Effective Altruism – being human

Effective Altruism – The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle

It seems to me that all human beings are very complex entities.

Every human being is capable of both competitive and cooperative behaviour.
If all survival needs can be adequately met, and if we feel the situation contains justice, we can be cooperative.

Garret Harden’s “tragedy of the commons” thesis has been disproven by Lin Ostrom (for which she received the Nobel prize in Economics).

At a deeper level – when one looks at evolution in a strategic interaction sense, the emergence of new levels of complexity in living systems is usually characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation.
Games theory proves that raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheating, and requires secondary stabilising strategies to survive. The retaliator class of strategies are the simplest such class of strategies. There appear to be an infinite set of classes of more complex strategies. It seems that universal abundance is itself such a strategy (removing any benefit from cheating, as everyone can get whatever they need anyway).

When one takes this approach, it seems that our modern condition of advanced abstract awareness in a global social context involves about 20 levels of cooperative strategies, from the atomic scale up to highly abstract social constructs such as this.

Our socially dominant market based valuation system (money) is based on scarcity. This made sense when most things were genuinely scarce.
Now that we have advanced automation and mechanical manufacturing and service delivery systems, we have the potential to deliver universal abundance of a large and growing set of goods and services, but the paradigm of markets and money is now the single biggest impediment to this development.
Any universal abundance has zero market value.
The more of something there is in a market, the less it is worth, the less there is, the more it is worth.
If you doubt that, consider oxygen in the air. Arguably oxygen is the single most important thing for every human being,yet because of its universal abundance it has zero market value (scarcity is zero, so market value is zero).

Value sets are extremely important to system outcomes.
If we adopt a value set which has sapient life as the highest value (human and non-human, biological and non-biological) and the freedom of responsible action as the second value (where responsibility is defined as taking reasonable action to ensure the life and liberty of all other sapient entities – which by extension includes the ecosystems that support them) then we have a chance of developing strategic environments that actually deliver real long term security for everyone.
If we continue with market based systems, there will always be poverty.
Poverty (insufficiency at the bottom of the distribution curve) is the necessary outcome of any market based system.
Trying to alleviate poverty within a market based set of values, or a system dominated by market based values, is a logical impossibility.

If we really mean what we say, when we say we intend to alleviate poverty, then the only way to do that is to transcend market values, and develop systems that deliver universal abundance of all the necessities of life to every sapient individual.
That would deliver real freedom of choice to every individual as to how the choose to “self actualise”.
Such freedom must result in exponential growth of diversity.
Such growth in diversity demands acceptance and tolerance of diversity.

It seems our role has two major threads to it.
One is to develop completely automated systems that can use sunlight and rock to produce copies of themselves and all the goods and services required to support life and liberty.
The other is to develop systems that allow individuals to rapidly progress through states of awareness to a stage where they can see and freely choose the need to value life and liberty and the diversity that must result.
That requires going beyond simple binary concepts like right and wrong, true and false, good and evil, and learning to accept and value diversity and dance with the mingling consequences of the choices of others.

One of those consequences is likely to involve the option of indefinite life extension for a large number of individuals (the choice has to be available to all).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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