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In the comments for his blog post announcing the Azimuth Project, John Baez wrote:
The distinction between people of ill intent and people of good intent who happen to disagree with what we think can be hard to determine. (Here “we” stands for any group of people who have come to some agreement about what’s good.) There is also the danger of groupthink.
So is there some agreement as to "What is good?"
This is an important topic for many reasons. If we are to work hard with others, it will help to understand what they too believe to be good and what they believe to be ill. I'm sure we each have our personal opinions and life philosophies serve as the basis for evaluating present conditions and likely future scenarios. But there will inevitably be conflicts, and we need to think about how to manage these conflicts. Are there certain values that the project must hold that we can all agree to?
Further, in order to make decisions to develop an actionable plan, there needs to be a commonly agreed set of values which will serve as the basis for the decisions.
For example, one of the issues of sustainability is the differing access to scarce resources. Prices will go up. Some people won't have the money to pay for it. Yet our current global socioeconomic resource-allocation system distributes resources on the basis of birth country, family background, personal effort, and other factors that affect wealth. If nothing changes, this means that millions of poor people will starve through no lack of effort on their part. My personal opinion is that this is a great tragedy that we should avoid at all costs.
It is also my personal belief that all human beings are equally valuable and should get the same opportunities. I'm not one who views the life of a few from my own country as more important than the life of people from far away places. I'm probably on one extreme end of the scale. But I know that many others share this belief only to varying degrees. Some find it perfectly acceptable that some should have easy access to food and water while others do not.
Some people weigh the value of animals as equal to humans. Some as practically worthless.
If the Azimuth Project is to produce concrete plans, implicit in those plans will be value judgments of this sort. So we need to have some, as John says, "agreement about what is good," in order to be a "we" according to his definition. In another discussion, David Tweed mentioned: "there should be an acceptance that people have different "non-negotiable core values." Does this mean that we who are working on the Azimuth Project should have different non-negotiable core values too? It seems to me that we won't be able to work together unless we can find a superset of these values that everyone agrees do indeed define "good."
It would be very useful to make those values explicit. They will need to be sufficiently detailed to serve as guiding principles for the prioritization of effort and resources going forward. This means they need to be prioritized values, not just a jumble of feel-good ideas that everyone knows are good things. You can't make decisions without prioritization.
So what is good?