Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Morals Of Narnia

When I went to see Narnia, I expected a story with some kind of christian morals. What I found was a mere Disney spectacle.

The movie started very well. The opening scene is a prime example of how action scenes should be written. It introduced the characters, and the tension between the defiant little brother and the responsible or bossy big brother. It was an integral part of the plot - motivating the move to the countryside - and not just a fill-up whose signifigance boils down to who dies and who survives. And it was short.

The quality of the movie decreased linearly with the time. The final battle scene was a prime example of how not to write action scenes. It revealed no new information about the characters. The solution was known all the time. It was artificially lenghtened. I often close my eyes during such action scenes, and open them when the noise goes silent. Not once have missed important plot events this way in any movie.

Anyway, back to the moral side. The moral choices of the characters consisted mainly of yes/no choices: "yes" continue the adventure, and "no" to return from Narnia to the common world. There were also some multiple choices. The characters didn't plan, didn't try to predict consequences nor predict risks. They were spectators who watched the story unfold. Even christian moral is more fine-grained than the moral of Narnia.

Next, I'll define a moral imperative, which is consistent with transhumanist ideology. I call it "techno-optimist moral imperative".

A pareto improvement in efficiency is a development, which increases the productivity of an employee without making his or her job more straining or irritating. For example, digging a gutter with a digger machine instead of a shovel is such an improvement.

Two things are required to turn the misery of the past into our current comfy Western civilization: pareto improvements in efficiency and political will to spread the bigger cake to masses in the form of democracy, rule of law, education, healthcare, etc. (You could add that a third requirement is some kind of middle-class attitude to life. I'm not going to dwelve into that.)

Since the implementation of rights (I mean real rights, like right to vote, right to a phone call, various contractual rights, etc. and not the kinds of subjective rights that are often ridiculed in other Erektus blogs) requires pareto improvements in efficiency, and the adoption of pareto improvements in efficiency usually enhances the rights of the masses in the long run, it is reasonable to rise these improvements into a moral imperative:

Techno-optimist moral imperative:

It is immoral not to adopt a pareto improvement in efficiency.

Tommi said in one of his writings that he seldom encounters moral choices. Multiple-choice moral decisions have been removed from the life of ordinary citizens, and outsourced to judges, jurys, members of parliament, those who prioritize various life-critical services, etc. The techno-optimist moral imperative concerns a different set of people: those who can influence their own work.

This moral imperative establishes a tight link between knowledge and morality. In order to know if some modification in the way you work is an improvement, you must have good knowledge of your own field. Unlike in Narnia, where the magic bow aims to the target by itself, techno-optimist moral imperative requires training and experience. It also requires the persons involved to plan and speculate what the way of working would look like after a change, and how the various side effects of the practice should be dealt with.

In many areas of informational work, the productivity can not be measured accurately enough to detect small changes (like 10% or so). In these cases, it is necessary to resort to secondary signs of efficiency. For example, if some problem is a recurrent source of frustration, then solving it is likely to also improve efficiency. For example, continuous integration may be such a practise. Also, reducing the time required to do some subtask is a secondary sign of efficiency.

Also, the moral imperative doesn't say that you should believe just any person who says that something will be an efficiency improvement. It is quite common that marketers claim that something improves efficiency, while the real effect is questionable.

Lastly, the imperative doesn't talk about the political feasibility of adopting an improvement. Suppose that there are 6 workers in the team, and a practise can be adopted if 3 people strongly agree that it is good, and no more than one is strongly against. In this kind of situation, the percieved benefits of the new practise are of paramount importance. Here the christian moral tradition offers a good motto.

God give me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always tell the difference.

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