Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 20:16:43 MST

On Fri, 02 Jan 2004 17:06:29 -0500
"Perry E. Metzger" <> wrote:

> Lawrence Foard <> writes:
> > On Fri, 2 Jan 2004, Perry E. Metzger wrote:
> >
> > [...]
> >
> >> So what sort of strategies does evolution favor? Quite a number of
> >> them, actually, but none of them can be characterized as "pacifist".
> >
> > Not pacifist, but also not unreasoningly or overly aggressive.
> If you think ours is not an extraordinarily vicious and aggressive
> race, I direct you to the nearest factory farm or slaughterhouse. Most
> people are fully aware of where their food comes from, and yet we (in
> general) have very little compunction about continuing to eat it.

HHow the race on average is and what one's own choices are now and on the other side of a Singularity are very different things. For a time I was vegan. It seemed moral and reasonable on multiple levels. Then I decided to add back in at least some animal protein (mostly seafood) as I seemed a bit sharper and more focused. Eventually I got to today where I limit intake of most meats but am not as adverse to them. Some of the premises of my earlier valuation changed. In other places, like most humans, it was to be honest simply more convenient to not buck the tide. Does that mean I am vicious and agressive? No, I don't think so.

> By the way, I will repeat a contention I've made pretty frequently,
> with a new example. There are people out there that say "meat is
> murder". There are people who enjoy a good steak. Which of them is
> "morally correct"? What is the experiment we can conduct that will
> answer this question? I contend there is none, and that there is no
> answer because absolute morality is an illusion.

The form of the quesiton is probably too imprecise to be answerable.
> > Aggression tends to bring self defense,
> Our race intelligently tends to stop being vicious only when self
> defense is likely (as in when dealing with other humans) and tends to
> be pretty brutal when dealing with life forms unable to defend
> themselves effectively. Baboons can be pretty nasty creatures, but as
> we've got the cages and they don't, guess who is used in who's vaccine
> experiments?

Well, I could say "speak for yourself!" I personally am not brutal excepting with those who can defend themselves and most people I have ever met aren't either. We are a bit removed from raw primate behavior and our acheivement of transhumanity requires us to become even more removed from those roots. Otherwise I would have no interest in the entire enterprise. Super-powerful baboons are not my idea of a good time or soemthing I would want to have a hand in brining into being.
> That's not to say, by the way, that I draw any sort of absolute
> morality under which gluing the feet of geese to the bottoms of cages
> and force feeding them to make their livers particularly tasty is
> "evil". I don't believe there is an absolute morality, so I'm not
> going to pretend that it is somehow "wrong" to turn geese into foie
> gras. However, you would be pretty much incorrect if you thought the
> geese weren't pissed off about the process -- it is very obvious that
> they're miserable. (One might argue if animals can suffer, but the
> arguments used to claim they can't could just as easily be applied to
> other people -- I'm going to stipulate that if a cat screams in pain
> when you stick it with a hot iron that it is in fact suffering.)

There is no argument about the obvious fact that most animals can suffer. Having heard how foie gras is achieved I most certainly will not eat it. By my standards it is wrong.
> > You will often see that predators have evolved strategies to
> > avoid actual aggression, instead resolving disputes with a proxy aggression
> > to assert dominance and territory.
> *With each other*, since two members of the same species have nearly
> the same capacity for violence. It is rare that you will see
> cheetahs negotiating with herds of antelope to try to non-violently
> settle their "disputes".

Fortunately we have a much greater intelligence and ability to find other ways of being with one another than cheetahs do.
> Evolution is not, however, free of aggression even within species. I
> would direct you to the latest data on the behavior of our nearest
> relatives, the chimps and bonobos. They're pretty nasty when they feel
> they can get away with it -- as, by the way, are people. It is just
> that most creatures have evolved not to get into fights they will lose
> if they can help it, and thus there are fairly few intra-species
> combats compared to inter-species ones.

I happen to know many people who most certainly are not pretty nasty when they feel they can get away with it. So how do they come to be? And how do we get more of them?

- samantha

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