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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can Somebody Explain This to Me?

Upgraded from the Moot:

I've never quite understood why an asshole's disregard for the negative effects of his conduct on others or over the longer term is described so often as "optimism" by so many people.

1 comment:

jfehlinger said...

Y'know, I came across some interesting assertions in
the on-line literature about psychopathy. The personality psychologists'
"Five Factor" personality metric has scales that are supposed
to be associated with "negative emotionality" (or "negative affectivity":
neuroticism, introversion, timidity, shyness) and "positive emotionality"
(or "positive affectivity": extraversion, boldness, leadership,
willingness to take risks and try new things). These are
orthogonal scales (though I believe they're supposed to
be at least weakly negatively correlated) --
high(+) -- low(-) is the "self-actualizing" personality --
you know, the ideal Extropian ;-> ; whereas
low(+) -- high(-) is the quintessential whiner
and loser -- gas-chamber fodder, according
to some folks.

Thing is, push it just a little too far: high(+) -- nonexistent(-)
(high risk-taking, full of gusto, **and** utterly remorseless,
guilt-and-shame-free, nerves of steel "Truman Goff could
ignore pain the way some people ignore
Christmas." and you've got the profile of a
psychopath. ;->

Now, a lot of Extropian types are really looking forward
to the day when they can upload and "optimize" their personalities
(more effectively than just by popping vitamins and
antidepressants, or by reading self-help books).
The obvious thing to do (for you, for me, for
Bobby McGee) is (in addition to ramping up the
IQ as far as it can go -- that goes without
saying ;-> ) to grab the "positive emotionality"
knob and twist it way up high, and grab the
"negative emotionality" knob and twist it all
the way down. Voila -- superintelligent

This suggests a much weaker social fabric than
we evolved humans have grown accustomed to -- the
personality-twiddling, if it's permitted, may
have a radically centrifugal effect. Come to think,
Hans Moravec acknowledged as much in the '99
_Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind_ is his
portrayal of the "exes" (ex-humans) leaving the
earth and shooting off into deep space.

It also suggests that any social coalitions will
be emotionless, hyper-rational, with probable
outcomes and cost-benefit ratios and monitoring for
cheating explicitly programmed, and with alliances
that can be broken and re-forged in a millisecond.
Sort of like a _Dune_ novel, or an episode of
_Survivor_. My God, maybe the libertarians are
right! :-0 And maybe all those science-fiction
cliches are right, too. We can all sing along with
Tina Turner: "what's love got to do with it?" ;->

"They seemed to be like Spock or Data on Star Trek,"
[Robert D.] Hare explains, "What I thought was most
interesting was that for the first time ever, as
far as I know, we found that there was no activation
of the appropriate areas for emotional arousal,
but there was over-activation in other parts of
the brain, including parts of the brain that are
ordinarily devoted to language. Those parts were
active, as if they were saying, 'Hey, isn't that
interesting.' So they seem to be analyzing emotional
material in terms of its linguistic or dictionary

There's an on-line version of the Five-Factor test
(the IPIP-NEO) at
You too can find out if you're brave enough
for the new world! I took this one several years ago
(yes, I definitely need to reverse those two
knobs ;-> ).