[ExI] Critiquing democracy

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu Mar 5 10:44:21 UTC 2015

Michael Anissimov <michaelanissimov at gmail.com> , 5/3/2015 8:12 AM:

We're programmed to think that anything other than democracy is tyranny, but that's not historically accurate. 

I think Brin put it best in "The Transparent Society" where he outlined why *open societies* are the important thing. We want and need open-ended, self-correcting societies where citizens can have their own life projects. 

Democracy is one way to approach this, but it is a formal/administrative solution, not a guarantee - there are plenty of closed democracies that have all the formal routines of democracy but do not allow citizens to actually point out what is wrong, hold officeholders accountable, and get rid of them or non-functional institutions if needed. One can well imagine non-democratic but open societies; however, any such proposal better demonstrate how it can handle self-correction better than democracy. Invoking technocrats or other groups of professional correctors is not enough, since they both have a tendency to be subverted and, as Brin eloquently points out, actual societal error correction requires a very broad set of eyes scrutinizing what is going on - if the man on the street cannot point out something being corrupt (including the anti-corruption task force), then corruption is bound to take over. 

This is particularly important from an xrisk perspective. The biggest human-caused disasters (wars, democides) have occurred because of government power: we should be *extremely* careful about how we set up these potentially non-friendly artificial intelligences. Lock-in effects of bad government choices have massive intergenerational costs. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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