Robert Wiblin: Yeah, okay. There’s also cool kinds of consequentialist arguments that one could give for why this is a bad path to go down even if in some narrow sense, it seems like it’s raising welfare just during the period of this television program. Russ Roberts: Yeah. I’m Rob Wiblin, Director of Research at 80,000 Hours. Russ Roberts: So let me give you an example. And fundamentally, I believe that the reason most people are glad that they had kids has nothing to do with the day-to-day satisfaction and what they put on a scale of one to 10, it has to do with their identity, who they became after they had children. And does that justify progressive taxation of a confiscatory sort? So if you said to me, “You should devote the rest of your life to getting better at being the father of your children.” And you can debate whether it’s important when you’re 65, versus when you’re 35, 40. So while I think there’s value that can be gotten from doing randomized trials to figure out which charities have the most impact, I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily, or that many of my colleagues are even more optimistic about that than perhaps the public as a whole. The whining, the wailing, the tragedy, the wounds, the stitches. It’s not about comparing those two things. And that’s what I’m thinking about for what it’s worth. Then you ask them a bunch of questions like, “Do enjoy being around kids? This so called framing problem. Okay. Modern utilitarian thought, I am told that I should be ashamed of having a fancy birthday party for my four-year-old because that money would be better spent. Robert Wiblin: I think that’s where most people are at. But I wonder whether it’s important to distinguish between kind of the philosophical issue here about the nature of wellbeing and subjectivity, and the practical political concern of how will these ideas be abused and what negative policy consequences can they have if people take these numbers too literally rather than using other ways to make decisions about what public policy should be. Please contact us to suggest ideas, improvements or corrections. A lot of times that was just wrong. The main reason for this is that, out of all communities, the effective altruism movement comes closest to applying core utilitarian ideas and values to the real world. Now, I don’t think that’s the right metaphor for life. I know of a thinker, who used to call it, “political science.” Meaning, putting it in scare quotes or sarcasm. Don’t want to give people alarm. It’s not super contextual. I know you can see that. And now what? So let’s see. Robert Wiblin: And then I guess a next step would be to try to find a role that has a very good personal fit for you so that… there’s no point in saying conducting fundamental research is a really valuable thing in principle if you just don’t have the disposition for research. So there’s this–. You could say, “Well, I think religion is actually a force for unkindness. And I think it’s important that it not just be some form of making yourself feel good, but actually makes the world a better place, or at least heads in that direction. And it’s not obvious to me that that would have been possible in a world where we all were encouraged to think of ourselves as not being rooted, as not having an identity in, say, place. Robert Wiblin: It’s hard to reject in principle. But I think if you do have hundreds of people, thousands of people, then you can have some of them who spend their time thinking about, “What is it that we ought to do studying all of that history?” Who then, write papers or write blog posts that then guide the actions of other people who are more practitioners, who are more, in the government forming policy regarding China. I’m extremely biased in favor of free markets. Because it’s been running weekly since 2006 there’s a huge back catalogue of 750 episodes you could work through. Russ Roberts: So theory is important or worldview or a framework or a lens. I’ve got really good common sense.” And I think it’s possible that there are people who have better common sense, better intuition, better judgement than others. I think they’re both at risk right now. Effective altruism is often considered to simply be a rebranding of utilitarianism, or to merely refer to applied utilitarianism. Robert Wiblin: But I think when this has come up on EconTalk before, you’ve talked quite a lot about how you don’t really trust the empirical research suggesting that increasing the minimum wage doesn’t cause these employment effects. I thought that was very well summarized. Are you already enjoying your life? That particular thing I think is probably, those are all good. I’m not going to mention what it is, so you could go do this yourself. Russ Roberts: And I think the answer is no, not possible. But then that would seem to have this kind of crazy implication that say, “If I stubbed my toe and someone else was catastrophically injured in a car accident, we just couldn’t say which of these things, from a consequence or wellbeing point of view, was worse. My wife and I have a very complicated dynamic with each other, with each child, when the six of us are together, when subsets of us are together, it’s all different. And I look at that and I say, “Well, what about all the other claims that you make? I have no idea where to start. I’ll have to adapt.”. Audio mastering: Ben Cordell. I think maybe one of the things that surprises me most about your view on utilitarianism, or at least on kind of wellbeing as a moral factor, is it seems like sometimes you suggest that it’s just not possible to compare welfare differences or welfare effects on different people. Robert Wiblin: Yeah, this is another area where we kind of agree with just maybe a slightly different framing. These are my initial reflections on the topic, intended as a launching point for discussion rather than a comprehensive survey. I don’t accept the argument that we can then aggregate across people in cases where it’s more complicated. It’s all very black and white. So yeah, there’s two aspects there. 25 Giles Fraser claims that the ‘big idea’ of effective altruism is ‘to encourage a broadly utilitarian/rationalist approach to doing good.’ 26 We’re at the end of August in 2020, having this conversation, and the two biggest things going on in the United States right now in the public eye, obviously you’ll understand I could argue that the biggest thing going on in my life right now is my relationship with my wife, given the way we’ve been talking. So those are, to me, the tensions that you have to deal with philosophically when you grapple with these kind of, essentially insoluble problems. But Russ and I disagree about how much we really disagree. Russ Roberts: It’s a great point about the day-to-day cruelty. That makes it hard to find the all-time best episodes. So that didn’t pass the sniff test for me. Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference. So I think there are two parts. I think you can see it in some cases that you can do these comparisons, but then you become very suspicious at the big level. So for all my skepticism about empirical research, I have never claimed that facts are irrelevant. Like you, I’ve become more pessimistic about what empirical research shows, but interestingly, I think, I’ve also over time become more skeptical about careful theory and reasoning. And I guess sometimes you end up in a situation where you’re just like, “Well, common sense isn’t going to be very reliable here, and you know, theory probably won’t work either. Robert Wiblin: Yeah, kind of. About the reference class, because I remember when that Twitter discussion was going on, somebody said to me, “Well, if it turned out that 92% of the parents were satisfied and glad they had kids that would tell you something.” Well, what it would tell you is that 92% of the people who answered that survey, answered it with a yes, assuming it was accurately transcribed, there weren’t errors, et cetera. So there’s a child drowning in the pond, and I’m in my nice shoes and suit on the way to work. One thing is you kind of forget the nuance and the subtlety, and you just remember the recommendation. The 80,000 Hours Podcast features unusually in-depth conversations about the world’s most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them. Maybe it’s much more scientific. And personally, I focus more, I have more of an interest on policy careers or research careers or ways that people can do good directly rather than by donating money. So there’s a famous study, which I’m not going to describe in exact detail, but it’s a test of perception. Did they exclude anything? Robert Wiblin: All right. We have better data and I would argue that’s probably not true, but I think there’s an interesting case to be made that the minimum wage question is more open than it was, say, in 1970, when I think it was “open and shut”. Even though it might look like in the short run, or if the numbers looked good. Well, you’re going to push me to the why because you’ve got this nice calculus thing working, I like that. I’m not at the top of my game right this minute. And of course, “That’s so good, I don’t have to think about it much. A lot of things are ridiculous and facts can disprove them, and that’s really important. It may vary by place and time and circumstance. I mean, one is the idea of a country of people who enjoy watching executions is very disturbing. Russ Roberts: I’m going to disagree on expanding the moral circle. So let’s say you have a friend who’s an alcoholic and you’ve watched his life fall apart. And vice versa, there’s some horrible policemen and some drug dealers, who are just trying to scrape by and help their family. À partir de 2012, les organisations se réclamant de l’altruisme efficace se multiplient. Robert Wiblin: Yeah. That would be an interesting way to solve that problem. Deontologists hold that these rules have moral importance that is independent of their effect on the good (consequentialism) or our character (virtue ethics). Trying to set aside rulers and people who you usually feature in history and just think about everyday life. Or maybe I’m wrong about that. But I know how to work together better with my family. A scalar, a single number. Robert Wiblin: Then I guess on kindness, yeah, I don’t think that it’s silly at all to think that kindness might be among the most important problems and something that readers of 80,000 Hours should potentially focus on improving. I had zero idea that was in my future, but it turned out that way. Ashford, E. (2018) “Severe Poverty as an Unjust Emergency” in Woodruff (ed) The Ethics of Giving. Early days of that literature, meaning 1950s/1960s to about early 1990s, that evidence was overwhelming. What do you make of that? Utilitarianism doesn’t have to be at odds against fairness. We’re doing better economically, financially. So those kind of crafts: golf, chess, they’re prone to mastery if you devote yourself in the right way. Russ Roberts: So when you suggest that we should broaden our moral care to as wide as possible, to all sentient, say, or conscious beings, I’m not sure if that’s going to be effective given the nature of human beings and the way we’ve evolved. A number: seven. And I guess even the possibility that it could backfire in that way is a mark against it, or at least going that far. A lot of people think wine and alcohol is really bad for you. There’s no we as a nation who benefits from X, unless it’s nuclear extermination. Russ Roberts: I think, again, the challenge there is that… Well, we have a couple challenges. When I do a little armchair theorizing about this, it’s just not plausible that say, when people hear the word, ‘Florida’, they think of senior citizens and therefore they walk more slowly. I was trying to think, what is a similar analogy? But, in practice, I have multiple factors like you’ve laid out, how do I go with the trade-offs between this? The minimum wage has a big negative effect on the employment opportunities of low-skilled workers. Robert Wiblin: Do you want to explain why you think that this wouldn’t be helpful in making a decision? Russ Roberts: And in fact that the economy is different in everything.” People don’t respond to those incentives the way they used to. We’re inherently self-centered. Robert Wiblin: To some extent, that’s the whole reason why we have the effective altruism community and 80,000 Hours as a project advising people. What do you do? Robert Wiblin: Yeah. We’re just trying to make somewhat better decisions under massive uncertainty and not aim for perfection. It was right in front of the door to the back porch. It comes back to my point earlier, obviously I think there’s a lot to be said for giving money to charity, but I didn’t say that clearly. But the other things I think are more interesting, which have to do with just trying to measure satisfaction or happiness. They’re the experts they’re really good at it. It’s not obvious to me that we should care or be encouraged to care equally about everyone. Because well, I guess, to begin with, you’re agreeing that we should, to some extent, throw out most people’s common sense on this issue. You’ll explore it and you become a new person.”. I think I have a really good nose after a while. I like shoes. Robert Wiblin: Yeah, obviously, with intuition as well. It’s about the fight between the police, who are trying to stop drugs from getting to drug users and trying to stop drug dealers from successfully serving their customers, and those drug dealers trying to do their job and do what they think is going to be best for them to make a living. But I actually agree with you a lot on the second; effective altruism is potentially a bit broader than what you’ve been exposed to on EconTalk. That’s got many, many wonderful things about it, but to extend it infinitely far that I care about, say, the entire universe and not so much about my family, which by the way, is very much a thread in modern utilitarian thought. I guess you also might think that a society that just randomly executes people… If you realize that or people are eventually going to figure out that their society is running in this capricious way, and that is going to reduce people’s welfare in the bigger picture. In fact, the expression, “Be kind, everyone is in a battle,” is a motto to live by that most of us I think fail to live by. I have a lot of trouble figuring out what’s going on, and that’s just these two things. It seemed implausible to start with. Like saying, “Well, maybe we should leave people alone unless there’s a really compelling reason not to.”. Russ Roberts: I think I agree with all of them. The lessons you’ve learned from life and things that can’t be measured easily quantified and then facts are really important too. So let’s take alcohol. In that utilitarianism is philosophy as well as Altruism which jointly perform the act of benefiting others, effective altruism is about using evidence and careful reasoning to take actions that help others as much as possible. Sleeping in a coffin is delightful. Robert Wiblin: So we often suggest that people first look out at the world and see what does the world need? Schambra, W. 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Local small cases 're affiliated with the drug war in Baltimore, Maryland like kindness like macroeconomics, solve... 99.9 % of my after income to charity, my after-tax income who enjoy watching is.

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