Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Thu Jul 10 2008 - 07:34:09 MDT

2008/7/10 Stuart Armstrong <>:

> 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.

Most people who act in a way that they consider completely moral won't
want to change anything. If they have a twinge of guilt about
something then they are more likely to modify their minds so that
their behaviour changes in a way that will diminish the guilt, or not
modify themselves at all, rather than the alternative solution of
simply removing the guilt. Guilt could be seen as a manifestation of a
higher order desire: the way we would like ourselves to be, or the way
we would like to like ourselves to be. And while it is easy enough to
think of situations where guilt can push someone in the direction of
greater evil, for example jihadist who feels guilty because he is
squeamish about killing infidels, I still think that in the majority
of cases guilt would tend to drive people to modify themselves in
order to behave better, not worse; "better" and "worse" being loosely
defined as what the majority of people would undestand by those terms.

>> 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
> good.
> 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.

I expect there would be great pressure for people to conform to some
general standard of moral behaviour. There is such pressure today, but
we all reluctantly acknowledge that there will be people who behave in
antisocial ways because, without getting into a whole discussion about
free will, they can't help it. This excuse won't count for much if
anyone can easily change their nature to whatever they want. I imagine
there will be a tension between those who want to force everyone to be
good and those who defend the right to be evil.

>> 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...

Greg Bear in "Queen of Angels" is set in a society where undesirable
character traits can be easily removed, but dramatic tension is
created by considering the position of the "untherapied" in this

Stathis Papaioannou

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