17 April 2014

Non-random incentives for world peace

The average person is now roughly 20 times less likely to die violently than the average person was in the Stone Age. The Slaughter Bench of History  Ian Morris, 'The Atlantic', 11 April
How did this come about?  According to Professor Morris:

For most of our time on earth, we have been aggressive, violent animals, because aggression and violence have paid off. But in the 10,000 years since we invented productive war, we have evolved culturally to become less violent—because that pays off even better.
I can't argue with Professor Morris. Human beings are rational, and respond rationally to the incentives on offer. It's tragic, though, that the incentives not to prosecute war seem to have come about quite randomly; through experimentation over millennia with every sort of conflict, fought with ever-improving technology, at calamitous human cost.

I think we can do better - and we should. Instead of relying on the slow, random and painful process of learning through direct experience, we could actively create or magnify the incentives for peace. We could, simply, make a conscious, deliberate decision to increase the incentives for people to avoid war.

How? We could apply the Social Policy Bond principle to violent political conflict. We could issue World Peace Bonds or, say, Middle East Peace Bonds. We don't have to know how people who invest in these bonds will use their expected returns from bondholding to reduce the chances of conflict breaking out. Nor do we need to know who, exactly, will buy the bonds and undertake peace-building activities. What we would do, by issuing Peace Bonds, is motivate people who are currently pre-occupied with other, probably less socially beneficial, concerns, to get involved in peace-building and explore, refine and implement the most efficient ways of ending war. 

War has been a curse for generations and remains an existential threat: the full title of Professor Morris's piece excerpted above is: How war created civilization over the past 10,000 years—and threatens to destroy it in the next 40. Peace Bonds could generate bigger incentives to end war far less randomly and at lesser human cost, than through the the current process of random blundering accompanied by painfully slow, fitful, learning; a process that may yet culminate in unrestrained nuclear conflict with the deaths of millions.

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