Re: ExI: Announcing Extropy Institute's Transhumanist FAQ version 0.7

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 22:54:33 MST

Harvey deferred when cryofan asked about the sticky problems
of libertarianism and immigration. I tend to agree with
Harvey that there isn't an easy solution, but I will attempt
to parse some of the stickybuns...

> Since the Extropian movement is heavily invested in libertarian
> philosophy,

(Begin Side-bar -- Is it true the Principles are not linked into the current
ExI web site??? If so, I'd request this be fixed ASAP. I'm lucky
I had an old link in my history file... End Side-bar).

Checking both the Principles and the FAQ, I see no mention of
"libertarian". In fact "politics" is only mentioned once in
either document and only then from the perspective that we
should not "surrender independent judgement" with regard to it.

Libertarianism creeps in on the heels of "freedom", particularly
IMO on the "freedom" to evolve. However(!) the Principles also
cite the importance of "personal responsibility". I suspect that
"personal responsibility" involves a great deal of the self image
an individual may have and what communities one views oneself most
closely connected to.

> which purportedly stresses individual rights and property
> rights, how do the Extropians reconcile the "open borders" philosophy
> advocated by Extropians,

This trips *right* into the transhumanist ethical dilemma.
I'll state it as harshly as I can -- do "individual" rights
(from which property rights derive as an enforcement mechanism)
entitle one to claim a greater share of the computronium (matter
& energy) and thereby deny others with relatively equivalent
a priori claims their fair share?

I think this can be simplified -- "Which is better -- natural
selection or fairness?"

I'm fairly sure that I've said it before but it is probably worth
repeating -- if you opt for fairness (the human "social animal"
preference most likely) you are likely to end up with sub-optimal

This is in some respects a recasting of the captialism vs. socialism
or communism approaches to societal organization (yea, I'm sure the
readers well versed in political history may slice this analogy into diced
ham, but from my arm-chair position [not too different from J. Q. Public]
it works).

> with the fact that most American citizens oppose open borders

In spite of the fact that most Americans are descended from
people who took advantage of relatively open borders.
In part this is natural human xenophobia and in part this
is simple economics -- wanting to preserve the advantages
(position, connections, environmental adaptations, etc.)
that one has developed over one or more generations.

Make it really simple -- Why should I as a taxpayer with
no children in the city of Seattle be paying taxes to educate
the children of the XYZZY class of immigrants? The only
rational arguments I can make for this are if I plan to be
an employer and I expect to need an educated workforce
(or an extropian who would like more educated rational
people in the world -- but that is probably really stretching
the public educational system).

The immigration system by its very nature was designed to
promote production -- ~200 years ago it was designed to
promote the production of furs. ~100-150 years ago it was
designed to promote the production of metals and food.
~50-100 years ago it was designed to promote industrial
manufacturing. It is my sense that the immigration policy
is now passed on because those of us whose ancestors at one
point were able to use it as a point of leverage feel it
is only just that others should be able to do so as well.
In other words its a "generous gift" and not a "right".

To resolve this problem from an ethical perspective, one has
to construct a complete view of precisely what obligation
any human has with regard to the survival opportunities
of any and each other human.

> Seems as if Extropians would wish to trample
> the individual rights of most Americans by implementing open
> borders--not to mention taking the food out of the mouths of working
> class Americans by lowering wages with immigration...

One could have an open border policy with no guarantess of
"rights to work" policy. With sufficiently strict enforcement
there would be no lowering of wages. One could have a
"right to work" and "pay social security" with no rights
to benefits.

There are lots of possible architectures that would create
a more graduated system between the country from which people
might choose to emigrate and workin the U.S.A. Adopting such
architectures places us in the middle of the "fairness" issue and
I think that is someplace that the American public and ExI are
currently unable to reasonably position themselves.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:32 MDT