Utopological Investigations Part 3

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This is part 3 in the deep Utopia Series

Handouts 17,19 & 22 On Purpose and Meaning

To assist a friend in finding purpose, it’s proposed that their actions be linked to the preferences, well-being, or opinion of someone they care about, thereby giving their actions personal significance. If the friend values the happiness or opinions of the person trying to help, creating a situation, where achieving a specific goal (G) enhances this relationship can imbue them with a sense of purpose. This goal should require effort, skill, and emotional investment over time, avoiding shortcuts like technology or enhancements that diminish personal effort, to ensure it’s meaningful and fulfilling. The task or goal (G) must be carefully chosen to align with the friend’s interests and capabilities, such as winning against a chess engine without external aids, offering a genuine challenge that can’t be bypassed through easy fixes. This approach transforms the pursuit of G into a mission that provides the friend with a significant, purpose-driven project, fostering personal growth and satisfaction.

Bostrom then comes up with the following hypotheses:

  1. Purpose is valuable because it broadens our goals into long term missions that get intrinsified (useful-of-effort)
  2. Purpose is an innate drive and not fulfilling is leads to frustration.
  3. Purpose is socially acceptable, having a mission is seen as status improving.

For an autopotent mind all these points are extraordinarily challenged:

(…) while there is value in having purpose, this value is entirely voided if, as we may say, the purpose has been generated on purpose. In other words, let us assume (for the sake of the argument) that purposes that we either set ourselves or artificially induce in ourselves for the sake of realizing the value of having purpose or for the sake of enabling active experience do not contribute anything to the value of purpose (…)

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.347)

In Utopia there are mainly 2 sources left for Purpose generation:

  1. Artificial Purpose
    1. Self-imposed: Handicapping, neuro-induced
    2. Presented: by Other Individuals or groups
  2. Natural and supernatural Purpose
    1. Agent-neutral: High Level Tasks that remain relevant even at Techmat
      1. Local Expansion (space fare)
      2. Risk handling
      3. Alien prepping
      4. Policing Civilization
      5. Artefact generation
      6. Cultural Processing
    2. Agent-relative (only for some posthuman groups relevant)
      1. Honoring traditions
      2. Commitments (to children, society etc.)
      3. Expression (Aesthetics)
      4. Following a special Faith

Categories of Meanings

  1. Reward
    1. Afterlife (Religion)
    2. Plasticity (Posthuman Technology)
    3. Simulation (Multiversal Potentials)
    4. Nirvana
  2. Morality
    1. Consequentialism (only applicable if moral reality is independent from physical reality)
    2. Deontology
    3. Virtue
    4. Worship
  3. Zeal
    1. Cause
    2. Identity (The True Self or Best Self)
    3. Allegiance (Loyalty for another Cause or Mission)
    4. Dedication (Practical Commitment)

A Definition of Meaning

A purpose P is the meaning of person S’s life if and only if: (i) P is encompassing for S; (ii) S has strong reason to embrace P; and (iii) the reason is derived from a context of justification that is external to S’s mundane existence.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.441).

For a purpose to be a potential meaning of life, it should be able to fill a life or at least a substantial portion of a life. Some endeavors are simply too small to constitute potential meaning-giving purposes—for instance, the goal of finding a good parking spot (except perhaps in London) (…)

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.443).

Bostrom then examines Sisyphus Life as a Parable for the human life as such, the absurdity and meaninglessness of an existence such as ours.

I will say that Sisyphus has subjective meaning if he is in fact wholeheartedly embracing a purpose that is encompassing and that he takes himself to have strong reason to pursue on grounds that are external to his mundane existence. Sisyphus has objective meaning if there is some purpose that would be encompassing to him and that he has a strong reason to embrace—a reason that derives from a context of justification that is external to his own mundane existence.

Bostrom, Nick. Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (English Edition) (S.456-457).

Spectrum of Intentionality

Ein Bild, das Text, Screenshot, Schrift, Logo enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung


Wittgenstein famously said in his Tractatus:

Die Lösung des Problems des Lebens merkt man am Verschwinden dieses Problems.

(Ist nicht dies der Grund, warum Menschen, denen der Sinn des Lebens nach langen Zweifeln klar wurde, warum diese dann nicht sagen konnten, worin dieser Sinn bestand.

[The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem. (Is not this the reason why people to whom the meaning of life became clear after long doubting, could not then say what this meaning consisted of?)]

(Wittgenstein, TLP 6.521)

After deeply considering Bostrom’s Warning to beware of a solved world, we might say: in a solved world it will be essential that we never reach a state of perfect plasticity where Living is finally solved.

This is quite an unexpected twist that would explain a lot about why the finiteness of our personal lives might actually be a blessing in disguise.

Why mortality is actually the greatest gift bestowed upon us. Why the gods truly envy our weakness and imperfection. Why superpowers are a curse.

Perfection and immortality might be as boring as the Edenic Paradise. In the end, we might arrive at the paradoxical conclusion that the longer our lives last, the less valuable they might become.That the fragility and preciousness of life is its core value, and that immortality is the greatest enemy to this value. Is it possible that gods might thirst for just a minute of finiteness, that if anyone would achieve freedom from suffering, you might hunger for it?

So, is this the deep meaning of Pindar’s “become who you are”?

Are we simulations within a total world consciousness that dreams its fragmented memory fragments into completion? Another hint that we might already be part of an ancestor simulation that relives the sweetness of not knowing, of being part of something unsolved.

This would be a deeply technologically colored interpretation of Plato’s Anamnesis, where we remember stuff, we already knew but with the added benefit of having the joy of experiencing it for the first time. The good news I take away from Bostrom’s book: Existential Bliss Management in a solved world might be equally hard as Existential Risk Management in a flawed world like ours, which would mean: our mind will never run out of problems to solve and thus the term “solved world” is self-contradictory like so many other terms we use in our language: almighty, eternal, unimaginable.

This also means, in my opinion, that both the Effective Accelerationism Movement and the Doomers are fundamentally wrong in regards to AI: Neither of both strategies will work in the long run, there is no paradise or hell that is waiting at the end of this long and winding road that we call future, it is a delicate, even fragile balance we must strike between the known, the unknowns, and the unknowable unknowns. The solution to the Problem of Living, or what is otherwise often called the Meaning of Life, would then be to actively avoid any finite step of the solution.

When in doubt… Live, die, repeat.