Re: SOC/BIO/POL: International Forum on Globalization conference

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Feb 06 2001 - 07:56:45 MST writes:

> Second, I agree with both of you that *a* right response is to work to
> organize a counterweight to these voices - and I look forward to seeing all
> of you at Extro5 this year :-)

The same! BTW, is any date converging?

> As I've written here before, the luddite point of view has some real
> advantages in the job of memetic competition. The primary advantages I see
> lie in the question of who does the talking and rule-making in our societies.
> Regarding the former, for better or worse, the media IS overwhelmingly
> staffed with people who lack technical or scientific education and experience
> and whose attitudes are shaped by a culture inimical to values of progress.
> As a simple matter of the practicalities of career opportunities and personal
> talents, people tend to go into work in journalism from educational
> backgrounds in the humanities. And as a fact of history, academic
> departments in the humanities in the West have been overwhelmingly staffed
> since the 1960s by professors who hold attitudes antithetical to
> Enlightenment values of reason and progress and who are deeply ignorant and
> suspicious of science, technology and enterprise.

And the situation is even worse in Europe, since the journalists here
come to a greater extent from the lower middle class demographic
rather than the mid-upper demographic in the states. This has both
made them even less likely to have undergone extensive academic
training and even more likely to accept anti-progress leanings
eclectically directly from their surrounding culture.

> Rule-makers in the West also tend to come from similar educational
> backgrounds, and then tend to rise to positions of power through personality
> traits and long experience in behavior that has little need for knowledge or
> understanding of how science, technology and enterprise work.

As Waldemar pointed out, spending time learning science, technology or
business is actually a bad investment if you want to become a good
politician (not necessary good for anybody else, but good at *being* a
politician) - you should spend the time learning the political culture
and networking, rather than learning politically useless knowledge.

Another factor that comes up again and again in the debate here on the
list is that change is of course bad for the ones at the top in the
status quo, so they would be against it. However, I think this is a
relatively minor reason for the cultural bias. First, many of the
current elites rightly or wrongly perceive themselves as able to
handle a changing society, being the ones calling the shots even if
nanotechnology or life extension come about. They might be wrong about
this and likely underestimate the future changes, but I have not seen
a strong anti-progress bias because they fear going the way of the
dodo. Incidentally, one of the argument luddites make against new
technology is just that it would help the current elites to remain in
power - showing how complex the issue can be.

As Greg Egan put it in TAP:

        ".... And a lot of people find that prospect threatening; it
        turns a lot of old power structures on their head."

        If that cliche came true every time it was invoked, power
        structures would be oscillating faster than mains

There are other groups more likely to perceive themselves threatened
by new technology, but I expect to find them in the lower middle class
or similar "middle" situations - they have a position to uphold, but
know they would be vulnerable to change and lack the necessary
education or optimism culture to think they would be able to benefit
from new developments. Hence they will be most likely to accept
luddite memes. Notice which social group many european journalists
come from.

I think this kind of analysis, crude as it may be, is an useful first
start to see where we can influence things. For example, the academic
world and intellecturals in general are clearly very important for
their meme filtering and spreading effect, so making origressive and
extropian ideas acceptable to them would be a major step forward. It
might be less important to teach politicians science, and more
relevant to show them that there are votes in the pro-progress side
and real practical success stories based on enlightenment methods to
be exploited. And so on.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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