Re: Getting up in the morning (was: Re: The Quest for the Purpose ofLife)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Jan 29 2002 - 00:53:51 MST

The morals encoded in our genes pale by comparison to the genetically
encoded adaptations for reasoning and arguing about morality. The latter
is also important in a hunter-gatherer society, after all. Don't look at
the starter-set of adaptations, look at the adaptations for choosing
between moralities. Don't look at the system, look at the dynamic for how
the system changes.

One way to answer the question "What is the meaning of life?" is to
understand fully what it is that impels humans to ask this question,
phrased in this way. Trying to explain that life "really" has no meaning
doesn't explain how it is that evolution accidentally constructed
organisms who think it does. We may be very certain that evolution had no
"deeper intentions" in doing so. Evolution simply doesn't work that way.
But if you really want to answer this question, you have to understand how
evolution managed to accidentally construct organisms who, as an emergent
outcome of their set of locally adaptive rules for moral reasoning, look
for a "meaning of life" instead of being content with their inbuilt
goals. Without this knowledge you can't answer the question "What is the
meaning of life?" You can't even say for sure that it has no real
answer. Until you understand where the question comes from, you don't
understand the question.

Sigh... I really have to update the "Meaning of Life" FAQ.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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