Contributing to Society [was Re: Premature deaths [was: extropians-digest V7 #4]]

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Jan 07 2002 - 00:13:27 MST

Robert J. Bradbury wrote:

> If the answer is yes, then we cannot fault recent attempts
> at creating "good days to die" (other than to object to the fact
> that "we" (Westerners) were the ones dying. If the answer
is no, then
> we have to make the case that living and surviving is of much
> value than (a) the "stories" of ones life (e.g. the Klingon
> or (b) what one has contributed during ones life (a somewhat
> perspective considering contributions of Einstein, Feynman,
> etc.) [I think this translates into the concept that after one
> ceases to make "significant" contributions, ones life is
> { Side-bar: This may be a quite interesting concept as it
> the concept of the depreciation of human lives. I know some (the
> humanist gaggle) might object to this but from an extropian
> it may have merit -- if you aren't "contributing" to the society
> what rights do you have to "occupy" a place in it. }
> (You know -- survival of the fittest and all that...)

What rights one has to a place in society are not necessarily
dependent on whether one "contributes" to the society or not.
At least it certainly need not be dependent when the society is
rich enough to contain many members who seemingly contribute
nothing at all. This entire construct of "contributing" needs
to be questioned. Precisely what does "contributing" mean? In
whose judgment and by what criteria is this to be evaluated?
Can it be evaluated for instance by whether or not enough people
care enough for something one has or has produced or does to
offer to pay sufficiently for it for those payments to be
exchanged for the necessities and desires of the individual?
What of those who are outside of the current envelope of what
people find valuable enough to pay for? There are many
intensely creative and brilliant souls out there who cannot find
anyone that will actually pay them for what they consider most
important to do. Should these be considered to be "not
contributing"? Or is the society actually likely to be much
richer when people have the "luxury" of picking what they are
most passionate at and pursuing that without their very survival
being at stake if they don't choose something they can charge
someone else a price for sharing?

Also, implicit in this consideration is the assumption that the
economics of the society are such that one needs to pay for
one's needs explicitly. As as been mentioned on this list
several times, that is only one of many ways a posthuman culture
might be organized and it is increasingly less likely, or at any
rate less necessary, as the society moves from one of assumed
scarcity to assumed abundance.

Is there a possible problem in that there might be too many
individuals in a society where one did not survive or not based
on whether one "contributes" with too many freeloaders or
"deadheads" (no offense to Grateful Dead fans here)? If it is a
truly abundant society with few space/resource constraints I
don't see that this is an issue as far as actualy physical drain
on the society goes. It might be an issue if all these persons,
even ones with no understanding to speak of, have actual
controlling votes in making decisions that affect the entire
society. One answer to this is to not have so much (if any)
central authority. Another answer is some form of competency
testing on voters and perhaps weighing of votes.

Overall, I see no good reason why one's survival should be tied
to "contributing" to society in an extropian worldview. Such
criteria of "contributing" smacks of one's worth depending on
pleasing others. It goes against the grain.

- samantha

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