Re: Future Technologies of Death

Wei Dai (
Fri, 2 Jan 1998 22:58:38 -0800

On Thu, Jan 01, 1998 at 04:39:25PM -0800, Hal Finney wrote:
> Two messages illustrate the point I was trying to make about kneejerk
> reactions. Nick Bostrom proposed a hypothetical machine which would scan
> a person and determine whether they had commited a certain crime, without
> revealing any other information about them. He asked:
> > What legitimate reason could anybody
> > have for not wanting the law enforcing agency scan his mind with this
> > device in order to find out if he had commited a crime?

Rights of the accused seem to function mostly as insurance against
law-enforcement error. If the entire law-enforcement process as a whole is
100% accurate, then there may be no reason for the accused to have
rights. But 100% accuracy is impossible. Even if the probability of error
is very small, it may be that most people are risk-averse enough to want
the accused to have the right of refusing being scanned.

Another possible answer is that we want law-enforcement to be less
efficient, not more. In an ideal world where all relationships are
consensual, no law (unless it's unanimous) would be enforceable.

If you could extract a single bit from someone's mind-state, what would
the bit encode, and whose mind would it be?