Re: Tolerance strategies (was: Two Essays on the violence...) (fwd)

From: Alex F. Bokov (
Date: Wed Oct 24 2001 - 10:17:09 MDT


To the Cc'd recipients-- I apologize for adding to your doubtless
already large inboxes. I'm beginning to see parallels between this
issue and the ideas we explored earlier, and if any issue today needs
brains like yours probing it, it's this one.

On Wed, 24 Oct 2001, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> "Alex F. Bokov" wrote:
> >
> > Given that intolerant and absolutist memes can by definition exist
> > within a tolerant and relativist society, but not vice versa, what
> > strategies can the tolerant and relativist society use to survive?
> > Will these strategies require it to relinquish some of its tolerance
> > and relativism?
> The tolerant and relativist societies can maintain substantial military
> superiority using superior economic and technological capabilities.
> That's why Afghanistan hasn't conquered America.

1. This is criticized as a contradictory stance-- not only a
relinquishment of tolerance and relativism, but a selective
relinquishment. In order to maintain this strategy, it is shielded
from public debate and scrutiny. The resulting lack of accountability
allows instruments of the open society's foreign policy to lose sight
of their original goals and even act in opposition to them. Witness
the US backing Islamofascism supposedly as a countermeasure to
Communism and now scrambling to back secular fascism as a
countermeasure to Islamofascism.

1a. Furthermore, when an ends-justify-means calculus is employed, you
end up with the problem of entrusting somebody with the priviledged
position of deciding which ends justify which which means. Your
friendly AI might do it Eliezer, but even the best intentioned humans
inevitably lapse into "MY ends justify the means".

2. This contradiction may percolate backwards as the relinquishment
becomes less and less selective, ending in an intolerant and
absolutist society.

3. Superior technology and economy does not necesserily trump a
superior strategic position. Witness American Revolution, siege of
Stalingrad, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Vietnam War, Chechnya, and
of course our current war against a delocalized enemy with wide
popular support.

Other strategies....

A. "Lifestyle as propoganda", i.e porno, porkrinds, and pilsner. I
think with time this would work on anybody, but some memesets are more
resistant than others, and in some cases may be capable of spreading
and causing damage faster than they are neutralized. It's an open
question whose side time is on. Furthermore, though not necesserily
physically violent, it is destructive. It makes aggregate human
culture less complex/information-rich, which is one of the reasons
tolerance is adaptive in the first place.

B. Isolationism. Do not depend on anybody else's resources, do not let
anybody in. Perhaps freely import/export information, but nothing
physical. Build massive Marginot lines along all coasts and borders,
and a missile defense shield on top (insofar as one is feasible). Be
free *internally* and sit tight, waiting for the rest of the world to
grow up. Probably too many things wrong with this strategy to count.

Looking for better strategies.

This reminds me of those sims that fuse Prisoner's Dilemma and
cellular automata so you have neighborhoods of cooperators and
defectors forming and reforming. Defectors can never be completely
wiped out, because as long as they are surrounded by cooperators
they'll thrive at their expense. However, they can never prevail,
because a neighborhood composed only of defectors will starve and
enterprising cooperators move in and recolonize it.

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