`capitalist' character values

From: Damien Broderick (d.broderick@english.unimelb.edu.au)
Date: Sat Jul 21 2001 - 01:02:08 MDT

At 11:28 PM 7/20/01 -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:

>Now I am *NOT* disputing that these may be (or may not be) *correct*
>explanations; what I am criticizing is that the old maxims of personal
>responsibility are being abandoned.

Well, I'd have thought it had *some* bearing on whether those maxims have
any relevance in a given situation. Perhaps it doesn't matter *how* a mad
person was brought up; a mad person's criminal impulses or slovenliness
might perhaps be unmodified by learning that A is A and that a penny saved
is a penny earned.

>Every call to feed the homeless,
>to provide a "safety net", to provide medical care free for everyone,
>to guarantee that if you are struck in a roadway you'll be provided
>for whether or not you have made provisions, and so on, all weaken
>the memes that help people in the long run.

The key factor to consider right now is that the `long run' is about to run

Making provision in the old-fashioned way might be as salient to preparing
for the Spike as polishing your brand-new car during the build-up to a
spasm nuclear war.

Of course, it's possible that if the singularity takes a comparatively slow
ramp up to an unforeseeable transcendence, it'd make sense to sock away a
lot of money now in order to buy incremental improvements--life extension
drugs and surgery, like that. But hey, if money's all you need, I'm sure
plenty of crack merchants will be there waving their plastic cards. Of
course, they're also industrious and provident, after their fashion (`think
of it as evolution in action').

But the socially redemptive virtues you invoke only deserve to be installed
and maintained if the world keeps kicking over in the same old way. And we
here on this list have agreed, pretty much (haven't we?), that this sure
isn't too likely.

Aside: In THE SPIKE I advocate measures such as guaranteed income, funded
from taxes, as a stop-gap to alleviate the worst effects of patchy poverty
caused, in many cases, by a specific family history of prejudice, neglect
or cultural deracination, and also to help salvage those flung out of work
due to the acceleration of technological innovations. Maybe we'll need such
measures increasingly during the next 20 or 30 or even 50 years (Eliezer,
ever the optimist, thinks we'll have real AI inside 10 years). I don't
think they'll destroy too many incentives in that time, at least not as
many as they might encourage. The idea, after all, isn't to make every poor
person a millionaire, just to make certain that they're modestly housed,
clothed and fed. And if they spend their small pittance on booze and drugs
and big screen TV sets? I dunno, line 'em up against the wall and shoot
'em? (For future readers of the archives: that was just a tasteless joke,
not a policy recommendation.)

That diversion aside, I repeat: Making provision in the old-fashioned way,
and inculcating the personal values appropriate to the frontier or the
1930s or 1950s, looks totally pointless in a world we expect to see
transformed exponentially during the immediate decades ahead.

Damien Broderick

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