[ExI] Consequentialist world improvement

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun Oct 7 20:19:08 UTC 2012

On 07/10/2012 20:05, BillK wrote:
> On Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM, spike wrote:
>> OK, cool, we have counterclaims which can be theoretically tested, but only
>> if we have access to actual data regarding cause of death.
> CDC have USA stats for accidents.
> Some quotes:
> Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can
> cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head
> injuries, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, falls
> are a public health problem that is largely preventable.
> -----------
> So falls are very common in the elderly and it is a known public
> health problem that they are actively trying to improve.
> About half of elderly falls are in the home. Therefore falls are just
> as common in places where there are no smoke alarms.
> CDC publish check lists of things to watch out for in the home to
> prevent falls. Smoke alarms are not mentioned.

That particular reasons are not reported doesn't mean they are 
unimportant, but just that the reporting systems do not gather the data. 
While there are bizarre ICD9 codes (there isE979.5"Terrorism involving 
nuclear weapons"), there doesn't seem to be one corresponding to "died 
of falling from chair while fixing smoke detector":
An oversight bureuacrats will no doubt soon fix.

Looking around at the data I found, I did some calculations:

The number of lives saved by smoke alarms in California is roughly 
37,691,912 Californians *(5 saved lives/12 deaths)* (3377 fire deaths 
/151268 accidental deaths ) * (57 deadly accidents per year / 100,000 
people) = 479 people per year.

Number of Californians killed in falls per year: 37,691,912 Californians 
* (8.1 fall deathsper year / 100,000 people) = 3053 fall deaths per year


So the number of extra falls due to the darn smoke detectors need to be 
bigger than the number of saved by them in order for them to be an 
unmitigated bad thing. But it looks unlikely to me that the new rules 
have caused a 15% increase of deadly falls.

Stupid regulations are still bad, even if they don't kill enough people 
to make themselves counterproductive. There is a lot of loss due to 
annoyance, extra costs and the need for more red tape.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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