Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Thu Jul 10 2008 - 04:32:05 MDT

>> But everyone can see that it's morally dubious, even those who profit
>> from it. If this weren't so then no-one would make efforts to conceal
>> it and, by definition, it wouldn't be corruption. So there is a core
>> of ethical principles common to almost everyone, even those who
>> routinely flout them.
> I agree with that. (Well, except for a few truly amoral or sociopathic
> types.)

I disagree (see my previous post on the subject). The mafia is not a
sociopathic institution (though it is degenerating into one). It used
to be a nationalistic organisation, with certain codes of honour, a
great respect for family values and religious ones, with certain
attributes of a government, and occasional bursts of benevolence. It
was all this, at the same time as it was a murder and extortion

The great risks to human kind are precisely people who believe they
are behaving in a highly moral and ethical fashion; upgrading them on
their road to higher morality will make the situation worse, not
better. Corrupt politicians are better than rigid fanatics, unless we
are very lucky in our choice of rigid fanatics.

>> I speculate that given this, the free
>> availability of mind modification (changing one's own desires,
>> including second and higher order desires) would bring about a
>> fundamental change in society even if all else remained equal, and
>> that this would be a change for the better.
> I agree. Thanks for clearing that up, and sorry if I didn't see
> your point earlier.

I tend to disagree :-) Some people will get better, some will get
worse; and there will be less of the "in-between types" to link the
different groups.

> At least people will pick for their *children* upright (even if
> no-nonsense and practical and real-world) behavior.

Children who don't lie would be good, and, if thise were known,
wouldn't even be at a disadvantage. Children who will eternally cling
to the same religion, or to the same set of political ideas, are less

I could live with some sort of mandated flexibility, though; as long
as modifications don't totally close the door to evolution of
opinions, and as long as they remain realistically reversible, then I
think that self-modification wouldn't make the world any worse. But
could make it a lot more interesting.

> Yeah, well, unfortunately fiction usually seems to require conflict,
> and it doesn't sound like there's much potential for conflict here.
> Uploaded, people may live happily ever after, and that's all there
> is to it.

The Culture novels take a good stab at describing a society where most
people are happyish. Ok, admitedly most of the action takes place away
from the Culture itself...


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