全球视野 | 玩概率游戏比帮助现在的人更重要?长期主义为什么在道德上是不合理的?

 
 
 
 

 

观点:为什么“长期主义”在道德上不合理?

Opinion: Why ‘longtermism’ isn’t ethically sound

 

来源:

The Washington Post/华盛顿邮报

作者:

Christine Emba

 

 
 
 

文章《Opinion:Why ‘longtermism’ isn’t ethically sound/观点:为什么“长期主义”在道德上不合理?》发布在《华盛顿邮报》上。作者Christine Emba是《华盛顿邮报》的意见专栏作家和编辑,也是《Rethinking Sex: A Provocation》的作者。在2015年来到《华盛顿邮报》之前,Christine Emba是《New Criterion》的希尔顿·克莱默批评研究员和《经济学人》杂志社的副编辑。在这篇文章里,作者认为“长期主义”在道德上不合理。她认为这种“长期主义”来自于某些领域的精英们的傲慢投射,着眼于未来可以让他们回避目前需要帮助的人们以及制度问题,让他们可以按照自己的喜好塑造未来,并同时仍可以自诩在“做好事”。

 
 

 

 

In a not-quite-throwaway line in a recent New Yorker magazine profile, Oxford philosopher and “effective altruism” figurehead William MacAskill described meeting billionaire Tesla chief executive Elon Musk in 2015: “I tried to talk to him for five minutes about global poverty and got little interest.” 

 

在《纽约客》杂志最近的一篇简介中,牛津大学哲学家和“有效利他主义”的代表人物威廉·麦克阿斯基尔描述了他在2015年与亿万富翁、特斯拉CEO埃隆·马斯克的会面:“我试着和他谈了五分钟的全球贫困问题,他没有什么兴趣。” 

 

Recently, though, their interests seem to have converged. In August, Musk tweeted an endorsement of MacAskill’s new book “What We Owe the Future,” remarking “This is a close match for my philosophy.” 

 

不过最近,威廉·麦克阿斯基尔与埃隆·马斯克的兴趣似乎已经趋于一致。2022年8月,马斯克在推特上支持麦克阿斯基尔的新书《What We Owe the Future/我们欠未来的是什么》,他说:“这与我的哲学非常吻合。” 

 

“What We Owe the Future” is a case for “longtermism,” which MacAskill defines as “the idea that positively influencing the future is a key moral priority of our time.” It’s compelling at first blush, but as a value system, its practical implications are worrisome. 

 

《What We Owe the Future/我们欠未来的是什么》是“长期主义”的一个论证,麦克阿斯基尔将其定义为“积极影响未来是我们这个时代的关键道德优先事项”。它乍一看很有说服力,但作为一种价值体系,其实际影响令人担忧。 

 

First, some background. Since its beginnings in the late 2000s, the effective altruism movement (“EA” for short) has been obsessed with “doing good better” — using reason and evidence to optimize charitable giving to better alleviate suffering for the greatest number of people. 

 

首先是一些背景知识。自2000年代末开始,有效利他主义/effective altruism运动(简称“EA”)一直痴迷于“更好地做好事”。该运动使用理性和证据来优化慈善捐赠,以更好地减轻最大多数人的痛苦。 

 

In the movement’s early days, that involved promoting high-impact, basic-needs interventions in global health and poverty, such as distributing mosquito netting in the developing world — a distinctive break from the regular philanthropic practices of donating to one’s alma mater or favorite museum. Today, though, those EA priorities are giving way to a new and questionable fascination. 

 

在运动早期,这涉及到在全球健康和贫困问题上推广高影响力、关于基本需求的干预措施,例如在发展中国家分发蚊帐。这与捐赠给自己的母校或最喜欢的博物馆等,这一类常规慈善行为截然不同。但如今,有效利他主义运动的这些优先事项正在让位于一种新的、令人怀疑的迷恋。 

 

Longtermism relies on the theory that humans have evolved fairly recently, and thus we can expect our species to grow long into the future. The world’s current population is really a blip; if all goes well, a huge number of humans will come after us. Thus, if we’re reasoning rationally and impartially (as EAs pride themselves on doing), we should tilt heavily toward paying attention to this larger future population’s concerns — not the concerns of people living right now. 

 

长期主义所依赖的理论是:人类是最近才进化的,因此我们可以预期我们的物种将在未来成长很长的时间。目前世界上的人口实际上只是一个小插曲。如果一切顺利,大量的人口将在我们之后产生。因此,如果我们的推理是理性和公正的(就像有效利他主义运动者引以为豪的那样),我们应该大力倾斜于关注这个更巨大的未来人口问题,而不是生活在现在的人们的问题。 

 

Depending on how you crunch the numbers, making even the minutest progress on avoiding existential risk can be seen as more worthwhile than saving millions of people alive today. In the big picture, “neartermist” problems such as poverty and global health don’t affect enough people to be worth worrying about — what we should really be obsessing over is the chance of a sci-fi apocalypse. 

 

取决于你是如何计算数字,在避免生死攸关的风险方面取得哪怕是最微小的进展,都可能被视为比拯救今天活着的数百万人更有价值。从大的方面来看,诸如贫困和全球健康等“短期”问题对人们的影响并不大,也不值得担心。我们真正应该关注的是科幻的末日的可能性。 

 

In practice, this looks similar to a shift toward preventing existential threats to humanity as the most valuable philanthropic cause. The future population’s greatest threats are things like a rogue super-intelligent AI, a nuclear catastrophe or an unexpectedly virulent pathogen, and there is a heavy emphasis on tech-driven research and solutions. 

 

在实践中,这看起来类似于将防止人类生存威胁为最具价值的慈善事业。未来人口最大威胁是诸如流氓超级人工智能、核灾难或出人意料的致命病原体,因此需要非常强调技术驱动的研究和解决方案。 

 

It’s hard to argue against taking the long view. People tend to be shortsighted, and we talk constantly about leaving a better world for future generations. 

 

从长计议的观点,很难反驳。人们往往目光短浅,而我们不断谈论为后代留下一个更好的世界。 

 

But while that can make this newest obsession of effective altruists appear nearly irrefutable, abandoning what would most help people on Earth today isn’t exactly ethically sound. 

 

但是,虽然这可以使有效利他主义者的这种最新痴迷,显得几乎无可辩驳。但放弃对现在地球上的人最有帮助的东西在道德上并不完全合理。 

 

As much as the effective altruist community prides itself on evidence, reason and morality, there’s more than a whiff of selective rigor here. The turn to longtermism appears to be a projection of a hubris common to those in tech and finance, based on an unwarranted confidence in its adherents’ ability to predict the future and shape it to their liking. It suggests that playing games with probability (what is the expected value calculus of taming a speculative robot overlord?) is more important than helping those in the here-and-now, and that top-down solutions trump collective systems that respond to real people’s preferences. 

 

尽管有效利他主义团体以证据、理性和道德为荣,但这里更多有的是选择性严谨的味道。转向长期主义似乎是科技和金融界人士常见的一种傲慢情绪的投射。长期主义基于其追随者对于未来的预测按照自己的喜好塑造未来的能力无端自信。它表明,玩概率游戏(驯服疑问的机器人霸主的预期价值计算是多少?)比帮助现在的人更重要,自上而下的解决方案胜过回应真实人们偏好的集体系统。 

 

Conveniently, focusing on the future means that longtermists don’t have to dirty their hands by dealing with actual living humans in need, or implicate themselves by critiquing the morally questionable systems that have allowed them to thrive. A not-yet-extant population can’t complain or criticize or interfere, which makes the future a much more pleasant sandbox in which to pursue your interests — be they AI or bioengineering — than an existing community that might push back or try to steer things for itself. 

 

顺理成章地,专注于未来意味着长期主义者不必通过与真正需要帮助的、活生生的人类打交道,从而来玷污自己的双手;也不必通过批评让他们茁壮成长、道德上有问题的制度来牵连自己。一个尚未存在的群体不能抱怨、批评或干涉,这使得未来成为一个更令人愉快的沙盒,你可以在其中追求你的兴趣。无论是人工智能还是生物工程,而不是一个可能反击或试图自我领导的现有社区。 

 

To be even more cynical: Longtermism seems tailor-made to allow tech, finance and philosophy elites to indulge their anti-humanistic tendencies while patting themselves on the back for their intelligence and superior IQs. The future becomes a clean slate onto which longtermists can project their moral certitude and pursue their techno-utopian fantasies, while flattering themselves that they are still “doing good.” 

 

说得更愤世嫉俗一些:长期主义似乎是为科技、金融和哲学精英们量身定做的,他们可以放纵自己的反人性倾向,同时夸耀自己的智慧和高超智商。未来变成了一张白纸,长期主义者可以在上面投射他们的道德信念,追求他们的技术乌托邦幻想,同时自鸣得意地认为他们仍然在“做好事”。 

 

As such, it’s unsurprising that someone such as Musk — whose most memorable philanthropic moments include tweeting that he would donate $6 billion to the Nobel-winning World Food Program if it could convince him of its efficacy, then never following up when its executive director responded in detail — finds the proposition compelling. 

 

因此,像马斯克这样的人认为这个提议很有说服力也就不足为奇了。马斯克最令人难忘的慈善时刻包括在推特上表示,如果诺贝尔奖获得者世界粮食计划署能让他相信其有效性,他将向该计划捐赠60亿美元,但当执行主管做出详细回应时,他从未跟进。 

 

Despite its flaws, longtermism might be the future of the effective altruist movement. The new focus is backed by funding: Open Philanthropy, GiveWell’s spending arm, has distributed more than $480 million to longtermist causes since 2015, while the FTX Future Fund, founded by cryptocurrency billionaire and effective altruist Sam Bankman-Fried, has chipped in about $132 million. Meanwhile, EA’s funding base continues to grow, and its newest reigning philosophy is set to have a major impact. 

 

尽管有缺陷,但长期主义可能是有效利他主义运动的未来。新的关注点得到了资金的支持:自2015年以来,GiveWell的支出部门Open Philanthropy已经向长期主义事业分发了超过4.8亿美元,而由加密货币亿万富翁和有效利他主义者Sam Bankman-Fried创立的FTX未来基金已经投入了大约1.32亿美元。与此同时,随着有效利他主义的资金基础继续增长,其最新的统治理念将产生重大影响。 

 

Sure, donating to theorize about AI risk is probably still a better philanthropic cause than, say, paying to put your name on a gallery at the Met. But is it really doing the most good? I wouldn’t be so sure. 

 

当然,比起付钱把你的名字放在大都会的画廊上,捐款给关于人工智能风险的理论可能仍然是一个更好的慈善事业。但它真的起到了最好的作用吗?我不太确定。

 

关键句翻译

 

刚刚过去的9月10日是中秋节,那么中秋节的英文怎么说?

 

Mid-Autumn Festival

autumn n. 秋季;秋天

翻译、撰稿:丁适于(杭州市基金会发展促进会)

 

 

 

 

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