[ExI] Exit, voice, loyalty (Was: commentary from those safely outside)

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Tue Jun 11 08:53:19 UTC 2013

On 2013-06-11 07:31, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> Far less interesting than what is going on is how it's going to affect 
> your long-term plans.

This is an important and interesting point. All of us who plan to live 
long and interesting lives should consider this - statistically it is 
not unlikely that the society we happen to live in at some point will 
have a disruption (planning for a world war and a pandemic per century 
also seems prudent).

*How* should one plan for societies in trouble? I suspect one very good 
source would be to investigate who thrived or at least didn't loose too 
much during previous implosions. History and biography buffs should be 
consulted. I think good analogies might be checking out the Soviet 
implosion and maybe when various European states turned bad in the 1920s 
and 30s (the Roman empire, the chosen metaphor of many early Americans, 
changed too slowly to be useful in this exercise).

I borrowed the subject from Hischman, who suggested that the two main 
ways of handling an organisation in decline is exit or giving voice, 
trying to change it. These are inhibited by loyalty. In the case of a 
society exits can be both external (emigrating) or internal (not really 
taking part). The above examples will be biased towards exit, since the 
cases where societies managed to avoid crashes sometimes involved a lot 
of voice. But knowing how to and when to exit is likely useful. I felt 
enormously liberated by emigrating myself, although I did it at the 
lowest possible difficulty setting.

One problem for a society is that as things get worse exit becomes a 
preferable strategy for a lot of the less-political upper half, and that 
produces a big drain that can boost the decline (less voice, less 
resources). Blocking exit becomes relevant for the powers that be after 
a while. On the other hand, historically emigrant communities have 
sometimes been clusters of creativity and enterpreneurship, so an 
occasional shuffle is not bad in the large.

One of the starting points should be to learn more about the world. I 
recommend having The Economist as breakfast reading, it gives a good 
global look at what is going (it is not just relevant to figure out the 
flaws of your own society, but also in other places, so you can compare).

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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