Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Options

After making two posts about my version of an Ideal Society, I suppose that the few people who actually read this deserve to know about a few of the alternatives.

The Collective ("We are the Borg"): A society consisting of a single entity that possesses multiple bodies, anywhere from a couple to several billion. This would probably be accomplished through the use of brain implants networked wirelessly so that they function as one. Alternatively the participants could be uploaded into cyberspace (see August 17th entry) and merge into one super-entity, with individuals serving as subroutines within the entity. The individuals within the collective may have varying degrees of individuality, from none to people that communicate telepathically. Does not particularly appeal to me.

Cyber-democracy: Back to the original democracy, aided by the Internet. Instead of electing representatives people who want to participate in government simply log in to a vast online forum and post their opinions. But seriously, who would have the time to read a thread millions of posts long, you'd need to have someone to manage the forum, or more likely a different person for each region, which would kind of reduce the forum to a massive electronic voting machine.

AIcracy: Artificial Intelligences will be superior to humans in every way, so why not let them rule over us and guide us to a Utopia. But why would they want to keep us alive, they could replace us with robots who could fill our functions in every way without complaining. Not to mention that even a self-evolving AI would be no better than its programmers or teachers. Regardless, this is the government typically used in Transhumanist sci-fi such as Iain Banks' Culture series and the Orion's Arm online worldbuilding project (even the Libertarian NoCoZo is subtly guided by The Invisible Hand of the Market).

Megacorp: The traditional government is weak or non-existent, instead immense, monopolistic, corporations control everything. These Megacorps might not be immensely corrupt and overall inhumane, but that works out so well now doesn't it. One should note that this sort of society is the setting for pretty much THE ENTIRE CYBERPUNK GENRE.

Techno-feudalism: Instead of advanced technology becoming available to everyone, only an elite class has access to it, either the scientists and engineers rule, or they serve the aristocracy as advisers or valued servants. In extreme cases the common folk might live in a pre-industrial state and be controlled through a state-sponsored religion that claims that technology is magic or divine. Alternatively the underclasses may be robots or genetically engineered to be of lower intelligence, while the elite are genetically enhanced or "pure" humans with no enhancements. Vaguely similar to the Galactic Empires featured in Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Frank Herbert's Dune, and the miniatures war game Warhammer 40,000, but of a much smaller size as FTL travel is physically impossible of course.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Role of Technology in my Ideal Society

Some people may have read my other posts and been confused about the lack of advanced technologies described in my last one. So allow me to explain the roles that technology would play in my idea of an ideal society. First off there would of course, be the internet or something similar, likely incorporating virtual reality and Second Life-esque virtual environments. There might even be some people who end up spending almost their entire life in Virch, either having their physical bodies hooked up to feeding tubes or eventually uploading their consciousnesses into their computers. For those who prefer to spend much of their time in rl, they could use wearable computers with VR goggles or cybernetic implants to check their e-mail anywhere.

In relation to the real world, technology would be used to improve the quality of life of most of the population. Thanks to genetic engineering, hydroponics, and vat-grown meat, food would be cheap and plentiful. Robotics and nanotechnology would cheapen manufacturing, but might put a large portion of the working class out of a job, though that would probably be less of a problem after a few generations. Of course, with advances in medical biotechnology people might be living considerably longer and hopefully working longer before retiring (if they ever retire).

Finally, enhancements, what I have been focusing on for most of my blog since I started. I stated that in my Ideal Society status would be determined solely by merit, how they acquired the skills or talents that allowed them to reach their status doesn't matter. However, due to the expenses of acquiring enhancements, they would be most common among the higher ranking members of society. Also keep in mind the risks involved with modifying any biological organism, especially the brain. For example, there could be complications with a neurological implantation and someone who could have become a superbright cyborg could instead end up in a coma or with limited mental faculties. Or a gene therapy regimen could result in a potentially fatal immune response or cancer. Even germ-line genetic engineering has risks, mostly for the embryo being modified. Basically most people who would undergo enhancements would be taking a serious risk and deserve whatever new abilities they acquired as a result. If you think that this system is unfair, it could be worse, for example genetic engineering could be used to create a hereditary caste system based on what genetic modifications one's ancestors received.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Ideal society

With the election coming up I thought it might be appropriate to talk about what I think would make a better society. Keep in mind that my idea is not perfect by any means, perfection seems to violate the laws of nature as everyone has a different idea of what is perfect.

First the government, democracy sounds good, but humanity's social tendencies mean that it easy for large groups to be swayed into making decisions that prove detrimental to them. Not to mention that statistically speaking, at least half of a population has a lower than average IQ. Seriously, do you really think that the majority is always right? In my ideal society, leaders would be selected by small groups of highly educated people based solely on their merits. There is some possibility for corruption in a Meritocracy like this, but having multiple people reduces the chances of cronyism or nepotism influencing decisions. The only problem is the possibility of some crazy low-ranking administrator secretly using unethical tactics to achieve his goals and advance in rank to the top. But that could be easily solved by keeping all administrators/bureacrats/politicians below a certain rank under close observation, in an extreme case implants could be used for this purpose.

Secondly, economy, lassez-faire capitalism, the government would only interfere in times of crisis such as a recession or potential depression. In exchange for the limited involvement from the government, the corporations would not be allowed to influence politics at all. Taxes would primarily be on a personal level based on a set percentage of one's income. The internal structure of most companies would be based on the same model as the government, but it would be harder to regulate and inevitably there would be some highly corrupt megacorps similarly to how there is now, maybe worse.

Thirdly, culture, I would prefer a completely secular society with no religion or superstition, but I doubt that will happen. Instead all faiths and beliefs would be respected, as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on others. Viral memes that are potentially dangerous (for example, a religious sect that encourages members to kill themselves) would be suppressed if deemed necessary, but generally people's personal lives would not be any of the government's business. In other words, it doesn't really matter what people do as long as they don't harm anyone (themselves or others).