X-Message-Number: 16385
Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 00:09:43 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Reply to Epstein #16377

>As far as I am concerned,a wish to die is insane by
>definition,and the person who has it needs to be
>protected from its consequences.Others don't have
>a right to wilfully end your life,and NEITHER DO YOU.

I support free choice, but certainly I don't like it when people choose death.

> > To me a severed head is simply a kind of amputee (one needing special
> > support, to be sure, but so what?). A person without a leg or arm is still
> > a whole person, ditto with a severed head. Maybe only a few today would
> > agree--but that doesn't make the others right.
>Certainly it's possible for a small minority to be right
>about something when conventional wisdom is wrong.But
>I'm not saying this is such a case...and indeed,the
>lack of sustainability is a serious factor.

I don't see it as an important factor in the long run. Sustainability 
should be recoverable.

> > > > >The issues raised are not easily dealt with.
> > > > >Would it be considered abusive to ensure that a
> > > > >clone developed in an anencephalic state?
> > > >
> > > > An anencephalic clone is no person. So it ought not to be considered
> > > > "abusive" -- you aren't abusing anybody.
> > >
> > >Again,there will be people arguing this.Look at the
> > >anti-abortionists proclaiming zygotes and blastulas
> > >to be citizens with civil rights...they certainly
> > >have no differentiated organs at all.
> >
> > They are not persons either in my view.
>Yet they differ from persons in having the same sort
>of lack of sustainable independent existence as
>applies to severed heads.

This similarity is not what I see as important. In the one case, we have no 
brain, no consciousness, in the other, both (or potential for it at least); 
that's a big difference.

>At the present time,there IS a biological system
>(a pregnant woman) that can keep an embryo alive
>until it can achieve personhood.There is no
>heart-lung-etc. machine that can keep a severed
>head going...cut off the attached body,and it's

I'm quite confident we'll develop such a machine or support system. I've 
mentioned the anencephalic clone as one possible, albeit crude approach 
that is not too far over our present technological horizon. No doubt there 
are better approaches too.

> > >So a "pinhead" is not a person to you...is a brain
> > >by itself a person to you?
> > >
> > >How about a cerebrum by itself?
> >
> > I recognize the possibility of gray areas between person and non-person;
> > it's not always a simple matter to judge. Zygotes, blastulas, and
> > anencephalic clones seem to me to be so clearly on the nonperson side that
> > there is no reason to think otherwise. A whole, intact brain is clearly a
> > person, on the other hand, an amputee like the severed head. A cerebrum
> > also would qualify as a person, I think, because memories are stored there.
>Have there been any cryonics cases where just a brain was preserved,
>besides Luna Wilson?

Yes. I don't have a list handy, but there have been several.

> > A pinhead--I'm inclined to be lenient in cases of mental defects, as long
> > as you clearly have sentience, especially if it includes human properties
> > such as some ability to communicate linguistically.
>I've seen "pinhead" used as a colloquial term used for those
>born with anencephaly,not sure what others the term is applied

I thought "pinhead" referred to someone who was still sentient, not fully 
anencephalic. My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says simply, when 
applied to humans, "a person with a small head; esp. (fig.) a stupid 
person, a fool."

> > And all sentient beings
> > have some value as such, in my view, so this means you would tender 
> respect
> > toward even severely impaired humans who still were marginally sentient.
>Perhaps medical fixes for their impairments
>will be developed in due course.

I think so.

> > Even someone who is permanently comatose (by today's standards) should be
> > considered human if their identity-critical information survives in the
> > dormant brain (much as in the case of a well-enough preserved cryopatient).
>But of course we've yet to prove that
>cryopatients' brains in fact do have
>information preserved in them.

Well, I did say "well-enough preserved," and I hope there are such people, 
as many as possible, but yes, we don't know yet.

> > I hope to see the human species, meaning the biological entity we 
> presently
> > call homo sapiens, become extinct within a century or so.
>I want to see it last longer than any species in the
>history of life has ever lasted.
> > Of course we, the individuals, will (I strongly hope) live on and on
> > instead, having outgrown this earlier phase of our lives much as a
> > baby outgrows the crib and diapers. And I'm not saying we should
> > repudiate the past either--far from it. But we do want to go on to
> > better things.
>I see this impulse as self-destructive.
>You do not build upon your foundations by
>tearing them out,but by strengthening them.

I don't propose "tearing out" the foundations, but I don't propose 
"maintaining the building" exactly as is either. Yes, we need to strengthen 
the foundations and build in other ways. In time though, we'll surely 
outgrow our H. sapiens frame, and I think that time will not be too long in 
coming, on the scale of history.

>[snip] [W]e're all one species and need to break down the barriers that
> > divide us, which would involve some considerable appreciation of others'
> > diversity. I see value in differentiating, so long as there is mutual love
> > and respect, which is what we really need to cultivate and enhance to
> > survive. If we can conquer death, I would hope we can do this too.
>We are asking for barriers if we permit unneccessary
>diversity.The development of opposed consciousnesses
>has been a bane of human existence.Every war there
>ever was has been caused by division.The "I am a ---
>while you are a ____" mentality is bad for all.

Well, we need to get beyond this short-sighted, human-only level, and I am 
confident we can. Maybe it'll be hard, but I don't think fundamentally more 
difficult than eliminating death.

>Diversity is a fact of life to be accomodated...not
>a positive good to be celebrated.

Disagree with you there. I celebrate the magnificent diversity I already 
see, and hope to see ever more of it. Let there be more of it! (No 
fisticuffs please, though!) A dull world it would be, with too much conformity.

>Regrettably those
>who see a need to stop being moved to violence by
>difference forget that differences are for OVERCOMING.
>We need to make them LESS important to us,not more.

Differences may be for overcoming, but they don't have to be for one person 
or group overcoming some other, in grim Darwinian fashion. Differences 
could be used for mutual benefit, as in overcoming states of ignorance, 
overcoming causes of death, etc. (As an example, consider different groups 
pursuing different interests, such as research interests, in different 
ways, which I think would increase the rate of progress over all.)

>We need to grow by increasing the things we share,
>not the things that divide us.

Differences need not "divide" us, if we can take interest in them and 
respect people for not all being carbon-copies of each other.

> > What I think is that sufficiently enlightened beings will not have
> > interests that conflict so much as to lead to violence. I don't think we
> > should just create some artificial plague of locusts; what we do must be
> > very carefully managed, for reasonable, enlightened aims of betterment.
>I think that sufficiently enlightened beings will not
>sow the seeds of their own destruction by deliberately
>causing the emergence of entities capable of supplanting
>Can we really be sure of the results of such efforts...
>with the presence of Yudkowskians among us who would
>WANT our creations to get out of control and take
>control of us??

I think we can enlighten the Yudkowskians among us; we won't need our 
creations to take control as they've proposed.

> > >[snip]
> > > > If it expresses desire it is a being, regardless of its origin or
> > > > composition.
> > >
> > >A program made to print "I WANT _____" is a "being"?
> >
> > Sorry, I misunderstood you here. To "express desire" I was thinking 
> implied
> > to "have desire," but you could look at it differently. If a computer 
> types
> > "I want a bike" it doesn't necessarily want a bike.
>I would rephrase that that it necessarily
>doesn't...because being artificial,it is
>impossible for its desires to be real.

I wouldn't go that far. And I'm sure people made of real carbon and so on 
can in principle be made artificially. Would a person made artificially not 
have "real" desires? Then you can ask must a person be made of exactly what 
we're made of to have "real" desires. What if you replaced the carbon-12 
with carbon-13, as a start, or maybe used opposite-handed molecules?

>[snip] I don't recognize the importance of the "species." It's the
> > individual that counts. "Species" is just a convenient term to apply to
> > a set of individuals that have some particular thing in common. Its
> > application in biology is meaningful now, but will, I think, lose its
> > importance as we progress and become more than human.
>I am very suspicious of the concept of "more than human".
>It may have meaning as "human,and ALSO superhuman"...but
>the nonhuman must be necessarily seen as subhuman,


>and the
>survival of humanity rests on holding to that position.

You have to ask what is worth conserving and what isn't. I feel that my 
memories of where I've been and what happened, etc. are worth keeping, but 
I wouldn't feel that every detail of being human is similarly to be 
maintained forever. And if I became much smarter than I am now, and more 
kind and loving than people can be, that might be called "nonhuman" but I 
wouldn't think it "subhuman."

> > > > >I would,if in a position to do so,frustrate that hope of yours.
> > > > >I see such a desire,like a desire to die,as insane.
> > > >
> > > > Well, naturally I disagree with your position and would, if in a 
> position
> > > > to do so, frustrate your attempts to deny me what I feel is my right to
> > > > choose, and something not by any stretch of imagination insane.
> > >
> > >I see it as self-destructive,and self-destructiveness as insane.
> > >Turning yourself into something non-human destroys your humanity,
> > >while trying to unduly stretch the definition of humanity is
> > >a destruction of humanity itself.
> >
> > Ah, what does it mean to be human? Probably different things to different
> > people, as the old saying goes. To me, being human is something that has
> > its strong points, but weak points too, and ultimately, some unacceptable
> > limitations. So I want to become more than human. In a sense, then, you
> > could say that I seek to "destroy" my humanity, but only because I want to
> > develop into something higher, like a child wanting someday to be no 
> longer
> > a child. On the material plane, I think this will very likely involve
> > abandoning the protoplasmic body I am now expressed in. Properly handled,
> > it will be no catastrophe but quite the contrary.
>Again,a tree can grow,but it must never be torn out
>by the roots.

And I don't advocate "tearing out by the roots".

>To become something divorced from your
>origin is to cease to exist...a death as thorough
>as any other.

I don't advocate being divorced from your origin. You should remember who 
you were.

>A computer programmed to ape my thinking
>is not me...especially if it does not share my
>conviction that a computer programmed to ape my
>thinking is not me!!

To me this is stumbling over semantics. I have a computer programmed to ape 
my thinking right now; it rests between my ears. (Apologies to those who 
keep insisting "the brain isn't a computer". I'll grant it's not like the 
computers we presently build, but it processes information, so I call it a 
computer.) Another brain just like it, which has just been made and 
functions similarly, with my memories and so on, could lay equal claim to 
having been "me". And I think it's the information processing that counts, 
not the mechanism that does the processing, so in principle a brain could 
be realized in a non-protoplasmic substrate. I see no problem with this.

>And the abandonment of humanity would be a catastrophe,
>even MORE so because there would be those thinking it
>not to be so.
 From your perspective. Again, one must ask, what does it mean to be human? 
To my thinking, it doesn't depend, in principle, on the stuff you're made 
of but on how that stuff functions, processes information, and so on. 
Additionally, "being human" is just a stage in the life of a hopefully 
growing and developing individual. It's the individual that counts, not the 
labeling of that individual as "human." If we can live to age 1,000 and 
beyond, then surely our first 100 years will seem like childhood, but also 
I doubt if we'll still be slavishly sticking to the type of housing we have 
now. We won't be "human" in any biological sense, but will not have 
abandoned the beings we were, only developed ourselves to a higher plane.

>It's gotta end.
Right on!

Mike Perry

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