Re: Meritocracies and freedom of information

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sat Oct 13 2001 - 08:58:32 MDT

On Sat, Oct 13, 2001 at 08:33:13PM +0800, Chen Yixiong, Eric wrote:
> > This is a fundamental question for me -- on the one hand I would
> > certainly like the information to be available to overthrow an
> > oppressive government dedicated to limiting my freedoms. At the
> > same time I am reluctant to adapt a position that makes such
> > information available to people (essentially "other tribes")
> > that would like to use it not only to destroy my security shield
> > but *my* way of thinking entirely (be it *either* a U.S. self-preservation
> > or an extropic maximization of information content perspective).

Which government is easiest to overthrow, the US or the Afghan? The
Swedish or the Zimbabwian? Open democratic societies are extremely
resilient, and tend to withstand even severe crises which in less open
societies would lead to chaos. As Edward Luttwak described in _Coup
D'Etat_, performing a coup is only practically possible in countries
with a sufficiently centralised government, which also is isolated
towards the population. In an open society there are many self-repairing
and self-maintaining processes, which means that an attack to disrupt
the society will have to handle all these processes. In closed
societies, such self-repair processes are usually highly regulated and
run by professional agencies which do not base their action on public
support. Hence the closed societies become brittle.

(societies that are a total mess are of course also very stable, things
can't get much worse)

Hence information about overthrowing governments is not that dangerous
in open societies, while very subversive in closed. It might be
interesting to look at which nations have banned Luttwak's book, for
example. If I found out a bug in the US constitution that enabled
dictatorship or some deadlock, I would likely publish it, because I know
a lot of people would immediately start trying to find ways of patching
it. This is equivalent to what happens in open source: open societies
get constructive criticism on all levels, and even if they don't
immediately fix all the problems (sometimes it takes a lot of time and
effort to overcome inertia) problems get fixed. In closed societies you
get punished for pointing out problems, and they will hence never be

> I, personally, would prefer a society with an open information flow than a censored one. However, until we can find out how to
> resolve such troublesome issues, we might still need some censorship or having to refrain from construction of a large scale colony.

Do that. Meanwhile I will run mine with free information. We'll see
which one attracts the best people, the most investors and develops
the best relationship with the world. Historical evidence seem to
favor mine, despite your issues.

Somehow free riders, closed societies not reciprocating and all the
other problems did not stop the US from becoming world leader in
nearly everything, while all the societies that systematically try
to censor information have not done as well. In fact, I think that
if you made a plot of GNP versus openness (there simply has to be
such a plot somewhere), you would see that in general more open
societies earn far more (with some special case exceptions like
microstates like the Vatican and oil countries where income is
based on raw materials).

(A start might be

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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