I am creating this topic for two reasons:
- I want to get to know the people on here, and their relationship with doubt, disbelief, and faith towards new technologies and progress.
- I want to share a personal story and present my thoughts on it as I way to give some more insight on both who I am, as a person, and how I stand to doubt, disbelief, and faith
Defining the terms
Before we start, let me just define the term faith and disbelief in this context, since they’re pretty ambiguous terms. Faith and disbelief, in this context, should be the sum of your doubts and trust in a certain thing. If the trust you place in a certain thing outweighs the doubts you have, then you have faith in the said thing; On the contrary, if your doubts outweigh your trust, then you end up with what I’ll refer to as disbelief.
As some of you know, I am a student at CODE Berlin. Diving into a university project like that demands that you place a lot of trust in the people - staff and students alike -, the future of the project, and the industry as a whole. Being willing to muster the amount of trust required for this isn’t easy, to begin with. Personally, I’ve struggled a fair bit before committing to this path, and I wager that the other students did so, too(, although I don’t know this for certain).
This leads me to the start of my little story. I was getting to know my fellow students and dove into a conversation with one of them in particular. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call him ‘Larry’. While talking about himself, he shared that he has an NFC implant. Of course, I found this interesting, thought about getting one myself with the only barrier to this being the price and lack of things I’d like to do with it. However, this showed me that he was willing to try out technologies like that for himself.
Out of this reason, I decided to share the site Transhuman Party Germany with him, with a remark basically saying (paraphrasing): “Since you adopt new technologies easily, you may be interested looking at a party that shares some of those interests.”
His reply to this was “Haha. Looks funny. Not something I’d vote for.” And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, I was surprised to see a lack of insight to his opinion on this topic. The conversation went its course and eventually, we’d start talking about the Asgardia project.
A Space Odyssey
For those of you who don’t know: The Asgardia Project is a ‘space nation’ conceptualized by Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli. It aims to allow access to outer space free from the control of existing nations. They want to apply for UN recognition in 2018 and thus far count 300,000 citizens all over the globe. There are, of course, no plans of moving these 300,000 people to outer space. If I am not mistaken, Dr. Ashurbeyli - as well as the constitution of Asgardia - stated that the type of nation Asgardia aims to be isn’t an ‘earth nation’ but a ‘space nation’, thus allowing their citizens to be both a citizen of an earth nation and this said space nation.
Before moving on with the story, I wanted to quickly outline my thoughts on this project: It is very ambitious. I personally doubt the UN will recognize Asgardia in 2018, although time may prove me wrong. I don’t think it’s a lost cause, per se, but I think that the international requirements of founding a nation which doesn’t have physical territory are quite hard to fulfill; And even if they do own the land, things can be quite tricky - as Taiwan shows. But ultimately nations are only agreed on concepts, and it may be possible to get Asgardia ‘off the ground’ so to speak.
As you may notice in the prior paragraph, I avoided using absolute statements. This is what this post is ultimately about. Saying unchangeable things like “Asgardia will never be a nation” is something I’d personally try to avoid.
My conversation with Larry, to return to my anecdote, progressed to talking about Asgardia’s plans to build embassies around the globe, effectively giving the nation actual grounds to commit to their business, just like any other embassy.
Larry shot this down with a comment-less, absolute “This will never happen.” While the apparent differences between an absolute statement and an adaptable one are quite slim, the implications of these statements aren’t.
Never, Of Course, Law of Nature
I do hope I am not heading into uncomfortable territory here, but I think absolute statements can pose threats to rational thought, science, and progress.
Saying “someone will fix global warming” frees us from any responsibility for it.
Saying “the system is broken” may paralyze our efforts to try to fix it.
Claiming “Greed/Hunger/Poverty is ultimately a law of nature” may keep people from trying to fix it.
Of course, these last three arguments were pretty straw-man-esque, so let me fetch you a real world example.
Slavery may be a fitting example of people using absolutes to justify both inhumane actions and inaction. Whether it was justified religiously, by saying that it was Gods Will that some people are slaves, referring to biology and claiming that some humans were just born slaves and are physical and biological inferior, or arguing that slavery is actually good for slaves; all these statements were absolute. They were treated as facts by those who uttered them and by the majority of contemporary people at that time. Heck, the argument “Slavery would be too hard to abolish” was used as well - something you’d see someone say about gun control nowadays. (Sources: []
Slavery isn’t comparable to people using absolutes. And I am not comparing them as equal. I only aimed to show the same sort of logic powering prior unjust and cruel practices. The same logic that secured monarchy or the power of the church and religion for most of history. Of course, these same absolute arguments were also used for smaller, maybe insignificant things, like marriage, crime, and whatnot.
Now, if you want to visualize this, you can look at faith and disbelief as if they make up a spectrum. These absolute statements place themselves on one of the extremes: blind faith or blatant disbelief. “It is Gods will” would be an example of the former, while “X would be too hard to abolish” would be an example of the latter. Both are quite dogmatic.
Et tu, Brute?
Seeing Larry use this line of logic made me think: Do I use absolute statements in a lot of discussions? Am I a hypocrite about them? Are absolutes the easy way out of uneasy questions? Do they, when they are unfounded and not-provable, harm more than they help?
And what about you? Do you use them callously? How would we foster a discussion culture that avoids these absolute statements? How do we incentivize an ‘ask-more-question’ culture in general?
(Also while I would also like some reviews of the style of this post and of my argument. I know it isn’t perfect, and I am not really used to writing longer posts, so I would very much like to improve on my style as a whole.)