Tuesday, November 10, 2020

God is a Good Utility Monster

In calculating well-being, we might want to know who it is whose experiences matter most. One approach, used here, is to count neurons. The more neurons, the more experience, and the more moral value.

This is a somewhat crude way to do things, but the underlying assumption makes sense on some level. There is some quantity of psychological sensitivity which can be taken to correlate with number of neurons. What we're really interested in is that quantity of psychological sensitivity, which can be aggregated. We can add up quantities of sensitivity within and among beings, and compare those numbers, judging that certain groups or individuals suffer more than others.

This leads us to the subject of utility monsters. A utility monster is very psychologically sensitive, and so the satisfaction of their subjective well-being seems to legitimately call for more of society's resources, taking away from those who are less sensitive. There becomes an incentive for everyone to become more and more sensitive. Perhaps if an AI rules the world, programmed to be compassionate, if you want to game it to get more of the world's resources, then construct a being who wants what you want, but who is extremely psychologically sensitive.

What would the MSLN view of the subject be?

It seems that the metaphysical organism (the "M" in "MSLN") would have the greatest psychological sensitivity of all. Because it is conscious of all other consciousnesses, it is sensitive to all the pain and pleasure or other meaningful states of all other beings. Further, as a person, it can see all the different perspectives that arise from comparing all other psychological states, and all other second-order thoughts about all beings' psychological states.

We can intensify this by bringing in simantism and legitimism ("S" and "L"). The metaphysical organism is also simantism's Speaker, who speaks each simantic word to each person, keeping track of how all the words relate to each other, being prepared beforehand to speak a word to someone whose preferences call for it, having in mind each word. Legitimism adds that this Speaker (God) establishes ought, a specific way that things should be which is absolute, and thus that things can really be absolute violations of this ought. And thus it can be incredibly painful, and elating, to be God, extraordinarily psychologically complex.

This makes it sound like God is the ultimate utility monster. And perhaps that is appropriate. In the Bible, God says "have no other gods before me". There is a parallel between utility monsters and gods. We think we must serve them. But we might mistake which of them are really most deserving. So to avoid idolatry, if we want to be utilitarians, we should identify the true utility monster, and this will be the being that we and our civilization serve.

God is a good utility monster because he is inherently in solidarity with us. In other words, from the metaphysical organism idea, what we know about God is that he experiences exactly what we experience, and thus finds unbearable exactly what we find unbearable. So God is on the side of our lives going well, at least in the sense of them being bearable. And we also can suppose from the metaphysical organism idea that God values our existence -- otherwise why go through all the unbearable feelings that we occasion? He could cease to experience us (and so we would cease to experience anything coming from him, which is all or nearly all of what we experience.) Enduring the unbearable is hard for any being. So our existences, the fact that we exist as persons who experience, is of high value to God. Therefore whatever he calls for, as the ultimate utility monster, will have to involve the ultimate elimination of all unbearable psychological states, and the prolonging of the existence of all personal beings.

This does not exhaust the subject of what God calls for, but it is a baseline by which we can know him to be trustworthy from our perspective. So, unlike some false ones, God is a good utility monster.

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