I'm going to practice some of the "noisy honesty" I've been saving up, motivated by the article appended. Even the
NYTimes has a clue to where I'm coming from--I guess it's time.
Call this a rant as long as you don't run away--I use the word to mean "an essay no more focused than Montaigne might
have managed"--and I no doubt flatter myself for it.
There's more than one kind of transparency. The late enhanced watchfulness of all the "single serving friends" (as they
were called by the Tyler Durden character in _Fight Club_) aboard airlines could eventually lead to a policy established
by Heinlein's good guys in _Puppet Masters_: skin down or be shot.
My view is, if you can't trust someone with the capacity to do harm, you can't trust someone--because any person's
_existence_ carries the capacity to do harm. Can't trust me with things that go bang? Then how can you trust me with a
vote? I'm willing to demonstrate my trustworthiness. But to whom, and by what right or obligation?
Whom do you trust, and on what basis? Jackleg epistemology is _extremely_ practical once again. What do you sacrifice?
Says who? Illusion and agreement. How are they the same? How do they differ?
[sarcasm]Of course, as long as it's _uniformed_ (or badged--perhaps they'll skin down too) people doing the shooting,
we're all safe. The carabinieri are your friends. Stand over here, please; we have to check you for grenade
suppositories. [sound of suppressed sub-caliber rifle fire] Oops, you moved. Hey Sarge, sorry--he went for his _ass_, I
The actual Extro-related points are several, having to do with evolutionarily stable strategies.
1) There is wide cultural variation in what is perceived as "coercion". Also,
2) in a lifeboat, the person with the gun is the captain.
Regrettable as it is, and _pace_ Kai Becker, I see no evidence that either of these factors is some vestige of
prehistory. (Becker's phrase, re firearms: "...inappropriate tools from our barbaric history?")
They both seem to be very much at work today, and in too recent history to be ignored. So, on to the key questions of my
(po1) If no ordinary person can be trusted
with a few ounces of
low explosive wrapped in metal,
how are you ever going to trust a person
with the thousand or so micronukes he needs
to leave the Solar system?
(substitute any other "dangerous" tech of your choosing)
(po2) What magic turns an ordinary person into a trustworthy one?
This ought to be an ExI FAQ. But it's going to need a pancritical, not a final, answer.
There is tension in the world, and on this list, in part due to what Sowell called constrained vs. unconstrained
visions. As he pointed out, Marx, among others, had both: constrained regarding the inevitability of the outcome
(Socialism), unconstrained regarding the perfection of the consequent Socialist society.
Me? I'm probably too "Neg" at the moment to be on this list; I'm no Anders Sandberg; yet I still spend less time
explaining myself on this list than I'd have to in a corner bar. ("Hier steh' ich--ich bin nicht Anders", to completely
murder the Martin Luther quote and inject a few cc of humor)
"If the government doesn't trust the people,
why doesn't it _dissolve_ them and elect a _new_ people?"
--Paraphrase of Bertolt Brecht on the East German student riots of '52-'53.
This is a mixed post because, unlike many of the more frequent posters, I find myself in a mixed state. In several
My friend writes:
Interesting posit: ...For America to stay America, a free and open society, intimately connected to the world, the
world has to become a much more ordered and controlled place...
December 26, 2001
Naked AirBy THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/26/opinion/26FRIE.html
In the wake of the attempted bombing last week of the American Airlines flight from Paris by a terrorist nut with
explosives in his shoe, I'm thinking of starting my own airline, which would be called: Naked Air. Its motto would be:
"Everybody flies naked and nobody worries." Or "Naked Air - where the only thing you wear is a seat belt."
Think about it. If everybody flew naked, not only would you never have to worry about the passenger next to you carrying
box cutters or exploding shoes, but no religious fundamentalists of any stripe would ever be caught dead flying nude, or
in the presence of nude women, and that alone would keep many potential hijackers out of the skies. It's much more
civilized than racial profiling. And I'm sure that it wouldn't be long before airlines would be offering free
dry-cleaning for your clothes while you fly.
Well, you get the point: if the terrorists are just going to keep using technology to become better and better, how do
we protect against that, while maintaining an open society - without stripping everyone naked? I mean, what good is it
to have a free and open America when someone can easily get on an airplane in Paris and bring a bomb over in the heel of
his shoe or plot a suicide attack on the World Trade Center from a cave in Kandahar and then pop over and carry it out?
This is America's core problem today: A free society is based on openness and on certain shared ethics and honor codes
to maintain order, and we are now intimately connected to too many societies that do not have governments that can
maintain order and to peoples who have no respect for our ethics or our honor codes.
Remember the electronic ticket machines that were used for the Boston-New York-Washington shuttles? Ever use one? Not
only were you automatically issued your ticket with a credit card by pressing a touch- screen, but they asked you -
electronically - "Did you pack your bags yourself?" and "Did any strangers give you anything?" And you answered those
security questions by touching a screen! Think about the na´ve trust and honor code underlying those machines.
If I had my way they would now take all those machines and put them in a special room in the Smithsonian museum called:
"Artifacts From America Before Sept. 11, 2001."
We're not alone. I just flew in and out of Moscow, where you now have to fill out a detailed customs form. It asks the
usual questions: Are you carrying any fruits, plants, large amounts of foreign currency, special electronics or weapons?
But there was one box that unnerved me a bit. It asked: Are you carrying any "radioactive materials?" Hmm, I wondered,
how many people (i.e. smugglers) are going to check that box? Can you imagine going through Moscow customs and the
couple in front of you turning to each other and asking: "Dear, did we pack the nuclear waste in your suitcase or mine?"
Or, "Honey, is the plutonium in your purse or the black duffel?" I don't think so.Which is why we are entering a highly
problematic era, one that we are just beginning to get our minds around. We are becoming much more keenly aware of how
freedom and order go together (see the Ashcroft debates). For America to stay America, a free and open society,
intimately connected to the world, the world has to become a much more ordered and controlled place. And order emerges
in two ways: It is either grown from the bottom up, by societies slowly developing good democratic governance and shared
ethics and values, or it is imposed from the top down, by non-democratic, authoritarian regimes rigidly controlling
But in today's post-cold-war world, many, many countries to which we are connected are in a transition between the two -
between a rigid authoritarian order that was imposed and voluntary self-government that is being home-grown. It makes
for a very messy world, especially as some countries - Afghanistan being the most extreme example - are not able to make
"The problem with top-down control is that more governments around the world are fragmenting today, rather than
consolidating," said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. "At the same time, America's technologies are being
universalized - planes that go faster and faster and electronics that are smaller and smaller - but the American values
and honor system that those technologies assume have not been universalized. In the hands of the wrong people they
become weapons of mass destruction."
So there you have our dilemma: Either we become less open as a society, or the world to which we are now so connected
has to become more controlled - by us and by others - or we simply learn to live with much higher levels of risk than
we've ever been used to before.
Or, we all fly naked.
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