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Sean Prophet - 26 Big Ideas

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A few weeks back a friend of mine on Facebook asked me to fill out a questionnaire of “50 things about me.” Though the list included many interesting personal details, I really didn’t feel like it covered the most important aspects of who I am. So I didn’t fill it out.

What you believe, focus on, and accept philosphically says more about who you are than what your favorite sports team is, or what films you like to watch. Over the course of writing the thousand or so articles on BSJ during the past eight years, I’ve had to think carefully about a lot of big questions. Most of these questions have sparked endless debates and flame wars which will never, ever be resolved. And there’s a reason for that. These types of discussions go to the heart of who we are as human beings. Many of the conclusions I’ve reached involve direct challenges to feel-good conventional wisdom. But that doesn’t really concern me. The only question that matters to me (and should matter to anyone) is:

“Is it true?”

If you know me at all, one thing you might understand is that I believe ideas are far more important than people. Everyone alive today will be gone in 200 years. That’s an eyeblink in cosmic time. But the ideas we discuss today will live on forever. Ideas can lubricate society and promote progress, or they can steer the world down centuries-long blind alleys. Ideas also have the potential to destroy the world completely.

As long as intelligent life exists in our corner of the universe, the stakes in this “war of ideas” will continue to increase.

Three very bad ones dominated the 20th century:

  1. Economic growth based on unsustainable methods.
  2. Militarism and world wars.
  3. Repressive communist and fascist dictatorships.

Imagine what life might be like today if someone had intellectually defeated those bad ideas circa 1900.

Many progressive ideas and structures also expanded during the 20th century:

  1. Tolerance and political equality for minorities, women’s suffrage, Civil Rights Act.
  2. Environmentalism and sustainability.
  3. Democracy and personal freedom.
  4. International organizations such as the UN, IMF, WHO, WTO.
  5. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders.

It’s nearly 2010. My question is, can’t we finally grow up, stop being our own worst enemy, face the misconceptions we’ve held about ourselves, and get on with it?

Column 1 is a list (in no particular order) of ideas I think will stand the test of time. Column 2 is a list of fallacies I hear nearly every day, which I think are seriously holding back human progress.

GOOD MEMES: HOW IT IS

BAD MEMES: HOW IT ISN’T

Forward-looking, fact-based, critically examined, hopeful, optimistic, realistic.

Fear-based, sentimental, repressive,
backward-looking, wishful, or just plain wrong.

1

There is no evidence for any deity. The concept is confusing, contradictory, and divisive.

God-belief is nearly universal because it’s true and/or beneficial.

2

Artificial Intelligence holds incredible promise for human evolution and is moving us toward some form of radically different future, or possibly a technological “Singularity.”

Intelligent machines won’t work, but if they ever did, they would turn on their creators, take over and destroy the world. We shouldn’t try to build them.

3

We should employ government as a check and balance to unfettered competition. We should encourage people to challenge authority. But people vary in their capacities, and we will therefore never eliminate hierarchy. People need boundaries, so we can’t eliminate money.

We can and should eliminate competition, hierarchy, authority, and money. Let the community decide.

4

Objective facts exist about the observable universe. They’re of the utmost importance to humanity.

There are no facts, only interpretations. Everything is subjective, even our perceptions. Who knows? We might be living in a simulation.

5

Human consciousness is a purely physical phenomenon. It can and will be understood and duplicated.

The mind is too complex to ever understand or reverse engineer, it might rely on supernatural influence to function.

6

People’s interests inherently conflict, which often inhibits voluntary cooperation. Reliable cooperation requires structural incentives.

Cooperation is humans’ natural state, and governs human behavior in absence of an externally imposed competitive, hierarchical system.

7

There are no natural human rights. Best practices for government must be defined and enforced through mutual agreement and the rule of law.

Human rights were created by God and/or exist naturally. We only need to discover them.

8

Empirical science is the only reliable way to learn about the universe. Subjective experience is only valuable to the person having it.

Science is as corruptible and biased as the humans who engage in it. There are other valuable ways of knowing, like personal experience.

9

Humans evolved from animals and are extremely similar to them, the more we learn about animals, the more we know about ourselves.

There is a bright line between humans and animals, we are qualitatively different.

10

People are not moral or immoral. Like all metabolic systems we are a collection of conflicting motivations and opportunistic impulses. Acceptance and integration of human darkness is essential for individual and societal health.

We should seek to be good people and root out and destroy the ego, selfishness, and evil. We just have to get rid of the bad apples, and humans can all get along.

11

Since we have a global economy, we should encourage a global polity. People should be free to live and work where they choose.

We need borders and separate nations. Global government is a danger because if it went wrong, there would be no place to get away from it.

12

Robots will improve society and create a vastly higher standard of living. We will come to accept and appreciate their unique qualities.

Robots will take away jobs and further
concentrate wealth. They will undermine what it means to be human.

13

Complexity is inherent in progress and we will evolve and learn to manage it.

The law of diminishing returns means we are
approaching the limits of human progress. We’ve made technological strides, but not moral ones.

14

Rising consumption is inevitable and desirable. We should concentrate on efficiency and sustainability.

Consumption is inherently evil, and we should all learn to lead simpler lives.

15

Large scale systems such as the power grid and industrial agriculture are inevitable to support a population of billions. There are dozens of cities over 10 million people, and they’re not amenable to “community” solutions.

Corporations and governments are not fixable. We should downsize and seek to produce food and energy in our local communities.

16

Renewable power plants should be built wherever they can, as quickly as they can. Reducing CO2 trumps all other environmental concerns.

Renewable power plants are as destructive to the environment as conventional and should not be allowed in pristine areas.

17

Those engaging in economic transactions must be forced through legal means to compensate for any “externalities” which impact third parties or society.

Prosperity is best ensured by increased production through seeking the lowest marginal cost, in spite of any externalities.

18

Eliminating private property would cause more problems than it solved, chiefly the “Tragedy of the Commons.”

“Tragedy of the Commons” has been debunked, it is greed and private property which causes conflict.

19

The ego is a vital construct for self-actualization, long-term self interest is the healthiest way to promote both individual integrity and community values.

We should strive to get rid of selfishness and the ego, we should think more highly of other’s interests than our own, because we are all one.

20

Taxation is necessary for human society, we must pay for the broad range of services desired by the majority. We must insist on caring for the weak. It’s not practical to allow people to “opt out.”

Taxation is theft, there is no moral difference
between a government or a thug taking your money.

21

Human activity is responsible for climate change, we should use treaties and regulation to reverse the damage.

Climate change is the result of natural cycles. It is not the role of government to regulate human emissions.

22

Technology changes how we engage, but essential human nature has always been self-promoting, calculating and amoral. Social networking builds bridges and represents a huge revolution.

Technology is dumbing us down. Video games, social networks and the internet are making us more socially isolated, narcissistic and immoral.

23

Life is inherently meaningless, but free citizens can imbue it with whatever meaning we decide brings us the most happiness.

Life without a creator and an inherent eternal purpose is not worth living.

24

Sexuality is not only for enjoyment and procreation, it’s also a nexus for negotiation and power relations between humans. Sex should be respected for its own sake and given the high status it deserves.

Monogamy and commitment are the only sexual values that count. Women are the gatekeepers, and should keep sex under tight control. Those who don’t are “sluts.”

25

Capitalism will inevitably give way to some form of collective resource management. How else will anyone get paid when machines and robots are doing all the menial work?

Free-enterprise capitalism is the highest and best economic system and should be pursued to the exclusion of any social welfare system.

26

We should actively seek life extension and expansion. Since we only have one life, it is not just a good idea, but an obligation to make it as long and fulfilling as it can possibly be. Extra years of productivity will more than offset any drain on resources.

Death is what gives meaning to life. If we lived forever it would not only be boring, but consume too many resources. Plus, it would be just another unfair advantage for those who could afford it.


Comments (30 comments)

fsk / September 9th, 2009, 2:12 pm / #1

You're completely wrong on "Taxation is theft!" That idea is spreading because it's true.

The mechanism by which taxes are collected is the same as a massive extortion racket. Either you pay, or armed thugs come to kidnap you, take away your stuff, or murder you.

You might say "Taxes are necessary for a government!" The answer is that you don't need a government all. Everything that governments do can be more efficiently provided by multiple competing vendors in a free market.

Realizing "Taxation is theft!" contradicts everything you've learned about mainstream economics and politics.

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 8:06 pm / #2

When you say "Taxation is theft!" it's a circular argument. It already assumes a lack of legitimacy to the government, equating it to thugs.

But if they're not thugs, then it's not theft. If it's a government of, by and for the people, then the people have agreed to tax themselves.

Unfortunately there is no provision for a minority to practically opt out. Maybe there should be a "free zone" where those who don't want any taxation or government can go and live. Two things would result, first chaos, then either a strongman would take over, or the people would figure it out and set up their own more democratic government there. Either way, you get taxes.

The statement "you don't need a government" is one of those which will never be resolved. People who believe that have really ignored human history.

fsk / September 10th, 2009, 2:07 pm / #3

I already wrote a detailed post on this issue. I'm not repeating it here.

http://fskrealityguide.blogspot.com/2009/08/answe

You haven't convinced me "Taxation is not theft", and I'm not going to convince you "Taxation is theft".

Alex / September 9th, 2009, 2:40 pm / #4

Hm. I do agree with a good portion of this, but on a few of these I'm actually slightly disturbed at your dismissal of valid cautionary ideas, especially when you deride being wishful.

Like global governments. The way things are at the moment, there is no plausible world government except one composed of a joint committee of current world leaders (a UN with actual lawmaking authority), among whom the most powerful would have a disproportionate voice due to the willingness to bribe or lean on those who don't have the same resources. These include China, India, and the US, three countries who are contributing greatly to both human misery and environmental pollution.

Until we are able to excise the politics of fear from the governments we have, and ensure that we are governed not by the most likable but by the most *competent*, no world government is going to be a place you want to live in. And, like you dismissively said, you can't leave. The Chinese political dissidents at least have a place to run to right now.

Debra / September 9th, 2009, 5:41 pm / #5

Sean Prophet has many incongruous premises. A pseudo-intellectual piece of crap!

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 7:41 pm / #6

Debra, perhaps out of 26, you could have discussed even one specific objection?

chris / September 10th, 2009, 7:28 am / #7

poopoo peepee! gagga googoo!!!! waaaaAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 8:08 pm / #8

I have no problem with being cautionary. But when people dismiss efforts toward global government, *any* global government, they automatically assume that it would be an onerous one. But why would we allow a bad government to take over the world? Why wouldn't it be done slowly and carefully over a period of 50-100 years. That's what I'm talking about.

It's a straw man to take the corruption we're already aware of and extrapolate that onto global government. Of course we don't want that.

But right now, we have governments like Myanmar, Venezuela, North Korea, any number of repressive regimes in the Middle East, etc. Those people already can't leave, and under the current international order, we must respect their "sovereignty." A global democratic government would quickly remove rogue regimes, much like we would do in the U.S. if some demagogue took over Kansas. I'm sick of sitting on our hands and being able to do basically nothing about dictators and genocide.

Why not try to slowly move in that direction? In the decades it would take to bring it about, we could work toward an evolution in governmental transparency, much as we have seen already in the past 50 years.

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 8:08 pm / #9

I have no problem with being cautionary. But when people dismiss efforts toward global government, *any* global government, they automatically assume that it would be an onerous one. But why would we allow a bad government to take over the world? Why wouldn't it be done slowly and carefully over a period of 50-100 years. That's what I'm talking about.

It's a straw man to take the corruption we're already aware of and extrapolate that onto global government. Of course we don't want that.

But right now, we have governments like Myanmar, Venezuela, North Korea, any number of repressive regimes in the Middle East, etc. Those people already can't leave, and under the current international order, we must respect their "sovereignty." A global democratic government would quickly remove rogue regimes, much like we would do in the U.S. if some demagogue took over Kansas. I'm sick of sitting on our hands and being able to do basically nothing about dictators and genocide.

Why not try to slowly move in that direction? In the decades it would take to bring it about, we could work toward an evolution in governmental transparency, much as we have seen already in the past 50 years.

Alex / September 10th, 2009, 3:28 pm / #10

But the smart people *haven't* fixed the governments we have, or established new, functional, and reasonable ones.

Stating, "We should establish a reasonable, effective, and non-oppressive government for the world" is just as reasonable as "We should begin using fusion power plants for all major power needs".

Would it be good? Yes. Does anyone know how to do that?

No. No one has ever instituted a goverment of a number even *approaching* 6 billion citizens that has not trampled on their rights without a meaningful response from the people governed.

Figure out how to do it *right*, before allowing it. That's all I ask. If you can't say precisely how one would work, and how it would come about without causing worse problems than it solves, then you really have no business advocating one.

paul avery / September 9th, 2009, 8:21 pm / #11

I find it very ironic that the education to which Sean Prophet has obviously benefitted from was paid for entirely by CUT members. I think Sean has a moral obligation to pay the money back!

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 8:52 pm / #12

While we're attempting to rewrite history, I'd go a step further and propose that all the assets of CUT should be sold and all the money paid back to all the members who have ever contributed since 1958. How about it, Paul?

Amaterasu / September 9th, 2009, 10:44 pm / #13

Should I pay back the cost of my education to former share holders of "Telecom", which is where my Dad worked when I was being educated? What about my friend, whose parents worked at BP when their education was paid for? Then there's Hung Sa restaurant, which my other friend's parents owned. Should they pay back the patrons for their education? Diabolical illogic ………..

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 11:17 pm / #14

Amaterasu, exactly. It's a perfect example of how believers think: Making convenient connections and asserting sentimental moral imperatives that don't exist, while ignoring the glaring weaknesses of their own position.

"We don't like your conclusions, so pay us back for your education." Sorry, doesn't work that way. As a society, we educate people because it's in the public interest. No one owes anyone anything for their education, unless they took out student loans.

chris / September 10th, 2009, 7:25 am / #15

hahaha lmao. Paul just said in so many words, "man, that guys pretty smart!"

darkeros / September 10th, 2009, 6:42 pm / #16

Actually, Paul, Sean had to spend years and years of adult life UNEDUCATING himself from all that he was inculcated with under the control of CUT. From the twisted version of science he was force fed, to the banning of cultural literacy, everything was tainted and twisted. He has had to take a lifetime to get to the ground of reality, rather than begin there like healthier educational and parental systems provide. Sean's intelligence, like mine and many I know at this age, is self wrought our of the morass of ignorance we were born into and educated by.

David Vaughn / September 9th, 2009, 10:43 pm / #17

I'm with Sean here 100%. Fifteen years at less than 1000$ a year (room and board provided of course) working a minimus of 60 hours a week for the benefit of thinking myself spiritually superior to the ignorant masses on the planet, dreading every second that my personal inadequacy will be discovered and I will be booted out. Sean's ideas can only have come from someone who has seen the bogus virtue of an unassailed religious ideology and has fully reckoned on the seductive power such views hold over the self-unexamined lives of most of humanity. There is much merit in these ideas and greater merit in the desire to begin a public discussion of the ideological assumptions that rule our blind lurch into the future. What we fear, what we detest, what we abhor ultimately comes from our own personal ambivalence to reality.

BlackSun / September 9th, 2009, 10:54 pm / #18

Thanks, David. It seems the people closest to the center of controlling regimes such as CUT paid the highest price. Members who did not join staff lost only their contributions. Others such as yourself gave years of their life.

Reflections on the losses and abuses are all that's left. If we at least take the lesson, then it wasn't all for nothing.

BlackSun / September 10th, 2009, 5:33 pm / #19

Alex, I think fusion and global government are a good comparison. Interestingly, our best shot at perfecting fusion seems to be ITER, the international collaborative project. Like the International Space Station, science is bringing us together. Apollo-Soyuz was an early step toward ending the Cold War.

I feel like global government will evolve naturally as we begin to understand that knowledge and a shared experience removes barriers between people. American middle class technology workers have much more in common with Indian, Chinese, or African technology workers than we do with uneducated rural Americans.

It is the commonality of knowledge and experience combined with the integration of finance that will bring us together. When John F. Kennedy proposed to land on the moon within 10 years, no one had any idea how it would be accomplished. It is the same with global government. It will evolve, be opposed, be modified, be looked at skeptically, and eventually be embraced because the advantages will be too great.

Think of the huge savings, just for armaments.

paul avery / September 10th, 2009, 10:23 pm / #20

Such assumptions you make, Sean and others, when I merely stated that your education was paid for on the backs of CUT members. So, was your room and board at the TCs. CUT members at the time did not have a choice in this matter. And it has nothing to do with either agreeing or disagreeing with your points, it has to do with a position of convenience now that you have reaped the benefits of an education paid for by the suffering of others. Additionally, when you assumed guardianship of your mother's estate, you also came into significant money, which was rendered into your mother's account, by her lying and trickery toward her followers. I agree — refund the money – set up a foundation and do the right thing.

BlackSun / September 10th, 2009, 10:58 pm / #21

Au Contraire, Paul. It is you who have made assumptions. I am not the guardian of my mother's estate and received no funds. You might want to contact the current church leadership with your concerns.

paul avery / September 11th, 2009, 2:52 am / #22

No thanks. I'm not willing to hear lies from Kate Gordon and others.

You do have quite a talent when it comes to distracting that you received money from your mother's estate. I find your denials of money very hard to believe.

David Vaughn / September 11th, 2009, 8:51 pm / #23

Paul, if I may- what the church was for any particular individual and what it was in fact are admittedly two different things even though the church was, in fact, only in the minds of its members. The imputation of bad intent to others is problematic in the most obvious circumstances. In the surreal world of the church, realizing the sincerity of belief of everyone in it, I think all intentions were as equally good as they were bad. Perhaps like me you missed the opportunity to get a complete education or to pursue a career to which you were best suited. If they sold all the assets of the church tomorrow and gave me what is my mathematically fair share- well, maybe I could buy a new car. It's water over the dam at this point. We'd still need to come up with our own 26 points because what I actually invested in Sean's education is probably less than I make in a day working as a postman. Is life fair or unfair? It's neither. Humans want it to be one or the other and make themselves miserable in the process.

John Dillon / September 15th, 2009, 11:36 pm / #24

You all are smelly!!! But good stuff – these are thought provoking and intelligent moral considerations. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, actually some of it can come off a bit arrogant, but I respect your contribution.

BlackSun / September 15th, 2009, 11:51 pm / #25

John, thank you. These kinds of ideas are tough to discuss, but that's why more people don't think or talk about them. They simply accept conventional wisdom, unquestioned. Every item in column two I've heard other people say or write. They are recurring fallacies, and it must be because people find them in some way comforting.

As for me, putting my perception of "how it is" out there is a way to refine the ideas. If someone can show me why I'm wrong, I'll change my thinking. I've done it many times before, and I hope I never stop. When you pass the point of being able to accomplish a reasoned change of mind based on new information, then you might as well be dead.

John Dillinger / September 15th, 2009, 11:58 pm / #26

I think a lot of objections will be from people who believe subjectively based on faith in certain values … it's a different way of life … there is no way to really even argue between your view and that view. If that kind of person debates you, they can only win by force and passion, which is not necessarily invalid (imo)

John Dillinger / September 15th, 2009, 11:59 pm / #27

Oh, there is the philosophical point … the reflection on the reflection … the why … the sense of meaning … as the makers of South Park (god-believers) stated in a recent episode … evolution is the how, not the why

there are those who sense an intrinsic why-ness, which changes the ballgame … but if you root that out of you or it's not in you … then there is a different situation

Francis A Wolak / October 14th, 2009, 6:44 am / #28

Sean – I suggest you you check out the following web site http://divinecosmos.com/. It contains scientific data to back up spiritual concepts such as consciousness. It talks of a universal DNA – discusses quantum physics, holograms and many other subjects. The most stunning comment is the announcement that will be made before Christmas that will be the most momemtous event in earth's history. This was announced near the end of the interview on Coast to Coast. This site has enough scientific data based on experiments to keep you occupied for days. All this is tied in to the end of the 24,500 cycle keyed as 2012.(to which I have not seen your comments)

BlackSun / October 14th, 2009, 6:57 am / #29

Actually, it's 25,800 years, tied to the precession of the earth's axis. 2012 is nothing more than another year in the calendar which will be filled with events tied to human and natural circumstances. Could be an ordinary year or an extraordinary one. One thing's for sure, no one can predict what it will contain. You've said enough that I don't need to look at the site. Divine Cosmos? More fodder for the hopelessly gullible.

Mim Rose / January 22nd, 2013, 2:38 pm / #30

You were, in 2009, a humanist nihilist libertarian-leaning democrat as far as I can understand from the points you made above.
1. Do you agree or disagree with my very general :-) characterization?
2. Since then, I am just wondering… have your beliefs and views on any of the above evolved in any way?

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