Re: genocide

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 22:15:43 -0500

Anton Sherwood wrote:
> Eliezer writes--
> : There's no way I can be sure. If I'd grown up [...] in the beginning
> : of the 19th century, I might think slavery was a fine idea. There's
> : no *instinct* that acts against such ideas. Quite the contrary.
> : Even I am not arrogant enough to assume that I, through sheer logic
> : and innate moral superiority, could duplicate a hundred years of
> : hard-earned experience.
> Yeah, I remember as a child (before my meme-antibodies were mature)
> thinking, secretly, that eliminating or repressing the inferiors
> seemed like good sport.
> But what *experience* cured us of such notions?
> How did slavery change, to persuade us that it's a bad thing?

Well... this may seem awfully cynical, but what happened was that technology
came along and made slavery unprofitable for the North, which suddenly
discovered that it was morally abhorrent when the South did it.

> : Perhaps I'm from the video generation, then, but it seems to me that
> : civilization is a thin veneer over basic human nature, and basic human
> : nature has no problem with killing at all. I hope I never need to
> : kill anyone, but if I have to, I don't think that doing so would be
> : either difficult or traumatic. Uncouple civilized restraints and
> : killing would barely ripple the emotional surface of the mind.
> : Still, I could be wrong. With luck, time will never tell.
> Some say that cold-blooded killing usually requires a sort of
> self-hypnosis with the idea that the Enemy is not human.

It's not self-hypnosis, any more than anger is self-hypnosis or laughing is
self-hypnosis. It's all there, ready to be used.

> It took a war in which THE LOSERS were guilty of genocide.
> To kill Nazis, Allied soldiers had to be taught that Nazis are inhuman.
> When it came out that the Nazis had a program of genocide, it was easy
> to make the association that genocide is inhuman.

Yeah, I said as much in a post that was already in progress when I got this one.

> : Perhaps that very taboo is responsible for our refusal to acknowledge
> : the lesser genocides. Still, we do try to stop them - although not
> : with enough force.
> Wanna know what made me sick? Seeing Harlan Ellison (a Jew) on
> _Politically Incorrect_ defending one of the FBI's famous recent
> slaughters of the differently-opinionated.

They violated the no-racial-hatred taboo.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.