This article explores the following topic: "When we are presented with too many choices, we can get paralized, and do nothing at all, or follow harmful heuristics, such as the path of least difficulty, or the path of least risk. Should we surrender that choice to external agents, so that among the choices that remain it is easier to determine a "best" choice? But which agents should we choose, and how much of our freedom should we surrender to them? Would a general AI be able to play this role for all of humanity? Given the inevitablity of the Singularity, can this even be avoided? What possibilities does this open? Is it a desirable outcome? We might end up becoming eternal minors. Literally, if immortality is reached."
Sometimes life can feel like a wide open quicksand box: you have so many choices before you, calculating the optimal choice is nigh-impossible. The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. To employ a visual metaphor, there is no greater freedom of movement than floating in an empty void Yet there's nowhere to go from there, and all choices are meaningless. Drawing a floor, a horizon, allows you to move along it... but you have sacrificed a degree of freedom.
Life choices present you with a bit of a traveling salesman's dilemma. You may use some heuristic or another, but since heuristics by definition don't guarantee the optimum result, you still have to choose between heuristics, and consistently use the same heuristic. However, the more restrictions you place on your journey, the easier it is to discriminate between routes, and come out of it with the impression of having made the right choice, rather than lingering doubt that plagues you ever time your path becomes dangerously steep, or crowded to a crawl, where you tell yourself "I really shouldn't have taken that right turn at Albuquerque. Or should I have? Either way, there's no way for me to have known. But there's no way I can climb this road. I have ruined my life. But right now there's nowhere to go but on. There is no hope. There is no respite. There is only car."
Hence, to make your choice in the crossroads of life, which can look less like the intersection of two curves and more like a point connecting an infinity of hyperplanes, you might be tempted to let other people, or other... things, outside of yourself, make the choices for you, just the same way when you aren't sure of the fastest way from point A to point B you just ask your GPS (or Google). You could:
- Find a leader you'd like to follow.
- Obey a dogmatic religious or philosophical creed
- Get a romantic partner in a "property of love" type of relationship
- Get into a marriage/have (a) kid(s) and allow the ties and responsibilities to force your life into a specific direction, and allow all of your free time to be allocated to childrearing.
- Or even write yourself a WorldOfDarkness character sheet and roll the dice everytime you have to choose.
- You could even get some smartphone app that lets you state options which you weight with a preference coefficient and randomly gives you one.
- You could use this very site's rational horoscope. (Yesterday's advice was pretty damn useful, too!).
- Worst case scenario, get yourself a good old-fashione enemy, and you can center your lives into a feud against each other! (I wouldn't recommend it, but it's a fairly popular option).
- Or you could simply do whatever society expects you to do, like most people. Either as a follower or as a leader: don't forget being a leader often means showing a very generic personality and being a slave to PR.
- Once you're stuck in a career, you could devote yourself to advance through it given pre-established chains of command/promotion. One can live through a lifetime like this
- Or you could just wander aimelssly, get bit jobs you quit as soon as they get boring, or easy jobs where you have to do little, or even live off benefits, fall in love with your couch, and sink into the depths of the internet or some MMORPG where the choices and plots have already been written for you.
So, the subordinates (for example: children, citizens, employees, intellectuals) support Freedom of Choice so that they can follow the strong desires they have every now and then, that go against the norm set by authority (sometimes this is an end in itself, especially in the arts). The superiors (for example: parents, politicians and civil servants, bosses, censors and editors) might want to give their wards more leeway in order to escape responsibility for making hard choices for the others, because they know they will be blamed if the choice leads to a failure, and because they don't want to have to deal with accusations of being oppressive, tyrannical, or heavy-handed in their use of authority.
But such a climate can lead to a paralysis and a listlessness that is as bad and destructive and unhealthy as the worst dictatorship. But where to strike a balance? Which methods are the most questionable, which are the least? Surrendering your freedom to a foreign agent is a dangerous gamble! And this is where the biggest difficulty arises: the general self-modifying tranhuman AI.
The actual traveling salesman can be brute-forced by enough processing power. Can something similar be said of every human's life? How are we going to deal with that? Will we allow it to turn our lives into scripted events optimized to every player's personalities? Ones with actual, life-threatening danger in them, even? (As immortals, will we become reckless with our lives, or more cowardly? Or will it simply be a matter of age?) Do we give the machine an Omniscient Morality License to make us live lives of excitement, drama, love, deception, hard, productive, rewarding work, and fun^4, with just the right balance of exaltation and relaxation for every individual? Will we start bitching like whiny spoiled brats if the processes aren't exactly optimal? There's a limit to how good a scripted event you can get in Real Life, with Real People. Or will we free-
Ohmygosh. I have just found a Wild Mass Guessing for The Matrix: humans have freely abandoned Real Life, which they leave the literal Deux Ex Machina (should we call the general AI D.E.M., or are the doomsday-cult connotations just too massive?) to run for the continued existence of the material support of their minds. The Matrix itself, including it's blue-filtered "Real World" is the game the machine created for those individuals that showed that they would enjoy their lives best as cyberpunk anti-heroes. Everything that happened in the movie was staged for their sake, and nothing is real. There are other massive multiplayer games, each catering to a specific type of individual, if not an entire universe for each individual, some of them having recursive levels of reality ("We must go deeper"). Each of them tailor-made to entertain them the most. If DEM decides a certain individual born into the games is not fit to be told the truth (perhaps they might try something stupid like trying to "free" those who are aware and perfectly content), they can live their whole lives without knowing the machine put a dream in their dream so they could dream while they dream.
So, fiction aside, this seems like a fairly probable hypothetical, an attractor of futures. Should we try to avoid it? Can we? Giving up a paralizing freeedom in exchange for an exciting but pre-plotted existence? We'd be stuck as children forever, we could never grow into responsible, self reliant adults (in fact it would be strongly unadvisable: you'd utterly lose to those DEM-advised overgrown kids, and that's if the DEM isn't constantly protecting and covering your skin against your own wishes).
And all of the people of the world were told they could remain children for ever. As in, for eternity.