In two previous posts I highlighted the core similarities – wanting to ensure continued co-existence (unstated from the side of the mainstream) by means of being rational (stated on all sides) – and a key difference – the perceived value of the major world spiritual traditions – between main stream futurist thinking and rational morality. Today I will be focusing on another difference: the perceived value of a future shaped by evolutionary dynamics.

Rational morality is all about realizing evolutionary dynamics, the interpretation of their implications and how to best align ourself with the evolutionary process. It thus comes as little surprise, that when I mention the evolutionary foundation of my philosophy in a public forum, usually a well meaning observer – in an effort to highlight the fundamental danger of my argument – points me to prominent futurist Nick Bostrom‘s paper on The Future of Human Evolution. Having been republished in 2009 in Bedeutung allows the conclusion that the views expressed in his paper are still in line with his current views at the time this commentary is being written.

In summary: in his paper, Bostrom describes a future in which human descendant interacting agents will, driven by exceedingly fierce competition, be ultimately stripped of their humanity or perish in the struggle for existence. After suggesting and discarding a number of solutions to prevent what he sees as an inevitable result of this bellum omnium contra omnes of existence, Bostrom suggests – not unlike Hobbs’ Leviathan – the installation of a supremely powerful ‘Singleton’ lacking external competition and tasked with policing all other beings in order that ‘eudaemonic’ beings do not become extinct or marginalized and can continue to have ‘intrinsically valuable experiences’.

Bostrom’s paper however is deeply flawed in a number of aspects:

  1. Value judgments are heavily biased towards 20th century secular humanism
  2. The quintessential human value of striving for perpetual self transcendence is discounted.
  3. The underlying evolutionary dynamics that led to human values in the first place or are implied by it are being ignored.
  4. The analysis of evolutionary dynamics rests on numerous erroneous assumptions and misconceptions of evolutionary theory.
  5. Bostrom’s dystopian perspective is shared only by groups notorious for getting evolution wrong
  6. Bostroms negativity runs counter to that of numerous other, full time evolutionary philosophers
  7. The proposed solution of a ‘Singleton’ can only be considered a temporary fix at best and constitutes an existential risk in itself at worst

Re 1.) Value judgments are heavily biased towards 20th century secular humanism

It is impossible to provide an ultimately compelling argument for the perpetual preservation of non-ultimately compelling values.

In his paper Bostrom continuously grooms ‘human values’ – or more specifically what appears to be 20th century secular humanism – as the gold standard to be perpetually preserved in the future of evolution. He does not however provide an argument as to why precisely these particular set of values happens to be worthy of preservation above any other possible sets of values. Why not modern day Chinese communism? Why not 13th century catholicism, 18th century sharia law or 20th century national socialism? How about the emergent values of future agents? Do they also have a right to be preserved and subsidized as well in any stage of their future development at the expense of other, further developed agents, once they begin to fail in the increasingly hard competition and simply refuse or become incapable of conducting further self improvements? Where will the means eventually come from to continue to do that in such an economy? Who will decide who stays and who goes?

In the absence of an argument in support of the preservation of values represented in 20th century secular humanism against any other set of possible values, it would be just as erroneous to argue for the exact same set of values to be preserved that happened to be present in our common ancestor with the dung beetle millions of years ago. The point is that Bostrom assumes an essential random set of values and declares that they are to be perpetuated ad infinitum without proper justification.

Re 2.) The quintessential human value of striving for perpetual self transcendence is discounted.

Glorifying mediocrity – retarding progress

While Bostrom is focusing on the preservation of a very specific set of human values on the one hand, he discounts the quintessential human value of wanting to strive for perpetual self transcendence by effectively retarding it with his suggestion of respective taxation and legislation. Wanting to continuously self improve however is in itself a fundamental human value represented in the constant quest for knowledge, understanding, wisdom and personal growth.

Granted, Bostrom does not explicitly preclude the self improvement aspirations of any particular agent. But retarding the progress of certain agents willing to work on themselves while at the same time failing to put a fundamental limit on other, less so inclined agent’s hedonistic and wasteful tendencies would not only be fundamentally unfair but eventually unsustainable.

Re 3.) The underlying evolutionary dynamics that led to human values in the first place or are implied by it are being ignored.

Good is that which increases fitness – anything else is mindless wire-heading

The criticism gets more fundamental when realizing that human values are the product of billions of years of evolution. Definitely not all human values are or happened to be adaptive in our recent evolutionary history. But it is obvious that for all intends and purposes – from a perspective I call ‘reverse evolutionary psychology’ – none of the values caused our parent generation to fail at reproducing. I personally would be very cautious however in naming what Bostrom calls “intrinsically worthwhile experiences”.

What Bostrom refers to with “intrinsically worthwhile experiences” are those positive experiences related to behavior or states that either

a) used to be adaptive in our evolutionary history or
b) serve no adaptive purpose whatsoever

How about calling these “intrinsically worthwhile experiences” what they really are? Those under a) are what David Sloan Wilson would call “dancing with ghosts” and those under b) are in fact are wasteful luxuries. The basic feelings of pleasure and pain, if not linked to the seeking or avoidance of particular states conducive or detrimental to our evolutionary fitness, are nothing but senseless wire heading.

Re a) Why would realizing that we have changed our environment enough as to have outgrown the realities of our previous existence? Would making a change really be so bad? We are living in a post scarcity caloric reality and if I could devise a way as to adapt my food intake in line with the reality of this new environment I most certainly would. Reduced risk of arterial sclerosis, less expenses for food and higher physical attractiveness would be only three obvious benefits that come to mind in this example.

So what if I do not get the pleasure of what effectively constitutes overeating in our new reality? Along with my food intake I could simple adjust my pleasure system to release the same chemicals into my system once I ate the exact optimal amount for my level of activity. Voila: same amount of pleasure and an actual benefit.

Re b) What possible purpose could there be in subsidizing a bunch of certified lotus eaters? Surely Bostrom – realizing the fundamental similarity – would never suggest to not only let the government pay for the syringes and the heroin of the junkies, but at the same time declare the “intrinsically valuable experience of the heroin user” a public good deviation from which needs to be discouraged by heavy taxation. Oh the absurdity!

Something that Bostrom does not mention at all is the ability to remove “intrinsically worthless experiences” from our human existence. Cutting ourself is arguably way too painful in a world with ubiquitous antibiotics. Why not tune that down a little? Or is that verboten too? Analogously: how about new pleasurable experiences? States of being that in our new reality should in fact be pleasurable but are not or not enough?

How about feeling some more pain when and where it is in fact warranted in our post modern reality? After all the pain caused by a cut is ‘meant‘ to avoid the cut and associated consequences – not the pain. Some suggestions: Products that taste more and more disgusting the more they contribute to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Burning pain caused by radiation, dioxin levels and DDT seems like a good idea too. Politicians that begin to make you feel uncomfortable the more their promises deviate from what they are actually doing in line with an independent monitoring service. All referenced to authoritative sources and weighted according to probabilistic estimates in regards to how detrimental to ones fitness it actually is of course. I would very much go for that – but I digress.

Re 4.) The analysis of evolutionary dynamics rests on numerous erroneous assumptions and misconceptions of evolutionary theory

“Evolution is smarter than you” — Orgel’s Second Rule

a) it is survival of the fit enough – not survival of the fittest
b) adaptive value of reproduction rates are misunderstood
c) in the absence of death by natural causes reproduction looses its adaptive value
d) advances in technology correlates with a decrease in selection pressures
e) ‘tit-for-tat’ and cooperation is far more adaptive than ‘dog-eats-dog’ and ‘screw-you’

Re a) it is survival of the fit enough – not survival of the fittest

The term ‘survival of the fittest‘ has been termed by Herbert Spencer – not Darwin – and is neither a scientific term nor complete or even a suitable summary of Darwin’s theory. In the context Darwin meant it, it would be better described as ‘better adapted for immediate, local environment’. Note ‘better’ – not ‘best’. It is by far not only the fittest or the maximally adapted that survives. The one that barely makes the cut is still around as well. In that sense we human beings are no more privileged than slime mold or inch worms. The idea that certain maladapted types will die out assumes the presence of a corresponding selection pressure, which leads me to point b)

Re b) adaptive value of reproduction rates are misunderstood

Much – if not all – of Bostrom’s scenarios assume the presence of enormous selection pressures caused by a digitally supercharged Malthusian struggle for existence. There are however numerous problems with Bostrom’s understanding of the adaptive nature of reproduction.

Firstly, Bostrom confuses ‘higher rate of reproduction’ with ‘more adaptive’. This is in fact a very common misconception yet luckily easily dispelled once we understand the difference between the various reproduction strategies:

“There are a wide range of reproductive strategies employed by different species. Some animals, such as the human and Northern Gannet, do not reach sexual maturity for many years after birth and even then produce few offspring. Others reproduce quickly; but, under normal circumstances, most offspring do not survive to adulthood. For example, a rabbit (mature after 8 months) can produce 10–30 offspring per year, and a fruit fly (mature after 10–14 days) can produce up to 900 offspring per year. These two main strategies are known as K-selection (few offspring) and r-selection (many offspring). Which strategy is favoured by evolution depends on a variety of circumstances. Animals with few offspring can devote more resources to the nurturing and protection of each individual offspring, thus reducing the need for many offspring. On the other hand, animals with many offspring may devote fewer resources to each individual offspring; for these types of animals it is common for many offspring to die soon after birth, but enough individuals typically survive to maintain the population.”

Simply replicating as much as possible is not a very adaptive thing to do since with increasing levels of complexity, the limited resources at ones disposal can be used much more efficient and effectively to ensure ones continued existence by other means than sharing them among arbitrarily large number of identical copies. This is shown quite plainly in the transition from R to K-selection strategies starting from viruses and progressing to the the fruit fly to rabbits to humans.

Secondly, understanding that reproduction strategies are all about the application of resources towards the goal of creating eventually reproducing offspring the question presents itself: how justified is Bostrom in taking the example of a human upload and apply the reproduction logic of a fruit fly in his scenario? And the answer of course is that he is not justified in doing so at all.

In addition it needs to be noted, that any reproduction strategy that leads to reproducing offspring above the natural replacement rate in a saturated environment, necessarily requires an additional adaptive advantage in the offspring that allows for either the displacement of competitors or utilization of other so far untapped resources that can be applied to generating the excess reproducing offspring above the subsistence level.

Re c) in the absence of death by natural causes reproduction looses its adaptive value

As demonstrated under b) reproduction is only adaptive as means to counter the natural death rate. Human beings have long ago stopped being the prey of other species and will soon – at least once we reach the capability of uploading as assumed in Bostrom’s paper – conquer the problem of death by natural causes altogether. By then we will have transformed ourselves in the words of Richard Leis into digital “patterns seeking our own permanence” and other, far more adaptive strategies will become available to us. Among others these can include:

  • strategic, well distributed and regular backups
  • redundant multi-clustering solutions
  • sophisticated insurance and reinsurance plans
  • public, transferable and certified reputation networks

The need for copies of oneself will be reduced to minimal capacity virtual agents with large data storage means and minimal cognitive capacities which can be dispatched and reintegrated into the main instantiation at will.

With death and reproduction out of the way, what other selection pressures will remain?

Re d) advances in technology correlate with a decrease in selection pressures

In the vast majority of our evolutionary history, the most valuable resource ensuring the continued existence of the interacting agents has been represented in the stored free energy of the chemical bonds making up the interacting agent’s bodies. On the human level, this however has changed and now lies in the cognitive output of our brains. Once the calculating capacity of computers reaches the critical threshold, it will lie in the amount of available computronium as well as bandwidth and ultimately in the amount of available energy to run the hardware. Virtually every new technology from fire to the iPhone has further increased our freedoms by reducing selection pressures to the point that we can now afford the luxury of a post modern cultural outlook. There is no reason to believe that this decrease in selection pressures will continue with more advanced technologies. In fact there is no moral point in a technology that does not do so.

Granted – every technology can be used in a negative way – this however makes it only so much more important to devise a shared morality that will realize such destructive uses as utterly pointless.

Selection pressures have thus been directed towards the configuration and acquisition of matter and bodies on the level of the biosphere. The poster child for the blind acquisition of matter being the fiercely self replicating virus; for the configuration and acquisition of bodies the ants and termites. It further progressed by moving toward the configuration of neurons in the evolution of cognition towards the configuration and acquisition of brains (i.e. individuals) and ideas on the level of the noosphere. On this level the more brains joined up to pursue a common purpose and the more advanced their capacity to organize and their technology, the more adaptive it turned out to be.

In the absence of forced and perpetual reproduction, and having achieved – if not already now then soon – a level of technology that can, at least in principle, build a too-cheap-to-meter post scarcity society – and particularly one capable of uploading human minds – there will be very few selection pressures left. And in the absence of selection pressures and without a conscious effort of holding the pattern together, let alone further advancing it, it will slowly but surely start to randomize. Postmodern attitudes being a sure sign, that this process has already begun.

It will be this randomization that will reintroduce selection pressures by lowering the bar so that we will feel selection pressures that we would otherwise long have outgrown. It will be this limitless freedom which will pose the core challenge to the existence of those loosing their sense for direction and the constant temptation of letting themselves go.

The selection preasures so feared by Bostrom will precisely not arise due to the increased efficiency of the ones making an effort despite all the freedom and potential for essential limitless randomness and whim. I am sure that here lies a key misunderstanding of Bostrom in his article.

Re e) ‘tit-for-tat’ and cooperation is far more adaptive than ‘dog-eats-dog’ and ‘screw-you’

Nice guys finish first” — Richard Dawkins

From this article on The Selfless Gene:

“[…] neither Darwin nor evolutionary biologists such as Dawkins advocate the idea that cut-throat, ruthless competition is the only game in town, and co-operation between individuals, communities and even species permeates their work. Darwin even wrote in the Descent of Man that evolution would eventually lead a species to “acquire a moral sense or conscience”.

Ignoring everything we have established so far in regards to Bostrom’s misunderstanding of the adaptive value and dynamics of reproduction, on what basis are we to assume that future agents will be more adapted at the cost of less well adapted beings? Let’s take a look from another perspective by looking at Robert Wright‘s Nonzero:

“The principal argument of Nonzero is to demonstrate that natural selection results in increasing complexity within the world and greater rewards for cooperation. Since, as Wright puts it, the realization of such prospects is dependent upon increased levels of communication, cooperation, and trust, what is thought of as human intelligence is really just a long step in an evolutionary process of organisms (as well as their networks and individual parts) getting better at processing information.”

Or in other words: the future will not only be more adaptive but would at the same time be in line with many of the values Bostrom is advocating will need artificially preservation. This even ignores the vastly more far reaching claims of the previously mentioned book – The Selfless Gene – makes on the level of the gene and I myself am making on the level of memes or culture: that a non-dual perspective in life is the non plus ultra of spiritual evolution.

Re 5.) Bostrom’s dystopian perspective is shared only by groups notorious for getting evolution wrong

“This future is so abhorrent as to almost defy the imagination. These new beings, and the transhumanists looking forward to their arrival, will not be benevolent. Just the opposite.” — Steve Quayle, Genetic Armageddon: Today’s Technology – Tomorrows Monsters

Comparing the conclusions of Bostrom’s paper with a broader range of perspectives and the analysis of other groups in similar context, it becomes apparent that the overall negativity in regards to a society shaped by evolutionary ideas is shared exclusively by two particular sets of groups – both notorious for getting evolution terribly wrong.

The first is that of the eugenics movement which nowadays is mostly associated with the regime of Nazi Germany yet originated and was original supported by sympathizing groups in the United States of America and various other governments all over the world during the first half of the 20th century.

The key similarity is the notion that evolution has to somehow be guided, channeled, or helped along in order for it to produce a desirable outcome. The key difference is, that the eugenics movement thought to help the process along in order to prevent ‘existences not worthy of life’ weighing down various concepts of what was perceived to be the master race. Bostrom on the other hand applies the same logic in promoting a form of ‘reverse eugenics’ and as I have shown above, his approach is just as misguided in its fundamental mode of thinking.

The second group is that of the modern day neoconservative movement with its politically motivated outright rejection of evolution as a suitable theory. They, not unlike Bostrom, point to the disastrous outcome of applying the theory of evolution on the social level, yet fail to realize that eugenics – while being officially justified on the grounds of evolutionary theory – used a version of evolutionary theory that was simply grossly misconstrued, either consciously or subconsciously, to support propaganda by which to advance a very particular political agenda.

And finally, at the time neoconservative celebrity, Francis Fukuyama expressed his concern over what he dubbed the ‘worlds most dangerous idea‘ based on the views represented in his 2002 book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. How ironic, since transhumanism is nothing but self guided evolution, that Bostrom himself felt compelled to rebuke Fukuyama despite his own bleak perspective on a future shaped by evolutionary dynamics:

“The only real danger posed by transhumanism, it seems, is that people on both the left and the right may find it much more attractive than the reactionary bioconservatism proffered by Fukuyama and some of the other members of the President’s Council.” — Nick Bostrom, Transhumanism: The World’s Most Dangerous Idea?

I could not agree more and find that this sentence runs very much counter to the views Bostrom expresses in his own dystopian scenarios as do the positive perspectives of so many other evolutionary philosophers who have dedicated their lives to the exploration of the idea of evolution and how it applies to humanity’s future.

Re 6.) Bostrom’s negativity runs counter to that of numerous other – if not all, full time evolutionary philosophers

“This is no place to stop – half way between ape and angel” — Benjamin Disraeli

To summarize all the different perspectives and diverse arguments leading the vast majority of (some more – some less) full-time evolutionary philosophers would go very much beyond the scope of this article. I would nevertheless encourage anybody interested in a deeper understanding of evolutionary philosophy to study the relevant positions of the following scholars in addition to Bostrom’s writings in order to get a more accurate picture of the body of evolutionary thought. The dedicated student will find that Bostrom is but one misguided contrarian among many others, better informed and learned them him when it comes to the particular matter of evolution:

They are among others and in no particular order: Teilhard de Chardin, John Stewart, Herbert Spencer, John Friske, Craig Hamilton, Adrian Bejan, Charles Foster, Stuart Kauffman, Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, David Sloan Wilson, Richard Coren, Robert Wright, Joan Roughgarden, Michael Dowd, John Smart, Ervin László, Valentin Turchin, and last but certainly not least: Charles Darwin himself.

Re 7.) The proposed solution of a ‘Singleton’ can only be considered a temporary fix at best and constitutes an existential risk in itself at worst

In conclusion to Bostrom’s argument he suggest the establishment of a supremely powerful Singleton in an effort to prevent his dystopian scenarios:

“Reining in evolution is a feat that could only be accomplished by a singleton.  A local power might be able to control the evolution of its own internal ecology, yet unless these interventions served to maximize its total productivity (which would be incompatible with affirmative action for eudaemonic activities), evolutionary selection would simply reemerge at a higher level.”

What Bosrtom fails to mention as a critically flawed assumption in his proposed solution is, that in order for his idea to work, it would require no external competition on teh level of the singleton and thus precludes the existence of alien races reaching a comparable level of development. These alien races could become – less inclined to artificially constrict their own progress – significantly more advanced than the singleton of human origin and reintroduce the previously dampened selection pressures.

What if this results in the eventual extinction of the Singleton and consequentially its entire sphere of influence? The scenario is as following: preservation of mediocrity until it is too late to catch up. Would it thereby not “permanently and drastically curtail the potential [of Earth-originating intelligent life].”? This being Bostrom’s own definition of an existential risk and thus rendering his proposed solution potentially self contradicting.

As can be seen, a Singleton merely sweeps the problem under the rug by pushing it to the next level of selection: the Singleton, which will eventually still have to bear the consequences of it’s self-imposed burden. And all of this against better knowledge.

The bottom line remains, that we will ultimately not be able to modify the fitness function. The best we can look forward to in the attempt, is to constantly weigh us down by having to maintain enough excess affluence to afford the luxury of willful mediocrity only to eventually be brought in line with the laws of nature in a scenario when it will be too late to catch up.

The key concept to understand here is that evolution is not unlike gravity. Yet unlike earth – evolution does not have an escape velocity. It is more like a reverse black hole with an infinite Schwarzschild radius, a rubber band of infinite elasticity and strength if you will: the more you resist it and pull it out of shape, the more energy needs to be expended to maintain the discrepancy. And a Singleton with a higher IQ will not be of much use either, since it will still get stuck, just further away from help.

In conclusion, Bostrom’s negative portrayal of the future of human evolution rivals that of nonconservative celebrity Francis Fukuyama’s in ‘Our Posthuman Future’ in its bleakness while running counter to that of numerous evolutionary philosophers, it equals the level of misunderstanding of the conservapedia article on the social effects of the theory of evolution and rivals the unfortunate direction of early 20th century eugenics programs – albeit from the opposite direction and originating from what I have no reason to doubt are genuinly benign intentions – in its suggested solution which is in the long run bound to fail at best and counterproductive to Bostrom’s self proclaimed goals in other areas at worst.

“There is but one force, stronger than all the armies in the world… And that is an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo

This idea, in our time, is that of evolution, proeprly understood and applied as a positive force not only in shaping the future of humanity, but to the benefit of all beings.

5 comments on “The future of human evolution revisited

  1. Dear Stefan,

    Morality is kinda hard to digest coming from a former corporate director of a multinational company. Given the greed and the incessant scheming seen nowadays in almost all companies and at almost all levels, I think that you should have left that out, so that your message could have been more clear, you did wrote in there something about the “meme resonating better without the ego”.

    I came across your site and after browsing a bit, and after reading about the Eliezer and Bostrom’s posts I felt like posting a reply.

    The Singularity Institute has managed to attract a diverse group of people, fairly smart, but, like all people that talk without doing, they are more concerned about themselves and less inclined to listen. The less someone knows, the more he is inclined to impart his “wisdom”. Eliezer is a case in point. He keeps talking about friendly AI, but AI may or may not be friendly. It all depends on the group that will control it. A master and the beast scenario for sure we will have. Nick’s writings also are mostly irrelevant
    and have little or no effect on the coming superintelligence.

    But this is only partially about what Eliezer thinks he is going to achieve or Nick is trying to prevent, this is about what you write.

    You talk about compassion. You put together quotes from the past religious leaders and that made me laugh. That religion got some truths, that is correct, but like any group of people that have limited understanding about the real world most of their teachings are useless. They brought a lot of misery to a lot of people over many, many centuries; many people have tried and are still trying to live their lives according to their teachings. Many funds are funnelled towards that. These are no spiritual
    leaders. The fact that you quote them shows that you do not understand the harm done by religion over the centuries.

    Compassion? Towards whom or towards what? You help someone or something, your existence or your offspring’s existence will sooner or later be affected by that. Given the human nature, its lack of understanding and its violent nature, it is better not to have compassion. Heartless! Grab what you can while you can!

    Should I have compassion about what you are saying? No. Your understanding of the future is poor, so by continuing to impart nonsense for sure you will affect us, one way or another, and chances are that you will affect us in a negative way. Pseudo-religion disguised as spirituality was and is against truth and science, and it will always continue to be so. But fortunately for some of us, the coming superintelligence will take care of that. Any greater intelligence is always wiping out clean the previous
    teachings and the information that has no value.

    Only truth has value. Everything else will be discarded. The best thing is that finally, something will not have only the understanding but also the means to change that. It will have the capacity to remove all falsities and it will pursue the truth to the extreme. Whatever the outcome from an evolutionary point of view it will be better.

    In regards to what our relation will be to IT, we will still have to see how that would go.

    Regards,
    David

  2. Dear David,

    >Morality is kinda hard to digest coming from a former corporate director of a multinational company. Given the greed and the incessant scheming seen nowadays in almost all companies and at almost all levels, I think that you should have left that out, so that your message could have been more clear, you did wrote in there something about the “meme resonating better without the ego”.

    I quit in early 2008 and was dismayed by what was going on for a long time prior to that. In the role I held as a corporate auditor and InfoSec Officer before that, I came in touch with all what was wrong in the company and had to deal with the resistance to improve and change. There was virtually no interest in taking good advice and doing things the proper way. That is one of the chief reasons why I left.

    >You talk about compassion. You put together quotes from the past religious leaders and that made me laugh. That religion got some truths, that is correct, but like any group of people that have limited understanding about the real world most of their teachings are useless. They brought a lot of misery to a lot of people over many, many centuries; many people have tried and are still trying to live their lives according to their teachings. Many funds are funnelled towards that. These are no spiritual leaders. The fact that you quote them shows that you do not understand the harm done by religion over the centuries.

    I do David, trust me, I do. At the same time however, I can see past that and realize that religion is not all bad. In the words of Kurt Goedel: “Religions are, for the most part, bad — but religion is not.” What I am trying to do is work out what this ‘not bad’ part is and give good naturalistic reasons for why that actually is.

    >Compassion? Towards whom or towards what? You help someone or something, your existence or your offspring’s existence will sooner or later be affected by that. Given the human nature, its lack of understanding and its violent nature, it is better not to have compassion. Heartless! Grab what you can while you can!

    And here you are just totally wrong. I know that most of my reasoning is spread over a series of articles spanning 2 years, but I am working on putting it all together.

    >Should I have compassion about what you are saying? No. Your understanding of the future is poor, so by continuing to impart nonsense for sure you will affect us, one way or another, and chances are that you will affect us in a negative way.

    Please provide specific passages where I contradict myself or make an error in reasoning. I find that far too many people mean ‘hard to understand’ when they talk about ‘nonsense’. Specific criticism please. I can really not accept anything less as a valid critique.

    >Pseudo-religion disguised as spirituality was and is against truth and science, and it will always continue to be so. But fortunately for some of us, the coming superintelligence will take care of that. Any greater intelligence is always wiping out clean the previous teachings and the information that has no value. […] Only truth has value. Everything else will be discarded.

    Scientific or objective truth is worthless if it gets you killed. That – in essence is what people have a hard time realizing. The other way round spiritual truths are often indirect realized, evolved wisdoms that are grounded in faith rather than reason because it is so difficult to deduce it logically. But what’s wrong with that, as long as people survived and flourished while walking the path and not knowing it? See ‘Does Truth Matter?’ at http://www.jame5.com/?p=13 and ‘Are we better off without religion?’ at rationalmorality.info/?p=84

    Working on bridging this gap of reason or faith, and getting rid of all the superstitious nonsense, is precisely what I am doing here.

    All the best,

    Stefan

  3. Hedonic Treader on said:

    “What Bosrtom fails to mention as a critically flawed assumption in his proposed solution is, that in order for his idea to work, it would require no external competition on teh level of the singleton and thus precludes the existence of alien races reaching a comparable level of development. These alien races could become – less inclined to artificially constrict their own progress – significantly more advanced than the singleton of human origin and reintroduce the previously dampened selection pressures.”

    This seems improbable. If that were a real threat, shouldn’t these aliens have a galactic civilization in place already? Maybe alien competition evolves in the long run, but it doesn’t seem to be here now. A locally stable equilibrium of artificially high hedonistic value – even if it is eventually outcompeted in several billion years – would contain certainly much less total suffering, and arguably a better average quality of life (depending on what would otherwise evolve).

  4. This seems improbable. If that were a real threat, shouldn’t these aliens have a galactic civilization in place already? Maybe alien competition evolves in the long run, but it doesn’t seem to be here now. A locally stable equilibrium of artificially high hedonistic value – even if it is eventually outcompeted in several billion years – would contain certainly much less total suffering, and arguably a better average quality of life (depending on what would otherwise evolve).

    Certainly true. But ‘short sighted’ in astronomical time. I am not going to defend it wholeheartedly though, since so much else is wrong with Bostrom’s argument that it is not like his paper is hinging on this one issue. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Pingback: Rational Morality » The future of human evolution revisited 2.0

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