A Liberal Decalogue
Bertrand Russell, famous philosopher and mathematician, once shared what he considered a ‘Liberal Decalogue’ at the end of an article called ‘The best response to fanaticism: Liberalism’, that embodied what he thought might represent the commandments that a teacher might wish to propagate, modeled after the ten commandments. Listed as they were originally, the decalogue included:
- Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
- Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
- Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
- When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
- Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
- Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
- Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
- Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
- Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
- Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
Technology Forecasting Rules
This resembles efforts of my own last year in attempting to come up with a list of commandments of forecasting and futurism, to avoid being influenced by politics, wishful thinking, or bias (though some is inevitable, obviously). Looking at this list, it’s quite fantastic, and is worth modeling off of. How can we change it to perhaps more closely match the virtues we wish to encourage in our own field?
- Never make a claim you cannot defend.
- Be honest with yourself and others in the strength of your predictions.
- Never discard a possibility without investigating it first.
- Discard all investigations into non-falsifiables.
- When you meet with forecasts that don’t match yours, understand why and what they’re rooted in.
- Do not assume fame means accuracy in forecast.
- Do not fear disagreement, because axioms vary from micro-thede to micro-thede.
- Do not fear to make radical statements, if you can defend them.
- Do not conflate your dreams of the future with the likelihood of the future.
- Do not let your politics influence your forecasts. Every political ideology under the sun has said that emerging technologies will help out their political ideology, and only so many of them can be true.
With minimal editing, I feel this still holds tightly to much of the intent of the original decalogue, and provides a nice decalogue of technological forecasting.