Re: What is to be done?

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 22:26:56 -0800 (PST)

The Low Golden Willow writes:
>we must not only show how our envisioned society could work, we must
>explain why current society is the way it is and why any exceptions
>our opponents will come up with don't apply.

Yes. Not only should we explain why people now disagree with us, but
also why people in the past have disagreed. We especially need to
explain the events that they used as an empirical basis for their
claims. Hence my post on the feudal to state transition.

>} to become transhuman is excessively selfish. And I think such people
>} *are* more selfish than average, but "excessive" is harder to judge.
>More selfish, or more openly selfish?

Hard to tell.

>} This highlights another core issue: to what degree does social pressure
>} function to stabilize our social order? Economists like me, who tend
>} to ignore social pressure in our models, tend to think that the effect
>} is minor. But others see social pressure which keeps people acting
>This still bothers me. Religion is bloody real; how do economists
>account for it? That it's a veneer under which people pursue their
>rational goals anyway? I'm willing to grant that this may true to a
>larger extent than I'd easily imagine on my own. Still, when I read in
>_Hidden Order_ the note that economics assumes rational behavior coupled
>with relatively simple goals, I wondered whether some 'social' goal like
>"seeking status" or "being 'with' other humans" or something shouldn't
>be factored into more speculative models.

There are lots of interesting models of participation in religion and
status seeking. But we tend to not add these effects when we are
modeling other phenomena. We tend to think that these systems are
robust enough that we do not need to model everything in great detail
to see the dominant processes. But if could be that social systems
are not as modular as this, and we really have to understand
everything at once to understand anything. If so, it may be pretty

Robin D. Hanson