Re: US bill to ban all forms of human cloning

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 02:53:44 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 27, 2001 at 04:08:04PM -0400, Ben Goertzel wrote:
> >
> > It is indeed hard to grasp the mind-set of people who support this bill.
> >
> > This sort of thing serves as a reminder that what we take as obvious, the
> > majority of people think is ~really far out there~.
> It is also a sign that we need to make more inroads in mainstream
> thinking. It is not enough for people to have heard of nanotechnology or
> even know what it is, they better be able to integrate it with an
> ethical discourse.

Amen to that. But before they can "integrate it with an ethical
discourse" we need to do so ourselves. We don't speak often enough
about the ethics of what we propose or about its implications and how we
get from here to there. Without that, it is not surprising that others
have no context or pick up the context of those more fearful of the
technologies. Fear of change is far more wired-in and easy to invoke
than a positive vision of the future and how to get there and what
difference it makes.

> The exit strategy doesn't work. Where are all the top notch researchers?
> How many great researchers can you attract with promises of freedom,
> when they might get prosecuted if they return home, when investors dare
> not invest because they will be tainted in the media by association with
> "evil" and possibly even get hit by bills forbidding investing in
> unethical overseas research? Sure, you will likely get some heroes, but
> the modern scientific/technological enterprise does not work that way.
> To get somewhere, we need a lively open scientific discourse, competing
> labs, investors and the economic power of being part of the global
> economy.

I think the exit strategy can work. It has certainly worked at many
points in history. I don't believe that today is so utterly different
as to make it totally unworkable. Why not have the researchers and the
investors and everyone else concerned all move to where they are freest
to pursue their dreams? Let those who cannot or will not follow stay
home in the world they vote into existence if it is incompatible with
the creation of the future.

There is a dilemna here. On the one hand freedom from government
shackles and freedom from the will of the uninformed and partially
uneducable masses is essential to progress with the work. On the other
hand the work utterly transforms the lives of everyone. To what extent
do we have the right and even the obligation to choose for humanity?
This is truly a bothersome question. The flip-side of that is to what
extent does humanity have the right to limit the future to what some
reasonable quorom (if there is such) decides? To what extent are we
rogue outlaws assuming rights over all that we are not granted if we go
against these wishes? Do we freely own this label? If we do then can
we act suprised when some of the powers that be decide to treat us as
rogues rather than as heroes?

> The way to fight this is to deal with the underlying memes that make
> people make this kind of silly decision. We need to show why our pet
> projects are not just beneficial but ethical, and why banning them would
> be both impractical and immoral.

That may be an easy case to make in certain lines of genetic research.
It is a harder case when pitching an SI or full NT. There are enough
unknowns of catastrophic proportions to give anyone pause. There needs
to be a large enough vision of what this will do for everyone, not just
the few, and of what worse possibilities this heads off, that the risks
appear worth taking.

Along the way, looking for a country where more freedom can be had if it
turns out to be necessary is a good backup plan.

- samantha

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