Re: A Bioethical Foundation for Human Rights

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Oct 31 2001 - 13:26:18 MST

William Web wrote:

> Those that behave in a criminal and irrational, uncivilized manner can
> not be defined as human, transhuman and certainly not posthuman. At
> best, they can be called "prehuman".

There are lots of problems with this.

First, what is defined as "criminal" varies from culture to culture.
In the U.S. many drug offenses are felonies. In the Netherlands
they carry much less significance if any. In the U.S. we provide
the death penalty for many serious crimes while in Europe that
is generally viewed with disdain (in spite of the fact that at
least some evidence suggests it does act as a deterrent to violent

Second, terrorists are not "irrational". Their behavior is *entirely*
rational given their beliefs (that they will be awarded 72 virgins
upon arrival in heaven, that the U.S. is out to destroy Islam, that
the Jews are infidels, etc.). Their behavior is to be admired because
given their beliefs and their rational pursuit of such beliefs they can
overcome genetic programming that would tend to seek self-preservation.

Third, the "uncivilized" societies are those that allow themselves
to be guided by secular materialistic perspectives instead of
allowing the wisdom of Allah to guide their actions (at least
from the perspective of many millions of people).

Reading the link that Joe provided to the NY Times article:
about the Islamic schools was rather enlightening. Up to 1 million people
being brainwashed ~every decade to base their actions on a book 1300 years
out of date. This includes being indoctrinated to despise Israel and the U.S.

As much as I admire Anders and his generosity towards wanting
to save as many people as possible there are perhaps two problems.
First, at least at this time his concerns about getting on a plane or
opening his mail are significantly less than mine (so he can afford
to be generous). Second, given what I presume he knows about the
strength of the programming of the brain during critical plasticity
periods (presumably being taken advantage of by the schools that are
"brain washing" young people with radical Islamic beliefs) can such
beliefs ever *really* be "reversed" (short of sending nanobots in to
undo the neural connections)? While there is some fraction of people
on the list who demonstrate that neural "foundations" can be reversed
I do not believe we have any concrete data on the degree to which
this can be accomplished successfully. If the numbers are 1 in 100
to 1 in 1000 then I would begin to consider that freezing (or executing)
brainwashed individuals is the optimal strategy until such time as
it is clear that defensive capabilities exceed the offensive leverage
of terrorists. On the other hand if 1 in 10 are recoverable, then
it may make sense to proceed in a much more strategic fashion hoping
to imprison (defuse) such individuals until the technologies become
available to extract misconceived memes.

There is no "concrete" evidence that the Extropian/transhumanist perspective
is "correct". We simply believe that we are. This is no different from
the Muslim fundamentalist belief that their perspective is "correct".
There are certainly many more of "them" than there are of "us". So
in terms of absolute numbers, we are clearly misguided. We are misguided
not only from an Islamic fundamentalist perspective but most likely also
from a Christain or Jewish fundamentalist perspective. So while we can
invoke the "rationality" perspective, I really question whether the
ground that concept stands on isn't quite swampy. It was once rational
to consider the world was flat or that physical constants never change.
We know now the former is wrong and the later is up for serious challenge.

I suspect there is little difference between the mental surgery that will
be required to excise improper beliefs from the brain states of millions
of individuals with "misguided" beliefs and executing them outright.
In both cases one will have to destroy the individual as they conceive
themselves in order to replace it with something more functional with
respect to the world as a whole or extropic principles. There may be
a very big difference between individuals whose behaviors may be due
to complex genetic interactions that allow them to behave criminally
in an otherwise civilized environment (perhaps part of the violent
offender profile) and individuals whose entire foundation of beliefs
and the community in which they live is oriented towards the acceptence
of violent acts to eliminate any entities who disagree with their beliefs.


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