Re: Ethical theories

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 18:11:41 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
>> It seems to me that the ultimate measure of an ethical system is
>> consistency.
> But Jef, isn't the ethical system "Value only Ben, and the hell with
> everyone else?" perfectly consistent?
> Yet I don't think this is a good ethical system...
> Perhaps I don't fully grok what you mean by "consistency" ?

I think the missing piece here is "increasing consistency with *increasing


Now, at the risk of creating confusion where you may have been satisfied
with the above, I will try to provide a bigger picture.

I suspect that the axioms of such a natural ethical system may be (very
roughly) something like this:

I. Definition of "Self" and "Other".
II. Maximize growth (complexity) of Self (this is limited by energy into
the system, and some function of the interface between self and other.)
III. Maximize diversity (this is recursive, since it means more ways to
maximize growth)
... Others?

Cooperation derives from II and III working to maximize the growth of Self.

A lot of work is needed on the above, but I think it's headed in the right
direction because it seems to roughly model what we see in nature as systems
(Selves) act to dissipate energy while increasing the complexity of the
local system and maximizing the entropy of the universe.

Back to your question:

On a very fundamental level, Ben is the result of a long evolutionary
process that follows these natural laws, and if for some reason Ben turns
out to be a defective component, the overall process will still continue.
In that sense, he can't refuse to interact with Other. Or from another
viewpoint he can, but it will make absolutely no difference because the
process goes on. His cells, his bodily organs, the ecology in which he
lives are all following natural laws based on the axioms above, or similar.

On a human context level, Ben can choose to behave as "to hell with everyone
else and value only Ben" but his experience will be that it isn't very
effective or satisfying. Why? Because he exists as part of that long
evolutionary process and at the level of human relations he will simply be
an anomaly that will die out.

The point of this ethical system is that we are already immersed in it, and
by learning and practicing it we will experience greater effectiveness
dealing with situations involving this class of complex interactions between
Self and Other at various scales. Just as Shannon's information theory led
to improved communication systems, systems that wouldn't even be possible
without understanding and then utilizing natural law in the design.

Your thoughts?

- Jef

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