The Logic Failure At The Heart Of The Modern World
Does being more mature than children mean that we can handle anything?
Hi there everyone, this is Phil Tanny from TannyTalk. Yup, it’s me again, back at the job of saving the world. :-)
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My purpose in writing today is to highlight a dangerous logic failure at the heart of the modern world. It fascinates me how such a simple and seemingly obvious mistake can have such profound consequences.
Let’s get the show started with something we can all agree on.
Children Are Immature
It would seem to be universally agreed among sane people that the knowledge and powers available to children should be restricted so as to take in to account their immaturity.
We generally take it to be an obvious given that we should limit kid’s access to tobacco, alcohol, guns, cars and other things. We realistically recognize that children have a limited ability to manage power, and so we attempt to create a safe environment in which those limitations are taken in to account. It’s just common sense, it’s uncontroversial, everybody agrees.
No problem so far…
Adults Are More Mature Than Children
We also all agree that on average, generally speaking, most of the time, adults can be trusted with more power than children. Sure, sometimes there are exceptions, and there are particular adults which might bring this claim in to question. But if we need to entrust something important to someone else, we’re going to choose an adult over a child, because adults are typically more mature, and more capable of effectively managing a range of situations.
So, we agree that children are immature, because that’s a fact. And we also agree that adults are on average more mature than children, because that’s a fact as well.
Still no problem….
But, get ready folks, tighten your seat belts, because we’re about to slam in to the logic failure which is likely going to send our modern world to where ever the Roman Empire is currently residing.
The Logic Failure
Here it is, a formula for the end of the world as we know it.
LOGIC FAILURE: We sloppily “reason” that 1) because adults are more capable of managing power than children (true), we adults are therefore 2) capable of managing any amount of power delivered at any rate, without limit (false).
Our science based civilization is built upon the premise that more knowledge is always better. And with more knowledge typically comes more power. More and more knowledge, more and more power, faster and faster. As a society we proudly pat ourselves on the back in congratulations every time we succeed in acquiring more knowledge and power. We hand out Nobel Prizes to whoever most brilliantly harvests another apple off the tree of knowledge. “More apples, give us more apples,” we cry, “and the faster the better!”
With few exceptions, we conceive of no limit to this process. We picture ourselves learning, learning, learning, and thus obtaining more and more and more power, faster and faster, on in to the future, without limit, with no end in sight.
At the bottom of this entire process is a simple obvious logic failure.
Logic Failure: We assume that because we adults can handle more power than children, we can handle just about anything.
Is that true?
The Real World Of Adults
Here’s how we adults of supposedly unlimited ability actually function in the real world beyond our childlike imaginations. Here’s how we really manage power.
First, we learned how to split the atom. Hey, that’s interesting.
Next, we built an atomic bomb. We had good intentions.
Next, we mass produced these civilization ending weapons because, you know, more is always better, right?
Then, hmmm, we realized that, you know what, we don’t actually know how to get rid of big piles of massive hydrogen bombs.
But after some head scratching we figured out how to solve this puzzle. We’ll just ignore the nukes. Poof! Problem gone! Genius strikes again!
This my friends, is the species to whom data scientists are giving ever more powerful artificial intelligence at an ever accelerating rate.
This is the species to whom biologists are giving the ability to edit the most fundamental building blocks of all life on this planet. Here these God-like powers come folks, ever easier, ever cheaper, ever more powerful, and ever more accessible to ever more people, faster and faster and faster.
This is the species which hands out awards and giant piles of cash to anyone who can accelerate this process even further.
This is the species which thinks it can manage any amount of power delivered at any rate, because after all, we are more mature than children.
This is the species which thinks it is a god, a delusion which is easily maintained, because what we really are is…. insane idiots.
The Bankruptcy Of “Elites”
Once the reality of this utterly simple logic failure fully sinks in dear reader, you just might see any remaining faith you had in our culture’s elite class finally collapse in on itself. You’ve been warned.
Politicians, religious leaders, intellectuals, academics, scientists, philosophers, the media, and business leaders. All of our culture’s elite class are basically on board with the idea of providing we human beings with ever more power at an ever accelerating rate. The status quo, all the way to the top, typically assumes that because we can handle more power than children, we can handle anything. Anything at all. Delivered at any rate. This is the logic failure mythology at the heart of the modern world.
Sure, there are expressions of concern here and there. We’ll quite often see worries about bio-weapons and advanced AI for example. There is unrealistic dreamy discussion about technological governance mechanisms among some Western elites, who seem to have forgotten that they don’t actually have the power to impose governance on some of the biggest players on the planet, like China.
But none of this talk really amounts to much. In spite of such hand wringing now and again, the knowledge explosion train keeps roaring down the tracks, bigger and bigger, faster and faster. There are few elites standing in the way of this train to nowhere, because they’re mostly all standing along the side of the tracks applauding.
A key reason that little to no effective objection to an out of control knowledge explosion is presented by elites is that it is the elites themselves who are the primary beneficiaries of this process. The people at the cutting edge of the emerging technologies stand to make billions upon billions. And orbiting around the technological innovators is a solar system of partners, bankers, employees, investors, suppliers and commentators etc who will all get their cut.
But the real problem is not that elites are evil. The real problem is that elites usually have pretty good intentions. Because they sincerely don’t see the threat. The elites aren’t stupid either, they’re just blind. And here’s why.
Our culture’s elites aren’t actually elites at all, but rather people who have mastered the image of being elites. That’s what they’re expert at.
The emperor my friends, is wearing no clothes. We in the peasantry have bought in to the illusion of “eliteness”, but like with the famous naked emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen story, there is little behind the facade.
The Great Irony
And so dear reader, if you are as foolish as I am, and decide to push back against an out of control knowledge explosion which completely ignores the limits of human ability…
If you choose not to worship at the holy alter of endless more being sold by the science clergy….
If you wish to take in to account a very well documented human frailty as we plan our technological future…
You will be ignored. This is the first line of defense for elites defending the status quo.
And then, if you persist in being inconvenient to the elite class, you will be labeled a Luddite. That is, the elites and their rabble army of faith based true believers in the endless more promised by modern science, will attempt to paint you as a bare foot backward looking hillbilly in a dirty old hat who is fearfully clinging to the past.
Yup, yeehaw, dar I be peoples, on this Internutz thingie, making a pointed point to dem gosh darn flatlander gubmint “experts”!
So now that I’ve gotten that off my self important bloated chest, let’s return to seriousness, and take a closer look. Who is it actually that is the Luddite?
Who Is The Luddite?
Let’s take a quick look at the past.
In the long era that began with the dawn of humanity and lasted until a century or two ago, humanity inhabited a knowledge scarcity environment. Life was short, life was tough, pain was everywhere, and learning, when it came at all, came slowly. In this knowledge scarcity environment, a “more is better” relationship with knowledge made perfect sense.
Now let’s look at the era you and I live in.
Today, we no longer live in the old knowledge scarcity environment, but in a revolutionary new world characterized by knowledge exploding in every direction at what seems an ever accelerating rate. Times have changed. A LOT!
Here’s why Grandpa Hillbilly is giving our elite class the middle finger salute.
In their preposterous pretensions, our elite class will call you and I Luddites for challenging their rule, while they themselves cling passionately to the past.
I’m not kidding. Pretty much across the board the elite class is still hanging on to the old “more is better” relationship with knowledge which they have memorized and are comfortable with. Yes, that “more is better” philosophy of knowledge was entirely appropriate. Was. Yesterday. In the past. Before our time.
Elites don’t want to adapt to the new knowledge abundance environment which the historic success of science has created. They want us to keep on doing the same old “more is better” knowledge dance that their elite status is built upon.
So, who is the Luddite? Those who want to cling to the science hero stories of the past and the false promise of endless more? Or those who want to adjust our relationship with knowledge so as to adapt to the reality of human imperfection and the new knowledge abundance environment that we currently live in?
What Does Nature Say?
A good scientist would tell us that a clear minded observation of nature should be our guide. And so what does nature have to say on this subject? Actually, nature has a very clear simple message it has consistently shared since the first day of life on Earth.
Those species which fail to adapt to changing conditions must die.
Adapt or die.
The rule book all species are required to live by is pretty darn simple. So simple in fact, that even elites should be able to get it.
What Can We Learn From Our Children?
To return to the top of this article, we might recall why we don’t give a shotgun to a five year old boy for Christmas. He just isn’t ready. And we won’t judge him to be ready until this child demonstrates his ability to successfully manage lesser powers.
What we can learn from our children is that we adults are not yet ready for ever more power delivered at an ever faster pace. We aren’t ready for AI and genetic engineering, and all the other powers of vast scale which our backward looking elite class is so eager to pull out of pandora’s box as fast as they possibly can.
But here’s how we might know when we are ready.
SOLUTION: Let’s get rid of nuclear weapons, and provide credible proof that we are going to successfully meet the challenge presented by climate change.
If that sounds inconvenient and too bothersome, if we’re impatient to sweep this obstacle aside by pretending it isn’t there, that’s just more evidence that we aren’t ready.
Let’s meet the same standard we would impose upon a child. Let’s prove that we are capable of fixing our mistakes when we make them. Let’s prove that we are capable of learning the lessons so generously provided by events like the bombing of Hiroshima some seventy five years ago.
And when we have thus proven that we are adults….
Then maybe AI and genetic engineering.
Don’t listen to elites my friends. They have too big of a personal investment in the status quo which is aiming the speeding car of the modern world straight off a cliff.
This Article Sucks!
Yea, I admit it, there’s probably a tad too much attitude in the above bloviation. Well, ok, ok, maybe more than a tad.
Here’s why. I’m old. I’m burned out. I’m pooped. I guess I’ve been banging my head on the empty void of the elite brick wall for too long. And maybe I’m going senile? After all, if I was, I wouldn’t know.
And it must be said, at age 71, it’s not really my future we’re talking about here. Unless you too are a boomer geezer, it’s your future that’s on the line.
This topic needs new voices, younger voices, ever more voices who can express such challenges to the past clinging elites in ever more ways. It particularly needs fresh voices who can speak in the more polished language of the ivory tower. This topic needs articulate voices who can write persuasive articles that don’t suck.
If that’s you friend, get talking. Get writing. The clock is ticking. The cliff is coming.
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