(2010-12-06) Stross Seeking Utopias

Charlie Stross says: It seems to me that one of our besetting problems these days is that there's a shortage of Utopia-s on offer.

*We can't stop (to avoid Collapse), we can only go forward; so it is up to us to choose a direction.

Having said that, we should be able to create a new golden age of utopian visions. A global civilization appears to be emerging for the first time. It's unstable, unevenly distributed, and blindly fumbling its way forward. But we have unprecedented tools for sharing information; slowly developing theories of BehaviouralEconomics, Cognitive Bias, and communications that move beyond the crudely simplistic (and wrong) 19th century models of perfectly rational market actors: even models of Economic Development that seem to be generating sporadic progress in those countries that were hammered down and ruthlessly exploited as colonial assets by the ancien regime and its inheritors.

We need — quite urgently, I think — plausible visions of where we might be fifty or a hundred or a thousand years hence: a hot, densely populated, predominantly urban planetary culture that nevertheless manages to feed everybody, house everybody, and give everybody room to pursue their own happiness without destroying our resource base.*

In the comments he adds: I do not view any system based on Capitalism as an ideal outcome. Also, Communism's unsung triumph is that it is the system we use for roughly 75% of our social interactions -- those that take place outside the marketplace, between family members and close friends. (Or do you believe parents should charge their toddlers for room and board?) (Might that be better called a Gift Economy or Tribalism?) Communism undoubtedly has scaling problems; this says more about our shortcomings as cultural social organisms than about it being an undesirable goal. And, arguing against belief in human competitiveness being inherent, For the vast majority of our time on this planet, our species has lived in largely static communities, where innovation was vanishingly unusual and Zero-Sum competition within the community was an invitation to personal disaster. (That reminds me of culture thoughts in Daniel Greenberg's New Look At Schools.) And: It tends to break down when extended to much larger groups, but works reasonably well up to kibbutz (CoOp) scale. I suspect the core problem is sociopathy, the psychological disorder characterised by lack of empathy and manipulative intent that seems to have a prevalence of 1-3% in the general public -- you're unlikely to get a Sociopath in a family of 1-10 individuals, likely to have one or two in a kibbutz-sized group, but if you try to scale up to a group the size of a city you're going to have thousands or tens of thousands; and also, it's harder for ordinary people to behave empathically when dealing with a large number of impersonal contacts. So maybe this is about a Network Economy...

I Commented: hmm, doesn't Accelerando qualify? Charlie replied: only for the roughly 1% of humanity who don't get exterminated by the ab-human products of the Singularity. Do pay attention, please?


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