Comment author:Uni
28 March 2011 10:26:57PM
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2 points
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When we have gained total control of all the matter down to every single particle within, say, our galaxy, and found out exactly what kinds of combinations we need to put particles together in to maximize the amount of happiness produced per particle used (and per spacetime unit), then what if we find ourselves faced with the choice between 1) maximizing happiness short term but not getting control over more of the matter in the universe at the highest possible rate (in other words, not expanding maximally fast in the universe), and 2) maximizing said expansion rate at the cost of short term happiness maximation. What if this trade-off problem persists forever?

We might find ourselves in the situation where we, time after time, can either use all of our matter for maximizing the pace at which we take control over more and more matter, creating no short term happiness at all, or creating any non-zero amount of happiness short term at the expense of our ability to expand our ability to get us much more happiness in the future instead. We might find that, hey, if we postpone being happy for one year, we can be ten times as happy next year as we would otherwise be able to be, and that's clearly better. And next year, we are again in the same situation: postponing being happy one more year again seems rational. Next year, same thing. And so on.

Suppose that kind of development would never end, unless we ended it by "cashing in" (choosing short term happiness before maximum development). Then when should we "cash in"? After how many years? Any finite number of years seems too small, since you could always add one extra year to further improve the expected long term happiness gain. On the other hand, the answer "in infinitely many years from now" is not appealing either, as an infinity of years never passes, by definition, meaning we would never choose to be happy. So, when would you "cash in" and choose to be happy? After how many years?

Comment author:DSimon
16 September 2011 07:01:09AM
0 points
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This is an interesting problem. The correct solution probably lies somewhere in the middle: allocate X of our resources to expansion, and 1-X of our resources to taking advantage of our current scope.

## Comments (23)

Old*2 points [-]When we have gained total control of all the matter down to every single particle within, say, our galaxy, and found out exactly what kinds of combinations we need to put particles together in to maximize the amount of happiness produced per particle used (and per spacetime unit), then what if we find ourselves faced with the choice between 1) maximizing happiness short term but not getting control over more of the matter in the universe at the highest possible rate (in other words, not expanding maximally fast in the universe), and 2) maximizing said expansion rate at the cost of short term happiness maximation. What if this trade-off problem persists forever?

We might find ourselves in the situation where we, time after time, can either use all of our matter for maximizing the pace at which we take control over more and more matter, creating no short term happiness at all, or creating any non-zero amount of happiness short term at the expense of our ability to expand our ability to get us much more happiness in the future instead. We might find that, hey, if we postpone being happy for one year, we can be ten times as happy next year as we would otherwise be able to be, and that's clearly better. And next year, we are again in the same situation: postponing being happy one more year again seems rational. Next year, same thing. And so on.

Suppose that kind of development would never end, unless we ended it by "cashing in" (choosing short term happiness before maximum development). Then when should we "cash in"? After how many years? Any finite number of years seems too small, since you could always add one extra year to further improve the expected long term happiness gain. On the other hand, the answer "in infinitely many years from now" is not appealing either, as an infinity of years never passes, by definition, meaning we would never choose to be happy. So, when would you "cash in" and choose to be happy? After how many years?

This is an interesting problem. The correct solution probably lies somewhere in the middle: allocate X of our resources to expansion, and 1-X of our resources to taking advantage of our current scope.