[ExI] any dispute?

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Tue May 12 18:39:08 UTC 2015

Dave Sill <sparge at gmail.com> , 12/5/2015 4:58 PM:

Clearly meant to remind one of the Nazis. Wikipedia summarizes the dangers nicely:

"The main critique towards eugenics policies is that regardless of  whether "negative" or "positive" policies are used, they are vulnerable  to political abuse because the criteria of selection are determined by  whichever group is in power. Furthermore, negative eugenics in  particular is considered by many to be a violation of basic human  rights, which include the right to reproduction."

Which is of course a problematic argument against liberal eugenics, which leaves the choice up to the parents.

The interesting issue there is that the criteria may still be warped, but now the problem is the *culture* rather than political abuse. If everybody wants something stupid because everybody else wants it (or high status people want it, and people copy them), then bad results are likely. But how strong this anti-eugenic argument is depends on the empirical questions of what people may like and what the consequences are: they are pretty nontrivial. 

But if one think the badness of this argument is significant enough, one also ends up with an overall paternalist argument - why let voters vote freely if they all select the wrong politicians? (that argument more or less came up at a panel debate I participated in yesterday, http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/490 : the leftist sociologist gave a not too bad argument about how changes in how politics is done using focus groups produce a convergent state where all the main parties will produce similar policies and imprint them on voter values. ) But since one has already conceded that allowing politicians to determine important things (like eugenics) is bad, then one ends up with a situation where neither voters, nor politicians can be trusted with important stuff. So unless one believe one has some magical way of finding trustworthy competent people (*) one ends up in complete political nihilism. 

* Walter John Williams' "Aristoi" plays around with this and shows that even if by assumption that is true, things still don't go well. The problem is not just competence, but concentration of values. 

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