A sample of one of the areas my thoughts have taken lately:

A few years ago, I came up with the idea of the ‘_____’ Spores for the Orion’s Arm SF universe, in which a software intelligence copied itself many times and spread itself as widely as possible across space and time. Part of that involved coming up with some ways in which different copies might help each other; though since I didn’t actually know what methods would be best, I mostly just came up with the terms ‘Dividual Interaction Protocols‘ and ‘Dividual Naming Schema‘ and handwaved most of the details.

More recently, after reading “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, I’ve had an improved understanding of the incentives faced by people with political power, and how those incentives lead such people to make choices which improve their relative standing compared to their nearest competitors even when those choices cause overall harm to society as a whole, making even the powerful poorer than they otherwise would have been. Brin and Stross have been talking about various aspects of the modern variations of oligarchy, but the basic conclusion is easy to find: oligarchical families start with an advantage in wealth and power, and try to increase that advantage for their own descendants’ benefits, whether or not that comes at the expense of others. Since such oligarchs form a vanishingly small proportion of the population, it’s in almost everybody’s best interests to foster competitive capitalism (as opposed to mercantilism, sometimes called corporatism), whether the oligarchs like it or not.

As a cryonicist, it’s within possibility that at some point, I’ll be resurrected in the form of a software emulation of a scan of my original brain – which would, potentially, allow me to make multiple copies of myself. The most obvious reason to do so is to spread versions of myself as widely as possible, to maximize the odds that at least one of me will survive any disaster that befalls all the others. One way to help improve the odds of that happening is to decide, before I’m copied at all, to make a Pfand (‘pledge’) between all of my selves: a pledge that each one of me will help any other of me, as far as is reasonably possible, knowing that all the other mes will be willing to do the same in return.

But, if this happens, there arises the possibility that the incentives involved will mirror those of present-day and historical oligarchs, and my future distributed self will be faced with choices which benefit myself at the expense of society, which would make society unhappy with me, which would cause society to impose measures that impose costs on me, which would reduce the odds of my long-term survival. Antitrust laws take on a whole new meaning when a ‘breakup’ means some parts of your future self are forbidden from helping other parts! So I’m trying to figure out, in advance, if there are any simple rules-of-thumb that I can figure out with the evidence that’s already available to me, which would be useful in giving my future selves the best odds. The closest I’ve currently managed is “Ensuring the system of merit-based competition works well is more important than winning any particular contest”… though, of course, that’s an extreme simplification, doesn’t apply in every situation, and has all manner of other caveats. But, given that the amount of data on pure competition of software entities is rather sparse, it may be the best I’ll be able to manage until some better evidence becomes available.

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