Precautionary Principle (PP)
- Ordinary scenarios: maximize expected utility (EU Max)
- Precautionary scenarios: avoid catastrophic harm (Precautionary Principle)
# Tripod Framework
Manson’s Framework for when to use the precautionary principle
- Serious damage (damage condition): some outcomes exceed a threshold of badness and are considered catastrophic
- Thresholds for levels of harm: serious, catastrophic, irreversible, civilization collapse
- Thresholds for time scales: present, pre-2100 (current population), post-2100 (future generations)
- Scope: local, global
- Uncertainty (knowledge condition): some outcomes meet a required threshold of evidence to count as a serious threat
- Probability: possible, non-negligible probability, predicted by a model, predicted by a well-understood scientific mechanism
- Proportional remedy: response should correspond to the plausibility and severity of the threat
- Prohibition/ban, further research, moratorium, mitigation/restriction
However, could potentially lead to irrational outcomes or outcomes that are contradictory. e.g.
- Greenhouse gases (GHG) may cause catastrophic temperature rise ⇒ Ban GHG at once
- Banning GHG may lead to economic crisis, world war and nuclear holocaust ⇒ Don’t ban GHG
# Versions of PP
- If the activity meets the damage condition, and
- If the link between the e-activity and the e-effect meets the knowledge condition,
- Then apply the e-remedy.
But, PP versions must be internally consistent; it cannot ban its own remedies
# Catastrophe Principle
If an effect is catastrophic, and there is a possible link between the activity and the effect, then the remedy is to ban the activity completely.
For example, ban nukes because their possible use has a catastrophic effect