Re: Ethics, Egoism, and Rationality

Eugene Leitl (
Sun, 28 Jun 1998 17:58:16 +0400 (MSD)

Lee Daniel Crocker writes:

> The prisoner's dilemma only applies to short-term interactions,
> not repeated ones. This is the mistake many non-egoists make with

Yes, there are many flavours of it: Iterated Prisonner's Dilemma, and
spatial IPD, etc.

> their naive refutations of egoism: what they reject is not egoism
> per se, but _short term_ egoism. Most "selfish" acts that seem
> evil do so not because they are selfish, but because they are not
> selfish _in the long run_. Criminal behavior, for example, may
> lead to short-term gains, but in a world where most values are
> achieved by interacting with others multiple times, criminals do
> far more poorly than rational long-term egoists, who understand
> that cooperative behavior is, in the long run, more profitable.

In an iterative, evolutionary scenario the strategy is not static. In an
environment whether you can examine the identity of the other party
and keep a record of your past dealing with that party, and can
share the same information among trusted other parties (nondefecting
in that respect) one should intuitively think more benign strategies
would evolve.

In fact this would seem to be validated by observing undenaturated
rural societes. As mobility and anonymity in urban environments have
increased, we need to adjust our strategies to a higher level of
defection (you can't prove one's identity reliably, and there are no
easily accessible records, and you're unlikely to deal with that party
in the future), or make new tools available.

> For extropians, for whom even mortality is a problem to be solved,
> should be that much more inclined to think long term, and therefore
> value behavior that benefits us throughout our immortal existence
> and not just take a buck when we can. Under these conditions,
> egoism is superior to utilitarianism in every respect.

With wearable computing (the Java ring; true wearables) and ubiquitous
networking authentication as obtaining a track record is a piece of
cake. It is much more difficult to make such technologies immune
against misuse.