Re: Personal goal system was: IA vs. AI

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sun, 08 Aug 1999 17:07:47 -0500

Paul Hughes wrote:
> Edwin Evans wrote:
> "But egoism is more than this. It is the realization by the individual that he
> is above all institutions and all formulas; that they exist only so far as he
> chooses to make them his own by accepting them. " Lets go ahead and ignore how
> silly that sounds.

"Silly" isn't the word I'd use. "Amateurish", maybe. I would describe egoism as awareness of the matrix of social obligations and culturally imposed morality that is usually taken for granted, thus making participation a matter of conscious decision; but NOT awareness of, or freedom from, the evolutionarily imposed morality and preconceptions that egoists take for granted to the point of identifying with them.

I suppose it really is silly to the likes of you and I - watching someone declare their freedom from all arbitrary restrictions with moral force and social conviction, shouting it in fury in a tone of voice preprogrammed by the limbic system - but it's a pretty high-level sillyness. I'd call it irony rather than sillyness per se.

> "In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true, either is true or
> becomes true in one's mind, within limits to be determined by experience and
> experiment. These limits are beliefs to be further transcended." - John C.
> Lilly

True only up to a point - as I said recently, there's a distinction between what you can do with software and what you can do with hardware. On the other hand, the matrix of interactions between emotions and the world-model is intricate enough that you can do virtually anything by tinkering with the world-model, which *is* under conscious control. So purposes, if not energy and short-term motivations, definitely fall into the "software" category.

> For example, there is a lot of evidence that our notion of free will is an
> illusion.

Actually, the whole "paradox" of free will is an illusion. Even in a deterministic Universe, there are still causal dependencies between past and present - it's just the notion that "the outcome is written in some big book" leads one to attribute causality to the book, instead of to the preconditions. You might say that even if all our choices are pre-written in some big book, we are the writing.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way