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June 11th, 2009, 14:23
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Maybe this reaction is why I don't really consider it fruitful to pursue a meaningful debate with you.

You might not be impressed or consider the ideas new - but since I didn't suggest they were and I have little interest in impressing you, one has to wonder why you react so strongly.
Actually, DA, if you'll care to go over this conversation, I think you'll find that I only got prickly after you, yet again, said I "fundamentally misunderstand" you. (FWIW, I think I understand you better than you understand yourself, but that's another matter.)

As for the ideas being new, yes, that was an inference. Generally speaking, old ideas don't "color shocked" people. (Sheep, yes — they'll be shocked at the sun rising; people, not so much.)

In your eyes I'm an ignorant happy little puppy, which is certainly an amusing image. But given that image, wouldn't you agree that this is pointless?
That, DA, is entirely up to you. I wasn't aware of this project; I looked at it, and gave you my opinion of it. If you think it's pointless to discuss things with people who have different opinions about them and don't immediately "convert" to whatever enlightened POV you've just dug up from the back yard, then sure, it is pointless.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:28
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The primary issue is that I'm perceived in a certain way, and I don't blame anyone for that. It's just that I don't believe that those who perceive me in this way, can set aside their bias and will naturally argue from that point of view. It's only natural, but allow me the freedom to not want to pursue meaningless debates.
That's slightly amusing, since, as you know, nobody on the Internet knows you're a dog. (Or a puppy, in this case.) Whatever impression you give of yourself is entirely up to you; there can be no bias, because all we know of you is what you yourself choose to reveal. (No, I haven't made any attempt at snooping who you really are, nor do I intend to.)

The last thing I'll say, just because you insisted, is that the concept is not about forcing anyone to do anything. That's actually what the concept is trying to circumvent.
Which always was a central feature of Communist utopias, right from the Diggers on. (Look them up, you might find it interesting.)

The idea is that through education, people can potentially open to different ideas and think in different ways. It's not about shoving this down your throat or pretending that it's an objective truth that you must accept. It's not scientology in a wolf's clothing, or at least, that's not what I see.
Which, again, is a central idea in Communist utopias. Lenin's phrase for it was "homo sovieticus."

It certainly isn't what I would do, and since they seem to agree with me on so many points, I can't imagine that's what they're intending.
I have no doubts on that score. I don't think there's anything wrong about what they're intending — I just find it pointless, not to mention unoriginal, uninspired, and shallow. Marx without the philosophy; Iain M. Banks without the fantasy and excitement.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:29
As I said, I don't see this leading anywere positive - so regardless of who's to blame, I'm going to leave you in peace
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June 11th, 2009, 15:20
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
To go off on a slight tangent: I've often wondered if we, as biological creatures, are even compatible with Communist utopias. We've evolved to cope with scarcity, and most of our instincts and mental mechanisms are oriented toward that goal. Would we even be happy in a "lotus-eater" society where we could get anything we want simply by wishing it?
This isn't a tangent at all—it's actually the crux of the problem. The only way this stuff works is if you completely overhaul the nature of man. You're talking about altering genetic wiring and instinctive behavior. It only takes one guy that wants "a little more than that guy over there" to pooch the entire process. Do we really want to invest time, money, or even DArtagnan's mental capacity in something that requires a 100% effective makeover of man before it has any hope of getting off the ground?

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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June 11th, 2009, 15:29
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
This isn't a tangent at all—it's actually the crux of the problem. The only way this stuff works is if you completely overhaul the nature of man. You're talking about altering genetic wiring and instinctive behavior. It only takes one guy that wants "a little more than that guy over there" to pooch the entire process. Do we really want to invest time, money, or even DArtagnan's mental capacity in something that requires a 100% effective makeover of man before it has any hope of getting off the ground?
That wasn't exactly what I meant, although it is of course by far the more immediate objection to Communist utopias.

I was wondering if they would be livable even in conditions of unlimited plenty — that is, even if we had technology that let you create a planet consisting entirely of gold, champagne, and gynoids that looked and acted just like nubile young women for yourself, should you want one, simply by wishing it to be so.

Those Iain M. Banks books imagine what life would be like in that kind of world, and IMO it would be dreadfully dull without all those interesting aliens to defend against/civilize/help/explore.
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June 11th, 2009, 15:40
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
This isn't a tangent at all—it's actually the crux of the problem. The only way this stuff works is if you completely overhaul the nature of man. You're talking about altering genetic wiring and instinctive behavior. It only takes one guy that wants "a little more than that guy over there" to pooch the entire process. Do we really want to invest time, money, or even DArtagnan's mental capacity in something that requires a 100% effective makeover of man before it has any hope of getting off the ground?
Since a new person entered, I guess I can make an attempt at keeping this alive, in the hopes it won't end as badly as one might expect.

In any case, to a certain extent - I agree with you. I think it requires a very significant alteration of how human beings - in general - think and how they've been conditioned by the realities of their upbringing and daily lives.

But, I don't agree that this is necessarily a 100% make-over, as that's an extreme point of view. Also, I don't really believe that we need to restrict human behavior to "genetic wiring or instinct".

I believe we can come far through education and "conditioning" - and if we were able to remove this "rationing" as was mentioned, then maybe what you call "wanting a little bit more" could be less of a problem. Perhaps it might even make this particular wish superfluent to a certain degree, and as such people would hopefully adapt in such a way that they no longer pursue things just because they want more than the other guy.

Anyway, I think it's important to keep in mind that I don't think in extremes. I don't believe in miracle solutions or utopian societies created over night. No, this is about very, very gradually changing motivations and perceptions of what's beneficial to ourselves and society as a whole.

You look at human history - and you could focus on the things that remain the same, the things that have changed, or you could try NOT to focus but look broadly.

We still have our "instinctive behavior and genetic wiring", to be sure, but what is considered acceptable and beneficial behavior has certainly changed in many cases, and that's really the kind of change I'm talking about. I don't personally feel qualified to quantify what parts of human nature are based on genetic wiring, and what parts are based on societal conditioning. My hope is that the latter is enough to make these positive changes.
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June 11th, 2009, 15:52
One fundamental part of what we are, though, is that we respond to incentives. Doing stuff for yourself and/or for people close to you is an incentive. Communism can only work if people do stuff for everyone, without regard for their personal welfare.

Marxists realized this quite early on, in fact. Marx and Engels themselves wrote about it; Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, and lots of other Bolshevik theorists did too. The explicit, stated purpose of the Soviet educational system was to condition a "homo sovieticus" — a human free of the acquisitive instincts inculcated by capitalism, selflessly laboring for the common good (and enjoying the fruits of that shared labor).

It didn't work. There were always those who preferred enjoying the fruit to selfless labor. So there had to be enforcement mechanisms to encourage people to selflessly labor and see that nobody cheated. And then there were those who stubbornly refused to have their consciousness renewed. They had to be dealt with so they wouldn't poison the well for everyone else. Those were duly put in place, and before you knew it, there was the CheKa, PolitKoms, the GULAG, and what have you.

Of course, this has also been tried numerous times on a purely voluntary basis, such as the Venus Project is proposing: gathering together a group of like-minded, idealistic people, setting up shop, and laboring selflessly for the common good in order to fairly share the fruits of the labor.

Generally speaking, that hasn't worked out too well either. The stablest examples have been communities sharing a particular strong ideological or religious bond — the kibbutzim in Israel, or various religious communities, such as the Amish, Hutterites, or Mennonites in the Americas. In reality, they're usually pretty far from the ideal as well, and they've had a singular lack of success spreading their ideas outside their communities; in fact, the stablest such communities are only stable because they breed at least as fast as they lose members, or in the case of the kibbutzim, they constantly cycle people through.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:04
No, it hasn't worked - nor will it work for a long, long time.

Again, the idea is that MAYBE it could work - but not until we change. That's why the first step is to focus on this change.

They might experiment with cities or produce promotional videos - or whatever, but that's not going to change anything by itself. It's just a way of making certain ideas tangible - I think, and to test gradually how these things might or might not work. Really, I think they're just following their ideals and dynamically experimenting in whatever capacity they have.

The reason I was "shocked" - is because I haven't found a collection of ideas so similar to my own anywhere else. I'm not sure there are any new ideas left, and maybe the time of new ideas is long past. But that doesn't mean old ideas can't be used in new ways - and to find something so close to my own "coherent" vision articulated in such a way, certainly came as a big surprise to me.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:06
By the way, do y'all think there's some kind of required look that utopians are expected to have?





(Alfred de Grazia above, Jacques Fresco below.)
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June 11th, 2009, 16:08
I don't look anything like those two guys though

Maybe I know how I'll look as an old man now.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:08
Ignoring the whole "is this change possible" bit, which I truly and honestly believe it is not, you're also assuming this change would be positive. I think it'd be like that twilight zone episode where the mobster dies and wakes up in his dream paradise. Everything is perfect, etc, etc. He ends up hating it and saying he wants to go to 'the other place', at which point the guy who's been with him laughs and says 'why, this is the other place!'.

Profit motivations and selfish attitudes are part and parcel with human nature and while they can be suppressed to an extent, ridding humans of them entirely is an impossibility - I think the key is to channel human nature into doing good. You're aggressive? Go punch a punching bag instead of a guy's face, and so on.

I think idealism is one of the most dangerous, worst, and sometimes evil ideas/concepts in human nature. People spend too much time staring up at the sky and end up tripping over the rocks in front of them. I think pure realism is what's needed - it'll let us realize the problems, realize the constraints we work in, and come up with solutions to solve the problems with what we've got.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:13
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
Ignoring the whole "is this change possible" bit, which I truly and honestly believe it is not, you're also assuming this change would be positive. I think it'd be like that twilight zone episode where the mobster dies and wakes up in his dream paradise. Everything is perfect, etc, etc. He ends up hating it and saying he wants to go to 'the other place', at which point the guy who's been with him laughs and says 'why, this is the other place!'.

Profit motivations and selfish attitudes are part and parcel with human nature and while they can be suppressed to an extent, ridding humans of them entirely is an impossibility - I think the key is to channel human nature into doing good. You're aggressive? Go punch a punching bag instead of a guy's face, and so on.
You start by ignoring that it's impossible, and then you get back to how it's not possible. That can't work, if you ask me.

I think idealism is one of the most dangerous, worst, and sometimes evil ideas/concepts in human nature. People spend too much time staring up at the sky and end up tripping over the rocks in front of them. I think pure realism is what's needed - it'll let us realize the problems, realize the constraints we work in, and come up with solutions to solve the problems with what we've got.
I'm not sure why you think that having a vision of how the world could be improved, must implicitly include some kind of perfect world where all problems automatically stop existing.

You keep thinking of it as an extreme, like some kind of Matrix world made in an effort to remove free will or the fruits of life.

Are you not confusing blind idealism with idealism?
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June 11th, 2009, 16:16
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
No, it hasn't worked - nor will it work for a long, long time.

Again, the idea is that MAYBE it could work - but not until we change. That's why the first step is to focus on this change.
Don't you think it might be a good idea to try to figure out whether it CAN work first?

They might experiment with cities or produce promotional videos - or whatever, but that's not going to change anything by itself. It's just a way of making certain ideas tangible - I think, and to test gradually how these things might or might not work. Really, I think they're just following their ideals and dynamically experimenting in whatever capacity they have.
No doubt, and good luck to them. As I said, I don't see much harm in it. However, I don't see much *use* in it either; I think there are much more acute problems to solve, and much more fruitful directions to research.

The reason I was "shocked" - is because I haven't found a collection of ideas so similar to my own anywhere else.
Yes, you did say that you don't read much. If you did, though, you would have found such ideas — and much better articulated too — a quite a while ago.

I'm not sure there are any new ideas left, and maybe the time of new ideas is long past.
That's not a very original thought either:

Originally Posted by Ecclesiastes, 1:2-11
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

But that doesn't mean old ideas can't be used in new ways - and to find something so close to my own "coherent" vision articulated in such a way, certainly came as a big surprise to me.
Using an old idea in a new way *is* a new idea. Ideas build upon other ideas.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:23
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm not sure why you think that having a vision of how the world could be improved, must implicitly include some kind of perfect world where all problems automatically stop existing.
Indeed it mustn't — but the Venus Project, and other utopian systems like it, do. They say so right on their website: it won't work, and can't work, until the whole world works like it.

You keep thinking of it as an extreme, like some kind of Matrix world made in an effort to remove free will or the fruits of life.

Are you not confusing blind idealism with idealism?
Actually, I think *you* are. There's a big difference between attempting to make the world a better place, bit by little bit, in whatever way comes best to you, and attempting to envision a utopia and then hack a path to it.

Most utopian dreams are harmless, but they do have a very real danger — the temptation of the ends justifying the means. The thinking behind any form of totalitarianism or extremism, from Stalin to the old fart who shot the poor security guard in DC just now, is that utopia is just around the corner, and all we have to do is make a few sacrifices now to get there.

I'm very much in favor of incremental social engineering — try a policy here, tweak a rule there, see what happens, if it works, keep it, if not, roll it back and try something else. If that eventually gets us to Communism, groovy — but if it doesn't, at least we'll avoid getting into Really Existing Socialism, the Third Reich, or the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:24
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
You start by ignoring that it's impossible, and then you get back to how it's not possible. That can't work, if you ask me.
Order of the paragraphs should have been switched around, my apologies. I have a migraine-ish sinus headache going on from my sinus infection, and between that, the nausea, and not having slept or eaten very much in the past few days so I'm a little loopy right now. If anything seems remarkably stupid or out of place or nonsensible point it out to me and I'll rectify it.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm not sure why you think that having a vision of how the world could be improved, must implicitly include some kind of perfect world where all problems automatically stop existing.

You keep thinking of it as an extreme, like some kind of Matrix world made in an effort to remove free will or the fruits of life.

Are you not confusing blind idealism with idealism?
Well, I think something along the lines of Project Venus falls into the blind idealism category. We're in no state to start planning some voluntary experimental technoparadise commune. I'd say that energy and time would be better spent trying to develop sustainable communities for (say) Africa, where drought and conservation are going to be a huge worry, and maybe figuring out strategies to deploy water purification machines so they don't get as sick, possibly coupled with ways to stop desertification in those regions.

That's just my take - I'm fine with people wanting a better world and life, I just think this is one of those ideas that may sound kind of cool on paper but won't really work and suck up a lot of resources and time - such as (to use my favorite example of 'nice in theory but totally wasteful' stuff) the Missle Defense Shield. I'd rather have smart people trying to come up with more small-scale projects that would have immediate dividends in people's lives.
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June 11th, 2009, 16:36
I found this nice summary, with rather artistic pictures too, of de Grazia's Kalotics — on his site, no less:

[ http://www.grazian-archive.com/gover…otics_all.html ]

BTW, he proposes a pretty creative solution for the Middle Eastern conflict, too: just incorporate both Israel and Palestine into the United States of America, as the state of Canaan, and give everybody residing there citizenship. I have the article, but it's not online — here's an excerpt, though:

Originally Posted by Alfred de Grazia
Canaan State, USA, is conceived to embrace both Israelis and Palestinians - all of them, including the Palestinian refugees. This gives us some ten million people, new Americans - a process such as happened with the French of Louisiana, the Spanish and Mexicans of Texas and the Southwest, Hawaiians, and Alaskans.

Canaan State is the size and shape of New Jersey, also with the ocean along one length and a river along the opposite side. Their populations are about the same, too, at ten millions. (With Canaan would come about five million Jews and five million Arabs.)

With Canaan there would be plenty of room still, just as there is along the Atlantic shores of New Jersey and along the rivers and mountains of Western New Jersey. A population crush need not be feared. As many Canaans would come to continental America as continentals would move to Canaan. And not too many would prefer the facilities of New Jersey, not with 49 other States to settle into.

Canaan would have the high technology and productivity of New Jersey. As for Jews, they are as numberless as the stars of heaven in New Jersey. There need be no fear of the Moslem residents of the States; studies have shown that the million or so Moslems exceed in average education and occupational skill the ordinary American. There was little enough badgering of Moslems following the 9/11 disaster, though panic and extravagance struck the White House.

Would the Palestinians like their old home country to be part of the USA? Unquestionably! America as a culture and place for a common person to live and work has not lost its great appeal, although in international public opinion polls only Israel out-scores the USA in being regarded as "the greatest threat to world peace." But won't the Palestinians hate the Israelis forever, even in their new vast home country and with their old country back in their hands? Revenge? No. A person who is dutifully interested and engaged in life has hardly the time or thought for revenge. Becoming an American may be the best cure for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the world. And, noting that studies show high rates of this illness among Israelis as well as Arabs, we can expect that the same therapy will work for both peoples.
(I may be detecting a small hint of tongue-in-cheek here, though. But perhaps that's just me.)
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June 11th, 2009, 16:45
Does he not realize that every single square inch of land in New Jersey is incorporated? It has the highest population density in the United States!
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June 11th, 2009, 17:07
=Prime Junta;1060953788]I found this nice summary, with rather artistic pictures too, of de Grazia's Kalotics — on his site, no less:

[ http://www.grazian-archive.com/gover…otics_all.html
Very nice icons—can't say I find the ideas very pragmatic, but they do have a nice revolutionary flavor, and sixties-like cognitive dissonance between individual perception and reality.

BTW, he proposes a pretty creative solution for the Middle Eastern conflict, too: just incorporate both Israel and Palestine into the United States of America, as the state of Canaan, and give everybody residing there citizenship…

(I may be detecting a small hint of tongue-in-cheek here, though. But perhaps that's just me.)
Ya think? Isn't Canaan also a biblical term for the Promised Land? (I can hear dte somewhere banging his head against the nearest perpendicular surface and mumbling about more free beer for the @#$% Middle East…though we might recoup the cost in defense spending savings, I guess…)

On the point Rithrandril made about idealism, I have to say I 100% agree. Idealism unchecked by rational thought is responsible for more righteous indignation and less constructive progress than possibly, well, anything. I'd say every terrorist on earth, from the 9-11 gang to Scott Roeder is motivated by an underlying layer of idealism(underlying the crazy, I mean.)

Also as the only one here who probably has ever actually lived in a commune for any length of time (an assumption so feel free to correct,) may I say my faith in anything based on people selflessly cooperating for the greater good of all is not strong.

Still, even though the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I think there's a part of the human psyche that needs Utopian dreams, even if they are fantasies—a lot of religions capitalize on it(mostly posited as an afterlife), and I think it's a great comfort to know that selfless people do exist, that there is a capacity to believe the best about the world and perceive our fellow human beings as intrinsically related to us in all ways.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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June 11th, 2009, 17:26
You lived in a commune? Cool! Care to tell more about it? A living hell/a crunchy hippie utopia/a cult/something else?

(I know a quite a few people, from a pretty wide range of age groups, who did that; I even stayed with one of them for two weeks; the place was called the Atlantis Art Colloquium, run by a part-time poker player, part-time landlord, full-time pothead called Marvin Marsian. It was a way cool and sometimes surprising experience, like when I first ran into Mooncat the house astrologer/nudist, or when Robie put weed into the communal stir-fry without bothering to mention it. "I like cooking with grass," she later explained.)
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June 11th, 2009, 17:41
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Don't you think it might be a good idea to try to figure out whether it CAN work first?
Indeed, if it was possible.

I'm not sure how you'd go about figuring that out?

No doubt, and good luck to them. As I said, I don't see much harm in it. However, I don't see much *use* in it either; I think there are much more acute problems to solve, and much more fruitful directions to research.
That's ok with me, and I don't expect many to agree with their approach, much less understand it.

Yes, you did say that you don't read much. If you did, though, you would have found such ideas — and much better articulated too — a quite a while ago.
Oh where, exactly, would I find my vision articulated in a better way? I'm really curious about this.

Somehow I get the feeling you think reading is better than observing, but I could be wrong. Maybe that's why you think so highly of spending your time reading?

That's not a very original thought either:
Why would it have to be original?

Using an old idea in a new way *is* a new idea. Ideas build upon other ideas.
Let's not get stuck on pointless semantics, agreed? Chicken and the egg thing, right?
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