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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reverse Counterfactuals

Mencius Moldbug has speculated:

If we want to get really imaginative, we can imagine what I call a "reverse counterfactual." First, imagine that the military dice had fallen otherwise and the American Rebellion was suppressed. Second, perform the standard counterfactual exercise of imagining what an intact British Empire would look like in 2009. Third, imagine the counterfactual universe invents some device that can send invisible observers into our 2009, and make a documentary for the edification of the Imperial audience - showing this awful alternate 2009, in which the Massachusetts disturbances of the 1770s were not quashed with firm, manly vigour.
Let's consider what those documentaries would have said at various times in the past:
  • 1860: The American Republic has failed and is breaking up into its constituent parts.
  • 1933 or 1971: The economic system encouraged by the notorious Whig Adam Smith has failed and is being replaced by an economy guided by the better class of people.
  • 1980: The currency of the American Republic is becoming worthless; it is under the threat of nuclear annihilation by people who have taken revolutionary rhetoric even further than they have; most of the young people can make their lives tolerable only with euphoriant chemicals; and the American habit of allowing the lower classes to be armed has produced a crime epidemic.
  • Last summer: Adam Smith's America is sending its wealth overseas to economic systems run by a land-owning nobility because of its attachment to the idea that the lower classes have some kind of right to move pointlessly from place to place.
It's easy to come up with a reverse counterfactual documentary. It's less easy to explain why today's reverse counterfactual should be taken any more seriously than a past counterfactual.

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