[extropy-chat] Tyranny in place

Joseph Bloch transhumanist at goldenfuture.net
Tue Oct 3 21:56:14 UTC 2006

Robert Bradbury wrote:

> Given that we are within a generation of a "real" posthuman future I 
> would like to see someone propose *any*  scenario through which 
> external actions of any group with the possible exception of Russia 
> could bring about the downfall of either the United States or Western 
> culture.  The only scenarios I can imagine are completely shooting 
> ourselves in our feet (which the recent executive and legislative 
> actions seem to be *slightly* leaning towards) or completely sticking 
> our heads in the sand and not taking the necessary actions when things 
> may be really serious.

I see us, as a collective culture with obvious exceptions, as doing just 
that. Sticking out heads in the sands. Whether or not we will be _able_ 
to take the necessary actions once things get really serious is another 
question entirely.

> Yes, there are tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people who are or 
> could be brainwashed to take action against us -- but they *do not* 
> currently have and as far as I can run forward scenarios, *cannot* 
> develop, the means to do "us" serious harm before we are *well* into 
> or past the rapid change phase of the singularity.

I disagree. I can think of many scenarios by which a hundred million 
people willing to kill themselves to take out a number of the enemy 
(which in this scenario is us) could completely devastate Europe and 
North America without the benefit of any sophisticated weapons of mass 
destruction. As the Iranians proved against the Iraqis during the 
(truly) first Gulf War, a large enough force of amateurs can at the very 
least hold a more capable but less numerous opponent to a standstill.

> I believe, as Eliezer points out, that only a global pandemic due to 
> an engineered bioweapon with significantly greater ill effects than 
> the 1918 influenza epidemic could cause such a problem.  It would be 
> very difficult to engineer a weapon with that kind of lethality and 
> impossible to engineer it in such a way that it would not come back 
> and cause significant harm to ones own "tribe" [1].

Engineering isn't necessary. Get a few (or not so few) volunteers 
infected with smallpox (or something equally virulent and deadly) and 
have them wander around the main concourses of a score or so major air 
travel hubs, coughing. You don't need any fancy genetic engineering to 
get a devastating effect out of THAT (and I am frankly shocked, although 
pleasantly so, that they haven't thought of it yet).

Remember, these are people keenly adept at using low-tech means to 
achieve great destructive ends. A handful of $1.99 box cutters are 
leveraged into devices capable of killing 3,000 or so innocent people, 
in the right hands. You don't need fancy labs and technology to inflict 
great damage. That's been proven over and over again.

> I is a case, as MC Hammer once put it, of "You can't touch this."
> Robert
> 1. It is one thing to send in 1 in 100 as suicide bombers, its 
> entirely another to sacrifice 50, 60, or 70% of ones own population to 
> take down 70, 80, or 90% of another population.  Particularly when the 
> people left standing are likely to respond with overwhelming force.

That, of course, is a different matter, and one dealt with in George 
R.R. Martin's short story "Call Him Moses." In it, the main character 
re-creates the Biblical plagues on an enemy, and only threatens to 
inflict the death of the first-born. It turns out that his solution is 
somewhat less surgical than that of the God of the Old Testament, in 
that it does indeed kill the first born, but everybody else as well. The 
enemy surrenders.

I think that a fanatical enough adversary wouldn't care about such 
things, or would see them as a further proof of the protection of their 
god, who would doubtless protect the faithful against the plague. (The 
fact that the architects of such a scheme would doubtless be hold up in 
very isolated regions where the threat of the plague would be far less 
than, say, Boston or Rome, would of course not be lost upon them.) Some, 
indeed, such as Iranian President Ahmadinejad, are said to actively 
_seek_ a catastrophic confrontation, believing that worldly chaos will 
usher in the return of the Twelfth Imam, who will set the world to rights.

I wouldn't count on the squeamishness of the Islamists to inflict 
casualities on their own side, to prevent them from doing something like 


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