Luddites, Terrorists, and Other Malcontents (PLE 2 of 100)

From: I William Wiser (
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 14:46:10 MDT

Luddites, Terrorists, and Other Malcontents

Because I have so much to do I often try to generalize problems and solve
several at once. My favorite problem is keeping humanity, myself, my
favorite humans, and as many other people as possible alive. Lately, I have
been thinking social conflict may be the greatest threat to humans (middle
aged and younger).

I started with the concept of oppression and refined that to unreasonable
group violence. That got me asking who are the most dangerous people in the
world. But I think I have a better question.

Separate humans from other animals and physical objects. What are the human
behaviors, ideas, inventions, etc. that have done the most good or harm for
humans. What have they been historically, what can we observe now, and what
do we think they will be in the future. I think death is a good metric but
we can include injury, suffering, joy, etc.

By looking at historical and current death rates around the world, filtering
out the contribution of nature, microbes, etc., and concentrating on the
effects humans are having on other humans I suspect some useful data will
come out. What are humans doing that helps or harms other human beings?
Why are they doing it? Which memes (ideas) reliably improve situations and
which make them worse. Are there particular humans or groups consistently
doing a lot of harm or good?

In many cases cause and effect will be unclear. In many cases there will be
mixed effects. However, I expect in some cases there will be clear effects
and fairly direct links to human behavior and thought habits which cause or
prevent deaths. This analysis could be done for humans in general or could
be restricted to humans in developed or globally influential areas.

I think this is a good general conception of the terrorist problem. Once we
identify the helpful and harmful behaviors, ideas, people, etc. solutions
may be apparent. One of the big tricks may be focusing on clear harm
(deaths, injury, etc.) which obviously flows from actual human actions and
ideas rather than developing a bunch of speculative theories.

Legal, scientific, and historical reasoning all seem especially relevant to
this sort of analysis. I think it will be important once such an analysis
is made to consider which people, (or ideas?) would be most likely to
actively oppose your efforts to support good and oppose harm. The concept
may be fairly safe to discuss because most people mean to do good (I guess)
but once you have the list and start trying to do something about it you
will want to be sure you are prepared for opposition. I suspect a lot of
people will simply desist if the arguments are clear and reasonable.
Whatever; solutions come after the friends and foes of life are identified.

I have a few major projects (and a number of small personal ones) lined up
before I tackle this one but it is one of the likely paths I will go down in
pursuing my life extension goals. I thought I would mention this one and
see if anyone wants to get started on it or throw some ideas around. I see
it as a small to medium size group project but I think a few people could do
a lot of the groundwork.

I see a possible application to AI ethics; certainly this is relevant to
human ethics. This sort of analysis may also be helpful in looking at
recent terrorists incidents and formulating responses. Then again, it might
be overkill.

I suppose one of the perks of living in a fairly closed system (Earth) is
that it simplifies such cause and effect analysis. One of the things the
World Trade Center massacre points out is that any such analysis best be
global in scope.

As always, feedback is appreciated.

I. William Wiser []
Life Extension and Quality of Life Consultant

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