This email was sent by Lion to a friend (Sheri) who asked for reflections on DigitalMaoism, a paper by JaronLanier.

 Thoughts on:
 The basic ideas appear to be:
 * There is a resurgance of the idea that the collective is all-wise,
   and that this is bad.
 * There is an attempt to erase the individual, and this is dumb.
 * AI is dumb. The Internet is dumb. Only people are smart. Groups
   are not real.
 It hurts to hear Jaron criticize some of my friends, namely Groups and AI,
 in favor of another of my friends: Individuals.
 His criticism is, for the most part, acceptable.
 Read it carefully, and think through what he is saying.
 I don't think the situation is quite as severe as Jaron puts it;
 It reads like: "Oh my GOD! The individuals are falling,
 the individuals are falling!"
 Nor do I think Jaron thinks much about the sorts of technologies
 and social arrangements that will exist in the mid-term future.
 I think time will prove him wrong on the following:
 * The value of the individual won't be lost on people.
 * Strong AI will exist.
 * Groups will a major part of life in the future.
 Individuals have a strong future, as they always have.
 At some point, though, we're just not going to be as smart as the computers,
 provided we do not merge with them.
 The inevitability of AI is clear in my mind. There's no mental task that a
 computer can't conceivably do. For every "but they can't program" or
 "computers can't fix computers" -- I see the clear response. (The evolutionary
 story actually plays a big role in this, since when computers program
 computers, they do so based on evolutionary strategy. Look up "genetic
 algorithms" on Google, if you want to see computers programming computers.)
 Groups are clearly real, regardless of whether Jaron likes them or not;
 To say otherwise is to deny the existence of Governments and Corporations.
 They clearly do.
 The good points were made better in "Rainbow's End," by Vernor Vinge.
 The bad points (things where Jaron's simply wrong: AI, forgetting the
 Groups, and so on) are simply not in Rainbow's End.
 In summary: Rainbow's End is the best place to read about this stuff.
 And, yes: There are individuals in Rainbow's End
 If I were Jaron, and I wanted to write something contrary to the zeitgeist,
 (something to put balance to it,) I would not **deny** the future reality
 of Groups; Rather, I would speak in praise of **non-conformity.**
 That the Groups are coming, there's no doubt in my mind.
 The psychological danger I see in the world ahead, is the pressure to conform.
 But, really, honestly, I don't fret that much about it.
 There are more important pressing concerns, such as saving the environment,
 and making life better for everyone on it.
 Take care,

See Also


We’ve never just pasted in an email like this; I think it makes sense to do, though.

I wish I could just post a URL pointer to my email, via TransparentEmail, but we just don’t have it yet.

If this is unwelcome, let’s talk about it.

I wrote briefly above:

 That the Groups are coming, there's no doubt in my mind.
 The psychological danger I see in the world ahead, is the pressure to conform.

Here’s something I just saw on Slashdot, making the point:

Basically, a student was having an affair with a wife. The public found out, and made the students life miserable.

Here’s a quote from the article:

 "We call on every company, every establishment, every office, school,
  hospital, shopping mall and public street to reject him," it said.
 "Don't accept him, don't admit him, don't identify with him until he
  makes a satisfying and convincing repentance."

Whether this is the correct thing or not, is not my point.

The point is that OrganizedCulture can happen, that “manners” have the possibility of becoming just as strong a law enforcement mechanism. This would be further impetous for people who think alike to live alike, with each other. It also promotes conformity, within communities: Not conforming can be lethal.