[ExI] Advocacy and libertarian optimism

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed May 13 14:10:16 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 5/13/09, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, May 11, 2009 at 8:35 PM,  <dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> Actually, I do think one ought to "outright advocate
>> eventual positions."
> So do I. In fact, lawyers can well be biased in favour of
> the
> adversarial system as a way to approximate the "truth" or
> what might
> be the most reasonable solution in given circumstances, but
> if, say,
> neoluddite plead for neoluddite positions and
> transhumanists plead
> for... a compromise between neoluddite and transhumanist
> positions, it
> quickly becomes a fractal exercise where the second stance
> become more
> and more elusive to identify for the "public".

Some of this touches on the ideas in _The Wisdom of Crowds_ by James Surowiecki, a book I believe I mentioned in this venue back in 2005, but I forget if it was discussed.  (I was also a bit surprised that Surowiecki seems unaware of Hayek -- or maybe I missed something; I listened to him speak on C-SPAN and listened to the audiobook version of _The Wisdom..._")

I think we can also benefit from promoting a less winner take all approach.  This is where a market would work better than a planned economy: in the market, different people can try different ideas and use their particular resources to these ends, while in a planned economy, some central authority has to decide who gets what and we all have to depend on persuading that authority the wisdom of the particular path or paths we're taking.

I also don't think this is a minor issue.  There are feedback loops.  To operate in a market society best means having to become more aware and more focused.  These habits and skills are lost the less opportunity they have to be exercised, IMO.  So, one can't, I think, select one type of society over another on an issue by issue basis.  A certain culture and mindset prevails in each one and these clash.  This is why I think real world societies tend to oscillate between being more or less centrally controlled, but never seem to stabilize at some equilibrium between the two.

> A "public" which may well include ourselves when we are in
> our
> "citizens'" capacity,

Cynical definitions: the "public" is always anyone but you; "society" is always other people; and the "community" is always those people you agree with, while everyone else is working outside of and usually against the community.  :/  More cynicism: when someone talks about the "public good," she's either talking about what she approves of and likes -- or she is daft enough to believe that some elite really knows what the public good is, how to pursue, and will actually pursue it.

But I get what you mean.  There is, as Greg Johnson once put it, a difference between arguing like a lawyer and listening like a judge.  And while both are good arrows to have in one's quiver, the "listening like a judge" one seems the hardest to obtain or use.  At least, that's how I feel about it.

> and not in that of groups which
> (should) have
> for mission that of presenting the case for technology,
> posthuman
> change, etc., rather than that of mediating between
> neoluddite
> arguments, precautionary arguments, moderation arguments
> and... whom?
> what?

Well, I think the two roles are not separable, but, at the same time, any successful exercise is rhetoric tries to find common ground.  I have confidence that with enough effort and if the parties are willing to find truth rather than just promote a narrow agenda, there'll be progress.  And further I believe that common ground will probably be tilted more toward techno-progress (and cultural progress and libertarianism) than toward stopping it or turning it back.



"Why didn't evolution make a giraffe good at carpentry so it could build a ladder?" -- Karl Pilkington


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