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11 February 2015 @ 07:32 am
An environment is a massively multiplayer prisoner's dilemma: If you pee in the river, you win; if everybody pees in the river, everybody loses. (Another term for this problem is the Tragedy of the Commons.) The science fiction I grew up with told me that I was trapped in a body, which in turn was trapped in an environment and a society, and I loved it. (John Clute called it First SF and didn't like it.)

But that leaves something out. I read Descartes and doubted everything but my mind, but I did not become a solipsist. (Solipsism, like homosexuality, can seem awfully tempting to people who'd be terribly disappointed if they actually tried it.) I decided that the possibility of everything out there being run by a single entity seemed less plausible than other apparent people actually being people, like me, with rich internal lives. I believe that you are trapped in a body, which in turn is trapped in an environment and a society. I like that; it means I'm not alone in a material world I find simultaneously scary and boring.

Of course there is a world out there, and we are supposed to believe in the objective view, or as Thomas Nagel calls it, the view from nowhere. The problem with the view from nowhere is that nobody has it. We are always imagining, approximating, hypothesizing, drawing distinctions and hoping that they work.

We have to keep doing it, though, because we are living in a set of prisoner's dilemmas: There are externalities, and the Market isn't going to resolve them for us, any more than God or the Dialectic will. We as a society must offer knowledge to everyone because we don't know who'll be able to use it for everyone's benefit. (Race and sex are really bad guesses.) It would be cheering to think that the antivaxxers were all morons brainwashed by Fox News, but it turns out a lot of them merely haven't figured out that it's an externality too. And I think I figured out why so many other people like the sci-fi fantasy of flying cars: They haven't realized that everybody would have them.
amaebi: Black foxamaebi on February 11th, 2015 02:50 pm (UTC)
I don't go around calling people brainwashed morons. But my horrified impression is that a lot of people don't believe in externalities because it seems so complicated to them.
El Coyote Gordo: alchemysupergee on February 11th, 2015 03:00 pm (UTC)
That is a very good point.
sturgeonslawyer: Defaultsturgeonslawyer on February 11th, 2015 03:49 pm (UTC)
H'mmmm. I don't see myself as "trapped in a body," since I don't know what "I" would be without the body. I kind of reject Cartesian dualism.
El Coyote Gordo: tree of lifesupergee on February 11th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
As do many. I know that mind/body, like all distinctions, is a drawn one, not an absolute one, but I identify far more with the part that comes from elsewhere than with the part that comes from the meat.
sturgeonslawyersturgeonslawyer on February 11th, 2015 05:39 pm (UTC)
Ah. Whereas to me, it all _comes from_ the meat - does not exist without it.

(Despite this, I am a soullist. Go figure.)
El Coyote Gordo: pastafariansupergee on February 11th, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)
I don't feel I have evidence to make confident statements in this area. I find Personal God and Just Happened implausible, but that may be my deficient imagination.
(Anonymous) on February 11th, 2015 06:24 pm (UTC)
Demolition Derby! Now with flying cars!

-- Bruce Arthurs