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Research and Discussions About Animal Rights and Welfare

I made Discussion Tree: State of Animal Rights Debate. My tree diagram summarizes pro-animal-rights arguments from Peter Singer and asks some questions about major issues he didn’t cover. It reveals that his arguments were incomplete. The incompleteness I’ve focused on is that they don’t address issues related to computers and software. Maybe animals are like self-driving cars with some extra features, not like humans. Self-driving cars aren’t intelligent, conscious or capable of suffering. Singer doesn’t try to address that issue.

I did additional research to find arguments to add to my discussion tree. I found no answers to basic computer science questions from the animal welfare advocates.

I posted to five pro animal rights forums asking for links to written material (like books, articles, or blog posts) making arguments that Singer didn’t make, so I could read about why they’re right. I received no relevant responses and almost zero interest.

Later, I and others posted to eleven more places. Although this resulted in a bunch of discussion, I was not referred to a single piece of relevant literature. No one had a single piece of evidence to differentiate animals from fancy self-driving cars, nor any substantive argument. Many people insulted me. None had a scientific, materialist worldview, incorporating computer science principles, and could give any argument against my position which is compatible with that type of worldview. Nor did they give arguments that that kind of worldview is false. No one said anything that could plausibly have changed my mind. And people didn’t quote from my discussion tree and respond, nor suggest text for a new node. I linked and documented lots of the discussion on this page.

I was referred to dozens of pieces of literature, but none were relevant. In general, searching for terms like “software”, “hardware”, “algorithm” and “compu” immediately showed the source was irrelevant.

I also went to a vegan Discord for a YouTube debater to ask if they could help me improve my discussion tree diagram. I streamed what happened. Summary: They laughed at my view, then asked me to debate in voice chat (instead of giving literature), then banned me for not responding in 30 seconds while they knew I was busy fixing an audio issue.

This illustrates several things. First, my discussion tree shows how you can begin researching a topic in an organized way. You can pick a topic and create something similar. If you want to learn, it’s a great approach.

Second, there’s a serious lack of interest in discussion or debate in the world, and most people are quite ignorant and don’t even know of sources which argue why their beliefs are correct. They have some sources for why they’re right and rival views X and Y are wrong, but no answer to view Z, and will just keep giving you their answers to X and Y. Are you better or do you know of anyone who is better? Speak up.

Third, animal rights advocates broadly don’t know anything about computers and software and haven’t tried to update their thinking to take that stuff into account. Sad!

I encourage people to try creating a discussion tree on a topic that interests them, then ask for help finding sources and adding arguments to it. See what people, with what conclusions, have anything they’re willing to contribute, or not. You’ll learn a lot about the topic and about the rationality of the advocates of each viewpoint. It’ll help you judge issues yourself instead of deferring to the conclusions of experts (rather than their arguments). Even if you were happy to defer to expert opinions, it’s hard because experts disagree with each other; a discussion tree can help you organize those expert arguments.

You can also use discussion trees to organize and keep track of debates/discussions you have – as the conversation goes along, keep notes in a tree diagram.

I made a video covering these events and more. It’s from when I’d gotten almost no answers, rather than a bunch of bad answers. And I streamed a bunch of my discussions when I got bad answers.

While discussing, I wrote several additional blog posts, including a second discussion tree.

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Elliot Temple on November 24, 2019

Messages (16)

In their view: evolution is hundreds of millions of years of agony and suffering.

In their view: meat is suffering.

In their view: farming animals is suffering.

In their view: humans are not so special

In their view: young children are like animals

The true view: the universe was a boring place until humans came along. No creature could create knowledge or suffer: that was the algorithmic phase where creatures followed algorithms programmed into them by evolution. With humans, the universe entered the creative phase. Now suffering was possible. But also an unlimited number of other things. A new kind of big bang started on Earth.

Anonymous at 8:40 PM on November 24, 2019 | #14557 | reply | quote

Allan Barry at 8:33 AM on November 25, 2019 | #14562 | reply | quote

#14562 It has no summary: no abstract, intro or conclusion that says what it's saying. It doesn't address David Deutsch and the multiverse, which is the favored QM theory here.

And I don't know how you think it'd help with the tree. In general, QM is irrelevant to issues about brains and minds because brains are classical computers, not quantum computers.

curi at 12:12 PM on November 25, 2019 | #14566 | reply | quote

When at the grocery store someone offers you a free food sample, there are wrong ways to go about rejecting it.

Allan Barry at 2:25 PM on November 25, 2019 | #14574 | reply | quote

#14574 You're at a forum which uses rational argument to accept and reject things. If you have an alternative based on social politeness, we'd ask that you provide a written account of its rules and details.

You weren't flamed but you're acting like you were.

I've written extensively about how to discuss rationally, see e.g. https://curi.us/archives/list_category/114

You seem to want to have a different type of discussion than what I've argued is rational, but you haven't explained an error in my approach nor provided enough information about your approach that someone could learn and agree with it.

curi at 2:30 PM on November 25, 2019 | #14575 | reply | quote

We have no understanding of consciousness anyway, pretending like you have the answer and dismissing everything else does you no favors.

It is important to remain humble when discussing things you do not understand. This is not your field of expertise in the slightest. You are in no position to be this arrogant.

Or I could be wrong and I await your peer reviewed paper explaining consciousness.

Allan Barry at 2:31 PM on November 25, 2019 | #14576 | reply | quote


I don't think the following, even if true, demonstrates anything a non-AGI algorithm couldn't do. But I came across it and thought it was at least more interesting and relevant than what the animal rights advocates were saying.

The article describes how most "social" animals like lions respond to a danger, then contrasts that with how Orca respond.


> First, if one of the pod members knew of some danger… let’s say it’s a poisonous, spiky Lionfish… he would have told the others “Trust me, guys… I wouldn’t do that if I were you”. Not in a sentence like that, but with enough words to convey that message. Orcas do have detailed language. Now let me clarify that. Of course it’s not like human language. But in a sense, grammar exists. The words convey the equivalent of adjectives, verbs, and personal names. For instance, there isn’t necessarily a word (noun) for Lionfish. It can be “named” with an adjective; possibly along the lines of “bad”, “dangerous”, “not edible”, etc.; a word that expresses that concept. As far as verbs… the concept expressed by these words would be things like “come”, “escape”, “line-up”, “attack”, etc. And finally, personal names. Belugas, in particular, have been discovered to call out names for specific individuals, and respond to their specific names when called by their pod members. All concepts necessary for these animals to live and survive can be expressed through adjectives, verbs and personal names; particularly in combination. For example, some combination of words must be expressed to get pod members to line up and perform the “wave washing” maneuver, which causes a wave to wash over a small piece of floating ice, pushing a seal into the water. This requires a high degree of cooperation and precision. These orcas are not mind-readers. Nor is this an instinctive behavior. Clearly, one of them must make the decision, and instruct the others to perform this move. It’s not something that suddenly occurs to all of them simultaneously, with some kind of hive mentality. A language is necessary. Language, as opposed to most other animals whose verbal communication is limited to not a whole lot more than “danger!” and “let’s mate”, with the rest of their communication being body language and communicating by example; which is not language, but merely communication. Mere communication can only get you so far.


> Second, because of generational knowledge, there may be members of the pod who were taught by their parents or grandparents, not to eat a Lionfish. They don’t have to experience the pain first-hand, to know. They were taught. As long as they can see an object, they can pass on information about it.

If it's all true (which I don't know...haven't researched...and am neutral about), why don't the animal rights advocates talk about it / cite stuff about Orcas in response to curi's questions?

I think it's because humans don't eat or otherwise use Orcas much. A successful case for Orca intelligence wouldn't be a reason for people to stop eating cows and chickens. Approximately no one in the modern world has killed a whale or burned whale oil in a lamp or whatever.

The idea of intelligent Orcas in ways that don't apply to other animals is a poor lever with which to exert control over fellow humans. So its not very interesting to the animal rights people.

Andy Dufresne at 7:04 AM on November 27, 2019 | #14602 | reply | quote

#14602 Orcas don't yelp or make "cute" facial expressions in a way that appeals to people's intuitions. They look less human than dogs and cats. Cows don't look or act very human in that sense, either, but they're a more familiar animal that people kinda vaguely group with dogs as being large mammals that people have around. But fish are a different mental category. Peter Singer, in 1973, said basically that maybe fish don't merit animal liberation and he didn't know where the lines was.

People can look at a cat or dog and understand the approximate meaning of lots of its behavior. And they can do this more with a cow or chicken than an orca. Orca sounds, motions, facial expressions, etc., are like a foreign language.

People do complain about orca captivity some because they do tricks at sea world.

curi at 1:00 PM on November 27, 2019 | #14606 | reply | quote

#14640 Why are you sharing this? I searched "compu" on the page and got no hits. Where is the part which addresses the issues? Doesn't stuff like this simply show that these "experts" are clueless frauds lacking the relevant expertise?

Anonymous at 3:31 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14641 | reply | quote

#14641 Would sentience not make the case for animal rights? Why is no hits for "compu" an automatic dismissal? Should you not have a refutation for this without a dismissal?

>Doesn't stuff like this simply show that these "experts" are clueless frauds lacking the relevant expertise?


Anonymous at 3:50 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14642 | reply | quote

#14642 Have you read the discussions you're jumping into? The links in the OP? The main issue was whether or not animals are like robots that just compute algorithms. That's the thing being discussed. You linked something which doesn't try to discuss it.

If they had arguments for why they don't need to discuss computation, that could work too, but they don't have that either. They don't explain why it's avoidable, they just don't talk about it or about any way around it.

You are bringing up the word "sentience" without saying what you think it means or how to judge if its present, and seem unfamiliar with the basics of the discussion you're commenting on.

Anonymous at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14643 | reply | quote

#14643 This is expert maneuvering. Good way to dodge addressing an argument, I will definitely copy your style. Thanks for the lesson.

Anonymous at 4:12 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14644 | reply | quote

oh my god it's turpentine at 11:48 PM on December 1, 2019 | #14645 | reply | quote

Hi Mr Curi

People really don't understand your arguments and keep bringing up the same (incorrect) responses about neocortexes, etc.

I'll write my blog posts soon enough though. I will change your mind about animal rights or die trying.

Patrick B at 10:32 AM on December 2, 2019 | #14650 | reply | quote

#14650 gl

curi at 10:33 AM on December 2, 2019 | #14651 | reply | quote

Want to discuss this? Join my forum.

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