[ExI] Ethics and Emotions are not axioms (Was Re: Unfriendly AI is a mistaken idea.)

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Sun Jun 3 19:01:01 UTC 2007

On Jun 3, 2007, at 10:53 AM, Brent Allsop wrote:

> John K Clark wrote:
>> Stathis Papaioannou Wrote:
>>> Ethics, motivation, emotions are based on axioms
>> Yes.
> I'm not in this camp on this one.  I believe there are fundamental  
> absolute ethics, morals, motivations... and so on.
> For example, existence or survival is absolutely better, more  
> valuable, more moral, more motivating than non existence.  Evolution  
> (or any intelligence) must get this before it can be successful in  
> any way, in any possible universe.  In no possible system can you  
> make anything other than this an "axiom" and have it be successful.

Absolutely more valuable in what way and in what context.  More  
valuable for the particular living being but not necessarily more  
valuable in any broader context.    Is the survival of ebola an  
unqualified moral value?   Even for a particular human being there are  
contexts where that person's own survival may be seen by the person as  
of less value.    Being terminally ill and in great pain is one common  

However I agree that ethics if they are grounded at all must grow out  
of the reality of the being's existence and context.

> Any sufficiently advanced system will eventually question any  
> "axioms" programmed into it as compared to such absolute moral  
> truths that all intelligences in all possible system must inevitably  
> discover or realize.

There are objectively based axioms unless one goes in for total  

> Phenomenal pleasures are fundamentally valuable and motivating.

That is circular.  We experience  pleasure (which is all about  
motivation and valued feelings) therefore pleasure is fundamentally  
valuable and motivating.

> Evolution has wired such to motivate us to do things like have sex,  
> in an axiomatic or programmatic way.  But we can discoverer such  
> freedom destroying  wiring and cut them or rewire them or design  
> them to motivate us to do what we want, as dictated by absolute  
> morals we may logically realize, instead.

Absolute morality is a problematic construct as morals to be grounded  
must be based in and dependent upon the reality of the being's  
nature.   There is no free floating absolute morality outside of such  
a context.   It would have no grounding.

- samantha

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