[ExI] bees again

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon May 20 07:45:04 UTC 2013

On 20/05/2013 03:21, Dave Krieger wrote:
> 2) Intensive research to develop a means of keeping roaches out of the
> home that is cheaper and more effective than insecticides...
> preferably one that the roaches won't adapt to tolerate within a few
> generations.

I think the main solution here would be to have a biological defence 
force for the house, able to adapt to the roaches and other pests. A bit 
like my relationship to spiders: I love having them around, since they 
will catch the insects I do not want in my house.

On 20/05/2013 05:04, spike wrote:
> So sure, we don't like them in our homes. But there is a definite 
> terror response to the cockroach that isn't seen for beetles which can 
> be nearly as big and ugly, isn't seen for butterflies which are 
> actually bigger but just as harmless as the cockroach.

All societies have rankings of animals as "clean" and "unclean", whether 
anchored in religion, tradition or just free-floating memes. Cockroaches 
in our culture are symbols of uncleanliness, butterflies symbols of 
evanescent beauty. The fact that at least tropical butterflies like to 
drink from available faeces and blood (it is the potassium they want) 
doesn't matter: people do not care too much about those boring 
scientific details. I think most of these responses are learned and 
arbitrary. There is no profound reason for people to love butterflies 
and hate cockroaches, and if somebody told me about a culture with the 
opposite view I would not be surprised.

It is very similar with what kind of meat to eat. There is no society 
that eats all available forms of meat in their ecosystem. Typically the 
acceptable list is much shorter, and many entirely edible kinds are 
excluded because of religion (pig, cow, horse, bat, all meat), cultural 
affinity (dog, horse, guinea pig), purity (shellfish, insects, pidgeons, 
carrion eaters), health concerns (rabbit), the meat being seen as 
famine/poverty food and so on. As all the other societies show, you can 
eat things that you think are taboo with no problems. But try getting 
most people to do it!

There is also a strain of biophobia in modern western culture. Our 
cleanliness idea involves a lack of uncontrolled organisms in our 
environment. The fact that this is nearly impossible doesn't stop 
people, and they do often use unnecessarily strong means in the futile 
battle. I think this is partially tied to a long strain of 
cleanliness-hygiene-sterility ideas in the modernist tradition. We 
should go for ribofunk as quickly as possible.

Ah, time to put up my new bugs on the wall. (Yes, I said bugs: these two 
boxes are full of hemiptera, not coleoptera)

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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