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)