Re: The "stupid" masses

Eric Watt Forste (
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 14:56:32 -0800

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes:

>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.

but at another point in the same post he writes:

>was given access to a real education - not the condescending crap they
>dish out in gang-controlled public schools - and chose to use it, they'd
>be as good as "the stupid masses" or the rest of the middle class. The
>only ones immune from this gentle upgrading are the ones who've had
>their brains neurologically damaged - hence my participation in the War
>on Drugs.

Eliezer, I suppose it is your special Algernonic abilities that
lead you to arrogate to yourself the right to dictate, at gunpoint,
which recreations and medications a human being self-administers.
Suicide causes a lot of neurological damage, too: are you willing
to deny yourself that right? (This is a trick question: think about
cryonics.) Who owns whose life here?

Perhaps if you would engage in a little more causal analysis (allow
me to recommend economic analyses, among other things) you might
see that most of the neurological damage you decry is *caused* by
the very "War on (some) Drugs" that you praise. Certainly most of
the neurological damage associated with drugs but caused by
high-velocity lead pellets is.

If crack cocaine is the incarnate evil that you suppose it is (and
I concede the possibility), and since we already have the problem
that it bypasses the normal mechanisms of human reward and motivation
(as discussed in the Keith Henson essay I just posted), might it
not be wise to do what we can to remove the *additional* incentive
for its production and marketing provided by the very high level
of black-market prices? And have you never suspected that, if crack
is as horrible as you claim, it would be easier to educate people
and provide medical and psychiatric assistance for those who need
it if we could do away with the atmosphere of unreasoning fear and
social taboo promoted by a "War on Drugs"? And have you never
studied and thought seriously about the possible motivations of
the people who have done the most to advance the "War on Drugs"?
Who benefits?

To simplify, we have two dangers here: cocaine and high-velocity
lead pellets. You favor unleashing the latter to rein in the former.
I consider the former to be less of a threat than the latter. I'm
particularly appalled by your stance given that the history of the
last twenty-five years shows that all attempts to use the latter
to control the former merely make both scourges worse. The history
of the prohibition of alcohol (another neurological scourge) earlier
this century in the US tells a similar tale.

>No. There are no stupid masses.

Then why is there need for the police to be running around shooting
innocent people, breaking down perfectly good doors, and dragging
people off to prison because of their preferences in neurochemical

If by "participation in the War on Drugs" you only meant the
propaganda phase, that's okay with me... I tend to like wars of
words. But as long as the War on Drugs *does* include a military
component, as it does now, you might be wise to tone down your
rhetoric. Otherwise you're likely to get yourself classed with the
thugs and stormtroopers by the sort of people who *do* divide human
beings into two types.

(A personal note about my motivations in making this post: last
year, a stranger held an automatic pistol to my head about a block
from my house. I survived the experience but did not enjoy it. I
don't approve of posts that contribute any detectable amount to
the likelihood of my having to repeat that experience.)

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++