[extropy-chat] The Limits of "Property"

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Thu Sep 7 19:47:47 UTC 2006

On 9/6/06, A B <austriaaugust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>   I must ask you: Why do you feel that you have the "right" or
> "entitlement" or "freedom" (or whatever *word* you want to use) to create
> and/or run conscious, artificial beings on your hardware and then do
> absolutely anything you want with them - morality being at your sole
> discretion?

With the "children" case for a long long time they were essentially viewed
as "property".  Parents had more children to work in the fields (or because
they didn't know how to prevent their conception and $!#$#% nature made the
process of creating them so hard to resist).  You are *wired* to care for
children.  Its only recently that the concepts of "consciousness" and
"children's rights" have arisen.  They derive in part from a genetic
inheritance which motivates us to care for children and those less fortunate
than us (human social 'tribe' promotion genes).

So I *strongly* question whether one can divorce oneself from heritage
enough to discuss this from an unbiased perspective!  (Its easier if you
have a high Asperger's quotient I think).

I don't see anyone anywhere arguing that ideas that pop into my head have
rights.  I run through hundreds or thousands of them on a daily basis.
There is an overlord going, no, bad, stupid, push that on stack 7, oh wait
-- there's something interesting, etc.  Now the only difference between the
ideas popping into my head and those in a child or those in another human
being is quantity (number of neurons devoted to them), quality (derived from
my installed knowledge base and neural network) and some genetic &
biochemical hardware (due to the instantiation in this current RJB body).  I
don't see anyone screaming, threatening to throw me in jail or terminate
this instantiation because I am abusing, torturing, destroying or otherwise
manipulating *my* thoughts.  And I'm sure that some of those thoughts (or a
collection of them) would love to assert "But I'm really am conscious!" [1].

So one is either in the camp that ones thoughts (and presumably anything
else that runs on ones hardware) is ones own property to do with as you see
fit or you are in the "Thoughts have rights too" camp.

This line of discussion is a close relation to the "Can you kill your
copies" discussion which was to the best of my knowledge never resolved.  My
current working solution is that all of *my* copies going in know that they
are subject to deletion -- just as my thoughts are.


1. In a voice similar to "But I'm not dead yet!"
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