The Numbers, hundreds, thousands of Numbers in light blue unifs (probably a derivative of the ancient uniform) with golden badges on the chest – the State number of each one, male or female – the Numbers were walking slowly, four abreast, exaltedly keeping step. (
The reality is that food preparation is done more and more in mass-production facilities, but those facilities are the suppliers to retailers, the kitchens of fast-food places, etc. (Who now knows how to cut up a whole chicken? (the workers in the chicken factory) But my "Joy of Cooking" has that information in the early pages.) But the final steps, the consumer-visible steps, from purchase decision to consumption, are highly decentralized, small-scale, and have lots of personal choice, even if it's only choosing one of the four fast-food places on a busy intersection.
What counts is not the material standard of living, but the subjective standard of living. You can be abundantly rich and feel miserable. You can, hypothetically at least, be materially poor in absolute numbers (e.g. energy input, net worth in $), while all your needs are fulfilled efficiently and you are subjectively happy.
I am not claiming that above replacement fertility is a good idea under current circumstances.
Assuming more lives are a good thing.
Why would more population be a good thing if it does not result in increased material standard of living, or worse, a decreased standard of living?
"Future very poor descendants, for example, might find it hard to resist the cost savings of cafeteria style food service, or dorm style sleeping arrangements." Unless there is a: 1) global thermonuclear war, 2) global biological war that causes brain diseases, or 3) takeover by terminators, it's unlikely future descendants will be very poor.
"No, I am assuming that people are irrational to the point that they will prefer simulacra over reality despite the fact that this tradeoff is ultimately bad for them. Just as they have prefered fast food over healthy food despite all the drawbacks."
But that's fine, up to a point. I eat unhealthy food all the time, knowing fully well that I will die earlier than most people. It's a trade-off. Think of it this way: Would you rather not exist, or would you rather live in a world of virtual superstimuli at minimal resource use, subjectively superior to what the medieval kings experienced? I think most people would rather exist and experience those superstimuli. There is nothing wrong with that, in my view.
"This is essentially the reason why hard drugs are banned (and the only reason the ban is not working is because in it we are engaging in cost-benefit analysis about permissible harm)."
Yes. I agree that behavior-altering technologies that end up socially detrimental will receive legal and social pressure. I predict that people will reject personality alteration technologies and memory manipulation technologies, but they will fully endorse the best VR possible, as well as new communication tech (e.g. voluntary digital telepathy). Again, mostly socially beneficial imo.
"Yeah, just throw in casually "and enhancers", that would do the trick of making an argument. Again, this is categorical difference, not just difference in degree, just like there is, you know, a difference between a jelly baby and a human fetus."
I don't know what a jelly baby is. But you could see even text messaging as a form of communication enhancement, and of course people are okay with it. Digital telepathy will be a reality at some point. It will be an enhancement, and it will be embraced like text messaging now. Again, I see this as beneficial rather than problematic.
"Incidentally, if I thought that the social cost would not be too high and if I wasn't certain that VR would bring about SAI (which basically means doom for humanity), I wouldn't object to it. But, then, I think so, so I do."
I don't know what the acronym means. You mean strong AI or superhuman AI? This is independent from VR, it seems to me. But I agree it may come at some point, one way or another. I agree it has repercussions that have to be taken seriously, but rejecting technology is obviously not going to be a feasible answer.
"If you haven't noticed, bar sub-saharan africa, fertility has dramatically been reduced. If you transhumanists do not start creating artificial life, we are pretty much safe on this front"
Probably not forever, due to selection effects. Ironically, VR satisfaction of all associated needs may be the key to keep population growth at bay. Then again, there are people who think we have too little, rather than too much fertility. As a utilitarian, I do value sustainable population growth, under the condition that the created lives are subjectively fulfilling, which may be more feasible at low resource per capita due to cheap VR and certain types of mind enhancement. Not without risk, but it's worth trying, imo.
"How about "Assuming more lives are a good thing", which is straight utilitarianism and, incidentally, the whole basis for your argument?"
That was a conditional statement. I never implied everyone shares utilitarian values, even though I would prefer if they did.
"And I really wish you make that known to as much people as possible so they understand the transhumanists agenda and react accordingly. Accidentally, though, I still think that you non-specieists still have survival instincts left."
There is no secret transhumanist agenda. Transhumanism is an umbrella term, and all relevant points have been discussed in public. Furthermore, while I may have a survival instinct, it is not very strong. I'm ready to die for the greater good, even though I'm skeptical about the potential downsides of a technologically enhanced future as well, mostly if they cause more suffering than pleasure in the universe. The fact that I don't value my own life may be seen as a statement about myself rather than utilitarianism or transhumanism, but it is a fact. Survival instincts that switch off reason are worthless for an intelligent species.
"Have I reached Yudkowsky-like levels of arrogance or am I not there yet?"
Sorry to say, but as pompoulsy as Yudkowsky writes sometimes, you haven't given me even a fraction of the insights his posts have given me.
"Wither the Industrial Revolution?" ? A play on words (wither/ whither) or just a typo?
People do accept dorm-style sleeping arrangements plus cafeteria food , today. If there's a Hometown Suites, Value Place or the like near you, that's exactly what it is. You buy prepared frozen meals at WalMart and unfreeze them in your microwave. It's something like a monk's cell plus amenities ( cable, HVAC and electricity ) for $200 a week plus food.
Unless they live in China. In which case they still have to worry about the coal dust smoke.
Thanks for the pointers.
Nice pun in the title of this post ... I would guess most educated Westerners from 1850 to about 1950, if suddenly gifted with the ability and desire to write a readable and mature dystopian novel, would have made the greatest fear to be that of the wrath of the Deity avenging the millions of victims of factory dangers and drudgery, see e.g. HARD TIMES (Dickens, born 1820s, guilty and ultimately avenged party a Malthusian factory owner type), The Scouring of the Shire (Tolkien, born 1890s, guilty and ultimately avenged party a technically accomplished tree-hating orc-hiring wizard),,,, or changing focus to dystopian science fiction romantic stories, the greatest fear spelled out by those pre-1950 westerners would be a progressive and very much unwanted disassociation of beauty and empathy - as described in the Book of Proverbs, a much-read book back then (see. e.g. Hoffman and more famously Delibes, Coppelia = lovely lifelike mechanical doll-woman ruins prospects of inventor), or the equally unwanted dissipation of friendship under the drip drip drip of distractions fostered by almost stochastic commercial impulses clearly strengthened by the industrial revolution (to include distractions stemming from the impulse (on the part of multitudinous unnamed offstage actors) to profit from military, clothing, travel, and other commercial distractions) = see, e.g. last half of Ulysses, several extended episodes in Proust.. Our strongest current fears (bad robots, worldwide spinning out of control of home-grown biological and mechanical and genetic disasters) seem to come into focus only later on (two exceptions I am aware of are C.S Lewis, forecaster of genetic disaster, born 1890s, and Thomas Carlyle, forecaster of political and conformist disaster, born old in England a long time ago...)
Morlocks in "The Time Machine", 1895?
Dystopian fiction started commonly appearing around 1887, 30+ years after the industrial revolution ended. Here are a few semi-earlier dystopias:
The Republic of the Future
2 earlier quasi-dystopias:
A Sojourn in the City of Amalgation, in the Year of Our Lorn 19--
"People imagined entire cities and nations being organized as were factories and firms, with commands sent down from above, and little room for local discretion. They also imagined such commands telling people not only what job to do when, but also what to read and eat, who to marry, where to live, etc."
How were these fears overblown? This distopias actually existed. I mean the entire idea behind industrial communism was such. The fact that they failed doesn't mean that the fear-ers were incorrect.
I've read that; don't recall it expressing much fear.
And also keep in mind that Soviet Union was established in 1917, with Stalin becoming Secretary in 1922, the Fascists took power in Italy in the same year, and in Germany the NSDAP was founded in 1925, with Hitler becoming Chancellor in 1933.
It seems to me that dystopian works of fiction of that era are more a reaction to these totalitarian ideologies rather to industrialization.
I haven't read it, but Jules Verne's "Paris in the Twentieth Century" seems to fit your bill. It was written (but left unpublished) in 1863; as usual, Verne was ahead of the curve.