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Old 11-06-2011, 02:20 PM
karlsmith karlsmith is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 10
Default Re: The Big Interview (Karl Smith & Kelly Evans)

I prefer to think of it as second-semester sophomore nihilism combined with optimal control theory.

No, but the core of the issue is this:

If you think of policy as an infinite horizon problem, then there is always some discount rate that justifies an arbitrary amount of human suffering today, to relieve the probability of human suffering in all future periods.

Traditionally, people speak about policy as if this was the objective function we are maximizing.

Thus questions between suffering today and increasing the long run path of suffering are always value questions. How much do you care about the future?

However, once you accept that this is a finite horizon problem that changes. For some cases there exists no discount rate such that human suffering today can be justified by a lower probability path of human suffering tomorrow.

Doing the "responsible" is thing unambiguously worse for humanity irrespective of your valuation of the future.

I think this is important because its important to realize that some policy decisions to suffer now for the greater good can simply be wrong. Not a question of values or moral, but demonstrably wrong. The world simply does not operate under conditions that would allow that to be the solution to some utility maximization problem.
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