This is my policy on reciprocal reviews for the FQXi essay contest — How should humanity steer the future? — Basically I'll give your essay a sincere appraisal if you give the same treatment to mine. Otherwise I won't comment on your essay, nor rate it. Sorry to be blunt. The interactions earlier in the contest weren't what I expected, so I figure it's better to be explicit about what I'm looking for, and prepared to offer.
Reviewing my essay
Please be critical. While the contest organizers urge us to "cultivate a supportive atmosphere of scientific conversation" without being judgmental or critical, a thoughtful critique is more useful to me. My aim is to improve the essay — whether it wins or not — so please do point to faults. I want to know about them. That's a lot to ask for; so, to lighten the burden a little, I've compiled a summary of all the critique I've received so far:
|| Critique and reply
Consensus is easy to say, but very difficult to accomplish.1
But a consensus on a trivial text is easy to accomplish. Then we evolve the consensus step by step. It's a recombinant text, so it's designed to evolve.
Are you suggesting that we change the existing institutions of modern democracy? 2
No, my thesis doesn't depend on that.
You "cover too much ground to really make the points you want to make".3
Yes, I see you're right. The text needs more room to breathe.
| D is un-
The discourse principle (D, p. 3) is undemocratic in that it requires unanimity.4
Habermas calls it a "principle of democracy", yet nowhere does he claim that unanimity is required in actual practice. So actually it does fit democracy in both theory and practice.
Aren't you relying on so-called wisdom of the crowds? 5
No, there are no anonymous crowds. The guides are individuals of known identity who speak together in public.
| Freedom is
The principle of maximizing freedom (M2) cannot be deduced as a prudent means to success (M0) because it is equally a means to failure.6
But a maximum of personal freedom when "compatible with equal freedoms for all" is more likely to avoid extinction than to cause it (p. 2). This breaks the symmetry you imply.
Even a network of civilizations expanding into the galaxy might be exposed to extinction; I can imagine hazards. So the endless continuum (M0, p.2) is infeasible as an end.7
Generally such speculative hazards are hard to take seriously; either they're improbable in themselves, or have sensible and familiar defenses.
You assume rational discourse, but people are often irrational.8
I assume only what rationality we already have, which is proven sufficient for us to make progress in engineering, math, science, humanities, etc.
| Life before
"I would not say reason is the supreme value; life is." 9
But reason implies life. And reason seeks to create and maintain life wherever it really is valued, while life alone offers no such assurances to reason.
| Light speed
is no limit
The premise against superluminal motion (P1) is unjustified. 10
But physics generally recognizes no breaches of this limit.
"I'm not sure individuals should be voting on specific technocratic legal details beyond their expertise." 11
But a vote outside the legislature is just a form of speech. And if "should" is moral here, then principle M2 applies and requires us to maximize personal freedom (p. 2), including freedom of expression in regard to legislative details.
The premise of a supreme valuation on reason (P2) should be better justified.12
Yes, maybe by inviting challengers to explain how we'd get along without reason and ultimately recover unharmed. Or to identify a value V whose loss from the cosmos implies the loss of reason, yet whose presence isn't already implied by it. Or identify a value W whose loss we could not amend even while reason remained with us (which would then be co-supreme, at least). The premise is fallible to such challengers.
You'd have us employ "indoctrination" or "men in white coats" to suppress dissent, or otherwise restrict individual freedom? 13
No. I claim individual freedom as a core principle (M2, p. 2) and describe how to maximize free expression in practice (pp. 3-5). Nowhere do I propose the use of force.
You needlessly claim that all 3 guideway inventions (pp. 3-5) are necesssary, when none strictly is.14
It's true the latter inventions might be replaceable (transitive voting and vote pipes), but not recombinant text. Recombinant text is really just the formalization of literary freedom and thus necessary in the formal context of a guideway. Anything less would needlessly limit free expression, contra principle M2.
| Vote buying
How prevent the corruption of guidance by vote buying and coercion? 15
Vote buying will be a poor investment because sellers may shift their votes after taking the money, perhaps re-selling them to other buyers. Both vote buying and coercion (e.g. from employer, union, church) are exposeable by statistical pattern analysis of votes in correlation with facts (known buyers and sellers, workforce structure, and so forth).16
Robert de Neufville says that I "cover too much ground" to get my points across in the space available (see "Crammed"). I agree, the text is too compressed and difficult to read. But that's a formal fault. If I could ask for one thing more (despite the difficulty), then I'd ask for the location of a content fault. Please find something that invalidates the thesis, such as a principle that's unsupported in theory, or a practice that's infeasible. Or give the thesis a good denting in the attempt.
If you choose to rate my essay (thank you), then please do not say afterwards, "I just rated your essay". People might use this information to back-calculate the value of your vote. Instead you should keep the timing of your vote private. Unfortunately the voting system is flawed in this way. We shouldn't have to worry about this kind of thing, or be tempted to join those who abuse it.17
In return for your critical feedback, I'll do my best to reciprocate by reading your essay and commenting on it. I'll ask a critical question or two about any weak points as I see them, then pay close attention to your answers. And I'll add your essay to my review list. These are the essays (so far) that I'll be reviewing and rating during the contest:18
I'll rate the whole list together, one by one, some time before the evaluation closes on June 6. I'll rate no other essays. I'll disclose no ratings to anyone. Exception: if my rating would reduce the overall score of an essay in a way that gives mine an obvious advantage — e.g. both essays being near the cutoff at rank 40 — then I'll abstain from voting on that essay, as it would pose a conflict of interest. Here's another unfortunate flaw in the rating system, where it tempts people to climb over top of each other like ants.17 Note however that the organizers can probably detect this kind of abuse with a query to the database. (Just sayin'.)
There's no need for anyone to await an invitation (please), but I did take the liberty to invite a number of authors to a reciprocal critique. Those who accepted I moved to my review list above. The remainder are listed here.
I'm using Prostetnic highlighter (a Firefox add-on) to mark comments after I read them in the FQXi forum. I figure this will help me to keep track, and not drop any comments. I mention this in case you have a similar problem.
You are welcome to register in the wiki and create a policy page of your own. Be forewarned that doing so will expose a mangled form of your email address (mangled to protect against spam) to anyone who reads the wiki. After registering:
- Visit your own policy page (you must login for this link to work properly)
- Create that page using 'Create' at top right
- Copy the wiki text of this page using 'View source' at top right (or 'Edit')
- Paste it to your own page, using 'Edit' there
- Modify it to suit you
If you get stuck, here is my contact info. (No promises, but will do my best.)
- ^ Bhatla (May 9).
- ^ Anderberg (April 29, D).
- ^ Neufville (April 30).
- ^ Gubrud (May 3, G).
- ^ Parry (April 20).
- ^ Lightheart (May 22, C).
- ^ Anderberg (April 29, A).
- ^ Lightheart (May 22, D). Alstott (May 26). Luechtefeld (May 29, A).
- ^ Gubrud (May 3, E).
- ^ Gyenge (May 15, 1). Feeney (May 23). Gantz (June 2).
- ^ Neufville (April 30, D).
- ^ Armin (May 3, 3). Lightheart (May 22, B).
- ^ Anderberg (April 29, B). Jackson (May 12). Gubrud (May 3, F)
- ^ Neufville (April 30, C).
- ^ Alstott (May 26).
- ^ For more information on vote buying and coercion, and links to past discussions, see footnote 2.
- ^ a b Proving my thesis that a good design for voting on texts is crucial to steering the future. ;-)
- ^ Because this list encodes decisions, the wiki page is protected against editing.
- ^ a b c d e f g h But the author is inactive in the FQXi forum.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j But the author implicitly declines, offering no reply.
- ^ But the author is undecided, as yet.
- ^ But unfortunately I can't properly review this essay, because too much was lost in the translation.
- ^ But the author declines the invitation.