Re: Defining Right and Wrong

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 17:12:11 MST

Billy Brown wrote:

>For an entity with perfect knowledge and infinite processing power, in a
>finite deterministic universe, perfect ethics would boil down to a fairly
>well-defined procedure:
Hmm. Better check this out with Computability Theory and existence in a
finite universe. Also consider some of the logical conundrums implied
by "perfect knowledge". There will never be an entity with "perfect
knowledge" and "infinite processing power". So why base an argument on
such even as a useful model. Models containing logial contradictions
are not generally useful except to prove the model is faulty.

>1) Determine every possible set of actions that could be taken between the
>present and the end of the universe. Create a model of the entire universe
>corresponding to each set of actions.
And this model is expected to fit in an entity within said universe?
 Does the modelling itself impinge on the universe?

>2) For each of these hypothetical futures, pick out the life history of
>every entity capable of having subjective experiences. Then determine the
>desireability of that hypothetical future by the subjective standards of
>each of these entities.
>3) Pick the hypothetical future with the highest net desireablility, and
>take the actions that lead to it becoming reality.
Are we to assume this computation halts at all much less that it halts
before the found ideal action is actually no longer relevant?

>Granted, there are some problems with this approach (for example, how do you
>weigh the preferences of goldfish, bald eagles, humans, and transhuman
>entities against each other?), but from this perspective they seem more like
>practical engineering challenges that fundamental imponderables.
That is a simple problem comparied to the absurdities the model assumes.

>Now, this omniscient super-thinker is obviously impractical, but we can view
It is not "impractical". It is logically impossible.

>real ethical systems as attempts to approximate its performance in the real
Using an impossible model that cannot perform at all by design? This is

>In principle this gives us an objective way to compare competing
>ethical systems: feed them data, apply their recommendations, and see how
>well they work out. In practice it is very hard for humans to do that in
>normal social situations, but that doesn't invalidate the principle. It just
>means that putting ethics on an objective footing would require the
>invention of a new experimental method capable of generating good data
>(perhaps you could experiment on AI-based society models, for example).
In principle this accomplishes nothing except to construct an impossible
and logically inconsistent mindgame. It is a form of Utilitrarianism
blown up to super-Universe porportions thus illustrating its absurdity.
 It obviously begs the question of what is desirable and what is the
relationship between subjective appraisal and reality (if any). In
short it begs the question of what constitutes the "good" and
substitutes universal subjective hedonism for an answer.

- samantha

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