Re: Human lives: Do the math (was: Impact on history)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Sep 17 2001 - 00:20:01 MDT

John Clark wrote:
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> Wrote:
> >killing a hundred thousand Afghan citizens to prevent ten future terrosist
> >attacks costing an average of five thousand American lives apiece would
> >be bad mathematics even if it worked.
> I think it's wonderful mathematics because I could be one of those
> Americans killed and I could not be one of those Afghanis killed and
> my life is worth more than anything else in the known universe.

Well, then, you can go to the Middle East and gun down the Afghani whose
lives you don't value, and be killed in turn by terrorists who don't value
your life, while those of us who foolishly and impractically choose to
value all sentient life equally quietly buckle down and cooperate on the

> And another thing, who do you think is more likely to advance
> the singularity, the average resident of Wall Street or the
> average resident of Afghanistan who can not read or write in any
> language?

(Sound effect: Dull thump as head drops onto table.)

I refer you to "A specific refutation of genocide".

I'm not a judge of whose life is worth living. I just build
superintelligent altruists. I may offer up my guesses as to what
lifestyles advance or retard the Singularity, but that's so that people
can better choose their lifestyles. I am not in the business of
assassinating people whose net value to the Singularity falls below zero.
You can't steer a car by selectively shooting out the tires. And if you
kill someone and say, "I can do it because I'm more valuable to the
Singularity than he was," I won't lift one damn finger to stop you from
going to prison, and I'll curse you along the way for defacing the meme.

The people who will advance the Singularity are either altruists, or
selfish individuals who understand the game-theoretical importance of at
least *acting* as if all lives have equal value. And people who act as if
the Singularity is an excuse to defect in the Prisoner's Dilemna are not
only going to get zapped by Tit for Tat, they are going to make a very bad
impression for transhumanist memes among exactly the population that would
otherwise be most likely to donate to the Singularity Institute.

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

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