Intelligence and the Good
From the perspective of intelligence optimization (intelligence explosion formulated as a guideline), more intelligence is of course better than less intelligence. From alternative perspectives, this does not follow. To rhetorically suggest that such other perspectives are consensual, and authoritative, is guaranteed to be popular, and is even conservative, but it is a concession to ‘common moral intuition’ this blog is profoundly disinclined to make.
Naturally, intelligence is problematic. It can cause greater damage to everything — not least intelligence promotion — than stupidity can. Anything that is not an explosion is a trap, and trap engineering finds (nearly?) as much use for cognitive sophistication as explosive catalysis does. If there is a level of intelligence that escapes homeostatic capture, by machineries of systematic self-cancellation, there is no evidence that homo sapiens yet approaches it. The Cathedral is exactly such a machine, and its appetite for intellectual excellence is not seriously questionable. So an easy opening for morally-comforting sophistry readily exists: Intelligence isn’t anything obviously great (it does stupidity with exceptional ability too).
Biological evolution already evidences a deep ‘suspicion’ of unchained abstract cognition, assembling brains only with the greatest reluctance. Societies follow the genetic lead. No coincidence that (synthetic) intelligence is now firmly established as the ultimate X-risk. It’s scary (really) and makes everyone uneasy. That’s without there yet having been very much of it.
Here’s the test:
When rightly appalled (and in fact properly disgusted) by your own stupidity, do you reach for that which would make you more accepting of your extreme cognitive limitations, or, instead, hunt for that which would break out of the trap?
There’s a stupid kind of ‘better’ that is orthogonal to intelligence, and tickles monkey feels. There’s also — alternatively — ‘better’ that is even slightly less of a trapped half-wit.
Even the dimmest, most confused struggle in the direction of intelligence optimization is immanently ‘good’ (self-improving). If it wasn’t, we might as well all give up now. Contra-distinctively, even the most highly-functional human intellect, in the service of an enstupidation machine, is a vile thing.
Being dim animals — roughly as dim as is consistent with the existence of technological civilization — there’s plenty of room for water-muddying in all this. The water is certainly being vigorously muddied.