Re: Singularity: Individual, Borg, Death?

Nick Bostrom (
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 00:40:44 +0000

Alejandro Dubrovsky wrote:

> On Fri, 4 Dec 1998, Nick Bostrom wrote:
> We may
> > not know in detail and with certainty what the moral facts are (so
> > sure we'd want to assign probabilities), but it doesn't follow that
> > we know nothing about then at all. In fact, probably all the people
> > on this list know that it is wrong to torture innocent people for a
> > small amount of fun. We could no doubt write down a long list of
> > moral statements that we would all agree are true. Do you mean that
> > we all suffer from a huge illusion, and that we are all totally
> > mistaken in believing these moral propositions?
> I don't think you could put up many (any?) statements that even all the
> relatively like-thinking people of this list would agree to. I, for one,
> am not sure about the example moral 'fact' presented above.

You don't think there is anything wrong with torturing innocent people for a little fun?!

I don't want to advocate any specific interpretation of moral statements here. But however we choose to interpret such statements, it does seem to be a fact that almost all reasonable people agree that it is wrong (whatever that means) to torture innocent people for a little fun. *If* there are "objective" truths in ethics (which I am not claiming) then I think we can be fairly confident that that is one of them.

> But what about the response coming from most of the people i talk to who
> reject the idea of avoiding death and seem disgusted with the idea of even
> living any 'longer than you should', maybe even sometimes using terms like
> 'morally wrong'?

There is much less consensus that life extension is morally wrong (than that torturing... is wrong) . I think most people would think it is morally ok, at least if one could convince them that overpopulation problems could be solved. A few might still insist that it is wrong, but they would be mistaken.

Nick Bostrom Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics