Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

BigThink's Dangerous Ideas of 2010

BigThink has put forth ten interesting "dangerous ideas" for discussion. Some thoughts:

  • Drug our drinking water with a low dose of lithium in the hopes of lifting moods and lowering suicide rates.
    • I am deeply disturbed by this idea. Right now, we live in a society with a number of difficulties, and we don't spend enough time thinking about happiness. We are too complicit in the narrative of material production and labour and not enough with community and solidarity. Mood-affecting drugs for everyone are not the answer - at least now if people use such things, they know they're doing it, which might act as a reminder that better lives are possible. With this, we would be medicating our problems away rather than suffering them (as we do now) or solving them (which some of us do and more of us should). A society that would drug its people this way is one that's on the wrong side of livability.
  • Tax fat people
    • It's ok to have societal mores that frown on being overweight. To directly tax it is not implementable, and those who are overweight (beyond a certain point, which I believe is the scope of the term here, we're not talking "over 50 percent weight") already will meet real consequences, from the daily-life to the health complications. I would rather just see a consistent message about weight combined with efforts to restructure American society and our food infrastructure to make a healthy life more possible. Going further would be a mess, and people would not accept it.
  • Legalise all drugs
    • Not ok with this either. The metric I'd use is: If it is possible for most people to use the drug responsibly in moderation without severely damaging their lives, then it should generally be legal. Realigning drug policy along that metric would feel sensible to me - going further would not.
  • Abandon Earth, as Stephen Hawking urges, or face extinction
    • In the long term, sure. We don't have the technology to do this yet, as far as I understand. Truly self-sustaining off-Terran colonies (whether in space or on another chunk of rock) would require us to be able to do serious manufacturing in space, to manage a small biosphere up there, to manage disasters in a less damaging way, etc. We can probably manage it in time, and we probably should.
  • End aid to Africa
    • The detailed explanation suggests massive corruption and problematic incentives created by aid. These are real concerns, but I don't think they're sufficient to cease aid. We might decide to focus our aid in ways that are less likely to end up in the hands of the corrupt (medicine, education, infrastructure), and we should tune our aid to local governance standards. There are times where we might intervene with particularly bad governments, although except in obvious cases like genocide (which unfortunately were often the end result of western colonial policies), there is considerable delicacy in such matters.
  • Erase traumatic memories
    • I don't know if I would have a legal ban on this, but I feel there should be a very strong societal taboo on these things - these memories we would erase are part of who we are as individuals. If we can't remember, we can't learn or grow, and the coherence of our shared history diminishes further.
  • Sell American citizenship - This might be pragmatic, with certain limits - American citizens are required to pay taxes on all their income, worldwide, and this might be a way to gain extra tax revenue. It does risk some dangerous entryism though - we're big enough to survive some of that, but ..
  • Introduce elephants and lions to the Great Plains
    • Similar to other ideas about reintroducing wildlife to nature. I like the idea if done well - we will have to make adjustments though if we move from the "dominate" to "coexist" model with nature.
  • Mandatory buble study
    • This might be interesting, if it were part of a larger curriculum of studying many religions and philosophies, and if it were done correctly. In the traditional idea of "bible study", I'm skeptical about this.
  • Allow infant euthanasia
    • I am very uncomfortable with this idea - I begin to assign moral significance when there is significant brain development, and slide that significance upwards as that development continues. At birth, there's no strict necessity for the mother to keep custody should she not want it or circumstances intervene, and I've used that as a signpost for near-full (and pragmatically treated as full) moral significance given no severe developmental disorders. There's no reason I *must* use that as a signpost, but it seems an appropriate point given that other custodial options open. I would not consider traditional societies that handled this differently to be necessarily abhorrent, but I don't want our handling of it changed.

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