Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Getting Real With Ethics

The following article, including some unfortunate and random bad words, was generated by the Full Information Security project on September 8, 1993. Experienced marriage counselor George Dvorsky has since drawn inspiration from the article for his side contract job writing click-generating blurbs for the Roddenberry/Lucasfilm marketing venture known as "io9." (A link to his satirical variation on Ms. Cue's article is provided at the bottom of the original.)

These Pre-Platonic Ethical Questions Are About To Become More Interesting To Middle Class Westerners

As a small subset of international megacorporations publicly release products using the technology they've developed after a century of using financial and intellectual property laws to justify the consolidation of humanity's recent achievements in the hands of a tiny set of inbred elites...after this, popular television, movie, and book audiences will get to reconsider a number of thorny moral quandaries first posed, in recent memory, by legions of twentieth-century science fiction writers, and before that, by popular philosophers and everyday thinkers for millennia. Once lower-class movie-viewers and middle-class book- and internet-readers are encouraged to think anew about these topics, they will again "matter," and so are on the verge of becoming "highly relevant."

Should people be allowed to clone themselves?

There's currently a global moratorium on human cloning. But you just know that’s not going to last. Back in 2007, Korean researchers successfully made several human cloning breakthroughs, but were gently encouraged through formal diplomatic channels to research at a slower pace. It'll only be a matter of time before a properly-licensed subsidiary develops a way to clone humans that allows for a humans to be patented, and the results are publicly released and celebrated. This year has already seen two major advancements in this area by properly-licensed institutions, including the use of cloning to create embryonic stem cells that can be distributed both safely and profitably through corporate medical networks, and a new technique where mammalian cloning lines can be extended and reproduced indefinitely, allowing for increased control of the food supply by sensation-less feed animals. Regulators are laying the groundwork for anti-farming legislation that will ensure that pragmatic American liberals in the second half of the twenty-first century will support Democratic animal rights bills that, for moral reasons alone, prohibit the production or distribution of unlicensed food (see "The Humane & Affordable Husbandry Act Aimed Toward U.S. Consumers" of 2064, otherwise known as the "HAHA US Consumers" bill).

Many uneducated people consider the act of corporations cloning humans to fill anticipated labor positions to be an affront to our dignity and individuality. This is hard enough to believe on its own, but many incredibly naive people also consider it wrong to bomb, shoot, poison, invade, or besiege and starve un-cloned people. On the flip-side of the debate, cloning supporters say there's no harm done so long as clones have the same rights as "naturally born" people, such as the right to vote for a prominent financial services functionary who will be responsible for ordering the signing of pre-written bills by auto-pen, in addition to being responsible for making speeches about the deployment of depleted uranium munitions in free-fire combat zones where millions of starving children live.

Is it okay to introduce non-human DNA in our genome?

This branch of science is called transgenics — the intermingling of human and non-human genetic information. Properly-educated, degreed, employed, tax-grant-receiving, corporate- and government-overseen scientists endow lab animals with bits of human DNA all the time, but we're sure that the opposite has never happened, because neither NPR, Fox News, CNN, or even the New York Times has reported on it. And in fact, it's illegal virtually everywhere that members of the public are allowed to visit. Some worry about the creation of chimeras — creatures that are part-human and part-something-else. Supporters say that it could result in novel therapies, such as the injection of awareness drugs into military helicopter pilots flying 28-hour no-sleep strafe patrols over Arab villages, or the prescription of anti-depressants and mood-regulators to drone assault technicians. Since none of these things has happened before - and certainly not on a large scale - cool concepts like "cloning" can help us contemplate whether novel occurrences like using science to alter appearance or behavior might happen in the future.

It’s possible, for example, that a non-human animal has a natural immunity to a disease, so far as we know from limited observation of certain types of animals being exposed to certain precise strains of disease under a very limited set of circumstances. Wouldn’t we want to endow ourselves with this same "immunity"? Just like making heavy use of penicillin and hand sanitizer, corporate experts and government regulators see no possible downside to these ideas. More radically and speculatively, it’s also possible that more substantive animal characteristics could be introduced into humans for a price, much as elites nowadays can afford to live in zip codes not currently being bombed by Air Force jets, visit physicians for preventative care, and so forth. If their available product options were expanded, what’s the harm? Would we diminish what it means to be human for rich westerners who can afford to become super-healthy, super-strong immortals, ruling over a lesser class of baboon-brained savages?

Should parents be allowed to design their babies?

Should we allow a Gattaca-like world to come into existence? Like human cloning, the idea of genetically modifying our offspring still falls within the realms of illegality and taboo. Its supporters call it human trait selection; it's [eds.--grammatical error duplicated] opponents derogatively refer to it as designer babies. Either way, it would allow wealthy parents to work with their fertility doctors in exclusive clinics in California or the northeastern U.S. seaboard to select the characteristics of their progeny, including non-medical attributes like hair and eye color, height, intelligence, greater empathy, sexual orientation, personality type, and basically any other genetically influenced trait.

What are the most important areas of scientific research?

Our civilization is currently facing a number of grave challenges — everything from superstorms through to epidemics and the rise of apocalyptic threats. Our wars against Eurasia and Eastasia are not a grave challenge, except that the stupid sand niggers are dying too slowly and keep trying to have babies and use their own oil. However, science fiction writers and technical geniuses like me do not need to concern ourselves with such rubbish. It is the Republican Party's fault, anyway, and we only voted for it and funded it and made it worse because we were being forced to by invisible geopolitical powers that your puny neanderthal mind cannot possibly understand.

So, when it comes to the funding of important scientific research, what makes the most sense? Obviously, we should not be ending genocide or war. We should not be ending starvation, homelessness, or poverty. We must, instead, be responsible, and direct our attention to cloning, and the ethical issues appurtenant thereto, as though they were different than ethical issues that have arisen ever since people realized that inserting sperm into egg might produce a child. Being extremely well-educated, science fiction blurb writers are familiar with the issues raised by Metamorphoses, Book X. They have so thoroughly analyzed Pygmalion's dilemma that they can authoritatively state that the issues raised by "cloning" are, in fact, new issues (rather than re-recycled sequels dressed up in new packaging to surprise and delight people unaware that these issues have always been there).

Should people be forced to die once indefinite lifespans are achieved?

Biological aging is a problem, because anything that our greatest corporations do not control is a problem. If something feels unpleasant to us, like getting older, that proves that it should not happen, and that we shouldn't have to put up with it.

Some people might say that if a group of fetuses with PhDs were discussing ethics, they might discuss the "problem of birth," and how to eliminate it. This would lead, of course, to the fetuses never discovering what happened after birth, and essentially destroying their development as living beings. However, our scientists are wholly different: we know that we have seen the full width and breadth of the universe, so our only question is how to use the tools we already know we are going to build.

Remember to think like an educated westerner: it's not "should we build an atomic bomb?" but rather, "whom should we bomb next?"

Anyway, the day will eventually come when the problem that is biological aging is finally solved. Needless to say, the advent of indefinite lifespans could result in some serious negative consequences. We might see overpopulation, if a bunch of stupid poor people are allowed to live too long, instead of a carefully selected group of elites. We might see the rise of a gerontocracy: a faction of incredibly powerful elites who control the world by virtue of inherited power (which is completely different than what we have now).

Even worse, for the science fiction fanboys who are reading my article, would be the widespread boredom and restlessness caused when even Americans get bored watching recycled medieval social-posturing and sex dramas. We might even see a de-valuing of life. No, not already-worthless lives, like the six million Congolese and Sudanese that America's most recent presidential administration has murdered. We're talking a worrisome de-valuing of REAL PEOPLE lives: a de-valuing of normal people who have mortgages and cars and bachelor's degrees (and who are not Muslim and who have not traveled in the Middle East).

Such a turn of events would be highly problematic, to say the least, and a complete affront to OUR civil rights (i.e. the right to buy medical insurance from one of three administrative conglomerates, the right to live granted to certain citizens of certain countries, etc.). So how are we going to deal with the prospect of indefinite lifespans once they start to emerge?

Should we have guaranteed universal income?

Within a few decades, the global economy could face a collapse the likes of which most white suburban Americans have never seen. As robots replace manual workers, and as thought workers start to get replaced by artificial intelligence, unemployment rates in the countries that matter could reach staggering levels, entirely unlike now. The concentration of wealth could become extremely atomized, which has never happened before. It would be a disruption similar to the one caused by the Great Depression — an economic and social catastrophe that ushered in the modern welfare state, where the state ensures that people have the right to work for any employer that has an offering and chooses to hire that person for a wage that may or may not be a living wage prior to the deduction of payroll taxes.

Can only real humans be persons?

Further, there’s also the issue of non-human animal personhood — the notion that some animals, owing to complex cognitive and emotional attributes, deserve the same sorts of legal protections afforded to all humans who matter. Last year, an international group of scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they proclaimed their support for the idea that many animals are conscious and aware to the degree that some humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus. As we’re also learning, insects also exhibit some remarkable cognitive capacities. Unsurprisingly, animalistic humanoids in many areas of the globe - including Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Ethiopia Afghanistan, Niger, Zambia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and many other places - were not included on the Cambridge Declaration, as they were deemed "not cute enough." The scientists took immediate steps to notify all world governments of their objection to the mistreatment of certain species of birds, while reassuring the governments that they would continue aerodynamic- and biological- weapons research to aid in the more efficient elimination of Persian Caucasians, niggers, sand niggers, Laotian and North Korean species of bipedal "speaking apes," and other creatures of immoral and/or non-pragmatic existential value.

Needless to say, not everyone is onboard with these ideas. Because of a lack of sufficient exposure to western popular culture, many people actually fail to see the urgent necessity of more animal rights movements. It's largely taken for granted, owing to our position of privilege, that we can exploit animals and use them as we see fit, whether it be for meat, our entertainment, or for medical testing purposes. Unlike sand nigger four-year-olds attending "weddings" or trying to get something to "eat," though, ethical people realize that animals must not be exploited.

Many would argue that only certain humans living in certain countries can be persons. They would say, for example, that it is murder for President Obama to order that Sally, a white girl, be shot to death on her way to school, but that it is something else entirely - foreign policy - for President Obama to order that seventeen little Afghan girls be turned into gravel-choked bolognese sauce on their way to school. This is the basic tenet of liberal exceptionalism — the idea that people chosen by the teevee should always occupy an exalted place atop the food chain, and that there’s something inherently and intangibly special about pop culture.

(Here's George's satirical version of this article: These Unresolved Ethical Questions Are About To Get Real.)


  1. oh, how timely. I was just poisoning myself by dwelling on how much one of my trans-humanist, singularity-anticipating friends annoys me.

    Things started so well - I was finally happy to have an actual above averagely smart person in my circle. Until the disdain for actual life and actual humans begun to seep through, at which point I realized that my silly, religious, annoying, but warm mother in law and other relatives may be better companions in comparison...

    Trying to escape from life and trying to escape from history (which is what basically the singularity psychopaths try to achieve by putting so much hope in technologies that will "change everything") are exactly the same thing.

    1. <3

      It's hard to consistently say, or feel, "better" about any of the standard models. There are vast problems either way. But then, there are vast problems in trying to make each group see the positives in the other. They're always good at saying they see the positives--even enthusiastically, independently, poetically so--but getting them to experience the positives in others would mean that they'd be able to simultaneously see the corresponding negatives in themselves. That's hard to do.

      If there were a Christian inquisition on, rather than a techno-consumer one, the standard religious people would probably seem more annoying. So many of the techno-consumers now are consumed (sic) with battling the ghosts of the Spanish Inquisition that they're generally unaware of their own crimes. Worse, they're not particularly keen on the details of old inquisitions; they only have pop textbook or movie versions of what zealotry actually looks like.