[extropy-chat] limits of computer feeling

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Wed Mar 14 15:31:05 UTC 2007

On 3/13/07, Anders Sandberg <asa at nada.kth.se> wrote:

> 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!
### We need to keep in mind that our present society is not anywhere
close to evolutionary equilibrium. Many of our mental characteristics
are adaptations to the life in the African savannah, 200 000 years
ago. At that time and place, our ancestors spent essentially all of
their time obtaining the resources needed for maintenance and
replication of their genes. Status seeking, signaling, envy,
dominance, and yes, even a bit of leisure - all of these helped to get
more food, destroy enemies, gain sexual access, or protect offspring.
Our ancestors may have had occasionally fun, but essentially all they
ever did was to work on the survival of their genes. Under conditions
of evolutionary equilibrium working on your survival is almost all
that living creatures do, from the amoeba, and the cockroach, to the
lion and the whale.

Now, we have inherited a lot of proclivities that no longer contribute
to survival but since almost all of us inherited them to almost the
same degree, the competition among us does not result in radical
differences in survival. What we see as "fun" or "leisure" (sports,
sex, eating) are in fact activities that used to be "work" - the stuff
your genes "think" they need to survive. Our genes just didn't have
the time to catch up with the present situation, since the it is only
about a few hundred years ago that our current way of life started
emerging. (BTW - this is why the trends you mention above, more
leisure and more pleasure with more technology, are misleading - our
current amount of leisure is a 300 year blip on a graph spanning 3
billion years of evolution)

But, with self-modification there will be much more profound
differences in productivity. The mind that builds itself to do nothing
but to maximize access to resources, and to multiply as quickly as
possible, ideally adapted to the year year 2030, will not have a
"slight" edge in economic fitness over those still adapted to the year
200 000 BC - it will be a gaping chasm.

The speed with which you will be able to adapt yourself to the
prevailing conditions will no longer be limited by the snail's pace of
evolution - you will be able to adapt as soon as you understand what
is needed, work out the mods to your mind, and reboot. In other words,
the posthuman minds could be in evolutionary equilibrium all the time.

Of course, it is possible that the most efficient minds will use
happiness or pleasure (i.e. the computational paradigms that have the
subjective correlate of happiness) as an indispensable component of
their motivational structure. Maybe computing happiness really is
needed to orchestrate the diverse agents that make up a complex mind,
so as to act in harmony for long-term goals. Perhaps. Obviously, I
know next to nothing about the design space of minds in general - my
naive guess is that there are many ways to skin the cat, and minds
without this motivational trick are possible, and frequently will
survive better than the ones dependent on it.

However, I am moderately confident that sinking large fractions of
your computing (and other) resources on pleasure for pleasure's sake
will severely limit survival, and will be quickly weeded out of the
ecosystem, once evolution starts running on Internet time.


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