What if governments weren’t monopolies?

How might life be, if governments were not monopolistic within their territories, for example, if several federal governments (e.g., one run by democrats, one by republicans, one by environmentalists, etc.) competed to offer laws and services to a country, and citizens could subscribe to only one government at a time? I wonder if this freedom would cause people to fight less with each other.

  • People within the same territory could pay fewer taxes for fewer benefits, or more taxes for more benefits. There probably would need to be a base level of oversight and taxation (i.e., a very small unifying federal government) that all governments require (e.g., for military defense of the homeland), but I can imagine many competing governments with differing cultures or philosophies catering to people with those cultures or philosophies: the various ethnic groups, religions, etc. that are most common in the US. Perhaps people’s ID cards could be used to access benefits offered by the government to which they subscribe.
  • There could be several US presidents, possibly a committee, and elections could end at the primaries.
  • People could be free to live under the kind of government they prefer all the time, not just every four or eight years (or never), and people could actually live under the rules of the smaller parties that currently never win elections.
  • There might be several legal and penal systems that sometimes need arbitration. For example, if Muslims were allowed to wear full-face burqas in public by the democrat government but were prohibited from it by the republican government, and a democrat Muslim wore a burqa in a republican-majority area, how would that be handled?
  • This model might also show people very clearly and quickly the consequences of different forms of government.
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Love.txt

Though an artificially intelligent (AI) robot might someday look and behave just like a human, how do its internal ‘mental’ states compare with a human’s. Is it possible for a robot, which behaves in a way that a human interprets as kindness or empathy, actually to be internally loving, kind, compassionate, sympathetic, attached, etc.? Can love be stored in a file on a computer disk, and what would be in such a file? Was the file designed by someone and/or was it constructed inductively from a history of sensor (infrared, microphone, etc.) data organized by machine learning algorithms? Can those algorithms modify themselves; if yes, to what extent?

Similarly, can different species (or even different people) ever really empathize with or understand each other, and does it matter? Does anyone care whether the happiness of a dog is the same as the happiness of a human, as long as the dog is wagging its tail or behaving affectionately, and as long as we believe the dog isn’t secretly plotting to hurt us?

I suspect that robots might some day reach this ‘close enough’ stage, where humans develop enough of a degree of apparently mutual love and trust with them to live with them, but I also suspect that robot minds and bodies will evolve differently, and much more rapidly, than biological ones (perhaps unless an artificial version of a human is made), such that our communications with robots will be similar to inter-species communications, and it might be hard to trust that the robot’s intelligence and/or motivations didn’t drastically change overnight. Limited hardware capabilities, similar to the way that numbers of neurons limit the complexity of biological thought, might provide some comfort to humans, though computer processors are becoming smaller and denser by the day.

Relevance & value

The most important issue that I see in society-scale race, class, gender, etc. relations is relevance/value.

Whose lives, livelihoods, and educations are protected/ensured?
Whose ease/comfort is valued?
Which speakers are listened to?
Which ideas become mainstream?
Which cultures (norms, customs, sanctions/laws, etc.) are accommodated?
Who/what is considered beautiful?
Who gets the big starring roles?
Whose music gets widely played, which stories get widely told, and what food is usually served?
What news gets reported?
What languages are learned, and how are they used?
Which holidays are celebrated?
Which versions of history are preserved and taught?
And so forth.

The Buddha was a unifier

(Written on the day that the UK voted to leave the EU after 43 years of membership)

He wandered around much of South Asia during his lifetime, accepting people of all genders, ages, castes, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures/languages, ideologies, etc., and unifying them under a single set of monastic rules (vinaya). The monastic culture he created was about as white-washed as possible of the divisions between people: seniority only from age; no hair, makeup, or jewelry allowed; a unified style of robes that hide the shapes of people’s bodies, that use a common color, and that are sewn together in the pattern of the rice paddies one sees most everywhere in Asia; the same few possessions for everyone (a robe, a bowl, and basic toiletries); a single canonical language (Magadhi/Pali); etc. Some of these things he apparently picked by a spur-of-the-moment decision (e.g., the pattern in which robes are sewn), perhaps because it doesn’t matter much how it is done.

But he also created a democracy, which has caused his teachings (dhamma) and vinaya to be split many times over the millennia — even though doing so is thought by some Buddhist traditions to cause one to be reborn in the worst level of hell (see Avīci) — as people choose to re-divide themselves along lines of gender, caste, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, etc. Monastic people even draw symbolic distinctions between how dark or light-colored the ochre of their robes is (darker sometimes means a more rural or ascetic bhikkhu(ni) or tradition, and lighter sometimes means a more urban or lenient bhikkhu(ni) or tradition).

However one interprets the metaphysics of it (e.g., whether absolute reality is monistic or pluralistic), enlightened people seem to let go of identities and worldliness, preferring peace and unity, and samsaric people seem to cling to identities and worldliness and fight over them.

A few reasons not to take your worldly (as opposed to spiritual) life too seriously

Structuration

Many society scale things — such as definitions of beauty and intelligence, technologies, languages, laws, narrative plot structures, etc. — apparently evolve through a process called “structuration.” Basically, trends emerge from small-scale to large-scale; then companies, governments, and the like incorporate the trends into their policies or products, which they impose on the masses; the masses (ab)use those policies or products in certain ways, the patterns of which emerge again into large-scale trends; the powers-that-be modify their policies and products; and the cycle repeats. The cycle also could start with something that is initially imposed by companies, governments, or the like (e.g., some breakthrough technology, or the designs of currencies or ID documents).

The back-and-forth between individuals and societies apparently even affects people’s genetics. Though many of the physical differences between ethnic groups are environmental adaptations (e.g., dark skin is more protective against UV radiation, which people in sunnier places need, and light skin is more efficient at producing vitamin D, which people in darker places need), features without much utilitarian value (e.g., the arched noses of many people from the Mediterranean to South Asia, the pointy facial features of many northern Europeans, many East Asian women’s straighter figures, etc.) may be the way they are because those societies have long considered those features to be desirable/beautiful. So, over many generations, people with those features in those societies might have had an easier time finding desire/reproduction-oriented relationships. This anecdotally seems true on dating websites; people who their society probably would consider especially beautiful often seem to have had children as young adults.