Ethics is a human product (though we can discuss how much freedom did we have in creating this product; whether it would be different if we had a different history or biology) and it makes sense only on the human level, not on the level of particles.

I'm happy with the idea that ethics is a human product (since this doesn't imply that it's arbitrary or illusory or anything like that). I take this to mean, basically, that ethics concerns the relation of some subsystems with others. There's no ethical language which makes sense from the 'top-down' or from a global perspective. But there's also nothing to prevent (this is Eliezer's meaning, I guess) a non-global perspective from being worked out in which ethical language does make sense. And this perspective isn't arbitrary, because the subsystems working it out have always occupied that perspective as subsystems. To see an algorithm from the inside is to see world as a whole by seeing it as potentially involved in this algorithm. And this is what leads to the confusion between the global, timeless view from the (no less global, in some sense) timeful inside-an-algorithm view.

If that's all passably normal (as skeptical as I am at the coherence of the idea of 'adding up to normality') then the question that remains is what I should do with my idea of things mattering ethically. Maybe the answer here is to see ethical agents as ontologically fundamental or something, though that sounds dangerously anthropocentric. But I don't know how to justify the idea that physically-fundamental = ontologically-fundamental either.

Stupid Questions Open Thread Round 3

by OpenThreadGuy 1 min read7th Jul 2012209 comments


From the last thread:

From Costanza's original thread (entire text):

"This is for anyone in the LessWrong community who has made at least some effort to read the sequences and follow along, but is still confused on some point, and is perhaps feeling a bit embarrassed. Here, newbies and not-so-newbies are free to ask very basic but still relevant questions with the understanding that the answers are probably somewhere in the sequences. Similarly, LessWrong tends to presume a rather high threshold for understanding science and technology. Relevant questions in those areas are welcome as well.  Anyone who chooses to respond should respectfully guide the questioner to a helpful resource, and questioners should be appropriately grateful. Good faith should be presumed on both sides, unless and until it is shown to be absent.  If a questioner is not sure whether a question is relevant, ask it, and also ask if it's relevant."


  • How often should these be made? I think one every three months is the correct frequency.
  • Costanza made the original thread, but I am OpenThreadGuy. I am therefore not only entitled but required to post this in his stead. But I got his permission anyway.



  • I still haven't figured out a satisfactory answer to the previous meta question, how often these should be made. It was requested that I make a new one, so I did.
  • I promise I won't quote the entire previous threads from now on. Blockquoting in articles only goes one level deep, anyway.