From: Stuart Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Jun 27 2008 - 07:55:24 MDT
> No, disuasion is not the point. Let's engineer the problems out of the
> system, the problems that violent tactics are exploiting.
Well, the problems seem rather fundamental. I'll try and break it down
into assumptions, see if there's a way of getting round the problem.
1) Semi-coherent entities will continue to exist
2) These entities will want ressources to do stuff
3) Ressources are finite at any one time
4) Demands on ressources will increase, absent an agreement between
the entities, until it reaches the finite limit
5) There exists entities that can make credible threats of violence
6) There exist entities that will prefer to give up part of their
ressources than to suffer the violence; these entities can be
distinguished to some extent from those that do not
and the big one:
7) The ressources gained by a threatning entity will be worth more to
it than what it lost through threatning and occasionally carrying out
Let us add a singularity to the mix. Only 3) is guaranteed to stay
true. If we assume that something like human beings continue to exist,
then 1) and 2) will remain true. If these beings are free to do what
they want, then 5) remains true. Now whether 4) is true is a judegment
call (especially as ressources may be increasing all the time). But
since it would only require one entity to want to get more and more
and more ressources, and since we have an upper limit on how fast
ressources can expand (and this limit is polynomial), then 4) will
probably remain true.
Remains 6) and 7). The first part of 6) is probably true; you only
need one "coward", and the laws of thermodynamics imply that it's
easier destroy something than to defend it. (I'm not thinking of
threatning people's lives necessarily; something along the lines of
"give me half your house or I blow up all of it" is enough).
The second half of 6) opens some fascinating possibilities. What if
humanity was seeded with random quasi-humans who are similar to us in
every way, but never give in to threatened violence? This is
interesting, and would increase the cost of threatning violence. Maybe
there's a idea here.
Now 7), the usual point of these discussions. The whole question turns
on the value of "worth". There is the physical value of the
ressources, the value of a reputation and other social factors, the
feelings of the entity carrying out the threat, and the possible
defenses and retaliations (before or after the event).
The feelings of the entity don't seem something we can relly on, even
if there is increased empathy and understanding; some people are
suicidal or self-harmers, so we can't trust that everyone will feel
tremendously bad about using violence, all of the time.
Social factors seem unstable; if all law enforcement was removed from
a country, you wouldn't see an immediate explosion of violence
everywhere, as the social factors and norms hold it in check. However,
as those who do resort to violence prosper, it will become normalised,
and more and more will resort to it (if only in "self-defense").
What about reputation and the physical value of the ressources? In
today's positive sum world, the physical value of a ressource is
generally less important than a reputation (eg: countries that default
don't easily get loans again). But reputation is not reliable; a mafia
boss may only practice extortion to people he doesn't trade with,
meaning that there is no drawback to trading with him, even if he's
nasty apple. Maybe the values of the society will preclude trading
with him? But these value are unstable, especially if he prospers
through threatened violence. And "trade with me or I will hurt you"
seems like a credible threat.
There remains one possibility: maybe the AI's who control most of the
ressources will refuse to trade with him.
Remaining is defense or retaliation. By definition, neither of them is
enough just from the threatened entities. So, asent a government, what
is needed is some system of militias, idealy temporary one (as
permanent ones lead to competition for ressources between the groups,
rather than between the individuals; MAD might work then, but that
makes the militia into a geovernment, with a monopoly on outwards
directed violence). This might work, if contracts are respected. So
solving the problem of violence can be done, if contracts are always
respected. But this is not progress; if it were, getting everyone to
sign a "no violence" contract would be enough. So this "solution" is
strictly harder to implement than getting rid of violence in the first
So, apart from changing human nature, having only "nice" AIs, or some
interesting manipulation of the second part of 6), I see no realistic
way of doing away with governments, even after a singularity. And
"nice" AI's would be a government in the soft sense.
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