ETHICS: The Marginalization of Humans and the Abortion Issue

Thu, 5 Mar 1998 20:30:17 -0500

As I see it, the abortion debate has very little to do with the value of life
or what it is to be human. Its purely about individual freedom. If the
individual freedom of people were not at stake there the abortion debate would
be less robust by several orders of magnitude. An illustrative example: If you
polled 100 people from both sides of the abortion issue they would probably all
agree that the unnecessary death of children after birth should be avoided at
all costs. There is little dispute of the value of life after birth. Yet
40,000 children die each day from hunger. The developed world drops a virtual
Hiroshima bomb on the Third World every two days in the form of depravity. In
the last three years the number of children that have died from starvation in
the Third World outnumber the number of abortions since the Roe v. Wade

If we're talking about the value of life, the pro-life crew should view the
abortion issue as ancillary to the world hunger issue. The key difference is
there is not an individual freedom issue attached to the world hunger issue.
The foundation of the pro-choice movement is individual freedom. They view
this issue as tantamount. So while it may make the issue appear noble and
dramatic to view it as a debate as to what is human, we've proven time and
again that even if we make the determination that a group is human we still
have little problem with subjecting that group to inhuman conditions for our
own benefit.

What does all this mean? Simply that the distinction of someone or some group
as human does not guarantee they will be treated like humans. We've
rationalized such treatment of "other" groups (slaves, Jews, Muslims,
Christians, laypersons) in the past based on viewing of particular group as
less than human or at least less profound than we are (the vilest use of
Darwinian theory).

I believe this issue will (and perhaps has already) arise in the future as the
utility of a large portion of the human population will be marginalized to
virtually zero. This marginalization might occur through the technologies such
as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and so on. Drexler wondered about
this situation (created by the establishment of a robust molecular
nanotechnology) but did not speculate about how it might play out. What
happens when large metaorganisms (governments) no longer need large portions of
their populace to function? What happens when these metaorganisms determine
they can function more competitively if it did not have to allocate (waste)
resources on this surplus and useless human baggage? Of course, the
metaorganism will act through its instutitions (legal, social, military,
political) its society to explore ways to deal with these problems. The
significant question becomes: What happens when the "lives" of metaorganisms
come in direct conflict with the lives of large portions of the human

We've set a dangerous precedent. Historically, we've found it easy to
marginalize different groups in the interest of greater society. But
metaorganisms have always needed most of its populace (and even wanted to
increase its populace) to propser. A unique circumstance may loom in the
future where we are not needed. This also becomes an issue for transhumans.

Transhuman concepts of human enhancement may help us or harm us. A
superintelligent human might be able to do the work of several regular human
scientists or engineers. Or a new "arms" race might be a transhuman race
between governments, how fast and effectively can a government take its
currently surplus/useless populace and enhance them to a level that makes them
valuable may be new competitive test.

I would appreciate people's insights into these issues and into faults in my

Doug Bailey