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

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Fri Jun 16 13:40:30 UTC 2006

I think the points made thus far (by Lee, Amara & MB) are all reasonable.  I
was simply trying to point out that "rights" don't exist the same way other
nouns exist (a dog, a cat, a car, etc.).  As pointed out they exist in a
social context by agreement between entities (beings?) who can claim or
assert those rights.  Where this gets fuzzy is when we start attributing the
rights to entities who are incapable of asserting those rights (e.g. animals
or pre-human beings) and in cases where you have something which can assert
rights (an AI or a self-copy) but there is no "body" to to associate those
rights with. Just as in the case with animals we are getting into the social
discussion of creating "rights".  (E.g. An AI has the right to never be shut
down or a copy has a right to demand their fair share of "run" time on the
computronium in the solar system.)

Now, from a perfectly "extropic" perspective, one would argue that all
unique information has value and a right to exist.  So an "EXTROPIAN" would
argue strongly that even a single bacteria with its unique information
content (even bacteria within a species may have specific mutations in its
genome -- like the unique information a mind copy would accumulate if it is
allowed to run for any period of time).  So when we hit the wall of easily
available resources (matter & energy) decisions will need to be made with
respect to what information (e.g. bacterial DNA sequences) get saved and
which copies are allowed to have run time.  This in turn depends upon the
context in which the value of various types or quantities of information is
determined.  For example, Ted Bundy or Al-Zarqawi may have contained lots of
information but society still chose to erase that information (an extropian
might have argued that they should have been frozen to preserve their
information content while eliminating the threat that they represented).

The debate gets sticky when one tries to produce a rational basis for
asserting rights that everyone can agree on.  So for pre-humans it is
commonly the claim that they have "souls".  For dogs and cats its the fact
that they can feel pain.  For AIs its the fact that they are presumably
self-conscious or self-aware.

Of course as Michael points out we have slipped into the reality where even
thinking about certain things can be deemed criminal [1].  So we have a
situation where the actions of those in power use the power to retain that
power.  (IMO my friends that is something to be very concerned about.)


1. I *still* assert a right to think about nuking Mecca.
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