Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 79–88 | Cite as

Should we be very cautious or extremely cautious on measures that may involve our destruction?

On the finiteness of our expected welfare
  • Y.-K. Ng
Article

Abstract

For decisions (e.g. nuclear power development, environmental protection, genetic engineering) that may affect the probabilities of the continued survival of the human race, whether we should be very cautious or extremely cautious (defined as refusing to undertake anything that may reduce our survival probabilities) depends on whether our expected welfare is finite or infinite. If it is infinite, a paradox arises in the trade-off between our own expected welfare and that of future generations, since a small fraction (probability change) of infinity is still infinite. However, limitations on population size and average welfare suggest a finite expected welfare but the possibility of transforming our own selves perhaps by genetic engineering increases our expected welfare tremendously but still finite.

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References

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y.-K. Ng
    • 1
  1. 1.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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