Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Wed Jan 30 2002 - 00:11:13 MST

> >I'm not disputing that there are short term ups and downs. Is
> >there something we (or the government) should do differently
> >because of that?
> One thing that we (extropians) ought to do differently is to base our
> predictions of future opposition to new technologies on the assumption
> that such opposition will be motivated by expected harm (as opposed to
> the nearly useless hypothesis of stupidity that is somewhat popular
> here), and to criticise luddites as selfish rather than as stupid people.

I agree that stupidity of our opponents isn't a useful hypothesis.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say motivates those who oppose
change. Do you mean that they expect the average affect of some
change to be negative, or that they expect particular people to be
negatively affected? (I think we agree that particular people will
often be negatively affected.)

Clearly there are some opponents with each view. Since you suggest
attacking luddites as selfish, you must believe that the general
affect of (particular) changes is positive. Do you think the
luddites understand this? Or is the point that the general public
can be convinced that the general affect is positive enough that the
particular harms can be offset or neglected?

>>I wouldn't have argued for an objective answer. But it
>>seemed clear to me that most here (including you) would have agreed
>>that people who know how to make buggy whips don't lose anything
>>objective (anything they should be compensated for by the government
>>or anything they should be able to sue for
>I do think they lose something objective, much like what a copyright
>holder loses when a copyright expires. The existence of an
>objective loss doesn't imply the existence of someone who ought to
>compensate the loser. A system of compensation might cause less
>harm than some of the trade barriers that governments create to
>protect jobs, but a better approach would be to create futures
>markets whose prices communicate future wages in particular
>industries and enable employees to hedge some of their risks.

Okay, I'm willing to accept your meaning of objective since you
agree that it doesn't imply that anyone owes something for the loss.
A futures market seems like a good way of allowing people both to
learn what the prospects are in various lines of work, and to
arbitrage away some of their exposure. (What a surprise that we
agree that idea futures are a good thing. :-)

> Being not bothered by negative externalities sounds a lot like
>ignoring them. Maybe that's appropriate when the negative
>externalities are an inevitable consequence of what creates the
>positive ones, but in many cases I doubt the connection between
>the two is inevitable.

I think I appear to ignore them because I'm still waiting for
evidence that these negative externalities are important enough to
be worth acting on. I can see that pollution affects everyone
nearby, whether they're a party to the polluting activity or not.
Every time I think about the negative externalities that "Luxury
Fever" discussed, it looks like they only affect those who buy
into the comparative scale of wealth. I don't see that I've done
something extraordinary in order to feel immune to this competition,
so it looks to me like an externality that anyone can opt out of.

Not many do opt out, so maybe I should take it more seriously. But
it feels like the best thing I can do for anyone feeling envious or
comparatively poor is to show them that it's possible to not worry
about it.


It is easy to turn an aquarium into fish soup, but not so easy to turn 
fish soup back into an aquarium.
-- Lech Walesa on reverting to a market economy.
Chris Hibbert

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