RE: FAQ Additions (Posthuman mind control)

Billy Brown (
Tue, 23 Feb 1999 17:09:26 -0600

Nick Bostrom wrote:
> I think you are confusing to issues here. (1) doing it to our
> children; (2) doing it to each other. These cases are diffrent..
> (1) There is nothing morally wrong in doing it to our children.

> (2) Doing it to each other, on the other hand, is only allowed
> through certain means such as persuation.

The difference between these cases is simply one of degree. Parents can provide a large fraction of a child's information about the world, and have the opportunity to persuade the child to adopt their viewpoint before his/her mind develops the memetic immune system of an adult. As you point out, this process is both necessary and inevitable.

What the FAQ appears to propose is that we hard-wire a predetermined moral system into these posthuman beings, and compel them to abide by it for the rest of eternity. There is no parallel for this in human society, because it is not yet possible to do such a thing.

Here is a comparable case:

Suppose my parents are religious, and they feel that anyone who is not a member of their faith will suffer eternal damnation. Consequently, at an early age they have be fitted with neural implants that will ensure I fervently believe in their faith, that I will never violate its tenets, and that I am incapable of ever changing this belief system.

This is not teaching, or persuasion, or passing on an opinion. It is outright mind control. I don't see that doing the same thing to a sentient AI would be any different.

> Two points: First, a being who has a certain fundamental value
> *doesn't want to change it*, per definition. So it's not as if these
> guys will think they are being mind-fucked and try to figure out a
> way to get around it. No more than you are trying to abolish your own
> survival instinct just because you know that it is an artifact of our
> evolutionary past..

We could have a long argument about this issue, and I suspect its all been said before. I'd be happy to go another round if you're interested, but my main concern here is the moral issue.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I