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kbog comments on Quantifying the Impact of Economic Growth on Meat Consumption - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 12:02:03PM *  13 points [-]

Hi kbog, I appreciate you've done a lot of work here, but I've downvoted because I have a strong ethical and practical objection to this issue being discussed as 'the poor meat eater problem'. These objections have been hashed out every time this topic comes up. It makes me very sad that the meme persists, and I think it's terrible for it to be associated with EA discussion.

Ok, I didn't put any thought into the title, if that's a potential issue then I have no problem changing it.

Fallacy: the decision to focus on only one long term consequence of advancing development

I don't assume that this is the only thing to worry about, and I didn't want to leave this impression which is why I tried to be as clear as I could with my post about how many other consequences I left out of consideration, and didn't draw any conclusions nor even speculate about aid being net good or bad.

The failure to apply the same reasoning to developed countries

Yes I didn't write about that but I just consider it to be a separate discussion. I've thought about looking at developed countries in the same way, but right now I felt like this was a more relevant topic to EAs.

Clearly the vast bulk of meat is eaten by rich people. If you want to discuss the implications for animal suffering of economic development, then why limit the discussion to poor countries? Why limit the consideration to 'what might be the effects of increasing aid to developing countries'. If one was to take this line of reasoning as am important one (ie we should limiting animal suffering by limiting human economic development, since the latter is associated with more animal product consumption), then I would question why you don't also recommend the following:

I guess you take this as a reductio ad absurdum against the idea of reducing animal suffering in the developing world, but I don't see that as the case. It seems perfectly morally plausible to me, in theory, that we could be justified in limiting the growth of a society founded on animal exploitation, so while I haven't done any analysis of it, I can't say the idea is so ridiculous as to justify shutting down discussion. Again, I'm not saying that I support these things, I'm saying that the possibility that in a different universe I might be committed to supporting them doesn't seriously disturb me. Now I would expect economic harm to the developed world to have negligible effects on meat consumption - meat consumption levels off above a relatively high income, so preventing future economic development of wealthy countries doesn't accomplish anything in that regard. I also see social stability as having positive x-risks and economic growth as reducing wild animal suffering so that's why I'm against the things you mentioned.

Besides, what do you make of fossil fuel advocates who think it's morally wrong to restrict fossil fuels used by the developing world? Maybe they have a point, but they're not obviously right.

Comment author: Bernadette_Young 22 December 2015 12:36:37PM *  1 point [-]

I think the phrasing of the 'problem' is bad, but the title really isn't the only issue.

"Considerations entirely outside the model: impact of development on wild animal suffering, climate change, technological progress, global economic development, etc."

I'm afraid this really doesn't read to me as being clear about how narrowly a focus this argument takes. I have literally seen people say "Now I've heard about the poor meat eater problem I've stopped donating to SCI", so simply saying you don't draw any conclusion is not, I think, sufficient justification for advancing such a one sided argument. Those things you wave away in the sentence above will in all likelihood completely dwarf the numbers below.

I do think that considering meat eating in the developed world to be "a separate problem" that is not a "relevant topic" is discriminatory. It's an 'us and them' divide, which is purely conceptual.

I don't think my objections are a reductio ad absurdum, I just think they are harmful actions that are not justified by the reduction in animal suffering they might indirectly lead to. I do find it odd that you see social stability as having positive x-risk only in developed countries though.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 12:49:26PM *  5 points [-]

I'm afraid this really doesn't read to me as being clear about how narrowly a focus this argument takes. I have literally seen people say "Now I've heard about the poor meat eater problem I've stopped donating to SCI", so simply saying you don't draw any conclusion is not, I think, sufficient justification for advancing such a one sided argument. Those things you wave away in the sentence above will in all likelihood completely dwarf the numbers below.

If people make bad decisions then that's unfortunate, but all other things being equal more information leads to better decisions and EA is the last movement which needs to have its strings pulled. I would expect that giving more information about different aspects of issues is always good and I would be happy to see people weigh in on those issues. I don't have the time to write about everything. Personally I had no idea that anyone in the movement had even mentioned this at all within the past few years and I had never seen someone object to it, so I didn't expect there to be this problem.

I do find it odd that you see social stability as having positive x-risk only in developed countries though.

I didn't say anything yet about the impact on x risk of developing countries. Again, that's outside the bounds of what I'm looking at.

If you'd like to have a broad discussion of cause prioritization then I'd be happy to, but it would have to start with me laying down a full set of ideas, as opposed to having my priorities be extrapolated from a very narrow analysis.

Comment author: Bernadette_Young 22 December 2015 12:56:02PM 3 points [-]

"If people make bad decisions then that's unfortunate, but all other things being equal more information leads to better decisions and EA is the last movement which needs to have its strings pulled. "

To be clear: I am not advocating censorship. I'm advocating putting information in a context that makes its scope and importance apparent. It would be naive to ignore that some ideas have mimetic pull, particularly if you're being counter-intuitive by advancing an argument that aid is bad.

"I don't have the time to write about everything."

No of course not, but of all the problems in all the gin joints in all the world, you picked this one. That is a form of cause prioritisation, and I think it's reasonable to draw some inference from that action.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 01:09:17PM *  2 points [-]

To be clear: I am not advocating censorship. I'm advocating putting information in a context that makes its scope and importance apparent. It would be naive to ignore that some ideas have mimetic pull, particularly if you're being counter-intuitive by advancing an argument that aid is bad.

I put my argument in a good enough context for someone who was interested in reading and understanding my point of view to fully understand my scope and assumptions. I trust people on this forum to be rational enough about the issue, and I believe I clearly did make the scope and importance of this issue apparent by explicitly stating the many limits of my analysis and drawing zero conclusions or speculation about whether "aid is bad", so I suppose we're at an impasse about that.

It's possible that the issue of meat consumption in the developing world has overly strong "memetic pull", but I don't see why I should be more worried about that than the "memetic pull" of pro-aid arguments (which, for the longest time, EAs have been deliberately trying to make more emotionally appealing) as well as the memetic pull of x-risk arguments (which have earned accusations of being cultish and ridiculous because of their memetic appearance) and so on and so forth.

No of course not, but of all the problems in all the gin joints in all the world, you picked this one.

Yes, because in many months/over a year of watching this forum, the EA subreddit, many EA blogs/organizations/websites, and multiple EA facebook groups, I have never once seen someone bring it up. So as far as I could tell, it's been comparatively under-recognized. Whatever flame wars broke out about this in 2012 and 2013, I haven't seen them, and I suspect that many others on this forum haven't either.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 22 December 2015 03:55:03PM 2 points [-]

I searched the EA Facebook group, it looks like it has come up a total of three times:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/539157796140582/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/501491619907200/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/543620345694327/

The first two threads have a decent amount of discussion.

There's also a Facebook group, although it's inactive:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/370060246454362/

Comment author: Bernadette_Young 22 December 2015 01:50:50PM 0 points [-]

If you use the search function in the main facebook group it's quite straightforward to find plenty of discussion.