Re: What is morally/ethically Friendly?

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 17:13:26 MST

On Sunday, November 24, 2002, at 02:53 PM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

> MRA wrote:
>> However, if
>> there is a way to 'ask the universe the question' like: which of
>> these 38 options is the most Right? Then, wouldn't that be clear up
>> a lot of guessing? (This question is asked only half-rhetorically)
> I just asked the universe...
> Unfortunately, I couldn't understand the answer it gave me ;-)

This is not a correct understanding of Universal Morality. The
morality humans know intuitively comes from an evolutionary adaption.
If you look at any animal, it has certain limits on what it considers
acceptable behavior. A baby bird that acts strangely will get thrown
from the nest, or a wacky human will be outcast from the tribe. The
difference between humans and mice is that humans, unlike mice, can
look at their minds and see a pattern of thought called morality which
just refers to a set of mental processes that put limits on acceptable
behavior for the benefit of the organism's genes.

The human idea of morality can only describe good and bad from a goal
oriented perspective because human morals are limits that accomplish
the goal of better genetic reproduction and this shows through in human
understanding of morality. Look at Zoroastrism. God gives out moral
prescriptions with the goal of having people help the good spirits
fight the bad spirits, and if you fail you will, in the Last Judgment,
be cast into Hell, but if you succeed you will be in Heaven. The point
is, there's a goal involved: help the good spirits defeat the evil.
All moral systems used by humans are bound to goals.

Universal Morality is something different. It is not necessarily tied
to the reproductive success of genes. It is not a way to ask the
Universe if you should do something. If it exists, Universal Morality
is the set of limits on acceptable behavior of processes, both
accidental and nonaccidental, in the Universe. Further, it is not goal
oriented. Something is good or bad because that's how it is.

Of course, another possibility is that universes are differentially
reproducing or bound by some other BPT emergent force, in which case
morality might evolve or develop much as it did in humans, in which
case the idea of Universal Morality is fiction.

Also, don't confuse Universal Morality, the morality of a universe (not
"the morality used by a universe"), with a universal morality, or a
morality that exists in all nonaccidental processes.

Getting back to Friendly AI, if no morality exists on the universal
level, this is not a problem. The normative morality of all life in
the universe should suffice.

Gordon Worley                          "Man will become better when                 you show him what he is like."                                --Anton Chekhov
PGP:  0xBBD3B003

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