one thing i'm puzzled about: the ethical stance, associated with the left at the moment, where the question is 'what if everyone did that?' what if no one recycled? what if everyone had five kids or drove a car that got 20 mpg? sometimes i share the intuition. sometimes i doubt the effects would be as described. you can get some pretty draconian stuff out of this, like it makes an argument that everyone should live urban, for example, which reduces your carbon footprint but might tend to delete in important respects everyone's relations to non-human nature, with incalculable long-range effects. in some ways it's a sort of an extension of the golden rule or the categorical imperative: live as you could want everyone to live. it sounds sensible.
on the other hand it sounds crazy. what if everyone was a philosophy professor? imagine the social costs! what if no one read novels? the publishing industry would collapse! what if everyone raised tomatoes? too many tomatoes! what if, at 3pm, everyone in the whole world stopped what they were doing and watched general hospital? it would be incumbent on someone who was trying to tease this into an ethical theory to distinguish cases where one ought to from cases where one needn't or ought not calculate the effects of everyone doing 'that'; possibly some thinkers have had a go.
now, when i choose to live rural, should i ask myself what would happen if everyone lived rural? why, exactly, when it's so obvious that not everyone will? many of my own beliefs and even actions are, i admit, taken precisely because in fact most people don't do 'that.' so how would we work in that sort of impulse? now, i guess it's ok until you get the point of using it as a taser: like, requiring people to live as would be best if everyone lived like that (note, with the effects anticipated this week by experts or faddists or scientists or or bureaucrats or whatever).
i do think it's kind of an interesting way to generate ethical intuitions: something you should ask yourself. however, when you get right down to it, i am not going to take responsibility for a kind of sci-fi hypothetical counter-factual scenario. i have enough trouble trying to take responsibility plainly for what i actually do and the effects what i actually do has on what actually happens (including what happens to other people, of course).
the intuition engine turns us into a vague collective cloud, but not even that: it asks you to operate morally in a world that does not or cannot exist, and as a person who cannot exist: a general person. honestly, whatever the truth about climate change, i'm only taking responsibility for my own emissions, which are infinitesimal. but then again, is it even possible for me to take responsibility for my own emissions? like with offsets or something?) probably i am not even paying the costs of my own emissions, and then how could we, or could we, hold individuals responsible in cases like this at all? but what if everyone thought like that?
in some ways the thought-experiement makes everyone responsible for what we do to the world, which sounds good. be the change you want to see etc. but on the other hand, living generally like this might be a way of evading the real effects of what you actually do: what if everyone tried to require everyone else to live as they thought everyone ought to live? possibly a war of each against each.
one thing to note: utilitarianism famously faces the problem that it insists that you judge the moral quality of an action by its effects, but the effects of any given action are very difficult or indeed impossible to foresee. now bloat up this standard to a possible (?) world in which 7 billion people act or believe like you do and try calculating the effects.
but ask yourself this: what would the world be like if everyone lived the same way, had the same values, anticipated the same effects, and so on? maybe we'd merge ecstatically into a very big single thing. we'd be boring until we went extinct, though, which would not take long. so in application to itself, the principle is wacky, or self-consuming. strange, though, but the question also seems unavoidable and important. obviously, i am hostile a bit, because the thing would mess up my indivisualism etc. i started out tio slam but ended up worried.