Re: evolved viruses

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 20:01:16 -0500

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > I sure hope Eliezer doesn't cook up something in his basement
> > lab that will destroy the economy of the northern Andes, or
> > he's going to have a lot on his conscience, and it probably
> > won't be very pleasant for him when he realizes just what he's
> > unleashed.
> There's a lot more to it than the economics, though I agree that
> alone is an argument against it. I cannot, off the top of my head,
> name an abusable chemical substance that doesn't have some other
> valuable use: Cocaine is indispensible in eye surgery, opiates are
> the most effective treatment for intractable pain, alcohol is a
> good antiseptic and fuel, hemp is a strong fiber, amphetamines can
> treat many psychological disorders, even Nicotine has shown some
> promise of medical use.

Obviously, if I can crack a crack ghetto without obsoleting any medical
procedures, i will. I just don't think I can. And while opiates such as
morphine might well have medical uses that would outweigh even the necessity
of busting the ghetto, I think that the eye surgeons could probably use
something synthetic. Or you could keep a bit of cocaine in sealed greenhouses
to use for eye surgery; I'm sure that some druglords would have sealed
greenhouses anyway.

Even if cocaine comes back after a while, it's okay as long as (1) the brief
hiatus has busted up the ghetto and gotten everyone unaddicted, and (2)
cocaine is legalized so we don't go all through this again.

The government made all these drugs illegal, which was a major mistake. Now
we have to repair the damage. If that requires coercive force... well,
problems created by violence often require violence to solve. We would be
quite fortunate to get away with so little as a non-coercive force-evolved
virus to repair so long a history of law and repression.

> Destroy the plants, and you destroy not only their evil uses, but
> their good ones, and the good uses of any other plant that might
> evolve from or be bred from it.

If the government steals your home and gives it to some innocent fellow, and
then a Libertarian government gets voted in, can you use coercive force to
deprive this innocent fellow of his home? The most merciful way to do it
would be to knock him unconscious and transport him elsewhere. That way, at
least he doesn't have to become a criminal just for defending his home.
Target his location, not him.

My point here is that the government screwed up, and now the doctors have to
pay. Some injustice is inevitable; the problem is minimizing it.

> That some uses of a resource destroy people's live is undeniable
> and unfortunate, but the resource itself is the wrong place to put
> the blame.

What would you do, bearing in mind that it has to work? Drug legalization is
all very well, but what if the crack ghettos are still there?

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.