Comment author: Parker_Whitfill 05 September 2018 08:49:37PM 2 points [-]

"Whether we seek to alleviate poverty directly or indirectly, we might suppose that such efforts will get a privileged status over very different cause areas if we endorse the justice view. But our other cause priorities deal with injustices too; factory farming is an unjust emergency, and an existential catastrophe would clearly be a massive injustice that might only be prevented if we act now. And just like poverty, both of these problems have been furthered by selfish and corrupt international institutions which have also contributed to our wealth. So it's not really clear if the justice view might change much in our approach to cause prioritization."

I'm most interested in how Ashford's views might affect cause prioritization. Yes factory farming and x-risk can be characterized as injustices, but it isn't clear to me if these cases are as clean as the case for global poverty being an injustice. For example, you might argue that x-risk is caused by corrupt international institutions that only favor present people, but this brings up a whole range of possible considerations like if you can be unjust towards future people given the non-identity problem. Overall, I think this issue is debatable and I'd be interested in seeing more work done on it.

Comment author: bwildi 06 September 2018 07:44:18AM 2 points [-]

Isn't factory farming a clear-cut case of injustice? A pretty standard view of justice is that you don't harm others, and if you are harming them then you should stop and compensate for the harm done. That seems to describe what happens to farmed animals. In fact, as someone who finds justice plausible, I think it creates a decent non-utilitarian argument to care about domestic animal suffering more than wild animal suffering.

As my last sentence suggests, I do think that justice views are likely to affect cause prioritisation. I think you're right that justice may lead you to different conclusions about inter-generational issues, and is worth a deeper look.

Comment author: markus_over 20 June 2018 08:33:43AM *  0 points [-]

Or maybe the area is unexplored and there are big potential benefits from spending some effort figuring out if there are high-impact interventions?

I think that's pretty much it. Right now, there aren't many known concrete promising interventions to my knowledge, but the value of information in this area seems extremely high.

Using the standard method of rating cause areas by scale, neglectedness and tractability, it seems wild animal suffering scores a lot higher on scale, much higher on neglectedness (although farm animals are already pretty neglected), and seemingly much lower on tractability. There's quite a bit of uncertainty regarding the scale, but still it seems very clear it's orders of magnitude beyond farm animals. Neglectedness is apparent and not uncertain at all. The one point that would count against investing in wild animal suffering, tractability, on the other hand is highly uncertain (i.e. has "low resilience", see ), so there's a chance that even little research could yield highly effective interventions, making it a highly promising cause area in that regard.

I would feel a lot more hesitant about large-scale interventions on wild animals, since they are part of complex ecosystems where I've been led to believe we don't have a good enough understanding to anticipate long-term consequences accurately

You're right about this one, and we probably all agree on things being a bit tricky. So either research on our long term impact on ecosystems could be very helpful, or we could try focusing on interventions that have a very high likelihood of having predictable consequences.

(That all being said, there may be many reasons to still put a lot of our attention on farm animal suffering; e.g. going too public with the whole wild animal suffering topic before there's a more solid fundamental understanding of what the situation is and what, in principle, we could do to solve it while avoiding unforeseen negative effects, seems like a bad idea. Also finding ways to stop factory farming might be necessary for humanity's "moral circle" to expand far enough to even consider wild animals in the first place, thus making a solution to factory farming a precondition to successful large scale work on wild animal suffering. But I'm rambling now, and don't actually know enough about the whole topic to justify the amount of text I've just produced)

Comment author: bwildi 20 June 2018 10:22:27AM *  1 point [-]

I think high amounts of concern for wild animals is actually a bit of a defect in utilitarianism. A quite compelling reason for caring more about factory farmed animals is that we are inflicting a massive injustice against them, and that isn't the case for wild animals generally. We do often feel moral obligations to wild animals when we are responsible for their suffering (think oil spills for example). That's not to say wild animals don't matter, but they might be further down our priority list for that reason.

I think the visualization is great. I think the exploding red dots is very powerful, demonstrates just an immense amount of bloodshed.

Comment author: bwildi 05 June 2018 01:27:16PM 5 points [-]

Thank you for sharing this Holly. Have you read Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar? It's a book full of stories of extraordinarily committed "do-gooders" (some effective altruists, some not), as well as some interesting analysis on the mixed reaction that they receive from society. I think there's a lot of overlap with some of what you've written and the experiences of the individuals in Strangers Drowning, so you're definitely not alone.

I suppose the extent that anyone experiences any of these 8 challenges really depends on how motivated they are by morality. I think most people think it's important that they have a positive impact on the world (or at least, don't have a negative one), but they think it's less important to maximize their positive impact. Even being convinced of EA doesn't necessarily change this: it might just lead you to conclude that you can have a much greater positive impact on the world at little cost to yourself, so you might as well...

I guess personally I think that morality should be my most important motivator abstractly, but just looking at my behaviour, it clearly isn't in practice (at least right now). I suppose I'm glad that I don't find altruism very emotionally difficult, but I also suppose that I feel slightly guilty about not feeling very guilty about not doing more.