What is rationality? (Was: Re: Public Relations (and the Extropian Elite))

den Otter (otter@globalxs.nl)
Fri, 23 Jan 1998 01:16:30 +0100

In response to: Eugene Leitl <eugene@liposome.genebee.msu.su>, M. E. Smith
<mesmith@rocketmail.com> and Brent Allsop <allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com>

Rational means (to me) that you neither promote, or seek, genocide,
coercion etc, but you don't *automatically* reject them either. There
are no "good" or "evil" actions, just tools that help you to survive
and prosper. Sometimes the smart thing to do might be helping others,
sometimes it means damaging them. A "rational" person/animal/being
is *opportunistic*, and not bound by any rules that don't help to maximize
his success. Of course, IRL such an entity would probably (and duely?) be
called an "asshole" by most people.

You can have (sub) societies based on this principle, in theory at least.
A good example would be the group of vampires from "Intervieuw with a (the?)
Vampire" (the movie). These folks have only one rule: you are not allowed
to kill (or otherwise damage, I suppose) one of your own kind. Offenders are
executed. What you do to outsiders is irrelevant (as long as it doesn't somehow
harm members of your own group). This is the core of any rational society: a social
contract for mutual benefit, which includes non-agression within the group itself.
This sounds almost libertarian, doesn't it. IMO this is about as close as you can
get to "pure rationality".

My original remark:

> Seriously...Wax has a point. Why are Star Trek (or My Little Pony)
> ethics so popular with this allegedly rational crowd? It does not
> compute.
See, the very mild, sometimes even altruistic, "vibe" on the list is in no
way what one (I) would call "rational" (unless faked, in which case it would
be very rational indeed). It is seems to be in sharp contrast with the (otherwise)
no-BS (classically rational) approach of extropianism. That's all. I'm not
endorsing genocide or otherwise nasty behaviour, just a bit puzzled by this
apparent contradiction.

Love & peace to all ;-)