Ethics of the cosmos??

From: Philip Sutton (
Date: Fri Mar 05 2004 - 08:55:57 MST

I think it would be good to explore the issue of whether there are ethics
in the cosmos (that should be conformed to) a bit further.

Quite a few people on the list have been happy to dismiss the
existance of a god (or gods!), but have moved straight on to suggest
that there is an intrinsic ethic in the cosmos AND that we should try to
conform with it. I must say this has a feeling to me of "the king is dead,
long live the king".

Even if we adopted the idea that the cosmos is like a super
computation (welcome to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!) and
that this system has a goal and that a goal system is a sort of ethical
system (if things are abstracted to the limit)...this notion doesn't take
account of the fact that *we* are *in the middle of the computation* and
that the computation is not finished and we haven't got the foggiest
idea of where it's going to end up over the next few billion years across
billions of galaxy clusters, with billions of galaxies with billions of stars

If the universal computation is still in process then all we can claim to
have a glimpse of is an extrapolation of where we think we are now.
Once you throw sentients and later super-intellgences into the mix the
dynamics of the universal computation *must* change.

If someone could stand outside time and space and look at our
universe they might be able to say something about it's end state
(assuming there is one) but we are in the belly of the beast and we
can't do that.

For us and any other sentients all we can do is shape our lives
according to what we think is a worthwhile thing to do. No matter what
the universal computation looks like to an external observer free from
space and time, for us it will look like evolution where every moment
we and all the other constitutuent elelments of the universe shape our
future (and the unfolding universe) by the choices we make.

If we all decided that Ben was right and that "voluntary joyous growth"
is what we (and all/most of the other sentients across the universe!)
should go for then that's the sort of universe that we will evolve (at least
for a while). If a lot of other (effective/powerful) sentients decide that
some other ethical structure or goal structure is what should be aimed
for then some other future state of the universe will unfold (at least for
a time).

So to my mind the issue is not to second-guess our ethics or morality
from what we divine in the entrails of the universe but to make
decisions based on what we think would create a better universe from
where we stand now. In other words I think our challenge is not to try to
guess what the universe wants or demands and then try to conform to
that (or be forced to conform to some actual sentients view of what they
think the universe is telling them) but to engage in an act of invention
or creation (bounded by by practicalities dictated by our present

And for me when I do that, I feel attracted by the possibilities of a world
with compassion and respect for others that Samantha has talked about
and also a world with curiosity and delight in the unfolding of
complexity that Ben has talked about. And it seems to me that we
could pursue both these goals simultaneously.

But the reality is that not everyone will agree with my preferred goal set
or anyone else's goal set for that matter - in its entirety. However, my
guess is that most sentients, if asked would like to be treated with
respect and to have a say in shaping their future and so for as long as
there is still freedom of choice this ethic is likely to emerge as a partial
or near consensus from most groups of sentients.

After that, I reckon it's up to everyone to find enough kindred spirits to
create the other charaterisitics of the universe that they desire. So I
would imagine a whole bunch of "voluntary joyous growthists"
beavering away creating that in the universe and there will be a bunch
of "nostalgists" working away at keeping things going from the past into
the future, and other groups, and yet more groups of sentients doing all
kinds of stuff under a zillion different goal structures. And should Ben
live forever he'll find his joyous growth *emerging* from the diverse
interplay of zillions of sentients persuing zillions of goal structures - but
in the main NOT arising because these sentients consciously pursued
"voluntary joyous growth" as Ben has formulated the goal.

Cheers, Philip

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