Re: Legislation advancing the cause of social evolution

Abraham Moses Genen (
Fri, 25 Jul 1997 12:10:37 -0400

Abraham Moses Genen
Being dedicated to the future progress of humankind
should be the prime concern of all civilized beings.

Dear Anton and other fellow Extropians:

In a recent message Anton asked me what the most significant piece of
legislation I ever worked on was. He stated that this was done to please
the Anarchists among us. (Yes, I was at the Woodstock festival way back
when, but, that's another story.)

I'm not really sure that I can fully answer that question since the long
term effects of some of the legislative actions I was involved in have not
yet had their full effect.
On the other hand one of the laws that I helped promulgate many years ago
has already had a significant effect in the State of New York. It was, if
nothing else, one of the most enjoyable and enlightening inquiries I ever
worked on.

I guess that it's nostalgic story time.

Many eons ago I became involved in a legal and sociological inquiry into
social referral services. Sometimes, under certain circumstances, they are
referred to as computer dating services. This inquiry resulted from
consumer complaints about a computer dating service that was opperating in

It seems that some door-to-door salesmen were involved in selling the
service for in excess of $1000. while using a retail installment contract
with a fairly high interest rate. They claimed in their sales pitch that
the matches that they could make using a computer would be absolutely
compatible with their client's profiles. They offered a guarantee of
compatibility or your money back. Obviously, the claims and the refund
offer were somewhat lacking in sincerity.

While conducting the inquiry and gathering evidence I was able to
determine the following:

1. The company did not have a computer.
2. There was no data base of compatible characteristics.
3. Only very (highly?) limited social and psychological research had been
done in the scientific disciplines on the subjects of social, intellectual
and emotional compatability.
4. Congress had refused to appropriate funds to the NIMH and other
interested social scientists to conduct research and other studies in
human compatibility (This obviously contradicts the claims of many well
know politicians claimed interest in "family values") as a waste of
taxpayers funds.
5. The information on clients of the company was available for commercial
exploitation (and possible blackmail).

As the evidence of possible wrongdoing accumulated we held a public
hearing in advance of preparing and intoducing legislation. Among the
experts I consulted with while accumulating evidence were Dr. Margaret
Mead, Dr. Benjamin A. Passamanick, Dr. Stanley Milgram, Dr. Abraham Maslow
and numerous other prominant social scientists. I also interviewed several
hundred of the consumers who had given money to the company. In the
process I think I learned a little about human behavior.

Following the hearing a bill was introduced in the NYS legislature which
resulted in Section 394-c of the General Business Law.

The legislation, which regulated for-profit organizations involved in the
sale of commercial social referal services saved a lot of people a lot of
money in the very short term. It provided guarantees that the privacy of
the people who became involved in social referral service schemes would be
protected. It provided a basis whereby legitimate research in human
compatibility could be conducted. It helped to educate many professionals
as to the extent of the problems of "The Lonely Crowd."

Ultimately, the actions we took, in addition to passing needed regulatory
resulted in some changes and improvements in our social systems.

While these changes may seem minor in the overall scheme of things, I'd
like to think that It had some real effect on educating and otherwise
helping a lot of people over the years.

Even if we don't accomplish all we that we would like to accomplish in our
lifetimes, as long as what little we do accomplish aids our society in
some material way and makes the world we live in a better place, then, I
think, we have lived a worthwhile life.