Re: Transhumanist Kids

Anders Sandberg (
01 Dec 1998 16:06:53 +0100 (Dan Clemmensen) writes:

> I'll try hard to restrain my genetically-mandated imperative as a parent
> to immediately hassle you with gratuitous advice. :-) Instead, I'll
> ask for some: What advice can I offer my kids about ethical behaviour?
> I can't tell them to follow the golden rule because God told them to,
> but I'm not really comfortable with "I've got mine, tough luck losers"
> either. Mostly, we go with the concept that helping society as a whole
> is worthwhile because we are going to have to live in it, So being good
> citizens is appropriate in the same sense that not polluting is appropriate.
> Other people's answers are appreciated, but I'd really like to hear fom Erin.

This post, combined with some recent discussions (Aleph is currently undergoing a philosophical renaissance, two members can hardly meet without starting to discuss values, ethics, epistemology and the scientific method :-) got me thinking (and simulating). My answer would be something like this:

It pays to be good. In most situations you can gain more by cooperating with others than cheating them (often it is even impossible to get what you want without the help of others), and if you behave in ways that make others get along with you you are also more likely to have people who help you if you need it.

The theory of cooperation that has emerged from studies of the prisoners' dilemma is quite interesting and relevant for all of us. I think it is a good foundation for thinking about practical ethics. It also shows that it doesn't pay to be naive - don't be a sucker, don't continue cooperating with defectors just because you have been told to cooperate. Cooperate with those who cooperate with you.

Might is right (MIR) doesn't work well. In fact, I even made a simple model where I tested it against a simple cooperative strategy (cooperate with other cooperators) and it did worse under a wide variety of situations (It became a nice little paper I'm going to publish). MIR has the problem that it only works for the strong, but anyone can earn well in a cooperative endeavor regardless of coercive strength, which makes cooperators in the long run better off. This is of course why dictatorships and other MIR societies doesn't do as well as democracies and non-MIR societies; a lot of work is wasted on internal conflict.

The problem is that humans in general aren't as rational as they could be, and MIR is easy to explain (just use a gun) while coperative strategies require more thinking, communication and education. Which is why I think we should introduce young people more to game theory, the prisoners' dilemma and the theory of cooperation.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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