Re: The Future of Human Evolution

From: David Picon Alvarez (
Date: Mon Sep 27 2004 - 08:44:57 MDT

It is my belief that you take evolutionary psychology far too seriously.
I will try to explain:

> Problem is that what humans "actually want" has been shaped by Stone Age
> evolution. What they want varies depending on external conditions, not
> just the obvious ones like heat when it is cold, but humans "actually
> to make war on neighbors when they have either been attacked *or* have
> become convinced that they face "looming privation" (for lack of a better
> word) due to their perception of falling income per capita.

This is not quite the case. Humans have a tendency to do this, possibly due
to evolution success of the behaviour. However, within the conscious sphere
of individuals, if you ask "do you want to make war on your neighbours
whenever you're in an economic crises?" the answer will, in the vast
majority of cases, be negative. In fact, as politics is conducted more and
more on the basis of rational discourse instead of by authority of a few,
the conscious sphere of the individual becomes more important in relation to
the hard-wired condition-action reflexes you speak of, and wars become,
where civilization makes politics public, if not inconceivable, at least
unfrequent. Example: would you imagine Germany declaring war on its
neighbours in the near future because its economy is in bad shape?

> Of course you could specify that the AI should only figure out what
> unstressed humans want. The problem with that is that they "actually
> things (like children) that set up the conditions that lead to lead to
> stress and eventually wars.

Well, wars are not so much a matter of population excess, but a matter of
resource growth being insufficient to support population growth with a
relatively even standard of living. A post-singularity world will, most
likely, not suffer of decline in standard of living due to population

> And they "actually want" their minds not to be messed with, which makes it
> hard to edit out either traits leading to wars or children.

These traits do exist, but I believe what Eliezer refers to (and I may be
mistaken) when he says "to want" is not the behaviourist idea of "that which
a given agent seeks by its actions", but "that which an agent expresses to
want". So, again: in the conscious sphere of the individual, many of these
problems are far less important. As for messing with people's minds, people
do acknowledge that messing with their minds may be in their own interest,
thus education and psychological/psychiatric therapy.


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