aspencer comments on What do DALYs capture? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: aspencer 26 September 2017 02:42:49PM 2 points [-]

Categorizing quality of life based on personal testimony is a challenging task. The reasons you listed show many specific problems, and more generally, human judgement is fickle and error-prone. For instance, Thinking Fast and Slow claims that we are loss-averse and that we overweight the cost of losing something. I wonder, then, how the responses of perceived quality of life differ between people who were born with particular illnesses (like blindness) and people that suffered from it later in life.

The inherent fallacies in human judgement cause me to wonder if it can ever be a reliable source to quantify the effect of illnesses. At the risk of being hyper-pragmatic, perhaps we should attempt to quantify the effect of illnesses by only considering the degree to which the illness impacts a person's ability to provide useful social function.

Of course, this approach also has many inherent issues. For one, meaningfully quantifying this would be incredibly challenging if not infeasible. It would also likely weight the value of the rich much higher than the value of the poor.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 26 September 2017 07:51:09PM 2 points [-]

If you don't think you can quantify QoL by self-reports, I'm not sure how you're going to be able to quantify useful social functions instead!

FWIW, measuring happiness turns out to be basically fine. You might like this article on the topic which discusses it: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00030.x