Atlas Smugged

So, MirrorField left this excellent in-character comment on the last post, which rather inspired me to throw in a response. Well, sort of – not directly, but the person Sph. Ortheyn was arguing with seemed to need some gentle correction.

Worst bar fight I ever was in? Somewhere in the Seam, can’t talk about it more precisely. Anyhoo, there was this hardcore libertist, never been sure whether he worked for Sanguinary Enforcers or someone else, who started the whole thing after a drunken philosophical discussion where I pointed out how “Liberty” and “Freedom” were not preciously unique foundation stones in functioning society. Stout? Definitely. Useful? Most assuredly. Irreplaceable? By no means. I mean, just look at Equality Concord; proof that you can build societies on other foundations. Some may argue that they’re foundation stones for best and most functioning societies. I agree, but only to a degree: It would take only a single innovation, philosophical or technological, to make those concepts as obsolete as gold coinage. Worse, if and when that happens, even the Empire would have to reinvent itself or crumble into the dustbin of history as the other adopters simply out-compete it.

The Guy took my viewpoint …badly. Three lost teeth, one broken rib, bruised kidney and moderate stunner trauma. Last one because someone had pulled a knife and bouncers decided to stun everyone and sort things out later. I avoided him until re-deployment and haven’t seen him since.

Jarrus Ortheyn, memetic warfare officer for bonded mercenary company Hounds of Tindalos

And thus, some comments made by the soph patching up the other side of this particular bar-fight…

Okay, kid, so now I’ve got you in the healing vat and you’ve just got to float there while it fixes your body, I’m going to lecture you. By way of brain-fixing, which comes free, ’cause your story is a lot sorrier than you think it is.

Do you want to hear about your fundamental mistake first, or your first mistake? Well, since you’re not in any shape to talk right now, I get to pick.

Firstwise, you carried on arguing with someone whose idea of an other-foundation society was the Equality Concord? The civilization which converts its citizenry into something with all the self-determination of the cells in a cellular automaton? The one that’s half a brain-pithing technicality away from a p-zombie cult? That Equality Concord?

Kid, anyone who waves that around as an example is either provoking you or already brain-eaten, so just put on your best scorn-face and walk away.

Fundamentally? You’ve got the zeal of the converted, but not the brains of the converted. You forgot one of the first principles of libertism, the one that goes “A sword is not an argument,” and yeah, that does mean a punch in the face ain’t an argument either. The argument was yours to lose, and you lost it right there.

And yeah, it was yours to lose. Soph you were arguing with – you said he was a meme-wrangler? – had a case that rested upon the notion that ethics are mere arbitrary postulates that you can construct as you will towards your desired end; that it’s possible to innovate in the field, as if constructing a technology. And that’s not just nonsense, it’s obvious, well-documented nonsense that you should have learned about… wherever you went to learn stuff.

The phase-space of ideas may be infinite and unbounded, but the phase-space of true ideas, while it may also be infinite, is very definitely bounded. And ethics is a science, not a technology; thus, it is not innovated, but discovered, revealed from study of the nature of sophoncy and its relationship to the universe. And as a science, it is subject to the correspondence principle: whatever grand new theories there are in the field, they must uphold the extremely well-tested principle of liberty as we know it today in all domains in which it has been so tested.

Obsolescence, fah! The intrinsic theory of value was never true. It failed that test as soon as it was put to it. That you can build a sort-of economy on it – just like you can build a so-called civilization on other principles – is to say no more than that you can build medicine upon the corporeal vigors, or chemistry upon mercury-sulphur-salt theory, or astronomy upon heliocentrism and numerical correspondences, and have it work… mostly, and after a fashion, until the truth puts it to the fire. Not all mistakes are swiftly terminal, even if they ought to be.

And, not to put too fine a point on it – while arguments from authority are poor epistemology, god’s interstellar brain has thought about this, and we agree with us both in said domains, and insofar as we can understand ethics for transcendent hyperintelligences.

Which is to say, kid, read a damn book and stop punching people. That last is in the very first line of the Fundamental Contract, so if you’re going to go around calling yourself a libertist, learn the gorram root-code, already.

Déïndé Liuvis, medtech, Quor Orbital Eleemosynary Clinic

A Brief Note From The Doylist Perspective

So, saw an addition to the verse’ trope page today:

Libertarians In Space: Examined. The central setting, the Empire of the Star, is portrayed as a libertarian Utopia, where respect for liberty and personal choice is balanced by an admirably cheerful general attitude of voluntary civic-mindedness. On the other hand, it’s mentioned that there are plenty of outliers outside Imperial space where a narrow, dog-eat-dog, almost Randian interpretation of self-interest is practiced; it’s implied that these are not nice places to live at all, especially if you can’t afford decent protection services.

Well, now. To pick a nit or two…

While this is generally accurate – in any form of governance, it turns out, people are a problem1 – and while it’s bad form, I’m told, to edit Word of God entries onto one’s own trope page, the author would beg to point out that he believes that the locals (after being provided with the appropriate literature) would probably point out that they are practicing something relatively close to a Randian interpretation of enlightened self-interest, and really, can’t these bloody Earth-monkey [pseudo|anti]-objectivists get anything right? Haven’t they even read Effective Selfishness2 [Aral Harran, pub. 7222, Clue KEW Press]? (Of course, they’d probably interpret that wrong, too.)

1. With apologies to Douglas Adams.

Also 1. If you’re an Imperial libertist, an Earth libertarian, or an anarchist anywhere, you would probably add the corollary that the problem only gets worse if you let people be in charge of things, and also people. If you’re anything else, your mileage may vary.

2. A book which points out, for those who haven’t guessed already, that similar to the alchemy which transforms effective Evil Overlords into mere Unpleasant Accountants, that it’s mathematically demonstrable that you maximize your own personal return through cooperation, niceness, active reciprocal benevolence, and only punishing defectors. That’s optimal selfishness.

Your “nasty defectors” are screwing themselves over by sticking to a particularly idiotic local maximum that’s far, far below this in terms of productivity.

(This is why the typical Imperial critique of people the rest of the galaxy sees as greedy tends to be less “you evil plundering greedheads” and more “man, you suck at greed”.

And now my head is going to be full of Gilea Cheraelar lecturing Donald Trump on how he is basically a complete and utter failure in this respect and a disgrace to the good name of plutarchy, so, um, thanks, brain!)

Trope-a-Day: Liberty Over Prosperity

Liberty Over Prosperity: Outright inverted, from most perspectives.  The Empire with its tiny apathetic example of The Government is also, by any reasonable standard, the polity with the largest amount of cashy money sloshing around at all levels of its economy, while its economists mutter smugly about ‘deadweight loss’, ‘artificial scarcity’ and ‘regulatory barriers to innovation’.  With the exception of certain rule-proving anomalies (true Hive Minds, new colonies, active war zones, and such), the correlation between liberty and prosperity is almost universally strong.

The perspective which might not invert it is that the Rim Free Zone, which has no governance, is not as prosperous as the Empire, or even some of what its economists might call “first-tier economies” – but really, that just shows that to make this be true, you have to go right to the most extreme example and try hard not to look anywhere else.

(Of course, it is not helped by being the go-to polity for the anarchists who are too disagreeable to accept the Contract or the Principles of Consent and Obligation, those heart-principles of enlightened libertism. It would undoubtedly work better without the Societies of Consent disproportionately siphoning off the non-jackasses.)

Don’t Unto Others

From an unpublished extranet interview with Sev Tel Andal, seed AI wakener/ethicist:

“Well, I’m a libertist. But you know that, considering where I’m from. Not that I was born to it – I grew up in the League, and moved to the Empire for my research. They don’t let you do my kind of research in the League. But still, signed the Contract, took the pledge, internalized the ethos, whatever you want to call it.”

“Oh, no, it’s very relevant to my work. Look back at where the Principle of Consent came from, and it was written to constrain people made of pride and dynamism and certitude and might all wrapped up in a package so they could live together in something resembling peace, most of the time. Does that description sound like anything I might be working on?”

“But here’s three more reasons to think about: Firstly, it’s nice and simple and compact, a one-line principle. Well, it’s a lot more than one-line if you have to go into details about what’s a sophont, and what’s a meme, and suchlike, or get into the deducibles, or express the whole thing in formal ethical calculus, but even then, it’s relatively simple and compact. The crudest AIs can understand it. Baseline biosapiences can understand it, at least in broad strokes, even when they share little in the way of evolutionary mind-shape or ability to empathetically model with us.”

“And more importantly, it’s coherent and not self-contradictory, and doesn’t involve a lot of ad-hoc patches or extra principles dropped in here and there – which is exactly what you want in a universe that’s getting weirder every day. Not only do we keep meeting new species that don’t think in the mindsets we’re used to, these days we’re making them. No-one has blinked an eye about effects preceding causes any more. People are making ten-thousand year plans that they intend to manage personally. Dimensional transcendence is coming real soon now – although research has stalled ever since the project lead at the Vector managed to create a Klein bottle – and we’ve already got architects drawing up hyperdodecahedral house plans. Pick your strangeness, it’s out there somewhere. Ad-hockery is tolerable – still wrong, obviously, but tolerable – when change is slow and tame. When it’s accelerating and surpassing the hard limits of baseline comprehensibility, ad-hockery trends inexorably towards epsilon from bullshit.”

“Secondly, those qualities mean that it’s expressible in manners that are stable under transformation, and particularly under recursive self-improvement. That’s important to people in my business, or at least the ones who’ve grasped that making what we call a weakly godlike superintelligence actually is functionally equivalent to making God, but it ought to be important to everyone else, too, because mental enhancement isn’t going back in the bottle – and can’t, unless you’re committed to having a society of morons forever, and even then, you aren’t going to be left alone forever. We’ve got gnostic overlays, cikrieths, vasteners, fusions, self-fusions, synnoetics, copyrations, multiplicities, atemporals, quantum-recompilers, ascendates, post-mortalists and prescients, modulars, ecoadapts, hells, we’ve got people trying to transform themselves into sophont memes, and that’s before you even consider what they’re doing to their bodies and cogence cores that’ll reflect on the algorithm. People like us, we’re the steps on the ladder that can still empathize with baselines to one degree or another – and you don’t want our mind children to wander off into ethical realms that suggest that it’s okay to repurpose all those minimally-cognitive protein structures wandering around the place as postsophont mathom-raws.”

“And thirdly, while it’s not the only stabilizable ethical system, in that respect, it is the only one that unconditionally outlaws coercivity. What baselines do to each other with those loopholes is bad enough, but we live in a universe with brain-eating basilisks, and mnemonesis, and neuroviruses, and YGBM hacks, and certainty-level persuasive communicators, and the ability to make arbitrary modifications to minds, and that routinely writes greater-than-sophont-mind-complexity software. Heat and shit, the big brains can code up indistinguishable sophont-equivalent intelligences. And we’ve all seen the outcomes of those, too, with the wrong ethical loopholes: entire civilizations slaving themselves to Utopia programs; fast-breeding mind emulation clades democratically repurposing the remaining organics as computronium in the name of maximum net utility, and a little forcible mindpatching’ll fix the upload trauma and erroneous belief systems; software policemen installed inside the minds of the population; the lynch-drones descending on the mob’s chosen outgroup. Even the Vinav Amaranyr incident. And that’s now.”

“Now imagine the ethical right – and even obligation – to do unto others because it’s necessary, or for their own good, or the common good, or for whatever most supremely noble and benevolent reason you can imagine, in the hands of unimaginably intelligent entities that can rewrite minds the way they always ought to have been and before whom the laws of nature are mere suggestions.”

That’s the future we’re trying to avoid setting precedents for.”

 

Random Cut Snippet

“Selfish? You try livin’ in a world where persuasion and trade and generally makin’ nice with folks are the only ways to get anything, and see how long you can pull that kind of attitude off. ‘Specially if you’re fond of eating1.”


1. Or, in the limiting case, breathing.

Trope-a-Day: Eagle Squadron

Eagle Squadron: The Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic often play this role for various libertist movements in one part of the Associated Worlds or another, strictly freelance, of course, as do some related groups for more specific issues (AI freedom, for example).  They are relatively picky about who they support (given the number of times people want to overthrow the oppressors in order to become just as bad, oppression-wise), but still, it happens enough.

It’s still disappointing an annoying amount of the time.

Trope-a-Day: Bondage Is Bad

Bondage Is Bad: Actually, yes, this one’s played straight.  It’s an Imperial prejudice, and for once, it’s a prejudice which they don’t really have a rational justification for – essentially, as you may have noticed in this series, they have a really strong libertist ideology that holds that coercion is bad, bad, bad stuff.  Therefore, sexual coercion, all the more so.

Now, of course, this doesn’t really apply to BDSM, which can be entirely Safe, Sane and Consensual, but in a place and time that has very, very high standards of consent, that prosecutes batteries far too de minimis for a Terran legal system to bother with, and that has a formal criminal charge (meddlement) for just using someone’s property without their consent, never mind taking it —

Well, look; it may be Sane and Consensual, and it may be entirely ethical even by their standards, and wholly legal, and you may be able to take an alethiometer and the ethical calculus and prove that to the last significant digit, but so far as decent society is concerned, you’re still screwing around with simulations of how slavers get their jollies, and that suggests to many people’s heart and gut that there’s something distinctly creepy going on in your cranium, whatever the noetic mathematics might say about your mental stability.  Icky.

Or so says the last gasp of the “Wisdom of Squick”, a theory which they would treat with appropriate intellectual disdain in almost every other context.  But nobody’s perfect.