Why Eradication Always Fails

Related Post Roulette

37 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    One quibble to an otherwise interesting post:
    In regards to your opening example, predators are not a valid bad faith example, but cancer cells are.Report

    • An interesting quibble! I try to avoid the cancer analogy, but only because it’s too perfect. From my view, cancer is the single purest form of systemic bad faith we know of. But I can’t prove that… yet. Plus it gets overused sometimes.

      You’re right though that competitive/survival systems aren’t entirely bad faith. They’re mixed too. Tons of cooperation going on, if you look for it. And I kinda assume all systems are mixed, at least somewhat. But I’d still argue that survival systems lean more heavily on bad faith than good, at least at the “top level.”Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    When it comes to ideology, a good faith is when you assume people are generally sincere that their ideas will improve the lot of everybody even if you disagree with it and aren’t being disingenuous or trolling. Bad faith is when you assume people who disagree with you in the slightest are trolling.Report

  3. JoeSal says:

    Interesting post.
    In a round about way you have found a main flaw in social democracy. That you still cling to it instead of burying it in the ‘bone yard of bad ideas’ is interesting also.

    There are examples of other systems that do not require social objectivity to be resolved to function. ‘Faith’ for whatever measure, requires ‘truth’. The reason social democracies will lose in the market place of ideas, is it requires the social truth component of social objectivity to be resolved to function.

    Good faith and bad faith are also unresolved when social objectivity is unresolved.

    I have not seen a good case by ‘social engineers’ that social objectivity can be resolved.Report

    • Yoav Golan in reply to JoeSal says:

      Oh? What systems do you have in mind? I may be trying to build something similar, but I never complain if someone has already done the work for me.

      I’m also pretty sure social objectivity cannot be resolved, by the way. Thankfully. If society could ever be “completed,” that wouldn’t be a good thing for any of us 😉Report

      • JoeSal in reply to Yoav Golan says:

        Before we discuss building and systems, let’s look at some parameters.

        Is that persons ‘truth’ the same as that other persons ‘truth’ over there?

        Is that persons concept of ‘justice’ the same as that other persons concept of ‘justice’?Report

        • JoeSal in reply to JoeSal says:

          (where’d ya go?)Report

          • Yoav Golan in reply to JoeSal says:

            Sorry! Many distractions. But I always appreciate a good nudge 🙂

            And no, I honestly don’t believe in the concept of social equivalence. So I would assert that we’re all walking around with our own versions of justice and truth, each slightly varied from the other. But they only work when they are well-aligned underneath. When we have an “understanding.”Report

            • JoeSal in reply to Yoav Golan says:

              No worries, completely understand about distractions.

              So if I read you correctly, you are agreeing that we each have our own individual construct of what truth and justice is and that varies?

              Looking at the people we have, and not the people we wish we have, do you think it is logical to expect ‘well-alignment’ and ‘understanding’? Is that a realistic expectation?Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to JoeSal says:

                Logical? No. It’s more of a social assertion than a logical expectation.

                Realistic? Now that’s a tougher one. I don’t think I can give it a compelling answer at the moment, but I still assert that yes, it’s realistic. But the only thing I can really point to is that we’re all still getting up in the morning to prep for our commutes. I’d argue that’s something we all take on faith which reveals an underlying alignment in some general direction. At some point though, I need to make a stronger case for this. Plus that doesn’t mean we don’t have imminent problems, either.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Yoav Golan says:

                (Not for sure what those first three sentences reveal)
                If you and I were developing a system, and the main component of the operation was: ‘expect alignment and understanding’.

                Do you think that is reasonable for the people we have?

                Compared to a different system that was more along the lines of ‘expect misalignment and misunderstandings’.

                Because when I look at the truth component of social objectivity, it appears to lean heavily toward ‘expect misalignment and misunderstanding’.

                What are your thoughts?Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to JoeSal says:

                Ha! Fair. Those three statements were mostly just my odd way of saying that it’s not necessarily always rational to promote radical good faith. I mean, look at the poetry of Rumi. Pure good faith, nothing rational about it.

                On which to expect, I think there’s plenty of both, right?Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Yoav Golan says:

                I don’t think it is binary which is a problem. Even in the side that does have alignment and understanding it is a varied mix-match.

                Since we are talking about systems, we could produce software code that reached the most complex part of interfacing with other software and code:

                ‘expect alignment and understanding’

                but I don’t think that would be very useful.

                This is the “assume a can opener” part of social objectivity.

                I must say, I have been greatly enjoying our discussions and hope you write more often. I think we need more of these questions raised and discussed.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Fascinating post.

    One of the interesting phenomena is when people obviously have to obfuscate their wrongthink.

    So allow me to obfuscate some of my wrongthink by referencing hypernormalization for a sec:

    The word hypernormalisation was coined by Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology who was born in Leningrad and later went to teach in the United States. He introduced the word in his book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (2006), which describes paradoxes of life in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s. He says that everyone in the Soviet Union knew the system was failing, but no one could imagine an alternative to the status quo, and politicians and citizens alike were resigned to maintaining the pretense of a functioning society. Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the fakeness was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed hypernormalisation.

    And then referencing hyperreality for a sec:

    Hyperreality, in semiotics and postmodernism, is an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies. Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It allows the co-mingling of physical reality with virtual reality (VR) and human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI).Individuals may find themselves, for different reasons, more in tune or involved with the hyperreal world and less with the physical real world.

    And I’d get into it more but we’re in a place where obfuscating wrongthink is more and more important every day so I’ll just link to Slate Star Codex’s essay on the importance of obfuscating wrongthink. I take some comfort in the fact that, eventually, it will have to come out that the emperor is not, in fact, wearing any clothing (at the very least, when winter shows up) but then I think about hypernormalization and wonder at how long it can be prolonged by hyperreality.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      normal brain: the Emperor was the bad guy
      giant brain: the crowd was the bad guy
      universe brain: the kid was the bad guyReport

      • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Without the kid, maybe it could have gone on indefinitely.

        (Let’s face it, the opportunity for people to come up with off-the-cuff descriptions of the emperor’s finery created ample opportunities for social bonding.)Report

        • Yoav Golan in reply to Jaybird says:

          Systems brain: Everyone worked together in different ways to contribute to social failure. If you don’t study the ways, you can’t understand the failure. Also the emperor should get some damn clothes 🙂

          Of course, that situation is impossible to fully understand on good faith alone. You have to consider how social faith and material honesty work in tandem to triangulate truth. That system would be… messy. To say the least.Report

          • Yoav Golan in reply to Yoav Golan says:

            By the way, if you can tolerate a bit of self-promotion, I have a short story that is basically a rewriting of the emperor has no clothes for a more real/contextualized problem (historically accurate too!), if anyone is interested: https://lazyaphorist.com/2019/02/02/jannaeus/Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Yoav Golan says:

              Interesting story.

              The belief that if we only held out for just a little bit longer… just a little bit longer we could have won! is one heck of a easy fallacy to sink into.

              It’s certainly true that everybody who has won did so because they didn’t give up… but, dang, not giving up is necessary (not sufficient).Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to Jaybird says:

                Depends on whether or not the nature of the constraint that forces a trial is material or social. If it’s a material constraint? Yeah, you don’t have more time. You gotta act. You’re gonna need to run some trials and take some risks. And pray you’re not building on quicksand.

                But if it’s a social constraint? Forcing a trial is a huge risk that can cause systemic failure even when the underlying social context had no underlying material limitation.Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to Yoav Golan says:

                The problem is, as an actor you sometimes won’t be able to tell which is which beforehand. Especially if you dismiss the good faith of actors who try to bring social constraints to your attention (as Jannaeus does to Ben Shetach).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Yoav Golan says:

                The problem is, as an actor you sometimes won’t be able to tell which is which beforehand.

                Change “sometimes” to “always” and I’m in 100% agreement.Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to Jaybird says:

                I can be kinda allergic to absolute statements, but if you’re talking about absolute knowledge of truth, then I absolutely agree 🙂Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Yoav Golan says:

            It’s not a failure until it fails, though.

            Until it fails, it’s a beautiful and lush deep blue with ermine trim and a gold chain holding the midnight blue (almost black) cape with ivory clasps at the shoulders. See how the light hits it?Report

  5. bookdragon says:

    One flaw, which is kind of embedded in the speed limit analogy, is that while it makes sense if all motorists face the same risk of being caught or punished, if one subclass of motorists are likely to be shot by the cops when their pulled over, modulation is not going to get us anywhere. Especially if a lot of other motorists think of this as perfectly justifiable, which is easy for them to think since they can reasonably assume it would never happen to them.Report

  6. Murali says:

    Victory – You out-escalated the bad actors and you have managed to eradicate your problem outright. Good job! (You’ll notice there are no positive examples of this in a social context. There are, however… negative examples.)

    Actually, this is not really true.

    The abolition of the trans-atlantic slave trade and of slavery itself is ultimately one of the success stories of eradication. Same with the Nazis. Almost no one today is openly pro-slavery. And for a good long while, Nazis had to go into the closet.

    Political corruption, communism and violent crime in Singapore are also more recent instances of success stories of eradication. All three were much more common when Singapore first became independent in the 60s, but are now all but absent.

    The issue is not whether coercion works, but whether the cost is worth the results.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Murali says:

      @murali Eradication means eradication, not all-but eradication.Report

      • Murali in reply to Maribou says:

        Well, isn’t getting rid of 99% of a problem a resounding success on any realistic account of policy success? It’s very hard to imagine an actual situation where some bit of coercion would be worth it if it would eradicate the problem completely but not if it only eradicated 99% of the problem.

        Our objections to coercive policies do not rest on the failure to get rid of the remaining 1%. Or at least, the objection would have to be rather bizarre. For instance, in Germany, they ban Holocaust denial. There are still holocaust deniers and Nazi sympathisers in Germany, but presumably much fewer than without said coercion. If banning holocaust denial is wrong, it would not become right if it managed to completely eliminate for all time all Nazi sympathisers.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Murali says:

          @murali “It’s very hard to imagine an actual situation where some bit of coercion would be worth it if it would eradicate the problem completely but not if it only eradicated 99% of the problem.”

          I would argue that smallpox in the wild is an excellent example from the OP. I’m not sure how *I* feel about 99 percent vs 100 percent eradication of smallpox, but I know how governments felt about it. Strongly enough to be more coercive than they would be otherwise.

          And there are many many many people who would trade all kinds of civil liberties for the sake of 100 percent eradication of people who hate other groups of people.

          If I’m not one of them I’m mostly not because I think that (unlike smallpox) it wouldn’t last. If it would last, there are a lot of things – not all things – that I am ashamed to admit I would give up for 100 percent that I wouldn’t give up for 99. Because the 1 can grow exponentially at any time, and 0 – theoretically – cannot.

          In the real world, of course, I don’t think it’s possible to do that so it’s not practical to spend much time moralizing about it. But there are plenty of governments who aim for “zero tolerance”, and I think that’s what the OP is talking about.

          I could be misunderstanding it of course.Report

          • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

            A strategy to reduce speeding by 50% will probably look different from one to reduce speeding by 90%. So while this post speaks in black/white terms, the debate generalizes in important ways.

            I’m all for banning legally recognized slavery by 100%, even though I know that somewhere in this country, right now, someone is living under duress.

            We’ll never eliminate all transphobia, but dammit I want to see the cost of being openly transphobic much higher than it is now. It’s not a debate between 99% and 100%, because I avoid rigid black/white thinking. It’s a debate between 50% and 75%. That 25% will make a material difference.

            (Note, I don’t think you can really measure this stuff this way. Social metrics are really fuzzy. It’s a mistake to view them otherwise. That said, I think these kinds of numbers can communicate general notions.)Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

              Right. Like DUI enforcement. There’s a difference between increased patrols on weekends and holidays, aggressive use of DUI checkpoints, and posting a cop in the parking lot of every bar.Report

            • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

              @veronica it’s not even the case, last I checked, that legally recognized slavery *is* banned by 100 percent, Colorado only got rid of it in this past election year and I’m pretty sure there are still other states where it’s legal to work prisoners without paying them.

              (I, like you, am 100 percent in favor of banning it by 100 percent.)Report

              • Yoav Golan in reply to Maribou says:

                Interesting discussion! Keep it going, by all means.

                If I can chime in though (with apologies for the wall of text),

                I’d suggest that just because eradication of behaviors is ultimately impossible does not mean it isn’t worth trying in the right circumstances! Sometimes you do want eradication, not modulation. And for sure, I’d agree that eradicating slavery is an obviously worthwhile goal, even if it could never be accomplished beyond 99.99%. (I don’t even think we’ve gotten to 99%, but that’s a different debate.)

                But in adopting this goal, we still need to understand that if we want to enforce good behavior, bad behavior will move to all the spaces that enforcement cannot reach. Our ocean’s would be one of those places: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/opinion/sunday/slave-labor-on-the-high-seas.html. But you could probably argue the oceans aren’t “within” our society, only external to it. I’d dispute that, but even without disputing it you could make the case that there are also places within the continental US where slavery is still happening. Right under our noses. Again, everywhere that enforcement cannot reach or extend. In my home state, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking_in_Georgia_(U.S._state). And these are the “known” areas where enforcement does not extend.

                Lastly, slavery is not the only kind of bad behavior we might want to eradicate. And every in every domain where we try, we must not forget there will be areas where our knowledge and enforcement cannot reach. I might have a name fore that: https://lazyaphorist.com/2018/07/31/the-veil-of-misery/. (Hint: We should be focusing on all areas of custody.)Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

          “Our objections to coercive policies do not rest on the failure to get rid of the remaining 1%.”

          apparently you haven’t been paying attention to the all the arguments about why the shutdown was a dumb waste of time because the wall wouldn’t stop ALL the people coming through the borderReport

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    I haven’t processed this essay completely, perhaps because I am so bewitched by the badass cover art.
    I am so ready to ride that train, and I don’t even care where.Report