This is a subpage of our Open Research Questions.

Research questions

Priority: 6/10

Output format: Novel research

  • If we avoid creating lab universes in an already infinite sea of universes, how much of a difference does this make, if any? What mathematical representations best capture our intuition for how important this is? How do we compare the numbers of new universes that will eventually be created by natural vs. artificial baby-universe production, given that both are infinite? The measure problem and youngness paradox may be relevant here.
  • In general, what mathematical constructions can best handle infinite ethics? Hyperreal/surreal numbers? Cardinal vs. ordinal numbers? Should we just reason as though everything is finite and assume the conclusions hold for the infinite case?
  • Should our decisions always be dominated by the biggest possible cardinality of infinity? And what do we do about the fact that there is no biggest cardinality?
  • Should we accept the Pascal’s-button argument and conclude that almost all the expected impact of our actions comes from tiny probabilities of hugely important unknown unknowns that haven’t yet been discovered?
  • Is there a way to think about measure in Level IV multiverse or modal-realist multiverse? For computable universes, Kolmogorov complexity is often used for measure. But what about for uncountable cardinalities of uncomputable universes?
  • Are the impacts of our decisions mostly concentrated in the choices of agents throughout the multiverse that are nearly identical to us? Or are they mostly concentrated in what our choices imply about very general decision algorithms that are instantiated in much larger numbers? If the latter, are there tractable ways to approximately calculate the widespread good + bad effects of those general decision algorithms?

Related works

  • Arntzenius, Frank. “Utilitarianism, Decision Theory and Eternity.” Philosophical Perspectives 28 (2014): 31–58.
  • Bostrom, Nick. “Infinite Ethics.” Analysis and Physics 10 (2011): 9–59. Ungated.
  • Less Wrong Wiki.
  • Tomasik, Brian. Should We Believe in Infinity?
  • Vallentyne, Peter. “Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1993): 212–17. Ungated.
  • ———. “Infinite Utility and Temporal Neutrality.” Utilitas 6 (1994): 193–99. Ungated.
  • ———. “Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centeredness.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (1995): 413–20. Ungated.
  • ———. “Infinity in Ethics.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2001. Gated.
  • Vallentyne, Peter, and Luc Lauwers. “Infinite Utilitarianism: More Is Always Better.” Economics and Philosophy 20 (2004): 307–30. Ungated.
  • Vallentyne, Peter, and Shelly Kagan. “Infinite Value and Finitely Additive Value Theory.” Journal of Philosophy 94 (1997): 5–26. Ungated.
  • West, Ben. “Problems and Solutions in Infinite Ethics.” Effective Altruism Forum. January 1, 2015.