Re: Unbounded happiness (was Re: Property rights)

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 04:14:37 MDT

> > >Second, happiness is bounded. There is no evidence that humans are
> happier
> > >than animals, or that the rich are happier than the poor, or that modern
> > >humans are happier now than centuries ago.
> >
> > There is evidence for all those assertions.
> I have no idea how you would measure the happiness of animal? I can tell if
> a dog is happy. I have no idea if that dog is happier than I am....there is
> no metric I can come up with that compares tail wagging pace to the how
> happy that Scandinavians feel on a scale of 1 to 5; 1 being unhappy, 5 being
> super happy.

We can make some educated guesses by compairing the behaviour of
animals in the wild, with the everyday life of humans. My impression
is that modern humans spend much more of their time experiencing joy,
and a lack of fear, than animals do. But I may be wrong on this one.

> Funny you should mention the rich v poor thing. Lots of stuff the last
> couple of weeks about how the Easterlin Hypothesis is wrong. See here:

I'll wait a few years, till the dust settles, and someone comes up
with a new consensus (I used to be in happiness research, and have
little trust for recent data in the field, unless heavily backed up).
But even with the Eastelin hypothesis, it's clear that the rich are
happier than the poor; the debate is whether the very rich are happier
than the rich.

But the rich/poor debate is not very relevant in the face of a
singularity; the human/animal debate, on the other hand, is crucial.
The arguments of the environmental movement boil down to "leave nature
alone", with some possibly minor corrections. Since our knowledge of
natural systems is poor, this is a sensible position.

But after a singularity, we could do whatever we wanted with "nature";
strip mine it, vary it, create all sorts of beings and plants, use it
for artistic expression, ensure that no animal suffers or dies, etc...
So the moral standing of animals is something that will have to be


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