Re: Down With Democracy?

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 14:33:10 MDT

On Sat, Oct 06, 2001 at 10:54:06AM -0700, Technotranscendence wrote:
> I think they are mostly complimentary. In order to sustain technological
> and cultural progress we need a market like social structure -- one that can
> easily, nonlinearly search the possibility space for new ideas. (Markets
> are spontaneous orders; ultimately, the kind of libertarianism proposed by
> others and me is based on an equality of authority -- each person being her
> or his own leader -- rather than an equality of some results.)

I would say markets are a special case (a very important special case)
of the general spontaneous order; there are many non-market spontaneous
orders such as evolution and swarm processing that also do nonlinear
searches. But I agree that we need a market like social structure,
something that enables the exploration and growth of different
solutions. This is essentially the Popperian defense of the open society
on the grounds that it conforms with evolutionary epistemology.

> Therefore, I think market-like structures -- or social structures that allow
> market interactions -- i.e., individual, voluntary ones -- are more
> Extropian than the alternatives. This does not mean every society must be
> exactly the same, down to the lowest interaction level.

In fact there is a benefit in having different societies - just as there
is a benefit in having many problem solving styles within a society,
there is a benefit of having different social problem solving styles
within the society of societies. And just as in the previous case the
rules of this metasociety ought to minimize conflicts between societies
and enable individual, voluntary interactions between them.
> Notably, the more free, in terms of individual initiative -- what other type
> of freedom is there? -- a social there is, the more overall progress there
> typically is. Also, self-transformation and not serving a social order is
> the hallmark of such societies. (Granted, members of such societies might
> not always choose the right way to do this and most people, sadly, prefer
> confromity, but this is true of all society types.) Such societies also
> exhibit practical optimism, since the focus of change is usually at the
> microlevel -- not at the level of grand social schemes than absorb and blur
> out individual choice. All of these are Extropian values, right?

Exactly. Different cultures and social systems are not equivalent when
it comes to allowing the development of transhuman virtues. At the same
time, there might be interesting issues of how they could be expressed
in cultures with different values (I'm reading Geert Hofstede's work on
different cultures right now); the culture differences between the
europeans and americans on this list is just a minor example - the
complications when adapting the transhumanist conceptual framework to
cultures with great power distance and low levels of individualism.

> Now, a society that stifles microlevel change is, in my eyes, less like a
> dynamic society able to support progress. At best, the command society can
> foster sweeping changes but only top down. The directions for change are
> limited, and typically many individuals are unable to adjust. They get left
> out. Strict majority rule, e.g., does this. The majority gets its way. If
> the majority wants pizza, the rest can't choose to have the salad or
> whatever.

Which is why so much effort has been put into the creation of liberal
democracy rather than majority democracy, and why no major countries
have majority democracy. I think Hoppe was ignoring this to a large
extent in his article, making it an attack on democracy rather than on
stifling top-down solutions.

> Let me explicate another point. I think we can all agree that Extropianism
> to be optimally carried out is not compatible with every form of society.
> This is a meta-issue in this debate. Or do we agree on this?

I agree at least.
The question to ask is how the current society should and could be
changed to increase the possibility of extropian dynamism. Given the
above discussion it seems that we actually have some fairly clear ideas
on what kind of institutions would favor extropianism, at least within
our own societies.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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