Moral Diversity

You've seen the pattern: First humanity discovered the inappropriateness of discriminating on the basis of caste and noble bloodline. Then it was religion, then race, then gender and disability. Now it's species and sexual orientation--what's next? Blind to our own bigotry, we seem to discover it form by form, calling each recognition a new stage of social advancement. Witnessing such a pattern, we have to expect that there are stages beyond what any society has yet recognized, forms of discrimination yet to discover. What is the next social frontier?

The title of this blog tells you that I am putting my money on moral diversity (a.k.a. "evaluative diversity"), gadflies being a moral type. Analysis of scripture from diverse cultures shows that we have been labeling particular approaches to evaluation as "wrong" for thousands of years. When Lawrence Kohlberg developed the first measure of moral diversity, about fifty years ago, he called the orientations "developmental stages," explicitly discriminating against people with orientations he deemed lower. Lind's Moral Judgment Test (MJT), still a major measurement tool today, is designed around the assumption that certain moral types (especially that of gadflies) are forms of incompetence. Only recently have we begun to gather scientific evidence that proclivity for these approaches is built into our genes and our physiology, just like race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Like sexual orientation, moral orientation can be hidden. As with biodiversity, the protection of moral diversity requires oppressing the empowered. These facts make moral discrimination politically difficult to regulate. Yet moral diversity is so valuable that natural selection forces societies to split almost evenly into at least four different moral types. That means everyone in a viable society is in a moral minority. We can segregate ourselves, but we will find ourselves discriminated against when we venture beyond our silos. For example, conservatives will feel out-of-place at liberal parties, flower-children will feel out-of-place in boot camp, soldiers will feel out-of-place providing childcare, and lovers will feel out of place in a cutthroat negotiation. All of those people and situations are valuable to society, so we must learn to accept diversity.

I have great hopes for the benefits we could realize by adding moral diversity to the list of forms we protect.
  • First of all, moral discrimination is probably one of the most harmful forms of bigotry. Suddenly finding your caste, race or gender changed might be a shock, but it won't destroy you--finding your moral sensibilities replaced, in contrast, is a discovery that you've entirely lost your freewill. 
  • Second of all, it seems likely that most people spend a substantial portion of their time evaluatively in the closet, so ending moral discrimination would directly benefit even more people than ending other forms of discrimination. 
  • Third, social flourishing likely requires moral diversity. Little would be lost if all people were of the same caste or color, but a society composed purely of a single moral orientation would be like an ecosystem composed purely of plants--it would consume itself. 

Nations which enter the next stage of social advancement will enjoy great rewards for the political challenges they overcome. They will rise above all other nations. Their higher social advance will attract higher technological and economic advance. And here's the kicker: While previous stages of social development have been specific to diversity among humans, moral diversity applies to artificial intelligences as well. Different machines have different moral orientations. As computers take greater roles in society, they will be most able to flourish in societies which manage moral diversity. Thus, nations with less social progress will find technical progress working against them.

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