[extropy-chat] When Did (or Do) People Start Locking Doors?

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Fri Dec 15 23:25:14 UTC 2006

Lee Corbin wrote:
> Anders writes
>> One approach is of course transparency - if anything is stolen or broken
>> you and everybody else who cares will know who did it. We will be there
>> soon. But I doubt that adds much to a sense of trust and security, which
>> is what this thread really is about. Knowing that the police can catch
>> the
>> wrongdoers doesn't lessen the fear of being attacked by them.
> But I think that it would lessen our fears considerably. We would
> realize that the incentives related to the commission of crime had
> changed.

My impression is that it does not fix the fear problem. Because you are
both constantly reminded of the threat and subjected to irrational or
desperate criminals - they might be a bit less common than any criminal,
but they worry people more. The UK is very noticeably a surveillance
society (when I open the curtains in the morning the first thing I see is
a big white security camera) but people certainly committ crime and worry
about crime. If you look at the statistics violent crime is certainly
declining like elsewhere,
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/hosb0206.pdf (page ten)
but assaults from strangers is not declining despite a great deal more

>  Moreover, if the police succeed in catching a higher
> percentage of wrongdoers, it reduces the fraction of them loose
> in the neighborhoods, and thus affects the probability of being
> victimized.

This assumes the wrongdoers are removed from the neighbourhood. While it
may be useful to get the really violent and dangerous people locked away,
the bulk of crimes are petty crimes committed by people unlikely to stay
removed long. The neighbour that cuts down your ivy "by mistake", the loud
and uncouth youths or the moving theif that picks up stuff when he can and
then moves elsewhere, they are hard to stop this way.

>> It seems that this has become harder both due to urbanisation and
>> some bad architectural solutions and the move towards widespread
>> but weaker social links.
> Has anyone read "Bowling Alone"?  I'm thinking of getting this book,
> because of the numerous examples it's supposed to contain concerning
> the weakening of social links. It sounds fascinating, but perhaps does
> not take certain very recent phenomena into account, e.g., migration
> to on-line worlds.

I have not read it, but it seems relevant (even if its conclusions are not
uncontested). Given that paper that was mentioned earlier on one of these
lists of the surprising scarcity of people to hold meaningful discussions
with (25% of the surveyed had nobody to talk deeply to) it might be very

I wonder if another way out of the issue might be to adapt to not have
deep connections. In the past this has been regarded as pathological and
"sad", but suppose we could modify ourselves not to want or need deep
human contact? (I can hear Fukuyama screaming in the background :-) That
might actually be a possible trans- or posthuman mode of existence, in the
sense that it changes the nature of the 'social' in the social animal.
Most people wouldn't want this change and would prefer the reinforcement
of social connection, but if we instead could get the same emotional and
health benefits from weaker links I personally don't see why it could not
be just as worthwhile and flourishing as the current modes. But maybe I'm
just the superficial type.

>> Or maybe we should just mandate higher oxytocin levels everywhere.
> If people were not appalled on *principle* against the use of drugs,
> this excellent suggestion would be entertained widely.

We could try to raise them with mandatory sex or cuddling, but I guess
that would run into other problems :-)

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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