Saturday, August 30, 2008

What’s Your Dangerous Idea?


I love ideas being characterized as dangerous. It’s interesting to see how different scientists approach this rather broad question. I’d love to see in the comments some of the dangerous ideas the UBC can come up with.

We Have No Souls
All I could think about while reading was that even if it were proven that humans have no souls, most of us would just keep going on with our lives as is. I don’t think there’d be massive numbers of people throwing their religion, morality and basic sense of self down the tubes because of this idea.

The Evolution of Evil
This idea is hard to write/think about because I think he hits strikingly close to truth. I especially sat up when I read, “The danger comes from people who refuse to recognize that there are dark sides of human nature that cannot be wished away by attributing them to the modern ills of culture, poverty, pathology or exposure to media violence” (pp 111).

More Anonymity is Good
I flat out don’t think this is a dangerous idea. I think the author makes a wrong assumption: either you’re anonymous or you’re not. I don’t think this is the case. In many realms, many people prefer to be anonymous (ie: posting on websites, dark bars, etc) and in others they don’t (ie: work, school, relationships, etc). It’s not an all-or-nothing game. There are costs and benefits to being anonymous that we all have to personally weigh. The thing about anonymity is that it’s like your virginity; once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. So, maybe we should protect our anonymity a little more?

Science will Never Silence God
Ironically, the more dangerous idea is that scientists will prove there is a god. This guy’s “dangerous idea,” is that we’ll maintain the status quo. I don’t know how dangerous that is. However, imagine the big pile of dog poop a lot of us would be in if we proved there is a god…

The Near-Term Inevitability of Radical Life Extension and Expansion
I found this to be very Malthian. I don’t worry about things like one type of technology advancing “too far.”

Where Goods Cross Frontiers, Armies Won’t
I find it funny that this idea is the opposite of dangerous… unless you’re a government official.

The Idea that Ideas Can be Dangerous
I liked this because I think the marketplace for ideas is powerful enough to take care of the dumb ideas...eventually. In the interim, ideas can be dangerous on a personal scale. Think about all the humans who have been persecuted because of ideas. From the extreme example of The Holocaust to the mundane example of blonds being stupid, ideas can be very dangerous because they turn into beliefs.

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