With recent controversy over the objective and means of social progress, I think it’s worth exploring the underlying philosophy of progress itself. As somebody who has trouble making sense of the cultural moment, I’m inviting anybody to ask themselves these questions in forming a clear, consistent vision over how the world ought-to-be.
I do this (which I view as the Socratic Method) with utmost sincerity and respect, because I think they are a prerequisite to any useful discussion.
- What constitutes a protected group? Some obvious examples may include: race, gender, and the disabled. But what about low physical attractiveness, low class, religious groups, hair color, neurodiversity, age, and all other categories? On what logical basis can one decide whether a trait is a protected group or not (e.g. do they actually need to be a minority? if someday men start making less than women, would men become a protected group?).
- For what careers should protected groups have an equal per-capita representation? We’ve seen a lot of tension about engineering, and there’s definitely a desire to get different protect groups into the presidency, but I sense no hurry to try to gender-balance auto-mechanics. What is the philosophy at play here? Do only protected groups deserve equal representation or are there cases where underrepresented unprotected groups deserve equal representation? What has made engineering such a lightening-rod of controversy as compared to a field like finance?
- Which of these statements should be punishable?
– “Statistically cats have lower IQs than people on average”
– “Statistically, women are shorter than men on average”
– “Statistically, Asians have a higher IQ than whites on average”
– “Statistically, women are worse at basketball than men on average, because they are shorter on average”
– “Statistically, people with down syndrome have lower IQs on average”
– “Perhaps the reason we haven’t had a president with down syndrome isn’t because of systemic bias, but because statistically people with down syndrome are less qualified on average”
- Should left-leaning political statements and right-leaning political statements be equally punishable at work?
- Who gets to define who’s a “victim?” Who gets to define what’s “offensive?”
- If a remark may hurt somebody’s feelings, but is true, and relevant, is it protected? What is the philosophy over what is safe to say?
- How would you recommend we coexist if I completely disagreed with the groups you identified as protected groups, but with complete sincerity and having put a lot of thought and research into it?
- If we took a majority vote, and your answers on all of these questions were found to be incredibly unpopular, would that make you question your beliefs? If not, on what basis do you hope to convince those who disagree with you?
- Are guilt, social pressure, and reducing work safety fair ways to drive social progress? If somebody else has a contradictory notion of social progress to you, is it okay for them to use guilt, social pressure, and reducing your work safety as a means to drive their agenda?
I bring up these questions because I see a lot of negative reaction to how the world is. But what is harder is presenting a superior alternative.