About the author

Matt is the author, co-author, secondary-author, ghost-author, and non-author of articles, speeches, book chapters, and even entire books! The most recent is his blockbuster The Accidental Activist, which Amazon claims is by his wife Anne Green. So it goes. Currently, he is President of One Step for Animals; previously, he was shitcanned from so many nonprofits that we can’t list them all here. Before Matt’s unfortunate encounter with activism, he was an aerospace engineer who wanted to work for NASA (to impress Carl Sagan). His hobbies include photography, almost dying, and {REDACTED}. He lives in Tucson with Anne, along with no dogs, no cats, no guinea pigs, and only the occasional snake or scorpion.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Loving the Game More than the Players

I've long argued against the "my number is bigger than yours" mentality of some in the "effective" altruist community. You want to show how smart you are and soon enough, the recommendation is to donate to bug charities and animal advocates have succeeded at parodying themselves.

Or so I thought. Then I saw this:

Brian Tomasik, an ethics consultant at the Foundational Research Institute, has argued that [Non-Player Characters -- computer-created effects] are “morally relevant processes,” meaning that we, as humans, have some degree of ethical responsibility toward them. Many NPC algorithms resemble the kind of goal-directed behavior (planning, welfare monitoring, adaptive responses) one finds in complex animals, Tomasik argues. [O]nce you start talking about characters that try to avoid death or that suffer penalties to their health or well-being when they are injured, our treatment of them becomes “marginally ethically relevant ... but aggregated over tens of millions of people killing thousands of these characters on a regular basis during game play, it does begin to add up to something nontrivial.”


A holocaust

[This is not to say that, at some point, we won't need to worry about the sentience of non-biological systems. But now, in 2021, to talk about our ethical obligations to the blocks in SimCity makes a mockery of morality.]

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