[ExI] Scientists have found a drug that makes people more compassionate

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sat Sep 26 07:32:27 UTC 2015

On 2015-09-26 01:43, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> It's interesting to speculate on what sort of people and what sort of 
> society we would have if it were a trivial matter to reprogram 
> ourselves, so that our personalities and other psychological 
> attributes were self-chosen. Would we make ourselves fair, 
> hard-working, compassionate - all the things that people, religious 
> and secular institutions throughout history aspire to, but only 
> sometimes attain? I doubt that many people would actually want to make 
> themselves evil, but maybe they would, in order to dominate the kind 
> and gentle majority - who might then alter themselves in order to 
> resist. It's hard to predict what would actually happen.

Funny that you mention that. One of my ongoing projects is actually 
about running game-theoretic simulations about a reprogrammable society. 
And it is surprisingly unpredictable, even with very simple assumptions.

One important realization is that even if people update themselves to 
have values that would make them happier (given their current values) 
they might actually not become happier, since the collective effect on 
the society may reduce their happiness even with updated values. And 
this can happen even if society is becoming "better" in an objective way 
(more cooperation).

Another thing is that our current actual mix of social value 
orientations appear to be a fairly solid attractor state: I do not think 
small changes in outlook can destabilize it (unlike my co-author; we are 
testing it now).

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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