Re: Debate Failure (was: SOC: Opposition to Transhumanism)

Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 12:54:02 MST

Menno Rubingh, <>, writes:
> These open debates on this list may *seem* not to lead directly to many
> immediate and tangible results, but I think that view disregards the many
> very useful and fruitful cooperations and ideas that people subscribed
> to this mailing list *are* gaining from this list -- and about which the
> people who are individually benefiting and who (after some listening in
> and contributing to discussions on this list) just quietly go do things
> perhaps send back (?too) little feed-back.

Yes, I did not mean to imply that all of our discussions are pointless.
I was trying to focus on the specific mode where we "debate", although
perhaps a better term would be "argue" or even "fight". The classic bad
example would be the gun control topic which took up so much time and
energy a few months ago. Both sides in that debate were convinced that
they were good and the other side was evil, and no amount of energy was
spared in an offer-no-quarter battle.

In a memetic conflict like this, the disputed ground lies in the minds
of the audience (normally there is no real expectation of convincing the
opponent). Both sets of memes are competing to advance their share of the
this memetic landscape. They are trying to overcome the rival, to move
the battle front one way or the other, to take over more memetic ground.

No doubt one side or the other did gain some ground in the memetic war
of the guns debate. But both sides come away determined to fight even
harder next time, to consolidate their gains or retake lost territory.
It is very questionable whether the gains are worth all the destruction
and costs imposed by warfare, even memetic warfare.

> (For example, the Dutch >H organization "Transcedo", perhaps the 2nd
> oldest European >H organization, was started about 4 or 5 years ago
> by 4 people who met each other on *this* mailing list; in its turn,
> this local Dutch group 2.5 years ago organized the first European >H
> gathering which has now snowballed into a solid annual event (called
> "TransVision") with a significant momentum of its own, and which in
> its turn again is I think amazingly (and unexpectedly) much helping
> Transhumanism and Extropianism in Europe getting organized. The local
> Dutch group is enjoying growing attention from national media; and is
> enjoying a steadily increasing influx of new local people interested
> in Transhumanism; all of this will help strengthen the >H 'movement'
> and will give it more man- and brain-power. If it were not for the
> discussions on this mailing list and the things inspired by them, then
> I think Transhumanism in Europe might still be nearly non-existent.)

That's great that Transcedo has been so successful and influential.
This is the kind of thing where we can be very successful, working and
brainstorming to support each other's efforts. It's a positive-sum
game, where we expand the options and possibilities available to us.
Debate tends to be zero-sum or even negative-sum. I feel that we can
best increase extropy by being supportive of each other rather than by
looking for battles to fight.


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