node created 2019/09/29
If I met Hitler here on the street and had a pistol, I would shoot him. If the men don't do it, then a woman has to do it.
These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing. He must learn to listen to his own inner voice. He must learn to say "No!"

Finally, it is the act itself that matters. When instrumental reason is the sole guide to action, the acts it justifies are robbed of their inherent meanings and thus exist in an ethical vacuum. I recently heard an officer of a great university publicly defend an important policy decision he had made, one that many of the university's students and faculty opposed on moral grounds, with the words: "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)
When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.
At some point we all have to stop saying "well I'm a {baker, hacker, librarian, truck driver,...}, why should I worry about these problems?" and realize that this is world-altering stuff happening, and if you want your little corner of the world to survive, you have to mobilize to protect it, even if that means doing a little less of the things you normally do.
So we should, I think, stop trying to fool ourselves when we say that we don't care about things, or that we want to help, but we don't help the things that are obvious and directly in front of our face. We should try to work together, I think, to try to build independent structures to replace the parts of the state that have been dismantled.

This is something which is I think highfallutin and difficult for people to grok, but part of the reason that we loose so much in our societies is because we don't have democratic control over the things that matter to us.

So what we need to do is to try to replace those structures. The structures especially that are missing. And that includes stuff that's not very sexy, like child care or education, as well as, you know, open and free base bands for cell phones. It's all related. So I think we have to move from a world where we act, not just a world where we react.
The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get "a good job," but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
I cannot tell why the spokesmen I have cited want the developments I forecast to become true. Some of them have told me that they work on them for the morally bankrupt reason that "If we don't do it, someone else will." They fear that evil people will develop superintelligent machines and use them to oppress mankind, and that the only defense against these enemy machines will be superintelligent machines controlled by us, that is, by well-intentioned people. Others reveal that they have abdicated their autonomy by appealing to the "principle" of technological inevitability. But, finally, all I can say with assurance is that these people are not stupid. All the rest is mystery.
I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled.
Punishing governement and large corporations is generally meaningless. We have to pierce the veil and go after individuals within them... fine or even imprison them personally.
Rio de Janeiro, incidently, is not the poor part of the country, that sort of the rich part of the country. It's not the northeast, where 35 million people or so, nobody knows what happens to them, or cares. But Rio de Janeiro, that's where people are looking, the rich parts. And this journal is a science journal, kinda like Science in the United States. It was studying malnutrition. And here's the figures it had for Rio de Janeiro: infants from 0 to 5 months, severe malnutrition, meaning medically severe, 67%; 5 months to a year, 41%; a year to 5 years, 11%. Now the reason of course for the decline, from 67 to 41 to 11, is that they will die. So that's what happens under the conditions of the economic miracle, like in Guatemala.

Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die. We kill them, that's what happens. We kill them by carrying out policies, supporting the regimes of the kind that I've described. And by intervening with force and violence to suppress and destroy any attempt, however minimal, even on a speck like Grenada, we've got to stop any attempt to bring some change into this. That's the history of our hemisphere.
Eventually, I realized that I had two choices. I could struggle for stupid stuff - for some trinkets and creature comforts - or I could make a choice to struggle for something that would make a better life for myself, my children and their children. You either work for yourself and your people or you work for the oppressor. Those are the two things that all young people in the United States have to decide, basically, and that they’re not going to participate in their own self-destruction.
The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.
"On Evil"
I have spoken here of what ought and ought not to be done, of what is morally repugnant, and of what is dangerous. I am, of course, aware of the fact that these judgements of mine have themselves no moral force except on myself. Nor, as I have already said, do I have any intention of telling other people what tasks they should and should not undertake. I urge them only to consider the consequences of what they do do. And here I mean not only, not even primarily, the direct consequences of their actions on the world about them. I mean rather the consequences on themselves, as they construct their rationalizations, as they repress the truths that urge them to different courses, and as they chip away at their own autonomy. That so many people ask what they must do is a sign that the order of being and doing has become inverted. Those who know who and what they are do not need to ask what they should do. And those who must ask will not be able to stop asking until they begin to look inside themselves. It it is everyone's task to show by example what questions one can ask of oneself, and to show that one can live with the few answers there are.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" (1976)
Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.
As someone libertarian-leaning, what I find disturbing about all this - we all told ourselves that companies in various totalitarian regimes went along with the regime's line because they'd be "disappeared" if they didn't. Here in our country, it seems that murder, jail time, and mysterious "disappearances" are not required. Most companies will happily go along with any regime's censorship plans just to make a few more bucks, not risk losing their market position, or not be a target of a twitter outrage mob.

How are we going to maintain a free society if nobody is willing to make any effort at it?
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
[..] we must defend not only our own right to freedom, but also other people’s rights. This is because when other people’s right to freedom is violated, our freedom exists only in name. [..] Freedom is the embodiment of independent will and thought. [..] If we are to oppose tyranny and respect independence, then the oppression embedded within and between cultures should all be destroyed. [..] even in researching and learning, our thoughts are not as free as we think they are. Under the impact of complicated thoughts, shameless suppression and temptation, defending your freedom of thought has become very difficult. We usually believe that learning can make you powerful, but in the process, our independent will or freedom of thought is often hijacked, wittingly or unwittingly. Everyone thinks that learning is a good thing, but if we lose our independent will or freedom of thought, the outcome might be even worse than not learning. Schopenhauer once said in his essay On Reading and Books: “They have read themselves stupid. If you are eager to learn, it is important that you understand this idea.” [..] Anyone who reads only one type of book or answers to one authority is essentially using books to build a jail that imprisons their thoughts. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that our ancestors invented books in the shape of bricks? [..] the concept of “freedom and the pursuit of non-material goals” is incredibly important, but also incredibly fragile. Not only does it allow us to pursue our own lives, it also prevents us from becoming tools of crime. It is humanity’s first line of defense, or we should say the last. Actually, it’s the sole line of defense. [..] Freedom is not a handout, we need to earn it with our efforts. You can lock up my body but you can never imprison my will. [..] Towards the end, as always, I’d like to share with you my life motto, a famous saying by Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
In the midst of all my bitching, you might have noticed that I never complain about politicians. I leave that to others. And there's no shortage of volunteers; everyone complains about politicians. Everyone says they suck.

But where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky; they don't pass through a membrane from a separate reality. They come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, and American businesses. And they're elected by American voters. This is what our system produces, folks. This is the best we can do. Let's face it, we have very little to work with. Garbage in, garbage out.

Ignorant citizens elect ignorant leaders, it's as simple as that. And term limits don't help. All you do is get a new bunch of ignorant leaders.

So maybe it's not the politicians who suck; maybe it's something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: "The public sucks. Elect me." Put the blame where it belongs: on the people.

Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don't have people like that. Everyone's at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.
If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to "demand" its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant.
"The Life of the Mind: The Groundbreaking Investigation on How We Think"
"You can’t be neutral on a moving train," I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.
"You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times"