Re: Gingrich, Moynihan step down

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 09 Nov 1998 10:36:14 -0600

Paul Hughes wrote:
> Mr. Gingrich was also a rabid anti-drug campaigner who advocated the death penalty
> for certain kinds of drug users. Anybody who advocates death by the state for what
> one puts in his or her own body (no matter how harmful) is not a civilized person,
> nor someone I want to be in a position of power. Gingrich's departure is the best
> political news I've received all week. Good riddance!

There's a noticeable difference between a history professor who believes in freedom and a lawyer who believes in pork and reelection, even if neither one is a fanatic Libertarian. Don't make the mistake of lumping all politicians together if they don't share your views; that destroys the possibility of incremental progress. If Congress were composed of Gingriches, there'd be a chance of a Paul Hughes being elected; as it is, Gingrich was the most we could possibly hope for, a spearhead... now shattered.

> BTW, reading and/or writing science fiction does not necessarily make one sane or
> decent.

Really? I would rather be governed by the first 535 names in a national telephone directory than Congress, and I would rather be governed by the first 535 members of Worldcon than any other government in history. Let's face it, reading science fiction makes you smarter, faster, less susceptible to panic in the face of future shock, less gullible, more idealistic, more rational, more informed, and better capable of understanding technology and technological change. This tendency is stronger in Extropians and even stronger in Singularitarians.

Think of it as a Future Shock hierarchy, measuring the ideas you can contemplate without flinching. At Shock Level One, the baseline, we have technophiles, "The Road Ahead", "To Renew America", "Future Shock", virtual reality, and Wired magazine. At Shock Level Two we have medical immortality, interplanetary exploration, and new ("alien") cultures - the average SF fan. At Shock Level Three we have nanotechnology, human-equivalent AI, minor intelligence enhancement, uploading, total body revision - the average Extropian. At Shock Level Four you have the Singularity, complete mental revision, far superhumanity, Powers, and evaporation of the causal network called "Life as we know it" - the Singularitarians. If there's a Shock Level Five, I'm not sure I want to know about it.

Anyway, the point is that you can't introduce anyone to an idea more than one Shock Level above - and Shock Levels measure what you accept calmly, not what you know about; there are very few SL4ers, and I was *not* one of them (too enthusiastic) when I wrote "Staring Into the Singularity". If somebody is still worried about virtual reality (low end of SL1), you can try explaining medical immortality (low-end SL2), but not nanotechnology (SL3) or uploading (high SL3). They might believe you, but they will be frightened - shocked.

Gingrich wrote at SL1, but probably toned it down a bit - he was writing for an SL0 audience and knew it. He was very likely SL2, and could have reacted to SL3 ideas without screaming and running away. Now we're stuck with an SL0 Congress that keeps trying to censor the Internet. Maybe, since Al Gore chaired the Senate hearings on nanotechnology, he could be a force for sanity - but frankly, I think he was just sucking up to the techies.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.