Rationality != egocentrism (RE: Books on rationality)

From: Mikko J Rauhala (mjrauhal+sl4@mappi.helsinki.fi)
Date: Fri Jun 07 2002 - 12:12:12 MDT

On Fri, 2002-06-07 at 19:29, Lee Corbin wrote:
> Iz zat so? I'm very skeptical that it is even possible,
> let alone wise, to *always* resist short term temptation.
> (Strange that evolution never stumbled on endowing some
> creature with only long term goals.)

Not that strange, since thinking in terms of long term goals requires a
comparatively sophisticated mind, and that's hard enough to evolve as it

Now that we're beginning to get there there's no particular reason that
I can see to cling on to the old ways of seizing the moment even if we
know better. Except, of course, that it might feel good to our legacy
brainware (which may in some cases justify yielding to a short term
temptation if that is expected to pay off in increased productivity, of

> I liked Eliezer's discussion of "macho rationality" of
> Thu 6/6/2002 2:04 PM) though I'm not sure I understood
> all of it. I must point out that over-reliance on long
> term goals is (a) irrational (that's what over-reliance
> means) (b) assumes certain notions of identity.
> (For the latter point, recall those people who claim not
> to be the same person from day to day, or from year to
> year: for them, sacrificing for the long haul is stupid.)

Your conclusion seems to be based on the unmentioned assumption
that the value system of a person should necessarily revolve around ver
current identity, stable or not. For example, consider a value system
where one's current self is not inherently more valuable than the
possible future entities calling themselves by the same name, or than a
random entity of the same complexity level at this time or the future.
Thus it is entirely rational to sacrifice one's wellbeing if it is
expected that a being with another identity, be it in some sense the
continuation of the same being or not, will benefit in a greater amount.

Personally I do tend to view my identity as transitory, and hold a
conscious value system based on the ideas outlined above. (My
subconscious value system tends to have some small gripes about that,
though, manifesting mostly as purported subgoals of the above - ie. "you
need to have some fun now if you're going to get anything reasonably
sane done today/this week/ever". Luckily my suboptimal and partly
irrational mental architecture isn't the issue here.)

Mikko Rauhala - mjr@iki.fi - <URL:http://www.iki.fi/mjr/>
              - WTA member - <URL:http://www.transhumanism.org/>

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