What 's a SKIL Dinner

In 1978, at a small Stanford University research laboratory, staff and friends shared most Friday meals. The lab's goal and the dinner's goal were the same. How can people grasp the human predicament and find ways to resolve it? Since then there have been 100's of such dinners in many places.

SKIL dinners are people on a journey. They have already passed some mile markers. For example, most guests already understand that pollution, sprawl, and congestion, are problems created by too many people working to live better. They realize that most kids (unless provided with great launches and huge inheritances) will not be able to afford the rising costs of food, housing, transportation, and education with the same ease as their parents. Finally, they believe that a system that creates losers-of-wellbeing (with little possibility of recovery) also creates terrorists. And terrorism, if it keeps growing, will crush civilization.

While each dinner guest hopes these problems will be held at bay by technologists, policy makers, or their own skills to create an island of prosperity and security, many foresee each future generation having less chance of success.

The reading assignment for the most recent SKIL Dinners, is SKIL Note 41 /position_papers_folder/HumanviabilityRPD.html It shows that I believe rapid population decline (RPD) (at the rate produced by universal once child per family (OCPF) behaviors) is a minimum requirement in reversing observed trends.

A recent dinner topic was, "How do we implement -- global universal once child per family behaviors?"

To think of an analogy of this implementation process, consider a traffic intersection with such low usage it has never been controlled. As traffic increases, as vehicle speeds increase, accident injuries increase.

These injuries are usually blamed on drunkenness, irresponsibility, inattention, or senility. Since they don't happen very often they are accepted as a normal small liability of living. Besides from a personal perspective, the injuries seem to be someone else's. "Good drivers" don't have accidents. "Nice people" don't get injured in accidents." Thus, there is no reason to put in traffic controls that reduce personal freedoms.

However, eventually the injuries at the intersection are too many. A majority agree that a traffic control will make life safer.

This process and the resulting action is what Garret Harden called "mutual coercion mutually agreed upon." The group chooses to take away the personal freedom of racing-through-the-intersection to gain relief from potential injury.

At a SKIL dinner we consider the possibility that our global civilization is like a traffic intersection. Each person's behavior can cause another person's injuries. When people are far apart these injuries are few. However, as a population grows inside a finite space and as behaviors become more powerful each individual creates more unintended injuries.

Initially to the individual these injuries appear to be too insignificant to address. Each many say, "My kids will be fine in the future," "I'm too powerful or lucky to be injured, "The injuries 'I see' don't justify establishing a one-child-per-family law."

In the setting of a SKIL dinner discussion we see some injury. We see the number and severity of those injuries growing. We believe that the injuries will not accrue to us, our kids, or in our time. We see any change in control over procreative behavior as an unnecessary infringement of rights. We do see that a society that adopts a OCPF law will have some problems adapting socially and economically to the resulting rapidly decreasing population. We don't fully appreciate how powerful rapid population decline (at the rate of one child per family) is in reducing injury. Nor do we appreciate how weak the alternatives (E.G. driving a car that gets 100 MPG or providing free health care to everyone) are in doing so. And finally, we don't see a path for implementing procreation laws everywhere on earth fast enough to make a difference.

If the dinner's goal is to have a guest be willing to vote for a "one child per family law." most will need a lot of convincing.

At the SKIL dinner I will try and answer your questions about the intensity and time table of the human predicament. Through your questions I will describe weaknesses in currently proposed behaviors to address that predicament and describe why OCPF laws are critical for accomplishing the future everyone wants.

In exchange I hope you will answer three of my questions.

How bad do injuries have to appear (existing or expected) before you would consider voting for a universal one child per family law?

What sanctions would you be willing to impose on a global resident that broke the OCPF law?

What institutional actions would you vote for to address a community that failed to implement or enforce the one child per family law?

This note is an adaptation of the introduction used for
Sandy Mortensen and Lou Wagner's SKIL Dinner
Jan.18 2008, Frisco, Colorado.


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to: Alpert@skil.org       www.skil.org      Other position papers

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