Re: Dynamic ethics

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Wed Jan 18 2006 - 13:07:21 MST

--- Phil Goetz <> wrote:

> One needs a framework for judging ethical codes - probably a
utilitarian one. ...
> We could
> discuss whose utilities this framework considers - ...
> and how one discounts for time, and how one weights utilties to
> different types of organisms (by "IQ"?)

I think this uses the wrong approach.
It suggests that one should evaluate an
entire ecosystem of ethical systems for
its overall utility/goodness. This is
a top-down approach. Evolving systems
are distributed systems, which need a
distributed approach, not a centralized
one in which some ethical God decides
what the appropriate ethical code will
be for each organism.

Such a God's judgement would be
irrelevant anyway.
What would you do with it? You can't
impose ethical systems on less-intelligent
organisms. They will evolve an ethics
that works for them. Rather, a system
of ethics is like any other evolving
system: Each system of ethics is a
strategy adopted by individuals seeking
to maximize their utility, or by some
group maximizing group utility.

What I'm trying to say is that, in a dynamical distributed ethical
system, no one evaluates the utility of the entire system of ethical
codes. Populations arise that share an ethical code, and just as an
evolving species adapts so as to maximize its own utility, each ethical
code adapts so as to maximize the utility (or reproduction) of the
group holding it.

This is undesirable. It says, for instance, that an ethical code
against contraception is "superior" to an ethical code that allows it.
But I don't see how to avoid this under any distributed system of

Perhaps the study of transhuman ethics should be a descriptive rather
than a prescriptive study. But then, of what use is it?

- Phil

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