This blog does not have a single specific project, and doesn’t aspire to be a resource for anything in particular. It is borne out of interactions with various (largely) anti-natalist blogs, my interest in cocktail innovation, and friends’ requests to capture some of my Cary-Tennis-like correspondence in a public forum.
I arrive at anti-natalism, or, perhaps more accurately, paucinatalism or mininatalism, from personal quantitative consequentialism and a belief that the expected utility of a human life is, in most circumstances, negative. Personal quantitative consequentialism is (a) personal, in that it cares about the well-being of individual persons, (b) quantitative, in that it doesn’t throw up its hands at attempts to quantify well-being, and (c) consequentialist, in that seeks for things to turn out for the best.
We often try to think about utility and/or welfare in the way we think about resources and wealth. One major difference (among several) is that wealth is heavily skewed to the right while utility is, I believe, heavily skewed to the left. This means that the more of the spread in wealth lying to the right of the mean (i.e., richer-than-average people) is very far from the mean than is the spread in wealth lying to the left of the mean (poorer-than-average people). This holds both internationally and within a country. This makes intuitive sense: there’s a zero-limit on how poor you can be (okay, sure, you can be in debt, but you get the point), but there’s no upper bound to how rich you can be.
Utility skews the other way. There are lots of limits on human happiness that we can’t buy our way out of. Once you make enough money to be comfortable (what “comfort” is depends on the society), additional wealth brings you very little additional utility. Most people use most of their money in excess of what buys them a comfortable lifestyle to buy positional goods or to let sit in their portfolio to save up for positional goods for their far-future selves or for their children. Rather, the chief limits to utility at that point aren’t ones that can be addressed with more money. Good relationships with your friends, family, and co-workers doesn’t have much to do with money. If you’re neurotic, insecure, melancholic, bored, in chronic pain, or experience interpersonal discord or weltschmerz, then once you’re reasonably well-off, more money isn’t going to do anything about it. These maladies have been with us since the dawn of civilization, and, with the exception of chronic pain, are unlikely to go away while we’re still recognizably human.
So although we in rich societies can’t get much happier than we are, for most of us, we could be a lot more miserable. And some of us *are* a lot more miserable than is typical or average. Enough, I think, that I have no confidence that the expected utility of a person is positive, despite my considered belief that my own life is and will continue to be on balance positive.
Practically speaking, this doesn’t really affect how I live my day-to-day life. It means I don’t intend to create new human beings, and I while I avoid directly proselytizing, I try to “raise awareness” of the reasons that led me (and of the reasons that led others) to think that creating more persons is a bad idea.