RE: Value of Objective vs. Value of Subjective

From: Norman Wilson (
Date: Thu Mar 13 2008 - 12:33:18 MDT

Lee Corbin wrote

> Beyond the simple claim that it exists (which is true),
> what intellectual good has ever come from discussing
> subjective experiences?

This is an excellent question and it raises an important point.

Typically, questions in the realm of objectivity can be addressed by
science, while those in the subjective realm are the province of philosophy
and religion. However, the very concept of "Friendly AI" places us in a
strange realm where these two perspectives overlap in a relevant way. The
notions of friendliness, ethics, morality, empathy, and the like, have both
objective and subjective aspects to them. My personal morality is not based
strictly on evolutionary psychology or cultural programming, but in part on
deep reflection about subjective experience and the assumption that other
humans experience the same. I suppose my morality boils down to recognizing
that my actions can impact other people's subjective experience and taking
responsibility for that knowledge. In this sense, at least for me,
subjective experience is directly relevant to morality and friendliness, and
these issues are the whole point of this discussion group.

Regarding your specific question:

> what intellectual good has ever come from discussing
> subjective experiences?

I'm taking "intellectual good" to mean objectively testable theories leading
to practical knowledge, repeatable processes, or new and improved
technologies. In terms of this strict interpretation, I'm inclined to agree
with you. But this forum isn't strictly about intellectual good, and I
submit that the very prospects of uploading, teleportation, duplication,
functional equivalents of subjective experience, etc., make this topic more
relevant than it's ever been.

In short, I suggest that the question of whether or not any intellectual
good can come from such discussions must take a backseat to the more
pressing question of whether any actual good can come from them.


Norm Wilson

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