Evaluative diversity

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Evaluative diversity (a.k.a. moral diversity) is the degree to which different decision-makers in a population exhibit preferences for different forms of evaluation. It is not mere diversity among virtues, laws, or measurable goals, but diversity among decision-makers in their proclivities to employ virtues, laws, goals, or something else entirely. In this sense, all decision-making involves evaluation, even if by machines which lack virtue, loyalty or motive; the alternative term "moral diversity" may be rejected to allow for the possibility that some evaluation does not qualify as "moral" (nor as "immoral").[1]

Diversity among decision-makers can be different from diversity among evaluation approaches—a single approach may best be implemented by an evaluatively diverse population.[2][3] Evaluative diversity is important in the field of leadership because its absence may impact the success of families, teams, institutions, businesses and societies the way absence of biodiversity impacts ecosystems.[4][5] However, unlike race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, evaluative diversity does not yet enjoy legal protected status.

In the study of philosophy, evaluative diversity has been recognized as an important constraint on the utility of evidence both for and against moral realism.[6][7]

Evaluative types in moral theory[edit]

Types of normative ethics correspond to types of evaluator. Consequentialism involves evaluating potential actions on the basis of expected consequences,[8] while deontological ethics involves evaluating them on the basis of accordance with objective rules,[9] virtue ethics, ethics of care, and role ethics involve evaluating them on the basis of accordance with subjective rules,[10][11][12] and pragmatic ethics involves evaluating them on the basis of potential to facilitate social progress.[13]


A wide range of measurement techniques have been used to show that decision-makers, especially humans, have diverse evaluative styles:

Measurement technique Styles distinguished
Consequentialism Virtue ethics/ ethics of care/ role ethics Deontological ethics Pragmatic ethics
Behavioral measures
The Milgram experiment Manipulable Not Manipulable
The public goods game Free Rider Punisher
Interview techniques
Kohlberg's stages of moral development Pre-conventional Stage 3 Stage 4 Post-conventional
Moral personalities Caring Brave Deliberative
Survey instruments
The Big Five: Agreeableness Competitive Trusting
The Big Five: Openness Curious
The Defining Issues Test (DIT) Low development High development
The Moral Judgment Test (MJT) Inconsistent
The Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) Care Authority/ sanctity
The Moral DNA Instrument Obedience Care Reason
GRINSQ Negotiator Relational Institutional Gadfly
Neurological measures
Structural fMRI  ???  ???  ???  ???
Resting state fMRI Various Various  ??? Various
Genetic measures
Twin studies Competitive Trusting Conservative Liberal
Algorithm analysis
Wallach & Allen Consequentialist Bottom-up Deontological Bottom-up
GRIN Negotiator Relational Institutional Gadfly
Social impact measures
Public goods game Teamwork
Macroeconomics Economic growth
Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory Individualism Power distance/ uncertainty avoidance
Organizational Culture Profile (OCP) Performance orientation/ emphasis on rewards/ competitiveness Supportiveness Social responsibility/ stability Innovation

Schematic of the Milgram experiment
Experimenter (E) and Accomplice (A) determining whether Subject (S) is one of the 61-66% who can be manipulated through the Milgram scenario into killing an innocent stranger...


Some experiments are designed to make subjects behave immorally. For example, the Milgram experiment is designed to manipulate subjects into trying to deliver a lethal electrical shock to an innocent stranger.[14] Repetitions of this experiment consistently show that 61-66% of people can be manipulated through this situation,[15][16] thus allowing categorization of people into two types: those who can be manipulated vs. those who cannot.

In the public goods game with punishment, an experimentor observes subjects playing a game in which they can choose to contribute to an investment that will benefit them all and they can choose to invest in punishing other players who choose not to contribute. The experiment finds that some people consistently do not contribute to investment unless punished (free riders), and some people consistently punish those who do not contribute.[17] This divides people into three types.

Kohlberg's six stages
The field of moral psychology has advanced several paradigms, including a developmental approach...

Interview techniques[edit]

Since at least 1894, psychologists have been publishing categorizations of the way people describe the ways they evaluate, especially attempting to distinguish adults from children in terms of their judgment, but the existence of more than two evaluative types made it difficult to model evaluative diversity as similar to IQ.[18] Lawrence Kohlberg addressed that difficulty in 1963 by modeling evaluative diversity as reflecting a series of developmental stages (a la Jean Piaget). Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development are:[19] 1. Obedience and punishment orientation, 2. Self-interest orientation, 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity, 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation, 5. Social contract orientation, and 6. Universal ethical principles.

Stages 1 and 2 are combined into a single category labeled "pre-conventional" because there is little empirical evidence that they are distinct, and stages 5 and 6 are combined into a single category labeled "post-conventional" for the same reason. Psychologists can consistently categorize subjects into the resulting four types using the "Moral Judgement Interview" which asks subjects why they endorse the answers they do to a standard set of moral dilemmas.[20] Subjects consistently give reasons which interviewers recognize from one of the four categories.

Rather than confirm the existence of a single highest stage, Larry Walker's cluster analysis of a wide variety of interview and survey variables for moral exemplars found three types: The "caring" or "communal" cluster was strongly relational and generative, the "deliberative" cluster had sophisticated epistemic and moral reasoning, and the "brave" or "ordinary" cluster was less distinguished by personality.[21]

Survey instruments[edit]

Between 1910 and 1930, in the United States and Europe, several morality tests were developed to classify subjects as fit or unfit to make moral judgments.[22][18] Test-takers would classify or rank standardized lists of personality traits, hypothetical actions, or pictures of hypothetical scenes. As early as 1926, catalogs of personality tests included sections specifically for morality tests, though critics persuasively argued that they merely measured awareness of social expectations.[23]

The Agreeableness and Openness dimensions of Big Five personality scales (developed from 1963-1985) are measures of evaluative preference. The two extremes of agreeableness are competitive (which requires comparative forms of evaluation) vs. trusting (which facilitates social forms of evaluation). The two extremes of openness are conventional (which implies evaluation based on coherence with norms) vs. curious (which facilitates innovative forms of evaluation). Big Five scales have been studied at great length, so these two dimensions offer strong linkage between research about evaluative diversity and other areas of psychology.[24]

Meanwhile, Kohlberg inspired a new wave of morality tests. The Defining Issues Test (DIT) scores relative preference for post-conventional justifications.[25] and the Moral Judgment Test (MJT) scores consistency of one's preferred justifications.[26] Both treat evaluative ability as similar to IQ (hence the single score), allowing categorization by high score vs. low score.

The Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) is based on moral intuitions consistent across cultures: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation (liberty/oppression may be added). The focus on pre-conscious intuitions contrasts with Kohlberg's focus on post-conscious justifications, although the questions do ask respondents to rate what they consider morally relevant post-consciously (i.e. this is not a behavioral measure). The purpose of the questionnaire is to measure the degree to which people rely upon different sets of moral intuitions (which may coexist), rather than to categorize decision-makers, but the first two foundations cluster together with liberal political orientation and the latter three cluster with conservative political orientation. Thus, this survey allows categorization of people into a plurality which may reflect evaluative types more accurately than does political orientation by itself. [27][28]

The Moral DNA survey by Roger Steare asks respondents to rank their virtues, then divides respondents by three virtue clusters: obedience, care, and reason. The survey was developed for use in business settings, especially to raise awareness of ways perceived workplace discrimination diminishes effective evaluative diversity.[29] The GRIN Self-Quiz (GRINSQ) is based on the gadfly, relational, institutional, and negotiator algorithm types, but also demonstrates significant statistical relationships with agreeableness, openness, the MFQ, religion, political orientation, occupation, and identification with sports, romance, and accusation. Like a species classifier, it also classifies some respondents as "unidentifiable," which may help to discover new evaluative orientations.[30] To facilitate sensitivity to evaluative diversity, the GRINSQ was released into the public domain and made available online with automated anonymous scoring.[31]

MRI image highlighting anterior cingulate cortex
Certain features of brain scans have been found to predict evaluative preference...


A 2005 twin study by Alford, Funk, and Hibbing found that genetic factors accounted for 53% of the variance of an overall score of conservative attitudes based on 28 different political issues such as capitalism, unions, X-rated movies, abortion, school prayer, divorce, property taxes, and the draft.[32] Numerous other studies conclude that genetic factors account for 33-51% of variance in the agreeableness dimension of the big five.[33] These findings may merely confirm the first law of behavior genetics: "All human behavioral traits are heritable."[34] Larger sample sizes will be needed to identify particular genes involved, and thus permit DNA tests to contribute to identification of evaluative preferences.[35][36]


Consistent with behavioral geneticists' consensus about the heritability of evaluative orientations, a number of structural fMRI studies have found significant relationships between features of brain scans vs. self-reported political orientation, personality, and answers to the Moral Foundations Questionnaire.[37][38][39] Political party choice was correctly predicted 82.9% of the time based on neurological measures alone.[40] Such work demonstrates that brain morphometry could contribute significantly to measurement of evaluative diversity, but interpretation of which specific brain structures are involved in which ways is currently controversial due to lack of accepted methodological standards.[41][42]

Analyzing resting state fMRI scans, Adelstein et al. found significant correlations between each of the Big Five and Resting-State Functional Connectivity (RSFC) between various brain structures and nine seed coordinates in the anterior cingulate cortex and precuneus. Openness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the left lingual gyrus, left and right middle temporal gyrus and other structures largely associated with the default mode network. Agreeableness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the right precentral gyrus and other brain structures, and non-agreeableness correlated with RSFC to coordinates in the left and right medial frontal gyrus and other structures.[43]

Algorithm analysis[edit]

Schematic of supervised machine learning
Evaluative preferences can be defined in terms of algorithm types, such as machine learning. Machine learning converges towards a hypothesis/behavior which maximizes a performance measure...

In Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, Wallach & Allen divided machines into three types, based on how they conduct evaluation. Bottom-up machines make judgments unpredictable to their programmers (e.g. evolving software). All other machines (top-down) were divided into deontological machines (which can be relied upon to implement programmed rules) vs. consequentialist (which can be relied upon to maximize a programmed measure). A standard calculator would be an example of a deontological machine, while machine learning for trading stocks would be an example of a consequentialist machine.[44]

The GRIN model developed by Christopher Santos-Lang renamed deontological and consequentialist machines "institutional" and "negotiator" respectively to avoid implying that all deontological and consequentialist theories of ethics can be implemented in machines, and split the bottom-up category into "gadfly" (which are unpredictable because they use randomness generators) vs. "relational" (which are unpredictable because of network effects).[1] A mutator in evolutionary computation would be an example of a gadfly, while a class 3 or 4 cellular automaton would be an example of a relational machine. Santos-Lang noted that machines often have subcomponents of other types. For example, a stock trading negotiator may implement a genetic algorithm, and thus contain gadfly mutators, and mutators may in turn have institutional and relational subcomponents.

Social impact[edit]

World map of GDP
Changes in a country's evaluative diversity mix impact its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)...

Much as one can indirectly detect shifts in biodiversity based on impacted variables, such as carbon dioxide levels and pH, a number of experiments have identified indirect measures of effective evaluative diversity.

Hofstede's cultural profile for the United States
Geert Hofstede has been monitoring indicators of evaluative diversity by nation since the 1970s...

One result of the public goods game experiment is that teams fail to collaborate when there are no punishers, or when punishers are not permitted act as punishers.[17] Thus, measures of collaboration indirectly indicate evaluative diversity which includes punishers' preferred form of evaluation.

Recent increases in GDP in China, India, and the United States have been attributed to programs designed to nurture and support innovators. Thus measures of economic performance may indirectly indicate evaluative diversity which includes their preferred form of evaluation. [45] [46] [47] [48][49]

Measures of organizational culture (or "national culture") are often impacted by evaluative diversity as well. For example, the "individualism" measure in Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory indicates the degree to which evaluation is collective vs. individual, and "uncertainty avoidance" indicates the degree to which evaluation is conducted through comparison to established norms.[50] The "performance orientation", "emphasis on rewards", "competitiveness", "supportiveness", "social responsibility", "stability", and "innovation" measures of the Organizational Culture Profile (OCP) likewise indicate the degree to which the organization supports goal-oriented, empthy-oriented, norm-oriented, and novelty-oriented forms of evaluation.[51]


In Unto Others: the Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (1998), Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson demonstrated that evaluative diversity could evolve through group selection. In particular, they dismantled the idea that natural selection will favor a homogeneous population in which all creatures care only about their own personal welfare and/or behave only in ways which advance their own personal reproduction.[52] Tim Dean has advanced the more general claim that moral diversity would evolve through frequency-dependent selection because each moral approach is vulnerable to a different set of situations which threatened our ancestors.[53] This is similar to the claim that diversity of blood-type evolved as a hedge against diverse diseases. The need for various modern teams to be competitive, supportive, stable, and/or innovative suggests that conditions which favor evolution of evaluative diversity persist today, and therefore that loss of evaluative diversity would handicap society.

Famous arguments[edit]

A variety of arguments have been made against the various forms of evaluation. The prevalence of these arguments is evidence of the importance of their distinctions. Furthermore, the arguments together entail that each form is flawed such that no single form can obsolesce all others.[1]

Fresco by Johann Michael Rottmayr
Many cultures have warned that good evaluation must come from something greater than oneself...

Against individualism[edit]

Evaluative processes can be grouped into individual vs. collective. While it may be impossible for individuals to completely reject individualism, it is often criticized on the basis that morality must come from something greater than oneself (e.g. from God or evolution). The arguments often state either that individuals lack the ability to predict or control consequences or that reliance on one's own relational virtue yields vice (e.g. love yields favoritism). The first form the argument (a.k.a. Black Swan Theory), was articulated mathematically in Pascal's Wager,[54] and finds rigorous empirical justification in evidence for Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the Butterfly Effect which together entail limits on the viability of consequentialist approaches.[55][56] The second form of the argument has been confirmed in experiments by Paul Slovic where empathic decision-making was shown to reduce social welfare.[57] These arguments apply as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but their most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Form 1: Depending upon venue, debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that we lack the power as individuals to do what should be done:

"And thou say in thy heart: 'My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth.' But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God, for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth..."

"It is futile trying to possess the universe, and act on shaping it in the direction of one’s ambition."

"'These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,' with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth?"

"As a cowherd with his staff drives his cows into the stable, so do Age and Death drive the life of men."

"Death and life have their determined appointment; riches and honors depend upon Heaven."

—Tsze-hsia (to Confucious)[62]

"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he reasoned within himself, saying, '...I will pull down my barns, and build greater...' But God said unto him, 'Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?'"

"...man is created weak."

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants "

Form 2: Debate may cite one or more of the following time-tested authorities to argue that we lack the virtue to be good individually:

"He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination."

"Where the greatest Virtue resides, Only the Dao may reveal."

"There is no such thing as perfect enlightenment to obtain. If a perfectly enlightened buddha were to say to himself, 'I am enlightened' he would be admitting there is an individual person, a separate self and personality, and would therefore not be a perfectly enlightened buddha."

"Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity; boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination; straightforwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness."

"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members."

"...man is ever hasty."

Both forms:

"For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."

Statue of blindfolded Lady Justice
Many cultures have warned that reason-based evaluation fails...

Against reason[edit]

Evaluative processes can be grouped by their loyalty to faith vs. reason. While it may be unreasonable to completely reject reason, reason-based approaches are often criticized on the basis that reasoning faculties cannot be perfected. Godel’s incompleteness theorem demonstrates that some truths will always escape proof simply because of the nature of reason itself.[73] Other varieties of the argument highlight problems of language (e.g. words mean different things to different people), or inability to recognize errors in one's own moral reasoning.[74] Scientists have confirmed that humans face this latter problem.[75] The general argument applies as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but its most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Variety 2 (problems of language):

"The Dao cannot be named by common rules."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 14

"All that has a form is illusive and unreal."

—Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita (Diamond) Sutra, Ch. 5

"As to speaking truth, no truth can be spoken."

—Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita (Diamond) Sutra, Ch. 21

Variety 3 (inability to recognize errors in one's reasoning):

"With their lips they honor Me, but their heart they draw far away from Me, and their fear of Me has become a command of people, which has been taught. Therefore, I will continue to perform obscurity to this people, obscurity upon obscurity, and the wisdom of his wise men shall be lost, and the understanding of his geniuses shall be hidden."

—Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 29:13-14

"Foolish ones, even though they strive, discern not, having hearts unkindled, ill-informed!"

—Bhagavad Gita 15.1

"The timeless masters of the Teachings is not about enlightening the people with it, but about humbling the people with it."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 65

"The Master said, 'If you try to guide the common people with regulations...[they] will become evasive and will have no sense of shame...' "

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 2:3

"The Master said, 'I should just give up! I have yet to meet someone who is able to perceive his own faults and then take himself to task inwardly.' "

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 5:27

"Jesus replied '...whoever doesn’t have [understanding], whatever they have will be taken away from them. That’s why I speak to them in illustrations, because seeing, they do not see; and hearing, they do not hear, nor do they understand. To them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: ‘Even though you hear, you won’t comprehend, and even though you see, you won’t understand'. They have a hard-hearted attitude, they don’t want to listen, and they’ve closed their eyes.' "

—Matthew 13:12-15

"...become partakers of the divine nature...adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in [your] virtue knowledge; and in [your] knowledge self-control; and in [your] self-control patience; and in [your] patience godliness; and in [your] godliness brotherly kindness; and in [your] brotherly kindness love...For he that lacks these things is blind."

—2 Peter 1:4-9

"As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. God hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil."

—Quran 2:6-7

"Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realize it not."

—Quran 2:12


"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.'"

—Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 55:7-9
Statue of Buddha
Many cultures have honored prophets who reject social norms...

Social innovation[edit]

Evaluative processes can be grouped by whether they involve implementing inherited norms vs. reforming them. While it may be absurd to completely reject inheritance of norms, it is commonly argued that reformers can improve inherited norms either because perfect norms have yet to be introduced or because norms have degraded. Evidence for this argument comes from history of social change[76] and from measures of innovation's economic impact.[77][78] The general argument that one should attempt to serve as a "prophet," endorsing changes to inherited norms, applies as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but its most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

"I will set up a prophet for them from among their brothers like you, and I will put My words into his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him."

—Devarim (Deuteronomy) 18:18

"And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your elders shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And even upon the slaves and the maidservants in those days will I pour out My spirit."

—Yoel (Joel) 3:1-2

"So let the enlightened toil...set to bring the world deliverance."

—Bhagavad Gita 3.25

"The purity of Yog is to pass beyond the recorded traditions...such as one ranks above ascetics, higher than the wise, beyond achievers of vast deeds!"

—Bhagavad Gita 6.44-46

"When the Dao is lost, so there arises benevolence and righteousness."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 18

"A Buddha is not easily found, he is not born everywhere. Wherever such a sage is born, that race prospers."

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 193

"Three leaders have already lived: Kakusandha, Konagamana, and also Buddha Kassapa. The Buddha Supreme, now am I, but after me Mettayya comes."

—Buddhavamsa 27:18-19

"There is much more to tell you, but you couldn’t bear it yet. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to understand the truth."

—John 16:12-13

"And he gave some [to be] apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…"

—Ephesians 4:11-14

"For each period is a Book revealed."

—Quran 13:38
Pieter Bruegel's depiction of Greed
Many cultures have warned that attempts to maximize good things eventually result in corruption...

Against measurement[edit]

Evaluative processes which attempt to advance along measurable scales are often criticized on the basis that they predictably backfire by escalating competition and desire. In the words of the movie War Games, “The only winning move is not to play.” Escalating desire, known as hedonic adaptation, and escalating competition have both been confirmed empirically.[79][80][81][82] The argument against such forms of evaluation applies as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but its most compelling articulations may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Form 1 (escalating desire):

"The eyes of man will not be sated."

—Mishlei (Proverbs) 27:20

"Whoever loves silver will not be sated with silver, and he who loves a multitude without increase—this too is vanity."

—Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:9

"If one ponders on objects of the sense, there springs attraction; from attraction grows desire, desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds recklessness; then the memory — all betrayed — lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind, till purpose, mind and man are all undone."

—Bhagavad Gita 2.62-63

"Surrendered to desires insatiable, full of deceitfulness, folly, and pride, in blindness cleaving to their errors, caught into the sinful course, they trust this lie as it were true — this lie which leads to death: Finding in Pleasure all the good which is, and crying 'Here it finishes!'"

—Bhagavad Gita 16.11

"If a man is tossed about by doubts, full of strong passions, and yearning only for what is delightful, his thirst will grow more and more, and he will indeed make his fetters strong."

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 349

"Those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones that achieve prosperity."

—Quran 59:9

"The seventh Imam, Musa ibn Ja'far [a], said: 'The likeness of this world is as the water of the sea. However much (water) a thirsty person drinks from it, his thirst increases so much so that the water kills him.' "

—Bihar-uI-Anwar, vol. 78, p. 311

Form 2 (escalating competition):

"If everybody knows what beauty is, then beauty is not beauty anymore; if everybody knows what goodness is, then goodness is not goodness anymore."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 2

"Not to quest for wealth will keep the people from rivalry."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 3

"Victory breeds hatred, for the conquered is unhappy. He who has given up both victory and defeat, he, the contented, is happy."

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 201

"Ji Kangzi was concerned about the prevalence of robbers in Lu and asked Confucius about how to deal with this problem. Confucius said, 'If you could just get rid of your own excessive desires, the people would not steal even if you rewarded them for it.'"

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 12:18

"If your Majesty say, 'What is to be done to profit my kingdom?' the great officers will say, 'What is to be done to profit our families?' and the inferior officers and the common people will say, 'What is to be done to profit our persons?' Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other, and the kingdom will be endangered."

—Mengzi 1A:1

"'You evil servant! I forgave you all your debt because you asked me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant too, just as I had for you?' His lord became angry and handed him over to the prison guards until he repaid all the debt."

—Matthew 18:32-34


"But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition."

—1 Timothy 6:9
The Hammurabi code
Why do time-tested rule sets undermine their own objectivity?

Rules against rule-following[edit]

Legalistic evaluative processes, based on obedience of time-tested rules, are often challenged by rules which demand engagement in subjective, emotional, inconsistent pursuits defying the objective standards of rule-following. The mandate for exploration in science, for example, requires evaluation "beyond the rules."[83][84] Such time-tested rules dominate many, if not all, major world religions and philosophies:

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

—Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:18

"He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God."

—Michah 6:8

"Specious, but wrongful deem the speech of those ill-taught ones who extol the letter of their Vedas, saying, 'This is all we have, or need.'"

—Bhagavad Gita 2.42-43

"Be thou yogi...And of such believe, truest and best is he who worships Me with inmost soul, stayed on My Mystery!"

—Bhagavad Gita 6.46-47

"Learn to be unlearned; liberate the people of their past. Assist all things in returning to their essence, and not dare act."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 64

"Look upon the world as a bubble, look upon it as a mirage."

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 170

"Let a man overcome anger by love…"

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 223

"When the Buddha explains these things using such concepts and ideas, people should remember the unreality of all such concepts and ideas. They should recall that in teaching spiritual truths the Buddha always uses these concepts and ideas in the way that a raft is used to cross a river. Once the river has been crossed over, the raft is of no more use, and should be discarded."

—Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita (Diamond) Sutra, Chapter 6

"Fan Chi asked about Goodness. The Master replied, 'Care for others.' He then asked about wisdom. The Master replied, 'Know others.'"

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 12:22

"Do not impose upon others what you yourself do not desire."

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 15.:24

"Whatever you want people to do to you, do to them too--this sums up the law and the prophets."

—Matthew 7:12

"And if I were to have prophecy and to have perceived all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I were to have all faith so as to even shift mountains, but had not love—I am nothing. Even were I to donate all my goods, and if I had surrendered my body, that I might elevate myself, but had not love—I have gained nothing."

—1 Corinthians 13:2-3

"Let there be no compulsion in religion."

—Quran 2:256

"The Holy Prophet [s] said: 'He whose two days of life are the same, making no spiritual progress, is at loss.'"

—Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 173
WWJD bracelet
Would Jesus wear a What would Jesus do bracelet?

Imitating non-imitators[edit]

Evaluative processes based on imitation of virtuous role-models are often challenged by role-models who do not imitate other role-models, who violate the conventions of relationship, or who for other reasons cannot be imitated in practice. Such models of virtue apply as much to machines as to other kinds of decision-makers, but the most compelling examples may have been in major world religions and philosophies:

Moses broke class barriers, raised by the family which oppressed the people he led.

—Shemot (Exodus) 2:10

David broke class barriers, being both shepherd and king.

—Shmuel (Samuel) I 18:1

"By this sign is he known: being of equal grace to comrades, friends, chance-comers, strangers, lovers, enemies, aliens and kinsmen; loving all alike, evil or good."

—Bhagavad Gita 6.9

"Krishna is a friend to all kinds of people."

—Bhagavad Gita 9.29

"The Sage never fails in saving people, therefore no one is rejected."

—Laozi (Tao Te Ching) 27

"Because he has pity on all living creatures...a man is called elect."

—Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha) 270

Confucius broke class barriers, gathering diverse students.

—Lun Yu (Analects of Confucius) 7:7

Jesus broke class barriers, healing lepers and befriending both the rich and the outcast.

—Mark 1:40-41, Mark 2:15

"...be perfectly mature, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

—Matthew 5:48

The Prophet Muhammad broke class barriers, arranging marriage of his cousin Zaynab bint Jahsh to a freed slave, Zayd ibn Harithah

"Evaluative diversity" vs. "moral diversity"[edit]

Some scholars reserve the label "moral" for a special class of decisions, implying that not all evaluation is moral. For example, Sober and Wilson have suggested that there is nothing moral about not pricking one's toes with a pin if one prefers not to prick one's toes with a pin; when following one's natural proclivity no moral codes/conventions are required.[86] Taking perhaps the opposite stance, Elliot Turiel distinguishes morals from pure conventions. For example, the decision to drive on the right-hand side of the road lacks the moral content of a decision to share food with the hungry.[87] Furthermore, while it is uncontroversial that one could identify the evaluative orientations of decision-making machines, it could be controversial to claim that all such machines are moral agents.[1]

Evaluative discrimination and closeting[edit]

Many people are able to exhibit a range of evaluative orientations, much as they can pretend to prefer a different sexual orientation. As Mitch Kapor put it,

Closetted woman
Insensitivity can "closet" evaluative minorities, forcing them to endure uncomfortable brain states...

Every new employee who is hired has to be integrated into the organization. There are certain values, styles of behavior, and practices which are characteristic of the entity. Until a new employee learns to operate within those norms, he or she is like a foreign body introduced into an organism. The body system recognizes an alien invader and mobilizes its immune system to neutralize it. Newcomers are rendered impotent and, worse, start counterproductive efforts (infections) which have to be extinguished.[88]

—Mitch Kapor

Some forms of discrimination (perhaps unintentionally) inhibit the action of specific neurochemicals which the brain would otherwise use to exercise its preferred form of evaluation. As examples, the human brain uses dopamine and oxytocin in reward-focused and empathic evaluation, respectively, and certain kinds of social pressure can inhibit the action of these chemicals, thus forcing people to evaluate in other ways.[89][90] It is not yet known what portion of his/her life the average person spends evaluatively "in the closet," but the fact that evaluative diversity was not formally recognized as early as diversity of sexual orientation implies that evaluative discrimination historically exceeded heterosexism and may be more institutionalized. As examples, jobs designed to require originality, emotional labor, obedience, or attempts to maximize a measurable variable (e.g. profit) discriminate against employees who do not prefer the associated kind of evaluation.[30] On the other hand, evaluative discrimination is sometimes documented via studies of bias against particular evaluative types (e.g. against creativity).[91]

As with many other forms of discrimination, people face a tendency to segregate based on evaluative orientation. An 18-year study of engineering design teams at Stanford University found that graduate students tend to segregate during team selection, and that use of personality quotas to diversify team-composition yielded twice as many design prizes.[92] Meanwhile, other studies have confirmed that people are more inclined to migrate away from neighborhoods not dominated by their own evaluative orientation (measured against a two-type conservative/liberal model),[93] which may explain why the portion of Americans who reside in "landslide counties" (i.e. winning elections by greater than a 20% margin) has increased by 25% over the last 30 years.[94] How polarized we should be remains controversial; Jonathan Haidt has shown that, at least under the social climate which prevailed during his research, casual and intimate interaction among college students is more likely to be stunted by evaluative diversity than by demographic diversity (e.g. of race or religion) so that efforts to fight evaluative segregation could ironically discriminate against people who prefer to evaluate via norms.[95]

There are currently no laws prohibiting evaluative discrimination, and its prevalence may present a substantial obstacle to implementation of any such law. Until this gap in our legal framework is filled, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has endorsed use of mental-health definitions to extend the designation "disability" to evaluative minorities whom society cannot closet (e.g. people not wired for empathy).[96] Such designation has been used both in workplace-discrimination suits[97] and recruitment quotas.[98]

See also[edit]


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