[ExI] Easy solution to wars like that in Libya, and in these groups?
anders at aleph.se
Sat Feb 26 14:40:05 UTC 2011
Brent Allsop wrote:
> It seems to me that if you could some way have an easy way to
> reliably, easily, and in real time, know concisely and quantitatively,
> what the entire population of Libya wanted, war could easily be
> avoided. Why do we all have to spend so much effort protesting before
> anyone finally gets a clue as to what the people want?
Graeme Robertson has the following interesting theory about why mass
protests are currently bringing down regimes:
Basically, they are a costly form of signalling (and hence trustworthy
as being real sentiments, unlike pro-regime protests). Authoritarian
regimes are usually coalitions of various elites, and protests are
giving them information they can use to decide whether to continue
working with the incumbents or defect.
So, at first this seems to be a strong case for sentiment mapping. But
it must be truthful sentiment mapping that is not easily spoofed. Yet it
must also be sufficiently anonymous that people with the wrong views do
not get victimized (if not by the government, then by their neighbors).
I'm not entirely sure these two factors go well together.
> If you could easily know, concicely and quantitatively what everyone
> wanted, obviously, if the leader was diviating from this, especially
> if he wanted to kill anyone, everyone could just ignore him, and just
> do what the people wanted, instead, couldn't they? Problem solved?
> Does anyone think differently?
"Hmm, Our Glorious Leader wants to kill those layabouts in the Northern
Provinces. I don't like that. But I do also like my cushy job here in
the Department for Departmental Salaries. Any change in regime will
threaten my job. So I do not really want to protest against those
killings, I have a family to feed..."
Most regimes stay in power through both carrots and sticks, plus a great
deal of human inertia. Place the right carrots in the right hands, and
you get a lot of people who are going to support you and argue against
Now, I still think it is a good thing to give people access to
communications and ability to develop their own online institutions (and
the media savy that comes after one or two generations - a lot of the
newly connected areas are still unused to handle a high meme density
environment). Most authoritarian regimes work by limiting information,
while open societies work well with unlimited information. But it is not
going to be an easy solution.
Consensus building is important but hard. Especially since many forms of
new communications makes it easy to ignore people with different views
and form a consensus (i.e. groupthink) with the people who agree with
us. It will not just happen because people can talk to each other. There
has to be incentives and social constraints available to make the
consensus something that sticks. But the right "communications
primitives" like some good sentiment measurement method might help
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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