Ask A Genius 357 – Cycles in History: The Future of Kindness
April 8, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, you wanted to talk about the future of kindness. What is our future of kindness, and what is your future of kindness?
Rick Rosner: Well, alright so, the present and past of kindness pretty much hinge on the Golden Rule. But you don’t even, for everyday acts of kindness, you don’t even need to apply the logic of the Golden Rule. We know what people want, from being around people forever, so kindness is generally, not being mean to people.
With possible exceptions of being mean to people where it would improve their lives to be mean to them, in an intervention, where being mean to people will stop them from hurting other people, then you can extend that to other creatures, within reason.
You can extend to the products made by people that you don’t want to wreck stuff, if it would make people feel bad, unnecessarily. Then there are the different levels of charity. There is the saying, “Feed a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish then you feed for a lifetime.”
So, it’s kinder to do something that leads to long-term benefits. Under Judaism, it is kinder to give to a charity then you don’t take credit for, maybe the people don’t even realize they are given charity, because that can be demoralizing. But basically, everything boils down to being nice to people.
The mid-future, we will have the dilemmas of who has feelings as AI proliferates and we merge with AI. Also, the problems of maintaining a sense of proportion, maybe purposefully losing a sense of proportion because say 80 years in the future there are some augmented humans who are 50 times smarter and more perceptive than natural humans.
Under that system, somebody could argue that those are the people that deserve all our considerations because they are feeling things much more intensely with all their added cognitive power. You want to maintain some lack of proportion where the smartest beings don’t get all the kindness.
That we don’t want to forget where we came from and where many humans will still be. The same way it is dopey to be cruel to animals because they are dumber than we are. Also, a part of kindness will be figuring out the setups for happiness, AIs or humans merged with AIs trying to fulfill those set-ups within reason.
And trying to figure out those set-ups themselves are reasonable, it still all boils down to being nice to thinking beings, but it will be tougher to sort out what thinking beings are, what they want, whether it’s best that they want those things, so you have a robotic assistant that has been programmed to appear to be conscious with feelings and drives, but is basically not.
It is simulating that stuff because maybe it is an easier problem in hardware and programming. But maybe, that thing would be more effective with feelings, and maybe there is an argument to be made for sophisticated pieces of machinery that simulate feelings, to have actual feelings.
I don’t know what that argument would be, why you would be arguing to turn an inanimate object into a thinking being with all the potential suffering and risks that might entail, and that doesn’t seem necessarily like a great move.
On the other hand, if you have a thing that is on the verge of thinking, but it exists in an equivalent brain damaged world because all the half-assed-ness that went into its construction, maybe, it would be a mitzvah to make it fully conscious.
There are going to be all sorts of arguments around who deserves kindness, consideration, legal rights, financial resources, and it all boils back down to having good models of what’s happening in the brains or information processors of these various things.
My conservative buddy Lance: that’s the thing people are resistant to because it is tough.
My buddy Lance last night went back to the black box argument saying he is not interested in if people have racist thoughts. Because I was arguing that everybody is racist to a certain extent, according to the definition of racism, basically making judgments based on people’s appearances and what you know about them, whether you act on those judgments or discriminate.
That’s one form of racism. It is making judgments. A different definition of racism is to be mean, be bad to people based on race. Lance was throwing out the first definition altogether, might as well disregard it, because you can’t tell what people are thinking, the brain is a black box.
So, even 80 years after behaviorism, some people will resort to black box arguments. And there will be different degrees of black-box-ism in the future when people try to make things easy for themselves, by saying we can’t know what is going on inside the heads of various entities.
That’s in my mind a bullshit excuse. The end.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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