Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Police States And Criminal Armies


Modern science fiction dwells on police states, and a lot of police states exist (including quite possibly the United States). But the natural polar opposite of a police state exists also: transnational criminal gangs, in many cases, have their own armies. Transnational criminal armies are nothing to sneeze at, and while the police state is probably the wrong response, it's important to realize that nothing is ever one-sided. There's an old saying: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I think it's pretty likely that the roads away from hell are paved with clear thinking.

The two major questions of this blog are: how do we minimize the possible danger of robot weapons, and how can we achieve peaceful societies in the context of massive technological change, which brings with it as a natural consequence massive societal change?

The rapid near-future proliferation of robot weapons is a near-certain technological, economic, and political inevitability. Robots are becoming fast, cheap, and incredibly useful. It's going to happen, and when it happens, it'll be sudden, because Moore's Law makes slippery slopes so fast and steep that they look like instant transformations. Already, SWAT teams in Texas are using unarmed aerial robots.

The larger political questions are very difficult. Representative democracies often devolve into contests to see which ethnicity or social class can most effectively seize control of the "democratic" apparatus. This is a serious problem in former European colonies, where representative democracy is imposed without any of the cultural conditions that enabled its evolution, and is a risk elsewhere. Although societies are becoming more diverse at the macro level, the places we live are becoming more homogenous, and the increased vitriol in American politics traces directly to this source. Jared Loughner is an inexplicable mystery, unless you look at the conflict in "swing states" as a tribal conflict, and assume that the Red State tribe chooses its warriors from its lunatics.

Pretty much the whole point of representative democracy is to prevent conflicting tribes within a larger society from choosing warriors in the first place, but it operates with the assumption that tribes will choose sane warriors in a conscious, deliberate process. The Red State tribe sends its warriors into battle by filling their head with lurid imagery and then protesting that they didn't mean it. It's what they did right before they killed JFK. It's not a conscious, deliberate process, and again, although I don't like the trends towards police states, especially not in countries where I live or have family or friends, if the major threat to a peaceful society is isolated crazy people with guns, there's a certain logic to a police state whose only goal is a peaceful society.

However, a police state whose only initial goal is a peaceful society can still be used to accomplish a variety of other, much less admirable goals the moment it's in operation. I think it's wise to have compassion and respect for the people who are turning our countries into police states through good intentions, but allowing it to happen would be insane. But I think the only way to prevent it is to come up with a better model.

This is some of the stuff I'll be addressing in this blog. My hope is to figure out a better model.

cross-posted from Robot Warriors Will Destroy America