Re: FAQ Additions (Posthuman mind control)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 23 Feb 1999 16:46:27 -0800 (PST)

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

Even the case of children is not so clear-cut. While we place a very large amount of power in the hands of parents, we also place limits; correctly, if you ask me. You can pollute your children's minds all you want with nonsense, but you can't beat them, force them to work, neglect their physical needs for food and shelter, etc. Some exceptions are made even there for religious nuts: allowing parents to deny essential medical care or permanently lop off perfectly healthy parts of their genitalia for no legitimate reason (a barbarism we will outgrow eventually, I'm sure), but there are still limits (for example, you can only mutilate your child's genitalia in the US if it's a boy).

It is a legitimate concern what physical or "mental" limits should be placed on sentient beings we create. It does reflect upon us how we treat those over whom we have power.

Rights are a consequence of autonomy: we grant them to adults so that they can exercise their autonomy as effectively as possible without interfering with others or suffering interference from others. We grant some limited rights to children so as to encourage their development into fully autonomous beings. If we would think it unconscionable to make permanent physical modifications to a child that would restrict its future autonomy (and therefore its future rights), then we should have the same judgment for doing it to an AI.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
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