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Oct 29, 2020 4:05 AM
Bruce gets dropped in Gallia and is confused
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"Do you have any idea how to make plastic?"

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I know you start with oil and I know what the eventual molecule needs to look like and that peroxide is involved as a catalyst . . . . Might need to talk to someone who makes lamp oil or something. Do you know how expensive oil is right now? On the one hand there are fewer uses for it; on the other hand there's less reason to mine it."

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"Mining? Mostly we get it by killing whales."

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"Ugh, that's right. Unfortunately I know even less about oil mining so I can't really do anything about that. I think it will be easier to get vaccines without plastic than to invent plastic first; it'll just mean boiling a lot of things."

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"Hello, boys," Clarissa says. (The term she uses means 'subs or children,' says the helpful connotation module in Bruce's brain.) "Now that we've announced you to the world, I would like to get a head start on two hundred years of moral progress."

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"I would also like that." He's nervous about the responsibility involved, but he's got to try and having a politician interested in the project can only help. "Do you have specific questions, or should I just suggest a bunch of things, or . . .?"

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"I am concerned about things I don't know that I don't know. Like, if there was something very wrong about how we built houses or something..."

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Nod. "So, usually, when a society realizes it's made a moral mistake, it's because there was some group of beings whose preferences and welfare they weren't taking into account. People from different cultures, or children, or animals, or people who don't have much money, and so on."

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"Slaves. --We're working on that."

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"Good. Slavery is always a bad idea. Also, republics are the most stable form of government and everyone who wants to vote should be able to vote, the extra stability from not having a group of people with no voice is very worth it even if they're uninformed voters."

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"That's going to be unpopular. --I assume we should prioritize slavery abolition because it is already wildly unpopular? And is an excellent propaganda victory against Emperor Cyrus, who hasn't even banned the slave trade yet."

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"I don't know enough about politics to know how multiple unpopular ideas interact with each other, but that does sound plausible. Um. Also, this might be unpopular or impossible, but not having a war against Emperor Cyrus would be nice. But you probably already know that. Unfortunately the 21st century has not figured out a reliable way to stop having wars."

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"Well, if we don't have a war against him he will take over all of Europa and have a war with us regardless."

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"Yeah, that figures. I still don't understand what makes people want to do that sort of thing but empirically some of them do. In both worlds."

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"He's a powerhungry dictator who wants to rule the world, I don't know that it's that hard to explain."

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"I just meant why are some people power-hungry dictators and other people not. Anyway, back to things I can say anything useful about. Um, as farming practices get more efficient it's awfully easy for them to turn into basically torturing the animals and also cutting corners on health and safety, but other than subsidizing plant consumption and taxing meat I'm not sure how to prevent that."

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"It's going to be difficult to persuade the lower classes that they should go without meat, if they can get it more than a few times a year."

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Well, there are a million definitely-not-evil things he can try to invent first. Maybe he can take tofu mainstream somehow. "I'll think about that one more. Has Eli already told you about our conversation about trying to civilize people?"

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"We are... not supposed to try to spread Anglian civilization to the savages."

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"Unless they give some indication that they want it. Spreading culture by selling things, or publishing books that get popular, or just interacting normally and exchanging ideas is fine; it's using violence and the threat of violence to spread culture that's a problem."

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"Have you considered that maybe the problem is that your civilization was bad and Anglian civilization is more superior?"

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"Most civilizations have been bad in one or more ways. If Anglian civilization is objectively the best one then everyone will adopt it without anyone having to force them. And maybe Anglian civilization will turn out to be better in a lot of ways but also there will be some things that are better in other cultures and everyone will adopt the bits they like from everyone else and converge on something really awesome. The important thing is that everyone decides how to live for themselves rather than the people with the most weapons deciding for everyone."

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"Well, we don't want the people with the most weapons to decide for everyone, then the Gallians would take over."

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"Right. And if it would be bad for the Gallians to conquer you it would be bad for you to conquer other people."

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"...I am really not sure that follows. Can you describe what the typical bad consequences of colonialism are?"

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