[LMB] Research Republic of Beta

K Kuhn kknolte at ecity.net
Sat, 16 Feb 2002 19:55:03 -0600

Damien Raphael wrote:
> Given a lead, why would you lose the lead?  Because someone had a better
> idea, or because internal dynamics cause you to lose your fire.  But if
> you're good at comparison and self-monitoring you can notice someone else's
> better idea and steal it, or notice that you're developing problems and
> correct them.  This would require mechanisms of social self-awareness
> which are still largely embryonic right now, but perhaps Beta's solved
> that problem.

Well, Beta *is* supposed to have the best psychologists in the Nexus. 
Also, I've seen "the scientific method" described as a social practice
to ensure that scientists are rational rather than rationalizing - so a
few more centuries of "scientific practice" might do a pretty good job
of developing really good self-monitoring and comparison techniques,
before Beta even starts.

Possible blind spot, though - is there any reason to believe that the
Betan ideal is always to be the best scientists in the Nexus, or that
they might decide that they'd like to explore some other parts of being
human beyond the rational?

> It might be that this is the really important function of the Mental
> Health Board.  Never mind violent anti-social tendencies; the real
> problem is malaise or decadence.  Tweak tweak.
> Speaking of the MHB, and "who guards the guardians?"... if it was
> started with the right population of pragmatic idealists it might
> effectively watch itself.  Members of the MHB would be examined and
> adjusted so as not to have any tendencies to self-aggradizement or
> idealistic violation of whatever rights and dignities are chosen to not
> be violatable by the MHB.

Well, apparently the tech for tweaking human psychology reliably has
been invented in the Nexus.  Humans, up to now anyway, do not have a
particularly good record when it comes to declaring some technology "too
horrible to use" and forgetting about it, especially when some aspects
of it can be oh so useful.  (ie, your kid decides it's fun to burn down
your house while you're sleeping in it - do you lock him up for life if
he says he's happy like he is, or take him to a psychiatrist to be
cured?).  And if nothing else, if Beta's been on the bleeding edge of
technological advances for centuries, Beta *has* to be darn good at
having a society that adjusts well to constant and dramatic change
without causing the usual worries and anxieties.  So, if psychology gets
to the point where it's a science rather than an art, is it close enough
to a "tech" rather than "black magic" [1] that it's workable?

[1] AFAICT, there's no such thing to most sf fans as a "technology" Man
Was Not Meant To Know Because Humans Are Too Stupid To Handle It. 
"Black magic", OTOH, is usually Something Man Was Not Meant to Know, And
That's A Good Thing. 

> -xx- Damien X-)
> --
> Lois-Bujold mailing list
> Lois-Bujold at lists.herald.co.uk
> http://lists.herald.co.uk/mailman/listinfo/lois-bujold