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Joy, Growth and Choice
Ben Goertzel   Mar 24, 2010   Cosmist Manifesto  

What general values can we identify as important, beyond culture-specific or species-specific or otherwise context-specific moral codes or ethical values?

To put the question another way, an earlier version of this Manifesto began with the definition:

Cosmism: a practical philosophy centered on the effort to live one’s life in a positive way, based on ongoingly, actively increasing one’s understanding of the universe in its multiple aspects

Later this got modified into:

Cosmism: a practical philosophy focused on exploring, understanding and enjoying the cosmos, in its inner, outer and social aspects

Cosmism advocates

  • pursuing joy, growth and freedom for oneself and all beings
  • ongoingly, actively seeking to better understand the universe in its multiple aspects, from a variety of perspectives
  • taking nothing as axiomatic and accepting all ideas, beliefs and habits as open to revision based on thought, dialogue and experience

One difference is that when I wrote the latter I decided to specify what I mean by “a positive way.” I.e., I decided to get a little more concrete about the critical question of: what are the important values?

There are many Cosmist values, and it would be folly to attempt a definitive enumeration.

However, as reflected in the above proclamation, four values seem particularly essential to me: Joy, Growth, Continuity and Choice.

I’‘ve discussed most of these above, but will now revisit them from a “value-system” perspective.

Growth is perhaps the simplest: the creation of new patterns, out of old ones.

I don’t want stasis. Nor degeneration. Some old patterns may need to cede to the new, but overall there should be an ongoing flowering of more and more new patterns.

Note that growth is not just the constant appearance of new patterns—it implies some continuity, in which old patterns are expanded and improved, yielding new ones that go beyond them.

Joy I have analyzed as the feeling of increasing unity, togetherness, order.

We want more and more new patterns to be created and we want them to get bound together into unities and wholes, to have the joy of coming together.

We want there to be minds that can experience this joy—the joy of coming together with their environments and each other.

imageChoice is the most complicated of the three values I’ve identified—but it’s also the only one that implies the existence of integral, individual minds in anything like the sense that humans have them.

You could have growth and joy in a cosmos without individuals—but choice requires individual minds. Valuing choice means valuing individuals that decide. These individuals don’t need to have illusions of all-powerful, unpredictable free will—they may well be more realistic about understanding their choices as being associations between their internal dynamics and broader entropy-reducing dynamics in their region of the cosmos. But still they have their own intentionality.

Compassion, in this view, comes down to valuing joy, growth and choice in a way that goes beyond the boundaries of one’s individual mind, body or self.

A cosmos of individuals, choosing their actions and experiencing joy, growing in a joyful growing cosmos—this is close to being the crux of what Cosmism values.

Living life in a positive way: living life in a way that promotes and embodies universal joy, growth and choice.

This brief article is part of the overall Cosmist Manifesto.

Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (


“JOY:  I have analyzed as the feeling of increasing unity, togetherness, order.”

I found this very interesting. Were you aware that one of the Hebrew words for ‘rejoice’ has the same root as the word for ‘oneness’? (Exodus 18:9)

I ordered your book, The Hidden Pattern, off of Amazon and am supremely excited to read it when I get some spare cycles. 

I love these three values, and I generally find the Cosmist Manifesto spot-on.  I would argue your three values align in synergy with my own pet ironically simple value: Complexity.  Joy requires separateness and togetherness in dialectic.  Choice requires evitability. 

I see our species approaching a critical point as we model our universe along all, not merely Euclidean parameters.  Will we see a true Singularity?  Will we approach yet never reach this Tiplerean Highlander scenario?  Will we discover abundance, and shed ‘hard’ selection to pursue growth?
Many thanks again for getting me interested in H+ with your youtube video, “10 years…”  How’s the time-frame going?  I remember at one point you said we’d have to really^n have to try.  I’m wondering if we’re going about it all wrong, or at least should try some other strategies more aggressively: For instance, as a research community we need to revitalize our own merging with technology towards our goals.  How much would it cost to wire up all transhumanists with a Thad Starner- y rig?  Are there data-streams that would assist you in AGI design were you to literally taste them, such as CPU and memory load?

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