Original question

Imagine we live in a society where humans are completely open-minded and rational about everything. They reason logically and are willing to debate to reach a consensus.

However, even their ultimate motivation is only benefit to themselves, just like us. They too have qualities like us that could potentially be weaknesses, such as hatred, love, fear, etc. but in a more limited extent.

This means that they will make faster communication and better decisions with people when they want to, and be extremely deceptive when they know that their will is against their opponent. This, however, can be brought to light by others more easily. All people know that it is better to get educated.

Would such a society develop in a similar, but faster fashion as ours? Or will the accountability of the political leaders cause them to maybe become pawns at the hands of the people, or will rulers take over nations by force, since deceiving them doesn't work out?


I would like to clarify what I mean about open-mindedness and rationality.

Open-mindedness just means that people will be willing to consider all options (privately, at least) and be more logical in what they think. For example, a Muslim will be willing to consider why his faith could be wrong, rather than just blindly following it. This doesn't mean that the whole world will be following one religion, but study of everything will be more organised.

'Their ultimate motivation is to benefit themselves' doesn't mean they are necessarily selfish. It means that their basic psychology is like ours. For example, if someone feels that they should sacrifice something of their own, in favor of someone they pity, love, etc., that is fine, because the satisfaction they get from helping the other person 'benefits' them. Similarly, there could be a guy who feels no emotions for others and only believes in personal profit, and to fulfill this goal, it might be the best decision logically to even kill someone.

And about feelings co-existing with rationality,.. You could hate someone because you feel they have worked against your purpose in life. However, you are not going to shout at them, fight with them, etc. in a fit of rage, you will first logically think as to whether this is going to, in any way, benefit your pursuit of your purpose in life. If the logical answer is 'yes', you can proceed. And by fear, I meant logical fear. One could be afraid of circumstances and fear for his life, but he will continue to take rational, open-minded decisions to ensure his survival.

Therefore, feelings will be in 'a more limited extent'. What I mean to say is that the purpose of one's life is undefined. All kinds of people will exist. This won't be a perfect society, just a slightly better one than ours.

I am asking how they will progress from a political point of view. Would kingdoms have existed? What would cause leaders to wage war, and what would the people do? What kind of models of government would have been popular? Will terrorist groups exist, and how would they operate? Will the psychology of the military play a more important role, since they know that the government relies on their united support, to retain a model of government?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Telastyn That is possibly the most misguided view of open mindedness and rationality I have ever seen. I feel badly for you. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Perfectly open-minded" is perfectly ill-defined, in the context of a society of selfish utilitarian maximizers. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 4:14
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Since a perfectly rational society would not be open-minded about irrationality, your conditions can't be met. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Feb 19, 2015 at 17:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I don't see why kingdoms, wars, or other political processes are fundamentally irrational. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Feb 19, 2015 at 18:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You have resources and land we want. Simplified, but is that not rational justification for war? $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 19, 2015 at 18:44

12 Answers 12


You're using words which are difficult to use in extreme situations. It requires some careful wordsmithing, because a naive reading would suggest that your people are, in fact, not open minded to any theory which is not rational. A more exact wording would be "they are completely rational, and openminded to any rationally proven argument."

The second wording is more tricky: "However, even their ultimate motivation is only benefit to themselves, just like us." "Benefit themselves" requires a concept of Self. This causes a problem, but to see the problem we have to define "rational."

If we define "rational" to be defined as "openminded to any argument proven using First Order Logic (FOL)," then Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem raises its ugly head. It is very hard to define Self without accidentally admitting Peano arithmetic. If you admit Peano arithmetic, Godel has some very harsh things to say about your system which will generally violate your intuitive sense of what "rational" is.

There are other schools of logic. Second Order Logic(SOL) is strong enough to admit a solid definition of Self. Unfortunately Gödel also proved that SOL doesn't admit proofs of any SOL system, unless it can be simplified into a FOL system.

There are an interesting class of systems known as Self-verifying theories, explored by Dan Willard. These can admit a Self and rationality because they sidestep a particular technique used to construct Gödel's Incompleteness theorem. These have very peculiar properties. For one thing: you start with defining an ultimate value (i.e. infinity), and divide and subtract down from there. In doing so, this ultimate value is allowed to be treated as a Self, and every one of your rational individuals acts as part of the Universe. However, it turns out that the rational individuals cannot actually define themselves as anything but "part of the Universe."

The final pattern is to allow each individual to assume their definition of their self. By the Theory of Other Minds, they can recognize that others exist, and have the right to think the same way. However, in doing so, it turns out that a language for them to converse in becomes imperfect. Attempts to make it perfect make even more glaring holes to be abused for self-interest. The usual result is the creation of "fuzzy" words which no longer really belong in a rational argument, but become essential for communication during the debate.

This suggests the final variation on the puzzle. Reverse the words: "They are openminded, but temper that open-mindedness with rationality." Sounds quite a lot like society today, if you ask me!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No idea why this was downvoted. +1 $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ I have clarified my interpretation of these terms, please see. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ I, and maybe others I believe, would appreciate hyperlinks to some of the things yo mention. For example: FOL, SOL and the other theorems. Just a nice touch... $\endgroup$
    – David
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @David: Good suggestion, hyperlinks deployed! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 19, 2015 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ That answer is perfect. $\endgroup$
    – Jorge Aldo
    Feb 20, 2015 at 1:45

I feel like the premise set forth in this questions is flawed in a few places.


However, even their ultimate motivation is only benefit to themselves, just like us.

This assumes that all humans are motivated only by their own self interest and that is simply not the case. Open-mindedness and self interest are not necessarily exclusive concepts but they do not mix well together. Being completely open minded would require that people also eliminate all bias, including self bias and an increased value on ones own life versus the life of another.


Imagine we lived in a society where humans are completely open-minded and rational about anything they think of. They reason logically and are willing to debate to reach a consensus.


They too have qualities like us that could potentially be weaknesses, such as hatred, love, fear, etc. but in a more limited extent.

are not compatible. You cannot be both completely open minded and rational AND feel hatred, love, and fear as we currently understand them.


Humans as we know ourselves today lack the capacity to be completely open minded. That isn't to say people don't WANT to be open minded but to do that you need to consider all possibilities and angles. Humans, out of necessity, lump things into categories, that includes other people, actions, animals, ideas...the list goes on. The point is that lumping things into categories means we may not truly understand many things and you cannot be open minded about something you are also mostly ignorant of. This in our world leads to bias, dehumanizing others, and stereotype.

TL;DR Humans as we know them are not capable of being truly open-minded and rational. The sentient humanoids capable of this would have to differ significantly from humans.

And to address your questions:

Would such a society develop in a similar, but faster fashion as ours? Or will the accountability of the political leaders cause them to maybe become pawns at the hands of the people, or will rulers take over nations by force, since deceiving them doesn't work out?

Society would develop completely differently (taking into account my points above). Completely rational humans would be more willing to act against their own self-interest. Government would also be be a far more involved process with less conflict (give that this perfect rationality leads all people to the same conclusion). Conflict in its various varieties would also be far less common if it existed at all.

  • $\begingroup$ The only quibble I have with your post is perfect rationality does not always lead to the same conclusion. Though it would be much more likely, especially on simpler solutions. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Feb 5, 2015 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner I don't necessarily disagree with you. I felt like that was the implication from the OP but I could have read into something that wasn't there. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Feb 5, 2015 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Please see my clarification of the question. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2015 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Just a though: does being fully rational necessarily mean that one not be self centered? Rather than rationally pursuing the 'good of society,' one could seek their own self-gain in an entirely rational manner. This could mean individuals who make whatever decisions are likely to benefit themselves, regardless of the impact on others, e.g. sociopaths. $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Feb 6, 2015 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think you can rationally hate things. But you are right that you can't be rational and also completely open minded. Things you judge to be irrational would be rejected. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Feb 19, 2015 at 17:58

"Don't be hasty"

As others have pointed out, your average human (at least in current Western culture) likes fast and easy answers. Google is a life saver for many of us, including me.

So as a counter to that, a more rational society would be much less hasty for any serious decision. It would also likely encourage long term education for many.

One big problem humans have in general is that we don't like to be wrong. (to different levels about different subjects) How this is a problem is people often will continue to hold a belief and even rationalize away and/or ignore evidence to the contrary when it is held strongly enough. Fanatics are people who suffer from this afflictions to dangerous levels.

So a more rational society would (should) have a much smaller number of people to become fanatics. This includes not only religious zealots and political martyrs, but extreme sports fans, stalkers, and any other place where someone might use violence to 'prove' a point.

A big thing would be people would have to think of better reasons for doing things than what ultimately boils down to 'I want'. I have family members that will by something they can't afford and come up with a dozen reasons why it was a good idea. No, it wasn't, it was a bad idea but they really wanted it, but that isn't a sufficient reason and it makes them sound selfish and stupid.

I think in the financial sector, there would be a lot less volatility, since the 'oil scares' and the ponzi schemers would have a much harder time herding the sheep.

(I'm having a hard time not going into a rant about our current US government) But we have Republicans and Democrats and Conservatives and Liberals and each pair is against the other merely because they are the other. If one side has a good idea it doesn't matter because 'they' had it and we can't let them be right! It would obviously make us 'wrong' then! So like everything else, politically we would tend to be more centrist.

All this rationality would also tend to reduce conflicts including big ones, like wars. However, while we might not kill half a population because they are sitting on a resource we want, we still could be pushed into killing, for more rational reasons. It is also unlikely that there won't be any fanatics, and merely by their reduced commonality they might still be able cause great havoc.

But ultimately better rationality doesn't mean perfect thought or agreement, it means you will likely have much better and factually based arguments to base your reasons on, not just a bunch of made up nonsense used to try and emotionally sway others to your cause.

How would this have come about? Well I have my doubts that a race would 'start' this way. It has to develop. To begin, a race has to 'survive' all the other issues like lions, and tigers' and bears Oh my! So killing to survive will be ingrained for a while, then when famine comes and you don't have anything to trade with, you kill your neighbors in the next settlement to take what they have to live, etc, etc. So where rationality in a race comes in is likely to be late in the game, the 1600s is when our current experiment in rational thought started and we are still working on it. I think we've got another 150 years before rationality breaks into the majority of the populace. So I'm saying it's a process and we are following it, and other species would likely follow a similar path.

(I'll have to reread this later to see if it actually makes sense or if I'm rambling...)


This answer is more of a thought experiment than an explanation based on any sort of evidence, but as we're talking about human nature I think it fits.

First, I think it's important to answer the question, how does it benefit me to be open-minded? You might think the answer to that is obvious, but in reality life is a lot easier if you never have to consider more than one option. Smart people who have not become overly arrogant (which is another form of close-mindedness) are plagued by indecision and the inability to say anything for certain. As with philosophers like Socrates/Plato, no questions can really be answered, they can just lead to deeper questions. This, for many people, is not a rewarding lifestyle; we all want answers, and we usually prefer to get them quickly and easily.

Now consider religion. Usually, people are either inducted into religions at an early age, or converted during a particularly stressful time in their lives, when all they want is an easy answer. At some point, the answers offered by religion will provide a quick and easy reward, just like how donuts give us a quick and easy source of sugar. In both cases, we become addicted, and come back for more. That's evolution for you: if there's an easy solution, you take it. If you wait around for the best option, you probably won't have kids (at least that's my explanation for why I'm single).

At this stage, I'd like to consider complacency. Most people, when they get a good thing, will tend to stay with that good thing. But some people, perhaps the most successful or intelligent people, try and find something better and improve themselves. These people are the open-minded ones, because when they find an answer, they're usually not satisfied with it, and they want more information. They won't accept 'Jesus loves you', they want to know who Jesus was, how he knew about you in the first place, and what manner of love they're talking about (paternal, fraternal, romantic, sexual, etc). This may lead them to question the truth of Christianity, and perhaps to consider other religions. This is what you want, right?

Thus, an open-minded society is not complacent. To minimize complacency, perhaps your society was nomadic, moving from place to place in a hostile environment. There would never be long-term safety, so the most important people in the society would be the ones who could quickly change gears and adapt to survive. It would probably also be useful to stick to small tribes/families, as each individual will need to play a larger part in the decision making process. The main problem with this is that usually instability and small communities is counter-productive to development of civilization, but perhaps there's a suitable middle ground.

  • $\begingroup$ I am assuming that humans become open-minded, so the fictitious society has 7 billion open-minded creatures, not a small community. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2015 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts_in_the_code right, but once it becomes instinctual, you have it forever. A few thousand years (the more the merrier) of these communities and open-mindedness will be second nature to humans for many more generations. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2015 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ -1. Your coverage of religion is relevant only to moralistic therapeutic deism and not anything that's existed before it. Quick easy rewards and theology that doesn't go beyond "Jesus loves you, now shut up" is a modern invention. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2015 at 22:07

Question is, if being open-minded and rational gives one group of proto-humans evolutionary advantage over others. And it is not so.

Researchers found that primates can differentiate between members of own group and others. And if forced to change groups (and survive it), primates will make preference to their current group over former. It was found IIRC in rhesus monkey, which has last common ancestors with humans as far as 30MY ago. So this kind of discrimination is pretty old, and this trait seems to be preserved over millions of years. So it will not be easy to dis-evolve (it might take millions of years). Killing males from opposing groups is pretty common between animals.

Being altruistic is different - you are helping your own kin in group (which may share part of your genes), so from POV of "selfish gene" theory, altruism toward relatives is beneficial for gene survival.

Edit: link to some different book about violence between primates. Another -- faces of others

  • $\begingroup$ Can you cite the paper in which this experiment was performed? $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Feb 21, 2015 at 11:14

A society is a living thing that is continuously and constantly evolving, so it has no "perfect" forms. A rational society would be one that tries to use rational and unbiased decision making whenever it is possible, not simply when it is useful or required. We are currently at the "required" level; rational decision making processes are mainly used in science where the process used directly affects the value of the results.

To understand where such a rational society would develop, we need to understand where it came from. What could drive people to abandon the quick and dirty thought processes our brains have evolved to perform efficiently?

Brain implants maybe? Since rational thinking is more complex and uses more resources, it should be possible for future technology to detect whether you are using it and give direct feedback, if you are not when you should be. This would obviously not tell if the data or your thinking is correct, just what form it takes. You'd need training to get anything useful from that.

This might have sufficient value to be adopted by scientists. While science is not really exclusively rational being able to spot "improper thinking process" would help in validating your work afterwards. And reviewing the work of others. And reviewing the assumptions your work is based on. It would also allow verifying that students are using the correct form of thinking, which would presumably help teaching scientific thought immensely. So academia would presumably be in for this.

With wireless connectivity the same technology should also be able to tell if the student is following the teaching, so if cheap and safe enough it might be given to everyone. Or just people undergoing education expensive enough to deserve it. As expense would go down and safety up over time eventually you would get this technology on everyone. Minus some medically or ideologically incompatible small minorities, of course.

This should also be a superior lie detector and it would already be installed on majority of people, so eventually employers and the police would be given the right to verify lack of deception in specific situations. The courts and political process would follow after such "thought verification" had become routine enough to not cause concern. Might take a generation.

Once a deception free society had been established and everyone had become used to verifying their thinking, people would start using it to validate their thinking outside of science. Eventually people would start asking if such validation has been done. It would be the norm and people would think rational whenever possible. This would be a rational society.

And not much would change, really. The society would have higher trust on its leaders since they would be less corrupt and more honest, but the intelligence and competence of people would not really increase as individuals. Politicians might be better able to work together, but they'd still have such as many disagreements arising from their different values. Changing that would require sufficient information to find a correct and shared value system and being rational does not really help there.

Similarly decisions would still have to be made based on incomplete and even incorrect information. The amount of damage might be reduced as people would be more aware of the shortcomings of their information. This might result in more willingness to hedge your bets with compromises that work under several different assumptions of how society will work.

And obviously terrorists would still exist. Terrorism is not really irrational, it is a perfectly rational response to your idea of how world should be not meeting how it is and not having any hope of changing it by constructive means. Openly religious terrorism would probably be reduced. Belief in all-powerful and benevolent God that needs you to kill people to make his will happen is not really rational, so terrorist movements would need to recruit based on their actual reasons not the emotional appeal of fighting for God.

There would be no noticeable change on how the military works. Like the terrorist military would need to recruit and justify itself based on rational arguments instead of emotional appeals. And just like with the terrorists, the reasons always were there. And military forces have always understood that governments stand on their support. That is why in many countries soldiers are made to swear an oath that basically boils down to "support the legit government and political process (please do not participate in a military coup)".

  • $\begingroup$ Our society is not at the 'required' level when it comes to rationality (and may never be so for decades). But you are right in saying that we will become more rational with advances in technology. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts_in_the_code The "required" simply means that we try to be rational where we know it is required for correct results. Mainly science. No particular success level was implied in either recognizing the correct issues or managing to be rational about it. Probably should edit, since this really isn't clear from the answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 25, 2015 at 6:20

It is more likely than not that such a society of magically-created (as open-mindedness is unlikely to naturally evolve) open-minded people will be outcompeted by close-minded people. Open-mindedness is not a beneficial trait, not at least until survival is no longer an issue (such as being above the median income in a modern day First World country)

A society of open-minded people will engage in rational debate in order to find the best solution. When there is sufficient time to debate this, it is beneficial to the group as a whole, as it allows the global optimum solution to be reached. However, the debates have a significant time penalty.

Conversely, a society of close-minded people will stick with their local optimum solution (which is qualitatively worse than the global optimum). They also do not engage in rational debate, and punish all who propose new ideas. They eschew the benefits of the global optimum solution and save time instead.

If the two societies end up going to war, the close-minded society is far more likely to win, since they will not waste time debating the merits of the best approach forward. In times of crisis, speed is of the essence. A society that cannot reach quick, decisive judgments in times of crisis will be easily wiped out.

For the same reason, militaries tend to enforce strict, no-nonsense discipline in the rank-and-file, while at the same time encouraging more creativity and discussion amongst the top brass. A combat unit which does not follow direct orders, instead stopping to debate the best course of attack, is likely to be quickly defeated, whereas large-scale maneuvers which take many weeks or months to execute require the plan to be better thought out, and therefore they often require deliberation amongst panels of generals.

  • $\begingroup$ They are not perfect logicians. If speed is required, speed will be given importance. They obviously do not have the time to logically reason out each and every issue that affects their lives, and will accordingly prioritize. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 15:45

When looking closer, you'll find that people are actually more rational than it superficially seems, even in instances where they seemingly act irrational. Most irrational behaviour can be traced down as completely rational behaviour, but based on incomplete, and often partially wrong, "knowledge" and believes.

Note that one part of rationality is also to determine whether something is worth thinking about. If you (rightly or wrongly) are convinced that you already know what the result of such thinking would be, the most rational action is not to waste any time on thinking about it. For example, few scientists will be willing to think through a new proposal for a perpetual motion machine, for the simple fact that they know that the laws of thermodynamics forbid such machines, so they already know their conclusion about whether the PM will work or not. The only thing they could get out of this is learning the exact point where this proposal fails. This is purely rational behaviour; when considering something a waste of time, the only rational decision (assuming you consider wasting time as bad) is not to do it.

And even in cases where people actively resist to consider obvious counter arguments to their believes, it still is rational behaviour: Since they are emotionally bound to those believes, having to revise it would hurt them. And if you value not being hurt higher than learning something new, the only rational decision is to avoid learning that you are actually wrong.

So what you need for an open-minded society is that all people are, from early times on, come into contact with lots of knowledge, and lots of experiences. Especially they must come into contact with contradictory claims, and experience the failure of some of their own assumptions. This would make them more likely to consider finding their believes to be wrong as normal way of life and nothing to be hurt about, and decrease the probability that they emotionally attach too much to their believes simply because their experience tells them they are often wrong.

One problem is that small children are naturally born believers, for the simple fact that you have to start with some believes if you want to learn at all (if you start with questioning everything, you'll not come far; even Descartes did not really question everything, for example, AFAIK he never questioned that if there is thinking, there must be someone who thinks). But while inevitable, it also is a vulnerability because at that age you can implant them a believe that certain things are not to be questioned. And if you believe that certain things are not to be questioned (especially if those things include some entity that punishes you for questioning those believes), the only rational(!) decision is not to question them.


If you're ok with giving it a few hundred years, you can go with an evolutionary answer. If close minded people have fewer (or zero) children, the population can become genetically inclined to far more open mindedness. Intense selection pressures can significantly kick in within just a few generations, and can have a strong impact in probably ten to twenty generations.

Close minded people could be more likely to die, or they could produce fewer children, or their children could be less likely to survive, or it could be simple mate selection. You can't have kids if no one wants to mate with you. On one hand mate selection can be influenced simply by social ideas on what constitutes a desirable mate, but you could also end up with close minded people simply pairing up with each other. That could result primarily in polarization among the population, rather than more open-mindedness.

If you're looking for a faster solution... pardon my cynicism and dark humor but this is related to the above answer...

The only reliable means of rapidly opening a closed mind is a bullet to the skull.


After some generations they would become utterly crazy due to believing in all kinds of idiotic theories. Being open-minded by itself cannot guarantee good ideas, neither pure conservativeness can do it. Its a - very hard to attain - mix of conservativeness and open-mindedness that guarantees intelectual evolution. Besides most of the time where a civilization clinged to a obsolescent concept, this was not due to pure lack of open-mindedness. The church did not kill those who believed the earth was spherical out of pure lack of open-mindedness, but to prevent those ideas from exposing the flaws of church ideology, wich would foster people to start questioning church and nobility privileges.


I imagine a society filled with Ender Wiggins. In some respects, we should expect it to look a lot like our society right now. There would still be Taylor Swifts and Kanye Wests, but their fans would not be fanatical. They would be the moms and dads of today's concerts, rather than the screaming teenagers, and they might go to concerts as much out of a sense of irony as any particular love of the music.

There would be political parties, but the parties would appeal to the highest thinkers rather than the lowest. Instead of just promising to give away stuff to the masses, they would try to claim that their vision of the future is the most accurate, and extends the furthest. The debate would not be about whether climate change is anthropogenic, but rather which allocation of resources most appropriately deals with the near and far-term future. Credibility would be based on analysis and information-gathering, rather than pandering.

If actual fanatics existed at all, they would do so as a higher-order tactic to achieve an obscured goal. Every major action would have a double-, triple-, quadruple-meaning and intent. The world would be a giant game of chess. If someone committed an act of terror, it would cause real terror, not because it is random, but because everyone would know that it is carefully calculated, and you either understand the cause (and can avoid a similar fate), or you don't (and you are already behind the curve).

Some people would still choose to be homeless or vagrants or hippies, but probably very few would be low-wage workers, because they would realize in school that the path which leads to drudge work does not optimize personal happiness (in the future...of course, it usually is the result of consuming all the happiness in the present).

On the one hand, cooperation would be maximized, because there are many situations in which it is rationally optimal but not chosen because of irrationality. On the other hand, this would make more appealing targets for high-functioning sociopaths, who are necessarily rational and open-minded (because ultimately, cooperation requires trust, and trust is the primary currency of sociopaths).

I would guess that this world would be both more exciting and more terrifying. Human value systems would likely change more quickly, and we might view this society as barbaric in some respects. They might decide that eating dead people is perfectly acceptable and a good way to recycle resources. It might look like an extreme form of libertarianism. In many respects, it may look like a lot of cyberpunk societies.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you know political parties would even exist? $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ For the same reason they exist today: they are the most effective way to get enough people to vote the same way so that you can actually get legislation passed. In a world without parties, every party has a membership of 1, which is a terrible way to decide policy. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2015 at 23:47

I'll try to take the question on its meaning, rather than nitpicking about words and definitions (which doesn't mean some other answers were not very interesting and enlightening).

My core assumption is that historically speaking, we have evolved to be more open-minded over time, especially since the Enlightenment brought rationality to a pole position. So all we need to do is extrapolate the current trend.

Looking at historic developments, we see several areas where close-mindedness has been overcome in current society. The belief that all humans are equal is reasonably recent and still not completely realized. Older societies are full of women/slaves/foreigners/unbelievers - basically everyone-who-is-different-from-me having less rights, lower status, etc. etc.

We also see the open brutality is closely linked to this ability to label "the other" as something less-than-human. While the western world today is without a doubt brutal on the 3rd world with exploitation and child labor and pollution, etc. - this is hidden brutality and wherever it comes to public attention, there is a scandal and actions to reduce it are started. But open brutality like public executions, war against civilians, torture, etc. seem to depend on a certain close-mindedness and would probably not exist in a completely open-minded culture.

I'm quite sure religion wouldn't exist. The whole psychological foundation of religion is basically "here are all the answers, stop thinking".

The next area is taboos. Every culture has them, and they always seem to fade away under rationality and open-mindedness. In the western world, sexuality is a topic largely covered in taboos, so I will use it as an example. While many of us today consider homosexuality a little creepy and disgusting (come on, admit it, we're all humans), the thought that gays should be put to death is far from most of us. Other parts of sexual taboos and restrictions are breaking up as well. Cheating isn't punishable by being stoned to death anymore. Open relationships are not yet quite acceptable to society, but if you have one you don't find yourself a total outcast anymore as well. "Deviant" sexual interests are largely accepted as long as you keep them mostly to yourself (it's ok to have them but they're not dinner talk subjects).

Compare that to medieval times where most of the stuff that journalists explore in person for a middle-of-the-magazine article would've seen them and their family put to death, you can see where I'm going. An open-minded culture would be accepting to different styles of fashion, art, music, sex and possibly drugs.

So basically, imagine hippie culture and square it, and you have a first impression.


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