The Castle Lecture Series - The Toxic Flower of a Fertile Seed: Civilization and Social Choice in a World of Climate Change, Nuclear Risk, and Artificial Intelligence

Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Justice of the Supreme Court of California

LECTURE 2:  Deciding How to Decide Part 1:  The Most Good You Can’t Do

As major risks involving climate change, nuclear calamity, and other issues loom, law and policy in the U.S. and other advanced countries have been heavily shaped by how we analyze the costs and benefits of public actions.  Yet prevailing methods to do this are replete with limitations.  Poorly-structured versions of cost benefit analysis have done nothing to mitigate climate risks, for example, and sometimes made them worse. Just as we have work to do in improving how we weigh costs and benefits, we have homework ahead in refining and suffusing with appropriate humility the related idea of effective altruism, which if poorly applied risks suffering from some of the same perennial problems as overly rigid cost benefit analysis.