Re: Luddites attack genegineered crop [#3]

Anders Sandberg (
25 Oct 1997 14:17:24 +0200

"den Otter" <> writes:

> Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > If Frankenstein had had his lab in a small cottage inside the village
> > instead of a forbidding castle in the mountains, the villagers would
> > have been less inclined to storm him with torches and pitchforks.
> They would have if they ever found out. In fact, I'm sure they would be
> *very* displeased if they knew that someone was creating a monster made of
> stolen bodyparts in the middle of their cosy little neighborhood.

Secrecy breeds hostility. If you have something in the cellar and
people don't know what it is, it is much easier to regard it as evil
than if you do your work in public. Yes, there will be people who
disagree with you, but there wont be a similar risk of the whole
village showing up with torches. Openness is a good way of making
others accept you and to get interested in your work.

In a discussion on propaganda I participated in yesterday we decided
that it is easiest to label something as evil in the minds of people
if they know very little about it than if they know the thing
reasonably well (fairly obvious). If you keep your work hidden and
heavily defended, people will start to think you have a lot to hide
and it will be very simple for the real luddites to convince them that
you are doing disgusting things. On the other hand invite the
neighbors to visit, they will be much less inclined to listen to
propaganda. Exactly the same method works for fighting racism - it is
hard to be a racist if you know foreign people.

> > What we really need is to make people understand the new technologies
> > with an open mind. Just educating them about how they work has the
> > surprising effect of just polarizing the opinion (the
> > pro-genengineering camp becomes more pro, the anti-camp more
> > anti). This is very hard, but we need to do it or else we are going to
> > need your defenses even in our homes ("A transhuman! Kill the ugly
> > mutant!!").
> Ok, any tips?

One thing would be to set up educational websites with good and clear
information anybody could access, preferably on several levels (from
kindergarten to PhD level). Ideally these sites should be interactive
so that people could ask questions and get good answers back.

Another thing is to start discussing these technologies in public
*now*, not wait until they suddenly bursts onto the scene and
everybody gets moral panic.

Do discuss transhuman technologies with friends, but do it in the
right way. Instead of starting with immortality, total transformation
of humanity and the wild effects of nanotechnology, which will only
convince people that you are a sf freak, introduce ideas about dynamic
optimism, cognitive tools to get smarter, how we can live longer using
the right diets and the joy of controlling one's life instead of being
controlled. These are ideas most people can readily accept, which
doesn't contradict anything they think they know, are directly useful
and also leads to more radical ideas in the long run. As a
transhumanist friend of mine uses to say: "The war about the future
will be settled in the coffee break discussions!".

> > Take a look at the controversies about pornography on the internet,
> > the spread of illegal information and terrorism. I don't know about
> > dutch media, but here in sweden the coverage have tended towards the
> > very negative.
> The net doesn't really seem hyped around here, in one way or another.
> Holland is almost pornography heaven. Hardcore is for sale at most
> newsstands and bookstores, and there are plenty of specialized porn
> stores in most larger cities. Besides kiddieporn (under 16 years) just
> about anything goes. There are even some excellent sex with animals mags
> from...Sweden!

It is probably a fairly different debate in different countries, and
Holland is as far as I understand it fairly liberal in this
respect. Not at al puritanical as Sweden! (Yes, the myth about the
free swedish sexuality is just a myth; I suppose said sex is just
exported :-)

> > Several politicians have proposed some rather draconian
> > measures to prevent the spread of this nastiness, but have failed
> > largely due to party politics.
> As far as I know the politicians in holland are trying to get as many
> people *on* the net as possible (don't know exactly why, maybe just
> to look modern or something). They might regret this one day...

They certainly will :-) Actually, it is a smart strategy to get people
onto the net, since that may give the nation an educational edge. But
here in Sweden the government was (and is) definitely trying to make
sure the net only contains wholesome stuff. Of course, that project
failed completely thanks to the fact that any proposal by the Moderate
Party is automaticly sabotaged by the Social Democrats, and vice

> > But I guess that
> > when people start to move to untaxable digital money, the government
> > will see that as a direct attack.
> But what can they do about it, and how would this affect transhumanism?

Things could get rather messy. It is all a question of how fast things
can chamge. If just a few people use the net for untaxable
transactions, then it is a great excuse for the governments to hunt
them down, scan the net and generally create a "war on tax fraud" -
likely with great public support if they can make the media say that
the only people using this are rich capitalists. On the other hand, if
there exists economical software that everybody can use and it becomes
widespread before the governments can stop it, then they will have a
hard time doing anything.

Transhumanism isn't really about how money should flow or not, but a
sizeable number of transhumanists are extropians and hence laud this
kind of development, and many of us really want to control our own
money in the ways we want. So there would be a link to the
transhumanist movement, that is sure.

> Well, I'm working on a text for the local group for the proliferation of
> transhumanistic ideas *right now* :-)

Great! And I'm working on a tutorial for arguing for
transhumanism. Good luck!

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