Re[2]: Complexity, Ethics, Esthetics (was re: Defining Right and Wrong)

From: Cliff Stabbert (
Date: Tue Dec 03 2002 - 20:59:32 MST

Tuesday, December 3, 2002, 1:46:23 PM, Samantha Atkins wrote:

>> Ultimately, it feels more Right to me for sentience to be oriented
>> towards the complexity found "outside" itself, i.e. to embrace the
>> Unknown, rather than to navelgaze. Facing challenges and hardship,
>> assimilating more of the Universe's complexity, seems ethically on a
>> higher plane than "just" refraining from hurting other sentients. (I
>> put "outside" in scare quotes because there is much of the Unknown
>> inside ourselves as well -- generally the scarier, darker, more
>> difficult stuff). Increasing intelligence.

SA> All the above said though, I have no right to choose for anyone
SA> else. If they want the equivalent to being a wirehead then they
SA> must have room to choose that although not to bind others to
SA> supporting their decision directly.

But here, we get into the subtle details (where mr. S. is known to
hang out) of how one determines what an entity wants. If you're a
parent, you know that ultimately your child's happiness is better
served by a healthy diet than always giving in to the child's
*proclaimed* desire -- for McDonald's and candy, say (I am
conveniently sidestepping media saturation influence here, which does
play a big role).

To what extent will / should an entity far more intelligent than us
take on a parent role? To what extent or in which cases will / should
ve decide that we'll ultimately be more deeply satisfied taking the
slightly more difficult path? Should it just rely on reported

A tangentially related issue:

SA> Not to mention that the above is massively boring. You would
SA> have to remove part of human intelligence to have many people
SA> "happy" with simply continuous pleasure. Pleasure is also quite
SA> relative for us. Too much of a "good thing" results in the
SA> devaluation of that pleasure and even eventual repugnance.

What if you could devise an "optimal path" -- the best rythm of
alternating ups and downs, challenges and rewards -- is that something
a superintelligence should guide us along, or would that be _less than
optimally rewarding_ because we hadn't chosen that path completely
independently? This boils down to the same ethical issues, in a sense,
discussed earlier in this thread re: uploading / changing somebody so
they want to upload / giving somebody full, convincing memories of the
whole life experience they went through that ended up with them
wanting to upload.

I'm not trying to make a point here, these are honest questions.

>> To take a different stab at this than ethics, one can judge answers to
>> "What is the Meaning of Life?" esthetically. E.g., "it's all just
>> random coincidence" is ugly and nihilistic; "it's so that God could
>> judge you and reward/punish you for Eternity" seems trite and
>> simplistic; "to become more and more aware of everything around you,
>> to get to know things Deeply, until even the most ugly thing to you
>> becomes beautiful and the most hated thing loved" seems a step up from
>> that. Although still trite when put in those terms...
SA> Ethics is generally considered more philosophically fundamental
SA> than aesthetics. So using the latter to formulate and justify
SA> the former is not very workable.

Except maybe to point out that the notion of "objective ethics" is at
least as difficult as the notion of "objective aesthetics". Somehow we
have to reconcile the notion that "it's all subjective" with the
notion that it's not _all_ _just_ subjective, that some things _are_,
dammit, better/more artful than others. To tie this in with your
earlier statement, perhaps the ethical as well as the aesthetical is
that which increases your intelligence and / or the opportunities for
actualizing its potential...words such as "uplifting" are often
applied in such contexts.


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