[extropy-chat] Social decision-making

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sat Oct 15 14:55:37 UTC 2005

> On 10/14/05, Brett Paatsch wrote:
> > Jeff Allbright wrote:
> >
> >    I suggested that we think of politics as "social decision-making
> > > applied to groups, expecially with respect to methods of influence within
> > > those processes."
> > > I'm getting stuck with phrase "social decision-making".
> > > I'm wondering if it is an oxymoron.
> > >
> >
> >
> > Ah, perhaps this is the crux of the matter.
> >
> > That I'm getting stuck, that I'm wondering, or that social
> > decison-making is an oxymoron?
> >
In an earlier discussion, Brett stated that competition over scarce
resources, especially attention, was an essential element of politics. Jef
suggested that while "scarcity-thinking" certainly seems to be a common
driver of political action, a more encompassing understanding of politics
might be something like "social decision-making applied to groups,
expecially with regard to methods of influence within those processes."

"Methods of influence" includes the necessity of getting others to spend
some of their limited attention on an issue, but the issue need not be one
of scarcity. For example, the issue might be whether the community should
develop an infrastructure providing no-charge wireless net access in public
areas. Such an issue is clearly one of enhancing growth, rather than
alleviating scarcity, although if one really wanted to they could frame it
either way.

So what might be the disconnect here? Brett has not yet said why he thinks
the phrase may be an oxymoron, so I'll speculate in an attempt to get the
discussion back on track.

My guess is that Brett is thinking that decision-making only really occurs
at the level of the individual human being, and that the concept of higher
level desion-making--decisions emerging at the group level that are not
implicit in the decisions of the individuals--may seem to him unfounded.

I'm not sure whether Brett is interested in contributing to this line of
thought, or whether he may only be playing his frequent role of public's
advocate, wanting to be fed a tasty transhumanist meme packaged for popular

Personally, I see the development of effective social decision-making as key
to our near future, and I'm highly interested in working together to clarify
our thinking as well as building tools and frameworks to help make it

A lot of it is already happening, but seductively oriented toward consumer
needs. The web itself, google, wikipedia, collaborative blogging,
collaborative tagging such as del.icio.us <http://del.icio.us>,
collaborative music, picture and video rating and sharing and so on, are all
contributing to knowledge at a higher level than that of any individual

What is yet to be developed is public awareness that (1) greater
understanding of the world around us and how it works, with (2) greater
understanding of ourselves and our values, can be applied to better
decision-making that will be increasingly seen as increasingly moral.

- Jef
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