Re: Is the death penalty Extropian?

den Otter (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 14:30:43 +0100

> From: Paul Hughes <>
> <Den Otter wrote>
> I dunno whether it's Extropian (only Max knows ;-) , but it certainly
> is rational. Yes. I'd like to add that IMO, the punishment should fit the
> crime;
> serial killers/mass murderers/people who tortured their victims etc.
> should receive harsher death penalties than someone who kills
> just one victim in a relatively humane way. I also support corporal
> punishment for violent offenders, btw.
> <Paul>
> You claimed it is rational, but you have yet to demonstrate it. All you've
> said is an 'eye for eye' - since when is equal or greater vengeance
> rational?

Retribution that is approximately equal to the crime is about as just as one can get. An eye for an eye is the very embodiment of the "balance of justice". It is rational because it reduces unwanted complexity, and curbs one of the greatest enemies of (true) justice: arbitrariness.

>Vengeance is an *emotional* response, not a rational one.

True, but everything we do is ultimately based on emotion and random preferences. Without emotions, there would literally be no "meaning". However, when vengeance is channeled in the proper way (through a well-designed justice system), it can also be a very rational (or: practical) thing: it prevents future crime by deterring potential (re-)offenders, and in the case of capital punishment it removes a dangerous individual from society for good. You have the *guarantee* that he won't ever hurt anyone again.

> <Den Otter>
> Of course, the whole justice system would have to be revised
> before any executions can start.
> Main changes:
> --no age limit
> <Paul>
> So your advocating that we start killing 6 year olds? How compassionate of
> you!

Compassion in this context is nothing more than a fancy euphemism for "injustice". A kid that murders has lost the one asset that would make him elegible for a milder treatment: innocence. Perhaps even more so than murdering adults, young kids that kill are (especially when no serious harm was ever done to them) "pure" evil. P.s: there aren't too many murderous 6 year olds, most would be about 12 or up.

> <Den Otter>
> --video/audio footage (nation-wide camera system in public
> places with central databanks).
> APaul>
> Extropianism is about decentralizing knowledge and power. Your advocacy of
> creating a centralized databank is antithetical to this.

Not necessarily. It all depends on who has (or hasn't) access to the storage facilities. In my design, whenever some crime or dispute has occured, all parties (or their representatives) are allowed to search the databanks for relevant data, and use that in court. The surveillance system is basically meant as a crude "truth machine", or "collective memory".

> <den Otter>
> --lay juries are abolished
> <Paul>
> That my friend is a slippery slide towards totalitarianism. A jury of ones
> peers is so fundamental to a free legal system, that any argument against it
> smacks of a system ruled not by people, but by decree. Very un-extropian.

There are several objections against a jury system: -the idea of judgement by "peers" is rather silly. Are a random bunch of people your "peers"? Most likely not. In fact, if they *were* peers than you'd hardly ever have a conviction, as the jury will be protective of "one of its own" (example: all-white (male) juries that refuse to condemn a white man for killing a black man -- *that's* "peer justice"). -most "common people" don't understand much of the forensics that lead to a conviction, so...
-it all comes down to smooth talking. The slickness of the lawyers/ prosecution decides who will be convicted or not. The usually none- right jury tends to go for "emotional" appeals, not hard facts. -the jury is not motivated to give a fair, well-considered verdict. They just want to get it over with and go home. Giving a judgement based on personal prejudice or simply indifference carries no negative consequences whatsoever.
(there's probably more, anyone else want a shot?)

On the other hand, "automated law" is quite Extropian, as it increases the control of society on justice. It is no longer an arbitrary process, that depends on the random moods and preferences of judges and juries, but a clear and reliable procedure. If the law isn't consequent, it's not justice. Currently, we are still in the judicial Dark Ages.

> <Den Otter>
> --executions within a week or so after trial, unless hard
> evidence is presented by the defense.
> <Paul>
> So your advocating a system 'guilty until proven innocent'?

?? What I'm saying here is that after the trial it shouldn't take another 10 years or so before the sentence is finally carried out. Execution is *always* after due trial, when the suspect has been found guilty on the basis of the evidence presented. "Guilty until proven innocent" has nothing to do with it. The delay of a week or so is just in case there has been a mistake, and the ruling is no longer "solid".

> <den Otter>
> --killing a cryonicist in such a way that his brain is
> damaged beyond any conceivable repair (i.e. burning,
> rotting to a pulp, exploding etc.) should be punished
> especially severely (slow & painful death).
> <Paul>
> Again, you are advocating vengeance through *torture*. How is this rational
> or extropian? How will torture solve the problem? Your position is becoming
> increasingly silly and absurd!

The logic behind this is simple, and consistent with the logic behind the rest of the system: the more severe the crime, the heavier the punishment. Makes sense? Obviously, killing an immortalist is a much greater crime than killing a "deathist", as you rob someone of a potential eternity instead of just a few decades. Since the minimum punishment for murder is death, you must add something on top of that in order to remain consequent and (thus) just. Torture of some kind is the most logical (and probably only) option.

> <den Otter>
> --massive centralized surveillance system, for evidence and prevention.
> <Paul>
> Again, how is this extropian? Your advocating a centralized system - and who
> decides who will manage this system?

The databanks are fully automated, there is no real "central management", only maintainance techs that are monitored themselves. "Centralized" relates to the storage of data (in highly secured bunkers, with multiple backups). Whenever a crime or dispute occurs, all parties are allowed to search the files for evidence that support their case (of course, they're monitored while doing this). So, the system is really like a library of public life, it belongs to everyone and no-one. Everyone monitors everyone else.