Thursday, September 26, 2013

The ethical and reasonable distribution of knowledge

Now secular humanism comes close as a solution to the problems of society like dogmatic thinking, but I do not feel like it would be right to allow completely unguided free inquiry. For example, should we allow people to learn how to harm others? The knowledge of how to harm society is not good for anyone to learn except those who are fighting to prevent harm to society. This knowledge should only be allowed for those who have learned how to do good for society. Without the knowledge of how to be good for society then the knowledge of how to harm will result in people doing harm to society.  This way of releasing powerful knowledge only to those who have good intentions will benefit everyone. We should not allow terrorists to learn about how to lead an organization since this is like giving them weapons of mass destruction. A strong understanding of what is good and how to do good will influence people to be more good as they will learn the value of goodness and societal growth. We should not enable those intent on doing harm to do more harm. This practice is different than totalitarian and selfish acts of censorship. It is more like the ethical and reasonable distribution of knowledge. Would you agree?

Discussion from:

  • Galen Meyers I agree that there is a balance to be found. But, we simply must be very careful whenever we begin to feel like freedom is an obstacle.

    However necessary it may be to take steps to mitigate the socially destructive counts of completely free inquiry, I
    do not think any authoritarian solutions can be sustainable. The optimal solution is to develop more and more sophisticated forms of discourse which foster more sophistication in the free-inquiries of a population. The fact is that it is rare to find a human being that isnt ultimately motivated by the pursuit of security and well-being. Therefore, optimizing the levels of engaged, free inquiry in a population must ultimately serve to optimize the populations capacity to achieve security and well-being because these things are often mutual concepts. It is true that there must be also toxic results that will be enhanced by some free inquiries, but this is simply inevitable. The very same danger will be present for any sort of governing body that would license or encourage certain inquiries and outlaw or discourage others. 

    The very enactment of a practice by a governing body coercively discouraging a specific line of inquiry must also serve to generate attraction to these lines of thought- and for good reason. Outlawing thought should never be acceptable in principle.

    The best we can do is foster the development of various bodies, governmental, NGO, and non-profit, that seek to serve as an adaptive and trustworthy compilation and distribution of knowledge of how to do good for ourselves and for society. We must recognize that the only solution to a negative meme is a countering, positive meme. These "antibody memes", for the most part, must be synthesized and distributed in response to harmful memes as they arise and gain momentum. There is no successful way to rise above the intractably complex "rock paper scissors" like checks and balances that comprise the nature of our memetic ecosystems. I refer you to two quotes that come to mind.

    1) "Who will guard the guards?"

    2) "Freedom is dangerous, but it's the safest thing we have."
  • Jonathan Nathaniel Bean - Freedom to do good is not an obstacle but freedom to harm society is an obstacle to society. I agree that part of the solution is intelligent and purposeful discourse, but why should we allow people to harm society or learn how to harm society if we know that their intention is to harm society with such knowledge? I agree with socially responsible free inquiry as long as the inquiries are for good purposes. I do not agree with reckless allowance to enable those who intend to do harm to get the tools to do harm. 

    "Therefore, optimizing the levels of engaged, free inquiry in a population must ultimately serve to optimize the populations capacity to achieve security and well-being because these things are often mutual concepts. "
    - Engaged and free inquiry for those who obviously want to harm society is not serving the interests of the security and well-being of society and it is possible to allow good people to access any knowledge they want to learn in order to do good for society and at the same time block access to harm enabling knowledge by those who prove to intend to cause harm. For example, we are justified in our attempt to block access to and "classify" the knowledge that can be used to harm society. National security professionals are justified in their access to classified information while that same knowledge is not accessible by those who intend to cause harm to out national interests and this limitation to who can access the knowledge is obviously justified. Why is it so evil or hard to extend this reasoning to classify any information that can be used to harm our national interests? Information that can be used to build a nuclear bomb should not be accessible by those who do not prove to have good intentions just as information on how to murder people without being caught should not be accessible to those who want to kill people for the wrong reasons. Obviously we are partly justified in our training of soldiers on how to kill but providing to the same training to mentally unstable people or sociopaths should not be allowed. I extend this reasoning to include all information that will cause people to cause harm to others. Obviously it is not smart to train a child about Islamic extremist doctrines when he does not understand better more socially oriented systems of beliefs. So why should we allow childlike people who do not understand the values of good belief systems to be poisoned by extremist beliefs and world views, it is just not fair to them who could learn properly about such belief systems and come to conclusions about those belief systems that are more rational. Their needs to be pre-requisite knowledge and skills before anyone should be allowed to handle such corrosive and dangerous material. We would not let just any body to handle or transport hazardous materials who is not trained to handle such materials so why should we allow anyone to handle equally dangerous materials with out proper safety and socially conscious training. 

    To counter your quote: Hazardous materials are dangerous, just as much as hazardous knowledge is dangerous, but if handled responsibly with care for society then both are safer.
  • James Steele in the US we train citizens to kill
  • James Steele Like Gil Scott-Herron said/... the military & the monetary - turning our brothers & sisters into mercenaries - turning the planet into cemtaries
  • Galen Meyers Jonathan, there are good reasons for the concept of freedom of speech and freedom of thought. There are some crucial things that you are overlooking here.


    You cant stop the spread of knowledge of how to harm society without stopping the sprea
    d of knowledge of how to help society. There is no distinction in the knowledge that is being spread- only in how its being used. This is *almost true, but the point is valid. Truly hazardous knowledge is an extremely rare thing, if it even exists at all. In actuality, there is only knowledge to be spread, and the way it is used determines whether that knowledge is harmful or helpful.

    As with anything else, the ultimate goal must be to generate a culture that is healthy and responsible enough to allow for an optimized spread of knowledge. Of course "optimized" will have to consider pragmatic solutions to the issues you bring up here as well, and we will have to have some sort of preventative measures, and so forth. 

    I recognize that you are bringing up real issues, but I'm trying to say that your deceptively simple solution to these issues- outlawing some vague notion of "hazardous knowledge"- is not only an extremely dangerous practice to condone, but it's not even a coherent, definable thing that you are suggesting we outlaw.

    Who gets to define this notion of "dangerous knowledge? The issue becomes how do we determine what glowing body of men do we allow to decide what things we are allowed to know and what things we aren't? Do you not see the danger that arises here? 

    If the notion that we need to outlaw some dangerous knowledge were to be widespread and mainstream It could STILL be possible today to get a democratic consensus outlawing atheism. There are millions of people to whom it is perfectly clear and obvious that atheism is a destructive force; it's detrimental to a good society and it's spread must be stopped. The same could be said about communism, and socialism, and anarchism, and well, anything else that disagrees with the status quo and the mainstream philosophies of the time. And we know that mainstream philosophies of any given time are subject to fallacies and illusions. 

    You want to outlaw weapons technology? The problem is- there's no such thing. Ballistics is nothing but chemistry and physics. Nuclear science could still revolutionize our understanding of physics as well as offer a whole new range of solutions for energy, etc. The only way to restrict any of these things is to restrict the understanding of science- and the spread of the understanding of science is a crucial component of optimizing the health of a population. We simply cannot condone anything other than the optimization of the spread of scientific knowledge.

    The fact is, there is no formulation where it could be healthy to enable a society to coercively restrict it's discourse in some predetermined way as you suggest here. The adaptability of a society depends highly on diversity of thought and strong, healthy diversity of thought ensures that some ideas will be harmful to society and some will be helpful. It's simple probability. There will forever be room to discuss and debate which ideas are which. The best we can do is discover and implement ways to encourage populations to become better at this process.

    This line of thinking inevitably leads to totalitarian solutions with simply are not sustainable. It's a dead end.
    3 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 2
  • Galen Meyers The other thing is, 

    You write all this as thought there are various groups of people whose goal is to harm society and that we must protect ourselves from these people.

    I think this is an illusion. These people dont exist- not in any substantial num
    bers. You are talking about comic book villains that just "want to watch the world burn". This is more of a myth than anything else. A genuinely psychopathic mind like this exceptionally rare.

    The truth is, most every single human being is motivated by the pursuit of security, happiness, and the sense of serving something greater than oneself. Islamist terrorists are not bombing people because they wish to harm society. They are bombing people- and themselves- because they genuinely believe that they are doing what is best for the world. 

    These people believe that they are fighting the good fight and working to make the world a better place with every bit of conviction that you have. Whether by eliminating infidels, or fighting back against western tyrannies, there is no doubt that their motivations are seated in the quest to make society better. 

    There is no real issue of "those trying to harm society" to speak of. The REAL issue is the vast and commonplace ignorance of how best to go about helping society. The daunting task we have before is much more difficult than disseminating the right the knowledge and restricting the wrong knowledge. Our task is to encourage genuine learning. To enhance the average individual's ability to reason about what is best for society. Our task is to optimize our ability to synchronize our views on what is best for society. 

    We cannot simply outlaw any particular knowledge- and restricting it should be a last resort for extreme cases, and should be temporary whenever possible. It is time we recognize that a population has to learn over time the same way an individual does. This requires almost completely uninhibited freedom of thought. Simply disseminating the "right" knowledge is not really learning at all. We must facilitate true learning.
  • Johan Manteau · Friends with Galen Meyers
    I don't agree, there are about a dozen catches paradoxes and dangers in the system (given the complexity of reallity). Some or most already pointed out here.
    · Edited · Like
  • Jonathan Nathaniel Bean GM - "If the notion that we need to outlaw some dangerous knowledge were to be widespread and mainstream It could STILL be possible today to get a democratic consensus outlawing atheism."
    "This line of thinking inevitably leads to totalitarian solutions with simply are not sustainable. It's a dead end."

    Totalitarianism is defined as "A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution, laws or opposition etc.)" 
    Restricted access to information would not be controlled in any way where the majority decides. I think the dictator must be something that is above the dictatorship of the majority opinion, it should be the leadership of reason, understanding of the world, and society focused ethical thinking. This could be done if we create a system that gives the most voting and decision power to those who prove to have these valuable qualities. It would not be possible for educated, reasonable, and socially oriented minds to decide that atheism or agnosticism is invalid. I am not saying we need to outlaw any knowledge, we just need make access to it harder for those who wish to cause harm to others. People who prove to be socially oriented could access any information they want if they prove to understand the pre-requisite knowledge that is necessary for a proper understanding of the subject. For example, Islamic extremism would be easy to mitigate if we just restricted the access to extremist philosophies and ways of thinking so that only those who understand scientific and philosophic reasoning and methods of evaluation can access these dangerous philosophies. People should not be allowed to divulge themselves into conspiracy theories that cause them to do extreme and harmful things if they do not have a proper understanding of how to evaluate the truth of these theories. For example, it was this year when the Boston bombing happened and the cause was this man's exposure to extreme views and conspiracy theories that may have originated from the KGB and their disinformation campaigns. 

    "Who gets to define this notion of "dangerous knowledge?"
    People who could define what is dangerous knowledge could be those with the proper credentials who understand national and social security, the danger of extreme philosophies when not handled properly, social and ethical philosophy, and those who dedicated to social goals. 

    "It is time we recognize that a population has to learn over time the same way an individual does. This requires almost completely uninhibited freedom of thought. "
    - The first premise makes sense, but the conclusion does not. Accepting this conclusion would mean that the individual and society works best with the lowest amount of inhibitions of thought. It is not good to think of harming people or your self all the time and we already do not allow many people to think of such harm for good reason. The reasons is that it is not good for society if people are thinking of causing harm because they will most likely cause harm to someone eventually if no one tries to redirect their thinking. 
    Any law enforcement or mental health professional will lock you up and treat you with medications and therapy if they have any reason to believe you might harm someone in the future and this is justified. Also, reducing inhibitions is a big mistake, if you do anything that might reduce your inhibitions then you are responsible for the results of reducing those inhibitions such as when one chooses to drink alcohol knowing that it will reduce his inhibitions. We should keep society with greatest amount of inhibitions as possible and not allow anyone to make bad judgments that will end in causing harm to society. And as I may have said before, freedom to plan and think about causing harm to society is never a good freedom to encourage. 

    "There is no real issue of "those trying to harm society" to speak of."
    Most corporations are encouraged and required by law, with the exception of b-corps or socially responsible corporations, to do only that which benefits the share holders and many times to the detriment of society. Being a benefit corporation that aims to add value to society should not be an option but should be the rule. If they are not part of the solution then they are part of the problem, so many organizations of greedy people like greedy corporations are harming society in their struggle to survive. I mean they are doing more harm than they are adding social value in many cases. So I would go to what might be perceived as an extreme of not allowing greedy people to learn how to do business in a way that is harmful. Another example is gangs, cartels, and professional crime organizations. These people are motivated by providing for their own security at the expense of society. They add no value to society and reduce the value of society. This is a big problem and even more so in developing countries. If we restrict the access to powerful knowledge which is the most powerful tool, so that only those who are dedicated to adding value to society can access such knowledge then so many problems would be solved.

    " Our task is to encourage genuine learning. To enhance the average individual's ability to reason about what is best for society. Our task is to optimize our ability to synchronize our views on what is best for society. "

    The problem is that most people will only do good if they are guaranteed that it will benefit them in the near future, they could care less about their long term future and that of others. I am proposing a system that guarantees to people that if they join the system then they will be with people who value them and society and will not have to worry about harm doers, so that they can do anything they want that benefits society and themselves at the same time. People will only do the right thing when every other option does not result in more value for them selves. It is easy to make sure that people do the right thing and benefit most from doing the right thing if they join a system that rewards them for every good thing and does not allow anyone to harm anyone who is of value to society. 10/9/2013, 2:06 PM

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