What big goals do we have?

bycousin_it10y19th Jan 201095 comments


Sometime ago Jonii wrote:

I mean, paperclip maximizer is seriously ready to do anything to maximize paperclips. It really takes the paperclips seriously.

When I'm hungry I eat, but then I don't go on eating some more just to maximize a function. Eating isn't something I want a lot of. Likewise I don't want a ton of survival, just a bounded amount every day. Let's define a goal as big if you don't get full: every increment of effort/achievement is valuable, like paperclips to Clippy. Now do we have any big goals? Which ones?

Save the world. A great goal if you see a possible angle of attack, which I don't. The SIAI folks are more optimistic, but if they see a chink in the wall, they're yet to reveal it.

Help those who suffer. Morally upright but tricky to execute: James Shikwati, Dambisa Moyo and Kevin Myers show that even something as clear-cut as aid to Africa can be viewed as immoral. Still a good goal for anyone, though.

Procreate. This sounds fun! Fortunately, the same source that gave us this goal also gave us the means to achieve it, and intelligence is not among them. :-) And honestly, what sense in making 20 kids just to play the good-soldier routine for your genes? There's no unique "you gene" anyway, in several generations your descendants will be like everyone else's. Yeah, kids are fun, I'd like two or three.

Follow your muse. Music, comedy, videogame design, whatever. No limit to achievement! A lot of this is about signaling: would you still bother if all your successes were attributed to someone else's genetic talent? But even apart from the signaling angle, there's still the worrying feeling that entertainment is ultimately useless, like humanity-scale wireheading, not an actual goal for us to reach.

Accumulate power, money or experiences. What for? I never understood that.

Advance science. As Erik Naggum put it:

The purpose of human existence is to learn and to understand as much as we can of what came before us, so we can further the sum total of human knowledge in our life.

Don't know, but I'm pretty content with my life lately. Should I have a big goal at all? How about you?