fredag 26 juli 2013

Consider the Most Important Facts

Followup to: Choose that which is most important to you

After you have written down what your own fundamental political goals are, the next step in creating your political ideology is to get an understanding of all possible societies so you can see which one is best. And by best I mean that society which comes closest to meeting your criteria of what you find most valuable.

So, to construct a model for thinking about this issue two things are needed. First, a list of all possible societies. For that I'll use, as a proxy, Wikipedia's list of economic systems and how they might vary with what culture is most prominent in that system.

Secondly, some lists of those facts which would seem to rule out the largest number of possible societies as not being best. My reasoning for that is the following:

Before considering any facts that has an impact on how you view a society, all societies should appear to be equally probable of being the best. This starting point may seem strange to some. It means that one should not dismiss even the policies of Nazi Germany out of hand. That is just the starting point however. After one accumulates more and more data some societies will appear less and less probable to be the one that best fulfill your criteria.And, since you don't have time to read everything, it is necessary to construct a model of how humans (and other beings, for post-singularity issues, which i'll skip discussing) function and interact, that first only considers the most important facts.

This could be done in several ways.

One could begin by just following normal science and ask what general facts can explain most of observed behavior and then see what those facts would predict about all societies. That seems wise to do, in and of itself, because it forces the discussion (which will ensue with others who follow the same method) to be very methodical and well grounded in a rich theory. One's own viewpoint will also be more likely to be true. This can be called the general method.

But this path is not the quickest, since these general facts would probably not damn enough societies to be unsuitable to your goals. A much faster way, but which will give a more sketchy painting, is to just list those facts which will rule out the most societies. These facts may be thought of by thinking on what assumptions certain systems rely on to work adequately and trying to figure out what facts disprove most of these assumptions. This can be called the specific method.

Then there are statements which you are uncertain about but if they were true, it would become really obvious what society is best. So, not facts actually, but those ideas which you believe are worth learning more about. These potential facts should be the ones you are pondering or those which are the root cause of many debates among those with similar goals. This can be called the search method.

So, for the first two method you'll write down what you already believe and for the third you'll write down what you don't know, but would like to know if they're true or not. Here's an illustration of them, using information from Wikipedia's articles on humans, society, societal collapse, war. I only took three examples for the specific method and search method.

The general method:
  1. "Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent members."
  2. "Humans are distinguished from other primates by their bipedal locomotion, and especially by their relatively larger brain with its particularly well developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which enable high levels of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving, and culture through social learning."
  3. "Humans are adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization."
  4. "Virtually all societies have developed some degree of inequality among their people through the process of social stratification, the division of members of a society into levels with unequal wealth, prestige, or power."
  5. "The human brain, the focal point of the central nervous system in humans, controls the peripheral nervous system. In addition to controlling "lower", involuntary, or primarily autonomic activities such as respiration and digestion, it is also the locus of "higher" order functioning such as thought, reasoning, and abstraction."
  6. "Humans are generally diurnal. The average sleep requirement is between seven and nine hours per day for an adult and nine to ten hours per day for a child; elderly people usually sleep for six to seven hours. Having less sleep than this is common among humans, even though sleep deprivation can have negative health effects. A sustained restriction of adult sleep to four hours per day has been shown to correlate with changes in physiology and mental state, including reduced memory, fatigue, aggression, and bodily discomfort."
  7. "Humans are one of the relatively few species to have sufficient self-awareness to recognize themselves in a mirror."
  8. "Motivation is the driving force of desire behind all deliberate actions of humans. Motivation is based on emotion—specifically, on the search for satisfaction (positive emotional experiences), and the avoidance of conflict."
  9. "For humans, sexuality has important social functions: it creates physical intimacy, bonds and hierarchies among individuals, besides ensuring biological reproduction."
  10. "The sexual division of humans into male and female has been marked culturally by a corresponding division of roles, norms, practices, dress, behavior, rights, duties, privileges, status, and power."
The specific method:
  1. "Insofar as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be possible on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap."
  2.  "Common factors that may contribute to societal collapse are economic, environmental, social and cultural, but they manifest combined effects like a whole system out of balance. In some cases a natural disaster (e.g. tsunami, earthquake, massive fire or climate change) may seem to be an immediate cause. Other factors such as a Malthusian catastrophe, overpopulation or resource depletion might be the proximate cause of collapse. Significant inequity may combine with lack of loyalty to a central power structure and result in an oppressed lower class rising up and taking power from a smaller wealthy elite. The diversity of forms that societies evolve corresponds to diversity in their failures too."
  3. "There is no scholarly agreement on which are the most common motivations for war. ... The one constant factor is war’s employment of organized violence and the resultant destruction of property and/ or lives that necessarily follows."
The search method:
  1. Political system X will best achieve my goals.
  2. Political system X leads to the best incentives for everyone to produce the most important collective goods.
  3. Political system X leads to the best incentives for everyone to not hurt anyone else.
Now, these facts are not simply facts. They are the tip of a theoretical ice-berg; they are interpretation of reality. As such they will not by themselves explicate what system they damn. For oneself they should be clear what they mean, but if one should discuss it with others it might be necessary to write down the points and their theoretical point of view explicitly.

In any case, if you've followed my steps you should have one candidate which seems to be best. Or at least a few which seems equally good. If not, then consider some more facts and/or search for more knowledge. This step might, of course, take years. Next step is to estimate how much a political action towards these societies might cost.

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