The most hacker news comment I read all year
 beautifully rendered as a short comic here https://zenpencils.com/comic/king/
Can you do economics without math?
As for friends, family, and community, what is it that gives friendship value, if not your conscious experience of the friendship, and your friend's? Could you coherently call something a good friendship if neither friend enjoys it or improves their thinking from it? The same questions generalize to family and community, though in more complex ways.
The Greeks used the word eudaimonia for this highest / all-encompassing utility function (the experience that everything is in service of: the “point”); in Indian thought it's called ānanda. But yeah, making money is only a means to it, and not the point. (Even this understanding can get clouded. In Indian thought, “religion” only posits a higher ānanda that can be obtained by experience of the divine, without denying the everyday sorts of joy that resemble it. In Western thought, influenced by the monotheistic religions with their opposition between true and false, the fact that neither money nor comfort is the highest good gets reflected in ideas like “money is the root of all evil” or “Happiness versus Meaning” that tend to vilify them in order to counter our impulses towards them, rather than recognize them as being partial means to some components of happiness. It's fine; whatever works I guess.)
PS: Totally offtopic, but thanks for your transcript of Knuth's Web of Stories interview!
Is there a way of unconsciously experiencing these things?
Extend this to asteroid tracking and it may be the difference between human survival and extinction.
I am fond of the humans and so I would like them to survive, but only because that is a means for them to be conscious, at least in some cases.
Thus if photography is required and the only thing that makes it possible then it as a means becomes and end to it's self.
Consider, in a pure nitrogen environment animals will suffocate under no great distress. The goal has become separated from the result.
PS: As to your final central point, some feel keeping a loved one alive even if they never recover consciousness is a net good.