META: barfsome terminology

Damien Broderick (
Tue, 05 Oct 1999 12:04:18 +0000

At 09:46 AM 4/10/99 -0400, Robin wrote in reply to Greg's:

>>Same here. If I have to go down for the cold sleep, I don't expect to be
>>initially reanimated as a meat machine.

>I think uploads will really miss meat bodies for a long while.

One of the major problems we face in conveying our apparently outrageous ideas is a simple matter of tact versus self-preening shock value in the terms we coin and use.

I'd like to suggest that people stop using the term `meat' about human beings.

I know there's a tradition behind this usage. I realise it's partially meant to wean us off our enculturated regard for the contingent fact that minds are currently instantiated in flesh rather than on other substrates. But it's an unnecessarily offensive term, when you stop and look at it for a moment.

`Meat' is dead flesh intended for eating. Few of us eat human remains. Most people are revolted by the idea. Conflating healthy, alert living people with slabs of stuff at the butcher's counter is... well, it's counter-productive.

I'd like to suggest a moratorium on this usage, not because I'm squeamish but because a vast number of the people we'd like to guide to a better understanding of the coming world *are*. I'm not sure what term to offer in replacement, but perhaps *protein body* might do? That's also a tad dehumanised, but it doesn't have the swaggering adolescent taint of *meat*.

I don't mean to offend anyone who has used this term, certainly not the two excellent people cited above. But we need to be careful about the side-consequences of the words we allow to shape the reception of our ideas, which have a sufficiently uphill battle already.

[Now den Otter can take the podium and denounced `political correctness'...]

Damien Broderick