Get data points on your current utility function via hypotheticals

by Dorikka1 min read24th Apr 20114 comments

1

Personal Blog

I've recently found that my utility function valued personal status and fame a whole lot more than I thought it did -- I previously had thought that it mostly relied on the consequences of my actions for other sentiences, but it turned out I was wrong. Obviously, this is a valuable insight -- I definitely want to know what my current utility function is; from there, I can decide whether I should change my actions or my utility function if the two aren't coordinated.

I did this by imagining how I would feel if I found out certain things. For example, how would I feel if everyone else was also trying to save the world? The emotional response I had was sort of a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, like I was a really mediocre being. This obviously wasn't a result of calculating that the marginal utility of my actions would be a whole lot lower in this hypothetical world (and so I should go do something else); instead, it was the fact that me trying to save the world didn't make me special any more -- I wouldn't stand out, in this sort of world.

(Epilogue: I decided that I hadn't done a good enough job programming my brain and am attempting to modify my utility function to rely on the world actually getting saved.)

Discussion: What other hypotheticals are useful?

4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:37 PM
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I've recently found that my utility function valued [something]

This is silly. Just say that you found out that you value something. It's not like you have an explicit utility function module.

Happiness and utility are not the same thing. It's perfectly legitimate to say that you would feel better in situation A than you would in situation B, but would still prefer that situation B occurs, and this would mean that you assign higher utility to situation B.

This. If you find yourself considering trying to change your utility function, then something has gone badly wrong.

You really need to make it clear what you are talking about, currently this sounds like a few paragraphs taken out of context from the middle of some larger article. At least post a link.