“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer; The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep”
(from Hamlet 3/1)

Now I’m no literary critic. I could not help to be reminded however of this most famous snippet of Shakespearean writing when working on putting together a set of axiomatic beliefs on which the core belief of my friendly AI theory is founded on: that is good what increases fitness.

Inspired by a comment on famous geek site Slashdot.org I sat down to do the following:

  • write down a strongly held belief => “That is good what increases fitness.”
  • write down the set of “sub-beliefs” that I have which form the basis of my belief
  • iterate above steps, applying the same process to each belief listed

The result was very interesting. Soon I realized that the listed beliefs started to contradict each other so I had to think deeper and rewrite some of them. That lead to new insights and resulted in a set of 40 beliefs. Some of them are trivial and some of them are interesting. Most axiomatic however is the following belief:

1.2.3.2 To exist is preferable over not to exist

To be, or not to be, that is the question. Is that not the metaphorical question implicitly posed by reality on every living thing: ‘Can you exist?’

Over the course of evolution this question was first asked and answered passively on the chemical level and later actively ‘pondered’ on the cognitive level to avoid reality taking its toll. With the realization that what is good is what increases fitness one can start to actively as well as consciously look into developing strategies for ensured continued existence.

Averting the rise of a non-friendly AI then becomes but one of many existential risks.

7 Responses to “To be, or not to be, that is the question”
  1. Rational Morality » Ayn Rand Contra Existence says:

    […] very exited. Ayn Rand’s philosophy seemed to be founded on axioms that are very similar to mine – namely the axiom of existence in the form of “existence exists” from which Rand […]

  2. Rational Morality » Why you don’t want your bombs to be too smart says:

    […] UPDATE 2009/11/04: After some back and forth over at Roko’s blog I would like make the following fundamental point. To say: ‘Morals are relative, therefore an AI has to be carefully programmed in order not to get rid of us’ is the confused philosopher’s equivalent of saying: ‘Morals are not relative since my existence is preferable over my non-existence‘ […]

  3. Rational Morality » Tautological guru’s impart meaningless wisdom says:

    […] it is starring us right in the face: our existence is preferable over our non-existence. Why not start from there and keep building? And better be quick, tomorrow is just a day […]

  4. Rational Morality » Rational spirituality says:

    […] conducive to the fitness (i.e. continued existence) of a group than others. Understanding that the desire to exist derived from evolutionary dynamics has to be expanded to want to ensure continued co-existence so one can want it to be a universal […]

  5. Rational Morality » Faulty assumptions, Nietzsche’s scythe and postmodernity says:

    […] course the idea that existence is a positive property is absolutely central to my ideas as well. In this context Nietzsche’s quotes seems more like […]

  6. Rational Morality » Where is Yudkowsky at? says:

    […] fairness and ultimately morality. I myself have had this insight in November 2007 in my post on Jame5.com To Be Or Not To Be, That Is The Question. What Y does not realize in this context is the fact that […]

  7. Rational Morality » The Bible read with Evolutionary Eyes says:

    […] core of the evolutionary worldview is that existence is preferable over non-existence. This means that anything that leads to continued existence is ‘good’ while whatever […]

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