RE: Truth machines

Billy Brown (
Mon, 21 Dec 1998 18:56:10 -0600

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Smart dictators? How many dictators do you know of who are smart enough
> to privately acknowledge that free-market economies work better?
> Besides which, I find it rather hard to believe that even a system of
> truth machines could create a healthy, functioning free-market
> autocracy.

I see no reason to expect dictators to be stupid. Some rulers do seem to understand that free markets generate wealth (Singapore is a decent example), and there could be others who simply don't act on the understanding. The problem, for them, is that allowing that first bit of freedom endangers their own position too much to be worth the risk, by making it much easier to stage a revolution.

> If you shoot everyone who thinks about rebelling,
> nobody is left to do the work. Shoot only those people who actually begin
> planning, and eventually a completely spontaneous uprising will knock
> off the dictator. Autocracy fundamentally relies on massive
> poverty and fear and I don't think truth machines are strong enough to
> change that. Nanotechnology, where the autocrat is simply stronger than
> rest of the population, might make autocracy practicable..

If the economy is good, you can indulge your personal vices, and the secret police only bother real criminals, who is going to bother to rebel? In most countries only a small minority of the population actually cares about freedom - what most people want is security. In America, or England, or a few other countries with a democratic tradition, things might be different, but most of the world doesn't care about democracy per se. They just want to be able to get by without someone shooting them.

> The question is whether truth machines enhance the collective
> intelligence by eliminating liars and exploiters, or dehance by
> requiring rationalization and eliminating dissent.

I agree. I don't see a good way to determine the answer without an experiment, but I am disposed to expect the worst. Anything that moves us closer to a pure democracy is more likely to make things worse than better.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I