Re: Is the death penalty Extropian?

Damien Broderick (
Fri, 27 Nov 1998 16:11:49 +0000

At 05:02 PM 11/26/98 +0100, Max M Rasmussen wrote:

>Your theory is that the fear of a long sentence will make them think twice
>about programming themself for violence. This is indeed a logical
>conclusion. The only problem is that the punishment does not seem to have
>the wanted effect. Thus the empirical data does not support the theory.

There was a bleak, hideous instance of this failure on TV news here the other night. I've forgotten the details. Some guy, perhaps in Ukraine or one of the other former Soviet nations, is on trial as the greatest serial killer in the country's history. He's murdered, I dunno, 58 kids, presumably after doing nasty things to them. I have the impression that the state was on the verge of abolishing capital punishment, but public pressure now insists that it be retained `to deter future killers of this kind'. Yeah, great plan. Look how well it did with deterring him!

Which is a different point altogether from the proposal to erase such individuals to prevent future crimes by them and to save the costs of containing them. But it is still worth wondering if retaining judicial killing has such a warping and hurtful effect on everyone else concerned that the polity is harmed irretrievably by it.

Frankly, I haven't made up my mind about that - but in the meantime, I'm agin it. (If we *did* have reversible cryo, that really might be a bridging answer.)

>If that is so, what can we do differently to make them run the right

To make them *want* to act in ways that don't impact so ruinously on other people - yep, that's surely the biggest, hardest problem. Everything I've read suggests that formative experiences, especially cruel loss of warmth, love and creative expression, are the key. Which makes it hard to intervene in the vicious cycle if you hold parental autonomy sacrosanct.

Damien Broderick