What is a utility monster?

This blog is named after a thought experiment by Robert Nozick. Nozick envisions a “utility monster” that gets immense pleasure from something. For example, torturing humans. Immense is an understatement. The monster’s pleasure would be greater than the total pain felt by everyone the monster tortures.

Nozick’s point is an argument against hedonistic utilitarianism. Hedonistic utilitarianism suggests its best to maximize total happiness among the entire population. That means a hedonistic utilitarian would not value equality. They would prefer a world with an incredibly super-duper happy utility monster and their many miserable victims to any world with slightly less total happiness. It wouldn’t matter if everyone was happy overall and nobody was tortured in the slightly less happy world.

I don’t want to be a monster. I do want to maximize my utility. But, I find the name utility monster more enjoyable than utility maximizer. I imagine Cookie Monster feels the same way.

Who is Utility Monster?

What brings me utility?

I don’t know. Probably happiness

What brings me happiness? I’m not sure. I can’t explain much about my brain chemistry. And I’m always changing. 

But I know many activities that I currently enjoy.

I’m fascinated by human behavior. It’s the common thread behind my biggest hobbies. I enjoy reading about philosophy and behavioral sciences. I check LessWrong and Astral Codex Ten every day. My favorite games are social deduction games, One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Mafia. I live in a coliving space of over 60 people.

I have many other interests too. Some of them are tangentially related to my interest in human behavior. For example, improv and cringe comedy. Others are unrelated. I like to take scenic walks and hikes. I like to play with dogs. Hot girls excite me!

I like to dance. I enjoy playing and watching sports. I enjoy other genres of books / TV / movies too. I like every food besides olives.

A part of me wants to try more drugs. A part of me wants to travel the world. I want to try all sorts of things. 

But I won’t get to most things. I don’t plan to drink again. I only do the activities I mentioned if I convince myself they’ll help me be productive, I have a moment where I lack moral fortitude, or I get caught up in the moment.

That’s because I want to feel like I’m going to fulfill my remaining potential to make a positive impact. Doing whatever it takes to feel that way is often my favorite activity.

What does a positive impact mean to me? Until I thought about the utility monster, I would’ve said I was a hedonistic utilitarian. Now, I believe morality is subjective. My ideal society would maximize total happiness while minimizing happiness inequality for as many beings as possible.  

How can I best help to make that happen? This blog will be about figuring that out.

What will I write?

More specifically, I plan to cover the following subjects:

  1. Philosophy

  2. Rationality

  3. Effective Altruism

  4. Existential risk

  5. Political reform

  6. Charter cities

  7. Prediction markets

  8. Cryptocurrency

  9. Mental health

  10. Genetic engineering

  11. Personal stuff

Give me Feedback

No matter how I try to make an impact, I presume I’ll struggle to do it alone. Always feel free to give me any feedback. Point out typos. Be candid.

If you like my content enough to share it, please do so. If you like it enough to subscribe, I'd appreciate it!

If not, that’s fine. I don’t currently plan to charge for any posts anyway. And if you leave a negative comment, I may not like it when I read it. But I’ll consciously strive to take it and learn from it.

Until I get to feel perfect in Nozick’s experience machine!

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Maximizing utility while minimizing utility inequality