Re: The ethics of argument (was: AGI funding)

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Sun Nov 10 2002 - 18:06:26 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:

>Eliezer wrote:
>>>Is it immoral to tell Y X2 rather than X1, in order to convince them?
>>At the very least it's damn risky, and I'd take the coward's way out
>In my example, let's take X = "AGI research should be funded liberally,
>X1 = "AGI research should be funded liberally because of strong
>Singularitarian arguments"
>X2 = "AGI research should be funded liberally because of watered-down
>Singularitarian arguments."
>Let Y = "Institutions and people with a lot of money"
>I understand that there are risks attached to convincing Y of X via X2
>rather than X1
>The problem is that there are also large risks attached to not convincing Y
>of X at all.
>The human race may well destroy itself prior to launching the Singularity,
>if Singularity-ward R&D does not progress fast enough.
>The balancing of these risks is not very easy.
>Taking the coward's way out regarding the risks of PR, could have
>dramatically terrible consequences regarding the risks of some nutcase (or
>group thereof) finally getting bioterrorism to work effectively....
>- Ben G
I almost think that makes sense.

X1 implies X2, and
X2 contained in X1 (sorry to change parts of speech, but that's what I
saw your argument doing), and

Then X1, and
Therefore it is moral to convince people of X1.

Is this what you were asserting? It looks plausible to me. The problem
lies in the statement of the problem. You are asserting that the set of
conditions X2 are a subset of the set of conditions X1, and that X2 is
the expected outcome. This implies that X1 has a probability at least
as high of being achieved. Still....

When I look at it formally, it looks reasonable. When I think over
possible arguments, it becomes less so. This seems moral to me only if
you tell them that you are giving them a projection that seems
conservative to you, and if you ask them about your wilder expectations,
then admit them. (Probably with a disclaimer that "I didn't want to
scare you off by coming across as a flake.")

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