Re: The meta-invisible hand

The Low Golden Willow (
Sun, 21 Sep 1997 13:22:41 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 20, 4:12am, Anders Sandberg wrote:

} also on politics as a whole. If the market is very free, undesirable
} factors (such as unemployment, inequalities or people treated
} badly by companies) will tend to push it in the direction of
} greater government interference and give power to unions. On the other

} pro-market forces, pushing for freedom. So the end result is that
} the "meta-invisible hand" will lead to a balanced politics somewhere
} between the free market and a government-run economy.

I like this idea a lot. One of the things which bugs me about the
current radical libertarian movement, I think, is the frequent
screeching against government as an immoral intrusion upon the innocent
free society. It may be immoral, but some form -- of many different
forms! -- of government has been natural to every stable human
society. Hunter-gatherers might be closest to anarchy, but they're
without much war, not without violence. And we aren't
hunter-gatherers. Since then any natural anarchy that I know of has
promptly moved into warlordism, one of the uglier forms of government.

} It is worth noting that the system can stagnate into an attractor,
} at least if it is small. If the system is small it can easily get
} trapped in a one-policy state since for few actors, the number

Not just small. China stagnated technologically from the 14th century
(Jacobs claims China since unification -- 221 BC -- was far less
innovative than before, but I dunno) and it was pretty big. It was
almost everything of interest around it, except for island Japan, which
did something similar, and Korea, about which I know little. Such
isolation may well be the problem, of course, which argues against
simple world-government schemes rather strongly.

} One problem is that even if policy fitness is maximized, it
} doesn't necessarily maximize human happiness or growth. Neither

Ah, well, happiness and growth don't necessarily maximize each other.
Not when happiness can come from play and exploration (not to mention
watching TV, but never mind), and growth involves working hard to get
the necessities of life, or feeling compelled to grow fast to afford
defense, or because someone who grows faster might turn around and
gobble you up.

My extropian dream, which I think is shared by the Culture, is to reach
a state where play and exploration ('science') by conscious entities,
combined with automation of grunge work, can outcompete/outgrow (because
of the massive playfront) workaholic conscious entities maximizing
short-term growth by gobbling, or whatnot. I'm not sure this is
possible. But I think this connects with what Holly Pearson and Paul
Hughes were saying. They'd rather live ludically than strenuously. Or
consider the recent debate over the Netherlands' economy: the fact that
many Dutch aren't working might indicate that they're onto a good thing.
So they aren't growing. There is growth not measurable by dollars.

Banks on von Neumann machines: "It would be perfectly possible to build
a Von Neumann machine that would build copies of itself and eventually,
unless stopped, turn the universe into nothing but those self-copies,
but the question does arise; why? What is the point? To put it in what
we might still regard as frivolous terms but which the Culture would
have the wisdom to take perfectly seriously, where is the fun in that?"

Alas, evolution does not seem to select for fun. Evolution seems to
select for the ability to turn the universe into nothing but
self-copies, or the ability to render other-copies inoperative.
Competition works. The question, I think, is to what degree can
competition be tamed? We've already done a decent job: ideas compete
and die before leaving our minds, then compete to survive criticism.
Thus progress can happen without hurting people (although it will change
them) if they don't indentify with their ideas too strongly. Companies
compete and fail, but their component humans can get new jobs.
Wargamers ravage galaxies on tabletops. I suggest that we should want
to encourage this trend.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

"The problem with Danny was that he felt the entire human race was so
peculiar that no single peculiarity, unless it was harmful, made any
more impression on him than any other. He knew, mostly from painful
experience, that other people had different reactions, and he could make
you feel like a creep or a bigot in ten seconds." -- Pamela Dean,_Tam Lin_