Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ethics of an Advanced Civilization

What kinds of policies is an advanced civilization likely to have regarding interacting with other societies it encounters?

Thinking of the most interesting case, a discretionary interaction, a more advanced society could probably easily identify ways of preventing pain or hardship in a less advanced society with their more advanced technology, spreading the smallpox vaccine would be an example in the human case.

If there were no existential risk to either civilization, and the more advanced society could adequately communicate with the lesser advanced society, to what degree if any should an advanced society be morally obligated to share their advanced technology with a less advanced society?

Presumably high up in the most likely example of an advanced society’s goals would be the furthering of knowledge and technology, and presumably this could be better accomplished with additional agents. So an advanced society would be more rather than less likely to share advanced technology, most likely overtly, even if it could adversely impact the culture of the less advanced society.

How the technology would be shared could be an interesting question, if the possessing society were advanced enough presumably it would be shared non-pecuniarily. Identifying which technologies should be shared could also be an interesting question as there will likely still be some competition for status and resources but probably nearly all technology could be shared as lesser advanced societies advanced to parity.

The foresightedness and cohesion required to consider the possibility of encountering other societies and have a universally agreed upon policy for this situation would seem to be one early mark of an advanced civilization.


samantha said...

I don't feel fully comfortable with the concept of "moral obligation" with its flavors of coercion and non-chosen duty. If any intelligence decides to help another including a less evolved, developed, or possessing resources one then it is doing so out of free choice as being a net good to itself including possibly the pleasure of helping another.

As in the non-interference directive ideas prevalent in SF, it may quite often not be at all advantageous to the recipient intelligence to interfere much in its development. It may in fact be that the struggles of a developing species are as essential for its flowering. I think this is likely even if the intelligences in question are created in a virtual world as embodied (or not) seed AIs.

For sufficiently advanced intelligences it is not so likely that much less developed intelligences could contribute to the projects they are interested in or even properly comprehend them. It is more likely that they work would be spread among peers, clones and specially created or interested AIs.

Why assume that an advanced society would share some of its technology with no charge whatsoever just because it is advanced? I think it depends on whether the recipients have something that it wants or needs.

I don't see why there should be a universal policy (with its implications of coercive enforcement) as an earmark of an advanced society. It may well be that dispersion into a great diversity of opinionated individual and collective intelligences with many policies or decisions of the moment is an earmark of an advanced civilization.

LaBlogga said...

Hi Samantha, thanks for the detailed comments.

I think there are many possible futures of both interventionist and non-interventionist approaches to inter-intelligence interaction motivated by any variety of fear, self-interest, altruism and diverse constructs of moral obligation.

Sharing technology at no charge is like open source, it helps enable other more important advances for all. At some point new science and technology advances is potentially the biggest goal of an advanced society and sharing the tools is an expeditious way to stimulate faster development.