Posted by: Mark Waser | Oct 26, 2010

An Ideal Community?

What would “a community with the primary goal of reducing conflict/friction/lack-of-coordination between its members (and between members and nonmembers)” look like?

It would recognize that human beings (like all goal-directed entities) strive to

  1. protect themselves (both physically and from manipulation)
  2. gain and protect access to resources (physical and informational)
  3. improve themselves (since, after all, the self is just another resource)
  4. do all of the above as efficiently and effectively as possible (i.e. be rational)

The community as a whole would also clearly have these same goals for itself — but expressible more succinctly as “gain, protect, and improve community members as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

It would want to welcome as many participating members into the community as possible (to increase its effectiveness).

It would endeavor to protect and promote the above four universal human goals as incentive to join the community.

It would strive to treat all members with equality and fairness because to do otherwise would invite defection.

It would use altruistic punishment on members and non-members and practice “optimistic tit-for-tat” with outsiders because those are the most optimal of the known strategies.

Evolution should favor such a community over all others because it’s sole goal is to reduce and avoid those things that would act against it. And, indeed, we do find civilization trending in this direction over the long-term (despite many short-term oscillations).

Ethics are simply what this community demands in order to fulfill its goals.

Ethics are evolutionarily preferred because they allow one to join and promote the evolutionarily favored community.

What is wrong with this argument?  Why is it so hard to accept?



  1. I still think that you need to use your more complicated (and correct) goal formulation:
    a community whose primary goal is to evenly balance the three goals of reducing conflict/friction/lack-of-coordination; growth in numbers; and growth in diversity. It’s too easy for an uber-rationalist to point out that the community could successfully optimized your single goal simply by having everyone leave it.

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