This project seems to be a bit similar to an idea that I have. I start with a population ethical view of variable critical level utilitarianism https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/variable-critical-level-utilitarianism-as-the-solution-to-population-ethics/
So everyone can choose his or her own preferred critical level utility. Most people seem to agreggate around two values:
1) the totalists prefer a critical level of 0, which corresponds with total utilitarianism (the totalist view) and
2) the personalists or negativists prefer a conditionally maximum critical level (for example the utility of the most prefered state), which is close to negative utilitarianism and the person-affecting view. (I will not go into the conditionality part here)
When we create new people, they can be either totalists or personalists (or something else, but that seems to be a minority. Or they can be in a morally uncertain, undecided superposition between totalists and personalists, but then we are allowed to choose for them their critical levels. If we make a choice for a situation where a totalist with a positive utility (well-being) is created, that positive utility counts as a benefit or a gratitude regarding our choice. If we caused the existence of a personalist (or negativist), we did not create a benefit. And if that personalist complains against our choice because it prefers another situation, we actually harmed that person.
Now we have to add all benefits and harms (all gratitudes and complaints) for everyone who will exist in the choice that we will make. Concerning the far future and existential risks, we need to know how many totalists and personalists there will be in the future. Studying the current distribution of totalists and personalists can give us a good estimate. This might be related to the N-ratios of people. Totalists have low N-ratios, personalists/negativists have high N-ratios
Hi Stijn. You mention that people tend to fall into these two categories mostly—totalist view and person-affecting view. Can you elaborate on how you obtained this impression? Did you already run a survey of some kind, or is the impression based on conversations with people, or from the comments on your blog? Does it reflect the intuitions of primarily EAs, or philosophy students, or the general population?
Interesting, yeah, thx for the pointer!