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Ethics In Search Of Us

I have talked in the past with regard to what ‘our ethical behavior’ should be with regard to the treatment of bio-engineered creatures, certainly something we need to resolve as we are on the threshold of beholding the scary, perhaps invasively and presumptuously wrong, but, nevertheless, expected. Right at this moment, however, it has occurred to me, that it may be equally important that we should consider the opposite, that is, “What should their ethical treatment of us be?”
As it may be inevitable that each of us may someday be sitting across a table from and having a conversation with someone who has four functioning eyeballs, or, what is more likely, is that we will be conversing with ‘people’ who have more subtle differences in their makeup. For instance, they may be human in almost all ways, but they may have the brain of a porpoise. This is likely to happen only because scientists can’t resist.

So the question is, if I am talking to a being who has a 68 oz brain, and I only have a 64 oz brain, while I certainly should be concerned about my treatment of her or him. I must also, at this fairly early stage of the game, have to ask questions about her or his treatment of me! Where will they derive the models and input and notions for how it is they should treat us? They will derive them, no doubt, from our history, because, it not only follows us, but it does, in fact precede us. There is no such thing as algorithmic ethics. We will not be able to build into any creature which has finally experienced self-awareness a sort of mathematical algorithm that dictates ethics. This should be obvious. It goes against the rather unpredictable nature of ‘self-awareness’.

Have we been careful in crafting our past? -a past that we may hand into the hands of intellectually superior beings which we have crafted for our own… hah! …pleasure? Well, let’s see what information we have supplied them with:
We have told them that it’s okay to kill other persons under certain circumstances; it’s okay to torment other persons under certain circumstances; it’s okay to deny care to other persons under certain circumstances, and perhaps the sworst of all these because it deals with the futurity of humankind; it’s okay to destroy ‘Not fully formed human persons under certain circumstances.’
These ‘new and strange’ creatures. may not have that same unusual ethical regard for themselves that we have for ourselves. They may consider their own futurity in a far different light, and decide that the destruction of their own precious species at the unborn or aged stage is simply not a part of who they will be. Will they hold our own species to a higher standard than we have held ourselves?


Copyright February 27th by John P. Schumake


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