Jacy (@jacyanthis and jacyanthis.com) is a social scientist & co-founder of the Sentience Institute. His acclaimed book, The End of Animal Farming, analyses the development & popularisation of food technologies such as plant-based & cultivated meat.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” As well as the video above the audio of our conversation is also on our Podcast here on Apple and on the other platforms too.
1:26 Jacy’s Intro
Utilitarianism, Effective Altruism, Buddhism, neuroscience, community building, Animal Charity Evaluators, Sentience Institute, The End of Animal Farming, Sociology PhD & moral expansion.
3:22 What’s Real?
- Growing up around Baptist & Catholic churches near Houston but in an agnostic family
- Attending church “lockins”
- “I wasn’t even told Santa was real growing up”
- Interested in Buddhist views of suffering, but not the supernatural aspects. “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright
- Naturalism has a connotation that there is nothing supernatural. “That’s an empirical claim about which I remain uncertain”
- Would multiverses, our universe being a simulation or pre-Big Bang history be seen as “supernatural”?
- The varieties of religious identity: metaphysics, ethics, community
9:20 What Matters?
- Moral heuristics and their conflicts
- Adopting utilitarianism at 12 yrs old & looking for a “proof”
- From moral realism to anti-realism (per Brian Tomasik)
- It’s up to us to decide which mental phenomenon to put in the “sentience” and “consciousness” categories
- Objectivity, relativism, nihilism & arbitrariness
- Even most religious people would act morally if there was no god
- Rejecting “mind-independent” truth as the next step up from rejecting supernatural truths
- Non-objective morality can still be compelling
- Grounding morality in a concern for the experiences of others
- The priority balance between reducing suffering vs. enhancing flourishing
18:20 Moral Scope & Expansion
- Utilitarianism led to vegetarianism then veganism
- Focusing initially on human issues, working at GiveWell
- Cause prioritisation led back to non-human issues
- Persuading sentiocentrists to be more effective & effective altruists to be sentiocentric
- The bias against helping other species
- Non-human animal causes can seem sentimental until you engage w/the arguments
- Far future/long-termism
- Effective Altruists have the highest veg*n % of almost any human group
- Ancient roots of sentiocentrism/veganism & naturalism
- “Everything has been said before”
- Philosophical pluralism in Sentientism
- Eze Paez & Jacy’s Futures paper re: moral circle expansion (attitudinal and behavioural)
- Moderate & radical flanks of social movements. Shifting the overton window. Corey Lee Wrenn
30:11 Sentientism, Sentiocentrism and Sentience
- Is Sentientism the only moral discrimination?
- Why is naturalism important? Abraham & Isaac
- Sentientism as the naturalistic version of sentiocentrism?
- Valuable intersections with other movements, including religions
- Sentience: goal orientation, mood-like states, complexity, integration?
- Biocentrism, ecocentrism
- Trade-offs & synergies between different perspectives. Working with others without having to agree on everything!
- “Moral circles are not circles”
- Wild animals, invertebrate sentients, artificial sentients
- Defining sentience using examples. Valence, arousal?
- Panpsychism, substance dualism or sentience as a class of info processing?
- Is panpsychism the new “elan vital”?
- “There’s nothing magical about our conscious experience but that’s a really cool thing!”
48:17 The Future
- Locking in the valuing of sentience?
- Singleton AI or governance
- Could we programme a super-intelligent AI to be sentientist?
- Hedonium, the most efficient use of space/energy/matter for pleasure. Dog park simulations?
- David Pearce’s gradients of hedonic bliss
- “I’m not going to pick & choose too much once we’ve eliminated extreme suffering”
- “Most people aren’t very morally driven” but “I’ve become more optimistic about technology” & legislation/institutional change
- Cautionary lessons from GMOs & nuclear
- “We need anger & outrage” as impetus
- Code switching for effective messaging “we can lead this important change!”
- SI’s Foundational Questions
- “Animal farming will end globally by the end of this century”
- To 2025: Building a foundation (e.g. plant/cultivated alternatives). 2025-: Virtuous cycles. 2050-: Mass scale. 2075-: Wrapping up
- Suspicious convergence / veganism as a solution to all problems?
- Supporting humans (e.g. farmers) transitioning. Acknowledging trade-offs. Just Transition
- Imagining transitions & futures. The role of the arts & narrative & design
- The Cellular Agriculture Society’s vision of a more compassionate future
- Existential Hope
- “Is Shame Necessary” by Jennifer Jacquet
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production.