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

Harvey Newstrom mail at HarveyNewstrom.com
Sun Sep 14 03:47:10 UTC 2008

"Lee Corbin" <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote,
> [Have I surmised your reasons for anything, or is it that I just keep 
> asking? You
> probably shouldn't surmise my reasons.]

Just to answer your question, you are constantly surmising my reasons for 
- You keep arguing that I am being altruistic when I claim I am not.
- You keep arguing that my answers are really lies because I am afraid to 
admit the truth.
- You keep arguing that my explanations for my behavior aren't the real 
reasons I behave this way.
- You keep arguing that I am afraid to let you lead the conversation because 
I'm afraid you'll prove me wrong.

>> 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 cut off the part where I clearly indicated that I could do it, but "It 
doesn't seem worth it to save a few measly bucks."

>> 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!

That's because when you response to what I wrote, you told me what you 
thought was more accurate than what I thought.

>>> 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.

This "joke" is wearing thin, as you have repeatedly asserted that I to 
cowardly to admit the truth.

> 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.

Yes.  You are just repeating the disagreement again.  My answers aren't 
going to change.

> 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)

It's not altruism to pay someone for a job well done.  If I got more service 
than the minimum required, paying them a little extra money for the extra 
service is not unreasonable.  Genuine altruism would be tipping servers at 
other tables who didn't serve me.

>      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

It's not altruism to drive cooperatively in traffic rather than 
competitively.  It's safer for me to let him go first rather than for me to 
go first and hope he stops.  Genuine altruism would be letting multiple cars 
go ahead of me instead of just one, or letting cars behind me go around.

>      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.

It's not altruism to pay comfort back to a parent who has comforted me in 
the past.  I got something first, so payment back is not unreasonable. 
Genuine altruism would be going to an old folks home to talk to strangers.

>      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
>          individual

Nope.  Your examples all give real value to me for which I am willing to 
"pay back" for.  I wouldn't tip bad service, or call a absentee parent who 
was never there as I grew up.  Nor do I do these things to make the other 
people happy.  The waiter earned a tip whether he's a human or a robot.  The 
other cars are still dangerous to me, whether they are driven by humans or 
simulations.  I owe my parents a lot, whether they are humans or just 

These examples are simply poor examples of "genuine altruism" because they 
all involve me getting benefits.  Why don't you come up with examples of 
"genuine altruism" where I don't get anything back?  Such as:

- Giving away money to strangers just to make them happy?
- Doing odd jobs for strangers?
- Carrying bags of groceries for the person behind me at the store?
- Waiting until last to get on the bus?
- Giving blood?
- Driving people to the polls to vote?

> 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.

No, I haven't changed.  I always had the hubris to assume that I would be 
very successful in life.  I was intelligent, creative, did well in school, 
and accomplished many things growing up.  I always knew I could make it big 
on my own, and never felt that I needed to take from other people to get 
ahead, even if I could get away with it.

Why cheat at a sport you are good at?  Why cheat at a game are winning?  Why 
fake work that you can do easily?  Why steal or skimp for money you can 
easily earn?  Why try to "secretly get away with something" that you don't 
need to do anyway?

Nobody who was successful or expected to be successful would bother with 
this penny-ante stuff to get ahead.  You keep asking "why not cheat?"  But 
I'm asking "why bother?"

Harvey Newstrom <www.HarveyNewstrom.com>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list