Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Where do human values come from?

A common idea in memetics is that humans are the product of genes and memes - and so that human values come from genes and memes.

My analysis of the situation follows:

Values do seem to come primarily from genes and memes - however, they are not necessarily the genes and memes of the person in question.

Other entities attempt to manipulate us. Sometimes, they negotiate with us, or manipulate our sense data - rather than attempting to affect our values. However, sometimes they attempt to "hijack our brains" - and redirect our values towards their own ends, or those of their makers.

The biggest influences come from other humans, symbionts, pathogens and memes. Basically most acquired goal directedness comes from other living, goal-directed systems.

The next biggest source of human values probably comes from the theory of self-organising systems. The brain is probably the most important self-organising system involved. It mostly has desires that arise by virtue of it being a large reinforcement learning system. Essentially, the brain can act as though it wants its own reward signals - and it sometimes fulfills that desire by taking rewarding drugs. The brain was made by genes - but this kind of "wireheading" behaviour is not exactly what the genes want, but rather is an unwanted side-effect of using a reinforcement learning system.

The next-most significant effect on human values is probably mistakes (e.g. sub-optimal adaptations).

Many humans delight in seeking out noble sources of value - probably for signalling reasons. They do not like hearing that genes and memes are primarily responsible for what they hold most dear - and the next biggest influences are probably wireheading and mistakes. These ideas seems to me to be a substantial source of "memetics resistance".

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