Re: Arguing with a Power Was: Moral Complexity

Peter C. McCluskey (
Fri, 20 Feb 1998 09:00:15 -0800 ( writes:
>You're right. Still, I wonder if the very things that make it seem
>questionable to extend a rights framework to register claims of nonhuman
>pain will render human claims to rights similarly trivial to a Power. My
>argument to the Power shoots for the double whammy of the appeal to hope
>(unforseeable promise of pleasure) and the appeal to fear (safeguard
>against unforseeable danger). I'm afraid that an abstract appeal to
>shared "rights" might start to cash out as inconsequential to real conduct
>when power/knowledge-assymmetries start getting too large. Doesn't this
>happen already?

Abstract ideas aren't very compelling without some personal incentives
to back them up. Without knowing what a power can forsee, it is hard to
tell whether the incentives you've identified will work.
I don't agree that power/knowledge-assymmetries neccesarily makes shared
rights unreliable. I think mutual respect for property rights is a kind
of right which, once firmly established, essentially all participants have
an incentive to defend the system, and adding mechanisms to discriminate
between entities that want to use it would detract from the system.
Particularly in the case of digital storage space (which will almost
be equivalent to life for an upload or AI), the obvious ways to respect
rights involve creating a neutral set of rules that don't include any
way of measuring how intelligent the actors involved are.
See <a href="">The Agorics Papers</a>
for some hints about how a computational ecology could evolve under which
an entity as dumb/powerless as a random number generator would interact with
humans on essentially equal terms.

>Well, I hope to spread the vegetarian meme as part of spreading the more
>general and more important "respect diversity" meme, such that a widely
>disseminated respect for beings will already infect the Power before she
>or he (it, they, we) *becomes* a Power in the first place.

The "respect diversity" meme is one of the reasons I'm biased against
vegetarianism - I want diversity in my food.
I don't see how valuing diversity implies giving plants a different
status than animals.

Peter McCluskey  |  | Has anyone used           | to comment on your web pages?