Re: ethics, joyous growth, etc.

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Mon Feb 02 2004 - 12:22:49 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> One distinction that seems to be missing in our recent discussions of
> ethics, is the distinction between:
> -- specific ethical rules (e.g. don't kill people, be nice to humans,
> don't eat the yellow snow, etc.)
> -- ethical systems (an ethical system contains a set of specific
> ethical rules, and also some procedures for generating new ethical
> rules to deal with new situations)
> -- abstract principles specifying what's desirable in the universe
> Jef Albright has proposed "growth" (in a very general sense --
> expansion of complexity... emergence of new patterns from old ...
> etc.)

I'm saying something a little more subtle than that, and I haven't yet done
the work necessary to make it clear regardless of audience background.

What I'm trying to convey is that the universe is about synergetic growth of
complexity at all levels of organization. What is "good" or "right" is
actually what *works*, at any particular level of organization. The best we
can do is understand the process and align with it at our own level. This
will feel "right" in most cases because life evolved with these same rules
and so a large portion of our human nature is congruent with these basic
principles. Some of it will not feel right to humans because humans do not
in fact hold any privileged position in the universe. Its similar to the
child who feels unhappy about being unable to do something, while the adult
sees the bigger picture but can't explain sufficiently.

Some parts that will feel right (expressed in human ethical terms) may
include the following:

"The distinction between Self and Other is to be respected." At a very
basic level, it's all about interaction between a system and its
environment. Both are important to life. Our evolved nature is that this
is a fundamental survival value.

"Growth is the way of all life and is good." Again a fundamental survival
value shared by all life. Just staying alive is growth.

"The greatest overall growth is achieved through cooperation" Synergy is
present at all levels of organization. Even competition at one level is
actually a form of cooperation a higher level. Again, at the human level,
there are strong evolved tendencies toward cooperation.

"The greatest overall growth is achieved through maximizing diversity" At a
human level, we value greater freedom as a basic good and we recognize its
practical benefits. This principle is in effect all levels of organization.

How's this for a start?

- Jef

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