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Aug 13, 2022Liked by Ives Parr

>There has to be some ecological capacity, but I don’t think we’re near it. Life keeps getting better for future generations, not worse

I think this statement oversimplifies ecological capacity. At an extreme there is a theoretical maximum ecological capacity if every human being ate vat-grown mold to absolutely maximize calorie production, but that is unrealistic. More practical ecological capacity has increased markedly with advances in irrigation, GMOs, mechanized agriculture, fertilizer, pesticides etc., leading us to have more arable land and it being more productive than ever before.

However, this isn't free. Maximizing agricultural productivity entails significant environmental side effects in terms of destroying old growth forests, fertilizer runoff etc. which are simply mandatory to maintain our current population, let alone grow it. A smaller population could live at an ecological capacity for a lower level of agricultural development, whereas we force ourselves to live at a harmful high level of agricultural development.

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There's a pretty fundamental philosophical onjection that undermines a lot of these arguments. Welfare doesn't exist in abstract, it's always welfare for some person. A person who isn't born doesn't exist, they have no welfare to count. If a parent is wondering whether to have one child or two, in the future where there is only one child, the child that wasn't born isn't disadvantaged as they don't exist. A world with 100 billion people does not yet exist, those potential excess people aren't harmed by not coming into existence because there is no person to harm.

Furthermore, moving to a future with a lot less people is more sustainable for the human resource base. Our current lifestyle relies on finite resources that become more costly to extract every year. Not to mention the loss of forest, animals etc

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Aug 13, 2022·edited Aug 13, 2022Author

That's the person-affecting argument, no? I addressed this point.

I don't think that the ecological harm outweighs the human good at present. Do you think it's too much currently? What's the optimal level?

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Aug 14, 2022Liked by Ives Parr

Well done! I really appreciated this thorough post.

When you say you are an intuitionist, in what sense do you mean it? That's a word with many different shades of meaning in this context.

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If it seems like something is unethical, that is at least some evidence to think that it is.

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Perhaps one of those days, I'll get to laying out the comprehensive case for the average utilitarism. For now, let me just note that there is an important difference between so called repugnant conclusion and so called sadistic conclusion: while repugnant conclusion applies to this world, sadistic conclusion applies only to some platonic hypothetical world.

Moral theories are, at their core, prescriptions on how to act in this world. They cannot be meaningfully evaluated outside of their social context.

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Imagine a hypothetical world #2 filled with hypothetical human-like creatures. In this world someone wants to torture a human-like baby by inflicting physical suffering. They are doing this solely for the reason of sadistic pleasure. Can you evaluate this action as unethical?

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Um, according to what? Of course, according to most moral theories used in this world, very much including mine (duh), it would be unethical. But perhaps our hypothetical world has different moral theories.

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If you are able to evaluate this action meaningfully even though it's taking place in a hypothetical world outside our current social context, I don't see why you say "[t]hey cannot be meaningfully evaluated outside of their social context."

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I said it about moral theories, not about actions.

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If I said my moral theory had a tenet that "It is generally not good to torture babies for sadistic pleasure in our world or world #2." Would you be able to evaluate this as a good or bad tenet?

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I would say that I do not know; who knows what are conditions in that hypothetical world. In addition I am sort of on the verge of arguing that real moral rules in this world applying to hypothetical worlds are bad by definition due to their inherent sillines...

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Aug 13, 2022·edited Aug 13, 2022Liked by Ives Parr

Excellent post. Merging two of your points: worries about dysgenics and demographic change are related. The global negative correlation between traits like IQ and conscientiousness, on one hand, and fertility, on the other, are rooted in which countries have growing populations and which have shrinking populations (the correlation within countries is small, though also real).

And these are not natural facts. These trends are happening because of government policies and NGO practices, most of which originate from the aftermath of WW2, in some cases reflecting a kind of myopic, pathological altruism from Westerners.

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Thank you very much. And thank you for becoming a subscriber. I really appreciate that, especially because I am a fan of your work.

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deletedAug 13, 2022Liked by Ives Parr
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Aug 13, 2022·edited Aug 13, 2022Author

Yes, I'll fix it.

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One argument that is seldom mentioned is the economy: What is a low-growth economy really like to live-in? It is a mundane question compared to the extinction of humanity, but it is also easier to study: Japan has lived without population growth for some decades now and the result doesn't seem entirely encouraging.

Basically, in an economy without population growth, investment becomes much more risky. If there is population growth, demand will always increase. So building a new, more efficient shoe factory is rather likely to pay off: the new factory can exist alongside the already existent factories. The new one if more efficient but the old one is already built, so they can compete for a while.

If there is zero population growth, one factory will more or less have to outcompete the old factory at once. They can't exist side by side for a while. That puts the threshold for investment higher. In Japan they could partially escape this problem through exporting to economies with still-growing populations. But what will it be like when Europe or the US as a whole becomes like Japan? Interesting times lie ahead.

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Wouldn't it incentivise innovation over producing more of the same consumer goods?

And I mean the population has to stop growing some time. It can't keep growing forever without catastrophically damagaing living standards.

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In an economy with population growth, also modest innovation or no innovation at all can be enough to justify investment. In an economy without population growth, better innovations are needed to justify investment. So yes, an economy without population growth could increase the incentives for innovation. But it could also lead to less innovation, because many innovations are forgotten because they are not important enough to lead to investment.

And yes, sooner or later the population of the world need to stop growing. But we don't really know when.

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It is very easy to make an argument that we currently have a at least a sufficiently large population for our current technology and ability to extract resources https://www.overshootday.org/

Further, to avoid ecological degradation we need to make some pretty drastic changes to the way we power our society, we basically need to double the amount of electricity that is generated, and we need to do this in a carbon neutral fashion. These kinds of changes are difficult but not impossible to make.

Once we have progressed to a stage where we are better at living sustainably I would be surprised if population does not start trending upwards again, personally I know a lot of people (x-gen and younger) who have chosen to have smaller families due to worries about ecological degradation.

Regarding happiness and population, are more densely populated cities and countries happier?

I think there are already a lot of people who are less happy due to ongoing environmental destruction, animal extinction and climate change. Growing the population before we know how to slow down or reverse these processes will only increase happiness. Sure, maybe we could support a much higher population in a bladerunner world where the entire planet is covered in greenhouses, wastelands and industry and wild animals remain only as fairy tales. https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2022/03/tom-hegen-almeria-greenhouses/

But, are you even human at that point? We evolved together with the ecology that we live in, I believe a lot of our emotional well being is grounded in the natural world.

Regarding the need for a larger population for increased innovation… Are more densely populated countries more innovative? How many people have “bullshit jobs”?

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