Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Why you should vote for the Tea Party’s coven in the century of the fruitbat

Christine O’Donnell. Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle.

Names to conjure with! The Tea Party’s fruitbat coven strikes fear into the hearts of rationalists. Together with Minnesota’s Michelle Bachman and President Sarah Palin they …

Oh, excuse me. I’ve got to shut the window. Susan’s grave spinning can be kind of distracting.

Ok, where was I? Got it. Looks grim. Doomed we are. True, Minnesota survived Ventura [1], and this group can’t be as bad as Cheney/Bush, but America is in a grim place. Shouldn’t rationalists be buying gardens in the countryside?

Well, yes, we probably should. But I will make a case for why rationalists should vote fruitbat, even though I lack the convictional courage to do it myself.

Let’s consider just five of the wee challenges that face America in the next thirty years, and think about how Vulcans (my people – Team Obama) would do compared to fruitbats.

First, there’s the relative decline of America as a world power and the growth of American poverty. Obviously the fruitbats will speed this along. But relative decline is going to happen anyway. There’s nothing magical about America. Our post-WW II preeminence was largely a matter of circumstance. Since then we’ve done some things right, and, especially in the Cheney/Bush era, many, many things wrong. We Vulcans managed to avert, for now, Great Depression II, but we couldn’t finish the game. Advantage Vulcan, but only by degree.

Secondly, global climate change. Two words – Nixon. China. We tried, we failed. The fruitbats can’t do worse, and only they can talk to the denialists. Advantage fruitbat.

Thirdly, the end of participatory democracy – China and America converge. Enlightenment thinkers couldn’t anticipate the positive feeback loops that make American law and regulation ever more favorable to large corporate entities (and billionaires, though they are less predictable). We Vulcans have failed on this front. Advantage fruitbat.

Fourth – the reason-resistant bomb. Iran is only the best current example. Mutual Assured Destruction worked [2] because the enemies feared death. Russia, China and the EU are all secular states, and American leadership religion is mostly skin deep (until Bush II [4]). If true believers have control of nuclear delivery systems, and if they believe their deity will either protect them or give them paradise, then we’re in a new world of hurt. It’s hard to see how Vulcans can help here. Maybe fruitbats can talk to them. Maybe religious logicians [3] will stop worrying about a fruitbat led declining America. Advantage fruitbat, albeit a small one.

Lastly, there’s the Big One. AI, better described as AS (artificial sentience). Skynet – the smarter than you think [3] machines. We don’t survive this one. Vulcan leadership, by sustaining American science, will move this day forward. Fruitbats, by accelerating the decline of America, may slow it down by five to ten years. That might move the end time out of my lifespan, though, alas, probably not out of my children’s lifespan. Advantage fruitbat.

If we add it all up, Vulcans only clearly win on one of the five big challenges. Yes, the fruitbats do accelerate the decline of America – but that might also slow AS work.

I can’t force myself to vote fruitbat. I’m not that rational; I’ll continue to campaign for Vulcan rule. In the near term it is clearly the better choice. If the fruitbats win, however, there is some (slightly) longer term consolation.

- footnotes

[1] Yes, Minnesota is whackier than California. We don’t get the credit we deserve.

[2] To my amazement. The long post-fusion survival of civilization is a strong argument for divine (or other) intervention.

[3] I’m impressed and disturbed that the NYT put this series together, even though it’s annoying that the last article managed to miss the historic Cyc and active Wolfram Alpha AI projects.

[3] They’re not whackos. Given his stated beliefs and values Ahmadinejad is more rational (for a certain definition of rational), and thus more scary but less annoying, than the fruitbats.

[4] Carter was very religious, but in a peculiarly rational way. He’s a true anomaly.

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