Re: A Bioethical Foundation for Human Rights

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Nov 01 2001 - 03:32:20 MST

On Wed, Oct 31, 2001 at 12:26:18PM -0800, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> 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.

When you start freezing brainwashed people, don't you think brainwashed
people will start freezing non-brainwashed people too? Or more likely,
have been doing it for quite some time. After all, westerners have been
brainwashed by zionist controlled media and a corrupt culture into a
decadent way of thinking, which is really hard to undo without extreme
measures or by placing them in contact with a normal, healthy Wahabi
societies. Hence the humane thing to do, while trying to make the world
sane and safe for fundamentalist Islam, is to freeze or execute
brainwashed westerners.

See the problem with your reasoning? The fact that some people have bad
mental software doesn't mean they are without rights, and when you start
to try to pre-empt their bad behavior by violating their rights they
will have even more reason to strike at you. There are far better ways
at pre-empting terrorism.

Right now many US schools try to pre-empt more shootings by detecting
"risky" students and expelling them. Does anybody think that will really
solve the problem of young people with very bad feelings about
themselves, the world and especially their peers? It does decrease the
risk for the school doing the expelling a slight bit, but it increases
the risk to society as a whole.

As for how much bad mental software can be undone, I think you are
unduly negative. There is a huge difference between the frontal lobe
insufficiency that makes many criminals "incurable" and merely a
self-reinforcing belief system. Still hard to deal with, and I doubt it
is workable to "treat" everybody for having the wrong memes (why them
and not us?), but there are other ways: gain the support from the vast
majority of moderate, average people for your ideas, and the
fundamentalists will be "treated" every day in their societies, the less
hardcore members slowly having their faith eroded and the real hardcore
members increasingly isolated and with less support.

I see a danger in that many people have got so scared by the current
threats that they believe they can solve the threats through some purely
technological-administrative solution, usually an extremely coercive
one. But such solutions seldom work practically, and they fail both
ethically and culturally - in the end I expect them to do much damage
and worsen the situation. Just look at what is happening to civil
liberties right now, and think about a similar panic about technology. I
have seen even otherwise rational transhumanists propose centralized
control over powerful technologies with little thought about
accountability, reliability and robustness of the scheme, just
motivating it by the argument that a disaster could be so bad that it
allows *any* countermeasures - without thinking of *better*

> 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.

Which is really what rationality is about: the willingness to update
your world model when new facts arrive, in order to make it fit reality

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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