The wishes of the dead

Our society limits people’s scope of action to their lives. We ban post-death trusts, or at least do not give them the protection of the legal system. We do not allow the creation of corporations/organizations without a terminal human owner. We limit the ability of the past to control the present and future. No hands from beyond the grave.

Are we right to do so? I don’t know. Social questions are difficult. Every decisions spirals into a fractal of consequences and interactions, the tiniest change in initial circumstances creating a different fracture, different patterns and colours. (Not all effects are chaotic. Some things have predictable effects.)

Morally, I do not see why those who exist should have more rights than those who do not. Why the will of the living should matter more than that of the dead or unborn. Existence is morally arbitrary. The reasons we privilege it are practical, not pure.

On fat acceptance

Some people are uncritically in favour of the fat acceptance movement/narrative. Some are against. I think both are wrong. The fat acceptance movement has two independent messages. The first is that people who are fat should not feel ashamed, be discriminated against or be seen as less than thin people. This is correct. The second is that being fat is not bad for your health. This is incorrect.

Don’t Clap

I was sitting in my companies quarterly wrap up meeting yesterday. The procedure is standard. People give presentations. They highlight something the firm has achieved. Then everyone claps. Me included. The atmosphere is good and the company culture is strong. Still, something’s wrong.

One of the presentations was a bar graph of our revenue over time. The presenter talked about how we had our highest monthly and quarterly revenue ever. Everyone clapped. The bar graph had no axis or labels. It was literally just one bar higher than another. I felt that I was doing something wrong.

Clapping puts you in a mood. So does cheering or chanting. Your behaviour affects your thoughts just as your thoughts affect your behaviour. By engaging in collective behaviour that makes you feel like part of a group, you become part of the group. By engaging in positive behaviour, your mental state becomes more positive. Both of these states make you less able to think, to see reality and spot bullshit.

I’ve always tried to avoid loosing myself in groups, to stay away from collective madness and control my own thoughts. I suggest you try doing the same. Most people feel an incredible pressure to confirm and be liked. If you reject that instinct, you become far more free and far more effective.

Bad metrics for Social Mobility

I see a lot of articles on social mobility. Most look something like this. They compare the proportion of low background children to high background children who do well in life and conclude that society is unfair and biased. This is wrong.

The logic seems to be that if there is an inequality of outcome between two groups, that means unfairness/discrimination. There’s no evidence given that that this is the case. It is possible that there are differences between groups which lead to differential outcomes, even in perfectly fair systems. A few such possible differences:

  • IQ. IQ is highly heritable. People in professional/high-class jobs tend to have higher IQ’s. Hence their children are likely to be smarter and hence do better even if society is completely fair.
  • Culture, specifically norms around education. Culture is highly heritable. Good norms around education, knowledge and work are heritable. If high class families have better norms then high class children are likely to have similar better norms leading to better life outcomes.
  • Family. Broken families lead to worse outcomes for children. Higher class families are less likely to be broken.

The more I read popular media, the more disappointed I am.

For Compulsory Voting

When I was younger, I was against compulsory voting. I thought people should be free to spend their time as the wish and to not participate in politics if they wished. My view has changed.

A compelling justification of the state is that it exists to solve collective action problems. Externalities. Public Goods. Other cases where markets/distributed action fails and we need some kind of central enforcement. I think voting is a collective action problem.

For voting to be a collective action problem, the individually rational action must lead to collectively irrational outcomes. Individually, choosing not to vote is often rational as voting requires giving up hours of time for virtually zero benefit[^1 ] as the chance of a single vote swinging the result is miniscule. Collectively, we want a government which gives every individuals preferences equal weight. Systemic non-voting means this is not the case. In theory if only a small proportion of citizens voted but that group was representative of the population there would be no harm. In reality propensity to vote is not random and the voting population is systematically different from the non-voting population. In the west today

  • The politically extreme are more likely to vote than moderates.
  • Those with a lot of free time, e.g: pensioners, are more likely to vote than those without much free time.
  • The poor are less likely to vote than the better off. (Probably partly cultural, partly economic[^2])

Voluntary voting leads to inequality in representation as certain groups collectively matter less than others. If political factions know that group X votes with probability 0.8% and group Y with 0.4%, they will care twice as much per person for satisfying/converting members of X as members of Y. Hence the rational individual choice to not vote when done at scale leads to the unwanted collective outcome of unrepresentative government. Assuming most people would prefer to give up a few hours of their time to make government more representative, this is a collective action problem. It also has serious ramifications for society. Hence I tend to lean towards government intervention being justified. Hence compulsory voting.

[^1 ]: There are exceptions here. e.gL if you live in a swing state in a first past the post system etc… For now I’ll leave those aside

[^2]: Yes there are laws preventing employers from punishing people who take a few hours off to vote. No those laws are no enforced.


Content Warning: Rape, Abuse, Exploitation, Slavery

You’re lost in a desert. You’re going to die of thirst. You meet someone. They offer to make a deal with you. They’ll give you water and transport you to safety but only if you have sex with them. This is what me and my other half call rapesaving and it’s a good scenario for exploring various ethical problems from exploitation to the person affective view to practical vs pure ethics.

A few beginnings.

You are crawling towards the horizon. As you crawl, you encounter two people. One ignores you and drives into the distance, knowing you’ll die without help. The other is the rapesaver. The rapesaver is giving you a free choice. You will only choose to have sex if they prefer it to being left alone. Giving someone more options when they are rational and fully informed is obviously moral and a good thing to do. Hence the rapesaver is being more moral in the other party. Hence corporations running sweatshops with terrible conditions in the third world are better than those that do not. Either that or the person effecting view [^1] is wrong. If the person affecting view is wrong, a lot of philosophy starts to fall apart, from the leveling down objection[^2] to aggregation.

You are crawling towards the horizon. The rapesaver comes along. She offers to save you but only if you give her 10’000USD. Saving you has virtually zero cost for her. Is she doing something wrong?

You are crawling towards the horizon. The rapesaver comes along. She offers to save you but only if you give her 10’000USD. She’s on her way to an important business meeting and stopping to save you costs her 10’000USD. You can easily afford the fee. Is she doing something wrong?

You are crawling towards the horizon. The desertSaveTM truck comes along. A worker in overalls steps out and explains that desertSave inc offers life saving services at the low, low price of 10’000USD. You can easily afford the fee. Charging fees incentivises the creation and perpetuation of a robust market in life saving which saves thousands of victims like you per year. Is desertSave inc doing something wrong?

You are crawling towards the horizon. There are a million people crawling along side you. An ocean of suffering. A person drives by, not helping anyone. Their cost to help any one person would be tiny, but they can’t help every person. Are they doing something wrong? (Yes, there are people in philosophy who would say both that they would have to help you if you were the only one but that they have no obligation if there are many people to save.)

You are crawling towards the horizon. There are 9 other people crawling towards the horizon together a few kilometers away. A person is driving along and sees you and the other group. They only have enough time to save one group before the other dies from heatstroke/dehydration/philosophising. They cannot distinguish between you and the others and see each individual as essentially equally valuable. They choose to save you instead of saving 9 people. Have they done something wrong? (Yes, there are people in philosophy who would say no.)

[^1]: The principle that something can only be good/bad if it is good/bad for someone [^2]: The most common argument against egalitarianism. Egalitarianism says that a utility distribution of [10. 10. 5] is worse than a distribution of [5, 5, 5]. This seems wrong as everyone in distribution 1 is either equally or better off than in distribution 2. It doesn’t seem right that we should prefer a world where no one is better off and everyone is worse off.

Midnight thoughts on modern hate

From Shtel-optimized:

I’m happy that, according to this Vanity Fair article, Facebook will still ban you for writing that “men are scum” or that “women are scum”—having ultimately rejected the demands of social-justice activists that it ban only the latter sentence, not the former. According to the article, everyone on Facebook’s Community Standards committee agreed with the activists that this was the right result: dehumanizing comments about women have no place on the platform, while (superficially) dehumanizing comments about men are an important part of feminist consciousness-raising that require protection. The problem was simply that the committee couldn’t come up with any general principle that would yield that desired result, without also yielding bad results in other cases.

It’s interesting how quickly hate can spread. Ethnic and gendered hatred used to be a feature of the right. Today it’s spread to the left. I should write more about this. About:

  • Anti-white racism and misandry existing
  • Why it exists, focusing on social incentives, collective action problems and lack of group identity/class conciousness due to systematic norms which punish individuals who attempts to create/express it.
  • Probably why it’s wrong.

Anti-white racism exists. So does misandry. Unlike sexism or racism against blacks or Muslims, it’s normalized*. That’s why it scares me. I never meet normal, socially accepted people who publicly speak about blacks as a group and about having no-black events or spaces. When I hear Nazi’s or racists, they’re at the margins of society and they don’t seem to be anywhere near power. When I hear SJW’s and identitarians, the regressive left, they seem to grow louder by the year and have broad social support/control. The far right is a phenomenon of the lowest classes, of social outcasts. The regressive left is wined and dined by corporations and governments. It’s everywhere in our educational institutions, shaping the next generations norms. The future is not a golden path.

*Worth noting that anti-muslim stuff is more normal/accepted than pure racial stuff. Also worth noting that