Michael Dello-Iacovo (michaeldello.com and @MichaelDello) is a PhD candidate in space science, looking at off-Earth exploration, mining & asteroid impact risk. Michael hosts the Morality is Hard podcast where he examines ethical questions and argues that everyday ethical choices are harder than we think they are. He is currently on the New South Wales state committee for the Animal Justice Party, sits on the national policy committee and is a committee member of the party’s youth wing. Michael has dedicated his life to giving back and making the world a better place for all. To that end, in 2016 he pledged to donate all of his income above AUS$45,000 each year to the most effective charities and causes, a pledge which he will uphold with his parliamentary income, if elected. Michael was previously the CEO of Effective Altruism Australia.
In these Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.”
- Michael’s PhD (pending) in space mining, terraforming, colonisation and asteroid deflection
- Effective Altruism. Earning to give to do good vs. doing good directly
- Peter Singer’s TED talk
- Leaving industry for a full time PhD and becoming an Animal Justice Party political candidate
- Michael’s Morality is Hard podcast, blog and Vegan Space Scientist YouTube
- Growing up Catholic and attending a very religious school
- Taking the Christian god, hell and heaven for granted. Being told every day it was true
- Struggling with the fear of death without an afterlife. The comforting fiction of heaven
- The painful realisation at 19 yrs that “not any of it was true” and becoming an atheist
- The centrality of our own experience and the difficulty of conceiving of not existing
- Searching for meaning after religion. Exploring and identifying with utilitarianism and consequentialism
- “The only things sentient minds can value are suffering and wellbeing”. Everything else we think we value is a means to an end or we’re tricking ourselves
- Our common evolutionary history with other sentient beings
- Panpsychism and whether atoms are sentient/conscious
- If electrons are “conscious” it must be very boring and they’re still not sentient
- Caring for companion animals but eating other animals as a child
- Going vegetarian for environmental reasons, becoming more open to ethical veganism, then switching
- Insect, digital mind and alien sentience
- “Sentientism just captures everything and its future proof”
- CosmicSkeptic grudgingly identifying as Sentientist: “The term has absolutely no wit about it”
- Is Sentientism the only moral discrimination?
- It’s a solid bet to focus on spreading good values, naturalism and expanding our moral circle, when we’re in a world of moral uncertainty and epistemological complexity
- Are all human-caused problems due to poorly founded beliefs and/or moral consideration exclusions?
- Veganism is becoming more mainstream, but more farmed animals and fish are suffering & dying
- Plant-based & clean-meat animal product alternatives
- Sentientist Politics. Representing non-humans in politics & law
- Resisting animal agriculture industry resistance
- Shifting incentives (subsidies, regulation, transparency)
- Latent public support for ending factory farming & even slaughterhouses
- Just Transitions for impacted communities
- Iain M. Banks’ “The Culture” as a potential sci-fi post scarcity future
- Does sci-fi help us re-focus on our core values and future potential
- Longtermism & existential risk
- If we can’t improve our values, let’s at least work to improve our policies, laws, regulations and behaviours.
Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our groups. Our main one is here on FaceBook.
Thanks Graham for the post-prod: @cgbessellieu