28yrs • M •
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||Idea for a Normative Theory
DISCLAIMER: This starts off by sounding kinda ridiculous, but I think it becomes much more reasonable as you read on, and I have put a lot of thought into it, so please don't dismiss it immediately!
THESIS: You should perform the action that will cause the universe to go through the greatest number of different permutations.
EXPLANATION: You're probably wondering how exactly we could affect the number of permutations that the universe goes through? Well right now, we obviously can't. But, at some point in the extremely distant future, there could theoretically be a way in which our technology could "extend the lifespan" of the universe, most likely by slowing entropy, as once the universe reaches a fully entropic state, it will no longer be capable of going through more permutations, instead it will just be a uniform blob. Of course preventing entropy might not be the best way to "extend the lifespan" of the universe, but I chose that because it seems like the most probable and feasible example. If better ways to extend the lifespan of the universe become apparent, then I would advocate for those.
How would we slow entropy? Most likely not by violating the 2nd law, but just by intelligent managing of the resources of the universe. For example, we could prevent an asteroid from destroying a life-inhabited planet, an action which creates little entropy while preventing the creation of far more entropy, therefore a net gain in the fight to slow entropy. Of course, on the cosmic scale this particular action would be of little use, but it illustrates the general idea: use science and technology to manage the resources of the universe, primarily by preventing natural events (such as the collision of two galaxies, or stars getting sucked into black holes, etc.) which would unnecessarily accelerate the progress of entropy. Granted we have no idea how we would even begin space travel, let alone any thing as ambitious as slowing entropy on a cosmic scale, but it's impossible to predict how and when technology will advance, especially when dealing with the distant future. Technology has progressed at an exponential and largely unpredictable rate over the last 2 centuries, and there's no reason it couldn't do that again at some point in the future.
Also, this theory would not advocate for mass suicide. Yes humans and other living beings contribute to entropy, but since the sun is going to explode anyways, any contribution we make will be completely erased. The potential good we could do far outweighs the inconsequential harm we do to the lifespan of the universe.
So how could we apply this theory to our current situation? The theory would give no definite prescriptions for our current situation, but it would strongly suggest certain things. Increased focus on science and technology of course, and a fight against all of the things that stand in its way: war, poverty, disease, etc.
This increased focus on technology could go in many different directions. Maybe we could decide to focus on developing space travel as quick as possible, which would likely mean increased industrialization. Or maybe we could decide to focus on restoring the earth and potentially even scaling back many unnecessary parts of industrial society, so that we could extend our time on earth to develop the useful technology, even if we temporarily slowed the progress of that technology by slowing industrialization. Personally I'm in favor of the second option. These sorts of things would be a matter of scientific and political debate. It would depend on all sorts of factors, such as the viability of current technology, the willingness of populations, etc. And there would be no definite right solution (although any solution that stopped humans or our technology from ever leaving earth would be wrong).
And even though I have been talking only about universal and planetary issues, I fully intend for this to be an ethical theory which a person should live even their daily lives by. "Should I eat candy or a banana? Well I'm already in bad shape, and if i eat candy I will harm my health, which will decrease my productivity and cost our medical system. This in turn will harm humanity's chances of slowing the entropy of the universe. I'll eat the banana." Obviously you wouldn't have to go through this whole chain of reasoning each time, but when dealing with more complex issues you could if you wanted to.
PROOF: First, "the good" might exist. The good is a thing that we should pursue. If it does exist, then we should pursue it. If it doesn't exist, then it doesn't matter if we pursue it or not, as without a good there can't be a bad (there is no opportunity cost to pursuing the good if there is no good at all, as opportunity cost only makes sense in terms of missing out on a good). Therefore, we should act as though the good exists.
Second, we don't know what the good is. Many people claim to know, but it seems to me that you could answer any of their claims with an infinite regress argument. If they say that anything is the good, then you could just ask why, and you could do the same to any reason they give for that thing being the good.
Third, giving that we are trying to pursue the good, but we don't know anything about what it is, we should see if there is still an optimal strategy for attaining the good anyways, even without knowledge of its nature. I propose that the optimal strategy is to make the universe go through the greatest number of permutations, as any one of these permutations might be the good, and so by going through more permutations we are maximizing our chances of attaining the good.
POSTSCRIPT: This theory might seem weird because it's entirely non-anthropocentric and even non-biocentric, but to me that is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that it is operating under a minimum of assumptions.
Also, it results in what I view as the correct solution to a thought experiment that I created. Imagine that the humanity is going extinct. We have enough resources to last for a year if we do nothing, or enough to last for 11 months if we decide to use the rest of our resources to launch some of our technology into outer space in the hope that it could slow the progress of entropy. Let's also assume that this technology would not help any kind of alien beings, so no moral obligation to them is involved. I think we should choose to live for only 11 months purely out of an obligation to the universe itself, and I think this thought experiment could act as a test of any ethical theory.
Please let me know what your thoughts are!!!