What does volition mean? And why might the meaning matter?

From: Philip Sutton (Philip.Sutton@green-innovations.asn.au)
Date: Tue Jun 15 2004 - 08:18:46 MDT

The act or an instance of making a conscious choice or decision, the
exercising of one's will
A conscious choice or decision.
The power or faculty of choosing; the will.

If some entity works out what I should do and then it makes it happen,
then this is not me 'exercising my will'. It is not *my* volition that is

To talk about a super powerful AI being driven by the collective volition of
humans - where the expression of the original human will is radically
transformed by the AI, into a form that the humans supposedly
represented might not be prepared to own if they were offered the choice,
is not collective volition. It is in the fact *denial* of collective volition.

It's a bit scary to think that a 'F'AI might change the world/universe against
our will and say that it was enacting our collective volition. But this type of
inversion of language is common in dictatorships. Which is why George
Orwell's Ministry of Peace was so funny/not funny.

Instead of using the term 'collective volition', it might communicate the
intention more accurately to call it something like: "AI morality transformed
from an extract of human morality". (I know, it's not a very sexy term!

I think the best way to work with human volition is to feed insights from
FAI back into the actual real human community and for those humans to
exercise their volition by taking on or not the externally provided insight. If
an FAI is massively intelligent and technologically powerful my guess is
that it could be *very* effective as an educational force without needing to
dictate to human society.

(If coercion is to be applied to particular humans to stop them being
destructive then I think the wider human society needs to sanction that

If we see FAI as an educator (rather than a coercer), then it's worth
thinking about how people learn best. One really powerful way is learning
by doing (and reflecting on learning while doing). If FAIs wanted to
maximise their educational effect they could do this by working with
humans on all sorts of things that humans do.

Cheers, Philip

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:47 MDT