Re: Capital punishment

Eugene Leitl (
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 13:59:23 +0200 (MET DST)

I used to think a lot about death penalty for murderers as a kid. I then
thought that execution was nonviable, since making executor symmetrical to
its victim. The appropriate solution seemed back then to isolate the
offender irreversibly (in a kid's imagination: whisk away to alternative
universe, planet, etc.) to prevent future damage to the society.

A friend of mine currently proposes dedicating an (navy-) isolated island
to the terminal criminals, destroying their vessels should they wish to
depart. This takes care of isolation, but is basically sending prisoners
to an ersatz hell during their life time. Since every law enforcement has
a noticeable error rate, this seems inacceptable.

I see a big problem with death penalties in the US: costs for the death
row prisoner integrated over the entire time are easily sufficient to
maintain him during a life sentence. Unless implementation of death
sentences is low-overhead, the cost argument is inapplicable.

To reduce costs, I think one might use modern technology for solitary
prisoner containment (with adequate hygiene, food, and media access),
wether automated cells (I don't think anybody can escape from a solid
metal cell with external life suport), or home confinement, automatically
guarded by exploding implants or collars.

Whether above captive maintance expenses are acceptable to the society...
I dunno. An individual will pay private security to get rid of the
offender. By whatever means, provided they are cheap.

> You get to vote on the matter, try the case, or execute the person, if --
> -- and only if -- you agree to this procedure.
> If the man is convicted and sentenced, you must spend a month getting to
> know the accused, and get to know them, their friends, family and
> colleagues. Their unique and irreplaceable selves.

Why? Somebody has commited an atrocity. If the victims security system is
inadequate, we're forced to believe the evidence gathered by others. If
the evidence is very weighty, that person is probably guilty, and ought to
be permanently isolated from the society. If the code of that particular
society demands execution, and I have been selected randomly for its
implementation (But why? That should be the job for professional
security?). If I'd be reimbursed for that month of learning the details of
the case (But why? The jury has already investiated the case) I'd do.

> You must then try to learn what really happened, and why.

That obviously depends on the amount of data, and who has gathered the data.

> At the completion of the month, you _have_ to execute the accused _even if
> you believe they're innocent, and you'll destroy the hasppiness of others,

Then what is the point of that month? If I can't bow out: 1) this code of
this particular society is inacceptable, so one either tries to change the
code, or to depart the society. 2) On above terms: if I live in this
particular society and I get reimbursement for the one month, and a
possibility to bow out should this case appear fishy, I'd be willing to
play the executor.

> perhaps deprive the world of irreplaceable talents, and be executed
> yourself into the bargain.

Why for? I'd thougt the randomly selected executor's personality would be
held anonymously to protect him from possible violence from relatives?
What's the point to exposing the executor to attacks from the relatives,
risking modern equivalent of Scottish highland clan wars? I thought
current laws were meant as a point of reference (I know get tat if I do
tit), and to prevent violence runaways, these being detrimental to the
whole society I am a part of?

> Would _you_ accept these terms? If not, why not?

I would accept the terms I mentioned above. Not _your_ terms. However,
I'd rather subscribe to a society with a different code (life long
imprisonment rather than execution). Talking about execution in an
immortal society does appear a constructed case. There might be strife and
conflict even after the Singularity, or there might be none: currently,
this is idle musings.

> Would you ask _anyone else_ to? Seriously? How do you think they would
> reply to you?