Safety & Security [was: The Politics of Transhumanism]

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 08:49:45 MST

On Mon, 21 Jan 2002 wrote:

> I'll just say (again) that extropy involves self-direction
> and open society (two extropian principles). Libertarian views fit
> with those principles extremely well. But those principles do not
> exclusively require a libertarian view. While they certainly do
> exclude highly statist views (which presumably would be allowed in the
> WTA), they are compatible with non-libertarian views where those are
> clearly intended to support self-direction and maintain an open society.
> I believe you are referring to the idea that we can use technology to
> alter the human condition. I agree that such a view can and probably
> will be combined with socio-political views that are neither
> libertarian nor even individualistic or democratic. Nationalist,
> racist, collectivist, and even religious forms of transhumanism seem
> possible.
> My own preference is for us to build pro-freedom forms of
> tranhumanism, especially the extropian approach (self-direction, open
> society) so that we don't *need* to ally with unsavory forms of
> transhumanism.

I think there are perhaps three vectors this may move along that may
define relative positions that people may choose. A PBS special
last night, pointed out that in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has
safety & security coming right above basic biological needs (water,
food, temperature range, etc.) As we can expect robust nanotechnology
to eliminate most concerns with regard to the biological needs, then
safety & security would become the "primary" need. Safety & security
come back to trust. Do you trust your water supply, do you trust your
tire manufacturer, do you trust the accounting firm and board of
companies you invest in, do you trust individuals from foreign nations,
do you trust those closest to you, etc. [The local news in Seattle today
has a woman being arrested for assaulting her significant other with her

One vector may be the "Jeremiah Johnson" Vector.
In this vector, individuals, make their own laws, are responsible
for their own resources, provide their own security, etc. It is
perhaps the ultimate libertarian perspective. This may be the
ideal vector for people with high Aperger's Quotients. Most probably
these people go live in the Oort cloud where they have plenty of
warning for anyone approaching them.

Another vector is the "Delegated Trust" Vector.
This is not much different from the current state of society. Most
individuals are happy to delegate the creation of trust to various
levels of law and government. We do not want to have to deal with
the details of knowing that our water, tires, investments, etc. are
trustable. We would rather structure our society that to a large
degree there are structures that produce implicit trust. However,
as recent examples (911, Enron, the Seattle news) show, the "weakest
link" in this is people. How does one produce safety & security in
a society in which people are the greatest threat? One sub-vector
may be building sufficient "safety" & "intelligence" into potentially
dangerous objects that people cannot easily use them dangerously.
Planes inherently avoid buildings, cars will not start when they
detect alcohol in the air surrounding the driver, cars refuse to
be driven into people. This is in some sense the spirit of Asimov's
"Laws of Robotics" ( extended
to non-robots.

However, people are clever and can certainly find ways around the
safety built into their environment. So for the ultimate "trust"
sub-vector people would have to be implanted with physical, perhaps
even mental "governors". These would not allow one to execute physical
actions (i.e. blocks at the primary motor cortex level) that could
be threats to others. This might be extended to levels where one
cannot even "conceive" thoughts that are threat to others (or yourself).

The final vector is the "Open Source" (transparent society) Vector.
In this situation the minds of individuals are completely laid bare
for outside examination. Minds would be examined to ensure they
are sound -- i.e. cannot suffer epileptic siezures while driving
a car or plane and have sufficient internal restraint mechanisms
that they would simply *never* be able to use vehicles of expression
for their emotions. One might have organizations verify that
individuals are trustable (delegating trust verification), or one
might be required to do it oneself (Jeremiah Johnson verification).
One could in these circumstances only allow individuals who place
product and shareholder investment safety as their *first* priorities
to serve as executives, and on the boards, of public corporations.

I think if people think about these vectors they will see that
they all may serve as appropriate environments for transhumanism
provided people are free to choose which one they may live in.
If we kept this in mind, then some of the debates on the list
might be a lot less fractious. Instead of trying to make one of
these vectors the "right" vector, it may make more sense to
accept they may all be appropriate for different types of

The questions then become how to safely get from our current
state of affairs to a multi-vector solar system *and* how
to handle the security and trust relationships between these
vectors and with individuals who cross from one vector to another?


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