Posthuman Network – ethics and freedom

Nathan Bar-Fields – self inflicted blindness and other things

Interesting set of considerations around the degree to which one’s choices impact on the freedom of those around you.

I would argue that one has the right to blind oneself only if one has all the necessary resources to be no more of a burden on others than one is already.

But then how do we treat people who over consume sugar or meat products and end up with cancer, heart disease or diabetes as a result?

Something of an ethical mine-field, particularly when the variations in individual biochemistry and systemic complexity mean that it is all a matter of essentially stochastic probabilities, so someone could do everything to best practice and still end up with heart disease, while someone else could break all the rules and live without any problems. Stochastic probabilities are not hard causality, only probability linked.

So yes – interesting and potentially very deep set of issues.

[followed by in response to “Paul Cornucopiist Wow that sure lured some closet Nazis out….”]

What is health when the whole cultural framework is sick (yet most cannot see that as they are within it, and it occurs as reality, not as a cultural framework)?

[followed by]

Hi Tim,

As I wrote before, it wouldn’t be either healthy or sensible unless one first had alternatives that ensured a similar level of self sufficiency before hand – like auditory or neural implant tools to allow one to navigate competently in the world. I have met some blind people who were better skilled than some sighted people, and the medians on the two curves are well apart.

Human beings are highly evolved for cooperation, and we can also be very effective at competition.
As Axlerod showed, raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheating (of the kind you are displaying, and many other levels of cheating).
Our society is cooperative.
If we have abundance, most people (over 95% – a known statistical measure from law enforcement sampling) are cooperative.

Unfortunately, our economic system is based in scarcity, and basing thinking in a market value set tends to hide the fundamental cooperative nature of human society and interaction, and does produce the occasional mindset (such as you seem to be displaying here) that thinks of cooperation as “vile”.

For me, the math and logic are clear. Provided a cooperative has an adequate set of strategies to prevent being overrun by cheats (and our economic system currently is arguable dominated by cheating strategies), then cooperation is always more powerful, and leads to greater long term survival probabilities and greater long term degrees of freedom. And to be cooperative means to give up some current aspects of one’s freedom of action where such action has demonstrable risk to others. The benefits of such cooperation are far greater degrees of freedom in domains that could not exist without such cooperation.

If you doubt that markets are based in scarcity, just consider oxygen in the air – arguably the single most important commodity to every human being, yet of no economic value, because of its universal abundance. This logically implies a set of meta incentives that are contrary to the interests of most participants in a market based economic system. And I know such logic is counter to everything we are taught by our culture, so not many people get it – the constraints of cultural conditioning are too tight in most minds.

[followed by]

No Tim,

Illness is a condition where someone has reduced functionality in some domain for some period of time.

All of us in society are the recipients of many gifts, in terms of language and culture (in its widest sense), as well as all of the technology and infrastructure that exist. You have accepted those.

In a functioning cooperative, accepting those gifts and the abundance that comes with them would come with a requirement for a degree of care for those with reduced capacity. Not so much that you lose all or even most of your freedom of action, and the test of reasonableness is appropriate.

To call such “respect” for others “vile”, is, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, a “cheating strategy” in the sense that it allows you to take all of the benefits without paying the costs.

In a very real sense, such a strategy is a form of cancer.
A good working definition of cancer is the unrestrained consumption of resources for personal growth by some subset of a cooperative entity.

[followed by]

Hi Samantha,

There are certainly cultural aspects to what people accept as “healthy”, as well as genetic, biochemical, behavioural, and sundry other aspects to the concept – sets of overlapping curves of influence.

At 6’2″ and 160lb many think me skinny, and I am alive and feel healthy 5 years past my medical “use by” date.
So I can see quite a few cultural aspects to “healthy”.
Have seen a lot of people die of cancer in the last 5 years rather than change either diet or behaviour, rather die than do something hard.
A certain level of Darwinian selection in that I guess, but seems much more like cultural conditioning from my perspective.

And having been a student of Darwin and evolution for over 50 years, it is a poorly understood set of concepts.

Most have some idea about the competitive aspects of evolution, but few understand just how important cooperation is in evolution.

It is a good first order approximation to characterise all major advances in the levels of complexity in living systems as being the result of the emergence of new levels of cooperation (stabilised by attendant sets of strategies to prevent invasion by cheating strategies).

This applies equally to mimetic (cultural) aspects of evolution, as it does to genetic aspects.

[followed by]

I’m not saying culture is devoid of substance.
I am suggesting that the exponential trends that characterise our present are making many cultural elements progressively less relevant, and some that once served us very well, now pose a significant threat to our future existence – the scarcity based concept of “market value” chief amongst them.

Compared to that, what people culturally consider “healthy” is minor, and it is a minor part of a suite of existential risks that loom in our near future (next 30 years).

I am confident we have the technologies to survive, and am not as confident that we have the wisdom to deploy them wisely.

[followed by]

On current exponential trends in information and robotics, within a decade we will be able to automate any process, and no one need be “on the hook” for anyone else.
That to me seems to deliver the greatest degrees of freedom possible – to all.
It does have the side effect of breaking the monetary system – as everything then has the same value as oxygen in the air – zero.

It still seems a very desirable outcome to me, particularly coupled to indefinite life extension.

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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