Monday, December 19, 2005

Uniting Utilitarianism and Universal Automatism: Mill Meets Wolfram

Here's the next section of my term paper, in which I suggest that Mill's utilitarianism is compatible with universal automatism if we shift our focus from being centered on the individual to being centered on preserving beneficial Class IV computations.


Towards the end of Rucker’s The Lifebox, The Seashell, and The Soul, he reveals, “The meaning of life is beauty and love.” I couldn’t agree more. Appreciating the beauty and richness of life and the fostering of compassion and lovingkindness are definitely central to infusing our lives with meaning and purpose.

However, being as people are, we may share similar goals yet differ in our opinions regarding the best options towards achieving those goals, at times because we tend to always want things to go our way and the other options don’t always benefit us. We’ve got to reach beyond ourselves a bit more. There’s no room for self-centeredness in love. It’s about everyone, and when we act in a manner that yields the maximum benefit and minimum harm to the greatest number of people, we produce the greatest good for all. This principle is central to the ethical theory of utilitarianism, and can be adapted to work for universal automatism as well.

Utilitarianism provides a moral calculus for resolving ethical dilemmas – another kind of calculation, predicated on the Greatest Happiness Principle: actions are right to the degree by which it promotes happiness, and wrong to the reverse. Mill’s theory of utilitarianism holds that attaining pleasure and being free of pain are the only two things which are desirable as ends, and that all of our motivations are just permutations of this basic principle. (Mill)

However, from the worldview of HUA, and everything being a calculation, how can this best be expressed in a manner which aligns with HUA? What place does happiness have as a calculation, and how is unhappiness to be expressed as a calculation? Are pleasure and pain really the two pillars upon which to rest our moral decisions upon?

I believe that HUA broadens the scope of utilitarianism beyond the benefit of PCs and NPCs, but towards the benefit of the calculations which comprise them, plus the ones which act upon them. Isolating our decisions strictly to individuals fails here because there are calculations in operation which act upon us, that themselves are not individuals. Take nature, for instance. Damaging the natural world carries repercussions that certainly affect individuals, but rather than focusing solely upon individuals, fostering the larger calculation benefits all.

What do I mean by fostering calculations? Well, Wolfram has four classes of computation, which are described in Rucker’s Lifebox text. Class I computations terminate or have a fixed point. Class II computations go into an infinite recursion of sorts. Class III computations are totally random, and Class IV computations appear to have purposeful randomness. Based upon this, the phenomenon of our lives appears to have many Class IV qualities about it.

However, it’s not necessarily the case that there is only one Grand Ultimate Calculation, but infinitely many calculations which comprise everything. Additionally, it’s not always the case that every observed computation will stay that way. A Class I computation can burst into life when stimulated by an outside input. In similar fashion, a Class II computation can be thrown out of its loop, a Class III computation can be stirred into something purposeful, and a Class IV computation can oscillate between states. All of them can end, though…and it’s this consideration which must be made: the perpetuation of beneficial calculations is key, essentially acting to preserve that which is beneficial. Seems like word play, but there is a difference between the benefit and the benefactor.


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