Re: Essence Vital (was)Ahumans

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Fri Jan 21 2000 - 08:25:17 MST

On Thu, 20 Jan 100, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> It is the _information_ about how those molecules are arranged that is
> unique and valuable; and it is that information that we wish to
> preserve, not the mere physical substrates.

Precicely. The "crime" (using the term in its most relaxed sense),
in the lost of potential human beings (whether it is via a natural
or an induced abortion) is the information about whether that
collection of molecules "would have worked". If 50% or more of
natural conceptions end in abortion (according to one issue of
Science), then there would appear to be lots of faulty working sets.
The cyronic preservation of the potential working set (of genes
and imprinted information) seems unnecessary in an era when storing
the information in a "nondestructable" form is possible. [Remember
we still have the C14 problem eventually destroying the viability
of the frozen embryo, though it currently looks to be a minor
problem for full cryonic suspension patients. Presumably the
fewer cells in the embryo make the loss of even one that much
more significant.]

> The only information value of a zygote is its genome. A human
> being that was born and lived contains far more information: all
> of their life experiences and ideas and successes and failures. A
> raw genome can't be anywhere near as valuable as that. Our
> intuition and legal system that sees zygote as something less
> than a full human being is a correct application of this fact.

In fact, rationally there would be a fairly linear increase in
stored information during childhood and early adulthood. Implying
that killing an adult is a greater crime than killing a child (more
information is lost). However, once you are an adult and you
switch from rapid information accumulation to the exercise of
crystalized information, your "valuation" probably ceases to
change much. I would agree that you accumulate memories on
a linear basis, but question whether those memories have as
much value, since so much of it is redundant information.
So killing an old adult perhaps isn't much worse than killing
a young adult.

So if our legal system were completely rational about it it would
take into account the degree of information loss associated
with a murder or wrongful death. This may be used in the medical
system in a different way, when there is a discussion of "years
of potential life lost", but I'm unsure the degree to which
this gets carried over into the legal system.

The development of the technologies that could "genotype" the
cells resulting from an abortion and "assemble" a human genome
from that information will substantially diminish the loss
that occured. Furthermore, a fuller understanding of the
genome would allow the assembly of a genome without the "defects"
that were present in the original. So, IMO, in the long run
if you want a "natural" child, in the most rational way,
you would have a "natural" conception, perform an abortion
to get the information, then reconstitute a new embryo without
any defects (leaving in place the many combinatorial variants
that the "natural" process provided). The question becomes
the degree to which parents would still want to go to the
genetic lottery. Of course, given the expense and trauma
of abortions, it probably makes much more sense to do this
process "in vitro" with the egg and sperm as starting points
for the genotyping.


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