In particular, my values seem to be pinned on ideas that are not true -- that states of the universe matter, objectively rather than just subjectively, and that I exist forever/always.

Well, if they are, and if I understand what you mean by "pinned on," then we should expect the strength of those values to weaken as you stop investing in those ideas.

I can't tell from your discussion whether you don't find this to be true (in which case I would question what makes you think the values are pinned on the ideas in the first place), or whether you'r... (read more)

My values seem to be pinned on these ideas (the ones that are not true) because while I am in the process of caring about the things I care about, and especially when I am making a choice about something, I find that I am always making the assumption that these ideas are true -- that the states of the universe matter and that I exist forever.

When it occurs to me to remember that these assumptions are not true, I feel a great deal of cognitive dissonance. However, the cognitive dissonance has no resolution. I think about it for a little while, go about my b... (read more)

What makes us think _any_ of our terminal values aren't based on a misunderstanding of reality?

by bokov 1 min read25th Sep 201389 comments


Let's say Bob's terminal value is to travel back in time and ride a dinosaur.

It is instrumentally rational for Bob to study physics so he can learn how to build a time machine. As he learns more physics, Bob realizes that his terminal value is not only utterly impossible but meaningless. By definition, someone in Bob's past riding a dinosaur is not a future evolution of the present Bob.

There are a number of ways to create the subjective experience of having gone into the past and ridden a dinosaur. But to Bob, it's not the same because he wanted both the subjective experience and the knowledge that it corresponded to objective fact. Without the latter, he might as well have just watched a movie or played a video game.

So if we took the original, innocent-of-physics Bob and somehow calculated his coherent extrapolated volition, we would end up with a Bob who has given up on time travel. The original Bob would not want to be this Bob.

But, how do we know that _anything_ we value won't similarly dissolve under sufficiently thorough deconstruction? Let's suppose for a minute that all "human values" are dangling units; that everything we want is as possible and makes as much sense as wanting to hear the sound of blue or taste the flavor of a prime number. What is the rational course of action in such a situation?

PS: If your response resembles "keep attempting to XXX anyway", please explain what privileges XXX over any number of other alternatives other than your current preference. Are you using some kind of pre-commitment strategy to a subset of your current goals? Do you now wish you had used the same strategy to precommit to goals you had when you were a toddler?