LAW/SOC: Prohibition and Novelty (Was: GPS Car speed control advancing in UK)

Date: Sat Feb 10 2001 - 06:19:33 MST

In a message dated 1/29/01 1:46:32 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

> This is what I was getting at. As the transparent society technology
> approaches, society will increasingly face the dilemma of what to do when
> they find that under the existing laws "everyone" is a criminal in some
> aspect of their life. The USA found that the Prohibition laws were ruining
> their society so they scrapped them. Today the USA prisons are filling up
> with soft drugs users and again ruining many lives unnecessarily. The
> prisons will continue to fill up until they see sense once again.
> Advanced technology can be used to detect more and more "crime" but there
> no point to it. Prison will have to be restricted to serious criminals. I
> see this speed limit technology as a sign of the way things will go in the
> future. Rather than detection and punishment , which is very expensive,
> society will go the cheaper route of either stopping the crime from
> happening or scrapping minor offences which are too much trouble to bother
> with.

There's a very interesting question implied in these observations that has a
vital implication for transhumanism. I was led to this question by reading
the above and asking myself why Prohibition (of alcohol) only lasted about a
decade in the US, but the "War on Drugs" has dragged out much longer, has had
effects on US society that seem to be MUCH more damaging, and yet shows no
signs of abating. Perhaps the answer is also suggested by the above:
Prohibition of alcohol sought to change long-established patterns of
consumption and behavior existing in a large segment of the society, while
WIDESPREAD use of the drugs attacked in the "War on Drugs" has been a
relatively recent phenomenon in the US (mainly since the mid-1960s).

This observation doesn't bode well for the capacity of society to accommodate
the kind of change we seek. Yes, there does seem to be a tendency for the
law to "back off" when it attempts to prohibit behavior that a large segment
of the population will engage in regardless of that prohibition. Thus repeal
of the prohibition on alcohol and the 55 mph speed limit. But when it comes
to accommodating new kinds of behavior deemed threatening by a significant
segment of the population, the legislative and enforcement apparatus appears
to be much less flexible.

I'm afraid that social conservatives may be much more tempted by improved
techniques of surveillance and enforcement to "nip in the bud" the kinds of
augmentation technology we seek, simply because it will not be widespread at
first and won't have a well-established base of acceptance in society. This
makes current efforts at cultural accommodation of change in general and
augmentation of the human animal in particular all the more important.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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