Genetics Vs. Programming?
HOW DID THE GANYMEANS ORGANIZE THEMSELVES?
From other letters that I've received, I thought the following
exchange might be of more general interest:
Subject: Organizing activity on Minerva
I recently re-discovered Code of the Lifemaker, which I
had read 10 years ago and went on to read the 1st three Giants books. I look
forward to reading The Infinity Option and others. Good fun.
In the second of the Giants books, Garuth tells Hunt (I
believe) that Ganymeans work because that's the source of their self-pride and
that there is no competition in the sense that the humans expect to see it.
This introduces a dilemma, in my mind. How do the Ganymeans know what to do?
More to the point, how did they know before the computers became sophisticated
enough to allocate effort? My guess is that even if we could somehow be re-programmed
to work according to some Kantian imperative, the result would be utter confusion
(or very small-scale production) on the order of that in "centrally planned"
I appreciate your vision. It's nice to find books set in
the near future that do not begin with the premise of picking up the pieces
Also from [WM]
Just one more note. I know you have many correspondents
and I don't want to tie up much of your time. Still, I would like to elaborate
just a bit.
As you may guess, my question (whether the Ganymean society
and portrayed could have generated a complex economy) builds on a history. In
particular, Austrian economists in the 1930s argued that central planning could
not work for anything other than a tribal economy. The problem of calculating
values and assigning resources to uses becomes too complex for such a system
to persist. Indeed, one reading of the fact that the Soviet system did not fail
earlier than it did is that it really didn't use central planning. Rather, it
was a sort of mercantilism.
Anyway, I cannot envision how a large group of people could
assign activities to its members without something much like the price system.
I introduced the computer as a possibility, once the computer becomes sufficiently
sophisticated. I did not mean to suggest that you did so. I agree with you that
my inability to envision a complex world without a price system may reflect
my limited vision and not the range of possibilities. Still, the examples that
you suggest as alternatives represent relatively simple systems in which command
or altruism could direct activity.
Thanks for replying.
Yes, I am familiar with von Mises, Hayek, etc. They make
some good points.
But I think it can be misleading to construct grand theories
of what is or is not possible or workable, and then attempt to deduce from them
how reality has to be. History is littered with too many corpses of pronouncements
on things that were supposed to be impossible.
We would exercise our imaginations and broaden our thinking
faculties more constructively by accepting as given that the Ganymeans did manage
a complex, advanced society without a price system, and try asking ourselves
how it might have functioned, than asserting as a dogma that it couldn't have
happened. [It's interesting that depictions of faster- travel, and so on, the
impossibility of which is attested to by far stronger bodies of evidence backed
by all kinds of mathematics, doesn't provoke any protests. (I'm not persuaded
by those arguments either, by the way.)]
One suggestion, for example, might be socialism without
coercive imposition by the state, that we're indoctrinated to believe is synonymous
with it. Or an extrapolation of the principles early Christianity (the first
two hundred years or less), before its leaders sold out to become an instrument
of European power politics and substituted a Rome-based counterfeit.
In any case, I'd submit that the competitive economics enshrined
by the mythology of our own culture is far from the ideal of rationality and
efficiency that we imagine. When millions of people have to work themselves
into neurosis and sickness fifty weeks out of the year to satisfy needs that
require a multi-billion-dollar propaganda industry to persuade them they have,
there's something crazy going on at the heart of it. Every fourteen days, we
spend more on cosmetics, entertainments, and alcohol than we did on Apollo in
its peak year.
I think we can do better than a system that alienates individuals
by pitching each in a battle against all, where everyone becomes a threat or
an adversary. Ultimately, compassion and tolerance at the personal level are
what decent societies are built on. Given that, I don't think it matters too
much what political or economic labels one nominally subscribes to.
And whether one agrees or not, if such possibilities aren't to be explored
in science fiction, then where?
Bests, James P. Hogan