Re: About discussing Social Impact

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Feb 07 2006 - 13:10:55 MST

Richard Loosemore wrote:
> Eliezer,
> Your thread-kill accepted, of course.
> But, have you or the others considered before the practicalities of HOW
> to have some discussion about the likely pre-Singularity impact of the
> Singularity *idea*, and the likely threats from the way the world is
> going, without the discussion turning political?
> I say this because I am very interested in the way that things will play
> out, and with ways to approach the threats the world faces between now
> and then, but in the past I have watched these discussions go by without
> volunteering any thoughts, for the simple reason that they do seem to go
> straight from sanity to politically charged insanity?
> For example, one issue of great importance is the way that the
> Nanotechnology idea started out with similar transformative vision, but
> has since become co-opted by corporate interests in such a way as to
> neuter some of the real nanotech goals? Here we have something very
> important, but it is by its nature very political.
> Would it be a matter of allowing debate, but requiring all to take pains
> to avoid any inflammatory remarks (in other words, temporarily suspend
> Crocker's Rules)?
> Or is it simply impossible to talk about this at all?
> I suspect the latter.
> Richard Loosemore.

It's possible to talk about, but it takes a major, *cooperative* effort,
from people who genuinely want to avoid having the conversation
degenerate into politics, rather than trying to sneak in a snide word or
two under whatever cover they can find.

That point (and what follows) is not addressed to you, Loosemore, it's
addressed to the list in general.

You could *try* to have that conversation on SL4, and I would suggest
following one simple rule absolutely:

*Don't mention current events.*

There is to be no mention of who is President of the United States, or
what religion is rioting wherever.

If you want illustrative examples, look for them in the year 1920 or
earlier. If you don't know any historical illustrative examples, you're
not knowledgeable enough to think usefully about politics.

If you know something is going to cause offense, don't say it.

I don't care how right your principles are. Keep them out of the
discussion - make sure I can't even tell, from your message, which side
of the modern-day Blues and Greens you're rooting for - or I will
killthread the topic and that will be the end of the conversation on SL4.

If people start yammering about politics, putting their allegiances on
display, and saying uninteresting things, that will be the end of the
conversation on SL4.

You can take the conversation to extropy-chat or wta-talk, depending on
your taste, where it will instantly degenerate into useless shouting.

I suspect that it is not possible to talk about politics in a grown-up
way without a grown-up moderator independently approving each message
which obeys the spirit and the letter of the rules, denying all others;
and I am not willing to put forth this effort for the SL4 mailing list.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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