RE: continuity of self

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Sep 17 2002 - 12:13:31 MDT

> Ben Goertzel wrote:
> >
> >> Also under the "historical perspective" department, the most
> >> important forms of poverty are not monetary poverty but intelligence
> >> poverty, lifespan poverty, and the lack of other resources which are
> >> currently so hard to obtain that people tend not to think of their
> >> absence as "poverty" but simply "the human condition".
> >>
> >> -- Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> >>
> >
> > These assessments are highly subjective.
> >
> > From the point of view of many people in the world, material poverty is
> > a much bigger problem than lifespan poverty or intelligence poverty.
> Immediately apparent subjective priorities according to hacked-up
> chimpanzee priority-assignment hardware are not always the same as
> rational priorities given the same goals.

That is true.

But it's also true that not everyone in the world shares the same goals.

The Singularity, if it goes off well, will satisfy MY goals very nicely (and
my goals include becoming so smart that most of my current goals seem really
silly & trivial to my future self)

On the other hand, many people on Earth have goals that would not be
fulfilled by the Singularity (for instance, living happily ever after in
Heaven above, due to having acted according to God's word...).

> Why is it, Ben, that you chide me for failing to appreciate
> diversity, yet
> you seem to have so much trouble accepting that this one person, Eliezer,
> could have an outlook that is really seriously different than your own,

Let's not get into one of *those* squabbles again!!

Don't worry, I fully accept that you have an outlook that is very different
from mine.

And each of us has an outlook very different from that of the average

> For that matter, I could also be tortured until I considered
> ending the pain to be the most important thing in the universe. So what?

Hmmm. Are you volunteering?? ;-D

> > While the human condition in itself is profoundly flawed, there is no
> > doubt that some humans live in vastly more flawed conditions than
> > others.
> "Vastly"? I think that word reflects your different perspective
> (at least
> one of us must be wrong) on the total variance within the human cluster
> versus the variance between the entire human cluster and a posthuman
> standard of living. I think that the most you could say is that some
> humans live in very slightly less flawed conditions than others. Maybe
> not even that.

Ok, let's compare

A) the way some people live: In a Bombay alleyway, with a couple of limbs
cut off by their parents in their early youth because limbless kids make
better beggars, eating trash off the street and with a gut full of diseases

B) The way I live at the moment -- in a nice house up in the mountains, with
a great family, doing work I really enjoy, surrounded by fun toys like
synthesizers, pianos, trampolines, etc.

I'm not wealthy by any means, at the moment I'm sorta financially
struggling, but I still say I'm living a lot better than the folks in case
A). I think "vastly better" is a fair description, and I think that the
folks in case A) would very likely agree if the question were posed to them.

To me, cross-species comparisons of "quality of life" or "quality of
experience" are hard to make meaningfully.

I'm confident saying that I live vastly better than the people in case A),
but NOT saying that I live vastly better than my dog, or even a stray dog,
or a worm....

Similarly, I find it hard to compare my life to that of a posthuman in a
rank-order sort of way. There's a big qualitative difference of experience
there, to be sure, just as between me and a dog or a worm...

> If I am a person of "great material privilege", by the way, I would very
> much like to have my own nanocomputer. What? I can't buy that? And
> neither can Bill Gates? Guess we're both poor.

Yes, you are both very poor materially relative to someone 100 years in the
future, and very rich materially compared to the above-mentioned beggar, who
has no possessions and must spend essentially all their time literally
grubbing around for food.

> > Of course, I agree with you that creating a superhuman AGI can be a
> > great way to end material poverty as well as to overcome the many
> > self-defeating characteristics of human nature.
> It's a way to rewrite almost every aspect of life as we know it. You can
> take all the force of that tremendous impact and try to turn it to pure
> light. You can even hypothesize that this tremendous impact,
> expressed as
> pure light, would have effects that include the ending of fleeting
> present-day problems like material poverty. But it is unwise in the
> extreme to imagine that the Singularity is a tool which can be channeled
> into things like "ending material poverty" because some computer
> programmer wants that specifically.

Yes, I agree.

But I am perplexed that, in your "different morality", you consider human
lives very valuable (so that you say a single human death is a terrible
thing which pains you and is morally unacceptable), yet you trivialize human
suffering as perceived by actual human beings. To me, this mix of attitudes
feels odd.

-- Ben G

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