Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Perry E. Metzger (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 23:46:42 MST

Tommy McCabe <> writes:
>> 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.
> This is an artifact of 1), needing food to survive,
> 2), the limitations of our digestive system,

You don't need to eat animals to survive. You can live on a vegan diet
very well -- in fact, the objective evidence is that it is far more
healthy than an animal protein based diet. It is, of course, far
cheaper to live on a vegan diet, and uses fewer resources, so if one
is poor it is pretty much the sort of diet one lives on -- meat eating
is what the rich do, not what the poor do to survive.

Even if we needed to eat animals to survive, which we don't, it would
be unnecessary to intentionally torture baby cows to produce more
tasty veal, or to torture geese to produce tasty goose livers.

Why do we torture animals to produce tastier food? Because they can't
fight back and we like tasty food. Is this moral or immoral? I unask
the question -- it is meaningless.

> and #0, Drawinian evolution, none of which applies to AIs.

I don't know about this Drawin fellow, but you can as easily abandon
Darwin as you can abandon Einstein.

>> 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.
> If you want to start a separate thread on objective vs. subjective
> morality, please do. Underline separate thread.

I see no reason to do so -- the threads are identical. Without an
objective morality, you can't determine whether or not it is wrong to
allow someone to torture a calf in order to make it tastier to
eat, so a Friendly AI can't try to go off and enforce one or the other
behavior. Sadly, no objective morality exists, so it isn't possible to
program the "Friendly" AI to be perfect in its "Friendliness".

>> 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.)
> Aha, so you agree that morality is at least partly objective.

No. I simply believe the question of whether or not geese or cats
experience pain is objective -- they exhibit pain responses.

By the way, I don't see any experiment that would tell us that it is
wrong to torture you (yes, you!) in order to turn your liver into
tasty meat, either. As it happens, I wouldn't do it because my
personal behavior code doesn't go for that sort of thing -- but I
can't see any objective way to determine that it is wrong.

What I'm getting at, of course, is that we can't even settle a very
simple question about whether or not it is okay to kill animals, and
claims are being made that an absolute moral code can be derived
suitable for loading into a substitute for God, God having
conveniently failed to exist on his own.

>> > 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".
> Cheetahs and antelopes aren't sentient (that's another
> discussion entirely) aren't sentient and therefore
> can't negotiatie, at least not in the way humans do.

Humans rarely negotiate with tuna before turning them into very tasty

Perry E. Metzger

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