(fwd) redefining `human'

Anton Sherwood (dasher@netcom.com)
Sun, 24 Aug 1997 23:50:33 -0700

(a posting of mine: I thought you might be interested)

Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written,alt.books.larry-niven,alt.gobment.lones
From: dasher@netcom.com (Anton Sherwood)
Subject: redefining "human" (was: Swearing in SF)

dasher@netcom.com (Anton Sherwood) wrote:
: > (My own view is that pretty soon now we're going to need criteria
: > for "human" that don't depend on ancestry; and fetus don't meet them.)

Sheldon Simms <sheldon@atlcom.net> writes
: This is a pretty scary thing to say, and I'm not talking about abortion
: or fetuses. It sounds like you would advocate that adult specimens of
: "homo sapiens" need not be considered human. That, for example, we might
: decide that "liberals" aren't human and thus without legal protection, or
: perhaps that "bigots" aren't human and may therefore be "put down", etc.

It is scary. But distaste (or specious analogies to Nazism) is no
reason to ignore the near certainty that our laws and customs will
have to change to accommodate machine intelligence, enhanced animals,
brainless human clones (organ banks), bio-gadgets using human brain
tissue cultures, experimental human-animal chimeras, human minds
copied into other media (and then altered or excerpted) ... or other
innovations I can't yet imagine.

If ever a bipedal animal that passes the Turing Test is denied human
status, we can confidently say that the rule of law has thoroughly
broken down, and people have other things than abortion (which is what
started me on this tangent) to worry about.

If nothing else, imagine the shopkeeper who, before accepting money for
a box of crackers, must demand documentary evidence that the purchaser
is "human" or risk prosecution (or forfeiture) for, in effect,
receiving stolen money (because only a human is a moral agent capable
of making a valid transaction). I hope that merchants, at least, would
insist on a broad definition of "human" rather than endure such hassles,
even if they privately would be pleased to see the world rid of liberals
or bigots or Jews.

Anton Sherwood   **   +1 415 267 0685   **   DASher at netcom point com
"How'd ya like to climb this high WITHOUT no mountain?" --Porky Pine 70.6.19