Values (was Re: Singularity-worship)

Romana Machado (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 10:39:52 -0800

Eric Watt Forste contributes:
>I also suspect that human cognition is far too plastic for us to
>be able to discuss these things as if they were givens. That's
>something that economists pretty much have to do (accept human
>values as data) according to the traditions of their discipline,
>but I like to think that we can do more than merely economic analysis
>of ourselves.

I think it's a pretty fine accomplishment to be able to do economic
analysis of ourselves at all. It's a very abstract, revealing, and
objective way of looking at ourselves, and shouldn't be discounted with a
"merely". If a transhuman objective is to "develop rational values" -
whatever those might be - I hope those in the know can tell me - surely
economics is a useful tool.

>Whether our values are linearly comparable or not, to the extent
>that we can only do one thing at a time with our bodies, we hack
>out some internal linear measure anyway... that's how we decide
>what to do with our bodies at any given moment. This hacked-out
>scalar approximation of "value" clearly changes from moment to
>moment and differs from individual to individual; it may or may
>not be derived from a more stable "deeper structure" which might
>be modeled by some more complex data structure than a priority
>queue. Furthermore, this hypothetical deeper structure may or may
>not have perceivable elements that are "objective": products of
>evolution that form a reliable (in the sense, I suppose, of living
>a satisfying life and attaining reproductive success on both the
>genetic and memetic levels???) "basis" for human values. But as
>far as I'm concerned, all of this is merely metaphor, because none
>of this is at the stage of measurement or prediction yet. It's not
>even particularly precise.

At least I agree with this idea that values are revealed by physical
action. What you do reveals your values to others, and sometimes to
yourself. (You may think that you value something, but perhaps it doesn't
affect what you do.)

Perhaps this "hypothetical underlying structure" has some elements that can
be demonstrated. For instance, I think it's well demonstrated that
evolution has enormous interest in individual control, and has selected for
species and individuals that strive for such control and strive to avoid

There's been a lot of research, hundreds of studies in psychology, on this,
most recently by Martin Seligman et al. Animals (rats, dogs, primates,
goldfish, even cockroaches) show the benefits of choice and the costs of
helplessness as do Westernized humans like us. They are energized by
control and become passive, depressed, and suffer worse physical health
when they are helpless.

Given this evidence, one may argue that the value often called "personal
responsibility" or "individualism" or "autonomy" has a deep, primal,
arational basis.

On this same thread Paul Wafker writes:
>However, I believe that many people who are to adamant about this
>sometimes >forget the value of human interpersonal attributes such as
>love, honor, >loyalty, joy, etc. which are only very indirectly related to

Let's not fail to see that there are markets at work in all forms of
interpersonal trade, including love, attention, friendship, and loyalty.

Romana Machado
erotic site: "Romana Machado's Peek of the Week"
personal site: "Romana Machado World Headquarters"