Re: ETHICS: reprogramming others, trials, justice (wasRe:remorse, whatever that is)

Dan Hook (
Sun, 6 Jul 1997 11:25:22 -0400

> From: Michael M. Butler <butler@comp*>
> An interesting notion. It's true, I don't wonder if my toenails have
> nor even if an astrocytoma has rights. But astrocytomas are considered
> inoperable.

There is a procedure in which an entire hemisphere of the brain is removed
(its done in children, saw it in National Geographic). Besides some
problems with motor control, the children are fine. This is of course seen
as saving a life, not ending one.

> I'm confused, though--you use the term "polycentric law" as if it had a
> fixed meaning, then announce what it will be "more like". Help me out,
> here: what are you on about? How is "polycentric law" any more principled

> than a kangaroo court?

Polycentric law is just another way of saying privately produced law. That
has been discussed recently. Polycentric law applies to a human level of
communication speeds and boundaries between individuals. Agoric computing,
while now taking into account only the desires of human beings (since the
computers have no desires), will turn into a system that AIs can use to
modify themselves. Since the boundary between individuals is indefinite,
polycentric law is somewhat inappropriate because the boundary between
centers is blurred and privately produced law is also indefinite because
what is private as opposed to what is public is also rather blurry
(consider, what is going on inside my head right now is a completely
private matter, even if nothing else is, but that may not be the case in
the far future when high bandwidth communications construe advantages to
individuals at least as a great as the advantages of forming eukaryotic
cells was to various microorganisms). Therefore, agoric computing is
probably the best term.

> Apart from that, where does the notion of property rights go? "Hogging
> resources than it's worth"? To whom? Than whom? Them Injuns weren't
> *using* the prairie, they was jest a-*sittin'* on it. Pass the smallpox-
> infected blankets. Sarge.

The notion of rights in general is a confusing one. If someone has no
mechanisms for protecting their rights, of what use are they? If rights
must be protected to be possessed, what is the difference between wants and
rights? Privately produced law dose not care about rights anymore than
does democracy. What PPL does have is a better chance of coming up with a
libertarian society.
In the post-biological world property would not have the same meaning as
it does now. It would more properly fit in with self ownership. It could
be said that an entity surrounding a star was the star to a certain extent
because the star is internalized. As to the ownership of raw materials and
space, they would go to the first entity to get them. In the end, they
would probably be used in the most efficient way possible as more efficient
uses come in from the far flung corners of the paved universe.
Those who cut themselves off from any larger entity would miss out on the
benefits of high information exchange and would probably fall behind to the
point where they are incapable of defending themselves and there only use
to more powerful entities is as raw material. It is somewhat disturbing to
think of beings more complex than humans as raw materials but think of the
uses fish to humans. They could do things other than feed us but feeding
us is the most efficient thing they can do by our standards, and we have
the fishing nets.
As to the Indians, the tragedy of the Indians was that they failed to
unite in large enough groups, and they were the target of hatred, which
sets aside rational cost-benefit analysis.

> Sounds about as ethical as Salmonella in a petri dish.

Very possibly so. The model for the post-biological future would probably
be the ecosystem as opposed to any system of justice purely human emotions
have devised. We like to assume equality between individuals but that
simply may not be possible beyond humanity.

Dan Hook