Re: Islam, theology and politeness

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 12:27:23 MST

On Wed, Mar 14, 2001 at 03:21:20PM -0800, J. R. Molloy wrote:
> From: "Charlie Stross" <>
> > Now, given that a lot of the political conflicts, famines, and other
> > unpleasantnesses we live with today are scarcity-related, doesn't it
> > make sense to try to understand how two thirds of the human species
> > will respond to technologies that promise to make most of the roots of
> > conflict magically go away?
> First, I think people immature enough to truly believe in "technologies
> that promise to make most of the roots of conflict magically go away"
> don't belong in science or technology,

Like it or not, that's the impression of the benefits of nanotechnology
that goes over first via the press, especially in their most gee-whiz

And that's the impression that's going to go over to the teeming billions,
because many of them don't have the rationalist education to absorb anything
deeper. Science and technology *are* seen as magic by many people, even

(Would you rather they picked up the equivalent of the green sky-is-falling
evil-GM-will-kill-us meme?)

> .... Scarcity has never been the problem. Just the
> opposite; overpopulation creates social problems. Politics and
> distribution failures produce scarcity, but that has to do with misuse of
> technology rather than any lack of technology itself.

No disagreement, other than to add that economic problems also arise from
political ones. And saying "the invisible hand will correct things" is
simply begging the question -- what happens during the "correction"?

> > Just because you don't approve of somebody's beliefs, it does not follow
> > that you can safely ignore them.
> As I understand it, extropy has nothing to do with "approving" beliefs. It
> has to do with science and technology... which needs to ignore belief
> systems in order to remain objective.

Technology is a tool. The uses to which it is put are highly dependent on
the social, religious, and political beliefs of the users. (The uses to
which it *can* be put are determined by the laws of nature, I'll grant
you.) The point is, how the technologies are deployed (or not) depends on
what people want to do with them. Which in turn depends on their pre-
existing beliefs.

> The danger lies not in ignoring
> belief systems, but rather in taking them seriously. As long as we can
> still laugh at the absurdities of religion,

You're staking out a very dangerous position here -- assuming that
everybody shares your contempt for religious thinking. Most people
don't. In fact, if they associate such attitudes with the new technologies,
they'll reject the technologies, because their value system (however
skewed you think it is) will lead them to conclude that those technologies
are inimical.

Do you think you can manage to disentangle your own personal beliefs from
your analysis of how people who don't share those beliefs might behave?
Otherwise, we aren't going to have a very fruitful discussion.

-- Charlie

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