“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Self-Interest vs Hyperobjects

What would you do if you were a prisoner who was given the choice of remaining silent or betraying another suspect, supposing the following to be the case?

(1) If you both betray each other you will receive five years in jail.
(2) If one of you betrays and the other is silent, the betrayed one will receive ten years in jail.
(3) If you both remain silent, you will each get six months for a minor charge.

This is the prisoner's dilemma.

Over at Feminist Philosophers there's a post lamenting the seemingly default self-interest theories of our age. This got me thinking about whether hyperobjects will change this.

Default capitalist theology, I mean Econ 101, is rational choice theory, which is deeply a self-interest theory. Yet the Prisoner's Dilemma indicates we're profoundly social beings. Even self-interest accounts for the other somehow.

How come the Prisoner's Dilemma shows this? Because it's so elegantly formal. No ideological baggage to speak of.

Derek Parfit subjects countless modified versions of self-interest theory to Prisoner's Dilemma tests. They all fail.

Why do this extensive testing? Because of hyperobjects. No one meaningfully related to me will exist 24 100 years from now (the half life of Plutonium). Not even my great great granddaughter's third cousin's grandson's x 100 doctor's hamster's niece...

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