Re: The "stupid" masses

Alexander Chislenko (
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 16:29:09 -0500

At 06:54 PM 12/26/96 -0800, Hal Finney wrote:
>Actually, each individual who votes plays only a microscopic part in the
>result of the election. So you really can't fault people for the way they
>vote; the amount of responsibility each one carries is vanishingly small.
>In fact, maybe this is the problem - since people know that their
>votes don't really matter, most don't worry much about how they vote.
>You could almost see a democratic election as a system designed to
>minimize personal responsibility for the outcome, and therefore to ensure
>irresponsible results.

People's votes matter about as much as their economic decisions, as both
producers and consumers. The scale is, I agree, "microscopic" - relative
to the society, but it is exactly the size of that one person. The
"microscopic" feedback would be of the same size too - enough to motivate
this person to be responsible, which could bring the same effectiveness
and innovation levels into the political process that these factors have
been putting into the economic organism.

At 12:00 AM 12/27/96 -0600, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:

>The truth is that there are no stupid masses who hate and fear anyone
>smarter. Smart children are often outsiders, and they get picked on
>because they're outsiders, not because they're smart.

Smart people are often outsiders *because they are smart*. Even if they
direct all their smarts at the problems that make other people
miserable. Kids want to hang out with other kids who are cute, rich,
can play music, dance or get drugs, but not those environmentally concerned.
I have seen a lot of resentment of scientists and philosophers, and attempts
to discuss any serious topics in conversations. It's almost non-PC to
raise serious theoretical points of any kind at a general social gathering.
The fear and hatred of intelligent people are also in the interest of the
social powers - and on a number of [totalitarian] occasions, they have been
spread to most of the populace - and led to repressions and even extermination
of a sizeable part of intelligentsia.

> If scientists became millionaires, it might be a different story.

People have a lot more non-resentful curiosity to lives, opinions and
relationships of millionaires, royal/political figures, even criminals
- than any scientists. It's very, very well known.

> 'Here is where the red man and the white man both know nothing.'"
> The circle always widens, but nobody is in a position to boast.

Comparisons are relative - so what? Better opinions, and better
products are not the best possible - nobody claims that! - but they
are better nevertheless. Giving greater weight to [OK, relatively]
better things is at the foundation of all progress.

> look at the amount of heat generated over abortions.

Little light though. Lots of mud-slinging and references to the Bible
and other equally argumentative sources. Attempts of putting some
philosophical foundations under the debate (see mine at
<""> ) find little
interest on any of the sides.

> My ethical system prohibits division]; all
>conscious beings are ethically symmetrical. But if I did divide the
>world into two parts, anyone ignorant enough to do the same wind up on
>the wrong side.

I divide things into women and men, plants and animals, children and
adults, people with e-mail access and without it, and draw all kinds
of other - not necessarily binary or strict - distinctions. In my
understanding, these distinctions form the foundation of my ontology.
I do not see any point in "symmetry" either. Is Hitler as ethical as
his victims? Can anybody ever make progress in ethics? Then people
do get better at it? Then they can be different, right?
Or what do you mean here?

>And, finally, I deny your abstraction. Each human represents a hundred
>billion neurons, a hundred trillion synapses, carrying twenty
>quadrillion pulses per second, forged by three million years of
>conscious evolution and a billion years behind that. Stupid? In AI,
>we've learned respect for human intelligence the hard way. The "masses"
>may be stupid; the individuals, never.

Sure, people have better bodies and brains than flat worms. Still, some
of them are MUCH better or worse than others in many [groups of] tasks,
from running to painting to math, based on both genetic factors and
upbringing. This is a FACT of life. A good social structure should
help people develop and utilize their skills and help relate them to
each other. This will all be true even when all numbers you cite
increase by orders of magnitude.

Are you saying that your opinion on this subject is better than mine,
or they are equally valuable/valid? What about all other opinions held
on this subject? Like, "all people who do not like KGB are evil and
stupid, and should be killed"? I did hear it as an individual opinion...


On schools and such:

The amount of knowledge available to the American populace, and the
ability to explore the world by reading, browsing or travel, is enormously
greater than what was available to all great thinkers of the past.
The genes are about the same. The social memetic soup is different,
and so are media channels, and as a result the society provides different
amounts and structures of motivations. This is what determines the
level of interests of individual ensembles of genes and memes - a.k.a.
"people". The idea "do not blame the results [people], blame the
reasons [society]", seems of the same origin as the opposite idea
usually used in education: " do not criticize a person, criticize the
results of hir work" - they are both designed as instruments to
improve people's behavior while putting the negative assessments
elsewhere so that not to offend the humans you are trying to influence
- and this is understandable, taking into account that humans are the
only parts of the picture that can feel offended, and they are also the
ones designing the memes. This all doesn't mean these things are true

Alexander Chislenko Home page: <>
Firefly Website recommendations: <> ---> "Firefly"