Sunday, November 28, 2010

Multiworld ethics and infinitarian paralysis

In an interesting 2008 essay (The Infinitarian Challenge to Aggregative Ethics), Oxford futurist scholar Nick Bostrom considers some of the issues that may arise in multiworld ethics. The central focus is on the theme of infinitarian paralysis, that individuals may not act since they think their impact is too small to matter. This is not a new theme; a classic example is not voting thinking that one voice does not matter. However, when considered in an infinite multiworld sense where every permutation of every individual and their actions exists elsewhere, perhaps individual voices really do not matter…and individual agents in any world could experience infinitarian paralysis.

As the essay suggests, humans may be able to qualify and circumscribe the issue of infinitarian paralysis and live and act unconcernedly in the current world. While this may be possible now, as humans become more rational through augmentation, and with the potential advent of artificial intelligence and hybrid beings, the specter of infinitarian paralysis may be harder to ignore. The inherent irrationality of humans together with the skill of ubiquitous rationalization is part of the cohesion of modern society. However, in a post-scarcity economy for material goods where the more immediate exigencies of living in the current world have evaporated, and biologically-derived utility functions have been re-designed, philosophical inconsistencies could well occupy a higher level of concern for thought-driven beings.

blog comments powered by Disqus