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

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 17:47:05 MST

Barbara Lamar wrote:

> I agree with Greg that if you want to win an argument, you must understand
> the opponent's position as clearly as you understand your own. I'd say you
> must do more than figure out how they're effective at organizing and getting
> their message out; you must also understand the rational points in favor of
> their arguments. You have to look at the situation from the opponent's point
> of view and predict how they'll counter every point you'll make. At the same
> time you're collecting data to support your own position, you have to look
> just as diligently for data that supports the opponent's position. If
> they're good, they're going to hit you with that data, and it's a lot better
> to know about it in advance than to be taken by surprise.

I disagree with this a general prescription. Sometimes the trick of
winning an argument is simply to not make it one. There is little
enough time to be proactive for the things we care about without be
reactive to ever bit of anti- fluff that comes down the pike. Some
things just are not worth even bothering to refute. Taking them
seriously enough to refute them gives them more credit than they

I agree it is important to learn how to effectively organize and get the
message out. But I think it is far more important to make our own
message clear and well-engineered memetically first and foremost.

> > The primary
> > advantages I see [for the luddite point of view]
> > lie in the question of who does the talking and rule-making in
> > our societies...

Except that societies themselves and their entire basis is up for such
radical change that this is a difficult point to even get a handle on.

> >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.

True. So the counteractive to this is education, using the media to the
extent it can be used and creating new media for the message where it
cannot. But it does little good to argue scientific points with those
who do not understand the necessary science and technology. It can do
some good to express a different set of sound-bytes but this should
generally be done proactively instead of in reaction to someone else's

> The media probably could not get away with the sort of rubbish that's
> published if their audiences were not brain-paralyzed.
> The same can be said of politicians. Their power is derived from people who
> sit passively by and accept any sort of foolishness rather than risk
> thinking for themselves.

I am beginning to think that the heart of the problem is a value problem
rather than a logic and thinking problem. Without a sense of value, a
vision, if everything is really without any but a subjective meaning,
many people simply will see no reason to put forth the effort of
thinking or planning or caring very much. What for? So they can earn
more to buy more trinkets that they will wonder why they bought them an
hour or day or week after they take them home? To make a world where
they can live much longer lives to spend in the same relatively
value-less way as they have now? To enable more and better trinkets to
be made ever faster and more people to be engaged in the game of trinket
production and distribution so that more may be able to buy the
trinkets? None of those things are very inspiring. People will turn
their minds off or become fundies or New Agers or simply become cynical
and generally angry if they have no value base, no dream or vision of
what they are living and working for and what is possible. I think the
largest challenge in front of us is to build and disseminate such a

> Greg says:
> >... you have a deck that is stacked decidedly against rational development
> of
> > science and technology policy.
> > the history of the last 250 years in the West has proven,
> > technological business enterprises produce tangible results in an
> > extremely
> > efficient manner that many people want and will pay for.
> I think this is the answer. Most people WANT the benefits of technology:
> lights, heating, power tools and appliances, cars, abundant food, medical
> care, youthful bodies, and so forth.
> Most people can't think for themselves, but they can usually follow a line
> of reasoning if it's set forth step by step. And the anti-tech people have
> been doing this for years.

We need better memetic engineers on this side. Rationality alone is not
enough even if you could firmly establish it on a vast scale.

> In order to make a rational counter argument, one must acknowledge that some
> of what the anti-tech people say is true. Not to do so makes you look like
> you're either stupid or a liar.

Acknowledge true questions and problems but don't simply react. Show a
dream that is doable that is larger than the problems and, if it is
acheived in whole or part, will address the problems to the level that
can and should be addressed.

> Quality of life HAS deteriorated because of
> air and water pollution and the paving over of vast amounts of land. Whole

Actually, since the 70s air and water pollution is significantly
improved in the industrialized nations. Nor do I agree that paving is
so vast or so significant a problem as to derail technology. I don't
agree at all that science or technology are to blame.

> species ARE dying off. Agriculture IS being practiced in a way that has

Whole species are ALWAYS dying off. This does not mean that we should
not be concerned if our actions are killing off too many, but just that
in and off itself it is no condemnation of technology.

> destroyed and continues to destroy top soil at an alarming rate--you can see
> this for yourself simply by going out into a cultivated field and picking up

Without scientific agriculture, the Green Revolution, we would have lost
a tremendously larger amount of fertile topsoil and would have
experienced much more massive starvation.

> the cement-like clods almost entirely devoid of organic matter--and you're
> not thinking things through if you counter that by saying that hydroponics
> or nanotechnology will solve the problem. Along with loss of biological

NT would solve the problem quite handily actually.

> diversity, there HAS been great loss of cultural diversity and great loss of
> economic diversity as well. The global economy HAS killed off small

Not all cultures will survive when they meet other more vibrant
cultures. I hardly see that is grounds for being anti-science or
anti-technology or worth even worrying overly much about.

> manufacturing businesses by the thousands. These particular things the
> "luddites" say are TRUE.

So what? It is to be expected in any healthy economy that capital and
profitability will shift. Why is this a condemnation at all? As long
as the displaced can still live and thrive then why would we care?
Today they can't necessarily and I agree this is a problem.

> What is NOT true is that technology per se is to blame for the current state
> of the world. The way to counter the argument that technology is bad is to
> show people that there are ways of having the good without such a huge
> amount of bad. One of the best ways to do this is through stories where you
> can show people concrete examples of how different social systems work.
> Again you come up against the separation of the sciences and the arts. Most
> mainstream movies and novels I've come across lately seem to dwell on the
> dangers of technology. Popular song lyrics are mostly pessimistic.

A lot of this is the cultural value problem rather than simply pro- and
anti-technological sentiments. Addressing it as a technology issue only
or a pro/anti debate only misses, imho, what is actually the real
problem. That is part of what I mean about reacting. Even doing a good
job of "defending" technology will not win if the real problem is deeper
than simply not understanding technology and making it the scapegoat.

Now, one of the things that does need to be addressed that does and will
ever-increasingly fuel a fear of technology is what sort of world we
will use the technology to create and how we will all be able to partake
of that world, we and our children. There is legitimate cause for great
concern there. It deserves honest answers. If the answers are that
most of the people asking haven't a prayer then you can bet that they
will oppose technology quite strongly!

> > The simple facts are that the kinds of people who are drawn into
> > scientific
> > and technical fields tend to be TERRIBLE communicators in the way
> > needed to
> > have an impact on the culture at large.
> I wonder why this is. Wish we could talk about this on the list and figure
> it out. It hasn't always been so.

I don't even particularly think it is true.

> > Even getting the people who could afford to fund the grooming of good
> > spokespeople to recognize the need seems to be an uphill task.
> This is something the people on this list could begin to remedy immediately.
> Beginning with each person funding their own grooming (funding in terms of
> time as well as money).

That I am doing. I am working on ways to address what I see as the crux
of the matter and to enroll people in creating (envisioning and
producing) a positive, livable and quite enticing and activating future
for all. Along the way I will work on skills to reach people in a
variety of ways. More on that as it progresses.

- samantha

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:37 MDT