Milan_Griffes comments on What consequences? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Milan_Griffes 29 November 2017 04:08:29AM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for the thoughtful comment :-)

This seems like a case of what Greaves calls simple cluelessness.

I'm fuzzy on Greaves' distinction between simple & complex cluelessness. Greaves uses the notion of "systematic tendency" to draw out complex cluelessness from simple, but "This talk of ‘having some reasons’ and ‘systematic tendencies’ is not as precise as one would like;" (from p. 9 of Greaves 2016).

Perhaps it comes down to symmetry. When we notice that for every imagined consequence, there is an equal & opposite consequence that feels about as likely, we can consider our cluelessness "simple." But when we can't do this, our cluelessness is complex.

This criterion is unsatisfyingly subjective though, because it relies on our assessing the equal-opposite consequence as "about as likely," plus relying on whether we are able to imagine an equal-opposite consequence or not.

Comment author: SiebeRozendal 02 January 2018 01:48:26PM 1 point [-]

I take Greaves' distinction between simple and complex cluelessness to be in the symmetry (just as you seem to do). However, I believe that this symmetry consists in that we are evaluating the same consequences following from either an act A, or a refraining of act A. For every story of long-term consequences happening from performing act A, there is a parallel story of these consequences C happening from refraining to do A. Thus, we can invoke a specific Principle of Indifference, where we take the probabilities of the options to be equal, reflecting our ignorance. Thus, P(C|A) = P(C|~A), where C is a story of some long-term consequences of either performing or refraining from doing A.

In complex cases, this symmetry does not exist, because we're trying to compare different consequences (C1, C2, .., Cn) resulting from the same act.