Pop­u­la­tion Ethics

TagLast edit: 18 Mar 2021 18:45 UTC by abramdemski

Population Ethics addresses the question: how should utilitarians deal with people coming in and out of existence?

For example, a classical problem in population ethics: is it overall better for a happy person to exist, if they bring down the average happiness but increase the total? Those who would answer “yes” are termed total (hedonic) utilitarians; those who would answer “no” are termed average (hedonic) utilitarians.

Note that utility is not comparable, so we cannot simply speak of “increasing average utility” vs “increasing total utility”. Hence, average utilitarianism vs total utilitarianism is not a well-defined distinction in the abstract; we have to specify e.g. hedonic utilitarianism before this distinction becomes well-defined (because average vs total happiness is a meaningful distinction).

However, although preference-utilitarians cannot necessarily make a meaningful distinction between averaging and totaling, they do not escape population-ethics dilemmas. It’s still a fair question: when is it overall preferable to bring someone into existence (or for someone to pass out of existence)? What can/​should ethics say about this?

Dem­i­na­tal­ist To­tal Utilitarianism

Vanessa Kosoy16 Apr 2020 15:53 UTC
71 points
56 comments5 min readLW link

Com­par­ing Utilities

abramdemski14 Sep 2020 20:56 UTC
69 points
31 comments17 min readLW link

A (small) cri­tique of to­tal utilitarianism

Stuart_Armstrong26 Jun 2012 12:36 UTC
47 points
237 comments11 min readLW link

It’s hard to use util­ity max­i­miza­tion to jus­tify cre­at­ing new sen­tient beings

dynomight19 Oct 2020 19:45 UTC
10 points
14 comments1 min readLW link

Against neu­tral­ity about cre­at­ing happy lives

Joe Carlsmith15 Mar 2021 1:55 UTC
40 points
8 comments11 min readLW link1 review

Em­brac­ing the “sadis­tic” conclusion

Stuart_Armstrong13 Feb 2014 10:30 UTC
31 points
41 comments2 min readLW link

In favour of to­tal util­i­tar­i­anism over average

casebash22 Dec 2015 5:07 UTC
0 points
15 comments4 min readLW link

Aging re­search and pop­u­la­tion ethics

emanuele ascani28 Apr 2019 7:21 UTC
15 points
3 comments6 min readLW link

[Question] Why max­i­mize hu­man life?

lise7 Jan 2022 14:11 UTC
27 points
20 comments1 min readLW link

De­bat­ing my­self on whether “ex­tra lives lived” are as good as “deaths pre­vented”

HoldenKarnofsky29 Mar 2022 18:30 UTC
34 points
9 comments15 min readLW link

Against pop­u­la­tion ethics

jasoncrawford16 Aug 2022 5:19 UTC
29 points
39 comments3 min readLW link

[Question] Is pop­u­la­tion col­lapse due to low birth rates a prob­lem?

mukashi26 Aug 2022 15:28 UTC
6 points
36 comments1 min readLW link


Jacob Falkovich6 Jan 2023 1:07 UTC
20 points
8 comments10 min readLW link

Why you, per­son­ally, should want a larger hu­man population

jasoncrawford23 Feb 2024 19:48 UTC
28 points
29 comments5 min readLW link

Pop­u­la­tion Ethics Shouldn’t Be About Max­i­miz­ing Utility

Ghatanathoah18 Mar 2013 2:35 UTC
4 points
46 comments14 min readLW link

Ex­am­ple pop­u­la­tion ethics: or­dered dis­counted utility

Stuart_Armstrong11 Mar 2019 16:10 UTC
19 points
15 comments1 min readLW link

Two kinds of pop­u­la­tion ethics, and Cur­rent-Pop­u­la­tion Utilitarianism

AlexMennen17 Jun 2014 22:26 UTC
12 points
21 comments4 min readLW link

We are mis­al­igned: the sad­den­ing idea that most of hu­man­ity doesn’t in­trin­si­cally care about x-risk, even on a per­sonal level

Christopher King19 May 2023 16:12 UTC
3 points
5 comments2 min readLW link

Group Pri­ori­tar­i­anism: Why AI Should Not Re­place Hu­man­ity [draft]

fsh15 Jun 2023 17:33 UTC
8 points
0 comments25 min readLW link

5. Mo­ral Value for Sen­tient An­i­mals? Alas, Not Yet

RogerDearnaley27 Dec 2023 6:42 UTC
31 points
41 comments23 min readLW link

What We Owe the Past

Austin Chen5 May 2022 11:46 UTC
49 points
37 comments5 min readLW link

[Question] Math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els of Ethics

Victors8 Mar 2023 17:40 UTC
4 points
2 comments1 min readLW link

Utili­tar­i­anism Ex­pressed in Julia

Erich_Grunewald15 Aug 2021 11:31 UTC
12 points
0 comments12 min readLW link

Please Do Fight the Hypothetical

Lone Pine29 Aug 2022 8:35 UTC
18 points
6 comments3 min readLW link
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