Re: ethics, joyous growth, etc.

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Mon Feb 02 2004 - 14:09:42 MST

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> These seem like principles about how growth is to be attained -- in
> other words they're guidelines about how to achieve growth, i.e.
> guidelines about which ethical systems are likely to be harmonious
> with the Principle of Joyous Growth.
> Perhaps "Preserving Self/Other distinctions in the universe" can also
> be interpreted in this light... if one believes that preserving
> self/other distinctions promotes both general growth and general
> positive experience
> In that case, your statements form a kind of intermediate layer,
> between the Principle of Joyous Growth and specific ethical systems.
> They are high-level guidelines for forming ethical systems, but not
> quite as high-level as the Principle itself.
> -- Ben G

I suppose it's time for me to weigh in on the "positive qualia" concept.

It seems to me that experiencing a good feeling is just nature's way of
providing feedback for an evolved state that has improved ancestral fitness.
For any particular instance, it may actually be productive or
counter-productive, despite how good it feels. If we try to base an
ethical theory on having "positive qualia" we immediately run into trouble
because we will soon have the technical capability to directly create any
level of bliss we might choose, completely bypassing any external feedback
loop, and it is therefore of no substantial value to the system. In my
opinion this is one of those subtle and perennial topics that is based on
being a little too locked into the Cartesian viewpoint.

Given that kind of technology, my near-term choice would be to eliminate the
kinds of feelings that impair performance, and utilize a gradient of
"positive feelings" as motivators.

While qualia are certainly an important part of the subjective context of
today's more evolved biological organisms, I don't think qualia played any
role in primitive organisms, unless one distorts the meaning of "qualia" in
a kind of philosophically panpsychic way that would violate the intuitive
way people mean it "because they know their own qualia better than they know
anything else". Looking ahead to more advanced organisms, I think it will
be considered an out-moded concept, although perhaps optional. It's just a
good trick that works at this phase of evolution.

In my opinion, Qualia is one of those subtle concepts that evaporates (mu)
when viewed in a larger context, and is not needed as a fundamental
principle of this broad ethical system but it does play a role at the useful
context level of dealing with humans and other animals that have subjective

- Jef

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