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

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Dec 04 2002 - 03:23:46 MST

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

> 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).

I was not speaking of children and I don't think a metaphor of
human adults as children relative to a FAI is at all
appropriate. A FAI worth its salt will know that Friendliness
relative to humans requires persuasion in non-coercive human

> 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
> desires?

I don't believe that infantilizing adult humans can be
considered Friendly. However, absolutely restricting the
ability to physically coerce another human is not making all
humans children. It is merely perfectly (ok, as much as
possible) implementing a global rule against the initiation of

Desires as such have very little to do with friendliness or

> ======
> 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?

What if we stop thinking up rather low grade "solutions" and
think about higher level ones and how those may be made most
likely? Human actualization is not about getting the most
pleasure jollies.

>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.

Such would be coercion and coercion of the very brain/mind to
boot. It would be strictly unethical. No free being would ever
trust a system that would allow itself such a path. It is too
easy in such a system to end up as a drone.

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

You don't seem to be particularly headed toward resolution
though. :-)

>>>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".

That is not a meaningful observation in this context.

> 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.

It is impossible to reconcile opposites. It is not all just
subjective so why should I reconcile what is to that spurious idea?

> 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.

Perhaps a shorter statement would be that the Good is that which
actualizes the life/existence of the sentient beings involved.
The "Good" applies both to judging/providing a partial basis for
Ethics and Aesthetics.

- samantha

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