Re: Mainstreaming--wasRe: US bill to ban all forms of human cloning

Date: Sat Apr 28 2001 - 06:10:15 MDT

[I will NEVER catch up if I take correspondence out of order . . . but I felt
this post called for comment from someone whose work deals with the subject
under discussion.]

In a message dated 4/28/01 12:22:28 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> On 28 Apr 2001, at 0:24, Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > On Fri, Apr 27, 2001 at 04:08:04PM -0400, Ben Goertzel wrote:
> > >
> > > It is indeed hard to grasp the mind-set of people who support this
> > >
> #I'll give you a big part of it right here: They're opposed to the
> artificial creation of life for the express purpose of profit or
> experimentation/torture or spare parts. As am I--for which I've
> recently been labeled a neoludd, moron, technophobe, etc. etc.
> (really quite an entertaining accusation, but I digress...). Were I
> these things, I'd support this bill, which I do not.

Expressed as you have here, I'd say this position could fairly be
characterized as "luddish". You say that the "artificial creation of life
for the purpose of profit or experimentation … or spare parts" is wrong (I
leave "torture" for later comment). Without a clearer definition of the
terms "artificial" and "life", your position seems indistinguishable from
that giving rise to the proposed law under discussion. Is culturing bacteria
"artificial"? It is certainly "life". What about a simple human tissue
culture? Is doing so for the purpose of developing a new drug, which one
then sells for economic gain, doing this for "profit" in a way you would
oppose? How about a complete human organ?

As for "torture" - is an experiment in which cultured pathogenic bacteria are
exposed to antibiotics "torture"? If one ascribes moral subjectivity to the
bacteria, then it would certainly seem so. What if the bacteria are
transgenic? Sounds "artificial" to me.

Obviously there are degrees and spectra of "life" in a moral sense.
> > > This sort of thing serves as a reminder that what we take as obvious,
> the
> > > majority of people think is ~really far out there~.
> #Glad to see someone realizes this.

As someone who works in the "mainstream" world of law and governance, I'm
well aware of how "really far out there" some of our ideas are. So were
Baruch Spinoza's and, for that matter, Thomas Jefferson's (at least to many
people) in their own times.
> > It is also a sign that we need to make more inroads in mainstream
> > thinking. It is not enough for people to have heard of nanotechnology or
> > even know what it is, they better be able to integrate it with an
> > ethical discourse.
> #Couldn't agree more--yet when morality/ethics issues are raised
> here, they are ignored at best, dismissed or ridiculed at worst. 'Tis
> troubling, to say the least. The term "techno-cheerleader" (coined
> by..?) is not at all inappropriate.

John, this is simply untrue. *I* coined the term "techno-cheerleader" (at
least here) and for good reason. But not to characterize the many fine minds
who have engaged in many extended discussions of morality and ethics here.
Rather, it was to make a caricature of how we COULD be misunderstood, if
those discussions were ignored. It seems you're ignoring them. Just because
every single message in every single thread doesn't contain a moral caution
doesn't mean that most of us aren't well aware of the deep moral issues
raised by transhumanism. In fact, extropianism is, in many respects, a
statement of moral principles in response to the prospect of transhumanism.
> #There is ***in general*** no sense of balance, of restraint, of
> forethought, caution, or consideration of consequences.

I just don't see how you can reach this conclusion. Consider the lengthy,
recurrent discussion of social transparency and privacy which arises almost
every time someone mentions a new development in the technologies of
information gathering. Consider the inevitable moral discussions which
accompany consideration of uploading and cognitive transformation
technologies. And the long-running discussion of "augmented" versus
"synthetic" minds is nothing if not a protracted exercise in "forethought,
caution and consideration of consequences."

> Pointing this
> out draws ad hominem attacks--first refuge of those unable to support
> their positions with reason.

I'm not going to get drawn into commenting on the comments about the comments
that have been made about meta-meta-meta observations, but I will simply note
that your statements above seem to me to be unsupportable generalizations.
> #It would be very easy to do a dismissive writeup on the movement,
> presenting the views of the most hotheaded and vocal individuals as
> being typical and representative (taking great care to note their
> affiliations), and print it somewhere prominent. I would not do such
> a thing--both because it would (I hope) be inaccurate and also
> because I agree with many of the concepts espoused by transhumanism--
> but others may well.

Saying that you could hurt a group of people by picking out the least
appealing members of the group and then depicting them as representative is
true but, with respect, so what? You could do the same thing with any
congregation of people, from the most "mainstream" political party to the
group of people gathered at the coffee machine at the office. Sure, we're
more vulnerable to such tactics, because our ideas are challenging to the
great majority of people. I'm certainly aware of this and have on occasion
spoken strongly against ideas I think have the potential for damaging
transhumanism by confused association, especially racism and eugenics. But I
wonder what you would propose as an antidote to the problem you perceive; a
"speech code" in which it is mandated that every discussion of advanced
technology must be accompanied by a "moral impact statement" less we be
mischaracterized as mad scientists?
> #Transhumanists themselves do their cause far more damage than any
> neoluddite opponent could hope to manage. This was the meaning of my
> "not ready for prime time" comment. The general observations made
> with that comment explain why. The Principles and the practice do not
> coincide. As I said then, this is a pity.

I won't ask you to "back this up" with examples - you could only do so with
an exhaustive analysis of the list's archives. But I will ask that you
suggest some solution to the problem you perceive.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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