Re: Risk vs. Payoff

From: Emlyn (
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 08:55:52 MDT

Aleks wrote:
> In these times of disposable consumer items, one must ask oneself whether
it is
> cheaper to fix and patch, or to recycle. It's a simple question of cost,
not a
> fundamental philosophical issue. I'm all for Lamarckism, if it is cheaper,
> if it provides the level of invention offered by random ways of Darwinian
> optimization.

This is a funny way to look at things. It reminds me of all those companies
that save money by downsizing essential employees, and find out afterwards
that they can't turn a profit for some reason. Or, why not lop off your legs
and get a wheelchair? Surely you'd require less food. Also, one of the arms
has got to be redundant.

More seriously, you have an implicit assumption here that survival of the
species, or survival of intelligent life, or some otherwise defined class,
is our "supergoal" (to borrow some jargon). Many here would argue that this
is fundamentally at odds with extropianism, which has a more individualistic
outlook... we would save ourselves, at the cost of the long term good of the
species perhaps. Although it is not at all clear that this is a required

> Death is recycling, and nothing is wrong with recycling. Do not be so fond
> these worthless evolved phobias of death. The focus must be on life, and
> is not the opposite of it, just another aspect of the optimization

Death is death is death. Natural selection is all well and good, it's gotten
us this far. However, it's capricious, and it's cruel. The idea that
intelligent beings would willingly submit themselves to it's tempest, given
the option to not, is ludicrous.

I think the point that you are wanting to make is that natural selection is
more efficient than the alternative, whatever that may be. I don't think
that's necessarily so. The idea of becoming transhuman is that we can shape
ourselves as we see fit, and as is best to meet the challenges of our
environment. We can use many tools to do this, simulated natural selection
amongst them. Plain vanilla natural selection (ie: kill lots of intelligent
beings, repeat) is an extremely slow way to improve our fitness in the
universe. It would be ludicrous to suppose, for example, that you could put
a population of practically immortal transhumans next to a population of
naturally evolving humans, and expect the "natural" humans to compete.

Evolution is fine, fabulous. Natural selection is clumsy, slow, tyranical,
and incredibly inefficient. Take it down from the pedestal.


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