I’ve found it helps me to keep things in a historical and scientific context.
Human beings have been around in our current anatomical form for about two hundred thousand years. We’ve only been doing the whole ‘writing things down’ thing for, at most, five thousand years. We humans have been around for 8000 generations, and only 200 of those generations even had the concept of writing things down. Even 100 years ago – just 4 generations – most people were illiterate. The world has gotten far more complicated – but because more of us can read and right, the average person understand it better today than they just a few decades ago.
An example: I grew up believing “the Chinese” were “bad guys” because Bill Clinton had sold “them” “our” nuclear secrets. Now I am happily married to a woman from China who came to america to study Computer Science. It is no coincidence to me that we met while studying a highly technical field. The process of being wrong over and over – because there’s no way to convince yourself your program works unless it does – opened something in my mind. I believe that I met my wife through the study of Computer Science for the same reason Plato said only people who were educated in geometry should be allowed in his secret club.
Who benefitted from fourteen year old me believing that ‘China’ was the ‘Bad Guys?’ Democrats and Republicans benefitted from this ridiculous worldview, because they could fight to convince me of what was the best way to keep me safe. Chinese leaders as well benefitted from us thinking ‘China’ was ‘Bad’ – because they should show their people images of our people saying their people were bad. Training in mathematics and geometry forces a person to think clearly, to see the difference between a Country, the land, the people living on the land, and the leaders of the people living on that land.
We are all one family. This is not “hippie nonsense” – this is hard science, brought to you by frowning old white men convinced of their own superiority. If a bunch of eurocentric chauvinists managed to convince themselves they were cousins of all of the people they disdained – how much better can we do with a generation that sees nations and boundaries as being as ridiculous as good old-fashioned racism?
Mathematical training also teaches you the power of simplicity. Complex things fail much more frequently than simple things. Democracy and Egalitarianism are mathematically simple and require little reasoning or explanation. The nature of “all men are created equal” requires no one to justify their place, and no coordinated agreement among antagonistic parties. Political hierarchies are infinitely more complex, and require more cooperation among parties that trust each other less. For a hierarchy to maintain its power, it needs to convince everyone under it of this elaborately complex theory to explain why only this guy is responsible for that, and this other guy has authority over that. Convincing lots of people of a wildly elaborate true theory is very difficult; convincing them of a theory that was made up to justify a ridiculous situation is far, far more difficult. For a democracy to maintain its power, it needs only the open and free flow of information. Historically, that’s new – computers and widespread literacy have only been a thing for 4 or 5 generations, depending upon how you count it. If you feel like the world is ‘screwed up’ now, I think a better way of looking at it is that the last few thousand years have been a transition period as we’ve been bootstrapping our ability to exchange information with each other.
The old regimes will ultimately fall apart laughably, as selfish old men are forced to the realization that it’s a lot harder to convince people that you should be in charge when you don’t understand the technology that the whole world runs on. We won’t punish those silly old men with archaic systems like violence or jail. They followed the law! They did nothing wrong – well, nothing that you have evidence on to convict me in a court of law where the judge happens to be my friend or bla bla bla…
These greedy old men will face a punishment far more unpleasant, because it will be so benign that nobody will listen to their complaints of being treated unfairly: they’ll be excluded from fun. That’s it. If you don’t see why that is really punishment, consider the kinds of events we’ll be throwing for each other in a post-scarcity world, where the cost of energy is zero and we’re all free to create whatever simulations and games we want. Some worlds full of collaboratively created code and art will be sealed off to patent trolls. Some worlds full of offensive speech and ludicrous virtualized violence will be closed off to people who’ve abused their power. Nobody wants a real violent asshole in their violent virtual world.
Of course, some worlds will be open to anyone. The rules will be super simple: anyone who wants can create a world, and the creator of the world decides who’s allowed in and who isn’t. That’s perfectly fair, and requires no justification. The real world will still exist, of course – open to everyone – but the layers we create on top of it will be much cooler. Your luxurious beachfront estate won’t be so cool any more when people can create virtual cloud palaces regardless of their physical wealth. Exclusivity will still be a thing – but exclusive access to land and food will be seen as ridiculous as the people who enforce that exclusivity. We’ll compete with each other to create worlds that are engaging and fun and open to as many people as possible. I’m not sure how you design a world that’s open for someone who’s justified torture – because the people they’ve tortured aren’t going to want them there. I don’t want conflict in my virtual world, and i’d rather invite the victims of oppression than its architects and defenders.
If I create a world, I don’t want trolls to ruin it. Since everyone will have plenty to eat and violence will be an historical artifact, the worst punishment a person could face would be exclusion from fun games that require people to trust each other. Even those punishments themselves will gradually be relaxed, until only the most egregious offenders are left out – not to hurt them, but for our protection. There’s beauty in that.