Re: Collapsarity

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Mar 25 2003 - 23:29:28 MST

Paul Hughes wrote:
> I apologize if I entirely excluded any outwards percolation, it was not
> my intention, only one of many possible explanations to the Fermi
> Paradox. If I understand Eli correctly, I agree with him on the
> possibility, one which I think is even more likely, that our
> civilization was rescued from SLOW-TIME PHYSICAL UNIVERSE long ago, and
> most if not all of our history has taken place in the blink of an eye
> in that universe.

That is not "rescue". That is the same tragedies on fast-forward. It
would not seem to be helpful in any way. wrote:
> I'm hesitant to be so terse about this, but it has always been my
> expectation that perhaps there already has been a singularity
> somewhere/when else and its results are simply beyond our comprehension
> such that any moral questions we have for it are resolved quickly and
> easily for an omniscient being (like a universe-encompassing
> post-singularity mind) but not at all for us.

There is a very simple test that can detect a Friendly SI in your
vicinity. Hold out your hand and say: "I want a banana." If you don't
get a banana, there are no Friendly SIs capable of helping you. Note that
you should be careful not to conduct this test in the presence of a human
altruist if there is a banana nearby, as the "banana test" will then
produce a false positive.

There is a vast amount of rationalized literature attempting to defend
various religions from the obvious and perfectly straightforward
conclusion that any moral God would intervene to stop the tragedies of our
world. These speculations percolate into the consciousness of many
vaguely spiritual people and predispose them to rationalize elaborate
reasons for a Friendly SI allowing medieval torture chambers, or for that
matter modern torture chambers. I think such explanations are simply
bull; they are blatantly rationalized, blatantly inconsistent arguments
concocted to explain an assumption which is simply false. No, it is *not*
moral for a Friendly SI, or any kind of moral God, to let people suffer
and die. There simply aren't any Friendly SIs here, and we have
absolutely no legitimate reason to dream up these elaborate explanations
for why suffering is good.

Furthermore I think such explanations are harmful to the moral growth of
those who embrace them, despite the good intentions of the rationalizers.
  No, it is not moral to let people suffer and die. And you should not
start dreaming up reasons why it is, or you'll end up twisting yourself
into less than you could be. Letting people suffer is wrong, and if you
start rationalizing arguments into your moral system to make it okay,
you'll end up with a warped morality. You have no *reason* to start
inventing reasons why suffering is good, and every reason to oppose
suffering wherever you find it. And if you find yourself tempted to
construct vague excuses, I suggest you find some nice photos of dead
children in the latest world conflict (there's always one somewhere), and
look at those photos while you think; you may find that it helps you to
clear your mind.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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