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happiness

Could man evolve higher rationality?

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Would man be better off if he evolved some neural mechanism that made reason automatic, such that any evasion of fact or use of an incorrect epistemology produced an unbearable emotional response? Or would this be antithetical to free will?

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It may be possible for man to evolve into something less prone to error, but evolving to possess a mechanism (note your choice of words) to make reason "automatic" is unlikely.  "Automatic" action would be so inflexible it likely would lead to lower probability of survival.  This is pure speculation of course.  You are essentially positing a creature exactly like man but incapable of letting himself go out of focus.

IF one defines free will ONLY by the choice of to focus or not, then a creature with no ability to choose whether to focus or not would by definition lack free will.  IF one adheres to the notion that free will is perhaps slightly broader and means that various choices by the agent in the exercise of will hypothetically could have been otherwise, then free will is intact in those various other forms of exercising will, and a creature with no ability to choose not to focus would still have free will.

I would judge a "persistently" rational agent, one which made choices based on its limited information in a rational manner given its limited (finite) knowledge and cognitive ability and its context, to have free will as long as some types of choices were made "freely" by it, i.e. it could have chosen otherwise, and that fact that it could have chosen otherwise is a consequence of its identity, i.e. its ability to choose.

Whether or not we would still call this persistently rational agent "man" is another question... it would not be "man" as we now know it to be...

 

 

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3 hours ago, happiness said:

Would man be better off if he evolved some neural mechanism that made reason automatic, such that any evasion of fact or use of an incorrect epistemology produced an unbearable emotional response? Or would this be antithetical to free will?

Would man be better off is a bit of a fantasy question. The title of the thread asks "could he".

Well, one requirement would be that humans whose biology takes the next step in that direction should have more children, on average, than those that do not. I doubt there is a positive correlation between rationality (even within today's possible ranges) and procreation. So, no, I don't think this evolution could happen realistically.

Or, are you using the term "evolve" loosely: e.g. "could man evolve to create machines that will drive him places?"

Edited by softwareNerd

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1 minute ago, softwareNerd said:

Would man be better off is a bit of a fantasy question. The title of the thread asks "could he".

Well, one requirement would be that humans whose biology takes the next step in that direction should have more children, on average, than those that do not. I doubt there is a positive correlation between rationality (even within today's possible ranges) and procreation. So, no, I don't think this evolution could happen realistically.

All it would take to make it realistic, however, is the refusal of sanction by the victim.  Recent possibility of devolution has only occurred because of the irrational self-sacrifice of producers to enable the less able producers to live as parasites instead of as traders. 

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4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

All it would take to make it realistic, however, is the refusal of sanction by the victim. 

I'm not sure I understand, and as I said, the term "evolution" could be used more broadly than biology. But, if I stick with biology, humans -- in the aggregate -- have been able to produce enough to feed themselves for centuries. Since the mid 1900's, only selected famines have been rare. As a consequence, populations have grown in countries like India and China despite statist systems. At its current level of average "biological rationality", the U.S. is able to produce far more food than it can consume. So, the current level of biological rationality is no constraint to having large families. 

In fact, rationality could possibly be correlated with having fewer children (on the average). So, a biological proclivity toward higher rationality could even be negatively correlated with procreation. 

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Objectivism holds that irrationality stems from evasion. And that's true...but that doesn't mean there can't also be physical causes to irrationality. Chemical imbalances are known to cause depression, and there is even research suggesting that there are genetic factors behind anxiety disorder, social disorders, etc.. Both depression and anxiety cause irrational thoughts, or at least make it much harder to be rational.

So it's not so far fetched that humans could evolve to not have some of those traits, therefor allowing them to be more rational.

4 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

I'm not sure I understand, and as I said, the term "evolution" could be used more broadly than biology. But, if I stick with biology, humans -- in the aggregate -- have been able to produce enough to feed themselves for centuries. Since the mid 1900's, only selected famines have been rare. As a consequence, populations have grown in countries like India and China despite statist systems. At its current level of average "biological rationality", the U.S. is able to produce far more food than it can consume. So, the current level of biological rationality is no constraint to having large families.

Yes, and that makes natural selection a non-factor (natural selection works when a species produces more offspring than the environment can sustain...at which point there is competition between the offspring, and the ones with beneficial traits tend to survive).

But there are other evolutionary mechanisms, that are neutral rather than conditions-driven. When our offspring don't die due to famine, predators and disease, we still evolve new traits...it's just that those traits are neutral rather than adaptive.

This kind of evolution (at least as far as I understand the science) could be sped up if we were to leave Earth and populate distant planets: one common ancestor, with the right mutations, could end up populating a distant planet on which everyone would have those beneficial traits that prevent depression and anxiety...and therefor reduce irrationality.

Rational thought still wouldn't be automatic for those people (I can't imagine that being possible), but rationality would come more easily.

The dangers of space could also allow natural selection to start playing a role again: if, let's say, a colonist or group of colonists were to have a set of especially negative traits, that cause mental illness rather than prevent it, that colony could get wiped out, and, eventually, re-populated by a more fit group.

P.S. On the other hand, if we were to become advanced enough to colonize other planets, odds are we'd also be advanced enough to manipulate our genes and cure even non-genetic mental illness, and "evolve" ourselves into a more mentally healthy species without help from natural selection or luck.

Edited by Nicky

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13 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

I'm not sure I understand, and as I said, the term "evolution" could be used more broadly than biology. But, if I stick with biology, humans -- in the aggregate -- have been able to produce enough to feed themselves for centuries. Since the mid 1900's, only selected famines have been rare. As a consequence, populations have grown in countries like India and China despite statist systems. At its current level of average "biological rationality", the U.S. is able to produce far more food than it can consume. So, the current level of biological rationality is no constraint to having large families. 

In fact, rationality could possibly be correlated with having fewer children (on the average). So, a biological proclivity toward higher rationality could even be negatively correlated with procreation. 

My point is this:

That things evolve is a consequence of natural selection.  Those organisms which are better able to survive/produce and procreate, leave more traces of themselves (in the form of genes) in the population, whereas those less able to survive/produce and procreate, tend not to leave as many traces of themselves in the population.  Processes of breeding slowly spread the traits, and those traits which are advantageous become dominant while disadvantageous traits slowly die out and disappear.

This was always the case including early primates.  Man came to be because the ability to be rational enabled him to survive/produce and procreate, in spite of being potential prey for larger brutes and predators.

Naturally, the trait of rationality IS a dominant trait for survival, production and procreation.  Imagine two groups of people on an island, one rational and one irrational.  The rational one will survive better, produce more, be capable of supporting and teaching more children.  The irrational one will face a greater chance of death, produce less, and would not be able to support as many children, or even keeping them alive for that matter.  If war broke out, who would you bet on to win the contest of force, men of the mind or the irrational parasites?

REALITY dictates the evolution of mankind.  Absent a fundamental error whereby man would voluntarily become his own his own destroyer, man will evolve.

But, part of man's identity, is that he is volitional and he can err and HAS erred.  Currently, men have formed "societies" which infuse the less able with the life-blood of the able.  Forcibly take from some and give to others.   Communist, socialist, welfare, and mixed economy states, all exhibit the symptom of individuals letting themselves or volunteering to be sacrificed due to a single error. This error of which I speak which enables the current situation is the "sanction of the victim".  The cooperation of the producers with those who would and do make sacrificial animals of them.

I do not believe this is a natural part of human existence, and as such the "sanction of the victim" is not something which needs to bred out of us,  i.e. I do not think we need to "evolve" more, in order to eradicate some subconscious automatic trait giving rise to the of "sanction of the victim".  I believe the problem is nurture, it is bad philosophy, it is learned from teachers, parents, preachers, politicians, celebrities, story books, movies, television, the media... it infuses all of the culture and invades an innocent mind from childhood.

 

This is what I mean regarding making evolution realistic again.  It is only the choice we erroneously have made (not by nature) which currently stands in opposition to natural selection and the nature of man - sanction of the victim, cooperation and agreement with the philosophy of self-sacrifice, with the philosophy of death.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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I agree with everything SL said above. I think a better question for the OP is when we create real AI sometime in the near future should we initially create it as OP has suggested or completely in our "own image", i.e., with the ability to focus or not?

Pretty much all future "evolution" of man is going to be caused by our own decisions, via things like genetic engineering, and will no longer be just a result of chance over an extended amount of time essentially leaving OP's question completely moot.

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On 9/28/2016 at 6:06 AM, happiness said:

... Or would this be antithetical to free will?

It would.

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