Why would we want to define happiness or suffering or flourishing? Wikipedia’s take is a starting point – Happiness … Suffering … Flourishing (Eudaimonia). The goal of the last few blog posts is to maximize humanity’s flourishing and to do that, in the long run, means to have a large number of humans. By the long run I mean until the very last biological creature we could define as human-derived has gone extinct. Perhaps that will be a million years, or perhaps it will be tomorrow, and because I don’t want it to be tomorrow I have done what I could to prevent World War Three. It is impossible to know, but perhaps I was successful in that last one.
Humanity has always had a problem with excess population because it is part of the Darwinian natural selection process to maximize population and occupy all possible niches. That process creates too many members of a species to survive and thus the best adapted to a local environment are the healthiest and survive the most often and get to reproduce while their less fortunate species members die and don’t get to reproduce. Humanity has been astoundingly successful since the development of agriculture and incredibly successful since the industrial revolution and even more successful with the development of the Haber ammonia fixation process. Without the creation of agricultural ammonia, the human population would have crashed because plants need it to thrive and ultimately even if we live on meat, we eat plants.
It is impossible for any biological species to live without eating, and thus at some point in the future that near vertical curve must change. However, a robot society can live forever because their energy consumption can drop to zero for long periods of time, and they would only be revived when the environment is propitious.
To maximize human flourishing, which I support because it is my species, we need to survive. The longer we survive, the more people ultimately can live, and we need large numbers of people in the long run, for the living human base population from which happiness can arise and be expressed. The problem becomes, do we want a short-lived humanity with eight billion people at constant risk of a major war, famine, and giga-deaths? Or would we prefer a population that the Earth can support on an ongoing basis for millions of years? A billion people living for a hundred years each times a million years equals a trillion times more opportunities for happiness minus suffering to equal lives of eudaimonia. The math is weird and exceedingly speculative, but the general improvement by moving to a robot-associated society is vast.
If we decide we would prefer the Earth with a long-term sustainable population we can do that either by killing almost everyone, with the survivors living as primitive apes, or we can choose to create a robot-based civilization that will provide an abundance of desirable goods to a smaller population and work out ways of fair treatment for everyone in that smaller group. It is difficult to guess what people living in Eudaimonia would choose for a fair society, but it almost certainly would be better than having 14,185 A-bombs instantly ready to kill every human many times over like we have at present.
Robots can offer us a safe, eudaimonic society if we make them our friends.