The Goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy
Suppose that there were to exist such an entity as the Bayesian Conspiracy.
I speak not of the social group of that name, the banner under which rationalists meet at various conventions – though I do not intend to disparage that group! Indeed, it is my fervent hope that they may in due time grow into the entity which I am setting out to describe. No, I speak of something more like the “shadowy group of scientists” which Yudkowsky describes, tongue (one might assume) firmly in cheek. I speak of such an organization which has been described in Yudkowsky’s various fictional works, the secret and sacred cabal of mathematicians and empiricists who seek unwaveringly for truth… but set in the modern-day world, perhaps merely the seed of such a school, an organization which can survive and thrive in the midst of, yet isolated from, our worldwide sociopolitical mess. I ask you, if such an organization existed, right now, what would – indeed, what should – be its primary mid-term (say, 50-100 yrs.) goal?
I submit that the primary mid-term goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy, at this stage of its existence, is and/or ought to be nothing less than world domination.
Before the rotten fruit begins to fly, let me make a brief clarification.
The term “world domination” is, unfortunately, rather socially charged, bringing to mind an image of the archetypal mad scientist with marching robot armies. That’s not what I’m talking about. My usage of the phrase is intended to evoke something slightly less dramatic, and far less sinister. “World domination”, to me, actually describes rather a loosely packed set of possible world-states. One example would be the one I term “One World Government”, wherein the Conspiracy (either openly or in secret) is in charge of all nations via an explicit central meta-government. Another would be a simple infiltration of the world’s extant political systems, followed by policy-making and cooperation which would ensure the general welfare of the world’s entire population – control de facto, but without changing too much outwardly. The common thread is simply that the Conspiracy becomes the only major influence in world politics.
So there is my claim. Let me tell you why I believe this is the morally correct course of action.
Let us examine, for a moment, the numerous major good works which are currently being openly done by rationalists, or with those who may not self-identify as rationalists, but whose dogmas and goals accord with ours. We have the Singularity Institute, which is concerned with ensuring that our technological, transhumanistic advent happens smoothly and with a minimum of carnage. We have various institutions worldwide advocating and practicing cryonics, which offers a non-zero probability of recovery from death. We have various institutions also who are working on life extension technologies and procedures, which offer to one day remove the threat of death entirely from our world.
All good things, I say. I also say: too slow!
Imagine what more could be accomplished if the United States, for example, granted to the Life Extension Foundation or to Alcor the amount of money and social prominence currently reserved for military purposes. Imagine what would happen if every scientist around the world were perhaps able to contribute under a unified institution, working on this vitally important problem of overcoming death, with all the money and time the world’s governments could offer at their disposal.
Imagine, also, how many lives are lost every day due to governmental negligence, and war, and poverty, and hunger. What does it profit the world, if we offer to freeze the heads of those who can afford it, while all around us there are people who can’t even afford their bread and water?
I have what is, perhaps, to some who are particularly invested, an appalling and frightening proposition: for the moment, we should devote fewer of our resources to cryonics and life extension, and focus on saving the lives of those to whom these technologies are currently beyond even a fevered dream. This means holding the reins of the world, that we might fix the problems inherent in our society. Only when significant steps have been taken in the direction of saving life can we turn our focus toward extending life.
What should the Bayesian Conspiracy do, once it comes to power? It should stop war. It should usurp murderous despots, and feed the hungry and wretched who suffered under them. Again: before we work on extending the lives of the healthy and affluent beyond what we’ve so far achieved, we should, for example, bring the average life expectancy in Africa above the 50-year mark, where it currently sits (according to a 2006 study in the BMJ). This is what will bring about the maximum level of happiness in the world; not cryonics for those who can afford it.
Does this mean that we should stop researching these anti-death technologies? No! Of course not! Consider: even if cryonics drops to, say, priority 3 or 4 under this system, once the Conspiracy comes to power, that will still be far more support than it’s currently receiving from world governments. The work will end up progressing at a far faster rate than it currently does.
Some of you may have qualms about this plan of action. You may ask, what about individual choice? What about the peoples’ right to choose who leads them? Well, for those of us who live in the United States, at least, this is already a bit of a naïve question: due to color politics, you already do not have much of a choice in who leads you. But that’s a matter for another time. Even if you think that dictatorship – even benevolent, rationalist dictatorship – would be inherently morally worse than even the flawed democratic system we enjoy here – a notion that may not even necessarily be the case! – do not worry: there’s no reason why world domination need entail dictatorships. In countries where there are democratic systems in place, we will work within the system, placing Conspirators into positions where they can convince the people, via legitimate means, to give them public office. Once we have attained a sufficient level of power over this democratic system, we will effect change, and thence the work will go forth until this victory of rationalist dogma covers all the earth. When there are dictators, they will be removed and replaced with democratic systems… under the initial control of Conspirators, of course, and ideally under their continued control as time passes – but legitimately obtained control.
It is demonstrable that one’s level of strength as a rationalist has a direct correlation to the probability that the one will make correct decisions. Therefore, the people who make decisions that affect large numbers of people ought to be those who have the highest level of rationality. In this way we can seek to avoid the many, many, many pitfalls of politics, including the inefficiency which Yudkowsky has again and again railed against. If all the politicians are on the same side, who’s to argue?
In fact, even if two rationalists disagree on a particular point (which they shouldn’t, but hey, even the best rationalists aren’t perfect yet), they’ll be able to operate more efficiently than two non-rationalists in the same position. Is the disagreement able to be settled by experiment? If it’s important, throw funds at a lab to conduct such an experiment! After all, we’re in charge of the money and the scientists. Is it not? Find a compromise that has the maximum expected utility for the constituents. We can do that with a high degree of accuracy; we have access to the pollsters and sociologists, and know about reliable versus unreliable polling methods!
What about non-rationalist aspiring politicians? Well, under an ideal Conspiracy takeover, there would be no such thing. Lessons on politics would include rationality as a basis; graduation from law school would entail induction into the Conspiracy, and access to the truths had therein.
I suppose the biggest question is, is all this realistic? Or is just an idealist’s dream? Well, there’s a non-zero probability that the Conspiracy already exists, in which case, I hope that they will consider my proposal… or, even better, I hope that I’ve correctly deduced and adequately explained the master plan. If the Conspiracy does not currently exist, then if my position is correct, we have a moral obligation to work our hardest on this project.
“But I don’t want to be a politician,” you exclaim! “I have no skill with people, and I’d much rather tinker with the Collatz Conjecture at my desk for a few years!” I’m inclined to say that that’s just too bad; sacrifices must be made for the common good, and after all, it’s often said that anyone who actually wants a political office is by the fact unfit for the position. But in all realism, I’m quite sure that there will be enough room in the Conspiracy for non-politicians. We’re all scientists and mathematicians at heart, anyway.
So! Here is our order of business. We must draw up a charter for the Bayesian Conspiracy. We must invent a testing system able to keep a distinction between those who are and are not ready for the Truths the Conspiracy will hold. We must find our strongest Rationalists – via a testing procedure we have not yet come up with – and put them in charge, and subordinate ourselves to them (not blindly, of course! The strength of community, even rationalist community, is in debate!). We must establish schools and structured lesson plans for the purpose of training fresh students; we must also take advantage of those systems which are already in place, and utilize them for (or turn them to) our purposes. I expect to have the infrastructure set up in no more than five years.
At that point, our real work will begin.