Game Theory and the Golden Rule

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Tue Dec 2 10:46:10 PST 2003


On Tuesday, Dec 2, 2003, at 09:07 US/Central, Eugen Leitl wrote:

> On Tue, Dec 02, 2003 at 08:36:37AM -0600, jbone @ place. org wrote:
>
>> Let me qualify and expand on my statement a bit...  first, the
>> reasoning I eluded to is helped by viewing the game series as 
>> infinite;
>
> Between very asymmetric players, no worthwhile interactions are
> possible.

To assume this is to make dangerous assumptions.

(1)  First, it's prima facie false.  Consider:  we are vastly more 
powerful than, say, plants.  Any given plant basically can basically 
live or die at the whims of a single human being;  and the global 
population of plants lives or dies at the net whims of the global human 
population.  Yet we're not killing off all the plants:  that would be 
disastrous, plants are a *resource.*  And the value exchange is 
two-way:  we produce what they breathe, tend them, etc...  Point being: 
  even vastly dissimilar and vastly asymmetrically powerful beings can 
pairwise-individually and net-population wise have mutually beneficial 
exchanges of value that result in a motivation on the part of the 
powerful species to preserve the less-powerful species.  (Note that it 
would appear that the relationship between any intelligent beings 
regardless of effective dissimilar levels of intelligence in 
individuals is qualitatively different from the relationship between 
any intelligent being and any non-intelligent being.  Intelligence is 
quantized, not a continuum.)

(2)  It makes an implicit assumption about the value system involved, 
which is IMHO both limited and arrogant.  Who are we to say what might 
be "valuable" to beings that are, essentially, gods?  Or more to the 
point:  what is *not* valuable.

(3)  It assumes a kind of stasis that isn't necessarily valid.  Weak 
players become strong players over time, and the bounds of power (laws 
of physics, available exploitable resources, mutual survival 
imperatives as above, etc.) probably produce a kind of plateau -- the 
reasoning is similar to the (admittedly suspect, but illustrative) 
utility arguments for progressive taxation.  Point being, at some point 
increments of increased power produce only small increases in effective 
power vs. a similar player.

Consider ants.  Let's assume that a posthuman civilization begins to 
notice signs of increased tool-use, reasoning behavior, and technology 
among ants.  Does the posthuman civ kill all the ants in order to 
minimize the eventual possibility of competition with or even 
extinction at the hands of the ants?  Or does it cultivate the ants in 
order to "grow" a potential future collaborator in an infinite and 
infinitely valuable series of interactions?  Or does it even recognize 
any kind of us / them distinction in the first place?

Just some thoughts...

jb



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