Re: Ethics and the Public

From: Simon McClenahan (
Date: Sat Jan 26 2002 - 16:37:46 MST

From: "Christian L." <>

> Eliezer wrote:
> >In terms of ultimate goals, if 99% of the people on Earth
> >don't want the Singularity for itself, they are welcome to stay on Earth
> >after the Singularity finishes, but I must deny them their moral right to
> >deny me transhumanity based on their own moral judgements. *That* part
> >unambiguous.
> Suppose the UN decides to ban all Singularity-related research because it
> "incompatible with human dignity". If I understand you correctly, you
> go ahead anyway to the best of your ability?

I know I would. Any person, government or society that wishes to oppress me
is going to get a fight. Not only from me, but from other people who have
the reasoning capability to understand why I do what I'm doing, and also
protesters who are against intolerance (who are pro-tolerance) for other
cultures such as Singulatarians that do have tolerance for other cultures
(or is that Extropianism?)

> The reason I ask is because I think that this is the most likely outcome
> a sufficient number of people understood the concept of the Singularity
> believed that it was a real possibility. The UN is now debating a
> ban on human cloning for no other reason than that cloning is scary stuff
> (see "dignity" above). And as you all know, the implications of cloning is
> nothing compared to those of the Singularity.

It's scary, but people will get over it. Cars are scary, kill thousands of
people each year, which was a lot more than say 50 years ago too. The next
generation of children will be born into the scary new world, and the old
people are going to die along with their fears.

> If not an outright ban on AI-related research, my guess is that you could
> face a 10-year moratorium on AI-research (precautionary principle and all
> that). In this timeframe, there could be nanotech grey goo disasters or
> have you.
> There is of course also the inevitable rise of neo-Luddite terrorist
> who would probably go to any length to stop you. The world will be at
> for them, literally. They could even have widespread public support.

Both of these scenarios I consider worst-case, because they would occur
through lack of reasoning and lack of tolerance. Fundamental Muslims,
Christians, et al. are intolerant groups of people, and they are diminishing
in numbers as we speak. Atheism (lazy-ism?) and agnostics are plentiful now
because their own experiences have shown them that the intolerant religions
just don't make sense for whatever reason.

However when you talk about "widespread" public support, I wonder if you
include the population of China. That's a whole culture I know very little
about, so I shall refrain from commenting or trying to guess as to what
their reaction would be to common technological changes elsewhere in the
world. How is the Chinese Windows XP selling? ;-)

> With all this in mind, and what Eliezer wrote above, I suggest a simpler
> of meme-spreading than what's been suggested by most people here: Don't do
> it. Don't spread the meme.

Absolutely not, and I hope you don't try to stop me if I ever do make a
concentrated effort. However, being the tolerant and reasonable person that
I am, I will listen to your arguments and maybe adjust my method

> The main problem is, as I described above, for every person that hears
> S. and is pro-S, there will be 10 that is anti-S.

Maybe I'm an optimist, but I think that there are more reasonable people in
the world to reduce that ratio by a lot. Say, 3 to 1.

> 2) If the meme start spreading anyway, it would be better if we put some
> positive spin on it to begin with.
> This is probably true, but I think what positive spin SingInst/SL4
> will be swamped by negative spin once the meme is out in the media. Some
> people have stated that the meme is bound to start spreading (like the
> HIV-virus i believe the metaphor was). I do not think this must be the
> (I could elaborate on this, but in a separate post).

Well the negative spin is obviously using the metaphor of the HIV virus.
Let's use a positive one, like a Great Oak tree, or heck, even the
resurrection of some respected celebrity, like Einstein.

> 3) People have a right to know. (This is mostly unspoken, but this might
> the strongest reason for some)
> People would also have a right to see the other side of the Singularity.
> the two "rights" are mutually exclusive (which I think they are), one must
> take precedent over the other. To me, the obvious choice is the

And to reasonable people, that would probably be the obvious choice too.
Again, I don't think I'm as pessimistic about the ratio that you or what
most of the people on this list seem to be. The Truth Is Out There!

> I think that making the S-meme widespread would harm your work more than
> help it. Since SingInst is thinking about paying people to do logotypes, I
> must suppose you don't agree with me. What are your arguments for this?

We need some sort of symbol or identification, otherwise how are people
going to get the meme? Who is going to have the first Singularitarian
tattoo? Eliezer? ;-) Maybe if we got him drunk in a brothel first ...


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