Arguing with a Power Was: Moral Complexity
Mon, 16 Feb 1998 12:56:00 -0800 (PST)

On Sun, 15 Feb 1998, Peter C. McCluskey wrote:

> ( writes:
> > If I were in a position to argue with a Power who was on the verge
> >of using the population of Poughkeepsie as ubergoo feedstock for some
> >transhuman construction project, I would say that respecting diversity has
> >the consequence of opening up an unforseeably richer range of pleasurable
> >[experiences, as well as providing a robust and resilient cultural
> >system better able to fend off dangers unforseeable to even such a
> >Power.]
> That might work for some harmfull things a Power would be tempted to do,
> but would be couterproductive in other circumstances. What about the
> Power who wants to have fun by watching how humans respond to random
> disturbances it adds to human society? A virus here, some random bits
> flipped there, could give it a richer understanding of nature than
> mere passive observation. I'd rather aim for convincing it to follow
> a rule which implied respecting our rights.

You're right. Still, I wonder if the very things that make it seem
questionable to extend a rights framework to register claims of nonhuman
pain will render human claims to rights similarly trivial to a Power. My
argument to the Power shoots for the double whammy of the appeal to hope
(unforseeable promise of pleasure) and the appeal to fear (safeguard
against unforseeable danger). I'm afraid that an abstract appeal to
shared "rights" might start to cash out as inconsequential to real conduct
when power/knowledge-assymmetries start getting too large. Doesn't this
happen already?

> Also, a Power will probably know enough that the example you set by
> your vegetarianism is very unlikely to convince it to change its moral
> system.

Well, I hope to spread the vegetarian meme as part of spreading the more
general and more important "respect diversity" meme, such that a widely
disseminated respect for beings will already infect the Power before she
or he (it, they, we) *becomes* a Power in the first place.

> >I see my vegetarianism as a dress rehearsal for Power ethics to come.

By which I mean to say, as much as anything else, that with all of this I
am also always arguing already with the Power I am liable to become
*myself* one day.

Very best, Dale