Tag Archives: robin-hanson

Moral Licensing and How Good Deeds Make Us Do Bad Deeds

Be stingy with praise for mor­al beha­viour, Robin Han­son sug­gests, as by doing so people will strive to be more mor­al to win more dif­fi­cult-to-obtain praise.

In sup­port of this “stingy school of thought on mor­al praise”, Han­son points to stud­ies of con­tra­dict­ory beha­viour known as “mor­al licens­ing”: these stud­ies show how small, seem­ingly mor­al acts pre­vent us from doing fur­ther good deeds and may actu­ally increase the odds of us doing immor­al deeds.

It seems that we have a good/bad bal­ance sheet in our heads that we’re prob­ably not even aware of. For many people, doing good makes it easi­er – and often more likely – to do bad. It works in reverse, too: Do bad, then do good. […]

From a the­or­et­ic­al per­spect­ive, the research has shown that “it’s like we can with­draw from our mor­al bank accounts,” [Benoît Mon­in, a social psy­cho­lo­gist who stud­ies mor­al licens­ing at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity] said. “It’s a lens through which you see the rest of your beha­vi­or. But it may not even be con­scious.”

This seem­ingly con­tra­dict­ory beha­vi­or is all around us, but it is prob­ably most appar­ent, and easy to lam­poon, in the green­ing of Amer­ica. […]

People who bought green products were more likely to cheat and steal than those who bought con­ven­tion­al products. […] After get­ting high-effi­ciency wash­ers, con­sumers increased clothes wash­ing by nearly 6 per­cent. Oth­er stud­ies show that people leave energy-effi­cient lights on longer. A recent study […] showed that of 500 people who had greened their homes, a third saw no reduc­tion in bills. […]

Mor­al licens­ing beha­vi­or extends, in a dif­fer­ent way, into diet­ing. […] People eat more chocol­ate while drink­ing Diet Coke than while drink­ing more sug­ary fare.

via @Ando_F

Debating Cryonics

Cryo­n­ics: the low-tem­per­at­ure pre­ser­va­tion of humans and anim­als that can no longer be sus­tained by con­tem­por­ary medi­cine until resus­cit­a­tion may be pos­sible in the future.

When one dis­cusses cryonics, top­ics as diverse as futur­o­logy, medi­cine, tech­no­logy and philo­sophy are debated. A few weeks ago a num­ber of high–profile blog­gers, headed by the excel­lent Over­com­ing Bias, have been doing just that. Here are a few posts in the con­ver­sa­tion:

We Agree: Get Froze (Robin Hanson, Over­com­ing Bias)

Even with mod­ern anti-freezes, freez­ing does lots of dam­age, per­haps more than whatever else was going to kill you. But bod­ies frozen that cold basic­ally won’t change for mil­len­nia. […] Since most folks who die today have an intact brain until the rest of their body fails them, more likely than not most death vic­tims today could live on as (one or more) future ems. And if future folks learn to repair freez­ing dam­age plus whatever was killing vic­tims, vic­tims might live on as ordin­ary humans.

Cold Spouses (Bry­an Caplan, Lib­rary of Eco­nom­ics and Liberty)

One unpleas­ant issue in cryo­n­ics is the “hos­tile wife” phe­nomen­on. The authors of this art­icle know of a num­ber of high pro­file cryo­n­icists who need to hide their cryo­n­ics activ­it­ies from their wives and ex-high pro­file cryo­n­icists who had to choose between cryo­n­ics and their rela­tion­ship. We also know of men who would like to make cryo­n­ics arrange­ments but have not been able to do so because of res­ist­ance from their wives or girl­friend­s… As a res­ult, these men face cer­tain death as a con­sequence of their part­ner­’s hos­til­ity.

You Only Live Twice (Eliez­er Yudkowsky, Over­com­ing Bias)

Hated Because It Might Work (Robin Hanson, Over­com­ing Bias)

The Best Sen­tence I Read Yes­ter­day (Tyler Cowen, Mar­gin­al Revolu­tion)

[On cryo­n­ics] my cur­rent view is this: one’s atten­tion is extremely scarce and lim­ited, as are one’s affiliations.  Inso­far as you have the lux­ury of think­ing “big­ger thoughts,” those thoughts should be dir­ec­ted at help­ing oth­ers, not at help­ing one­self. […] Fur­ther­more the uni­verse (or mul­ti­verse) may be infin­ite, so in expec­ted value terms it seems my cop­ies and near-cop­ies are already enjoy­ing a kind of col­lect­ive immortality. […] What prob­ab­il­ity of future tor­ture would cause us to wish to die forever rather than be resurrected?  And should I there­fore be scared by the idea of an infin­ite universe?  Do Dar­wini­an selec­tion pres­sures – defined in the broad­est pos­sible way – sug­gest it is worth spend­ing energy on mak­ing entit­ies happy?  Or do most entit­ies end up as suf­fer­ing slaves?

Tyler on Cryo­n­ics (Robin Hanson, Over­com­ing Bias)