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Wright started with the Ancient Greeks and talked about how they eventually classified people from other Greek city states as being 'human' but still thought it didn't matter what you did to Persians, and then mapped this trend of increasing tolerance through to someone in the business class section of an aeroplane not being highly racist, because they probably did business with people from most continents. He tied this trend to the fact that trade is not a ZeroSumGame? and that it is more often in people's interest to trade with a foreigner than try to kill them, and that once successful trading builds up trust, there is a connection and you no longer think of them as sub-human. The same could be applied to categories other than race: religion, culture, sexuality, religion, gender, profession. Once you know someone and interact with them enough to build up trust, you are less likely to pre-judge them based on particular irrelevant attributes.|
However I am less optimistic than Wright. When you tie in the Monkey Sphere idea that we've only evolved the biological capacity in our brains to individually relate to (remember the reputation history of) a certain (fairly small) number of people - about the size of a clan or small village, then this globalisation trend of Wrights, this spreading out of our people network to other countries and groupings, implies a thinning out of the network in our geographical locality. Which means we might become less tolerant of the poor, the violent, the emotionally disabled, the diseased, the stupid, the less educated, other generations, people in other professions, or indeed any grouping which a more mobile more cheap-global-communication-enabled lifestyle means we are less likely to come into contact with and trade with and relate to, whether by our choice or their choice or circumstance.
So can technology fix what it has broken? I'd like to think so. There are three stages to reacting to someone based on their past actions. Firstly there is finding out about those past actions and evaluating them. Secondly there is remembering this information. Thirdly there is relating it back to the person when you meet them in a timely manner.
Politicans do this a lot. They have researchers to find out about other important people (eg "Who's Who" listings). They have paper filing systems to keep records of past contact and interactions with people they meet officially (eg constituents). They have personal assistants to act as gateways, find out who people are and get the correct briefing to the politician five minutes before a meeting so they are fully up to date and can enquire about the wife and kids by name. They've evolved a 'paper and person' exo-memory that helps them expand their monkey sphere beyond the biological limitations.
It would be nice if something like an /AmiCog could act as a technological exo-memory, enabling humans not just to have wider or more specific individual relationships but MORE or HIGHER QUALITY individual relationships. If this led to a more humane, more tolerant society, perhaps a more sane one (not driven crazy by losing local roots), then that would indeed be a GoodThing.
Hi, feedback VERY welcome. Anyone reading this essay, please add comments in this section.