William MacAskill on Effective Altruism, Moral Progress, and Cultural Innovation | Convos with Tyler
In a stimulating dialogue with Tyler Cowen, philosopher William MacAskill, a key proponent of the effective altruism movement, delves into the principles and impact of effective altruism, the intricacies of moral progress, and the role of cultural innovation.
The conversation provides a comprehensive understanding of these subjects, emphasizing the need for a balanced and thoughtful approach in moral decision-making.
Practical Value Creation
While utilitarians should theoretically aim to create infinite amounts of value, this concept leads to impractical conclusions in real-world scenarios.
This emphasizes the need for a more practical approach to value creation.
If we’re in a simulation, kind of all bets are off because like who knows now like what implications you’re having. – William MacAskill
Case-by-Case Moral Reasoning
A case-by-case approach to moral reasoning, which combines sophisticated consequentialist grounds with common sense, can lead to more effective decision-making.
This approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of complex moral issues.
Long-Term Human Flourishing
In discussions about population growth, the focus should be on the potential future population and its impact on the long-term flourishing of humanity.
This perspective emphasizes the importance of considering the long-term implications of our actions.
Cultural Institutions’ Value
Cultural institutions, such as opera, play an important role in preserving traditions and inspiring people, despite their impact being difficult to quantify.
However, their benefits may not pass a benefit-cost test when compared to other charitable actions.
The focus should be on how many people might exist in the future rather than now, and how that would impact the long-term flourishing of humanity. – William MacAskill
The impact of a single action may seem insignificant, but collectively, these actions can have a profound effect.
This concept, illustrated by the example of voting, underscores the importance of collective action in effecting change.
If we are living in a simulation, the future may be shorter, and the causal impact of our actions could be much lower.
However, this uncertainty could also lead to a form of paralysis, where we don’t know what actions to take.
Economic Growth Limitations
The potential for infinite economic growth seems highly speculative and unlikely.
Economic growth will eventually plateau, and the more important focus should be on changing the values that guide the future or ensuring that we have a future at all.
Promoting Beneficial Factors
Certain factors, such as technological development, good institutions, democracy, liberalism, more cooperation, and higher trust in societies, have been beneficial over the last 200 years and should continue to be promoted.