Re: the Blight not evil?

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Nov 07 2001 - 13:17:00 MST

On Wed, Nov 07, 2001 at 09:55:29AM -0800, Doug Jones wrote:
> Wei Dai wrote:
> >
> > What could explain the mindset that would produce this kind of thinking? I
> > think in some social circles there must be a kind of competition (which
> > historically may have served some useful purpose) to see who can be most
> > skeptical of popular beliefs and values and most tolerant of foreign
> > beliefs and values. This competition caused an arms race in which people
> > found increasingly more effective methods to train themselves to behave in
> > this very unnatural way. The end result is a group of people who are
> > overly skeptical and tolerant, and don't necessarily realize why they
> > behave this way. Would it help to point this out to them, I wonder?
> Heh. David Brin has explored this very thesis in a collection,
> "Otherness." It has a tendency to collapse in complete social
> relativism, at which point it gets devoured by barbarians.

I don't think that is Brin's conclusion, and it doesn't fit with his
themes in _The Transparent Society_. He instead seems to think that this
acceptance and love of the other is one of the reasons the West has
worked so well.

I think he is roughly right. Any meme when taken to a silly extent
becomes counterproductive (a bit of a circular definition), but this
tolerance and interest for the other (combined with a scepticism of
one's own culture) has allowed many useful outside memes to take root in
our culture. It becomes dangerous when it is not balanced by critical
analysis of whether the memes keep their promises.

In the case of the extreme tolerance meme, which is related to the
cultural relativism meme-complex, we have a situation where being
intolerant is viewed as unacceptable. And since in many circles
intolerant is equated to criticising others (since this might hurt their
feelings, which are regarded as sacrosanct both due to the general
tolerance for others and clinging remnants of the romantic/prerational
idea of feelings rather than reason as the truest form of knowledge), in
these circles criticism becomes inhibited except when turned outwards
against the "intolerant".

As for judging the Blight vs. Countermeasure, Steel vs. Woodcarver, it
can only be done relative to some standard. I would use whether they
promoted happiness and self-development among other beings, and then the
choice becomes rather clear: Steel is clearly using other beings for his
own purposes with no interest in their self-development, while
Woodcarver does it; the Blight uses other beings as expendable tools for
its own purposes on a far wider scale than Countermeasure. None of the
characters end up 100% on the good or evil side, but you can make
distinctions between them.

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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