Re: ETV Psych & AI (was RE: META: One-week cool-off period)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed Jun 16 2004 - 02:04:10 MDT

At 03:27 PM 13/06/04 -0600, Michael LaTorra wrote:

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: []On Behalf Of Keith
> > Henson
>Humans have higher order thinking skills, but they are far more used in
>service of deep motivations (rationalizations) then they are for rational
>thinking. Thus you have to take all arguments by social
>primates--including this one--with a grain of salt.
>Understanding our motivations and those of others at the EP level applies:
>To the social context of people who are trying to understand the problem(s)
>of creating an AI with social features we want;
>To understanding what it is we want or should want and;
>To the AI itself.
>If there is interest I can go into further discussion on the first
>point. Cooperation and consensus seeking on a list might not be as hard as
>FAI, but it sure has not been solved.
>Keith Henson
>(Who is, of course, posting to raise his social status. :-) )
>Even those who are most familiar with evolutionary psychology seem reluctant
>(perhaps for the reasons you suggest) to apply this form of analysis to

>Last year I posted a request to Ian Pitchford's evolutionary-psychology list
>at yahoo groups for any information about books or papers containing
>ev-psych autobiography. No response. (BTW, do you know of any?)

No. About the closest thing I can think of is the evolutionary psychology
based discussion of how Darwin went about raising his social status (with
the help of a few friends) in Moral Animal. (I should post examples.)

I think everyone realizes that raising your social status is a *good thing*
because most of the time it requires dedication, work, and cooperation with
others. If you are doing something that is valuable to the community, you
usually get recognition, ranging right up to the Nobel prize.

Where people get uncomfortable is when you recognize that your deep motives
are not pure and nebulous, but based right out of tribal days when bringing
back meat got you more nookie. :-)

Although I have taken heat for being up front about where I think my
motives come from, most of the people I know think it is a useful
insight. We (speaking specifically about transhumanists) might all be
better off being aware of the source of our motives and even up front about
them. Perhaps even to the point of meta comments on particular threads.

It isn't easy, but the rational mind level can learn to be aware of why you
are doing things. And even if you have damn little control over what you
do, being aware of the deep levels might help you be more effective at
valued accomplishments that raise your status.

>I would be interested to hear what else you have to say about your first
>point above.

Status seeking directly relates to mailing list problems. Status seeking
can be played zero sum or non-zero sum. Since we are equipped for both, it
is likely that both were useful in our tribal past. Zero sum, where you
are trying to tear down a rival in order to raise your relative status
might have been fairly effective in a small tribe, but it just isn't a very
effective way to make the kind of progress that transhumanists value.

Non-zero sum cooperation might not get you "three wife" (chief) status but
your team is more likely to come out on top. (On the other hand, there may
be a need at times for seriously zero sum or even negative sum activity.)

Mailing lists are social groups but they lack emotional social feedback of
the face to face kind. It might be essential for people to be aware of
status seeking motives and zero/non-zero distinctions if lists are to serve
a useful purpose. I have some other thoughts on ways to make list
communication more useful. One of them is to put a small degree of humor
and/or self depreciation into postings. Emoticons, as long as they not
over used, serve a real purpose.

Incidentally, drive for status might have been more selected in males just
as other traits were mostly selected in females. But the drive is
certainly expressed in both sexes.

I appreciate your comments and questions. The sl4 list is one of the
better ones for reasonable behavior and interesting topics. Perhaps with
this bit of insight and that others can contribute, it could be even more
effective at defining upcoming problems and how to avoid them.

Best wishes,

Keith Henson

>Michael LaTorra

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