Re: Ethics (was Re: FAI (aka 'Reality Hacking'))

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2005 - 15:46:04 MST

--- Phil Goetz <> wrote:

> --- Thomas Buckner <>
> wrote:
> > Nothing a
> > spider can do is right or wrong, while an ant
> has
> > a clear role it must play in a successful
> colony.
> >
> > I'm not trying to equate people with ants,
> but I
> > guess I did anyway. And I'll stand by that
> > comparison insofar as I consider unethical
> > behavior to be wrong specifically because it
> is
> > bad for the hive.
> I like the point about the spider.
> A problem with comparing humans to ants is
> that,
> because of the fact that most ants are sterile,
> individual ants are not the unit of selection
> in evolution. When talking about
> ethics/morality,
> particularly when looking at how it relates
> to evolution, the "individual" should be a unit
> of selection. This could better be the ant
> colony, unless you are looking at drones or
> queens.

The dynamic is different for humans, in many
ways, but if we view entire nations as competing
hives, maybe it doesn't matter so much whether we
are sterile or not. Young people do get
themselves killed defending the hive in wars
before they can reproduce, for instance. There is
a benefit, however:
The hive supports many more people than a less
structured society can. Howard Bloom makes this
point about the Roman Empire in 'The Lucifer
Principle,' noting that although the Roman Empire
was a bloody-minded superorganism which routinely
crucified rebels and invaded its neighbors, tens
of millions depended on it. When the Empire fell,
the grain ships stopped arriving from Africa,
travel became dangerous, and the population of
Europe plummeted. Centuries passed before
Europe's population reached the same level as
Someone who places his own interest above that of
the hive/nation is acting a bit more like a
spider, in a sense; when Rome fell, the 'ant
colony' devolved into something more like a
sparse collection of 'spiders'.

Tom Buckner

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