Re: Ethics

Anders Sandberg (
25 Jun 1998 22:44:12 +0200

Daniel Fabulich <> writes:

> > I'm not sure this is obviously rational, I fail to
> > see why saving lives is a rational act.
> Saving lives is not, in itself, rational; unless you get great pleasure
> from doing so. Saving your OWN life, however, is.

Actually, it is rational to save others' lives if it improves the
chances that you will be saved in a dangerous situation. There is a
very interesting article in Nature June 11 about how cooperation
emerges if individuals have an image dependent on their behavior. It
turns out that it is rational to save even complete strangers you will
never meet again if you will become known as a nice guy:

author = {M. A. Nowak and K. Sigmund},
title = {Evolution of indirect reciprocity by image scoring [In
Process Citation]},
journal = {Nature},
volume = {393},
number = {6685},
pages = {573--7},
month = {Jun 11},
year = {1998},
abstract = {Darwinian evolution has to provide an explanation for
cooperative behaviour. Theories of cooperation are based on kin
selection (dependent on genetic relatedness), group selection and
reciprocal altruism. The idea of reciprocal altruism usually involves
direct reciprocity: repeated encounters between the same individuals
allow for the return of an altruistic act by the recipient. Here we
present a new theoretical framework, which is based on indirect
reciprocity and does not require the same two individuals ever to meet
again. Individual selection can nevertheless favour cooperative
strategies directed towards recipients that have helped others in the
past. Cooperation pays because it confers the image of a valuable
community member to the cooperating individual. We present computer
simulations and analytic models that specify the conditions required
for evolutionary stability of indirect reciprocity. We show that the
probability of knowing the 'image' of the recipient must exceed the
cost-to-benefit ratio of the altruistic act. We propose that the
emergence of indirect reciprocity was a decisive step for the
evolution of human societies.} }

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y