Food Inc., veganism, and Open Empire

I’ve just started watching Food Inc. and it inspired the following article to help explain how Open Empire deals with lifestyle choices like diet (but in the greater context of the act of killing itself, and thus a follow on from the previous blog article) … because the present system is almost completely agnostic (not to mention hypocritical and selectively blind) about killing other species, but people within it are financially motivated to encourage you to make choices with negative ecological, ethical and social consequences … yet no one takes responsibility for those consequences, and the ongoing burden is something nature cannot handle … not to mention that it involves unspeakable levels of cruelty to other sentient species whom are out distant cousins.

Wouldn’t you prefer if the production of food was not something driven by the profit motive?

Imagine a system where food is produced in such a way, that all ecological and social harm is minimised. So if someone chooses to eat meat (rather than a vegetarian diet), they have to accept responsibility for the consequences of that decision … after all, who else can take responsibility?

The Rationale:

If you kill an animal to eat it, I’m not saying such an act is evil … as I do not judge you for doing something that would be ok had a lion done it (ie: I’m not creating a species-bias against you). However, you do have choices a lion does not, and you’re part of a culture of a high technology species that has a vastly greater impact on the environment than a lion does … so, while the two situations seem comparable on the surface, they are not.

A lion already takes responsibility for the manner in which it goes about this: it takes on the risk of the hunt, it takes on the biochemical and evolutionary impact of the dietary choice … and it is not involved in any high tech manipulation of species (farming), nor profit motive driven economic impacts … so it’s responsibility ends right there (unless you believe in karma, but I’m going to ignore that complexity, as it wouldn’t change the end argument even if it were true).

I don’t personally want to eat meat. I sometimes do because someone else cooked it already anyway, and because with my limited finances, sometimes I just take what is on offer … but given the choice and resources to do as I prefer, I’d be 99% vegan (I’m probably 95% vegan now), as I’ve never encountered a dietary lifestyle that made me feel anywhere near as good. So it is partially a selfish choice, but it’s also because I just can’t bring myself to eat certain creatures which I’m quite sure are very much sentient … and they do indeed suffer.

However having said that, my personal choices have been kept out of the design of Open Empire, because I recognise that people are going to do what they’re going to do, especially driven by the momentum of history and culture … So while Open Empire does influence, it doesn’t enforce (not directly anyway). What has been included in the design is that which is necessary for the desired outcomes.

The scale & scope of human agricultural influence is astounding, especially in the field of energy intensive massive monoculture agribusiness, which destroys immense amounts of habitat, causes the extinction of species, the reduction of biodiversity, the degradation and pollution of air, water, soil & the soil biome … and last but not least, it causes immense amounts of abuse, cruelty, disease, exploitation, suffering & death … it’s not a pretty industry.

Human beings have a robust digestive system, so we can make many other choices. If a person chooses not to do so, that’s fine … BUT the very least they should do, is minimise the harm of the choices they make, and both accept & take responsibility for the remaining consequences of those choices. If they’re unwilling to do so, they’re cowards and unworthy of respect. So please don’t ask me to shed a tear for someone where despite what I think is a rather generous and fair scenario (in which they still hold a gigantic amount of advantage over other species, as a result of their intelligence and technology), the situation becomes mildly inconvenient when they’re asked to take responsibility.

So how does it work?

Again, all of this comes down to the automatic & manual journaling of our consumptive & productive activities; which is pretty much the only thing you have to do in life to apply for access to scarce resources. No job is required, you can spend your life surfing if you want … you don’t even have to journal anything if you can get by without access to the system … but the more people who do not contribute, means the more resources are scarce, and so your statistics for showing merit in order to access those scarce resources, will probably suck … but this is arguably your choice.

Ok, with that in mind … imagine you could do whatever you want with your diet, but there was a system in place to motivate you to do the least ecological and social harm, because you’re required to accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions. With a bit of research you’d quickly see from the amount of water used, land used, pollution generated, energy expended, cruelty imposed on sentient creatures etc.: being vegetarian (especially growing your own veggies at your own home) is by far the best option in terms of improving your personal statistics within the system … Which doesn’t mean you’re forced to do it, it simply means you’re motivated to try, or at least incorporate some aspect of these (or similar) choices into your lifestyle mix, especially if you desire access to resources which are scarce; though arguably you could also ignore these imperatives completely, and make up the numbers in other ways … all that really matters is you’re willing to accept & bear responsibility for the consequences of your choices, and where your choices reduce your personal statistics in the system, you either accept and deal with that, or try to improve them.

Now, let’s for arguments sake say that you don’t want to give up eating meat. Ok, fine … we’re not talking about creating a law against it, we’re just talking about asking you to take responsibility for it … and since some very intelligent (and well educated) vegan people are out there, they’ll likely be doing research to ascertain what those impacts are. So you’re motivated to ensure you do the least harm, hence you may minimise your consumption &/or take care of how it is sourced.

Similarly, there’s likely to be pro-meat eaters doing research, and while it’s impossible for them to disprove the damage done, they may be able to quantify some ameliorating aspects which reduce that damage, and further innovate various aspects of hunting, storage, cooking & so on, in order to further reduce the detrimental aspects on personal statistics from this lifestyle choice. Another thing they may do is look at proving benefits which come from unrelated actions of meat eaters, to assist them in showing ecological and social value … all such things are potentially possible.

So here we have a situation which combines personal freedom with responsibility for consequences, and which allows people to do what others may disapprove of, but at the very least motivates them to reduce the harm from doing so.

Additional / Possible Consequences:

Scenario 1 – moderate meat eater lying about their activities:

So let’s say you don’t want to take responsibility for these consequences, and you attempt to hide your statistics by not declaring and journaling your activities and their impact … well ok, that’s a strategy … a cowardly & dishonest one, but a strategy nonetheless … how will that play out for you?

Well, identifying such cheating within the system, unveiling it and stopping it, would likely be quantified as an activity producing great benefits, as it helps prevent scarce resources going to a less worthy recipient, thus reducing the lost opportunity of such changes in the allocation of scarce resources. On top of this, it would bring back into play the incentive for minimising harm in such choices (hence partially responsible for such minimisation), and it would also likely have other benefits, thus motivate people to specialise in uncovering such actions.

Now, you might think this to be quite intrusive if someone comes snooping into your life, but a lot of the snooping is just done via data, and given that they wouldn’t be taking it further, if you weren’t trying to cheat your way out of taking responsibility for your own actions … it’s not like you can really complain. We would all benefit from the influence this has in motivating us to innovate, motivating us to change habits, and yet allowing us freedom of choice, while keeping us honest & asking us to take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.

Scenario 2 – extreme meat consumer, producer, animal abuser and ecological vandal:

Let’s say you consume a monumental amount of meat, you slaughter animals for others also, you don’t take any particular care as to how you go about it, and hence you cause an immense amount of suffering and damage. Now, there’s another recent article I wrote which is relevant here, because the same principles apply, and herein we see what I mean by “non-species-biased”.

It’s possible in such a scenario that certain people might look at the data of the consequences of your actions and show cause that the amount of damage you’re doing is neither sustainable nor worth any beneficial returns you provide … and given that you cause suffering and death of other sentient species, they could use the exact same calculations used against a serial killer, against you (see: “Force and Violence: personal freedom vs. social order” for details of the aforementioned article where I applied similar ideas to a different scenario).

It’s entirely possible that in extreme cases, they could even show that you don’t actually provide any ecological or social benefits (all you do is harm), and it would be in everyone’s interests if you were prevented from doing so … and once again decentralised justice comes in to play … they’d probably talk to you first, show you the evidence and give you a chance to bring your behaviour and consumption within some kind of acceptable levels … but if you refused, and the amount of damage you do was so much greater than the little or no benefits you contribute, it’s entirely possible they could incarcerate or kill you (assuming they’re confident enough of their research and statistics to justify such action).

This is an extreme case of course, and as per the same arguments in the other article, people will be extremely cautious of making mistakes in this regard (as they won’t want to pay the consequences themselves) … but I’m just demonstrating the possibilities … I don’t know how exactly it would play out, this is merely a hypothetical application of the principles & systems.

Now, let’s go one more step into the extremes to demonstrate the point further.

Scenario 3 – Cannibalism:

Ok … Now let’s get weird.

If there’s no authority per se, and no crime … could someone be a cannibal? Well, yes they could … but again, how would that play out?

First of all, it is likely such a person would not declare such actions, and entirely possible they wouldn’t engage in the system at all … but for those who do, and who might live in this person’s vicinity, clearly they have a right to and an interest in self preservation. We still don’t need to declare his killing nor your revenge or pragmatic killing of him to be a crime, we simply assess the impact.

Statistically speaking, if he kills and eats just one person, he’s responsible (whether he likes it or not) for the following:

  1. Loss of productive output of the person he killed;
  2. Loss of flow on effects;
  3. Loss of value of that person to themselves;
  4. Loss of value of that person to friends & family;
  5. Loss of probability and potential of unborn offspring & flow on effects …

So there’s a hell of a lot of loss there.

BUT (and let’s go Dexter on this): IF he only kills and eats very evil people who do a lot of harm, he could potentially argue a case that he was creating a quantifiable nett ecological &/or social benefit.

So it could potentially go either way.


The lesson here is that Open Empire doesn’t make a judgement about killing and death, nor does it provide a restricted centralised authority for the legitimate use of violence or act of killing … it does however make a judgement of the merit of actions, via quantification of the methods and consequences … and thus it provides a motivational framework for action, caution, consideration etc. … ie – it provides you with the information you need to hopefully make wise choices that go beyond your own immediate self interest. Hence Open Empire is about Enlightened Self Interest.

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