I haven’t made a post in a long time, and I apologize for that. This one will be more personal than usual, and subject to future revisions.
I think of myself as someone who likes to provide clarity. To show people ways of transcending false dichotomies, limitations, and zero sum games. I try to give reality checks whenever the need arises, to whomever is in need of one. I believe ideas must be discussed without regard to their ideological origin, cultural prejudices, or the status of the position. Most importantly, I want to achieve the most possible good in the world, and alleviate the most amount of suffering, and this requires large changes to the way our civilization behaves.
This puts me in a very small minority of the population, given that normal, healthy, and well-adjusted individuals don’t typically spend their time thinking of how to fundamentally alter human civilization, nor are they likely to actually care about methodically constructing a consistent view of the world.
Indeed, it is said that it is rational to be ignorant, given that the amount of time and effort that must be spent to make even the most minor alterations in society is daunting, and quite uncertain.
This leads us to a very unhappy conclusion. That I am not a very rational person. I implicitly assume that there must be an escape route. There must be some sort of Hail Mary pass that can be made. And, a further necessary supporting assumption behind that, is that the effects of that change won’t be so nonlinear as to be totally unpredictable. That I can use some sort of dead reckoning to navigate the murky waters, despite having no real picture of the geography.
Nevertheless, I find it especially important to be humble about the extent of our knowledge, the limitations of our perceptions, and the fallibility of our biology. We are loaded with layers of overlapping biases, emotions, intuitions, revulsions, instincts, sexual drives, and overactive pattern recognition systems. Indeed, these things define us.
“Picture all experts as if they were mammals.” – Christopher Hitchens
Given this, I find it very difficult to assess my own competence on almost anything, and I am skeptical of others who think they are competent. It seems like a miracle that anything functions at all, given a sober recognition of these facts. Yet, high level selection effects allow systems like the market or the scientific method to produce adequate outcomes that improve over time, even if most individual efforts are failures.
I mention these two systems, the market and science, because they function in the way described, not because I wish to ignore all the other rich aspects of human experience. In looking to achieve the wide ambitions I stated, I can place hope in certain systems which can be depended on to weed out failures. Ideally, the systems would do so without any need for top-down corrections. Experimentation is something that is done in the scientific community, and in a sense it is done in markets. Both depend on an overarching political system to provide the stability necessary for these experiments.
Yet, the political systems themselves conduct very little experimentation. There’s hardly a square inch of land which is not claimed by some flag, and revolution is very infrequent. The revolutions that do happen seem universally to result in very unoriginal constitutions which look very much like the messy compromises that all the other countries have… and usually modeled directly off one another. Some people have called this process Globalization or The End of History.
My goal, consistent with my need for transcending limitations, is to find ways to open up experimentation, and direct the creation of new systems which seem likely to be of significant improvement. Political and economic systems are prior to scientific advancement and wealth production. They are meta-level institutions which determine the boundaries on the rate of change, and its trajectory.
I think of constitutions as replicators, like genes or memes. Not only do they have different phenotypes, but they have differing rates of fecundity and fidelity. If we can begin to re-conceive of them in this way, we can construct new ones in a self-conscious manner. Just as the GNU Public License was specifically crafted to achieve rapid replication, and automatically enforce the values that it wished to express.
Yet, political experiments are extremely dangerous. No such enterprise should be taken lightly, and as we know from studying natural selection, virtually all mutations are maladaptive. It is only those rare few that are beneficial. We don’t want to be cannon fodder for natural selection. Thus, we must make an in-depth study of politico-economic simulations, and help to advance that science. I think that by using modern techniques of software development, major progress could be made. It is crucial to create a DSL and an API for such simulations.