Friday, December 15, 2017

Our Illiberal Democracy

We Americans take great pride in our liberal democracy. We understand that the world is turning against it, but we soldier on, convinced that our way is the best way.We would probably do better to  make our democracy work better, set a better example and show what it can do. We prefer to persuade everyone to believe that our liberal democracy is the best.

In this context, we present an observation of one Sam Altman, a Silicon Valley innovator:

Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me.  I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year.  Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.

Altman is concerned about business innovation, but clearly nothing in our society is going to work very well if we are walking around worrying about the thought police.


trigger warning said...

Yeah. Just ask Agit Pai. They come for your children, too.

Sam L. said...

The thought police, and their Stasi informers.

L. Beau said...

A good, succinct blog post, Dr. Schneiderman. I especially appreciate this thought, "We would probably do better to make our democracy work better, set a better example and show what it can do."

As for the subject of "though police", the ones that we have today are merely the auxiliary, volunteer thought police, but they are problem enough, in my opinion. And as the excellent blog suggested last month, I am not the only person who thinks so:
Free speech watch: woman who gave President Trump’s motorcade the finger in her spare time is fired from her marketing job. This is the world that all of you “free speech only constrains the government” and “it’s just people think you’re an asshole and are showing you the door” people have built for us.


Reference for Slate Star Codex's somewhat obscure "door" comment:

On this issue, I find myself more in sympathy with "Scott Alexander" (his "nom de blog" at Slate Star Codex) than I am with xkcd's Randall Munro.

David Foster said...

"the auxiliary, volunteer thought police"

See my post The Fastest Growing Job Category of the Decade?

Ares Olympus said...

His example is a bit strange: "It is bad for all of us when people can’t say that the world is a sphere, that evolution is real, or that the sun is at the center of the solar system."

But perhaps he's trying to start with some easy ones, knowing atheists have no problem feeling contempt for the flat-earthers, and creationists.

And another example sounds like a neo-malthusian, although that is a part of the environmental movement. “If people live a lot longer it will be disastrous for the environment, so people working on this must be really unethical.”

And another example, calling for free honest hate-speech, in exchange for scientific freedom "it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics."

And at the end he talked about risk-taking, allowing people to do seemingly crazy things, since some of them will change the world, and sometimes for the better. But I'm not convinced making it impolite to call someone a fag is inhibiting someone else from starting BitCoin. Of course, I know, slippery slope, and politeness does block many taboo topics that need to be talked about, like maybe #SexualPredatorsHaveFeelingsToo.

L. Beau said...

I am not convinced that the use of the phrase "hate-speech" is about preventing hate, or even the expression of hate, as much as it is about deciding who get to say what and when.

Sam L. said...

I agree with L. Beau. (You can call me K. Nee.)

trigger warning said...

I'm with L. Beau and K. Nee. And you can call me B. Freeh Ordye.