Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Practically in The Castro

Bucky Fuller was a nut, but his enthusiasm for 1970’s hippies is relevant to my interests:
Do away with the notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
Our agriculture doesn’t hunger for more workers. Manufacturing is sated. Transportation is sated. Even in today's comically inefficient US, these sectors together really run on less than 10% of the workforce...plus inspectors etc.

Bullshit Jobs is totally true, and even the world’s top political reactionary sees it.

On how to roll all this back & make a saner world, Stross’s vision is more inspiring than MM’s. And, Stross’s sole caveat is astonishingly perfect: their pursuits should not come at the cost of damaging others, either directly (e.g. through robbery) or indirectly (e.g. through damaging common goods or degrading the shared environment).

But, I bet Stross (and most everyone) takes his caveat far less seriously than I do. This caveat doesn't work if it's just an in-passing nod to today’s pathetic security structures: Let it boldly underscore how much security upgrade any of our cities would need for free-range flourishing large populations. Imagine: Most people not chained by makework, and not infringing on each other!

My stance even on noise pollution is downright draconian: installing a car alarm is a felony offense (silent poison-dart traps are a beautiful alternative, if they hit only miscreants), and in most parts of town even ambulance sirens would be ruled not worth it. Coronate me, and your right to quiet enjoyment Shall Be Restored.

Restoring real freedom of association is absolutely necessary. For all the little externalities/indignities that are hard to police but that hugely matter. 

“You want to keep your noisy doctor? Great! He lives in Noisy-by-the-Bay; you might look there.” For the 582 remaining rational people who value slightly faster urgent care over a quieter world.

Personally, I'd look into a Heinleinian high-EQ monogamous-friendly adults-only pretirement villa with a “no swimsuits” leaning and a hair-trigger “no creeps” culture. Picture a year-round apollonian Burn village (from before whenever you think BM went downhill)...but not exiled to the most undesirable land in the country. (Even the Indian reservations got better!) 

If you exude virtue in living a high-EQ outside life (cautious, inoffensive, positive), my villas could welcome you. There would be less $$-price than you might think, and more status/virtue-"price" mechanisms. Social scarcity is the big real scarcity that isn't going away. (In the US today, there are laws against actually caring what people are like. Money is the only legally permissible motivation for business, and business is the only legally permissible social activity, outside of bona fide friendship or officially sanctioned charity or other unprincipled exceptions. This is insane! It prevents mutual awesomeness, and makes money unnaturally important.)

This reminds: Hoppe is totally wrong in On Conservativism and Libertarianism about true liberty leading to a uniform conformist cultural conservativism. Puritan ethics isn’t the only sane, connected good-values path. (It's great for neo-Victorian donkeys, but dragging everyone full Puritan won't fly.) Hoppe's imagined monoculture wouldn't suit even the world's top reactionary, who lives practically in The Castro.

The West has largely mastered the physical challenges of our battle to survive-and-flourish (...though not reproduce; finitude has limits!), and hedonism deserves a real place at our celebratory table.
The Big Lebowski: Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose. Do you hear me, Lebowski?
[the Dude walks out and shuts the door]
The Big Lebowski: The bums will always lose!
Brandt: How was your meeting, Mr. Lebowski?
The Dude: Okay. The old man told me to take any rug in the house.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Philosophy: Sam Harris contest entry

The Moral Landscape is hard to disagree with -- because it's mostly right -- but I found a way! This will make more sense if you know the case it lays out.

Realism & consequentialism are awesome frameworks, and I share them. I wish they were more useful in resolving world controversies. Fatal problem: Well-being is terrifically thorny to even "in principle" aggregate or compare.

Let's say I hand you full lifetime printouts of Huck Finn's & Paul Atriedes' vitals -- that alien satellites printed everything about their inner lives in minutest detail (far richer details than the novels showed you): Are your common-sense judgments likely to change? How might you go about making a solid case that Huck's life was better than Paul's?

Make it more real: Now we have a thousand free-range kids (Hucks) & a hundred carefully-raised princes (Pauls). How do we compare them? (This really matters for kids!)

In natural experiments, so many confounding factors get in our way: There will never be a well-controlled longitudinal study of Hucks versus Pauls. Other huge factors will stay hugely correlated with factors we'd hope to isolate. (If we could ever see many, many more samples than plausible causative factors, we'd uncover surprises: but that might take more people than atoms in the universe.)

Our world already gives us as much useful data (if we could go around and look) as we're ever likely to get.

Many talented individuals make astonishing social perceptions. It's one natural human inclination, honed by evolution and sometimes by culture. We can do things to increase the talent pool -- and then listen to the best of them -- and that's the foreseeable limit of our useful perceptions.

You & I agree on many extreme examples: That some places are much friendlier to human flourishing than are others. Some places are so bad off that it's likely literally no one would agree to be born there. But, this is not terribly controversial (especially when we notice the moral relativists' agreement with us in their actions, if not their words!), and there's no real path -- even in principle -- from agreeing on the clearest cases to agreeing on harder ones. More data won't help: too many variables.

Today's careful human social perceptions won’t be beaten by machine assistance in the next hundred years. Our disagreements won't be solved by super-fMRI, but maybe by careful honest perceptions & sound judgment & trust. These are hard to build, but there's no other path.

Your "in principle" path -- hoping to help social policy reach the clearer agreements of physics -- doesn't actually exist. It would be awesome if it did, and awesome if people cared if it did -- but, for our whole foreseeable future, we'll keep relying on tools we have today.

Our real argument with social policy opponents will never be about the significance of brain scans -- but about the honest perceptiveness of dueling culture experts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In praise of old books

Before about 2009, I was unknowingly handicapped by a deep filter of progressivism: the assumption that all the best thoughts ever written down in world history are still in wide currency -- that Truth & Relevance are the main selection function for what we keep talking about. Oh, to even visit such a world!

C.S. Lewis (whom I endorse for nothing else) says it classically:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt [...] None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

Friday, December 2, 2011