I'll just stick with the harsher version, for brevity's sake.

Either way, the result is the same in a generation or four: A planet devoid of humanity, with all else remaining the same.

The kicker: You don't have days/weeks/months to decide whether or not to press the Yellow Button. You must decide right now, as the button is here for a limited time only. With ample time to make the call, loose ends might not end up being so loose, and the lesson being imparted loses some of its punch.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Eternity And Mediocrity

Nick Bostrom's Infinite Ethics is a worthwhile read, but if you don't have the time, I'll just point you to this bit from the abstract:

  • Modern cosmology teaches that the world might well contain an infinite number of happy and sad people and other candidate value-bearing locations. Aggregative ethics implies that such a world contains an infinite amount of positive value and an infinite amount of negative value. You can affect only a finite amount of good or bad. In standard cardinal arithmetic, an infinite quantity is unchanged by the addition or subtraction of any finite quantity. So it appears you cannot change the value of the world.

Maybe you gawk at the quoted passage and conclude that contemporary cosmologists are out to lunch. Or maybe you figure Bostrom misrepresents or misconstrues what the majority of them actually believe. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter anyway, because you don't have to believe that sentient life sticking around forever is a foregone conclusion. You just have to acknowledge that the finitude of sentience isn't exactly a foregone conclusion either. The best available evidence for infinitude isn't conclusive, but it's not dismissible either.

And even if you are unfazed by the expertise of cosmologists, to the point of remaining 100% confident that sentient life is destined to go extinct for good sometime in the future, I would say the Arithmetic Paralysis quandary outlined in the paper is fascinating enough in its own right to warrant theoretical pivots. Not everything needs to implicate Applied Ethics to be worthy of our mentation.

If you have a bona fide appetite for philosophy, toying with ideas that educe incredulous stares elsewhere should be a picnic.    

"Nothing stifles intellectual curiosity like the craving for familiarity."

Me. Just now.