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January 1, 2006 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Edge 2006: What is your dangerous idea?
posted by grrarrgh00 (106 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I think we should try to improve the lives of Muslims through aid and culture so they don't want to blow themselves up.

I know, I'm a wild and crazy guy.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:22 PM on January 1, 2006


I also think western governments should put everything they have into Solar Towers. Blanket the outback with em. The aboriginies can go live in Iran or somewhere.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:27 PM on January 1, 2006


Running with scissors is actually good exercise.
posted by horsewithnoname at 7:34 PM on January 1, 2006


Science and technology are good, we should have more of them.
posted by spazzm at 8:09 PM on January 1, 2006


Machines can be made fully sentient.
posted by spazzm at 8:11 PM on January 1, 2006


What happens if I press this button?
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:14 PM on January 1, 2006


Corporations should lose their status as "persons" under the law. Board members and CEOs should be held personally responsible for criminal acts commited by their companies.
posted by SPrintF at 8:22 PM on January 1, 2006


From TERRENCE SEJNOWSKI:
How would we know if the Internet were to become aware of itself? The problem is that we don't even know if some of our fellow creatures on this planet are self aware. For all we know the Internet is already aware of itself.

Hilarious!
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:23 PM on January 1, 2006


Buy homeless guys lunch.
posted by cortex at 8:24 PM on January 1, 2006


"Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." — BBC Radio 4

So, that's like people in tweed jackets, slippers, and a pipe lieing in their own shit while hoaring out their love ones during a state of total paranoia...and all for just one more hit of that juicy question...BBC 4..yeeah we roll!
posted by Mr Bluesky at 8:30 PM on January 1, 2006


Continuing SprintF's comment... "...and there should be a corporate death penalty."

Monsanto should be first against the wall.
posted by Malor at 8:46 PM on January 1, 2006


Space elevators sound like a really cool idea.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:56 PM on January 1, 2006


Oh, and politicians should be executed at the end of their term.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:57 PM on January 1, 2006


I want to be able to punch someone via http.
posted by Meridian at 9:03 PM on January 1, 2006


I want to be able to poke people via facebook... oh wait...
posted by thecollegefear at 9:18 PM on January 1, 2006


Let's bring back cannibalism.
posted by maxsparber at 9:20 PM on January 1, 2006


Curious how most of the respondents tend to be physicists, biologists, or psychologists... What, chemists don't have dangerous ideas?
posted by logicpunk at 9:21 PM on January 1, 2006


Too dangerous to print, my friend.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 9:23 PM on January 1, 2006


Someone needs to toss Jared Diamond a new research bone to chew on. Gee, I always thought the native peoples of the Americas lived in perfect harmony with one another.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:24 PM on January 1, 2006


What if the Fall from Eden and the Big Bang are the same event?
posted by Cranberry at 9:47 PM on January 1, 2006


What if MetaFilter, Fark and Slashdot were all run by the same technorati cabal?
posted by Meridian at 10:03 PM on January 1, 2006


We should discard the Dollar, Yen, Yuan, Euro, Dinar, Peso and all other units of currency and base our entire ecnomy off of the Calorie.

Lets get some idea of the real cost of everything.

I'd like to get those Nikes, but they'd set me back 28,000,000 calories. Perhaps I should save those for food and utilities.
posted by sourwookie at 10:10 PM on January 1, 2006


BTW: Thus far, my idea is the most dangerous of all.
posted by sourwookie at 10:11 PM on January 1, 2006


sourwookie - I'd like to get those Nikes, but they'd set me back 28,000,000 calories. Perhaps I should save those for food and utilities.

I'd like to have raging hot sex with my wife, but that would cost me 3 calories. Perhaps I should save those for browsing MeFi.
posted by Meridian at 10:16 PM on January 1, 2006


You know: I have no earthly idea of what the true cost of browsing MeFi is.
posted by sourwookie at 10:18 PM on January 1, 2006


If God created us, then who created God?

Maybe he created himself!

Or... HERself.... oooooooooo
posted by papakwanz at 10:26 PM on January 1, 2006


And can I just add that I think it is totally fucking awesome that Mike Nesmith of The Monkees is one of the contributors?
posted by papakwanz at 10:32 PM on January 1, 2006


yummy vinegar
posted by longsleeves at 11:44 PM on January 1, 2006


Africa's culture may be more robust than western culture. It may outlive civilization as we know it.
posted by Osmanthus at 11:44 PM on January 1, 2006


Lots to read here. Thanks.

First round
----------
Piet Hut - "What if a future scientific understanding of time would show all previous pictures to be wrong, and demonstrate that past and future and even the present do not exist?"

What would this even mean?

John Allen Paulos - "that the self is an ever-changing collection of beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes, that it is not an essential and persistent entity, but rather a conceptual chimera."

It is very often the case that I see the conflation of the self as individual and the self as identity. The personality seems to be a chimera, but the self as the witness, isn't.

David Lykken - "I believe that, during my grandchildren's lifetimes, the U.S. Supreme Court will find a way to approve laws requiring parental licensure. ... About 70% of incarcerated delinquents, of teen-age pregnancies, of adolescent runaways, involve (I think result from) fatherless rearing. Because these frightening curves continue to accelerate, I believe we must eventually confront the need for parental licensure"

Correlation is not causation. Why did those fathers leave? What were the common background factors or triggers, if any?

Arnold Trehub - "The entire conceptual edifice of modern science is a product of biology. Even the most basic and profound ideas of science — think relativity, quantum theory, the theory of evolution — are generated and necessarily limited by the particular capacities of our human biology. This implies that the content and scope of scientific knowledge is not open-ended."

The entire conception of human biology is a product of the mind. If our ideas about biology are wrong, then our idea of the capacities might also change.

Robert R. Provine - "The empirically testable idea that the here and now is all there is"

Testable? How?
----------
posted by Gyan at 12:08 AM on January 2, 2006


quonsar is actually mathowie.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:27 AM on January 2, 2006


P = NP
posted by rycee at 12:53 AM on January 2, 2006


These ideas are all very thought provoking, but not dangerous>. I was hoping for a list of ideas that, if spread, could cause significant harm. Like plans for nerve gas or relgious ideas or... relgious ideas that incorporate the creation of nerve gas a a core ritual. Yeah... that's it...
posted by phrontist at 12:58 AM on January 2, 2006


My dangerous idea is so dangerous I daren't tell anybody what it is. And I'm a talkative kinda guy, so this thread is murder for me.
posted by seanyboy at 1:09 AM on January 2, 2006


Round Two
----------
Leonard Susskind - "As you may have guessed the idea in question is the Anthropic Principle: a principle that seeks to explain the laws of physics, and the constants of nature, by saying, "If they (the laws of physics) were different, intelligent life would not exist to ask why laws of nature are what they are." ... Meanwhile string theorists, much to the regret of many of them, are discovering that the number of possible environments described by their equations is far beyond millions or billions. This enormous space of possibilities, whose multiplicity may exceed ten to the 500 power, is called the Landscape. If these things prove to be true, then some features of the laws of physics (maybe most) will be local environmental facts rather than written-in-stone laws: laws that could not be otherwise. The explanation of some numerical coincidences will necessarily be that most of the multiverse is uninhabitable, but in some very tiny fraction conditions are fine-tuned enough for intelligent life to form."

If the local laws can be different, why not the local requirements for life as well?

Judith Rich Harris - "Is it dangerous to claim that parents have no power at all (other than genetic) to shape their child's personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home?"

Judith Rich Harris, meet David Lykken.

Sam Harris - "The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science. It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not."

Just replacing one dogma and basis of control with another.

Thomas Metzinger - "For middle-sized objects at 37° like the human brain and the human body, determinism is obviously true. The next state of the physical universe is always determined by the previous state. And given a certain brain-state plus an environment you could never have acted otherwise — a surprisingly large majority of experts in the free-will debate today accept this obvious fact."

Obviously true?
----------
posted by Gyan at 1:16 AM on January 2, 2006


"If the local laws can be different, why not the local requirements for life as well?"

True, but I don't think that's the point of the statement. If there really are numerous universes, each different, then the seemingly huge number of requirements for life don't seem so improbable anymore, and God doesn't seem so necessary (to me). After all, we couldn't wonder why the universe is just so in a universe that doesn't support life, since we obviously wouldn't have evolved there...
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:25 AM on January 2, 2006


Now, here's a really dangerous idea that many people in power have: God wants you to kill people.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:27 AM on January 2, 2006


Man, these ideas really aren't that dangerous. Some of these scientists need to get out more.

Here's my dangerous idea: Life would be better off for most people if more people died earlier. We should focus medicine on improving quality of life, not prolonging it.
posted by JZig at 1:32 AM on January 2, 2006


JZig, how about both improving and prolonging life?
posted by Meridian at 2:06 AM on January 2, 2006


Round Three
----------
Carolyn Porco - "At the heart of every scientific inquiry is a deep spiritual quest — to grasp, to know, to feel connected through an understanding of the secrets of the natural world, to have a sense of one's part in the greater whole. It is this inchoate desire for connection to something greater and immortal, the need for elucidation of the meaning of the 'self', that motivates the religious to belief in a higher 'intelligence'. It is the allure of a bigger agency — outside the self but also involving, protecting, and celebrating the purpose of the self — that is the great attractor. Every culture has religion. It undoubtedly satisfies a manifest human need. But the same spiritual fulfillment and connection can be found in the revelations of science."

Not so sure. Religions allow each and every one a path to "eternal bliss" or alike. Science, at best, allows the best possible contigency within the circumstances. I'm not sure if people-at-large will derive the same fulfillment and motivation from both.

W. Daniel Hillis - "Ideas are the most powerful forces that we can unleash upon the world, and they should not be let loose without careful consideration of their consequences. ... To me, the idea that we should all share our most dangerous ideas is, itself, a very dangerous idea. I just hope that it never catches on.

Daniel Gilbert - "The most dangerous idea is the only dangerous idea: The idea that ideas can be dangerous."

Daniel, meet Daniel

Carlo Rovelli - "Relativity makes completely clear that asking "what happens right now on Andromeda?" is a complete non-sense. There is no right now elsewhere in the universe. Nevertheless, we keep thinking at the universe as if there was an immense external clock that ticked away the instants, and we have a lot of difficulty in adapting to the idea that "the present state of the universe right now", is a physical non-sense."

Can someone explain this to me? Does this apply to Pluto?

Juan Enriquez - "There has yet to be a single U.S. president buried under the same flag he was born under"

Didn't know this.

Paul Davies - "The fight against global warming is lost. ... because the fight is a hopeless one anyway. In spite of the recent hike in the price of oil, the stuff is still cheap enough to burn. Human nature being what it is, people will go on burning it until it starts running out and simple economics puts the brakes on. Meanwhile the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will just go on rising. ... And without the obvious solution — massive investment in nuclear energy — continued warming looks unstoppable. Campaigners for cutting greenhouse emissions try to scare us by proclaiming that a warmer world is a worse world. My dangerous idea is that it probably won't be. Some bad things will happen. For example, the sea level will rise, drowning some heavily populated or fertile coastal areas. But in compensation Siberia may become the world's breadbasket. Some deserts may expand, but others may shrink. Some places will get drier, others wetter. The evidence that the world will be worse off overall is flimsy."

This is a potentially dangerous idea.

Paul W. Ewald - " These proclamations inform us that H5N1 bird flu virus poses an imminent threat of an influenza pandemic similar to or even worse than the 1918 pandemic. I have decreased my popularity in such circles by suggesting that the threat of this scenario is essentially nonexistent. In brief I argue that the 1918 influenza viruses evolved their unique combination of high virulence and high transmissibility in the conditions at the Western Front of World War I. By transporting contagious flu patients into a series of tightly packed groups of susceptible individuals, personnel fostered transmission from people who were completely immobilized by their illness. Such conditions must have favored the predator-like variants of the influenza virus; these variants would have a competitive edge because they could ruthlessly exploit a person for their own replication and still get transmitted to large numbers of susceptible individuals. These conditions have not recurred in human populations since then and, accordingly, we have never had any outbreaks of influenza viruses that have been anywhere near as harmful as those that emerged at the Western Front. So long as we do not allow such conditions to occur again we have little to fear from a reevolution of such a predatory virus."
----------

There are many others that are pretty interesting, but these seemed worthy of note.
posted by Gyan at 2:19 AM on January 2, 2006


Not so sure. Religions allow each and every one a path to "eternal bliss" or alike. Science, at best, allows the best possible contigency within the circumstances. I'm not sure if people-at-large will derive the same fulfillment and motivation from both.

Rebuttle: I do.

Can someone explain this to me? Does this apply to Pluto?

Remember the old saying, "most of these stars have already burned out by now, but the light is still reaching us?" That's the basic idea. But it's not exactly right, you could say that the stars are still burning, then travel there, but it would seem to you that as you traveled towards it it would go through an accelerated life cycle and explode and die. So the universe as we observe it can never be visited. Pluto may appear to be a certain place in the sky, but no matter how fast we get there, it will end up being somewhere else.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:40 AM on January 2, 2006


Easily, the most dangerous activity is tackling in football. More injuries occur during tackling than during any other activity.
posted by Leam Srehtorb at 2:50 AM on January 2, 2006


Citizen Premier : "That's the basic idea."

Which is not so interesting an insight. Clearly, the world is perceived through a frame-of-reference, and putative interpolations not captured within that frame, have to be extrapolated, and "don't exist" for you. But my contention is with this sentence in particular: "There is no right now elsewhere in the universe.". What's "elsewhere"? Taken to its logical conclusion, there is no "right now" anywhere since even the photons from the monitor in front from me, take non-zero time to impinge upon my retina, and subsequently, for perceptual processing. So this use of "elsewhere" seems mysterious to me. On a different note, if one can believe that things continue to exist when you don't look at them, then why not the andromeda "right now"? Realizing that all phenomena is representation does not answer whether the noumenal exists or not. There may be an absolute time, or not.
posted by Gyan at 3:05 AM on January 2, 2006


My noucarmenon ran over my noudogmenon.
posted by Wolof at 3:27 AM on January 2, 2006


Ages ago I was reading somewhere (cannot find the source) that Francis Crick, as in Watson and Crick, as in DNA, is a supporter of eugenics. That struck me as a fairly dangerous idea.
posted by Ritchie at 4:23 AM on January 2, 2006


Dangerous idea: judging by all the Caucasian males featured on the page, apparently consulting ethnicities for opinions.
posted by ed at 5:50 AM on January 2, 2006


Now, here's a really dangerous idea that many people in power have: God wants you to kill people.

That's because He sets them a bad example. ie:

Two thousand killed in a hurricane. A terrible tragedy, but it was an act of God.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:06 AM on January 2, 2006


Dangerous idea: judging by all the Caucasian males featured on the page, apparently consulting ethnicities for opinions.

Even more dangerous idea: judging ideas on the basis of their ethnic origin rather than their quality.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:13 AM on January 2, 2006


Corporations should lose their status as "persons" under the law. Board members and CEOs should be held personally responsible for criminal acts commited by their companies.

That's the kind of dangerous idea I was hoping to see. I'd love to hear the "strict constructionists of the Constitution" answer the question, did the original framers of the Constitution intend to allow artificial entities whose entire existence is based on avoiding responsibility?
posted by billder at 6:17 AM on January 2, 2006



I was more interested in last year's question, "what do you believe is true even though you can't prove it?" but had trouble navigating the site to find the answers. Here's an interesting Guardian selection of those.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:30 AM on January 2, 2006


Worth it if only for this line:

"I think that, for babies, every day is first love in Paris."
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:33 AM on January 2, 2006


"Even more dangerous idea: judging ideas on the basis of their ethnic origin rather than their quality"

I think the problem is that the vast majority of those asked were white males, what they said is irrelevant. It's a bit hard to judge ideas based on their ethnic origin if only one ethnic origin gets its ideas published.

Perhaps more dangerous ideas could be obtained from those outisde the white swan group.

Personally I'm always disapointed by the qulity of the anwers from these excercises, as beautifully shown by Gyan above.

My Dangerous Idea : More fucking editors for web content.
posted by fullerine at 6:52 AM on January 2, 2006


My LH2/LF rocket will revolutionize access to space!
posted by eriko at 7:12 AM on January 2, 2006


My dangerous idea was stolen by one of these guys, pfft. That the distinction between reality and fiction is artificial.
posted by mek at 7:28 AM on January 2, 2006


Micro-danger - The U.S. Congress will pass legislation requiring that all movie theaters install cell-phone jammers or face fines and summary execution by being hanged from the marquee...
posted by TeamBilly at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2006


I once upon a time wanted to write a sci-fi short story about a group of liberal-minded scientists who discover concrete evidence that one ethnicity is more intelligent than another. The story would follow their debate on whether or not they should release their findings.
But then I opened my internet browser and devoted my psychic energies to less productive things.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:04 AM on January 2, 2006


Obviously true?
Gyan - have you read elbow room by dennett? that addresses the deterministic/free-will question from exactly this angle.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:30 AM on January 2, 2006


andrew cooke, no. But I've skimmed through a precis of it. But that was long ago. Can you elaborate?
posted by Gyan at 8:40 AM on January 2, 2006


A randomly-determined one-third to one-half of humanity should not exist.
posted by aramaic at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2006


A randomly-determined one-third to one-half of humanity should not exist.

This sentence is so dangerous I have no idea what it means.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:50 AM on January 2, 2006


can i repeat his arguments? no. it's a fairly dense, detailed book that i've read twice now and need to read again. but in general terms he attempts to show that most of our natural feelings that determinism is incompatible with free will are based on faulty assumptions and, in particular, on extrapolating a small number of popular examples way past where they make any sense.

so he's not trying to convince you that determinism is correct, as much as show that the arguments you'd give against it ("but doesn't that mean we are just robots?" etc) are not reliable.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:03 AM on January 2, 2006


i think he may also have a more recent book that tackles the same questions at a more popular level. or it may have some updated ideas too. unsure.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:05 AM on January 2, 2006


Can someone explain this to me? Does this apply to Pluto?

It is my understanding that the theory of relativity does effectively abolish the concept of "now", in that two points in spacetime that cannot be connected by a beam of light (in other words, you would have to go faster than the speed of light to get from one to the other) simply CANNOT be determined to be simultaneous or not. In other words, different observers will disagree on whether or not these two points are simultaneous. Simultaneity, under relativity, is relative.

But no, this does not apply to the Pluto we see, as this Pluto is a point in spacetime from which light can be received (and is being received, thus we see it.) What we are seeing has already occurred - what we see has always already occurred. Pluto could be gone although we see it, yes, but this is moreso a cute result than an important one. The troubling part about relativity, for the absolutist, is you could ask "I wonder what Pluto looks like right now?" and the relativist would respond, "which now?"

The further away an object is relative to us, the larger the array of potential nows. Oi vay.
posted by mek at 9:10 AM on January 2, 2006


andrew cooke : "in general terms he attempts to show that most of our natural feelings that determinism is incompatible with free will are based on faulty assumptions"

The article I read was unconvincing. A baseball analogy was used, IIRC i.e. if conditions were different, the pitcher could factor that in to make a different decision, which totally skirts the point. Even some of the 5-star reviews on Amazon say Dennett's definition of 'free will' for compatibilism purposes is a twisted one.

mek, that's the logical conclusion I mentioned above. The 'elsewhere' seems bizarre.
posted by Gyan at 9:35 AM on January 2, 2006


And can I just add that I think it is totally fucking awesome that Mike Nesmith of The Monkees is one of the contributors?

Nesmith's actually a very interesting guy, sort of the Lennon of the Monkees.


My dangerous idea is so dangerous I daren't tell anybody what it is. And I'm a talkative kinda guy, so this thread is murder for me.


This was a bit of a recurring theme, that no one would talk about the really dangerous ideas, which is in itself a dangerous idea.
posted by mkultra at 9:55 AM on January 2, 2006


I don't have any dangerous ideas. Only unpopular ones that would never fly. Like: treat all religion with the impatiance, contempt and derision it deserves. That one always goes over well.
posted by Decani at 10:08 AM on January 2, 2006


Impatience, dammit.
posted by Decani at 10:08 AM on January 2, 2006


i think the "right now" guy is exagerating things a bit. you can quite easily define a global time system. for example, we could measure time using the temperature of the microwave background, which cools over time at the same rate everywhere. so by "right now" i mean "when the microwave background in andromeda is the same as it is here at this instant".
posted by andrew cooke at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2006


gyan - i'm not sure that finding the article unconcvincing changes much. his point is that there are some deeply ingrained ideas about determinism being incompatible and that you need to explore those in quite some detail. so it's not surprising that a single analogy about baseball is going to change your mind.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:39 AM on January 2, 2006


Tube technology.
posted by NationalKato at 10:52 AM on January 2, 2006


The Edge is the real talent in U2.
posted by maxsparber at 11:13 AM on January 2, 2006


Things aren't as dangerous as we think they are. "Natural" and "organic" are often more unhealthy, environmentally harmful and wasteful of resources than industrial products.

"Natural remedies", uncontrolled and untested, are more dangerous than regulated pharma.

Flying is the absolute safest way to travel, better than car, ship, train, bus, bicycle and foot.

We wildly misunderstand risk, based on our perception of the particular rather than the general.
posted by bonehead at 11:32 AM on January 2, 2006


Two more: in a century (or less), fission waste will be a primo energy resource, concentrated and available. We shouldn't be trying to lock it away forever, we should be guarding it in bank vaults.

A hydrogen fuel-based economy isn't an answer to energy self-suffientcy any more than using electricity is. We still need to figure out how to make the hydrogen.
posted by bonehead at 11:37 AM on January 2, 2006


It's fun forming arguments against some of the crackpotier ideas, and having my mind stretched by others. Great link grargh00.

My dangerous idea: Intellectual property rights actually hinder the "progress of science and useful arts" since the most significant barrier to progress is access to, rather than the creation of, ideas.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:09 PM on January 2, 2006


Thanks, mkultra, for saying Mike Nesmith was the John Lennon of the Monkees. That is so true.

I always thought if you built a big Mobius Strip and had a NASCAR driver go around it you could make him go back in time. Would that work?
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 3:03 PM on January 2, 2006


bonehead reminds me - is flight actually safer than car or train? I have a suspicion that the "it's safer" figures are based on casualties per km (or mile) travelled, rather than casualties per hour spent in vehicle. Maybe it's substantially safer by both metrics. Maybe it isn't.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:13 PM on January 2, 2006


A dangerous idea that I've noticed is in ascendancy, is that the USA may have tilted past a point from which there is no path but the beginnings of unstoppable decline, and that if so, it would make no sense to try to help put the wheels back on the train, the best thing would be to quietly abandon all effort in order to line your own nest into a liferaft.

Ie, that it may be time to become part of the problem, and damn the consequences.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:27 PM on January 2, 2006


1. A complete end to all money in Politics. No more lobbyists, no more war chests. An average wage (around $45K) paid to all elected officials, including the President. Consultant fees allowable only after leaving office.

2. An end to the "Nanny State." No more seat belt laws or helmet laws. Legal suicide. Legal Euthanasia.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:05 PM on January 2, 2006


i like your #1, Secret.

The ideas aren't dangerous at all--no idea is dangerous--it's the execution of those ideas that can be dangerous. The very premise is really weak.

That said, my most dangerous idea: treat all elected officials officially as our employees. We monitor them while they're working--their email is open to us, and their phone calls, and all their discussions, as well as every single meeting they have anywhere in the world, during working hours. As for the president, he is supposed to be working all the time, so he'd be monitored all the time. I'm under surveillance when i'm at work, so our employees should be too. Call it "total Sunshine". A lobbyist wants to meet with a congressman? we're there too. 2 Senators make a backroom deal or threaten a third? we're there too. A vice president has meetings with energy executives? We're there too...
posted by amberglow at 4:59 PM on January 2, 2006


Corporations should lose their status as "persons" under the law. Board members and CEOs should be held personally responsible for criminal acts commited by their companies.

Absolutely.

Judith Rich Harris, meet David Lykken.

He has, he wrote a blurb for the back cover of her book.

Far less surprisingly, so did Steven Pinker.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:53 PM on January 2, 2006


amberglow: it would also be gratifying if we could apply our collective will to the officials as DC volts. Realtime voter preference...
posted by sneebler at 6:36 PM on January 2, 2006


No more seat belt laws

Sure, as long as I don't have to pay for putting wounded folks back together after they eject through the windshield.
posted by storybored at 6:40 PM on January 2, 2006


grrarrgh00 : Thanks for the link.

This reminds me of a link from this time last year, something to the effect of "Best unanswered questions of 2004." Does anybody know if there's a "Best unanswered questions of 2005?"
posted by Afroblanco at 6:50 PM on January 2, 2006


amberglow: it would also be gratifying if we could apply our collective will to the officials as DC volts. Realtime voter preference...

That's a great idea. Just as i have to check with my bosses on important things, and get their sign-off, so should Congresspeople, especially if it's things that affect us (i.e., everything).
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on January 2, 2006


Even some of the 5-star reviews on Amazon say Dennett's definition of 'free will' for compatibilism purposes is a twisted one.

Dennett pretty much denies that the stringent type of free will that philosophers usually talk about exists. But, most of the time when people wonder if they have free will, they do so because they think it has important ramifications... we need free will to make sense of morality or personal responsibility, for instance. This is a different use of the term 'free will', and it describes something that does exist. A slogan of his: we have free will, but it's not what philosophers think it is.
posted by painquale at 7:42 PM on January 2, 2006


I have a suggestion. Anyone who uses political rhetoric like "the nanny state" will instantly be ejected from reasoned conversation.

That goes for both liberals and conservatives, and particularly goes for radicals.
posted by maxsparber at 7:46 PM on January 2, 2006


harlequin, according to the (US) BTS, the breakdown of fatalities by each mode of transporation is here. So maybe taking the subway is safer than flying, but for everthing else more people die per year in the other major modes of transport.

Maybe you want to break it down by distance travelled? Pulling together the states from all the tables gives (fatalities per 100 million miles travelled): 36 for water, 6.2 for commuter rail, 3.9 for city bus, 2.7 for passanger rail, 1.6 for car, and 0.2 for air travel. So, for a drive across country, say, air is at least 8 times safer than taking your car, and almost 15 times safer than taking the train.
posted by bonehead at 8:16 PM on January 2, 2006


A complete end to all money in Politics.

Which of course means that only people who already have money get to play. Fooey.

An end to the "Nanny State."

Certainly we need to be giving a lot of thought to the extent to which we believe that having the responsibility for something or someone confers (or ought to confer) the power to dictate the range of that something or someone's actions.
posted by hob at 8:58 PM on January 2, 2006


My idea:

New U.S. congressonal rule allowing each member of congress to have only two staff members and no interns.

And no senator/congress(wo)man may vote on any measure unless (s)he was present on the senate/house floor for the entire debate on that measure.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:26 PM on January 2, 2006


harlequin -- that was peggy noonan's dangerous idea, from a column she wrote several months ago.
posted by empath at 9:28 PM on January 2, 2006


Jek: and they have to prove they actually read the entire thing.
posted by amberglow at 9:32 PM on January 2, 2006


Amberglow: As much as I like that idea, I think it might be dramatically less practical than the ones I've suggested. Of course, if they had to be present for the entire debate on everything they voted on, and if they only had 2 staff members, the number of bills introduced would drop to double digits, and reading them wouldn't be such a chore, I guess.

I'd also eliminate franked mail and prohibit members of congress from responding to constituent mail. They could still receive constituent mail, but those b.s. responses they spend millions a year on should be banned, since they amount to taxpayer-funded campaigning.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:36 PM on January 2, 2006


What is your dangerous idea?

Sometimes genocide WORKS.
posted by HTuttle at 11:25 PM on January 2, 2006


Ooh, that is dangerous.
posted by maxsparber at 1:21 AM on January 3, 2006


on the same lines, i've got an oldie but goodie:

we can't afford free speech.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:39 AM on January 3, 2006


bonehead:
Those stats are the same kind - they don't seem to list average person-hours spent in vehicle, suggesting it's still up in the air whether air travel is safer. (More people die in cars, but pretty much every person spends orders or magnitude more hours in cars, so you would expect orders of magnitudes more car fatalities even if car travel was safer by the hour).

Actually, if I was prepared to do the work, you probably could work out person-hours from some of the infrastructure stats there, but I'm having breakfast :-)
Maybe later. Thanks for the link, this stuff is interesting.


Tangent possibly related to the Nanny-state thread, the section on estimated lives saved by restraints like seatbelts shows more lives saved per year than the total annual car fatalities. Interesting.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:17 AM on January 3, 2006


Hmm, going by the fatalities per mile, fatalities per hour can be derived from the average speed. If car fatalities are 8 times higher, then aircraft would need to travel less than 8 times faster to be safer by hour.

I'd estimate the average speed of a plane to be considerably in excess of this (they spend almost all the travel time cruising at ~900km/h, cars can only ever reach an 8th of this on the open road, and most car hours are spent at much slower speeds).

So, spending an hour travelling by car is safer than spending an hour travelling by plane.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2006


I have a suggestion. Anyone who uses political rhetoric like "the nanny state" will instantly be ejected from reasoned conversation.

That goes for both liberals and conservatives, and particularly goes for radicals.

posted by maxsparber at 10:46 PM EST on January 2

I have a suggestion, myself. But since reasoned conversation does not allow me to say "Go Fuck yourself" I guess I will keep it to myself.

Dangerous ideas? What could be more dangerous than allowing people to be in charge of their own health and safety? I'm a little tired of automatic legislation every time somebody dies because their ATV flips over or when somebody loses an eye playing lawn darts.

As for the politics and money mix:

A complete end to all money in Politics.

Which of course means that only people who already have money get to play. Fooey.


Not if we change campaign financing laws. What if we completely change the way campaigns are run? In order to get on the ballot, you and your unpaid volunteers must get 5% of all the registered voters to sign a ballot petition. Once you are on the ballot, you receive X amount of dollars from the federal, state, or county. And that is all you are allowed to spend. It is up to you, the campaigner to decide if you want to blow it all on TV ads, or highway signs, or professional consultants, or (most economical) open town hall type meetings.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2006


I think getting a "Go Fuck Yourself" proves that a genuinely suggested a dangerous idea. Of course, if we throw out bumper sticker political sloganeering and the people who espouse them, we'll eliminate 98 percent of what passes for political debate in this country.

And I'm all for it.
posted by maxsparber at 9:49 AM on January 3, 2006


1. Not only is old age curable, but death itself is curable. I think that one day (at least for the very rich) we'll figure how to immunize a body against the immediate cellular breakdown that occurs when oxygen starvation occurs. Sure, you may have a stake through the heart, but give us a month and we'll replace that heart with a functioning one. Jump-start it with a few volts and you're good as new!

Note that for this to make sense, you have to jettison any notion of a 'soul' as what makes a body function and see the body as the organic mechanism that it is -- i.e., "life" is a process, not a thing.

2. Free will does not exist. This is discussed above, but the obvious "dangerous" ramification is that a murderer could not have been anything *but* a murderer, given that person's environment. Given this, is it "fair" to punish them? (I say "not really", but punishment is practically effective, as a component of the environment.)

Note here that "environment" includes genetics, which are initial conditions that are out of that person's control as well as of course parents, upbringing, education, campaign contributors, etc. Certainly, there's quite the feedback loop going on between the person and the environment, but it traces back causally to the initial conditions.

BUT: Even assuming the universe is deterministic, we must know the grand perfect equation of the universe to know that Little Johnny Fetus will be a killer 20 years from now, so the *illusion* of free will is pretty damn convincing!
posted by LordSludge at 12:49 PM on January 3, 2006


Lord Sludge:

Incarceration (ideally) acheives four seperate things - punishment, isolating society from the threat, rehabilitation, and deterrance to others.

You noted that deterrance may be sufficient as a practical justification for punishment in a deterministic world, but I thought I'd add to that that incarceration has all those other things going for it too, punishment is the only one that determinism undermines, which is only one of four solid reasons to do it.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2006


LordSludge & -harlequin- :

Assuming that free will does not exist, is not the killer's incarceration just as inevitable as the murder itself?

If he does not choose to kill, then the police do not choose to catch him, and the jury does not choose to condemn him.

Even your analysis of the situation is inevitable and, ultimately, pointless. You analyzed the situation that way because you were born to do so.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:57 PM on January 3, 2006


JekPorkins:

No, incarceration is inevitable in a deterministic world if people believe free will exists. If society later considered the matter and rejected the concept of free will, then incarceration might be debated and/or abolished. (But for the reasons we stated, even then, incarceration seems to make good sense, so abolishing it seems unlikely with or without free will)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2006


But if free will doesn't really exist, then the people who decide to abolish incarceration don't have it, either, and their "decision" to abolish incarceration is not a decision at all.

The concept of free will, if rejected, must be rejected as to all people, including those rejecting the concept, not just as to the murderer.
posted by JekPorkins at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2006


whether the "decision" to abolish incarceration semanticly refers to freely chosen action, or to a pre-determined path that under different environmental variables might conceivably have gone a different direction, is not relevant as to whether the people actually abolish incarceration or not, thus not relevant to whether incarceration is inevitable.

The killers incarceration is not as inevitable as the murder itself, because environmental variables could line up such that a lack of incarceration is just as inevitable as the murder itself, for the reasons Lord Sludge mentioned.

Or, you could argue, the world is deterministic, and OJ Simpson proved that incarceration is not the inevitable result of killing :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:25 PM on January 3, 2006


empath:
For the sake of form, it's not Peggy Noonan's dangerous idea, the whole point of her column was that scary many people had formed the idea (independantly of each other) and were acting on it. She, like many others (including me) noticed this, after the fact. Unlike me at the time however, she saw it as part of a bigger picture than just friends and relations, and described it quite succintly, which is why I totally stole her turn of phrase, which in turn, I know, was your real point. Guilty! :-)

(That's also why I called it an observation - the dangerous idea is one that people have already had for some time, not the noticing or the pointing out of the dangerous idea, that stuff is an observation about the world that only came about because the idea was already widespread, formed by other people).
posted by -harlequin- at 4:11 AM on January 4, 2006


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