[ExI] Consequentialist world improvement

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Oct 7 15:52:18 UTC 2012

>... On Behalf Of Anders Sandberg

>.... You can complicate the analysis by analysing the causal chains more
deeply - ageing is behind a lot of apparently unrelated deaths (like fall
Anders Sandberg,

Great example of this: in California, law requires new construction to have
smoke detectors in every room, so my own house has six that I can think of.
The law evolved in such a way that each smoke detector has both an AC source
and a nine volt battery.  By design mandate, the AC source does not charge
the battery, even if you use a rechargeable battery.  When the battery runs
down, the smoke detector emits a loud chirp every few minutes.  If this
happens at night, you cannot sleep through it: you must get up and change
that battery.  By legal mandate, the smoke detectors are hard mounted on the
ceiling (that's where the smoke goes, ja?) so the geezers need to get
something like a chair, stand on it, reach over their heads, take down the
smoke detector.  The AC cord needs to be disconnected, and it has a latch
design that prevents it from being taken loose by merely pulling on it.  So
this requires the geezer to have both hands above her head, looking up,
standing on a chair.  They fall.  They die.  Cause of death is never listed
as "killed by a smoke detector" or "killed by misguided legislation" that
INTRODUCES MORE GODDAM RISK than it retires, for house fires have become
extremely rare, and seldom occur at night, when no one is cooking, for
appliances no longer spontaneously burst into flames and very few people
burn wood in fireplaces around here.  But plenty of people fall off of
chairs trying to change smoke detector batteries in the night while drunk,
stoned or old.  So smoke detector legislation goes right on, year after
year, running up medical costs and in some cases claiming the lives of
unknown numbers of nice little grandmas, in exchange for practically
nothing, NOTHING!

Here is an interesting example of Anders' point on risk curves: the risk of
death from a nighttime house fire and falling off a chair reaching for a
smoke detector are both long tail risks, which makes them inherently
difficult to estimate and compare, leading to deadly consequences.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list