Manufacturing Communities with Imagined Consent: Part 0
Let's build a techno-communitarian utopia!
Derek Parfit’s On What Matters is one of the most thought-provoking works in moral philosophy from the 21st century. However, I daresay it doesn’t tell us very much about what does matter. Tyler Cowen gives one plausible reason:
“I am frustrated with this very long and very central part of the book, which cries out for formalization or at the very least citations to formalized game theory. … I read the standard game-theoretic results as implying that ethics is a far more indeterminate enterprise than Parfit might like to see.”
I’m not going to pretend I have a better answer, but I am going to tell a 4-part story about what I think does matter, and I’m going to start with some game theory!
Part I. The postlapsarian state of nature is competitive. Game theory suggests that we can get cooperative outcomes out of this conflict, but we need trust to bunnyhop to these positive sum equilibria. That’s why communities matter!
Part II. Building common knowledge of trust has historically been done in three ways: exclusionary national identities, credit-backed money and mass religions. Each corresponds a monument of society: citadel, market and altar!
Part III. God is dead. Civic religion is dead. And liberalism killed it. Whatever we build now needs to grapple with the fact that a “society” where everything is permissible is one devoid of form, function or trust!
Part IV. Societal problems have always been endogenous to two crucial technological constraints: that of scarcity and that of scaling trust beyond Dunbar’s number. If we want the arc of history to bend in our favour, we need a renewed agenda for economic abundance and a technical solution to allow trustless decentralisation!