Re: poly: Egan's Diaspora

From: Peter C. McCluskey <>
Date: Tue Mar 24 1998 - 17:44:09 PST (Hal Finney) writes:
>I haven't read this book, so I can't comment directly on the author's
>claims. From what you write, it sounds like he is saying that when
>people try to persuade others to leave the commons unravaged, they are
>not doing so for their stated reasons (presumably in order to improve
>conditions for everyone). Rather, they are either hoping to improve
>their reputations by appearing to act altruistically (while not having
>any true interest in acting that way), or they are hoping to persuade
>others to leave the commons alone so that they can take greater advantage
>of the common resource themselves.

 These reasons are not mutually exclusive, and I think people are
generally motivated by all of them.

>It is an often-heard but cynical view that when people appear to look
>beyond what is to their short-term, selfish advantage, they are actually
>posturing and scheming. Environmentalists are really seeking power
>over society, vegetarians have secret stores of beef in the freezer,
>anti-business initiatives are supported by lawyers who will receive a
>windfall in newly authorized litigation.

 Again, I think both the cynical and the professed motives are at work
in most of these cases whenever the selfish motive is nontrivial (the
incentive for vegetarians to eat meat is too small to produce much cheating).
Few of the people involved hold clearly contradictory beliefs. A more
typical case would be people who are eager to persuade others to carpool or
use mass transit, but whose environmentalism becomes half-hearted (but
still present) when attempting to follow that advice themselves.

>Where technology has played a part, it has not necessarily been in the
>simple sense that the costs of subjugation have become too high. Yes,
>that happens, but even more powerful is the communications revolution.

 I see my reference to subjugation costs came out sounding much narrower
than I intended. I meant to distinguish between a broadening of the concept
of "us" to sometimes include the entire human race (which won't automatically
affect attitudes towards intelligences which are clearly different from us),
versus an increased sensitivity towards those we think of as alien. (Robin Hanson) writes:
>Such atrocities have never been acceptable when done by the other side,
>and are embarrasing when done by one's own side.
>Is there any evidence that U.S. troops are really any less shy about killing
>ememy civilians now than in Vietnam? I don't think they got near enough to
>enemy civilians in the gulf war for us to know. The sure weren't shy about
>killing defeated soldiers.

 I think there is a fair amount of evidence that killing defeated civilians
was often considered acceptable 2 to 3 thousand years ago, and that there
has been a genuine change since then. I wouldn't expect enough evidence to
verify that such a trend continues over the past decade or two.

Peter McCluskey  |  | Has anyone used           | to comment on your web pages?
Received on Wed Mar 25 01:45:48 1998

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