Re: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 20:58:41 MDT

At 11:50 PM 20/05/04 -0700, you wrote:
>Samantha wrote:
> >>
> >> What does logic or your feelings have to do with it?
> >> We are fast developing the ability to reprogram
> >> ourselves.
> >>
>Then you replied:
> >
> > Without the utmost caution, that way lies oblivion.
> >
>Gee, Keith, are you playing the harbinger of doom? I am eagerly looking
>forward to reprogramming some of the counterproductive goals/desires in my
>own mind... for a trivial example: my desire to consume large quantities of
>bacon, cheese, chocolate and wine. Why would 'dialing down' my hunger for
>fat, sugar and drugs lead me to doom?
> >
> > You really should read Minsky's society of mind
> > on this topic. Being able to change your deepest
> > desires on a whim is not a power to be used lightly.
> >
>I can't say I'm a Minsky fan, but I have read his stuff. Which essay or
>essays are you referring to?

6.13 in Society of Mind.

"If we could deliberately seize control of our pleasure systems, we could
reproduce the pleasure of success without the need for any actual
accomplishment. And that would be the end of everything."

My comments (in 1989) were:

     "Another problem is how to improve ourselves without getting
completely lost.
Today the mental modules at the root of our personalities change slowly if at
all. When our deepest desires can be quickly modified with trivial effort, how
much of us will survive? The results of modifying ourselves could be as tragic
as being modified by others.* This and nanotechnology based "super dope" that
make everyone happy but without ambition (or even the desire to eat) are among
the subtle dangers we face. It is time for those of us who are concerned about
our futures to start thinking about these problems."
Marvin Minsky has a good deal to say about these problems in
Society of Mind.

> >
> >> It sometimes seems to me that even SL4 folks
> >> aren't fully cognizant of the degree of
> >> incredible pending freedom.
> >
> > And after you have removed your basic drives just
> > what are you going to do with that "freedom"?
> >
>This is a straw man, Keith. You bought up 'removal of basic drives'.

No, you did, or at least you did if you consider eating a basic drive.

>that doesn't strike me as a thing to do lightly either, but nobody here
>suggested taking such steps "lightly". In passing I would note that we
>already do substantial modification of our basic drives through a myriad of
>drugs. There are drugs to increase or decrease appetite, drugs to prevent
>or encourage sleep, drugs to reduce pain, drugs to prevent nausea... and on
>and on. Reprogramming would have far fewer side effects, and probably cost
>less once the basic brain modifying infrastructure is in place to do it.
>But this is SL3 territory.
> >
> > As I put it on another thread:
> >
> > "It is a dire and depressing business to realize
> > that genes optimized in the stone age to cope
> > with periodic privation of hunter gatherers are
> > now pulling strings attached to nukes."
> >
>Depressing? Well maybe, if the genes started letting nukes fly. So far
>they haven't - much. But aren't you arguing both sides of the issue now?
>Surely it would be preferable to adjust the gene-spun human brains to better
>handle the existential risks they have built for themselves, n'est-il pas?

The problem is that I have recently been thinking about the evolved
psychological traits that cause groups of hominids to make war on each
other. Try "xenophobic memes" in Google to see where it led.

Keith Henson

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