[ExI] People are Genuine Altruists, Sociopaths, or Confused/Moody

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Sep 14 00:11:50 UTC 2008

>> This is a classic question---don't think that I invented it!
> No, I didn't think you invented it.  I meant that you keep asking it 
> repeatedly, and refuse to accept my answer since it doesn't match your 
> answer.  ["Since"?  Objection! Conclusion on the part of the witness, your honor!]
[Have I surmised your reasons for anything, or is it that I just keep asking? You
probably shouldn't surmise my reasons.]

Harvey had written

> > > Your latest contrivance only works if I never visit that city, or at least 
> > > that restaurant, again.  Great.  Now I have to keep a list of people and 
> > > places that I have cheated so that I can avoid them for the rest of my life. 
> > > It doesn't seem worth it to save a few measly bucks.

To which I responded,

> > Hmm, I don't think that a truly selfish person practiced and intent
> > only on his own self-interest would have the least bit of trouble with 
> > weighing the simple likely outcomes.
> I don't think anybody would have trouble doing this.

Well, you had *just* said "Now I have to keep a list of people
and places..."  indicating the trouble! Our communication is a mess, here!

> You only think I am having trouble because my conclusions
> are different than yours.

No (and once again you dare have the balls to tell me what I am
thinking)---I was just responding to what you wrote!  It might
help if you included more of the relevant text, so that statements
like your last one are more easily seen to be non-sequiturs.

In fact, I completely welcome conclusions different from mine: what
would there be to discuss without them?

>> So suspicious! Always worried about what a "yes" may lead to, eh?
>> I wonder if you were this way *before* taking up your line of work  :-)
> No, you keep making this unfounded assertion, and I keep denying it.

That was a *joke*, sir.  Please notice the little three-character
symbol following it. I have *never* made any "assertion" about
your character before you took up your present vocation---that
was, to repeat, an attempt at levity that obviouisly misfired. No
more, sir, not with you. Instead of improving the communication
and lightening the confrontational aspect, it just seems to make it worse.

>> <sigh>, Merely trying to defend my claim above that we
>> genuine altruists frequently do *not* act in our own self-interest,
>> and have no intention of "correcting" the situation.
> I agree that this is often true for most people.  But why are you so intent 
> on proving that it is true for me?  I have explained my rationale repeatedly.

I don't care that much about any single individual. I'm sure that
you and I, however, are not really too atypical. We're having
to search for words and are trying to refine concepts on the
road to truth here, i.e., situation normal.

> I don't see where my analysis is wrong in my situation.  But 
> even if  my calculations are wrong, can't you see that I am still
> choosing the best-self interest as I have calculated them?

Ah, good. We wander back into substance. If it will not 
overly tire you more, it still seems to me that this is a very
key point upon which we apparently disagree. You claim
that you are choosing for your own self-interest. Maybe,
maybe not. I ascribe "genuine altruism" to people whose
behavior is exemplified by

      a. leaving a tip in restaurants even though the
          waiter mentioned that he's moving back to Mexico
          in less than an hour (and won't be talking to anyone
          about your less than generous behavior)
      b. letting someone out of a crowded parking lot in
          front of your own vehicle, although that only slows
          you down, makes it more likely that you'll not make
          it past the next yellow light, while all the time there is
          almost chance that the driver of that vehicle will ever
          or even would be able to hold it against you
      c. frequently calling an aged, but rather boring, parent 
          who wouldn't hold it against you if you called half as
          much, but whom you call more than is strictly
          necessary simply because you know it comforts
          him or her.
      d. would however, immediately cease a lot of their
          ("nice") behaviors like this were they to learn that they
          were in a simulation wherein they were the only conscious

Now it may happen that you do none of a, b, or c, and that
you would act exactly the same in case d and you do in the
present world, but I do not understand how you can describe
a, b, and c as self-interested behavior.
(Unless one were talking about the question-begging case of
having a conscience that would bother one. We hardly refer
to people who are afraid of what hell their consciences may
unleash as "self-interested" or "selfish".)

> Or that I would choose your answers if I believed your
> calculations were correct?

Not sure if it's a question of "correctness", but maybe so.
Yes, I may indeed calculate (in a certain way) that it's high
time I gave my mother a call, but that calculation so far as
I am aware---and that's the truly difficult part---is regards
*her* interest, not *mine*. (Actually, lucky for me, she's
fine to talk to, but I'd call her regularly even if not.) Likewise
for a and b: I'm not thinking about *me* when I leave the tip
(unless it's a place where I know the waiters and waitresses,
and want to leave a good impression). I'm thinking about *them*,
and what is in their interest, and how they'll feel if they see a
nice tip.

>> But yes, I am indeed arguing that cheating under circumstances
>> where it is exceedingly unlikely anyone will know, defecting when
>> one cannot be caught at it, and never being the last to reciprocate,
>> are all in the person's best interest, modulo the obvious torments of
>> conscience in those of us that have them.
> I agree with your argument completely for most people.  But I am not like 
> most people.
> - As I get better known on the internet and in my career, I am more likely 
> to get recognized in these "anonymous" situations you describe.
> - As I make more and more money, the value of skipping a tip becomes less 
> and less.
> - As I travel more on business, and keep getting called to random locations 
> and restaurants, I am even more likely to have to return to a specific city 
> or restaurant than ever.
> - As I become more rich and famous, the risk of strangers being able to come 
> forward with a story of how I cheated them becomes more likely and damaging.
> - As I learn more about ubiquitous surveillence, the change of me secretly 
> being watched is growing all the time.

Well, then, you may wish to describe your behavior before you got
very far along on the road towards fame and fortune. From what you 
write, yes, indeed, it is now self-interested of you to engage in these 
behaviors, even if there is also (evidently unbeknownst to you) a
component of genuine altruism. You'll know if you are able to accurately
recall how it was for you many, many years ago.


> Even if your proposition is true for some, it could be less so for me.
> And even if it is true for me in some cases, that likelihood is decreasing all 
> the time.

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