Despite the ponderings of many very smart people the goal of life has always remained rather elusive. Biologists often claim that the goal of life is to reproduce both selectively and prodigiously thereby effecting change in our genetic sequence and bringing us closer to our evolutionary goal of perfection.

Theologists claim that the goal of life is to praise our deities and spread their word, by force if necessary, to those unfortunate enough to think on their own.

Politicians believe that the goal of life is to aid in the development of the government by paying taxes and ignoring their mistakes.

Californians believe that the goal of life is to experience nature, to revel in its splendor and trample it beneath their Birkenstocks in a tumultuous parade of loving curiosity, all the while avoiding traffic tickets.

I don't believe these things. To understand life I believe it is important to observe life. Witness our fellow herd mammals. Their goals change depending on the stage of their development.

When young, their goals are simple; learn to stand, suckle boobies. When the second phase of development is reached their goals change depending on gender. The males fight for dominance so that they may enjoy lots of sex. The females watch the males fight for dominance so that they too may enjoy lots of sex.

In the third stage of development the goals again unite in the desire to protect the wobbly, suckling young. As they reach the end of their life and the final stage of development the mammals finally realize their ultimate life goal.

Now that all the sex and fighting is over they become fat and dumb. They are now happy, they relish the time afforded them to stand around chewing cud and swatting flies. Eventually they lie down to enjoy a gentle breeze.

Soon the Holy Hyenas will come to shepherd them into the after life so that they can complete the blessed circle and Elton John can write a song about their nobility.

Of course, the goal (or supergoal) of all life is to reproduce, to self-replicate, as we all know. Actually this may not be true of all life forms; but a mutant bacteria that does not reproduce will only ever be one mutant bacteria, wheras an especially fecund mutant could well transform all matter in the universe into copies of itself.

And of course, the lifeforms themselves, if they have a pseudo-brain that gives them pseudo-autonomy, may have goals other than self-replication. But these goals will have been programmed into them by the genes, and are virtually certain to be subgoals to the genes' supergoal of replication. As has been sad before; genes are not the tools organisms use to reproduce; organisms are the tools genes use to reproduce. In organisms that possess enough complexity that the word 'goal' is meaningful, these may include; eating, or comandeering the organic resources from another source (usually another organism) for one's own growth/reproduction; avoiding pain, discomfort, and displeasure, which tend to be triggered by stimuli representative of long-term survival hazards, such as excessive heat, cold, fatigue, and injury; and (in some animals) to belong to a community, which will consist of allies and potential mates.

In over three billion years of evolution, it was never a likely possibility that an organism would ever have too much food, not enough muscular trauma (known as excercise) or even not enough suffering. When human civilisation appeared on the scene, it was. People now stuff themselves in preperation for a famine that never comes, overdose on the chemicals produced as a natural analgelsic in the brain, use contraception so as to keep having sex without being hindered by children (the ultimate triumph of a subgoal over a supergoal!) and many other activities, that , from a Darwinian perspective, may seem odd if one forgets that they are adaptions for a completely different environment. Thus many people today succesfully become fat, dumb and happy without actually reproducing.

(I am of course, taking 'dumb' to mean 'painfree' and not 'stupid' (humans strive for expertise of fields they must deal with); and happy to mean a general, consumerist kind of satisfaction with life (although I am aware that many philosophies strive for a deeper kind of satisfaction, using a broader definition of happiness (ie, happiness is having what you want (ie, happiness is fulfilling your goals)) would become tautological)).

It is an interesting excercise to speculate as to what might motivate an AI, especially one that could change its own programming. Would it be able to alter its own goals, which ones would it alter, and would it require a higher-level goal to edit its goals? Might an AI instructed to find a cure for cancer proceed to conquer the world, construct a giant spaceship out of the earth and head off into space to search for a cure? If created as a tabula rasa, would it become the next Buddha, or decide to turn the whole universe into a machine for computing primes? The most likely answer, of course, is that as the AI will have human creators, (or, if created by another AI, will be able to follow the creation chain back eventually to a human) and that its creation will have been for a reason of its creators, the ultimate goal of superintelligent AI will be to become fat, dumb and happy.

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