human and natural ethics (was plant humans)

Crosby_M (
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 14:03:38 -0500

I wrote:
<I don't consider other 'conscious beings' to be *simply* units of
matter and energy for my own consumption and entertainment.>

The key word there was *simply*.

Joost asked:
<Does anyone really, ...or doesn't everyone ?>

Some do, some don't. That's the distinction between the trader and
the thief.

<Do you have plants in your house ? Are you not taking away their
right to have a chance to grow out in the open and reproduce, the
chance to flourish unlimited by the boundries of the little pot you
keep them in ? >

I have occasionally adopted plants that might otherwise have died.
Some I have successfully transplanted. Others I have left to their
own devices, providing only basic nourishment, and watched them wither
or flourish over time. (Although I do have one special garden where I
have steadfastly pruned a stand of wild blueberry (Vaccinium) bushes
over many years. I reap no bounty from this other than altruistic and
aesthetic satisfaction - and skinned hands - as most fruits are left
to the birds.)

_But_ it is not my duty to care for _all_ plants. Most must survive on
their own. That would no longer be possible if humans took it upon
themselves to control and cultivate _all_ of creation, as Pearce's
Hedonistic Imperative proposes.

<So what did you do to 'pay' back your computer today, for having it
serve your 'entertainment' and other purposes ? Or is a computer not
'conscious' yet ? Or is it the fact that we have created it, which
makes it OK.>

Computers are _still_ things that 'we' have constructed. We feed them
electricity (and data) and turn them on. To date they would have no
existence without us. I have no problem, however, with computers
eventually becoming intelligent enough to reproduce on their own, to
learn on their own (to have a will of their own?) (see ) I might say that
that day has already arrived because no one person 'creates a
computer' - it is the product of a larger organism, the civilization /
ecology that we are part of.

<Humanity is capable of both creation and helping other species
reproduce. With that comes responsability, i agree. But just like
someone suggested we should not project *ALL* Natural ethics to human
society, we should not project *only* human ethics on nature.
Balancing the two is relevant on both a personal and a social level.>

Balancing, yes ... Jaron Lanier, for one, has seen an imbalance
between 'pave-it-over' Extropians and Stewards (see ). For the most part, I
think this is a false distinction between conservation and
preservation, between cultivation in general and monoculture in
practice. I don't see any escape from natural ethics in the long run
and see human ethics as a subset of that (but I haven't really studied

<Regarding only natural ethics it is *wrong* to use animals and plants
for ones entertainment, but it is perfectly ok to consume them.
Regarding only human ethics you would see the opposite.>

Consuming another creature for its energy destroys that creature as an
independent entity. On the other hand, I can watch another creature's
actions for my entertainment without that creature even knowing about
it. However, if I interfere with that creature's freedom to support
my entertainment then, according to my ethics, I should attempt to
maximize its integrity and independence as much as possible (in terms
of Extropian principles, its self-ownership) while interacting with

<Its up to the individual to work out to what side he or she makes
that balance heave a little...>

Yes. That's why I don't like all-encompassing imperatives for how
things *should be* for everyone (as in Pearce's Hedonistic

As they say at :
<The mechanistic worldview saw the laws of nature as something that
uniquely prescribes how events should develop, with indeterminacy
resulting only from our lack of knowledge; contemporary science
regards the laws of nature as only restrictions imposed on a basically
non-deterministic world. It is not an accident that the most general
laws of nature are conservation laws, which do not prescribe how
things must be, but only put certain restrictions on them.>

Mark Crosby
(Sorry, busy reading the Principia Cybernetica pages on Metasystem
Transition Theory over the weekend. Maybe someone else can more
specifically address your distinctions between natural and human

BTW, I love the original 'plant humans' idea of people being able to
photosynthesize. One of my long-term dreams has been to be able to
sail around the world, always heading for that next exotic isle on the
map, able to _literally_ subsist on surf, wind and sunlight, just
soaking up rays, following the currents, tracking the Weather, Web and
Whither via satellite ... (kybernetes at increasingly higher, not
lower levels).