Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker
andrewducker

Explanation of the day

There are various explanations of why "extreme" political positions do not work in the long term. This is one of the best ones I've seen - explicitly from a modelling/engineering perspective:
My problem with Objectivism is the same problem I have with doctrinaire Communism; they are both, in engineering parlance, trivial solutions.

When you try to model any complex system you often find yourself trying to solve a complex mathematical model with many parameters. You want a number to plug into each that makes the whole thing balance. Very early on in learning how to do this you discover that setting some of the key parameters to zero lets you do this much more easily, but the result is useless because it tells you nothing about a realistic system. In a classic predator/prey population model, for instance, you can easily set the number of rabbits to be zero, and find it very easy to solve for the number of foxes (also zero). This is a valid solution, but a useless one for modelling population dynamics.

And, IMHO, extreme political theories do this with human society. "Let's set X to zero!" the Objectivists/Communists/whatever exclaim, where X is variously altruism, property rights or some other aspect of society that they first assume can be reduced to a single number and then further assume can be switched off by sheer Application of Will. But their pretty little toy society that results is a trivial solution to real-world social concerns; unrealistic, unhelpful and downright unachievable unless you overcome that pesky human reluctance to have our deep-seated social goals reprogrammed for us. Which is why the Communists end up resorting to Gulags, and the Objectivists don't even get that far, because it turns out that even trying to beat altruism out of people doesn't work.
- Simon Bradshaw/major_clanger
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