I have never asked this difficult and philosophical question before… what do you guys think?

Of course this still leaves the philosophical issue: What if Malthus were right? Suppose we could snap our fingers and increase world population to 50 billion at the cost of a drastic reduction in average living standards. Does the aggregate increase in human life outweigh the decline in the average? Derek Parfit famously argued that it did, but it goes against a lot of people’s intuitions.

I want to say no, my actual, comfortable, modern life is worth more than 7 or 8 potential, difficult, but ultimately worthwhile lives, but I find it difficult.

Imagine you are going to die tomorrow (so the result doesn’t effect you), and you can, without turmoil or increasing the biological damage done, add 40bn or so souls to the planet earth. Would you, at the cost of making everyone radically poorer?

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2 thoughts on “I have never asked this difficult and philosophical question before… what do you guys think?

  1. but I find it difficult.

    I don’t think it’s that difficult to value actual existing lives over a greater number of hypothetical ones. Doing the opposite has rather unpleasant consequences.

    I think that since the “without turmoil or damage” condition is so obviously absurd that the question isn’t worth asking – the only way that could be true is if it was also accompanied by a massive rise in technology and political stability.

    If we were, hypothetically, to discover a civilisation of 40bn humans hiding beneath the surface of the earth, about to be crushed by tectonic plate movement, then I think we would definitely have an obligation to share the surface with them even at the cost of turmoil and biological damage. But that would be 40bn actual people rather than hypothetical ones, so that’s also not the same question.

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