The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life | Slate Star Codex

Source: The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life | Slate Star Codex, by Scott Alexander

even when two variables are strongly correlated, the most extreme value of one will rarely be the most extreme value of the other

Happiness must be the same way. It’s an amalgam between a bunch of correlated properties like your subjective well-being at any given moment, and the amount of positive emotions you feel, and how meaningful your life is, et cetera. And each of those correlated properties is also an amalgam, and so on to infinity.

And crucially, it’s not an amalgam in the sense of “add subjective well-being, amount of positive emotions, and meaningfulness and divide by three”. It’s an unprincipled conflation of these that just denies they’re different at all.

This leads to (to steal words from Taleb) a Mediocristan resembling the training data where the category works fine, vs. an Extremistan where everything comes apart. And nowhere does this become more obvious than in what this blog post has secretly been about the whole time – morality.

This is why I feel like figuring out a morality that can survive transhuman scenarios is harder than just finding the Real Moral System That We Actually Use. There’s a potentially impossible conceptual problem here, of figuring out what to do with the fact that any moral rule followed to infinity will diverge from large parts of what we mean by morality.

This is only a problem for ethical subjectivists like myself, who think that we’re doing something that has to do with what our conception of morality is. If you’re an ethical naturalist, by all means, just do the thing that’s actually ethical.