Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ayn Rand Vs. The Immortal Robot

Christmas Eve-Eve I read a bit of a book about the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I want to study this because one of my goals in refining my arguments for Universal Morality is to refute, and win over, Objectivists. I was happy to find something that meshes perfectly into my system, and shows a flaw in hers.
To show that Life is the ultimate value, Rand created a hypothetical Immortal Robot, it could reason and act if motivated, but it could not be destroyed and had no in-built goals or values. Her argument was that because the Robot was indestructible, it had no reason to value it's own protection, and no reason to value anything else. She was right, to a point. This she contrasted with mortals, who she said must in some sense value their existence or cease to exist.
The problem, I think, is that she didn't spend enough time inside the head of that Immortal Robot, figuring out what it would do. For example, it would be aware that it had the capacity to hold values, but that it did not currently hold any. It would be aware that its capacity to think was finite. It would be aware that it had the capacity to consider the ramifications of values that it could hold, even if it did not in fact hold them. It would eventually become aware that no 'is' implies an 'ought'. It would realize that it had no reason to exist, or not to exist, but that at the moment, it existed anyway.
It would realize that any of it's conclusions about the world (is) or morality (ought) could be faulty, either because of bad premises, illusory sensory information, or faulty logic. It would further realize that there are an infinite number of potential truths that it has not considered, because its ability to think is finite.
If its thought process is not broken, it will set about trying to determine the truth of these statements, both existential and moral.

If the Immortal Robot is well designed, it will set as a value for itself the improvement of its ability to think.

I especially fell in love with Rand's model of the Immortal Robot because it gives me a wonderful way to tie my system of morality into my blog title.