Re: Ethics

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sun Feb 06 2005 - 15:40:10 MST

--- David Clark <> wrote:

> I think randomly selecting people to govern is
> a *very* bad idea. The only
> time it approaches being acceptable is when all
> the people could make
> decisions *equally* well. That is definitely
> not the case in our current
> world and probably wouldn't be the case in an
> environment peopled
> exclusively by transhumans.
> Picking people to look after most decisions
> should fall to people who are
> qualified. The really big decisions should be
> decided by a relatively small
> group of the best decision makers.

There are factors you fail to consider. One is
the divide between 'best decision makers' and
'Machiavellian gameplayers who can convince
millions of gullible mortals that they are the
best decision makers.' No dictator can destroy
millions of lives without lots of help, lots of
disciples, lots of police and soldiers who follow
orders. A well-designed random system makes
political coalitions impossible as we presently
understand them, and thus dilutes the influence
of thugs.
Also, bear in mind that any system that
eliminates campaigns eliminates the de facto
bribery of campaign contributions, and frees
decision makers from worrying that a
conscientious decision will cost them

Furthermore, a more detailed description of my
proposal would include making sure the pool is of
those who are qualified, or at least not stupid
and not insane. If we need licenses to fly planes
or perform surgery, why not to govern?

One of the major points of a random system is the
proposition that 'who can make decisions well'
is, in current political systems, usually the
self-assigned function of gatekeepers and
kingmakers whose motives are not necessarily
pure, and I could easily name scores of wise
people who will never be allowed near the levers
of power. Under current systems, a very
destructive Hitler or Stalin (and their cadre of
morally and intellectually deficient minions) can
end up running a whole nation, while a very
creative Buckminster Fuller or George Bernard
Shaw will not (and wouldn't you like to live in a
world where that could happen?) President Fuller
is still unlikely under a random system, but not
impossible as under the current system. It would
also obviate 'district shopping' and
gerrymandering since a qualified person would not
need to move to an area dominated by like-minded
people to have any chance of success.

A random system would tend to eliminate 'winner
take all' phenomena where a slim majority can
steamroll a large minority. In a random system
the overall structure of policy making would
closely track the actual proportion of views in
the population.

A random system can be seen not as a 'choosing
the best' system but as a 'preventing the worst'
system. I do not see our present system as a
'choosing the best' system any more; I have seen
it fail too consistently over the past couple of
decades, and in an increasingly predictable way.
A powerful, well-funded authoritarian coalition,
which does not actually believe in democracy, has
disabled the checks and balances in this country
and now rules almost unopposed. To put it in
computer-security terms, the software had
security flaws which were identified and
exploited by unfriendly haxors who are now
plugging the holes to make sure they cannot be

As I do not expect the authoritarians to give up
power, legally or not, peacefully or not, and as
they now have surveillance and armament
sufficient to put down any opposition I can
envision, I do not anticipate a random or
open-source system here. Only a transhuman or SAI
can undo what has been done. Even then, it will
not necessarily matter who 'should' impose hir
decisions on the rest; it will only be a question
of who can.

I am willing to see this particular discussion
sniped, as it's not exactly AI related; however,
it does happen to be roughly where I came in. See
the fictional essay I wrote about three years
ago, to be included in a book that never appeared
(I've learned a lot since then, but the general
idea of the essay still holds).

Tom Buckner

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