People often talk as if they are extremely concerned about health, and would give up a great deal of everything else to get just a bit more health. “When you’ve got your health, you’ve got just about everything.” This sort of justification is often offered for spending vast sums on apparently ineffective end-of-life medicine.
I knew it had something to do with pork or pork products.
I don't know which pill you are referring to, but your example has the added complication the pill would not only cause some new person to exist, but destroy a person which existed before.
Incidentally, Hal Finney above makes essentially the same point I made in my comment.
Not only do males have lower life expectancies, but they also lower the life expectancy of their mother and siblings!
Is this why we shouldn't give a pill to a kid that makes them living five years longer, because a person given a pill becomes a different person?
Robin, common sense draws a fundamental distinction between prolonging the lives of those already alive and bringing new people into existence. This view may be mistaken--and I believe it is--but is at the basis of people's decisions about health and reproduction. There is, accordingly, no tension between spending lots of money on end-of-life medicine and showing no preference for female children. In one case you are extending lives which existed already, whereas in the other case you are causing new lives to exist.
But the drug would lower their IQ 1% for each year it prolonged their life. Then what?
Actions extending the last years of a child's life are unimportant compared to other factors.Other methods of prolonging life such as forced exercise and forced caloric restriction are not employed,even though they work in animals. As parents you expect both boys and girls to live long past your death and don't concern yourself their senescence.If it is medical costs you are worrying about, don't women consume more resources?If it is pain and suffering,don't women suffer more from,depression, osteoporosis and fractures than men? In terms of social equity,isn't it unfair to burden the social safety net with too many additional old crones?
That's because Robin Hanson is a sexist pig.
"For children we may prefer for them to attain high status while we are alive (thus given us more status by proxy)."
Do parents really want their kids to get high status for the sake of "status by proxy?" I always thought it was because they assume, rightly or wrongly, that a person with high status will probably have a more pleasant life.
Haven't we already established that people don't really care about maximizing (healthy) lifespan? The public's disdain for cryonics and general life extension research establishes this rather more strongly than failing to sex-select.
The simple matter is people are completely illogical about such matters.
Here's a related comment. If during any time but the last few months of someone's life, you asked him/her what fraction of his/her lifetime income he/she would be willing to commit to being alive those months, I suspect the fraction would be very small. At least that's the logical thing: the last few months of my life are less than one percent of the time I'm alive and I'd like to commit less than one percent of my resources to that time. However that's not how we structure health care.
Maybe people prefer different things in different situations.
E.g. many people are afraid of death and thus prefer longevity for themselves.
For children we may prefer for them to attain high status while we are alive (thus given us more status by proxy). And there is a stereotype of male success (parents don't think about their children failing), and thus male preference.
If we operated on purely on the longevity of the baby, the best path would be probably to have sperm (and egg) donors with certified quality, but people don't like that.
Suppose there were a drug you could take during pregnancy that would extend the life of the baby by several years. Don't you agree that it would become popular, even mandatory? That would seem to argue against the possibility that parents just don't care if their children survive a few more years.
Right, I should have spelled out the previous point better. The utilitarian takes into account everyone's well-being, not just his own. So he will think he has a reason to bring into existence a longer- rather than a shorter-living kid, all else being equal, even if he himself won't be around during the "marginal" years.
Utilitarianism is usually defined in terms of the amount of happiness or pleasure vs. unhappiness or displeasure. Since the dead are beyond happiness or unhappiness, I don't see how they can enjoy any utility.
I suppose there are time-binding tricks that can map utilitarianism into having something to say about the postmortem world (ie, an author could feel some pride now at the thought that his works will survive past his death). Can anyone really believe that this sort of effect is enough to make a parent prefer one gender over another for the sake of 5 or so extra years of expected lifespan? It's a stupid idea.