[extropy-chat] # What the #$?! are rights anyway?

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Fri Jun 16 02:57:02 UTC 2006

One possible way to argue "rights" from an extropic perspective is simply to
look at the information content (from a fetus to a species).  There was a
recent paper that I don't happen to have a reference handy for which I think
cited the cost of the creation of a new species (of microorganism) at ~10^23
J.  The only problem is that "speciation" may or may not depend upon a real
net gain of information.  The classical concept of speciation depends a lot
upon whether or not the organisms can reproduce, not whether there is a gain
or loss of information.  Another paper, I think from TIGR, cited the fact
that they were finding a small number (~5?) of novel genes per new bacterial
genome sequenced [1]. So one "might" assume that a new gene costs ~0.2 *
10^23 J (I'm playing very loose with the numbers here....).

I don't believe making a new fetus costs anything like that much energy so
(really stretching things) -- the worth of a fetus is significantly less
than worth of a species.  One can argue that the unique DNA content
(information) of a fetus may be of value -- but there are very simple and
inexpensive ways to preserve this (one can freeze the cells and preserve the
DNA from an aborted fetus *or* species becoming extinct).  You could stretch
things and say the cellular aggregate of a fetus has value and should be
preserved in an intact state but presumably this has lesser value than any
other living post-fetal (e.g. significantly more complex) human on the
planet.  So until one has eliminated deaths from causes like hunger and
other 3rd world preventable diseases (what the Gates Foundation is
presumably devoting significant attention to) expending time and energy on
preserving unborn fetuses would seem to be misdirected.


1. Given the relatively "common" blueprint upon which all known life is
based and the extent to which genes have been being cut & pasted for
hundreds of millions of years and the fact that we now have hundreds of
species sequenced -- finding something which is *really* different is
becoming increasingly less common.  But given the variety of environments on
the planet and the millions of species swapping blueprints one would expect
the novelty end of the curve to be quite long.
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