Re: Immortality and Resources

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 05 Feb 1997 13:06:09 -0800

I was going to let this thread die for lack of time, but Mr de
Lyser let me know by private mail that he was interested in seeing
my reply, and that he'd like to carry on the discussion in public.

J. de Lyser writes:
>Socialism did work for Russia in the first half of the century, (even
>authoritarian) but don't force me into defending a system i don't believe

I'm not forcing you to do anything. You just *chose* to defend
Lenin's Russia. As far as I'm concerned, any system in which I
could be taken from my home by the authorities without warning and
shot in the back of the head for no particular reason is a system
which does not work. So I dispute your assertion, as well as pinning
all the responsibility for making that assertion on you.

>I'm just saying many polictical systems have elements that are
>productive and elements that are counterproductive. And that denying that
>is irrational.

This is irrelevant because I haven't denied any such thing.

>Counterproductive policies are present in most political systems. Having a
>(minimal) state/ or having policies *should* allow a society control over
>natural forces that become counterproductive, needless to say it's often
>the state that institutionalises counterproduvtive policies. Saying there's
>more counterproductive policies in socialist thought than in capitalist
>thougth i agree to wholeheartedly. Saying theres no counterproductivity in
>capitalist systems is denying facts, saying there will be none in any other
>proposed system is utopy.
>'laissez faire' ideals are very high on my list of priorities, but assuring
>they keep working somehow is a logical goal isn't it ?

The only sense I can make of this is that you are assuming that
the state is necessary for redressing "counterproductive policies".
But this is vague. I have no interest in redressing anyone else's
counterproductive policies, as long as they don't mess with me, my
friends, or my stuff. There are problems involving commons,
externalities, and public goods, and some of these are severe
problems for local governments. But nearly all such things should
be handled by local governments, yet most tax funds in my country
go to the Federal government or to fulfilling Federal government
mandates. Are you saying that if someone chooses to engage in
"counterproductivity" on their own time and with their own stuff,
that the State should step in and "correct" them? Please be more
specific if this is not what you mean.

Assuring that "laissez faire" ideals "keep working somehow" doesn't
seem to be anything that any State that I know has been very
effective at doing. All that's needed is for people to refrain from
violating one another's persons and property, and the vast majority
of people do that anyway because it's how they want to be treated
by strangers. The few who do not do that anyway hardly require that
50% of the gross world product be spent on suppressing them, yet
that's how much (approximately) this planet spends on government.

>ALL political systems legitimize the use of violence to punish voluntary
>and consensual exchange to some degree (you've already stated an example
>later on in your reply). The problem here is that your 'specific negative
>externality' is a very vague concept, and may very well conflict with the
>both the 'voluntary' and 'consensual' parts of your statement.

It's not vague at all... it's a technical term from microeconomics. And
it is not true that all possible political systems legitimize the use of
violence to punish voluntary and consensual exchange. You seem to think
that I am defending some political system that is actually in practice
today. I am not. There are political systems that have been practiced in
the past that, with some fairly uncontroversial adjustments (mostly
liberalizing ones) would suit me better than the system I live under
now, but my political ideal is a new thing that has never been done
before, just as our ideal of eternal life is a new thing that has never
been done before.

>Problem is that socialist thought is so integrated in our current societies
>that it may not be possible to abandon without abandoning democracy. Why
>spend effort on goals that are unrealistic, why not focus on ones that are
>acchievable instead ?

I am perfectly content to abandon democracy. You'd better not
respond to this line, though, I hear that advocating such things
can land one in jail in Europe.

Why spend effort on goals that are unrealistic, such as space
migration, intelligence increase, and life extension? Why not focus
on ones that are achievable instead, like cutting taxes while
at the same time improving state-provided medical care and education?

>Nor do i Eric, i assure you. Like you their are policies of political
>systems i would never 'go with', but i don't think you fully realize that a
>political system and it's infrastructure forms an individuals sense of
>Reality. His rationality, his ethics, his LOGIC are shaped to work within
>that system. And personally i don't see why there could have been no
>transhumanist movement in even a communist state, or a fascist state,
>ofcourse linked with ideals we would all view very sceptically.

There were certainly some actively transhumanistic people in Russia,
following in Tsiolkovski's footsteps. Some of them got out after
the revolution, and some of them stayed inside and tried to make
the best of things there, and I salute their courage for not just
giving up in the circumstances in which they found themselves. I
am *not* attempting to change the political system anyone else
lives under. I have seen political ideals, just ideas, do a *hell*
of a lot of damage in history, yet I do not believe in using force
to suppress political ideals with which I disagree. Because I will
not sanction the use of force to suppress such ideals, I thereby
feel what amounts to nearly an obligation to oppose those dangerous
ideals in argument wherever I encounter them. That's the basis of
my response to Jim Legg. I'm still not sure I understand why you
are objecting to the response I made to Jim Legg.

>What i am saying is that transhumanist goals are very high on my list of
>priorities, higher maybe than political systems and their policies, but not
>higher than human rights and freedom. Some people on this list just place
>their political priorities (personal?) over the long term priotities of
>humanity, i guess.

No. I honestly believe that that the State is an atavism, a left-over, a
self-perpetuating relic of the violence and warfare that routinely
characterized early Middle-Eastern civilization. I don't think war and
crime can be done away with eternally, but I think that the existence of
a system of nation-states causes more crime and warfare than it
prevents. I honestly believe this, so for you to rebuke my political
priorities for being "personal" or "selfish" is totally incorrect. If I
were truly selfish in my politics, I would have no interest in political
persuasion at all. I'd just avoid the state and let other people suffer.
Furthermore, I think it is the political structure of this planet that
consitutes the single greatest barrier to transhumanist goals. I do not
place a higher priority on political goals than on transhumanist goals,
instead, my sense of urgency about my political goals stems directly
from the fact that in my opinion implementing my political goals will
directly and immediately contribute to my chances of success in
implementing my transhumanist goals.

>Oh i did notice, i also noticed that libertarians political influence is
>very small, and allthough i sincerely hope that will change, i also hope
>transhumanists among them do not lose their sense of reality. I don't
>favour socialist thought, but the majority in your country seems to do so
>for the moment, even though THEY may not be aware of it being socialist
>thought :-).

Someone must oppose that majority and raise that awareness. Where does
it start? Besides, I'd never have gotten to where I am now if I'd ever
spent much time worrying about whether or not other people thought I had
lost my "sense of reality", whatever that means. I've got a perfectly
good nervous system, and I'll take that over a "sense of reality" any

>ANY planning/strategy a RATIONAL organisation has, cannot allow their
>personal dislike of certain policies to blind themselves to these. Refusing
>to accept that they are there, and will be there for the immediate future
>to deal with, will lead to fleeing / hiding oneself in utopy, and will
>certainly be counterproductive...

What made you think I was espousing anything like this? I think you are
jumping to conclusions about what course of action I am endorsing. I
have no idea how to most effectively attack the state. Actually, I have
a few ideas, and the cypherpunks are already actively working on some of
them. There are other routes. None of them look particularly promising
by themselves, but with several different people working on several
different routes at once, perhaps things will improve over the long
term, just as they had been improving politically for hundreds of years
before the twentieth century. If I get any bright ideas that I don't
already see a lot of people working on, I'll let you know.

>I don't doubt the seriousness of the people on this list and the ideals
>they believe in. But fact remains that MOST peoples political choice is,
>has always been, and will always remain based on their personal financial
>improvement, and are perfectly willing to give up some freedom for that, as
>they perfectly logically mistake the organisational power of the state for
>financial power. Bread and circusses...

Of course it is based on their personal financial improvement. If enough
people got *sincere* about being interested in their personal financial
improvement they might study a little microeconomics and then it would
become quite obvious to them how the politicians are robbing them
blind. Perhaps I am playing a fool's game... perhaps the vast majority
of people are congenitally incapable of thinking in microeconomic terms.
I'll be sure to take a look at the study proving this as soon as it
comes out, but I won't change my tune before then.

>The Eurocracy of Europe is already forming, we now have four governements
>to suck us dry instead of three. Yet it's reality,


>>Just say no to death and taxes.
>i keep saying no, but they keep coming back :-)

I like Philip K. Dick's definition of reality: it's what doesn't
go away when you stop believing in it. (You'd be surprised how much
stuff turns out to be unreal under this definition.) On the other
hand, I also like Robert Anton Wilson's definition of reality: it's
what you can get away with. When you say the Eurocracy is real, I
don't think you're thinking long-term enough. From a very-long-term
perspective, these things are like clouds or mists, not like the
laws of physics. I'm also aware that people use this same argument
to try to get rid of the institution of private property, but I
think by now that we've run that particular experiment enough times
that we can stop repeating that mistake on empirical grounds. Every
time societies have tried to get rid of the state in the past,
they've started by trying to get rid of property. I think this is
a precisely ass-backwards way to approach anarchism.

Of course you need to treat the Eurocracy as real when deciding
what to do this week or this month. But I think it is a very bad
mistake to *assume* that the Eurocracy will be real in twenty years.
The state is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has gone on fulfilling
itself for thousands of years. Start breaking the chain. The state
is *just* a group of people who have arrogated certain privileges
to themselves, and that's all. Don't land yourself in jail, but at
the very least, you could try to curb your temptation to use statist
rhetoric, or to defend those who do so. That would be a start.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++