Re: individualism

Ben Goertzel (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 13:30:48 +0800

Eric Forste wrote,

>I don't know of any altruist/collectivist arguments that solidly
>demonstrate that it's okay for a person A to stick a gun to the
>head of person B and make person B do something (or refrain from
>doing something) that person B doesn't want to do (or refrain from
>doing). And ultimately, these are the kinds of situations that
>libertarians are concerned with identifying and preventing.

Hey, I hate being coerced as much as anyone. I want to be allowed
to drop acid, to kill myself, to modify my brain with experimental
electronic circuitry.

Freedom is an important value. But there are other important values
too, such as compassion, and -- yes -- growth (progress? extropy?)....
In shaping a society we humans try to balance out these different values.
Increasing our share of one often seems to decrease our share of another.
That's what makes it difficult. Libertarianism seems to result from
exalting freedom over all other values. But even if one DOES exalt
freedom over all other values, it is not clear that eliminating government
would result in increased freedom anyway -- the state is obviously only
one kind of coercive power, and it serves, among other positive and
negative functions, to keep a hold on other coercive powers.

An interesting point, to me, is that when we move to a TRANS-HUMAN
society, the balance between these different values will be different.
I think the basic values will NOT change -- freedom, growth and compassion,
for example, are fairly universal things, not tied to our carbon bodies in
any essential way (I think). But the parameters governing the balance
of parameters against each other will change.

So, for instance, freedom should be WAY easier to achieve in a cyber-society,
because the limitation of the 2-D surface of the earth will be removed.
It will be much easier for like-minded intelligences to "group" themselves
in such a way as to minimize interactions with other intelligences they
would rather not see. (Now we have particular cities full of gays and
lesbians; particular countries full of Muslims, Jews, etc. -- but the
partitioning is very crude, not just because space is limited, but because
of the manifold particularities of human life on 2-D earth.)

On the other hand, oppression might be much easier to achieve in
cyber-society too. Imagine a Hitler who had control over people's
REALITIES!!! ... over the bit-patterns constituting their minds!!!

Everything we know about politics now -- libertarianism, Democrats,
Republicans, communists, socialists, etc. -- is implicitly conditioned
on human biology and 2-D earth life. Each of these sociopolitical systems
represents a certain balance among important values, emphasizing some
and de-emphasizing others. But the way the balances work out is going
to change when we leave our bodies behind! \

And this change in the balance of SOCIAL values is going to change our
MINDS too. This makes estimating the psychological effects of
"downloading" exceedingly difficult, doncha think?

ben g