[extropy-chat] limits of computer feeling

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Tue Mar 13 20:26:29 UTC 2007

Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
> ### But let's consider the economic aspects here: There is likely to
> be a positive correlation between the amount of computing power
> devoted to the acquisition of computational resources and the amount
> of computing power an entity gains. Therefore the entities that use a
> part of their computational resources for bliss will not be able to
> gain resources as quickly as entities that are not so encumbered. They
> may also be unable to resist the loss of computational resources,
> given the likely persistence of scarcity and competition for
> resources.

Ah, so that is why there are no hedonists around today, especially not
among the upper classes! :-)

While computing power might be useful for earning money, there are many
other ways to get rich - having unique or hard-to-replicate information or
skills, being a winner in the attention game, investments etc. Sometimes
it might not even be clever to have too much computing power, since no
doubt that is unweildy and expensive. There is room for cockroaches and
newspaper stands in the eco/econosystem, and they can relocate far more
easily than elephants or CNN if conditions change. I would expect
something similar for huge minds too.

One trend we seem to have had so far is that as the economy becomes bigger
and more efficient people get more time and resources for leisure, not
less. While we might all complain about working hours and the rat race,
clearly the amount of pleasure-time ordinary people have has increased
since the turn of last century, the middle ages, antiquity and the
neolithic. The hunter-gatherers might have plenty of spare time but they
couldn't spend that time in very many pleasurable ways. Their farmer
offspring had less free time (that might have been one of the few cases of
real diminishment of pleasure), but as society became richer and broader
the pleasures increased.

I think that a posthuman economy is going to be so wealthy that most
individuals are going to be spending enormous amounts of resources on
pleasure. Maybe there will be a clade of non-pleasure workaholics around
(or more likely, they regard economic activity as pleasurable) that only
try to get ahead. But looking at how workaholics today doesn't seem to be
anywhere dominant in business or wealth (they certainly do better than us
lazy people, but not enormously so - one reason is that at higher levels
business requires fairly broad capacities that are hard to achieve just by
hard work, like social networking and alliance building), I think the Homo
economicus will be just one of the many odd clades around.

Still, I could be wrong. It would be interesting to see if one could use
Adami-type evolutionary statistical mechanics arguments on the evolution
of posthuman motivational clades and how likely it would be that slight
differences in economic fitness would produce radically dominant
evolutionary clades. Sounds like a great research project for someday when
somebody has time. Now I must work - how delightful! Yay!

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list