Risk averse imortalists? (was Re: [extropy-chat] re:embedded in open hearts (Meta/EP))

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sat Apr 16 01:07:30 UTC 2005

At 12:51 PM 15/04/05 +1000, Brett Paatsch  wrote:
>Keith Henson wrote:
>>At 11:50 PM 12/04/05 -0700, Samantha wrote:
>>>While the reply below is interesting my motivation for the
>>>question was a bit different. To what extent does our rational
>>>self interest, especially extended to the possibility of indefinitely
>>>long life. make us less willing to stand up to variously sized evils
>>>that are not directly threatening to our life?   I would expect a 
>>>tendency to keep a bit lower profile than the population at large and to 
>>>take less risks.
>>>Yet I know from experience such conservatism is by no means
>>>universal among us.
>>Case on point.
>In my university days, I co-founded a sceptics society with a friend
>and a third friend, the society secretary, wanted to 'go after' scientology.
>I don't know much about scientology then and still don't now to be
>honest, as we were warned off it by the then president of the Australian
>Skeptics Society who happened to be a lawyer. He essentially said
>that the scientologist would fight tooth and nail with every legal resource
>they could muster.
>I remember thinking at the time, aged 19, so what? If there are doing
>something they shouldn't be doing why isn't he and lawyers like him
>thinking 'bring it on'. After all if no one takes up the challenge don't we
>all live with the consequences.

Indeed, that's the case as you can see from my story.  Shame he didn't 
encourage you to expose them.  Might have saved me a lot of trouble.

>I know from what you have written that you are interested in memes
>and evolutionary psychology. So am I. I just re-read Dawkins
>Chapter 12, of the Selfish Gene where he discusses Axelrod's work
>with Prisoners Dilemma and Tit for tat etc.

The mention of Chapter 12 indicates you were reading the Second 
Edition.  If you pop over to the index you can find where Dr. Dawkins 
mentions me for contributing the term "memeoids," certainly an apt 
description of scientologists.

>Why pick a fight with scientology Keith?

They picked the fight.  Look up what Helena Kobrin did in early 1995.  I 
have sometimes likened this provocation to a gang of thugs riding into a 
small US town and burning down the newspaper.

>Were you not using *rational* self-interest at the time?

Over the course of the last 20 years I have come to the conclusion that 
people are not rational.  Of course they do rationalize.

>Did you bite off more than you knew?


>Was it a stand on principle?


>If so what principle?

Freedom of speech.

There were other factors involved, several of them, and they all step from 
roots in the deep tribal past.

>It has occurred to me, as it appears to have occurred to Samantha
>that perhaps those that know they are going to die sooner or later,
>are more willing to fight, and even to die sooner in defence of
>something, some other value than themselves.

An equally valid rationalization would be that people who think they are 
going to be around an extremely long time are concerned with nipping nasty 
social organizations early before they haunt you for eternity.  A world run 
like scientology would be a very nasty place to try to live a long 
time.  They do what LRH told them, and one of the things he told them would 
result in an extremely large number of deaths.

This might help you understand the issues.


The experience did provide the impetus to understand matters about EP that 
eventually led to this article:


Which the editor tells me has been downloaded something like 250,000 times 
and is still popular.  That has led to another article where I account for 
wars and explain why we are in a period that is likely to get a lot worse.

It is still in draft though after being rejected by a science fiction 
magazine as too speculative.  :-)

Keith Henson

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