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The Editor's Reply to "Leadership and the Rapidity of Change in Values"

by Tom James on 08/03/18

When Thomas James (who happens to be my Granddad) dictated "Leadership and the Rapidity of Change in Values," I pointed out some ways that techies are developing technology in a way that protects our values. I also pointed out many of the value-oriented things that people of my generation engage in.

He invited me to write my own reply and post it to the blog.

When confronted with the challenge of creating robots that can act according to our values, programmers and techies are faced with one glaring fact: our values are, and always have been, so inconsistent that it is impossible to boil everything down to simple rules that everyone can follow. For example, we can say that a human life can never be taken, but what to do if taking down one life will save many, like in the case of a mass shooter? Another example would be the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," but the Bible is filled with justified killing. Programming robots to make decisions like this is necessary for the next generation of tech like self-driving cars, but it's extremely difficult to solve these problems.


Because if there's one fundamental difference between Millenials and Boomers, it's that we are sick of the pretense of certainty. It's not Truth or values we hate, but certainty. We're sick of the Kool-Aid stained corpses that pile up in the temple of "beyond a shadow of a doubt." We're sick of the jihads and Crusades coming from people that believe the entirety of history and even the universe revolves around one person or group in their part of the world.

That's why we prefer to implement less ambitious projects: we prefer Medicare for all, rather than the eradication of poverty through a managed economy. We prefer our nation to the United Nations. We prefer to go to church at the local "Thrive" rather than "The One True Church of God." While there are problems with these projects, that I can't go into here, Millenials certainly have values, and are willing to fight for them.

We Millenials generally believe that being at least a little uncertain is a part of having a perspective. And perspective is part and parcel of our consciousness, the very fact of being alive. Perspective and life are so intertwined, that it would be easier to plunge into the heart of a black hole and escape Newtonian laws than it would be to see with total, objective certainty.

Millenials are more willing to acknowledge our own and others' perspectives in things and how this changes the perception of Truth. Things like race, gender, religion, and year of birth can no longer be ignored when having our discussions. It means accepting that we are tiny specks of the universe, and to make a claim to certain Truth degrades its purity and epic vastness. Then Truth ceases to become Sacred or even useful.

While times have certainly changed, and the dissolution of the family and religion are worrisome to say the least, even if you only look at the statistics,

I think it is alarmist to say that the change in values will lead to the end of the world. 

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