brianwang712 comments on An Argument for Why the Future May Be Good - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: brianwang712 20 July 2017 01:56:28AM 6 points [-]

I think one important reason for optimism that you didn't explicitly mention is the expanding circle of moral concern, a la Peter Singer. Sure, people's behaviors are strongly influenced by laziness/convenience/self-interest, but they are also influenced by their own ethical principles, which in a society-wide sense have generally grown better and more sophisticated over time. For the two examples that you give, factory farming and slavery, your view seems to be that (and correct me if I'm wrong) in the future, people will look for more efficient ways to extract food/labor, and those more efficient ways will happen to involve less suffering; therefore, suffering will decrease in the future. In my head it's the other way around: people are first motivated by their moral concerns, which may then spur them to find efficient technological solutions to these problems. For example, I don't think the cultured meat movement has its roots in trying to find a more cost-effective way to make meat; I think it started off with people genuinely concerned about the suffering of factory-farmed animals. Same with the abolitionist movement to abolish slavery in the US; I don't think industrialization had as much to do with it as people's changing views on ethics.

We reach the same conclusion – that the future is likely to be good – but I think for slightly different reasons.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 21 July 2017 05:37:50PM 7 points [-]

The change in ethical views seems very slow and patchy, though - there are something like 30 million slaves in the world today, compared to 3 million in the US at its peak (I don't know how worldwide numbers have changed over time.)