The meaning of Life

John K Clark (
Sun, 9 Feb 1997 23:19:49 -0800 (PST)


On Sun, 09 Feb 1997 Eliezer Yudkowsky <> Wrote:

Eliezer, except when you talk about The Singularity I usually disagree with
you and sometimes you make me mad, but I still think you're a fine fellow and
would hate like hell for you to leave the list. I hope you reconsider.

>If I identify with reason and act in accordance with reason, I am

Reason works great in showing you the best way to achieve your goals, but it
is useless in deciding which goal to pick. If I stick my hand in a fire I can
not think of any logical reason to pull it out. I know that the sensation
coming from my hand is painful, but I can't prove it, and even if I could I
certainly can't prove that pleasure is better than pain or life is better
than death or logic is better than illogic. I'm pulling my hand out anyway.

There are some things that are beyond logic, some thing that I don't need
to prove to myself, like the fact that I'm conscious, and the fact that I
don't like pain or death. I like logic because it has worked in the past and
by induction I figure it will work in the future, but of course, I can't
prove induction.

>nor are *all* *systems* possessed of free will, as your
>self-unpredictability definition would have it.

In general, anything that could make the slightest claim to be intelligent,
even a simple computer program, can not predict what it will do.

>I don't care where reason comes from. I don't care if it's
>evolution-imposed, blank-slate-deduced, or God-given. All I care
>about is if it's true.

I certainly agree with that, but tell me, why isn't, "I scratched my nose
because I wanted to and I wanted to because it itched", true?

>Reason says to reason also

Reason says no such thing, it doesn't give a hoot in hell if you're logical
or not, your emotions says reason has value, my emotions say the same thing
by the way.

>>You decide to do things you don't want to do??? Why do you do them?

>Because they are justified.

I understand. You "want" to do things that are justified, doing otherwise
would make you unhappy.

>I don't intend to play word-games here.

These are not word games. We are discussing some extremely difficult
questions here, if I am torturing some words to the limits of their meaning
it is only because it is necessary, these common words were not originally
designed for such heavy duty use.

>There are cognitively real distinctions between want and decide

I'd sure like to know what they are.

>What I want to do has no relation to what I have decided to do

Nonsense. Your decision to pick B made you unhappy, but A would have made
you even more unhappy.

>To you, meaning is value.

Not so. The soap operas on TV have meaning to me, but they have zero value
to me.

>I've decided that emotions assigning positive value to things is
>not conducive to reaching Singularity.

Rather than debate the validity of your deduction again, I have a more
fundamental question. Without bringing up emotion or your own personal
opinion about the value of things, can you tell me why you "want" to reach
the Singularity? I can't.

>Maximizing intrinsic value is the only logical basis for a goal
>system, while observer-arbitrary value is nothing to me.

I've told you exactly what I mean by "subjective value", but after all this
time you still haven't told me what you mean by "intrinsic value".
Just give me a definition, its yours so you can make it anything you want,
I won't argue with it, provided it's clear and not circular. If you can't do
that at least give me a hint about what you're talking about.

>if I somehow shut off the entire emotional system, that would
>cripple my ability to reason about goals.

A VAST understatement.

>I identify with the head, you with the heart. Under the
>circumstances, our respective philosophies seem a bit ironic.

Sorry, I still don't see it.

>What is altruism?
>Is it sacrificing your happiness for the happiness of others?
>Or is it gaining your happiness through the happiness of others?
>I would unconditionally answer #2.

I also would unconditionally answer #2

John K Clark

Version: 2.6.i