Social Contract

Question of the Day, August 11-12-13 2015, Social Contract

What is a fair social contract of a human kind?

Great start to the discussion Lulu

Yes, the idea of social contract is very old, with many political and philosophical beginnings.

The UN declaration of human rights is a great example of how to destroy a great idea.

To my understanding, only two things are required:
1/ That we value sapient life, in all forms, and take all reasonable steps to protect all sapient individuals.
2/ That we value the liberty of sapient individuals, and take all reasonable steps to prevent our own actions impacting on the freedom of others.

From these two values, we can derive a host of contingent responsibilities – like taking care of the environment that supports us all, respect for property, the need for a significant fraction (over half) of all landforms and ecosystems to be managed as commons resources. The need for reasonable passage (as part of freedom. etc

Over most of human history, most things have been genuinely scarce, and markets and employment made sense. Now that we have exponentially expanding automation and manufacturing capacity, the ideas of employment and markets and trade don’t make as much sense as once they did. Paradigms need to be updated to fit the new reality. We do actually need to invest in developing technologies that can fully automate the processes of meeting all survival needs (including water, food, housing education, healthcare, transport, communication and creative tools) for all people on the planet.

Some of the more radical notions of individuals having the freedom to do whatever they want are not logical. All action has consequence.

The idea that individuals can do anything without a society is a nonsense. No human being can survive childhood or learn a language without the assistance of other people, most of whom are long dead but left behind their cultural legacies.

We are all dependent on cooperation, through time and space, in many different ways.

If we all acknowledge that reality, then we can cooperate in such ways that deliver far greater freedom and security in practice than any attempt to “go it alone” can ever deliver.
And cooperation does not mean being like. It actually demands accepting exponentially expanding diversity.

Cooperation means accepting and acknowledging differences and negotiating agreements that are beneficial to all parties, and deliver maximum freedom with minimal risk – acknowledging that there is always a trade-off and there are always uncertainties. Absolute security (zero risk) is not an option. Just because we may be ignorant of risk does not mean the risk doesn’t exist – it is just that we are not aware of it. This necessary ignorance imposes a level of background risk, which cannot be avoided, and is in a sense unknowable. That has to be part of any conversation to determine what might constitute acceptable risk.

Getting back to the UN declaration, it seems to me to have been degraded by lawyers and diplomats, to give a set of words that in plain speak say one thing, but in legal terms say something very much less than that.

For me, the social contract is about creating conversations that empower, that reduce long term risk, and empower long term freedom – for everyone.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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