Re: TECHNOLOGY AND TRUST (LONG), was Re: some U.S. observations and notes

From: Michael M. Butler (
Date: Sun Dec 30 2001 - 01:34:26 MST

Kai Becker wrote:

> here, the cops get a year long
> training, psychological supervision and are much less motivated to draw
> their gun (because they don't need to, cf. our statistics). If a cop here
> kills an innocent person, he will get into deep trouble.

OK. So in your view cops are better for those enumerable reasons.
I don't want to argue the matter, I just wanted to know where you stand. Thank you.
I think training is mandatory, along with practice that police seldom get.
So in a funny way, my standards are higher than yours.

> My vision is to live in a society where everyone finds it absurd to carry a
> gun - too heavy, too uncomfortable, too dangerous and simply unnecessary.
> And don't tell me that's impossible. We are discussing infinite
> life-extension, mind uploading and nanotechnology here, so what about a
> little extropian sociology, hm?

Fine. In the long long run, we don't disagree much--but I won't cry if that
vision turns out to be unattainable. I can settle for less.

Here's what I want: I want to help create a world where tech is just tech and where
how anyone shapes the atoms mostly doesn't matter. You made a gun? How cute!
We are not there now, hm? Confusing the two (now, and that ideal future)
can lead to very bad mistakes. Getting there from here might not be a straight line.
I accept this.

> > > See, I don't accept that a free and liberal society has to be so
> > > dangerous that their citizens only feel safe when they carry a deadly
> > > weapon.
> >
> > We are in utter agreement on this point, as written. There are a bunch of
> > grand generalizations in it, though, so I can tell you that it's my
> > feeling that I have never lived in such a society as you describe, and I
> > think I never shall.
> I see. Do you carry a gun? Why? How would you feel without it? Why?

What? You've missed my previous statements to you that provide direct answers
to your questions.

-No, I do not presently carry a gun when I'm just walking around.
-So "Why?" does not apply.
-"Without it" could mean lots of things. If you mean without _carrying_ it,
   the answer is "I'd feel exactly the way I feel right now", because of my first answer.
-So the second "Why?" is answered "because there is no change between the two conditions".

> > I hear reports that there are _some_ highschools where _some_ students
> > are criminals who carry firearms, and there are _other_ (scared) students
> > who carry their own in response. This in no way pleases me, and I wish I
> > could change it. That is at present beyond my powers. It sucks.
> You mean, rather than solving the problem, you try to cure the symptoms by
> spreading the desease? May be I am to european to find this a very logical
> way...

No, that is not what I mean at all. I report the state of affairs. I am not God.
I said it was beyond my power to change, not that I made it happen.
If I had a magic button I could press that would eliminate all weapons everywhere,
I would think hard and long about pressing it, not dismiss the idea out of hand.

But I would suspect there might be Faust's price to pay. Because I'm not God.

Today, in the world as it is, guns in the US appear to save many more lives than they take.
But let's not have an argument about that statement. Take it up with Mike Lorrey,
he loves to deal with it. And please take it up on his list. That's simple politeness,
the issue has been done to death here. So to speak.

> > > I have heard this argument before: "The minorities" are far more
> > > violent and criminal than the rest. [...]
> >
> > Minorities being more unhappy, or violent, or criminal, is a really
> > complex topic. I don't feel qualified to discuss it, and so I don't bring
> > it up.
> Pardon, but we will not come very far with "Dünnbrettbohren" (avoiding
> complex topics).

It was a complete side point to what I was talking about. Effectively a red herring
as far as this thread goes. Start a new thread, and maybe I'll have something to say someday.

How far do we get if people discuss it who don't know what they'd be talking about?

This is what I have admitted. Lately I am less willing to talk like an expert
when I am not an expert. Thinking about this topic is hard. Spouting rhetoric
about it is easy. I grow fatigued with that. When I have something to say, I'll
say it. That's the very best I can do.

> > > Someone also suggested that the reason for the different crime rates is
> > > the inhomogeneity(?) of the US society compared to a more homogeneous
> > > Europe. Hm. But the "majority" also consists of former minorities, here
> > > as well as in the US, correct? Unless you propose that the "new
> > > minorities" are intrinsically more violent than the "old", what magic
> > > turned a mixture of minorities into a homogeneous, peaceful, law
> > > abiding majority?
> >
> > I can't answer that, since I am not confident of the premise and never
> > claimed the premise as mine.
> Too bad. I thought this could be a promising way of discussion.

When I say I am not confident of the premise,
here I mean that the model seems too simple.

I must therefore confine myself to
remarking that argumentation in this medium, as well as in general, is poorly
suited to dealing with webs of interacting cause and effect factors.

Claiming that there is a single or even predominant cause requires one to hold
too many other things constant for me to believe that it's any more relevant
than trying to find out what piece of the brain holds the location of the cheese
in a trained rat. These "wicked problems" are hard, or we don't undertand them,
which makes them worse than hard.

Talk to me in five years, after I've coded my "weather simulator" where many of the
factors can be wired up, and maybe I'll at least be able to tell you I am no closer to

Right now, my choice is to cop out, or to spout bullshit. I choose the former over the latter.

> > A fair question. I have no final answer. I agree the question is
> > important, and am happy to see that we agree.
> [...]
> > A very good question. I wish you luck and courage in finding an answer
> > that satisfies you.
> Do you really try to sneak away so soon?

I do not sneak away. I seek, and I acknowledge my limitations as humbly as I can.

> Now, what about the glorious
> future of <you-name-it> technology, when you can't use it because someone
> could misuse it to kill you?

I have a very hard time comprehending this sentence.

Here is what your question turns into when I plug in a specific example:

Kai, paraphrased: [Now, what about the glorious future of superpencils, when MMB can't use a superpencil because someone
could stick it in MMB's brain(--through MMB's eye or ear or soft palate or...) and kill MMB?]

I don't understand the "because".

Do you mean "when I will be prevented from having a superpencil because [some unknown person] 'prevents' me"?

If that's what you mean, all I can say is, it depends, exactly as it would today.

As you have said, I've been focusing on the here and now. I did this because I find it an easy thing to talk about: it's
here, it's now; I trust some people you don't trust, and now I know a little better how we differ. But I do think about
the far future.


I want a civilization where no one who chooses membership has to fear very much at all--where practically no *thing* (up
to, say, the size of a planet) is anything like as dangerous as a modern bathroom in the industrialized world, and where
anyone with any excessive fear might be pitied but is still respected and protected, and listened to. And where people
who don't join are somehow not persecuted, and where there is still adventure for those who seek it. The freedom to
LEAVE. And come back. Freely.

What do I guess might be involved?

Ubiquitous available cheap redundant distributed copies of people, strong customs of honor, respect and a willingness to
leave others alone because they almost _can't_ hurt you, no matter what atoms they happen to collect in what patterns.
Exceptions for whatever few dangers remain, carefully limited by custom and with an ongoing and like minded approach
(don't legislate, create a real solution). Possibly smart contracts and "blue goo". Possibly Eliezer's Friendly AI/SI.
Possibly an Extrosattva movement.

What might doing this take? At least more competent people, more justified trust, wisdom, luck, criticism, lateral
thinking, diplomacy, integrity, courage, kindness, skepticism.

But the above is the dream I have; one ideal aim, not an entry in my appointment book.
It might turn out to be impossible. So, quite independent of my dream, I have an intention.

My intention is to do my best to help create a civilization
--that I would not mind coming back to, AND
--that wouldn't mind bringing me back,
in that order of importance.

I am too limited today to have a grand detailed plan to lay out. I know my limitations.
I have no idea if the path will be a nice monotonic curve, or if there will be glitches.
Assuming that I know the path seems very naive or delusional to me.
If you don't share these limitations, good for you. Maybe I'll meet you there.

For now, though, if you want me to provide a snappy final answer, or a fight, I have neither one for you.




MMB is reachable via butler at comp dash lib dot o r g * My moronic mnemonic for smart behavior: "DICKS" == * * diplomacy, integrity, courage, kindness, skepticism. *

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