On solving the world's problems

Do FLO values include the assumption that human beings are good by nature, but behave in evil ways because of the way society works currently?

I am deeply convinced that every human is evil and that this cannot change by means of human-made outside influence – the only hope is God.

I do think we can solve individual problems, like ban targeted advertising. But this feels like curing symptoms when there is a root cause that we ignore. As a result, while I like what you’re doing, it’s hard for me to support the effort on a deep level.

What are your worldviews around this?

I wouldn’t say that FLO values include assumptions about human nature. The range of views (evidence-based or assumptions or otherwise) held by people within FLO movements varies widely.

Snowdrift.coop also includes co-op values, but those also make no assumptions about human nature. Rather, they are a push, a mandate for a set of pro-social values we should abide by.

Anarchists may believe that everything will naturally be better if we just get rid of power structures, states, laws, etc. and they tend to support FLO ideas. But the vast majority of FLO proponents are not anarchists. Most FLO supporters believe we need whatever other social institutions and laws to deal with broader ethical concerns and issues. FLO cannot itself solve everything.

The place of FLO is about allowing creative evolution, access to ideas, and rejecting the power dynamics that come from broad legal and technical restrictions on creativity.

This stuff seems related to recent arguments in this space around discriminatory licensing like “ethical source”. Many people want to restrict culture and technology to be used only in ethical ways. I certainly sympathize with that wish. But copyright licenses are just not an effective or appropriate tool. We can’t accomplish every ethical goal through hacking copyright law. Most ethical concerns need to be addressed in other ways.

We’d be delusional to think that FLO will automatically solve the world’s problems. I’m open to arguments that FLO can introduce some new problems and challenges. Overall, FLO enables pro-social behavior by emphasizing collaboration and sharing, but it doesn’t necessarily go that way or make everyone automatically pro-social.

The reasons for people being pro-social or anti-social are complex and a topic beyond the scope of Snowdrift.coop. But it’s valid and interesting to think about what these issues mean for us. When I started this, my assumption was that it would not be enough to just promote and fund FLO. That for this to be overall positive, it needs to emphasize other ethical values such as the co-op principles. I’ve had disagreements with people who think we should only care about FLO itself and have total neutrality on all other topics. But I do want a broad enough coalition here where people don’t feel that they have to accept a specific narrow view of everything to participate.

We’re promoting pro-social values and working to eliminate conflicts-of-interest that cause people to sell out those values. It’s a problem that people who do find pro-social motivations (however that happens, naturally or not) still have pressures to do things like working for targetted-ad companies because they fear they can’t sustain a basic living doing only pro-social work.

You may be right, I’m not sure. I aim to keep a curious and open mind about all of this, but I think FLO is compatible with other efforts to build a more just, ethical world. I see it as a challenging but practical thing we can work on. The main issue with addressing symptoms is whether it reduces the chances of solving underlying problems, and I don’t think that’s the case with FLO. Sometimes, addressing symptoms helps us recognize the potential for addressing the disease. It can show us the potential for change.

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Awesome :). It all sounded to me as if you were going to save the world by funding FLO.

I wonder if, in order to be net-positive in ethical matters, you really need to avoid working for “the bad guys”? After all, if everyone with a sense for morale stops working with or talking to the bad guys, they might become even worse? Maybe this depends on how “infectious” the good is that you would carry into that place. It seems avoiding non-FLO employees is a huge thing in the FLO world, so this might be an important question to ask – and probably it has been asked before.

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Excellent point. Just like FLO emphasizes in general, sharing ideas is good. Echo chambers can be really counterproductive. If the FLO-dedicated have only prejudices and no real understanding of others, that’s a pretty ill-informed way to have a movement. There’s certainly a lot to be said for working within the system too. I agree that a lot of bad comes when bad actors have no exposure to critics or if the critics are only seen as outsiders (who they can ignore or dismiss).

For me it’s more like, funding FLO is something that I think will make some difference in the world — particularly, a larger difference than I could make working on any single FLO project — and it’s a place where I can apply skills and interests I already have. Compared to, say, political organizing, which I think is super important and which I support financially, but doesn’t fit my skill set and other interests quite as well.