The Meaning of Life (was Ai vs. general intelligence)

jbone at jbone at
Mon Oct 20 20:28:53 PDT 2003


Good comments despite the fact that you didn't answer the question 
asked.  I was hoping at least for a straw-man that we could swing at.  
(GRAM_ERR) Since you didn't offer one, allow me...

An intelligence worth preserving is one that can make qualitative 
judgments about is own survival such that it can rationally (i.e., not 
based on pure belief, but rather on some quantitative, logical chain of 
reasoning from some generally-acceptable premises) choose some other 
individual's (or species, group's, whatever) survival over its own.

More to the point, it's an intelligence that understands that 
intelligence is something that (a) needs to be maximized in the 
universe over time and space, and (b) needs to be perpetuated as long 
as possible.

The most important "war" humanity is waging isn't against Iraq, or 
terrorism --- it's against entropy.  Every choice we make that reduces 
even fractionally the survival of *all human-equivalent intelligence* 
is a wrong choice.

At the risk of being highly controversial, let me offer the following 
example.  Assume that general post-human and super-human machine 
intelligence exists 20 years from now.  Assume that a scenario exists 
such that a choice must be made between the total extinction of all 
super- and post-human intelligence and all human (biological) 
intelligence.  What do you choose?  I choose the emergent, evolutionary 
intelligence.  I am perhaps a traitor to my biological species, but I 
am a patriot when it comes to human-derived intelligence in general.

Given that we have no evidence of other intelligent life in the cosmos 
--- statistics and the Greenbank / Frank equation to the contrary --- 
then it seems that a universe bereft of intelligence, ticking down 
towards the heat death, is an awful waste of space-time.  All and any 
choices that avoid that possibility are to be avoided.  That's an 
ethical statement.

A real intelligence is one with the interest, foresight, and ethical 
framework to weigh such questions and make reasoned --- i.e., 
justifiable given some set of givens, however arguable --- decisions.  
As a shocker, let me say this:  if I had to choose 10,000 humans on 
this planet to survive going forward, I'm not sure I'd choose myself.  
But if I had to choose 10,000 *intelligences* chosen from post- and 
super-human machine intelligences or human intelligences --- I'm not 
sure that *any* humans would make the cut.  It's not a given;  it's 
purely a function of the size and quality of the post- and super-human 

Intelligence is more important than genetics or existential need or 
survival instinct.

And so my straw-man is:  unless an intelligence is equipped to wrestle 
with --- and possibly make self-detrimental decisions regarding --- its 
own survival vis a vis overall context then I'm not sure it's worthy of 
"person" status.  Will to self-preservation isn't enough --- all 
animals have that.  Right or wrong, the will to sacrifice oneself for 
the greater good is today a peculiarly defining human characteristic.  
And given the arbitrary nature of defining "personhood" this seems to 
me to be an adequate --- even maximally noble --- way of defining it.

You may find this a curious perspective given my other ideological 
statements.  I think it's not inconsistent, but rather just difficult 
to apprehend.



PS:  NB:  there's some scary extrapolations of this.  But hey, what do 
you expect:  I'm also an advocate of the idea that anyone and everyone 
who can muddle through simple diff-eq is a human, and all others have 
no human rights as well.  ;-)  That's a joke.

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