Re: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Anders Sandberg (
19 Mar 1999 18:31:09 +0100 writes:

> Ah, Benevolent Despotism....
> It is an old meme which holds a siren call for many. "There is no way to
> get these terrible people to agree with anything sensible....I think maybe we
> could find at least ONE good and righteous person, so why not give that person
> all the power?" It does have its appeals....of course, the problem is that
> you have to continue to agree with every decision of your Benevolent Despot,
> or else the meme in your mind quickly transmutes to Oppressive Tyrant

It is really a bit surprising that this idea comes up on this list, since it is really the exact opposite of self organization and self determination and so on.

I think information theory is important for designing systems of government. Why doesn't central planning work very well? Because it will not be able to get enough (and the *right*) information (besides things like corruption and bureaucracy as well as that it doesn't take individual preferences into account). The benevolent despot draws this to an extreme, that despot would have to process *all* relevant information for his society, something which seems to require at least SI. But if you have an SI ruler, it is likely that there will be close-to-SI systems out in society making things even more complex anyway; the only way to solve it is to have a ruler SI that has an information processing ability on the same order of the rest of society - but then you get an *internal* regulation problem for the ruler, since its own mind is just as complex as the society it tries to regulate well. Oops :-) Putting the despot into charge of a big and helpful bureaucracy doesn't solve the problem either, since now the bureaucracy + despot is equivalent to a SI, with the added problems of human nature embedded in the system.

> And of course, you begin to run into REAL problems if in fact the
> person you've installed as dictator is actually making mistakes,
> because who is there to correct them?

_Aristoi_ comes to mind. That is what really irritated me about the book, the political system was inherently unstable (or at least metastable). Having a distributed system of many enlightened despots makes the risks smaller, but they will never vanish. Still, the book also demonstrated some of the basic flaws in the Logarchy fairly well.

I have played enough Civilization II to realize how frightening an enlighted despot can be. "I must make the citizens of Pseudopolis happy. So I'll send their musketeers to a certain death over in Sto Lat, and they will become happier since they don't have any boys in the field any more." ;-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y