RE: Ethical basics

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 19:14:47 MST


> > Realistically, however, there's always going to be a mix of
> altruistic and
> > individualistic motivations, in any one case -- yes, even yours...
> Sorry, not mine. I make this statement fully understanding the size of
> the claim. But if you believe you can provide a counterexample - any case
> in, say, the last year, where I acted from a non-altruistic motivation -
> then please demonstrate it.

Eliezer, given the immense capacity of the human mind for self-delusion, it
is entirely possible for someone to genuinely believe they're being 100%
altruistic even when it's not the case. Since you know this, how then can
you be so sure that you're being entirely altruistic?

It seems to me that you take a certain pleasure in being more altruistic
than most others. Doesn't this mean that your apparent altruism is actually
partially ego gratification ;> And if you think you don't take this
pleasure, how do you know you don't do it unconsciously? Unlike a
superhuman AI, "you" (i.e. the conscious, reasoning component of Eli) don't
have anywhere complete knowledge of your own mind-state...

Yes, this is a silly topic of conversation...

> It's the first piece of the puzzle. You start with a description of
> fitness maximization in game theory; then shift to describing ESS
> adaptation-executers; then move from ESS in social organisms to the
> population-genetics description of political adaptations in communicating
> rational-rationalizing entities; and then describe the (co)evolution of
> memes on top of the political adaptations. As far as I know, though, that
> *is* the whole picture.

I suppose it's the whole picture if you construe the terms broadly

In my view, though, the books you mention take an overly neo-Darwinist view
of evolution, without giving enough credence to self-organizing and
ecological phenomena. Ever read the book "Evolution Without Selection" by
A. Lima de Faria? He doesn't discuss evolution of morals, but if he did, he
would claim that common moral structures have natural symmetries and other
patterns that cause them to serve as "attractors" for a variety of
evolutionary processes. In other words, he sees evolution as mostly a way
of driving organisms and populations into attractors defined by "natural
forms." This view doesn't necessarily contradict a standard evolutionary
view, but it deepens it and adds a different angle.

-- Ben G

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