Jun 23, 2021 8:31 PM
Thellim in Eclipse
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"Because we're not a monoculture and somebody on a planet of a billion people wants a drugged sandwich badly enough that we ought to get out of their way."

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"Also, like, most medicine can kill you if you take enough."

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"Maybe dosing information is an exception to whether products in normal stores are allowed to require warnings? I do wonder how this applies to, like, power tools, alcohol, ladders..."

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"I expect that a power tool with particular dangers will have particular warning signs.  If somebody wanted to invent their own system of warning signs instead, no ordinary store would carry those expectation-violating goods.  But if there were weird people who wanted their power tools to have different warning signs, enough to form a market for them, you could sell those power tools in a shop of Ill-Advised Consumer Goods.  I'm... not sure of the moral theory under which a civilization could reasonably not allow shops like that, unless their smart people were enough smarter than ours to know for certain that nobody ever needed an exception to the rules and that the damage done by Ill-Advised Consumer Goods would exceed the damage done by loss of freedom and individuality."  She hopes they enjoy their system of uniform rules with no exceptions and no way out in case somebody happens to be different!  Maybe someday she'll get back to her 'monoculture' where weirdos have more of an acknowledged right to exist and be weird.

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"In the US we mostly manage this by having it be possible to sue people for selling stuff with inadequate warnings and corporations doing what they think will get them sued less, plus our less comprehensive but still existent reputation system. I'm not a lawyer and do not actually know if a shop with a sign up reading 'abandon normal consumer safety regulations all ye who enter here' would be legal?"

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"I will be pleasantly surprised if Earth's system has good structural properties!  I have been trying to adjust my expectations of Earth to a well-calibrated point where I will be pleasantly surprised at how well Earth managed something about as often as the reverse, but it's still a work in progress."

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Shrug. "I haven't made a study of it and don't know how well it works compared to other systems on this planet, let alone dath ilan."

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"Don't fret too much about local variations!  As far as I can tell, all the different countries on your planet usually do things pretty much the same way from a dath ilani perspective."

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"I mean, some places are way less regulated and the European folks in my school make fun of Americans for having lots of lawsuits but maybe that really does all look the same to you."

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"If it all ends everywhere with weird people not being able to buy addictive-drug sandwiches or power tools with nonstandard warning signs, then it's essentially the same system properties from my perspective."

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"Most of our addictive drugs are not administered in sandwich form. I don't know off the top of my head if hard drugs are outright legal anywhere as opposed to enforcement just not being successful though. Everywhere allows alcohol except Islamic countries, I believe, but there's usually an age limit with some exceptions."

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"And is there one single country anywhere on Earth that applies competence tests instead of age thresholds in case of exceptionally competent young weirdos?"

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"For alcohol? No - what would they be being competent at, not getting brain damage?"

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"I don't have a stored concept for what 'alcohol' is, but the question is something like - does somone understand themselves and reality, their desires and the consequences, well enough that they can steer their own existence and you should not get in their way?  Just as you ought not to stand next to an average adult optimizing everything they do whether they like that or not?  There is a very obvious tradeoff between letting smart people run the lives of less smart people, versus letting people run their own lives, and dath ilan has elected to be the kind of Civilization that goes mostly down the second path.  And the more your smart people are not completely calibrated about how little they know about other people, the less that's even a tradeoff because people just do strictly better running their own lives?  I would expect Earth to have entirely bad experiences with letting its smart people run the lives of other people."

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"You don't have alcohol? Like, forget drinking it, what about penne alla vodka."

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"They had fifteen year olds rederive all the recipes and none of them passed the competence test to have access to alcohol, I guess!" snorts Isabella. "My summary of dath ilan would absolutely not sound like 'does not let smart people run others' lives' but I suppose just like I keep telling you that magic is not a major determiner of Earthling nature you keep telling me that everyone just happens to not want to produce a really slick recording of a designated amateur song."

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"See, that is exactly the kind of thing you could get as an Ill-Advised Consumer Good, and I wish I'd mentioned that to you earlier, but it didn't occur to me at that time that a civilization would not possess any exception-handling mechanisms for its clever rules not working for some people!"

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"...in order to get slick recordings of designated amateur songs you must enter a store where the products are explicitly allowed to kill people?"

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"Yes.  Because we have public goods that are actually good and not just elaborate plots, such as restricting hypercompetition to where it won't automatically step all over every aspect of ordinary people's ordinary lives with their friends, and we try to coordinate around preserving those."

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"Wait, I don't think I heard about the songs thing. Designated amateur?"

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"They won't let you broadcast professional quality versions of certain music that are supposed to be exclusively accessed through singing them with your local choir or whatever."

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"What the fuck? That isn't how music works - lots of people need to learn things by ear - and it's more fun when everybody knows the song and you all just belt Bohemian Rhapsody or something because you've heard Queen do it and you know it's a bop -"

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"It is possible to do things successfully and pleasantly in other than the exact ways they are done on Earth?  Plenty of people know how to sing the Chorus of Falling Down because they've heard their friends singing it.  Anybody who knows a musical instrument, which is a supermajority, can read musical instructions for it...  I don't understand why it's such a weird thought that we would have arrived at our own equilibrium which is different from your equilibrium, with its own pluses and minuses that we're pretty happy with ourselves."

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"That sounds like something somebody from a dystopia would say."

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"If so, it's the kind of dystopia where our buildings are prettier and our transport is faster and our cities are quieter and our artists have more funding.  Babies inherit healthier genes from their healthy parents who had subsidized childcare and grow up into children who, if they are weird but competent children, can pass a test and then go buy things even if other people think that would be a bad idea.  The only thing that makes it sound like a dystopia is simply that you are not used to any civilization that can execute good ideas correctly and you assume that everything would go as badly as it would on Earth."

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