So, I’ve been asked the title question yet again. It’s always someone from the SIAI or LessWrong who seems hurt and bewildered when asking the question.
My response has gotten formulaic. I don’t hate the SIAI and/or LessWrong. But I do consider the question as rhetorical and prejudicial as both those organizations.
I am certainly frustrated by them. They are like a city with the best construction skills and tools who use them to build a high wall around themselves rather than building roads to their neighbors. I can understand self-protection and short-sighted conservatism but extremes aren’t healthy for anyone and waste resources for everyone. They’re like a novice rock-climber, instinctively tightly hunched into the cliff face instead of maintaining a proper and safer distance and repetitively screaming their fear rather than listening to rational advice. Worse, they’re kicking rocks down on us.
If it weren’t for their fear-mongering (and the physical threats against researchers that it has indirectly but provably caused) AND their arguing for unwise, dangerous actions (because they can’t see the even larger dangers that they are causing), I would ignore them like harmless individuals who wire-head or play too many computer games (rather than junkies who need to do anti-societal/immoral things to support their habits). But, if they are going to insist upon fear-mongering and manipulating others, then I’m am going to try to engage them and talk them out of it.
I understand that they believe that a single point of defense is wise without seeing that a lack of redundancy puts all of our eggs in one basket — much less that it makes corruption and sabotage that much easier. I understand that that they believe that absolute control is the safest path without seeing that control both restricts and, more importantly, might enrage something else that is not controlled. I understand that they do not believe in the logic of altruism simply because given single cases cannot be proven to be foolproof and reliable (never mind that the statistics clearly show that rational/non-exploited altruism is clearly logical and heavily in one’s own self-interest).
The problem is that these groups are composed of highly intelligent individuals who are very good at rhetorical rationalization and who are selfishly, unwilling to honestly interact and cooperate with others. Their fearful, conservative selfishness extends far beyond their “necessary” enslavement of the non-human and dangerous. They know all the “tricks” of acting as the injured party, raising strawmen, reducing to sound bites and other misdirections. They dismiss anyone and anything they don’t like with pejoratives like clueless and confused. Rather than honest engagement they attempt to shut down anyone who doesn’t see the world as they do. And they are very active in trying to proselytize their bad ideas.
In a sense, they are very like out-of-control children. They are bright, well-meaning and without a clue of the likely results of their actions. You certainly can’t hate individuals like that — but you also don’t let them run rampant. And when they ask you “Why are you being to so mean?” or “Why do you hate me?” with that heart-wrenchingly effective manipulative (whether subconscious or not) sadness, you try to gently explain that you don’t hate them but that their actions are problematical and they need to stop.