Re: computer pain

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 00:57:43 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>> >> If your species doesn't define as unethical that which is contrary
>> to >> continuation of the species, your species won't be around to
>> long. >> Our problem is that cultural evolution has been so rapid
>> compared to >> biological evolution that some of our hardwired values
>> are not so good >> for continuation of our (and many other) species.
>> I don't think >> ethics is a matter of definitions; that's like trying
>> to fly by >> settling on a definition of "airplane". But looking at
>> the long run >> survival of the species might produce some good
>> ethical rules; >> particularly if we could predict the future
>> consequences clearly.
>> > > If slavery could be scientifically shown to promote the well-being
>> of > the species as a whole does that mean we should have slavery?
>> Does it > mean that slavery is good?
>> Note that I didn't say "promote the well-being"; I said "contrary to
>> the continuation". If the species could not continue without slavery,
>> then there are two possible futures. In one of them there's a species
>> that thinks slavery is OK - in the other there is no opinion on the
>> subject.
> OK, but it is possible to have an ethical system contrary to the
> continuation of the species as well. There are probably peopel in the
> world today who think that humans should deliberately stop breeding and
> die out because their continued existence is detrimental to the survival
> of other species on the planet. If you point out to them that such a
> policy is contrary to evolution (if "contrary to evolution" is possible)
> or whatever, they might agree with you, but still insist that quietly
> dying out is the good and noble thing to do. They have certain values
> with a certain end in mind, and their ethical system is perfectly
> reasonable in that context. That most of us consider it foolish and do
> not want to adopt it does not mean that there is a flaw in the logic or
> in the empirical facts.


> Words like "irrational" are sometimes used imprecisely. Someone who
> decides to jump off a tall building might be called irrational on the
> basis of that information alone. If he does it because he believes he is
> superman and able to fly then he is irrational: he is not superman and
> he will punge to his death. If he does it because he wants to kill
> himself then he is not irrational, because jumping off a tall enough
> building is a perfectly reasonable means towards this end. We might try
> equally hard in each case to dissuade him from jumping, but the approach
> would be different because the underlying thought processes are different.

I don't disagree. I'm just pointing out that values contrary to continuation of the species are not likely to be among the basic hardwired values of any species. Those conducive to continuation probably will be - with allowance for changes of circumstance rapidly compared to biological evolution. So values in an evolved species are, on the whole, not just free floating, independent of facts.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Sun Dec 24 2006 - 03:58:06 PST

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