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Monday, July 01, 2002

The Will to Live; Denied

What's more dangerous: an AI with the will to live or one without? People assume survival instinct would make a robot dangerous; but if it had no survival instinct, could it possibly have a sense of ethics or responsibility? What would stop it from killing you on a mere whim?

And what is the cost (to you) of your death? We want to say "infinite!" because our life is our gateway to everything. But infinity doesn't play well into cost/benefit analysis, and yet we make that tradeoff in each decision we make. Really our lives are of finite value -- the value of all that we will experience and enjoy within them -- and thus our deaths are of finite cost. The cost of death is "100%" -- something which can be multiplied by the odds of it happening to produce a reasonable consideration. If we overestimate the cost of death, then we covet life (staying alive) without respect to its actual content (living!), and upon the false premise that life is infinitely valuable, we end up extracting almost no value from it whatsoever.

Imagine, though, if you were immortal, like an AI will be. Now suddenly the value of your life does begin to approach infinity. Two words for you: Save Often.

I applied for an REI Visa card the other day. It gives you 1% back on every (non-REI) purchase, which you can use as credit in their store or request each year as a check with one phone call. Normally I use my check-card for everything so I don't have to hassle with monthly bills, but I figured an extra couple hundred dollars a year could be put to good use. Plus I was considering buying EE or I bonds online, which you can do with a Visa and thus, oddly enough, get an instant 1% boost to your first year's interest rate (enough to offset any penalties if you should sell them early!). All in all I think the strategy was good, and I mention it here in case it would benefit anyone else.

Unfortunately, in my case it all proves moot, as I was promptly rejected--not even approved for their lowest credit limit! I fetched a copy of my own credit report to see what was going on and learned that in the last year my rating has gone from 823 (which a mortgage broker told me was "the highest I've ever seen for someone your age") to zero. Yes, I now have no credit.


Because I've been debt-free for too long.

No, I'm not kidding (nor leaving any relevant details out).

The woman at US Bank (who handles the REI cards) found no humor in this whatsoever, despite my best efforts to elicit it from her. "No, I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do about it. It's our policy."

Perhaps the real reason I want to build AIs is to satisfy my desire for human interaction.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com