Adrian Kent is getting a little publicity for posting his ’05 paper on the berserker hypothesis, “that evolution has very significantly suppressed cosmic conspicuity”, i.e., that many aliens are out there, but hiding from each other. He advocates taking the hypothesis seriously, but doesn’t actually argue for the coherence of any particular imagined scenario. Kent’s excuse:
I understand where you're coming from, but I really value the hedonic average + diversity more than individual survival. The reason for this is how I see the nature of consciousness and personal identity.
I just watched Logan's Run, and when everything exploded in the end, I thought, "And there goes utopia..."
I'd rather live a fun life free from suffering and boredom until I'm 30 than a miserable one until I'm 300. If we can do both, I'm all for it though.
You personally want to sacrifice your persistence odds for your nonsuffering/happy years of life. I get that. I think it gets more aggressive with what interpret to be your preference to (scare quotes) "maximize happiness of the unborn over persistence odds of the fellow living".
Hopefully Anonymous, I don't care that much about aging. I'm 30 now, I take seriously the probability that I'll be dead in 10 years, and I plan to be almost certainly dead by 60-70. I'm not looking forward to it, but I do hyperbolic discounting in my personal life.
During this time, I enjoy my life of course. Hyperbolic discounting has a point when diminishing returns are involved. The desperate fight against aging seems an obvious example to me, as well as the accumulating probability of accidents and other personal hazards. Some indicators of personal well-being may increase while we get older, but other risks - some of them underestimated in my view - increase as well.
I've known people existing in net-negative states, after having a stroke, for years, decades even. In order to reduce this risk by, say, 20%, I would give up some additional years of life. As a consequence, pre-emptive suicide becomes a rational option, and I'm quite pissed that I'm not allowed to go to a fucking drug store and buy a fucking suicide drug as a free citizen who wants to execute self-ownership rationally.
OTOH, hyperbolic discounting can be a mistake when you can in fact expect exponential growth of utility. Under the "happiness assumption", which says that life in the future will be good rather than bad, reductions in existential risks would be awesome. I'm not sure I completely follow this assumption, however. (There is a good discussion thread here.)
Just to clarify, I don't subscribe to the idea of continuity of personal conscious identity. I appreciate that it sometimes feels that way, but I have learned that feelings are not always sufficiently reliable to trust and certainly not for very long term planning.
In thinking about my obligation to my children, I consider it to be “timeless”, that is my obligation to them occurred before they existed, but that timeless obligation only comes into play if they actually do exist at some point. This is my motivation for preparing myself to be a good parent even before they exist. This allows me to consider their welfare over their entire lifespan, not just in the moment. Then by recursion I can apply the same considerations to their children and to the ancestors of their nth degree children (i.e. essentially all human beings).
This is how I think of obligations to other and as yet unborn other entities too. If they ever will exist, my obligation to them is timeless and occurs before they do exist and that obligation is occurring right now. This is also the basis for my actions today to provide for the future entity that will be instantiated within my physical body. My future self is not self-identical with my present self. My obligations to each of my future selves are timeless and not that different than my obligations to any other entities.
The mindset that advocates of cryonics have that prioritizes the survival of what they feel is a personal conscious entity seems petty and selfish to me. It is pretty clear to me that all entities are not self-identical over their lifespan, and the changes that will occur when transferring any “entity” from a degraded and then frozen brain will (very likely) be very large compared to the differences between different living human beings that exist now.
Ok, that's an honest answer. I sort it with "mmmm ... brains" and other social aesthetics that I consider to be zombie variant.
Basically it's an aesthetic of how to travel to information theoretic death and I'm held a bit hostage to it, like Ford Prefect in Hitchiker.
Hedonic,I'm aware that almost everything increases incoherence under close examination. But I'm operating with a 3 lb brain attempting to model a huge universe.
Doing things like buying groceries I sort as part of earthy survivalism -it's why I'd prefer cryogenic preservation to mind uploading, and why I'd prefer SENS to either.
We seem to have a fixed resource pie of attention, analysis, and energy to devote to both short term and long term challenges (let alone optimizing things for the unborn) -I think the great bulk of our resources should go to our pressing short term challenege (like the fact you, me, and daedalus are aging!) because we probably will fail to solve them anyways, and so we might as well give it our best shot.
$1 to solving aging and $10 to help our descendants (or our future selves) escape our sun's future supernova seems nutty to me.
Does it ever feel zombie-like to you to buy groceries for your not-yet-existing hungry future self - at a time where you're not yet hungry? Conceptions of personal identity are very intuitive but can be misleading. When you delay gratification in order to do stuff for future versions of yourself, you are an altruist in a sense. Sentient affect (pleasure, pain etc.) is a local phenomenon, It's dubious that it is somehow bound to a kind of soul pearl or self that persists through time. Unless there is some rational defense of such a metaphysical position, buying groceries should feel just as zombie-like as thinking about the long-term future.
There is a difference in predictability, of course.
All very good points, especially the one about the probable economy of slow but ubiquitous monitor drones that send out warnings when they notice biology getting complex.
It doesn't feel zombie like to me. I am a parent and it isn't difficult for me to plan for unborn future generations. That is what I was doing when I raised my children to be good parents and to be good human beings. That is a reason why I chose the work I am doing, environmentally related and health related. I try to make the world a better place. The most important aspect of that is raising children who try to make the world a better place too.
For my children and their children and their children to live good lives, there has to be a stable gene pool, a decent environment, and a sustainable economy. I am an engineer, and I am quite sure that there are no technical difficulties in having an economy that sustainably supports 10 billion people on Earth with all of them having a decent lifestyle. What keeps us from having that is politics and people problems, not technical problems. Mostly it is people putting their wants above other people's needs. Not because they have to, but because they can.
The researcher who was quoted in the article has papers posted on his web site.
His evidence is pretty convincing. That makes the slave raiding and smallpox introduction in the 19th century the actual cause of the collapse.
Hedonic Treader, there is a fuller paper that the article is based on, but I forget where. You might be able to find it through googling, unless it's been locked down since I last read it.
“What was the person who cut down the last tree thinking?”http://www.independent.co.u...
Wonks Anonymous, thanks for this link. It never for one minute occured to me to question the historical accuracy of this gloomy parable against human hubris.
"What was the person who cut down the last tree thinking?"http://www.independent.co.u...
Hedonic Treader and Daedalus,
The two of you are somewhat like me, so does it feel zombie-like at all for you to consider policy today on the basis of "future unborn lives"? It reminds me conceptually of St. Francis preaching to the birds.
wrong -- if you are eliezer, you benefit by not being turned into paper clips in the accident you are sure others will cause. i don't know why he doesn't take solace in observing that we see no galaxies made of paper clips.
That sentiment would strongly argue for working to ensure that life is worth living for all sentient organisms, and that there is improvement such that each future life is more worth living than present lives. That is to maximize the “lives worth living” metric.
But that gets back to my first point that when the few prioritize their comfort over the needs of the many, the “lives worth living” metric is not maximized.
I said that would ultimately be the root cause of the great filter and now you are saying if that heuristic can't be changed that there should be a filter so that the as yet unborn many don't suffer through lives not worth living.