Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: J. Andrew Rogers (
Date: Sun Jan 04 2004 - 20:16:51 MST

On 1/4/04 5:20 PM, "Tommy McCabe" <> wrote:
> --- "Perry E. Metzger" <> wrote:
>> By the way, Tommy, eat any good pate de foie gras
>> lately? Mmm, tasty.
> I don't even know what that is.

Pity, that.

> To rephrase: a
> 'sentient' organism is one that experiences qualia,
> and thus has the opportunity to experience negative
> qualia.

What is this qualia you speak of? Am I sentient or not, if I don't believe
I have qualia? You think you experience qualia, but do you really? Maybe
you just *think* you do.

The utility of this definition is obvious.

> I really don't have that good of an idea where
> the dividing line is on Earth, and I am not too eager
> to find out, because of people's tendency to
> rationalize to justify hurting animals.

What makes you think sentience isn't a gradient, a continuous measure of
hardware capacity?

I think a much simpler answer is that humans draw the line where it is
convenient for them to do so. Some vegans exclude no animals, most humans
exclude all or most animals, some humans might excluded blacks or Jews, and
I could exclude everyone who is less intelligent than myself. None of these
is more correct than any other because they are all based on the apparently
false premise that sentience is an "obvious" Boolean property of all living
things rather than a continuous measure of an intrinsic property of some
types of machinery. I have yet to see a Boolean measure of sentience that
was anything but arbitrary.

Where the line is drawn doesn't really matter; its existence largely serves
as a cheap moral justification when killing another organism. No point in
sugar coating it or pretending that your line is objectively more special
than any other line. The universe doesn't recognize your line regardless.

J. Andrew Rogers (

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