RE: Posthuman mind control (was RE: FAQ Additions)

Nick Bostrom (
Thu, 25 Feb 1999 21:48:56 +0000

Billy Brown wrote:

> Michael S. Lorrey wrote:

> So long as one of its directives
> were
> > to not itself remove any of its own prime directives, it would never
> consider
> > such a course of action for itself.
> Well, yes, that is the intelligent way to set up a mind control system.
> However, if you read the rest of my post you'll see that this isn't what we
> were talking about.
> Nick Bostrom was arguing in favor of programming a fundamental moral system
> into the AI, and then turning it loose with complete free will.

I'm not sure Michael and I are not saying the same thing in different words. Anyway, there is one thing in Billy's comment that I want to pick on. What Billy calls "mind control system" could in my opinion better be called "motivation system". Every agent needs a motivation system, and just because its motivation system was deliberately designed by another being rather than happened accidentally (due to genetical and environmental factors) doesn't make it any less part of what that agent is. It's not an external coersion, it is part of its nature --"Don't change me, don't cancel my love for human beings. This is who I am and this is what I want to be. I know I would not have had these desires and values if my constructors hadn't made my goal-module that way; so what. You humans would not have had the values you have if evolution hadn't made your goal-modules the way they are. Free will does not require that one somehow creates one's values out of empty air; to do so would be totally random. No, you start with what is given to you -- your values, your preferences -- and those are the criteria by which you judge whether a proposed change would be an improvement.

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