Re: Apology (Was: Re: Mass-killings)

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 22:33:40 -0500

Arjen Kamphuis wrote:
> Having re-read what I posted yesterday I guess I owe Eliezer (and anybody
> else who felt offended) some sort of apology. A few *very* nasty memories
> got the best of me there. Maybe I have become a colder-son-of-a-bitch than
> I realized. Sorry about this, I'll work on it.

You don't, they didn't, you haven't, and you need not.

> >I was speaking of seeing it in the morning newspapers, not seeing it in
> >person. More on this a bit later, I'm developing a theory here...
> Can't wait! ;-)

The theory is one of those things that sound ludicrously obvious in retrospect
- that the emotions invoked by an event depend on whether we read it, see
it on TV, visit it in person, or experience it from the victim, attacker and
bystander point of view. The idea is that regardless of the relative
horribleness in ultimate ethical terms, and regardless of the relative
horribleness when visited in person or viewed as a victim, the way the Nazis
ran the Holocaust was the first (only?) genocide that was (1) documented and
(2) came across through the documents. Thus it was the origin of the
anti-genocide taboo.

Perhaps the Holocaust has been the only noticed and publicized genocide since
then because it was the first genocide to arrive in the time of movies, and
the first genocide committed by an unpopular defeated enemy. At the time,
there was no taboo against genocide and everyone's defenses were down. After
that, the taboo went into effect and all the newspapers couldn't print it.

> Yes, in practice we're saying *basically* the same thing. We just arrived
> at our opinions via different paths. Then when 'discussion' becomes
> 'argument' (why is that? hormones?) and all sorts of emotions kick-in
> things become very clouded.

Evolutionary psychology. Losers of arguments often lose mating privileges.

> >I'll handle the ghettos if you handle Cambodia. Deal?
> Deal. As long as we can exchange knowledge & experience on a weekly basis
> (I guess I'll have to get me a portable InmarSat phone for mail-transfer)
> If you happen to develop a nano-bot for defusing mines, let me know.
> Actually Cambodia is not a bad idea, lots of work that needs to be done
> over there. With all this lo(nger)livety taken into account I might be
> running out of interesting mountains if I don't cut down. Maybe I'll spend
> a year doing something else and save some for later ;-).

Why should we need to communicate with each other? The two tasks are utterly
different! To solve the crack ghettos I need to rewrite the government,
redesign the economy, do a neurological on drug addiction, and maybe use
force-evolved viruses to target cocaine supplies.

If you want my recommendation on the genocide problem, here it is:

If people knew what was going on, if they could see videos of children being
cut in half by gunfire instead of reading about "ethnic strife", there would
be enough popular support to send in enough troops to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, our taboo against genocide, and our taboos against violence,
prevent newspapers from printing such pictures, and prevent TVs from showing
such films.

So collect all the documentation you can find into a Web site, Advertise that Web site all over the Internet. Put death
totals for all the countries into the animated banner, and stills from the
most horrifying photos you can find. On the site, have some way for Americans
to immediately send email to their Congressman, the President, maybe a list of
international governmental addresses, a place for them to add their name to
petitions, send email to the U.N., a readable list of the most inspiring
letters mailed from the site...

Considering the technological leverage of our times, one wealthy donor would
probably be enough to finance the entire thing.

Just because the newspapers refuse to print it, and the TVs won't show it, and
the politicians won't talk about it, is no reason we shouldn't know about it.

If the modern genocides are as bad as the Holocaust, show! Don't tell!

There seems to be a fad in inspiring quotes lately. May I introduce one from
the Principia Discordia?


One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess
and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the
radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said

"O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of
Discord! Concubine of Confusion!
O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my
"I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain.
Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant
with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own
people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war.
O, woe."
"But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it."

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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