RE: continuity of self

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Sep 17 2002 - 14:38:18 MDT

> Ben Goertzel wrote:
> >
> > Let's not get into one of *those* squabbles again!!
> And, once again, your use of the phrase "one of *those* squabbles"
> indicates a view of morality, and of what issues are important within
> morality, that differs very strongly from mine (this is an Eliezer code
> phrase for "contains gaping logical flaws"), along with a very different
> idea of what is socially acceptable and what constitutes a "squabble".

Well, what I meant was, let's not get into one of those long e-mail
arguments in which we both talk past each other at great length without
really affecting one anothers' understanding significantly...

> In
> my view, the phrase "your idea contains a gaping logical flaw" is
> constructive, useful, and helpful, while the phrase "your outlook is very
> different from mine" is useless

In my view, each of these phrases may be useful in appropriate contexts...

I think that tolerance IS a virtue, and that tolerance is especially useful
in domains where available evidence is weak.

I categorize the Singularity as a domain where available evidence is weak.

If you think the Singularity is NOT a domain where available evidence is
weak, then your thinking contains a gaping logical flaw ;-> Unless you have
an additional un-admitted source of evidence, e.g. from an alien
civilization who's been through their own Singularity...

> > 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
> > American!
> Ben, you would be a better person if you deleted the word "different" from
> your vocabulary and spent one month using only "better" and "worse". Not
> a different person. A *better* person.

OK, fine, if it'll make you happy: You have an outlook that in my opinion is
worse than mine. ;)

The fact is, I'm a pretty judgmental person, in reality. It's odd that I
don't come across that way in e-mail! But then, this list is an unusual
social context...

I think most people walk around with their heads full of a lot of nonsense
that society and culture have hammered into their heads, and I'm certainly
not afraid to tell people so when appropriate.... This is why I was
expelled from Hebrew school at age 5, due to insistently and obnoxiously
championing the Big Bang and the theory of evolution by natural selection ;>

On THIS LIST, however, almost everyone is pretty smart and pretty
knowledgeable, and furthermore almost everyone has roughly the same
world-view as me. Most of the disagreements on this list happen not to be
of the sort where I think: "Now that person is totally full of crap! What
an idiot!" On this list, there mostly tend to be disagreements where I
think the other person's point of view is reasonable given the available
evidence, even though it's different from mine.

> Here, let me rephrase your question as it applies, say, 50,000 years ago:
> A) the way some people live: in a tribal savannah, with diseases, wolves,
> in total ignorance, a life of constant hardship and danger and worst of
> all politics, with no air conditioning, penicillin, CD players, Internet
> access, or the prospect of actually living through the Singularity, plus
> they don't have any good fruit trees;
> B) the way some other people live: in a tribal savannah, with diseases,
> wolves, in total ignorance, a life of constant hardship and danger and
> worst of all politics, with no air conditioning, penicillin, CD players,
> Internet access, or the prospect of actually living through the
> Singularity; *but* they have some good fruit trees nearby, unlike the poor
> saps who live across the river

I don't know enough about life 50,000 years ago to assess how big the
differences were.

I can guess, however, that some folks had it a LOT better than others due to
superiority of geographical location.

> >> 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.
> The 100-years-in-the-future perspective is the correct one; it is vastly
> more intelligent than our own. (Note: Perspectives can be "correct" or
> "incorrect".)

It's true that perspectives can involve more or less distortion of reality.
For instance, viewing women or blacks as generally inferior to while males
is a badly incorrect perspective that was nonetheless widely held.

However, I don't see how either of the two perspectives I proposed are
either correct or incorrect. They are simply *different*.

> > 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.
> I don't trivialize human suffering. But if you mean that I have no
> compunctions about seeking out irrationalities in the
> contemporary view of
> human suffering, you are absolutely correct. The human view of orbital
> mechanics is wrong. Why would the human view of human suffering *not* be
> wrong?

Well, suffering is something we have extremely direct perceptual access to,
whereas orbital mechanics is something we inferred for centuries based on
very sketchy evidence. So the two cases are not all that comparable.

I agree that people often misunderstand the reasons for their suffering,

> This more technical phrase does neatly
> explain the
> irrational diversion of attention to certain particular kinds of
> suffering; they are stimuli that grab brainware because they are
> ancestrally relevant. That's all.

I do not think it is irrational to pay some attention to things like
starvation, children getting their limbs hacked off by their beggar parents,

The timing and nature of the Singularity are not sufficiently certain to
merit exclusive focus on the Singularity by all able human beings, to the
exclusion of considering shorter-term means of solving problems and
alleviating suffering.

However, I do think that a lot MORE resources should be focused on
Singularity-ward efforts, than is currently the case.

-- Ben G

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