A thought experiment on liberty and the survival of our species

I came up with a thought experiment a few months ago and have been testing it on the smartest people I know.

This thought experiment relies on you agreeing with three premises:

1. Our knowledge of the natural universe will continue to increase.

2. Our ability to share information among each other will continue to increase.

3. Imagine everyone on the planet has a button in front of them that will destroy planet Earth and everyone on it. You can assume that we haven’t colonized space yet. You agree that a few thousand people will rush to press that button.

I agree with these three premises. If you don’t, please post why in the comments.

If you agree with these three points, it would seem we’re heading towards a world where it’s likely that our knowledge of the natural world will increase to a point where we know how to develop something that can kill all humans on planet Earth. It will also become feasible for individuals to implement that knowledge.

If you agree that information sharing will become very efficient and information will be accessible to all, the knowledge of how to create the destructor-thing that kills all people on Earth will be shared among all very quickly and efficiently.

We then have a situation where everyone on Earth has a button in front of them that can kill everything. And you’ve agreed a few thousand will rush to press the button – or implement the destructor-thing in this case.

So it seems our self destruction is inevitable.

As the conclusion to this thought experiment, I pose a question: How do we solve this problem. Specifically the problem of our inevitable self destruction through our increased knowledge of the natural universe, our ability to share information and the minority’s desire to implement self destruction. 

Thinking about this yields some interesting opinions from friends and acquaintances. These are various conclusions from different people, so don’t misunderstand and combine them:

  • Secrets are necessary.
  • A Police State is inevitable.
  • Governments will use the fear of destruction among the populace to sieze vast amounts of power.
  • Individuals will sense the inadequacy of the government to protect us from this threat and will police themselves.
  • This knowledge already exists and is kept secret which is why we haven’t seen breakthroughs of the magnitude of E=mc²

If you run across this article I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

How Leaders Influence your Reality

During the last several years I’ve had the opportunity to see great leaders in action and the misfortune to see great deceivers at work. Both have one characteristic in common. Many would call it charisma, but I’d like to expand on what I think that “charisma” thing is.

Pause for a moment. Think about the fact that you’re giving me the opportunity to paint a reality for you. It’s my perception of reality, but by taking it on board and fully understanding the way I see things, you’re giving me the opportunity to mould and shape your reality. If you read this whole blog entry you’re going to have devoted a full 2 to 5 minutes of your conscious thought to my perception of reality. And whether you like it or not you’re going to take some of it on-board.

Great leaders and great deceivers are given a constant flow of opportunities to project their perception of reality and their vision for a future reality on large numbers of people. They alter the way a large group of people see the the world and the way these people think the world should be.

Ever wondered why Germany followed Hitler? Those screaming German speeches weren’t gibberish. They were rousing calls to arms with a believable and powerfully delivered rationale behind the call.

These speeches, or put in different terms, these opportunities Hitler was presented with to impose his perception of reality and his vision for a future on large groups of people, allowed him to influence an entire nation to go to war and eventually carry out some of the most awful atrocities in history.

So the lesson would appear to be “be careful who you lend your ear to”. But it’s a little more complex and more difficult that simply being careful. When others acknowledge someone as a leader, celebrity, genius, as talented and so on, it has a big influence on us as individuals and our default behavior as Cialdini writes in “Influence”, is to go along with the crowd.

“You say his a violin virtuoso, well he must be”, “You say this is a ’82 bottle of Latour’, well it must be spectacular”.

On a side-note, a friend once did an experiment where he sabotaged an already open bottle of excellent wine by decanting it and pouring in a very cheap wine. He watched the wine enthusiasts drink the sabotaged bottle and rave about how clearly excellent the wine is.

Social proof is a powerful phenomenon and if a group of people or respected organization acknowledge someone, they’ve given them a platform for “reality influence” or to create a “reality distortion field” if you’re a Steve Jobs fan.

If you’re a leader, I hope you’ve gained a greater understanding of how privileged you are to have the attention of groups of people. If you’re a listener, I hope you’ll learn from history and be careful who you grant access to your vulnerable and valuable attention.

 

Business lessons from Breaking Bad

On the recommendation of my sister-in-law I’m watching a few episodes of Breaking Bad, Season 1.

There’s a classic exchange between Walt and Jesse in Ep 6 as they realize they need to move from retail to wholesale:

Walt: This is unacceptable. I am breaking the law here. This return is too little for the risk. I thought you’d be ready for another lb today.

Jesse: You may know a lot about chemistry man but you don’t know jack about slangin’ dope.

Walt: We have to move our production bulk wholesale now. How do we do that?

Jesse: What do you mean? To, like, a distributor?

Walt: Yes. Yes, that’s what we need. We need a distributor now. Do you know anyone like that?

Jesse: Yeah. I mean, I used to until you killed him.

Best Light Bulbs for all night coding

I went down to walmart late last night in frustration because the power saving bulbs I had in my main light with a dimmer weren’t working. So I switched them (two bulbs) to GE Reveal 71367’s (not an affiliate link), the most expensive bulb I could find at $4.50 each and one of the few to claim to work at different voltages. I’m in love with these things, mainly because they work perfectly with the dimmer in my office and they change color from a cooler (more yellow/orange) color temp to warmer (more white) as you crank up the voltage. The highest setting has a very natural looking light, closer to daylight which keeps me from dozing at my keyboard.

Let me know if you’ve found something better!

CO

I’m in Colorado in a semi-rural area in Elbert County in the town of Elizabeth. I get a lot of work done here because there’s not much going on. This is taken from my macbook’s webcam pointed out the window.

co1

Puzzle

Got this via email today.

Can you solve this puzzle?


You are riding on a beautiful white horse.
On your left side is a drop off.
On your right side are several ostriches being chased by a lion.
In front of you are four large gazelles that won’t get out of your way
and you can’t seem to overtake them.
Behind you is a stampede of horses.
What must you do to get out of this highly dangerous situation?
For the answer click and drag your mouse from star to star.
* Get your drunk ass off the merry-go-round. *

Oh Wesley!

Even if Wesley Snipes is right about not having to pay his taxes, he’s missing the point. If you’re enjoying the fruits of government infrastructure then you’re morally obligated to pay your taxes. My guess is he’s really not that naive. He’s just fell in with the wrong crowd and dug himself a hole so deep that he has no choice but to go to court.

Of course if he wins and we’re all not obligated to pay income tax… now that would make for interesting times what with a recession looming and all that.