Sunday, January 08, 2006

Having Faith in Technology

It's been a very stressful weekend in Petaling Jaya, but the immediate rush to meet pals upon return has proved very therapeutic... however that's spelt, and even if only emotionally and not to the digestive system which seems to still enjoy cartwheels. My inclinations to (further) rant and rave give way to a bizarre conversation with BK, which revolved around having Technology as a foundation of a faith/belief system. This is going to go in ten different directions, so you've been warned yeah.

Basically, people sign up to an online karma system. You get points based on the good deeds you do - which are passed to you based on your abilities, how much effort you wish to make, and the needs of people in your reach. When you are in need, you can make requests based on your karma credit, to which others can then volunteer, to which your points are deducted, and theirs increase - all regulated by technology.

Pros: Less ceremony, more practical action. What you give is what you get.
Cons: Like many religions, someone has to administer it. Eventually you get corruption.
So: Webmasters get their pay in the form of karma credits - and have to be transparent about it.

That's when it gets complicated. How does one determine how many points a certain act deserves? One possibility is man-hours. So if a person is really best capable to cut grass, his points come in the number of hours he spends on it. The problem here is that this in effect becomes basic communism, which fails not only because of corruption, but there's no initiative to fulfill one's potential - everyone's cutting grass.

So man-hours isn't it. Requiring the points really to be based on the effort one makes in relation to one's ability and potential ability. You wanna be a lazy bum, you don't get no points for initiative.

The difference between this and your basic capitalistic system, is that it doesn't measure your worth based on a set value of a certain act or profession, but how much of one's own potential is reached. So... let's say person X really is determined to be capable of being a first-degree holder with the appropriate skills, and thus abilities to help others around him. Through a certain laziness, he achieves a certificate qualification - thus the points he earns is based on his underachievement. If he got a masters and utilizes those skills, however, then his points are increased. On the other hand if person Y is perfectly capable of being at least a master's level contributor, he doesn't get any extra points for working at a master's level, as contrasted to X.

Not fair? Well, the concept of "talent" is evened out, placing hard work above any inate abilities.

Now a further problem with this is that people are no longer motivated to do good things for any other reason than cashing it in. Well, first of all, it's better than people not doing things of merit at all to begin with, and if one really wants to be an angel, then having a nice large unused karma credit should be reward enough.

Then we have to deal with the matter of "sin" or negative karma. For example, how many negative points should one get for passing on spam? Or killing your neighbour's dog? There are two options - either you trust the system, or you leave it to a floating market, based on an average of people's opinions on it. Or a compromise of both. Unfortunately, this is where we get the same problems as when religious and civil laws clash, coz somewhere it's fine if the guy didn't know that it was your dog and had it for lunch. No one said the system was perfect. Especially for dogs.

The stranger and more interesting possibilites to the system comes back to the notion of free will. So, let's say one reaches a critical stage in life, say, 18. You click on your This Is Your Life technology/faith website, and you get a choice every day, to go to the side of Light... or the Dark Side (to which I always chuckle with Somynex's MSN comment "come to the dark side... we have cookies"). Pick the side of Light and you get ways to improve your karma. Pick the Dark Side, Level 20 and bam, you get what you ask for and you get underage animal porn. And then your neighbor's dog goes missing. But karma is karma and tomorrow if your new bike is stolen, then you deserved it. It was stolen by the guy who intended to gain points by taking your deservedly stolen bike to give to the little kid who helped the old man next door by massaging his smelly feet. Who really needs it coz his dog just went missing.

And the world goes on.

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