RE: Rationality != egocentrism (RE: Books on rationality)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Jun 09 2002 - 17:32:42 MDT

Mikko Rauhala wrote

> 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
> course).

Yes, that seems quite valid. I cannot discount the possibility
that you raise that an ultra-rational program might subsist
entirely on its long term goals, only appearing from time to
time to be giving in to short term concerns. (In a tangential
way, I do, however, recommend goals to people derived programs
that would always obtain *some* reward in the present; but that's
off into goals of entities.)

> > 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 [who claims no long term
> identity] should necessarily revolve around ver current identity,
> stable or not.

Yes, good reminder. I was restricting myself to those entities
whose behavior is (by their own values) self-enhancing. As you

> 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 well-being if it is expected
> that a being with another identity, be it in some sense the con-
> tinuation of the same being or not, will benefit in a greater amount.

We agree that "calling [oneself] by the same name" is merely
terminological and shouldn't affect the discussion. But there
is obviously some friction here between your concept of a
being "with another identity" but which is a "continuation"
of the same being. But I still concede the validity of your
claim for beings who either strive for no long term identity
or for those who are uninterested in their present well-being.

> 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.)

That's cool to hold such a value system. I don't, and as a
matter of logical necessity, it seems that creatures and
institutions that do view identity as transitory are indeed
going to be transitory.

Lee Corbin

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