[ExI] Explaining Unusual Beliefs

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sun Oct 7 06:45:01 UTC 2007

On 10/6/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

> Jef writes (I'm back to reading his posts, just not having a very good
> ability to hold a grudge)

And I'm reminded again of the slightly bizarre flavor of our
interactions.   Difficult to pin down precisely due to the nature of
the medium, but typically and distinctly off.

> > On 10/6/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> >
> >> My brother is a cultural anthropologist and I've been exposed to that
> >> point of view a long time. Indeed, the first criticism I had of libertarianism
> >> (and I'm still at least half-libertarian) is that it entirely fails to take culture
> >> into account.
> >
> > An astute observation, and one I didn't realize we share.  I thought
> > you claimed devout Libertarianism.
> Please.  Our discussions should not be about me.

I expressed some surprise and interest in your apparently changing
Libertarian beliefs, and I think you broached the topic. My interest
in the evolution of political processes and beliefs has been ongoing
for years and has nothing to do with you personally.

> > Further to your point, I'd say it's about blindness to the essential
> > structure supporting their individual efforts.  Much as an arrogant
> > software engineer, proud of his creations, might extrapolate to grand
> > visions of what he might achieve if not held back by the regressive
> > forces surrounding him, with little regard for the adaptations baked
> > in to the editors, compilers, OS, microcode, hardware, and the people
> > and institutions (and deeper) from which these grow.

> Sorry, but you lost me with the first sentence. Whose individual efforts?

Further to your preceding point that Libertarianism "entirely fails to
take culture into account", the efforts of those who might act
according to that caricature of Libertarianism.

> I think that you're saying something like "there can be too much
> theory with too little adaptation to realities"?

I don't think that's implied by what I wrote.

I described a fairly common example of naïve lack of accounting, not
just for surrounding culture [your claim], but for a complex, dynamic,
social-technological structure constructed via eons of adaptation.
The proud but naïve programmer in the example sees his lines of code
as constituting the value of his product, and in an everyday sense
where we don't need to consider the infrastructure, like we don't need
to consider the air we breathe, that's quite adequate.  But such
thinking, all-to-common, is ineffective when applied to the challenges
of the larger system, e.g. what it would take to grow social
decision-making beyond the present politics of scarcity.

That pure radiant ideal of maximizing personal freedom in "politics"
is akin to the elegant and ineffective ideal of Solomonoff induction
in machine intelligence.  Each is like a hair on a pimple on the hiney
of a much higher-dimensional beast, and the nature of that beast,
however arbitrary, imposes computationally irreducible constraints on
the possibility-space of that hair.  Would-be extenders tend to ignore
the beast.

> > On the other hand, which is worse, Libertarian fixation on maximizing
> > personal liberty or the liberal ideal of one agent: one equal vote?
> > Both lack the dimensionality necessary for success in the bigger
> > picture.
> I agree that both normally laudable principles are dangerous
> when carried to extremes. Yes, without principles we'd be
> entirely lost, but just as you say we should always be careful
> about their "low dimensionality".

I'm not talking about systems at their extremes.  I'm talking about
supposed Flatlanders blocked in their road building until they
discover that overpasses have always been a possibility.

> >> Moreover, the progress of EP over the last 30 years further diminishes
> >> the relevance (and plasibility), it seems to me, of the basic views
> >> espoused by cultural anthropologists. There does seem to be a basic
> >> *human nature*.  We all share a greater amount of behavior than was
> >> appreciated 50 years ago.
> >
> > Like a tree with roots firmly grounded in its interactions with a
> > consistent (but always only incompletely knowable) "physics", each of
> > the individual leaves can find a basis for pragmatic agreement at some
> > level.  Therein lies the seed of a pragmatic politics of private
> > choices and public consequences.

> Sorry!  I have a feeling that I agree with that, but it's a little too abstract.

It is indeed an abstract metaphor, but one I think isn't too obscure
for many on this list.

I think I'll let it rest for now at that

- Jef

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