[extropy-chat] Social decision-making

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Sun Oct 16 00:49:41 UTC 2005

  To: ExI chat list 
  Sent: Sunday, October 16, 2005 12:55 AM
  Subject: [extropy-chat] Social decision-making

      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 consumption.

  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 happen.

  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, 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 human.

  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

I think Jef has done a good job of fairly and accurately representing my position above. So I want to give him feedback and credit for that. 

And I like the way Jef is thinking. He seems to have a lot in common with the way Natasha is thinking about politics. So thats at least two good folk on this list looking at the same important area.  I like that. And I will remember that they have that interest. But I can't always pick up conversations that require a lot of detail thinking and editting over email as easily as I could if I was talking to someone face to face. And I know that no one else can either. We posters to this list live in different time zones. We have other stuff going on in our lives from time to time. That means that the conversations about important topics sometimes get cut off in a way that is not quite like conversations in face to face space. But it also means that they can potentially be picked up again at a future date. That is how I feel about this one now.  Its a conversation that I'd like to pick up at a later date. 

Now, slightly on topic, I suspect that is how a lot of people feel about a lot of "issues" in the world. The see merit in certain causes. They see people who'se values and attitudes they like and want to support and get closer to. But they have to make choices about where they spend their time. And sometimes very good ways to spend
ones time are not followed up on, and very pleasant acquaintances aren't developed into friendships, simply because we have to make choices and respond to our own
needs. Needs for food. Needs for money. Needs like what Maslow talks about in his hierarchy of needs. 

Its in that sense of the inevitable contingency of being a human being that I say that politics is ultimately about a shortage of resources. When one goes to a meeting or
posts to a forum like this one there are always choices about which potentials one chooses to develop. 

I've heard political commentators reflect my own observation that politics is often about which questions, which issues (to put it in Jef's terms) get to be discussed at all.

My interest in this list is not to advocate for the public, though sometimes I think like that, it is mostly just my interests that are being reflected by my posts. I do like it when a choice transhuman meme is served up though. I like the skill in it. I think Jef has served up a bit of a choice transhuman meme. 

I agree with Guilio's comment in another post about not using the terms transhuman and posthuman, from the standpoint that I imagine he is opperating from at the time he said it. But people do have a need to describe clusters of ideas with *some* terminology.  I don't consider myself to be a transhumanist, but there is no denying that
I post to a transhumanist mailing list.  I know that I might be considered to be a transhumanist simply by association and some of those associations I really don't want.

Perhaps this causes me to be too negative sometimes. If that is so my apologies. If readers think that is so you can tell me on or offlist and I will at least listen to any
Sorry about the essay here, but I figure anyone can prune the end of this in Jef's post and reply to Jef's post if they want to and this is a bit related to Jef's post. 

Jef, I don't like this microsoft outlook express way of replying to email with lines down the side its pretty cumbersome and has meant I've spent less time working your
substantive points than I might have because I was messing about with how to reply to your post. 

Brett Paatsch
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