[extropy-chat] Tyranny in place

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky sentience at pobox.com
Mon Oct 2 15:51:50 UTC 2006

Russell Wallace wrote:
> That circumstance no longer obtains, and our feelings and intuitions 
> therefore give completely the wrong answer when we evaluate today's 
> problems. Since we _know_ they give the wrong answer, and we know why, 
> we should use reason instead. Look at the cold numbers: how many people 
> worldwide have been killed by terrorists from 2001 to today? Some 
> thousands, maybe into five digits. How many lives have been lost from 
> all causes in that same time? Nearly _three hundred million_. Even a 
> nuclear explosion in a major city would be a drop in the ocean on that 
> scale.

I agree with Wallace.  Death doesn't wear a turban.  The only thing 
terrorists could conceivably do that would cause any significant amount 
of direct damage - as opposed to autoimmune disorders - would be 
designing a planetary pandemic.  And fighting in Iraq is not an 
effective strategy for stopping that.

> Note also that you only answered the lesser half of my argument. My 
> primary point was that however small or large the external threat, 
> compromising our most basic civil liberties - allowing our governments 
> to turn inward against ourselves, not outward against the enemy - is 
> _not effective_ as a response. It adds a second problem _without doing 
> anything to solve the first_.

Indeed so.  Politicians who want to appear effective will make great 
sacrifices, so that people reason: surely we must buy something, if we 
pay the cost of all our liberties.  Of course this is a non-sequitur. 
Competent people sacrifice less.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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