Is the value of humanity increasing? A critical-level enquiry

We assess whether the value of humanity (or global social welfare) has improved in the last decades despite (or because of ) the substantial increase in global population sizes. We use for this purpose a relatively unknown but simple and attractive social evaluation approach based on critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CLGU). CLGU posits that social welfare increases with population size if and only the new lives come with a utility level higher than that of a critical level. Despite its attractiveness, CLGU poses a number of practical difficulties that may explain why the literature has left it largely unexplored. The most important of these difficulties deal with the choice of an individual welfare aggregation function and with the value of the critical level.

Cockburn, J., J.Y. Duclos and A. Zabsonré. "Is the value of humanity increasing? A critical-level enquiry", Ferdi, Working paper I13, October 2011