RE: future pets

Dan Fabulich (
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 21:18:50 -0400


Tony Belding wrote:
>I'm opposed to the whole idea of animal rights for exactly this reason -- it
>sets a bad precedent for the future. If you recognize animal rights, what's
>next? It all comes down to economics. See if you can follow my reasoning
>You could recognize rights of robots, if they meet some certain level of AI.
>At some point you would have to call it "sentient" and recognize it as a
>person instead of a mere machine.
>THEN it might be considered improper to own them. That would be slavery.
>They would have to be set free and be paid for their work. (Why do you call
>them FREE if you have to PAY them? No, don't answer that!) Under these
>circumstances, the robots change from being *servants* of humanity to being
>competitors. Instead of finally lifting the burden of WORK from our
>civilization, the robots would simply take our jobs and leave us with

When I pay you for your labor, we BOTH benefit: I for receiving your labor,
you for receiving my payment. Robots would be no different. The argument
that anyone could do our work and leave us WORSE off as a result is dubious
at best.

>There are four basic economic resources: land, labor, capital, and
>entrepreneurial ability. I see the coming era as a change from a
>labor-oriented economy to a capital-oriented economy. This change has
>started, it happens whenever workers are replaced by machines. The ultimate
>goal should be for *all* workers to be replaced by machines, and all the
>former workers become capitalists -- owners of the machines. But if we grant
>that sufficiently advanced machines might also be /people/, then it throws a
>monkeywrench into the whole plan.

If the robots ARE people, then we're right back to a labor oriented economy
again, only with a different type of people doing the work.

Try thinking about it this way: each sentient robot we create is like
giving birth to a new child. Now, since people on average produce more
than they consume, it has long been true that increasing population
increases economic wealth per capita, and that successive generations have
become increasingly productive. The nations of the world, including the
world's poor, have grown richer as a result. The upshot of all this is
that a labor market with lots of sentient robots is not only not bad, but
may be the best thing that could possibly happen to us.

With respect to ANIMAL rights...

I've been uncertain about animal rights for a long time now. I'm basically
a utilitarian, and I support a libertarian conception of human rights
because I believe that doing so will help to maximize human utility. From
the perspective of the human race, then, respecting the utility of animals
(especially that derived from owning the property where they live) would
cost us dearly with respect to our utility.

However, this is not a valid argument for neglecting the utility of
animals; it only shows that in doing so we would have to make certain
unpalatable concessions. This same argument could have been used by a
slave owner to justify the economics of racial slavery.

What I can say is this: animals cannot and do not respect law, contract or
the utility of other animals. Some animals do respect the land of others
or engage in "altruistic" behavior with respect to other animals, but
others are carnivorous, aggressive and/or selfish to the point of killing
others to achieve their ends. We would not accept such behavior if it were
a human doing so to others.

Similarly, we cannot treat animals' transgressions of "animal rights" in
the same way that we treat a human's. In human society we can contract
with someone not to destroy the animals, we can imprison them for not
respecting animals' homes, we can educate them as to why this may not be in
their self interest. We cannot even begin to hope to do this sort of thing
to other species. Animals cannot understand a contract, nor would they
understand the nature of imprisonment and would not therefore adjust their
strategies on a game-theoretical payoff grid. Carnivores, with few
exceptions, cannot be taught vegetarianism.

For the reasons I have described, I cannot use the utilitarian argument to
support a libertarian conception of rights; even if the animal would
benefit from my respecting its rights, it would not and could not respect
mine. Thusly, at least for now, I reject the argument for animal rights.

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