Sunday, May 17, 2015
The blind men and the Molochian elephant
Bostrom makes an offhanded reference of the possibility of a dictatorless dystopia, one that every single citizen including the leadership hates but which nevertheless endures unconquered. It’s easy enough to imagine such a state. Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person. Suppose these rules were well-enough established by tradition that everyone expected them to be enforced.
So you shock yourself for eight hours a day, because you know if you don’t everyone else will kill you, because if you don’t, everyone else will kill them, and so on. Every single citizen hates the system, but for lack of a good coordination mechanism it endures. From a god’s-eye-view, we can optimize the system to “everyone agrees to stop doing this at once”, but no one within the system is able to effect the transition without great risk to themselves.
And okay, this example is kind of contrived. So let’s run through – let’s say ten – real world examples of similar multipolar traps to really hammer in how important this is.
I don't agree with everything said in this long article (and warning—it is long. I mean, long. Did I mention just how long it was?) but I do feel that certain someones would benefit greatly if they read it and thought long and hard about it. While I'm tempted to give my summary of the article I'd rather not, lest my intended target audience disreguard the article entirely.