If one is going to go after sacred cows, one should really go after sacred cows. Most of the people in our society who get credit for "going after sacred cows" are just going after unfashionable ones. At least ones that are unfashionable in the circles they want to appeal to. We live in a world of iconodules posing as iconoclasts.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Big Blue Pill

I go on vacation and come back to find that a man who started by giving Ten Red Pills to wake us from the Matrix that is the modern Western bureaucratic State has, in the pentultimate post before his conclusion reassured us that under his utopian future government, we won't be slain and our organs harvested for profit, we'll instead all be virtualized into pods as our marginal utility runs out and we're replaced by our Rob't masters.

Gee, that's a relief! If it weren't for the dignity of it, I'd just as soon pass. I hope we can go out like Sol Roth too, if we prefer.

The last generation of humanity will find "dignity" in a MMORPG until either our Rob't Masters decide to save some money and turn out the lights by running a dignified "mass-casualty event" for us to perform final heroic sacrifices in, or, more humanely, just wait till the last of us dies of old age.

Obviously there's no real - as opposed to virtual - human reproduction within the pods, and absolutely no incentive for whatever is outside of the pods to create such an opportunity, because we're in the pods as a result of having no social utility to our rulers outside the pods. Therefore, the last people to go into the pods will be the last people.

One might argue that whoever owns these new nations will neither need to go into the pods or, most importantly, allow themselves to be pushed into the pods. The stockholders will continue to govern their state, the customers consisting of pod-people, and their staff consisting of Our Rob't Masters.

However, if Our Rob't Masters are sufficiently advanced so that we are of no real use to them, as Moldbug concludes, they will certainly have greater facility for managing investments, and will use that to capture control of the State. A possible counter-argument is that human stockowners would have created such expert programs to assist them in managing their investments, and the Rob'ts could not deny them access to, and thus the benefits of, these expert programs. It's thus possible that the owners could escape this "benign" fate for a time, till the Rob'ts outlasted and outcompeted them which, if they're so sufficiently advanced, they will eventually do.

Anyhow, let us turn to an argument Moldbug uses, and which is one of the reasons why, my sympathies and general preference for Libertarian-ish policies notwithstanding, I am not a Libertarian,even of the Moldbug sort (that is to say, I di agree with him that there will be a State, and where it acts, it should be strong). It is embedded in this:

And we are just getting started. The ex-subject can then be dissected for his organs. Do you know what organs are worth? This is profit!

If we claim to derive the responsibility of government from mere financial prudence, we must explain why the business strategy of culling unwanted subjects for their organs is not viable. Most would not find this profitable strategy consistent with responsibility. Yet, since a sovereign is sovereign, no higher sovereign can exist to outlaw or preclude it. The design must solve this problem on its own.

The simplest, broadest, and most essential prevention against this degenerate result is the observation that the royal government is a government of law, and a government of law does not commit mass murder.
He's made similar arguments before. Another was along the lines that, sure, Leopold behaved badly with the distant Congolese colony, but no European ruler behaved like that towards their own domestic populations.

Which treats things as binary, when they are not analog; there is a range of misgovernment or oppressive government. It neglects the incontrovertable fact that it was during the height of the government system he has praise for that America was peopled. At the time the vast majority of those who came to America voluntarily came from Europe. They didn't leave places like Italy, Prussia, Greece, Poland, Ireland or Russia for here because they thought they were too well-governed and well-treated well by their owner/rulers.

Most schools of Libertarians, and their sympathizers (such as Moldbug) have a Modeling Fallacy not too different from that of Global Warm-mongers. Which is to say they assume all governments (except ours) and rulers (except ours) operate on a rational basis (they aren't insane), and use the same rational calculus that they would in deciding how to behave. They then assert that there would be no rational reason for rulers to do X, Y, or Z.

Which is fine and good, except that, as a matter of historical record, they have done X, Y, or Z. So epicycles are created: Oh, they did those things because we exist and threw a monkey-wrench into the works; if only we adopted a policy of isolation and left them to their own devices, they would revert to their natural rationality and things would work out perfectly. Oh, they were already infected with fill-in-the-blank (democratic calculi, religion, or whatever), and once we remove that tumor, a miracle will happen, and X, Y and Z will not occur.

We know that even the Great and Autocratic Emperor of the Romans, Basil II Makedonion, who perhaps came closest to Moldbug's ideal in a ruler having absolute power and absolute responsibility, had to deal with politics. Had to deal, indeed, with his own officials not quite enforcing the Imperial will as he would have hoped. Quite possibly machine intelligience will render the machinations of whatever administrative apparatus Moldbug's new State creates moot, making them absolutely faithful to the Ruler's will, rather than tempted by Pournelle's Iron Law, something that happens in all corporations of significant size and certainly would happen here.

Aristotle observed that man is a political animal, but Moldbug is smarter than that moron and knows that politics can be eliminated.

Similarly, in reality Monarchs and rulers of all types have behaved in ways that the ruled found quite sufficiently oppressive, even though stopping short of harvesting them for their organs. There is no reason to believe that a government that ruled with all the power of a Chinese Emperor and His Glorious Mandarinate wouldn't so treat us, all Confucian injunctions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Theory of how they Ought to behave, if they were to behave as a Libertarian would rationally want them to behave, is controverted by all actual experience with how such rulers and governments, even the best of them, do behave. Pliny, for example, after a fire at Nicomedia, wrote to Emperor Trajan advising the Emperor encourage the establishment of a volunteer fire brigade, but the Emperor denied the request on the grounds that it would become a political party (brotherhood). But we're supposed to put all our trust in the Global Warming Computer Model Libertarian Rational Government Actor Model, and little in historical experience, which is that our ancestors fled such places when they could get away from them, and thus even if some might live well enough treated as such governments might treat us, the descendants of those who fled might not be best suited to life under a revived version of it. Odd that someone who has learned so much from his reading of history would have such a massive blindspot, in my opinion, but perhaps this is due to the fact that he abhores Progressive/Whig historiography so much he is willing to give its antithesis too much faith.

This on top of the fact that, Oh Happy Day, if everything works as well as Moldbug desires, the endpoint of humanity is virtualization into a pod! Moldbug's comeback may - I don't want to put words into his mouth - be that this is the likely endpoint of "The Singularity" even under our current misgovernment (if it's not Idiocracy), it will just take longer.

But I suppose I'll pass on his reassuring offer, and take my chances with some other endpoint. I do want to close in some other way, though; I owe Moldbug that much. This is a rather severe critique of his proposal, but I have read his writings with great interest because he has much to offer and his thoughts are well worth the time and consideration you give them.



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