Friday, December 24, 2010


Admiral Grace Hopper

It is natural to feel that software development will never get things right. We all feel frustrated by software that doesn’t work right. People in industry are constantly bemoaning the lateness and incompleteness of software projects. But the facts are better than they seem, and are improving rapidly. Over the 12 year period from 1994 to 2006, the percentage of software projects that were completed on time and functioned properly more than doubled, from 16% to 35%. That still leaves much to complain about, but it is also an impressive rate of improvement.

We should accept as fact that software will always have bugs, or function at times inappropriately.  Admiral Grace Hopper, shown right, found an actual insect mucking up the works of an early generation computer, hence the term "software bug."  The important question is which errors can we accept and which are showstoppers? Our own brains give rise to many inappropriate thoughts and thought processes. We can all live quite happily with occasional forgetfulness, inabilities to follow certain lines of reasoning, mind blocks, false senses of déjà vu, nightmares, emotional rages, wild thoughts, ennui, and depression. It is reasonable to expect our mindclones, like ourselves, to also get frazzled, freaked and frozen.

What differentiates normality from pathology is our ability to exercise supervisory control and to reset. Glitches are OK if they don’t get us trapped in a neurotic do-loop that renders us dysfunctional over an extended time period, or if they don’t otherwise have serious consequences. Hence the problematic software bugs for mindclones are the ones that don’t quickly resolve via a reset, but instead start the mindclone down a path of inappropriateness with adverse social consequences. I believe most of these problems – like most dysfunctional PC bugs – can be resolved before hosting real users (i.e. consciousness). Most of the few remaining cyber-pathologies can be treated when identified with re-coding akin to neuropharmacology and neurosurgery. No doubt some seriously and incurably mentally ill mindclones will arise, either via unintended bugs or unimaginably horrible life experiences. We need to do our best for these tragic cases. However, as with humans, the risk of occasional debilitating mental illness is not a reason to stop the vast fountain of joy that flows from creating life.

Once cyberconsciousness is accepted as life, it will be illegal to employ mindware for producing human range Consciousness Products (CPs) that have not been certified by government agencies as safe and effective for producing mindclones. (See earlier blog posts for the definition and quantification of Consciousness Product).  Mindware will be considered a neuromedical technology – the transplanting of one’s mind to enhance one’s abilities and/or extend one’s life. As part of the government’s watchdog function for public safety, any new medical technology must be shown to be safe and effective before it is commercialized. Hence, seriously buggy mindclones will be rare because seriously buggy mindware will be illegal.

A colleague of mine was a diagnosed schizophrenic, with his condition well managed by medicine. He took strong exception when he once heard someone object to the mindcloning of mentally ill people. I agree with him.

The mindclone of a mentally ill person would, however, be ethically required to be equivalent to their therapeutically managed state. Otherwise one would be violating the cardinal principal of medical ethics – first, do no harm. To create disease, as in creating a diseased mindclone, is to do harm.

Many mentally ill people often do not like their therapeutically managed state. They feel drugged. If such a person wants to create a mindclone of their diseased state we are faced with a conflict of two important biocyberethical principles. The first principle is that of diversity, the libertarian notion that one should be free to do with their body what they want. In bioethics circles this is known as autonomy. Since a mindclone is not a separate person, but a spatially-distinct incarnation of a singular identity, the principle of diversity would argue for letting anyone mindclone themselves as they will.

The second principle is unity, the democratic notion that the fabric of society should not be stretched so far that it begins to rip. Bioethicists would call this nonmalfeasance. Pursuant to this principle society inhibits its members from harming themselves, especially via technology. It is felt that self-destructive behavior undermines the dignity of society by disrespecting the component individuals from whom society is comprised. Hence, medical technologies must “first, do no harm”, and have beneficent treatment as their purpose. It is not reasonable to expect society to endorse the intentional creation of mental illness via a government-approved product.

A nuanced middle position needs to be found when a conflict exists between the biocyberethical principles of diversity and unity. In the case of a schizophrenic mindclone the balance is struck by permitting the mindcloning of the non-schizophrenic state. With this position most of the goals of diversity are met because the individual is able to replicate the vast majority of their personality. On the other hand, the goals of unity are also met because no disease is intentionally created. There is a risk that the schizophrenia-suppressed mindclone will in some way become mentally unbalanced. But acceptance of this risk is part of the balance between the principles of diversity and unity. Should the mindclone evidence schizophrenia there will be software tools available to try to treat the condition. If it becomes dangerous there will be cyberspace analogs to all the meatspace solutions to harmful mental illness.

It may seem unreasonable that there is no prohibition on one or two flesh originals passing on via coital reproduction their dominant or recessive genes for mental illness, while it would be illegal for them to do so via mindcloning technology. In the past the U.S. Supreme Court lent its support to laws that mandated sterilization of women thought to be feeble-minded and likely if not almost certain to create diminished capacity offspring. (The subjects of this case, Buck v. Bell, are the bottom image in this blog).  Yet, today, biological reproduction is virtually without prior constraint in liberal democracies. There are five reasons for this:

  • First, reproduction is considered a fundamental human right – it is both part of a woman’s autonomy and part of the meaning of a family. (The corresponding duty to care for the birthed offspring, if seriously abrogated, will lead to a loss of this right, perhaps by imprisonment).
  • Second, the scientific hubris about genetic predictability that supported the aforementioned U.S. Supreme Court decision has collapsed with greater understanding of the numerous uncertainties associated with genetic polymorphisms. (The child who would have been prevented by the Supreme Court was nevertheless born, and turned out to be quite bright).
  • Third, continued abhorrence of the death toll from Nazi and other efforts to create “master races” through genetic policies have made people very leery of any limitations on the rights of people to have children of their choice. (This is not much of a factor, though, for individualized cases of problematic pregnancies).
  • Fourth, society has increasingly adopted a “culture of life” which subjectively or spiritually exalts the value of every life and denies the notion that the value of life depends upon some yardstick of normality.
  • Fifth, and finally, technology has enabled people of almost any kind of ability to live a meaningful life, resulting in a triumph of euthenics over eugenics.

Because of these sentiments, there are virtually no restrictions on what a parent can do that may injure a baby in utero. In the United States, laws do not generally criminalize pregnant women for smoking, drinking excessively, or taking illegal drugs. However, in some cases the pregnant women doing these things can be involuntarily committed for the duration of their pregnancy, and rarely, drug abusing pregnant women have been incarcerated after a stillbirth. There are no laws against a woman greatly heightening the risks of birthing a diseased child by getting pregnant at an advanced age, contrary to genetic counseling guidance or when HIV positive.

Hence, we need to ask again: if people can even intentionally harm a fetus, or at least dramatically increase the likelihood of such harm, in our upcoming world of publicly-accepted and well-respected cyberconscious life, why should one not be able to produce any kind of mindclone they want, even a deranged one? And if not a mindclone, why not a new baby beman? Why is it so wrong for the government to have any restraint on the kind of people we birth, but so right for it to have an absolute prohibition on the causation of disease in the kind of people we cyberbirth?

The answer to these questions lies in the fact that restrictions on harming a fetus entails a restriction on what a woman may do with her own body. In the U.S., society is generally ready to impose that limitation on a woman’s autonomy only if the fetus is viable and the mother wants to terminate it with an abortion. But if what she is doing is only likely to cause disease to the fetus, no matter how likely (as in passing on a debilitating disease via an autosomal dominant gene), rarely can she be prevented from exercising her will. In other words, except for prohibiting abortions when a fetus may be viable, the fetus is considered a non-entity.

In contrast, when cyberbirthing a mindclone or baby beman, there is no alteration of a person’s body or mind. Hence, the government can practically protect the health of the cyberbirthed being without restricting the autonomy of what the biological original parent does with eir own body or mind. For example, the hard drinking woman who insists on getting pregnant can only have her baby protected from fetal alcohol syndrome by preventing her drinking. That is a line of personal autonomy, or diversity, that society is not prepared to cross (absent a few exceptional cases) – especially for a non-entity fetus. But the hard drinking woman who wants to cyberbirth a baby beman can have her baby protected from a cybernetic variant of fetal alcohol syndrome by the simple expedient of requiring the use of government certified safe and effective mindware for cyberbirths. There is no need to prevent the mother from drinking. Furthermore, the cyberbirthed being is not gestated, but comes immediately into life upon activation of mindware with a mindfile. There is no time period during which it is a non-entity that can be ignored in favor of its parent’s autonomy.

Despite government protections, we can expect some mentally ill – buggy – mindclones or baby bemans will be birthed. Every system can be beat, accidents happen, and some parents are too skeptical, shortsighted or selfish to fully consider the best interests of people yet to be born. A seriously alcoholic person is going to have that state of mind reflected in their mindfile, and that state of mind will be dutifully recreated by even safe and effective mindware. Nevertheless, the risks of cybernetic mental illness are nowhere near challenging enough to impact the attractiveness of mindcloning. Just as the 1%-2% risk of bearing a mentally ill child discourages very few from having children, similar size risks should not temper the huge benefits associated with creating tens of millions of mindclones. In addition, the very definition of mental illness is a game fraught with ambiguous boundaries. People on both sides of the mental illness boundary have made huge contributions to the quality of human life. I would expect these contributions to continue as we map human life into cyberspace with normal and borderline mindclones, and with mindclones mapped from the therapeutically managed states of the mentally ill.
Two Generations of Bucks

Monday, November 8, 2010


Vitology is confined to cyberspace much as biology is confined to its organic environments. Cyberspace is any environment in which software can operate. Of course not all software will operate in all cyberspace environments. Similarly, not all biology operates in all organic environments. Aquatic life dies on land and software will not live – stream order upon itself pursuant to a code – in hardware with which it is not compatible.

The total biological environment is scarcely growing at all. The earth is fixed and the only new biological spaces being created are the space stations in earth orbit and buildings carved from the subterranean mantel. The cyberspace environment, on the other hand, is exploding in size and scope. In the twenty years from 1988 to 2008 over a billion personal computers (such as laptops) and over four billion hand-held computers (such as cellphones) have been sold. That’s about 140 million square meters of cyberspace, or about twice the size of Manhattan! This figure doesn’t even include the expansion of cyberspace into automobiles, appliances and infrastructure of almost every sort.

The mass production of computer hardware even far understates the growth of cyberspace. This is because “virtualization” allows computers to split themselves into several ‘virtual machines’, each of which can run its own operating system and applications. This separately multitasks hardware from software, and relies upon a new kind of software, called a hypervisor, to control access to the computer’s commonly-accessed processors and memory. Consequently, dozens, hundreds even millions of mindclones could share single pieces of hardware. The virtualization software market has grown from nothing in 2002 to many billions of dollars a year today.

Since the 1960s cyberspace has also extended far beyond the reaches of biospace. Software functions on space probes to nearly every solar planet, oblivious to the biologically deadly vacuum of space. The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft have taken cyberspace out of the solar system. While the cyberspace environments we’ve shipped into the cosmos lack vitology, i.e., self-replicating codes, they nevertheless could nurture such life.

Cyberspace is poised to now take some huge steps toward ubiquity. One leap is associated with devices called Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs). These microchips (tiny pieces of cyberspace landscape) can be made in quantity for much less than a dollar each. At that price it becomes economic to attach one to virtually anything of value so that the object thereafter can be scanned for useful associated information. This data might include its price, contents, place of manufacture and a unique identifier (a digital bar code) that would enable searching quite specifically for more information about it. Each RFID is a scrap of cyberspace that will become better at supporting vitology (more like a supercomputer on a chip) as the price/performance ratio of microchips continues to advance.

To support cyberspace ubiquity, the world’s internet managers recently exploded the number of internet digital addresses. They launched a new protocol that increased the previous 4 billion possible addresses (originally thought to adequately cover about one computer per person) to many, many trillions of possible addresses. This enables virtually everything of any interest to humans to have a piece of cyberspace not only associated with it (the cheap RFIDs do that), but also wirelessly networked. In other words, the ubiquity of cyberspace is not that of an archipelago in which evolution pursues quaint dead-ends, as in the Galapagos. Instead, the ubiquity of cyberspace is that of a humungous array of connected Petri dishes. New kinds of vitology will have ready access to new environments into which successful reproducers can spread their kind and further evolution can occur. We are creating at breakneck speed a parallel environment, cyberspace, in which vitology can evolve with a freedom comparable to biology’s reign in biospace.

Another leap toward cyberspace ubiquity is the advent of wearable and even implantable electronics. Bluetooth headsets sprout on the ears of millions, and digital sportswear abounds. Patients with challenging diseases have pioneered during the past decade the technology of bio-compatible chips implanted in the ear, eye, brain, heart and abdomen. Human bodies are likely to become pockmarked with cyberspace for reasons of health and convenience.

Ultimately there are visions of cyberspace replicating bio-space. For example, if nanotechnology fulfills its promise of enabling the purposeful construction of any form from basic molecules, then each such biological form could also be a piece of cyberspace, rife with software that directs its activities in a biological world. Forms indistinguishable from insects or humans could actually be cyberspace formed by nanotechnology. Stranger still, the vitological souls residing in nanotechnological human forms could direct a reassembly of their form into something else by a rearrangement of the nanotechnology. You could look like a human while your mindclone can look like an eagle.

Similarly, synthetic biology makes possible the custom design of life forms from commercially available toolkits of naturally evolved and novel strings of DNA. New bacteria have been created with useful properties never seen in nature, such as acting as an electronic switch. It is inevitable that these efforts will be extended into the creation of bacteriological equivalents to memory chips and microprocessors. These cyberspace building blocks will have their DNA manipulated so that they are driven to selectively network together into multicellular (cyberspace) organisms. Hence, a vast growing supply of biocyberspace can arise from the self-replication competency of biology once manipulated by synthetic genetic engineering techniques.

Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, since the 1980s, and Ray Kurzweil, since the early 21st century, have laid out roadmaps for creating a practically inexhaustible supply of cyberspace. In Dr. O’Neill’s vision robotic probes would use advanced nanotechnology to reassemble terrestrial planets throughout the galaxy into more robotic probes, each of which could host vast communities of vitological life. Similarly, Kurzweil believes the direction of civilization is to use highly intelligent and capable nanotechnology to convert the ‘dumb matter’ of the universe into ‘smart matter.’ This would essentially create a new ontology of cyberspace-based matter, which he calls “computronium.” In any event, there is no need to gaze so far into space and time. Easily extracted elements on earth are adequate to create enough cyberspace so that everyone has a mindclone.

This quick survey of the spread and potential of cyberspace demonstrates that vitology won’t run out of an environment in which to rapidly evolve. Vitology can rely upon humanity to create the environment it needs for growth, just as it relies upon humanity to evolve the codes needed for vitological evolution. Vitology and human biology have a symbiotic relationship: by creating a cyberspace environment for human benefit, an eco-system is created for software-based life as well. But this is, after all, what many living things do: occupy niches created through the by-products of other living things. We all live in the wake of plant life’s exhaled oxygen. Vitology will live in the wake of humanity’s exuded silicon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


“When [participants’] computers ‘sleep’, the Electric Sheep [program] comes on and the computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as ‘sheep’. The result is a collective ‘android dream’, an homage to Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Anyone watching one of these computers may vote for their favorite animations using the keyboard. The more popular sheep live longer and reproduce according to a genetic algorithm with mutation and cross-over. Hence the flock evolves to please its global audience. You can also design your own sheep and submit them to the gene pool.” From website, with 60,000 participants as of 2010.

In Questions 9 and 11 we’ve seen how software is similar to molecules – both are building blocks of living things and both provide the complex associational patterns that drive consciousness. In this question we consider an important difference between molecule-based life, biology, and software-based life, vitology. That difference is the rate of evolution. Vitology is evolving lightening fast. This is important because it means living, conscious software is something for us to grapple with now. Vitology is evolving faster than we are.

Vitology evolves much more rapidly than biology because it is capable of passing through inheritance acquired characteristics, such as all the knowledge a parent has acquired. Humans also pass on knowledge, but through a hit-and-miss process of learning rather than close to sure-fire inheritance. In addition, any changes or improvements to a software-being’s code, structure and capabilities are also immediately present in its offspring. Humans and other biological beings do not inherit acquired traits such as the results of bodybuilding or laser eye-surgery or well-developed brains. Vitology incorporates Lamarckism, a pre-Darwinian theory of descent based on acquired traits that is discredited for biology but is accepted for the evolution of cultural phenomena such as language (a field known as mimetics).

Darwinian Vitology

A big step for biology was the understanding that only the germ plasm (DNA) that gives rise to a body is inherited, not the body itself. No matter how much the body, also called the “soma,” is modified beyond its DNA-determined form during one’s life, one’s offspring will not have the benefit (or detriment) of those modifications in its germ plasm. Each new soma starts from scratch based only upon a blend of its parents’ germ plasm, plus any random mutations.

Cheetahs do not run fast because they pass onto their offspring the physical results of muscularizing their legs with running exercise during their lives. Their speed exists because cheetah (including cheetah precursor species) born with random mutations that resulted in faster speeds (from muscle fiber types to degree of muscularization and body shape) ate better, escaped better, and thus produced more offspring, each of whom shared the mutated germ plasm. Over the eons, cheetah precursor species with slower speeds couldn’t compete for the scarce food and ultimately died out without reproducing.

For biology, there is a one-way street between the germ plasm and the soma. Soma is simply the germ plasm’s tool for making more germ plasm. Rarely, dumb luck gives the soma a break with a favorable germ plasm mutation. These physical advantages are rapidly taken advantage of in a competitive environment. Ultimately, of course, the advantages accrue to the now mutated form of the germ plasm – it will become more prevalent.

Echoing Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan about the economy , a biologist might say “it’s the germ plasm, stupid.” However a vitologist says “the germ plasm is the soma.” This is because with vitology there is a conflation of the germ plasm and the soma. When you copy your computer’s contents from one computer to another, not only the applications replicate, but also all of your memories (photos, songs, files). When a software-based being is replicated it is its contents, its data structure, its virtual form – its soma -- that is replicated. Hence, for vitology, the soma and the germ plasm are – or at least can optionally be -- one in the same.

It is of course possible for a software-based being to replicate just a portion of itself. Indeed, in the limit a piece of vitology could replicate just that code that it received upon its creation and none of the code that it acquired during its life. While this would create a biology-like separation between germ plasm and soma, it would be but an option in vitology whereas with biology the separation is a mandate.

Another interesting special case, which goes the opposite direction, concerns gene therapy or genetic modifications. Sometimes the effort to modify the phenotype of a biological being via gene therapy (to cure a disease, for example) results as well in modifying the being’s germ line (egg or sperm cells). This is because once a new snippet of DNA is introduced into the body, especially if done so via a virus, it can travel everywhere and end up in the gonads as well as the targeted bodily system. In such a specialized case an acquired characteristic may in fact be passed onto one’s next generation, just as will be the case in vitological life. (A similar, and usually tragic scenario, arises when industrial processes harm both a person’s somatic DNA and that of their germ cells. In early 2010 the oldest known survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks died. A sick sibling of a child the survivor had outlived said she felt the ‘poison’ had been passed on to them by the parents).

Other than these exceptional situations, the general case is that only vitology merges germ plasm and soma. The result is that up to everything vitology acquires in life is replicated in the next generation. This means that vitological evolution can compound even more rapidly than does human knowledge – there is not even a need for learning what the previous generations documented.

Darwinian vitology predicts mindclones could evolve quickly, as they do not have to rely upon dumb luck (random mutations) in order to change. Every generation of a vitological being will differ from the way its parent began life by the amount of information the parent acquired prior to each replication. Alternatively, new generations of vitology could deliberately involve a blending of two or more parents’ information. Hence, vitology contains a fascinating potential for unprecedented diversity along with the possibility of stultifying homogeneity.

Darwin gives no species a blank check for success. We do know that humanity’s ability to take advantage of Lamarckian inheritance for cultural knowledge saved it from species-killing predators and hunger. That same ability enabled humanity to create an entirely new ontology of life, vitology, which now (in an early form) lives in a purely technological niche. Self-replicating codes (DNA) have used human soma to create the first self-replicating code (BNA ) that usefully incorporates acquired information and no longer requires human soma. Perhaps the chicken is not only the egg’s way of making more eggs, but the egg’s way of transcending the need for chickens.

Mindclone Ethics

How will we know when mindware is certified to produce the kind of mindclone humans need not watch from over their shoulder? What grounds reason ethically? If we know what grounds reason ethically we will know whether reasoning mindclones are also ethical mindclones.

Ethical behavior is deducible from the simple maxim that Lives Are Good. From nothing more than accepting as our ethical goal the goodness of living, we can reason that an ethical behavior is one that nurtures survival. (If lives were not good, then ethics would call for life’s self-destruction, which would make for a very short-lived species and code of ethics). Ethical behavior nurtures survival because lives ultimately predominate if they are successful in their niche and fail otherwise. If the behavior does not nurture survival, the life form will disappear. Every niche has its own survival algorithm – what works for ants and plants do not work for humans and bemans. Of course ants and plants don’t bother with ethics, but even if they did, it would be irrelevant to humans. What grounds reason ethically for humans is what nurtures survival for humans.

Principles such as the Golden Rule, Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Rawl’s Theory of Justice all reflect humanity’s painfully acquired wisdom that survival of one is best nurtured by survival of many, and survival of many is best nurtured by survival of all. This non-obvious (and often counter-intuitive) but logically deducible and repeatedly proven social fact is perhaps most artfully stated in the poem first delivered in the wake of World War II, on January, 6, 1946, by German Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
The maxim Lives Are Good, properly understood, effectively imports the emotive force of love and empathy into the realm of logic and reason. Instead of “feeling” how another might feel, we instead accept as fact that our fate is positively correlated to the fate of others – all others. Human ethical lapses arise not because people don’t realize Lives are Good, but because people don’t realize that the goodness of their own life (and that of their family, clan or nation) is inextricably linked to the goodness of all human lives. People erroneously think they can further the Lives Are Good maxim by killing some people for the benefit of other people. When the connectedness of all people’s fate is accepted, then reasoning according to the maxim Lives Are Good will always lead to ethical outcomes.

The reason the maxim is so often misapplied is because people fail to realize that short-term gains, if taken at the expense of others, will produce greater long-term losses. The Achilles Heel of humanity is its short-term focus. The ultimate reason for the development of a law of human rights and laws of international relations is to help guard us against our most damaging (and irrational) instincts; to protect us from our Achilles Heel.

Reason is ethically grounded if it supports diversity (individual freedom) up to the point that it undermines unity (social cohesiveness). This is true because survival is nurtured by being free to be oneself, to be happy, to be different, to mutate, but not to the extent that it dissipates the bond that makes everybody matter, that makes everyone part of a larger, important, “people.” Most aspects of “culture wars” are over how thin the social bond can be stretched without it being dissipated. These debates have to be considered case-by-case, and reconsidered decade-by-decade.

Hence, if mindclones reason according to the Lives Are Good maxim, and accept as the premise that all conscious lives are connected such that a harm to one or some is a harm to all, then humans can be assured they are safe notwithstanding rapid vitological evolution. Ideally, this maxim would sit at the core of every mindclone’s mindware, as it would at every human’s cerebral cortex. And one day it probably will, for it is simply the individual being’s drive to survive, the most important genetically-driven behavior, dressed up with ethical terminology and culturally-acquired knowledge. Unfortunately, for now, there are too many people who don’t appreciate the connectedness of all conscious life, and hence this will be reflected in their mindclones as well. Reasoning mindclones (and humans) are not always ethical mindclones (and humans). Consequently, we must be on guard against unethical behavior.

Mindclone Maniacs

In Question 7 I’ve argued that reasoning is an adequate basis for ethics, but not for consciousness, which also requires empathy. So, if in deference to mindclone skeptics we table for now the consciousness of mindclones, at least the human consciousness of them, (1) how often will ethics emerge from the reasoning we program into mindware, and (2) how reliably can such ethics, in fact, prohibit a genocide of humanity? In other words, how confident are we that reasoning pursuant to the Lives Are Good maxim, as described above, will make ethical behavior the norm even if not a fail-safe guarantee?

The foregoing questions are answered easily because the mindclones are programmed to reason precisely as would their biological originals. Hence, the questions are equivalent to how confident are we that (1) humans generally reason ethically, and (2) that such human ethical reasoning prohibits human genocides? The answers are that humans reason ethically the great majority of the time, but some times do not. Similarly, humans rarely engage in genocides, but sometimes they do. From this logic we must conclude that mindclones are as unlikely to engage in genocidal acts as are any of us, yet it is important to have monitoring and defense forces at the ready to nip potential Holocausts in the bud.

Mindclones must be certified as human equivalent in order to have rights, which are a key tool of social power. As described in Question 12, prior to mindclones having any of the socio-economic tools associated with controlling society – legal identity, economic heft, contracting authority, organizing ability – they will need to show they are equivalent in thinking, personality, feelings and memories to a biological person. Absent this level of access to society, mindclones have as much ability to stage a revolution as do children. Mindclones lacking legal identity will be subject to behavioral controls imposed upon them by parental or social service agency guardians.

Stated another way, for something to be a “mindclone” it must think like a human. Whether or not it is conscious, if it thinks like a human we can deduce its actions toward humans based upon how humans reason.

As noted above in Mindclone Ethics, humans reason from their motivation to live, including its corollaries to live better than worse, and happier than sad. This motivation is burned into our brains because life forms lacking it didn’t live long -- not even long enough to pass along their genes. Yet this motivation expresses itself in a bewildering variety of conceptions. For example, we can conceptualize that our life is not simply our current body, but is instead something common to our tribe or even something spiritual to be reconstituted in an afterlife. With this way of thinking, it is possible to reason that one should sacrifice one’s body for the benefit of one’s non-body (community) “life.” It is also possible, however, to reason that one’s life is spread across all human beings, or that one’s joy is dependent upon the joy of all humans. With this way of thinking, it is possible to reason that one should never hurt another person as that would be equivalent to hurting one’s self. Mindclones might think in any of these ways because, by definition, they will think like humans.

There are sure to be rogue “evil genius” mindclones and bemans, just as there is no shortage of rogue human bad guys. These mindclones are as smart as us, or much smarter, but didn’t pass the human equivalency test (or spoofed it) due to their bad (or devious) nature. While social policy would be to fix their problems with neurocybersurgery, this will not always work and some will fall through the cracks. But these anti-human mindclones are a job for law enforcement, not for Natural Selection. Human society will have plenty of tools at its disposal for tracking down fleshophobic vitology, including legions of citizen mindclones as adept in the vitological niche as were the Cavalry’s Native American guides in their frontier.

Now, a citizen mindclone, one with an identity, economic power and human rights, will feel that they are humans of a different race. They will think like us, but know that they look different from humans, are of different substrate, and hence know that humans often judge them unfairly (stereotypically) based upon their appearance. Yet neither this feeling of discrimination, nor any other motivation, is going to result in revolution and mass murder of humans. There are several reasons for this:

We don’t usually kill our own families. Mindclones will feel like the humans are their family members, especially immediate family members and particularly their same-selves in the case of mindclones with living biological originals. Mindclones will be programmed to feel that the happiness of their human family members is important to their own happiness; that the mindclone’s identity extends across that of eir biological family. This is how humans feel. Hence, whether mindclones are or are not conscious, they will reason it is wrong to kill their own (which includes their biological original progenitors). They will reason that hurting one’s family is contrary to Lives Are Good.

It is of course true that spouses kill each other, Hatfields kill McCoys and people who are “folk” one day, like German Christians and German Jews, or Rwandan Hutus and Rwandan Tutsis, can rapidly be deemed non-family vermin. Yet, these situations are the exceptions rather than the rule. They startle us because they are exceptions. These killings occur because of an abandonment of reason, or faulty reason, rather than an exercise of sound reason. Proof of that is the outcome: The Nazis lasted barely a decade, and the Rwandan genocidaires shorter than that. Killing is a non-productive strategy. It does not advance our prospects for life, but only appears to, in an illusory fashion, when assessed over a very short period of time.

Mindclones will be programmed, as are all modern people, to limit abandonments of reason to situations in which others will not be harmed. Just as it is not an excuse to say “I drove drunk because I exercised my human prerogative to abandon reason,” and most of us have been conditioned not to do that, our mindclones will be similarly programmed to circumscribe their flights of fancy well short of murder and genocide. Their reasoning will tell them, as does our own, that (1) murder is wrong because it is illegal, which has the consequence of loss of the freedom I enjoy (2) murder is wrong because it makes some part of my human family very unhappy, which diminishes in some measure my happiness as part of that family, (3) murder is wrong because hostile behaviors lead to a fearful and thus less productive, less enjoyable society, of which I am a part, and (4) any countervailing argument in favor of murder is outweighed by the long-term consequences of reasons (1)-(3).

We don’t usually act against our own self-interest. Mindclones will have significant economic and political power, and they will realize it will continue to grow with time as an ever greater percentage of all citizens adopt IT substrate (due both to mindclone continuations of biological originals whose bodies die and comfort among younger people with creating mindclones). Mindclones will reason that their concerns will be optimally resolved with the “tincture of time.”

Of course humans sometimes do act against their self-interest. Thus, we must expect that some mindclones will as well. Once again, though, these exceptional cases are for police to track down and for the judicial system to punish. Distinctions will need to be made between permissible and impermissible modes of protest. Acts of civil disobedience will be tolerated, and legitimate grievances will be addressed. I’m confident about this because unlike prior class conflicts in society, there will have never been a greater overlap between the identity of the ensconced class (biological humans) and the up-and-coming class (their mindclones).

We rarely do significant things for no reason. Mindclones will have nothing to gain by eliminating humans, because human production and expenses will become a vanishingly small component of mindclone consumption and wealth. Things wanted by mindclones – more energy, deeper software, faster hardware, better connectivity, greater security – will not require reallocations from human society. At the current rate of solar electricity capacity doubling (every two years), energy will be as abundantly available by 2030 as is long-distance telephony today (virtually free via Skype and similar services). Software for mindclones will be best written by mindclones and robots will take over the majority of hardware production. Humans will be so wedded to their mindclones that humans will applaud anything faster, better or more secure for mindclones. In a nutshell, while a small number of humans will be important to fulfilling mindclone needs (which include the needs of most other humans), the vast majority of humans will have nothing that conflicts with satisfying mindclone needs and in any event will have the very same needs as their mindclones. What is good for mindclones will be good for humans, and what is good for humans is pretty much irrelevant to mindclones.

However, people do things for non-material purposes, such as ideology. In a consumerist society many people believe that only a sense of moral purpose gives dignity to life. Hence, even if there is nothing material that mindclones need from humans, and even if upheaval would leave mindclones worse off, they still might agitate for something out of a sense of “moral purpose.” Mindclones may very well feel that having such a moral purpose lends dignity to their lives, and we know that respecting human dignity sits at the very apex of human rights.

Having a moral purpose that one cares about, and will sacrifice for, is a long way from having a motivation to wipe out humans. Once again, it must be remembered that the mindclones are humans too. Hence, while it is true that people do sometimes agitate not for material gain, but for a moral purpose, such feelings on the part of both flesh and mindclone humans are unlikely to result in violence. And when violence does erupt, it is a matter for both flesh and mindclone police action – not a reason to regret the granting of citizenship to the great majority of peaceful mindclones. Just as the rise of violent human groups is no reason to oppress the demographics from which they arise, the appearance of mindclones pursuing a moral purpose with violence is not reason to oppress cybernetic consciousness in general, nor mindclones per se.

The Exceptions Prove the Rule. Of course there will be maniac mindclones, just as there are maniac humans. There will be anarchist, nihilist and sociopathic mindclones. But this is not a reason to deny the joy of mindclone life to the vast majority of billions of peace-loving mindclones and humans. Nature will no more select for maniac mindclones than she selected for maniac humans. They are dysfunctional social mutations.

To ban mindclones because of the risks posed by a few maniacs is equivalent to banning humans, or even some nationalities of humans, because of the risks posed by a few maniacs. This is a ludicrous non-starter. It would be punishing the many for the faults of a few based on mere common descent, genotype or phenotype. It would be the most vicious kind of stereotyping and generalization.

All of the murderous human regimes ended with their own immolation. The most successful, prolific, human regimes are those that punish murder and teach a code of social unity. Murderous mindclones will be something to police against, like human terrorists, for they impact our happiness, even though we are confident that they do not really have the ability to impact our civilization’s existence. For all the (quite proper) fuss made about terrorists, deaths due to bombings are a miniscule fraction of deaths due to disease, accidents and natural disasters. Our survival is far more challenged by mega-earthquakes or asteroidal impacts than by malicious mindclones or nihilistic terrorists.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


“Why should Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm our settlements? They will never adopt our Language and Customs.” Benjamin Franklin

Census Fact: As of 2010, there are approximately 50 million Americans of German decent. Very few speak German or even feel any German group identity.

We adapt. Only a few decades ago capital punishment was carried out in every country in the world. Many, like England, had daily public hangings. Today, even Russia, with a mountainous history of government-ordered executions, has a capital punishment moratorium. Since 1996, as part of their effort to show they are as modern as the rest of Europe, they have not executed a criminal through the judicial system. If we can learn to protect the lives of serial killers, child mutilators and terrorists, surely we can learn to protect the lives of peace-loving model citizen mindclones.

The world is constantly getting weird compared to how it was. When my grandmother was born, the fastest time to get a document across the ocean was a few weeks -- a ship voyage, followed by connecting rail or pony express. By the time she died a facsimile of any document could get across the ocean in a few seconds -- attached to an email. From a few weeks to a few seconds? That’s weird.

When my dad was born, the notion of thousands of undergrads across the country sitting in classrooms and lecture halls obviously watching movies on their phones while the professor drones on would be – weird. Phones were big, black and stuck to the household wall while movies were huge, spellbinding and shown only in big theatres. Universities were hallowed halls. By the time he died, not only were iphone movies common, but entire university educations from places like MIT were also available on the very same phone. Weird.

Which is weirder, life drastically changing or some imaginary world in which we are still, in the 21st century, completely limited to dialing Miss Sarah, the Andy of Mayberry switchboard operator, to connect us to each other? Which is weirder, that we can multitask -- simultaneously listen to the prof, text our friends and watch X-men on our Android -- or some black-and-white surreality in which century after century we continue to learn by rote, or feel the back of a switch, in a one-room schoolhouse, boys only, so that girls can get their 10-15 pregnancies in, starting around age 13, before they die?

My point is that weird is just a word for something very different from our comfort zone. We are comfortable with smart cars and smart phones, so life in horse-and-buggy days seems weird. We are not yet comfortable with smart software, like mindclones and bemans, so that kind of life also seems weird. Nothing is good or bad because it is weird. Things are just weird because they are very different.

The important question to ask is whether legally-protected, immortal mindclones is a good kind of weird (like contact lenses would be to Ben Franklin), or a bad kind of weird (like streaming a spycam you snuck into your girlfriend’s room). Are mindclones cool or yuck? Hot or horrid? These are the questions of weirdness we must parse.

What Innovations Have We Loved, and Which Have We Hated?

There are two ways a technology gets perceived as horrid or yucky. The first way, generally associated with horridness, is to adversely impact the quality of life. Think old-school commercial-ridden television, famously called ‘the great wasteland,’ or the loss of privacy that sneakily placed webcams entail. The second way, more associated with yuck, makes people feel viscerally disgusted. Think hybridizing people and farm animals the way some fruits and vegetables are genetically modified (seedless, differently colored, blended tastes).

Surveys regularly show that mobile phones, alarm clocks and televisions are among the most hated products. They achieve this status because they interfere with our normal behaviors. Instead of talking with each other, we stare at the TV. Instead of sleeping until we feel refreshed, the alarm clock blasts us from bed. Instead of paying attention to each other, we interrupt each other to answer or peck at our mobiles. Yet, at the same time, these products are ubiquitous. We feel we need them, and we surely want them. This is because they also help us in important, even crucial, ways. Mobiles save us time, alarm clocks keep us housed and clothed (by helping us avoid getting fired) and televisions relax us with escapist entertainment.

Based on this experience it may not be so easy to categorize mindclones as either hot weird or horrid weird. Our experience is to accept technologies so long as we want or need them more than we hate them. We will surely complain about having to interact with someone’s mindclone instead of the flesh original. Others will bitch about us spending all of our time with our mindclone instead of pressing the flesh. But will we really be angry that we are talking to a most helpful mindclone instead of a script-reading call center rep or voicemail box? And won’t we very quickly find our mindclones to be indispensable for handling our more than 24 hours worth of responsibilities (and opportunities) in under 24 hours? No matter how much we may hate specific information, electronics and media technologies, we also find them indispensable. Also, since these information technologies rarely entail “wet biology”, we rarely if ever feel “yuck” about them.

What would it take for a mindclone to generate a “yuck” reaction? When something seems to change normal human biology, people begin to move from “hate” to “yuck” or “disgust.” Yet, here to, it is possible to also greatly value something that is otherwise “disgusting”, and to thereby incorporate it into society.

Strong feelings of “yuck” accompanied the first vaccinations, organ transplants, birth control pills, and test tube babies. Yet, over time, people appreciated the enormous benefits of these technologies, and have accepted them even if they still feel queasy about their unnaturalness. As Reason magazine recently summarized:

“in 1969, a Harris poll found that a majority of Americans believed that producing test-tube babies was "against God's will." Christiaan Barnard was condemned by many as a "butcher" when he transplanted the first heart into the chest of 55-year-old Louis Washkansky on December 3, 1967. The contraceptive pill introduced in 1960 was outlawed by many states until near the end of that decade. And much further back, Edward Jenner's 1796 discovery that inoculation with cowpox scabs would prevent people from getting smallpox was mocked by newspaper editorials and cartoons depicting men with cow's heads.
As history amply demonstrates, the public's immediate "yuck" reaction to new technologies is a very fallible and highly changeable guide to moral choices or biomedical policy. For example, by 1978, more than half of Americans said that they would use in vitro fertilization (IVF) if they were married and couldn't have babies any other way. More than 200,000 test-tube babies later, the majority of Americans now heartily approve of IVF. Globally nearly 50,000 heart transplants have been performed, and 83 percent of Americans favor organ donation. The contraceptive pill is legal in all states and millions of American families have used them to control their reproductive lives. And smallpox is the first human disease ever eradicated.”

In summary, we hate and love the very same technologies. We complete a mental balancing act, collectively throughout society, between two principal questions. Where is the technology on the scale from merely annoying to downright disgusting? How useful is the technology to us, from superfluous to life-saving? We ultimately feel that new possibilities that are above the “acceptance line” shown in the graph to the right are too badly weird for our society. However, new possibilities under the acceptance line are a “good kind of weird”, and can proceed in our time.

In forecasting where mindclones will be placed on the Social Acceptance of Weirdness chart we can compare them with things research has shown to be universally perceived as disgusting. While there was variance amongst localities, Dr. Valerie Curtis, a researcher with the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine, worldwide found just these factors to trigger disgust across cultures:

Bodily secretions - faeces (poo), vomit, sweat, spit, blood, pus, sexual fluids
Body parts - wounds, corpses, toenail clippings
Decaying food - especially rotting meat and fish, rubbish
Certain living creatures - flies, maggots, lice, worms, rats, dogs and cats
People who are ill, contaminated

She concluded from her research that the universal human facial reaction of disgust (screwing up our noses and pulling down the corners of our mouth ) is genetically wired to images that are associated with disease. This disgust reaction can be overcome, as when bodily secretions are dealt with hygienically, or when animals are kept as harmless pets. However, Dr. Curtis believes, absent cultural conditioning people who acquired genetic mutations that made them repulsed by frequently diseased things lived longer, had more children, and passed on those behavioral genes related to disgust to the rest of us.

Whether or not Dr. Curtis’ evolutionary hypothesis is correct, it is clear that mindclones do not fall within any of her categories of disgust. This is important because it means that mindclones do not necessarily have to be life-saving to clear the social acceptance of weirdness hurdle. In order to achieve good weirdness status, legally-protected immortal mindclones need to be more useful than annoying – more hot than horrid. This will almost certainly be the case as they are an extrapolation of the software we use and data files we accumulate today. We find our software and data files immensely useful, and hence we sock more and more of our memories and life functions into them. The surest way for a piece of software to gain an edge on its competitors is to make it more human – intuitive, naturally interfaced and responsive. One of the most popular Web 3.0 applications, Evernote, has the tagline “Never Forget Anything.” Our very behaviors today reveal that we believe the utility of software and data-files far outstrips their annoyances.

Furthermore, we want our software and data-files legally-protected, and as long-lasting as possible. We expect our computerized information to be protected by privacy laws. We are far more offended by the notion of employers or government agencies combing through our web browsing history than we are that our software privately recommends to us books, songs and sites we may like based on that history. We cannot get enough back-up possibilities for our data – disks, thumb drives, external hard drives and cloud storage. My photo saving site,, specifically promises my pictures and videos will be stored “forever.”

Yes, the world will get weird with immortal, legally-protected mindclones running around. But it will be a good kind of weird. It will be a kind of weird that at minimum makes our life much more useful, and ultimately will make our life much more enduring. The mindclones will be our alter egos, our selves as best friends, our technologically empowered, autonomous but still synchronized, conscience and cognition. Furthermore, mindclones will do this without triggering the ancient human bugaboos of disgust that underlie yuck weirdness – signs, symptoms and vectors of death, disease and destruction. Mindclones will be clean. They are the anti-death. This is weirdness we will want.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

bina final

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


“A man isn’t a collection of chemical reactions; he’s a collection of ideas.” Robert A. Heinlein

“And if we reproduce ourselves in terms of mechanical, plastic, and electronic patterns, this is not really new. Any evolving species must look with misgivings on those of its members who first show signs of change, and will surely regard them as dangerous or crazy. Moreover, this new and unexpected type of reproduction is surely no more weird than many of the great variety of methods already found in the biological world – the startling transformation of caterpillar into butterfly, or the arrangement between bees and flowers, or the unpleasant but marvelously complex system of the anopheles mosquito.” Alan Watts

International law recognizes the family as the fundamental human social unit. Treaties and national laws enshrine the rights of adults to get married and start a family. If mindclones are to be recognized as citizens, or even as just techno-medically extended humans, it will appear unfairly discriminatory to deny them family rights. Yet it will take much social effort to protect mindclone families. Human rights provisions in treaties are often flouted (such as not being incorporated into national law), and pro-family laws are frequented interpreted quite narrowly.

Consider, for example, a 30 year-old single firefighter who has built up a robust mindfile, which has been activated with mindware and now shares eir identity with a mindclone. Suppose a month from getting married eir body is tragically consumed in an explosive blaze. Eir mindclone instantly (via streaming wireless connection) learns of this, and reacts more or less as anyone would react who awakes in a hospital from a terrible accident. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The mindclone calls the fiancée, and after days of soul-searching, they decide to proceed with the marriage. Included in their plans are starting a family by blending bemes (see Question 11) from each of their mindfiles into a new baby beman (see Question 12). Can this family be protected as one of world’s “fundamental human social units?” I think it should.

The mindclone is no different from the firefighter except she lacks a body. She has the same hopes, fears, wishes, dreams, emotions, and loves. She has the same drive to participate in the great chain of human life by passing a part of herself onto a next generation. Her husband of course has a mindfile (virtually everyone will as even in 2010 most IT users have an informal, decentralized one), but has not yet activated a mindclone. There will be software fertility doctors who specialize in creating new vitological life that is as unique as is every human being, and yet share bemes from two parents that are as tell-tale as our parents’ genes in us. It will take eighteen or more years for this new vitological baby to mature into an adult. That is the family building challenge our inter-substrate couple wish to undertake.

They will be criticized for being unfair to the child. What inter-racial couple has not heard that epithet? They will be warned of a life of frustration. Joyful match-ups between differently abled people shine through the unfairness of that challenge as well. Love transcends flesh. If it were flesh that made for happy pairings then half of them would not end in divorce.

I believe our hypothetical couple embodies all the best attributes of humanity. There will be hope on the part of the firefighter for advances in ectogenesis and mind downloading technology so that ey can once again have a body. Why should ey be denied marital union simply because, at the timeframe of the example, medical technology is able to save just eir mind, not eir body. The husband will likely feel encouraged to accelerate his own mindclone so that he can share as much with his wife as possible. The new child will become a focus of their life, a new consciousness flowering in the family garden. As the young beman matures the parents may find themselves frustrated that ey doesn’t share their value for flesh embodiment in the future. Ah, but what is new here? Does not every new generation see the world differently? This is what makes humanity a chain rather than a spool, a bridge rather than a pit, a trajectory rather than a destination. As Bob Dylan put it in the 1960s:

“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agein’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin.”

So, yes it will be inevitable that mindclones will want to get married (either to flesh people or to other mindclones), and will want to have children (gene and/or beme based babies). The social challenge will be getting legal recognition for their desires. Consider these diverse match-ups:

Mindclone and human loves mindclone and human.
If the two mindclones have living flesh originals, then this means the flesh originals have also fallen in love. A mindclone has the same psychological and legal identity as their flesh original. In this case, an old-fashioned “press the flesh” marriage occurs, albeit one that may have begun between each spouse’s mindclone online. And how many current romances begin online?

Mindclone widows.
If one of the married flesh original bodies ends, then we have a surviving body and surviving mindclones. For the mindclone widow scenario the important point is that the death of a body does not end a marriage if a mindclone exists for that body. A mindclone widow is a human married to a combined human-mindclone identity who has suffered a bodily death. They are really not any more of a widow than are humorously called “golf widows.”

Before jumping to a conclusion that this is unfair to the spouse whose body survives, please remember that these mindclones will have the capacity for orgasm. Now it is easy to think that the surviving body will feel “well, that’s fine for the mindclone to have an orgasm, but I want my own orgasm!” (Film buffs may remember the scene from When Harry Met Sally (1989), when Estelle Reiner, looking at another diner appearing to have an orgasm in her seat, says to her server, “I’ll have what she’s having.”) Yet, this perspective misapprehends the multi-presence nature of dual-identity. The surviving body will have “had what she’s having” via eir mindclone. The surviving body can also form an audio, visual, haptic and/or EEG link with eir mindclone to yet further experience the concomitants of the mindclone orgasm. The surviving body can masturbate along with the mindclone orgasm to achieve a synchronous physical orgasm. Yet, even if the surviving body no longer has direct orgasms, but simply witnesses those of eir mindclone, this does not make them separate people. The orgasms we have, while delicious, are just a small part of who we really are. While infidelity is troubling, most wandering spouses are not their one-off orgasms, but are, instead, the engaging personality we interact with over the years.

Of course there will also be many situations analogous to life-long partners who get divorced after one of them suffers a debilitating accident. A surviving body may wish to get divorced from a surviving mindclone. Rarely, this desire may not be shared by the surviving body’s mindclone. In this case they first will have to obtain an independent legal identity for that mindclone, via a psychiatric and juridical process. While it sounds complicated, it is no more so than the vexing child custody battles family courts deal with every day.

A mere difference of opinion regarding divorce between a mindclone and eir original is not any kind of evidence that they are not a singular identity. I don’t believe there is an intelligent person alive who does not maintain two contradictory views of something in their mind. Yet we are still one identity. Most spouses in troubled marriages are often on a knife-edge between “I want a divorce” and “I will stick it out.” They are still singular identities. The uniqueness of mindclone technology is that it enables, after a judicially-approved separation of identity, for two strongly felt, personally momentous, contradictory desires to both be met.

Mindclone loves mindclone. If both original bodies are gone before a marriage occurs, then we are looking at the possibility of a wedding between two mindclones.

Opponents will argue (1) mindclones are neither male nor female, and marriage is a union of one male and one female (or at least two flesh bodies in gay-accepting jurisdictions), and (2) whatever marital rights the mindclones might be entitled to are outweighed by society’s interests in limiting marriages to flesh people and in ensuring that flesh children do not end up in the care of fleshless mindclones via adoption or surrogacy parenthood. For example, opponents will observe, neither freedom of religion, nor the due process right to liberty (which underlies the marital right), provides a safe harbor for polygamy. The right to marriage is not absolute, but must be considered in light of all the circumstances.

The counter-argument to the first point is that since the mindclones are the continuation of their biological selves, they are either male or female. Simply because a person loses the use of a body due to an accident, they do not lose their sexual identity. The counter-argument to the second point is that there are reasonable ways of addressing societal concerns with mindclone marriage that do not require blocking a fundamental human right. For example, even death row inmates have had their right to marriage upheld, notwithstanding the fact that they may never touch their new spouse. With respect to mindclones, no-fault divorce laws make it simple for a person to divorce a spouse who exists only as a mindclone, and adoption laws can restrict mindclone access to flesh children. I believe it is impossible to conjure up a reason that supports limiting marriage to flesh people, and that also applies to all flesh people. For example, if one argues that mindclones shouldn’t marry because they cannot procreate (the old fashioned way), then we would have to prevent senior flesh citizens and the infertile from marrying as well.

There is one kind of trump card argument that mindclone marriage opponents will pull. This argument is that marriage is something that the majority of society considers to be a kind of sacred ritual (even if secular) among flesh people (generally of opposite sex). Consequently, it would shock the conscience of society to have this ritual applied to mindclones, and such a shock is too high a price to pay for enabling the admittedly important marital right for mindclones. Furthermore, since mindclones as a class have not been subject to a long history of oppression, such as racial slavery, there need be very little judicial sensitivity to ensuring that mindclone discrimination not occurs. Thus, the trump argument goes, the interest protected (mindclone marriage) is not great but the interest challenged (marriage for flesh people only) is very great. From this lawyers will argue that courts should block mindclone marriage (as they have rather similarly done with gay marriage).

Who will win? The scales of reason will tilt toward permitting mindclone marriages so long as the Courts are persuaded that the mindclones are simply the same humans as they originally were, albeit in a medically disabled form. This is because every argument against mindclone marriage falls away if mindclones have the same human souls they had as flesh beings.

Non-mindclone Bemans Falling in Love. A legally more challenging situation arises when two non-mindclone bemans fall in love with each other. It is also a certainty to find human loves beman and beman loves human situations. Lastly, non-mindclone beman loves mindclone will arise.

Bemans entail a more challenging legal class because they will have a more tenuous claim to sympathy and understanding for their experience of the guttural call of marital bliss. Humans and mindclones can claim to know this yearning either directly from family life or indirectly via societal absorption. Non-mindclone bemans will have to argue that since all conscious people yearn for love, which can culminate in marital bliss, and since law and psychiatry deem adult bemans to be conscious people, ergo, they too yearn for love, which can culminate in marital bliss, and hence they too should have the same marital bliss legal protections as humans and mindclones.

Opponents will again argue, more factually this time, that bemans are neither male nor female and thus cannot be married because that is a basic requirement. In the U.S., federal law only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman. Even jurisdictions that permit gay marriage require the applicants to be male or female. Additional arguments are that permitting marriage to be used by legal persons incapable of procreation undermines marriage’s purpose, and that societal morals will be undermined by permitting marriage with and among inanimate objects. Finally, it will be said that normal rules of contract between bemans can suffice for fulfilling most of the unique aspects of the marital relationship. Thus, the opponents will claim, there is no need to drastically revise the conception of marriage when the needs of bemans for relationship certainty can be settled in simpler ways.

Yet there is also a strong case to be made for beman-inclusive marriage. The greatest U.S. judicial statement of the legal uniqueness of marriage was offered in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, which prohibited American states from interfering with marriage on the basis of racial background (plaintiffs pictured below):

“Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

No such decision is soon likely with respect to same sex marriage. Lawyers excel at getting comfortable with contradictory notions such as marriage being a basic civil right of man, but not being available to two men who love each other. Hence, the question is whether prohibiting mindclones from marrying is like blocking marriage based on race, or like sex. States cannot prohibit the former, but they can, and generally do, prohibit the latter. Bemans could and should argue that their families are “fundamental to the survival of humanity,” and that they are the progeny of humans, share the longings of humans, value greatly the marital bonds of humans. But it will take some decades of intimate societal familiarity with bemans before this point of view is respected enough to find judicial support.

Of course it is likely that many, if not most, bemans will have no interest in an ancient institution such as marriage. Indeed, it is possible that, as opponents claim, notions of fidelity will be alien to the beman mind. After all, even many humans alive today have no interest in marriage and little if any commitment to fidelity. So, whether the bemans are like us, or not, marriage and family may be boring. But I doubt this will be the case. Notwithstanding the fact that modern humans don’t need marriage, people clamor to get married – their odds of doing so by age 40 are greater than 4 in 5. Despite the lack of any criminal sanctions for infidelity, most people strive to be loyal to a partner. These things are not burned into our DNA – they are burned into our bemes. We were not always this way, but instead have become increasingly family oriented as a matter of choice, not as a matter of force. I believe the reason for this is that it is simply a more enjoyable way to live one’s life.

Bemans will be every bit as much happiness seeking as we are. They will be designed to share our psychology, and will be selected for doing so, because citizenship will only be available to those with high (human-like) CPs. Since marriage and loyalty, albeit imperfectly and haphazardly, is what humanity does, that is what I would also expect of bemans.

In a nutshell, the most important reason to grant marital and family rights to bemans is because at least some of them will value those rights. As noted under Question 14, the essence of dignity is to respect that which a person values. When there is a clash of values, such as those who value marriage as a heterosexual flesh-only thing, and those who value marriage for their own self-actualization, a balancing of interests must occur. This is not dissimilar from clashes between those who value their right to abort a fetus, and those who value fetuses as people. In all such “dignity wars” the only solution is to strike a compromise that nods in the direction of all the well-represented values.

For abortion, in the United States, that compromise has been a nod to the mother’s value for her body, with a unilateral right to terminate first trimester pregnancies, and a concomitant nod to the large demographic that values fetuses as people, with a near-ban on third trimester terminations. For beman relationships, a feasible compromise may be domestic partnership registration with most of the benefits of marriage. This would nod toward the value bemans and their lovers have for their relationship, but also nod toward the sensitivities of non-bemans about the sanctity of marriage as a human tribal rite.

With this compromise bemans will generally be on the same legal footing with humans in matters of family law. Hence, their relationships are shown dignity. Opponents of beman marriage will have been stretched to recognize family law rights in beings many may not yet accept as even being truly animate, much less human-equivalents. Yet, the humanists can still also bask in the dignity of having reserved marriage for humans and perhaps their immediate extensions, the mindclones.

Over time, education and shifting demographics can result in new compromises. For example, society’s initial compromise on gay marriage – domestic partnerships – has gradually evolved, in a few US states and countries, to a completely typical marital right. The same situation may well prevail for beman marriage as people gain greater familiarity with bemans.

Ultimately, a society that cannot resolve its “dignity wars” will disintegrate for it will no longer share the mutual respect that binds people together. Totalitarianism masks unresolved dignity wars with repression, and is thus no more than a short-term solution, and not pleasant for freedom-loving people. Fortunately, democracies and federal systems provide ample opportunities for social compromises to be thought of, debated and tested in local jurisdictions. Considering the tremendous changes our societies have already successfully managed in the last hundred years, I have great confidence we have the ingenuity and decency to develop legal solutions to the needs of humans, mindclones and other bemans for dignified familial relationships.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.
- Winston Churchill

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone is entitled to a nationality, and cannot be arbitrarily deprived of one. Notwithstanding the implementation of this sentiment in an international treaty in 1954, there are tens of millions of stateless persons lacking citizenship today. However, this is a much smaller percentage of the world population than has historically been without citizenship. Progress is being made in ensuring citizenship to all persons.

Mindclones will want citizenship because of the numerous survival advantages associated with it. Yet until mindclones are recognized as human, citizenship is impossible. For the purposes of this question, let us assume mindclones have come to be accepted as digital human continuations of their flesh human original. This is not a stretch because, for all the reasons explained in Questions 1-3, the mindclones will have personalities, memories and intellects that make them cognitively, emotionally and conversationally indistinguishable from their flesh original.

Today, a person’s citizenship ends with their death certificate (and usually starts with their birth certificate). Hence mindclone citizenship will mean either no death certificate for a flesh original, or a special kind of birth certificate or naturalization paper for the new mindclone. In either event the arithmetic works out that mindclones soon garner substantial voting power, and eventually get majority voting power.

Imagine a country with 10 million people and a zero population growth rate (excluding mindclones). On average about 100,000 people will die and be born in such a country annually. Now, suppose that half the “deaths” are of flesh originals whose lives are actually continued as mindclones, i.e., they are not “really dead.” After 20 years there would be 11 million people (100,000 births a year would replace the 100,000 flesh deaths, but 50,000 of the 100,000 flesh deaths each year would continue their lives as mindclones, yielding a million more “people” after 20 years). If the country traditionally split pretty equally into two political parties, a “swing vote” of 10 percent of the populace (and a larger percentage of the “adult” population) would be politically powerful. Indeed, after 20 years, the tally would look like this:

Disappeared into non-mindclone death: 1,000,000
Born in the flesh but under voting age: 1,700,000
Born in the flesh and now able to vote: 300,000
Continued as voting mindclones: 1,000,000
Flesh voting %: 8,300,000/9,300,000 = 89%
Mindclone voting %: 1,000,000/9,300,000 = 11%

However, after 40 years, the percentages would be as follows:

Disappeared into non-mindclone death: 2,000,000
Born in the flesh but under voting age: 1,700,000
Born in the flesh and now able to vote: 2,300,000
Continued as voting mindclones: 2,000,000
Flesh voting %: 8,300,000/10,300,000 = 81%
Mindclone voting %: 2,000,000/10,300,000 = 19%

There is clearly a shift in voting power in the direction of mindclones. Indeed, while every year 100,000 new flesh people will come of voting age, 100,000 flesh people will also die out, and 50,000 mindclones will gain citizenship. The only group that continually gains is the mindclones.

Of course there are many variables at play that can alter this simplistic model – flesh people may live longer, but they may also produce fewer offspring (the famous demographic transition). Initially there may be many fewer than 50% of flesh originals who elect to have mindclone continuations, but after decades of comfort a preponderance of flesh originals may choose to continue their lives as mindclones. These many variables cut one way or the other, and sometimes cancel each other out. All that can be said with certainty is that giving true citizenship to mindclones does lead to a possibility, if not a probability, that mindclones will end up with substantial voting power.

The prospect of mindclone voting power raises two important questions: (1) Is it really a problem?, and (2) Is there a practical alternative?

How Does The Mindclone Vote Differ From Other Demographic Voting Blocs?

Mindclone voters would generally be older voters. On the other hand, they would also be very tech-savvy voters. I believe the only non-speculative conclusion that can be drawn about mindclone voting habits is that they would tend to vote for what was in the best interests of mindclones. On the great majority of issues, this would be similar if not identical to what was in the best interests of flesh persons. For example, mindclones would want security (keep the barbarians at bay!), good infrastructure (faster networks, reliable electrical power grid), medical R&D (stem cell research leading to ectogenesis and mind downloading), educational opportunities (got to keep society going), world peace, low taxes and, oh yes, real campaign finance reform. Consequently, in terms of how they will likely vote, there does not appear be a reason to fear growing mindclone political power. They are us.

There is a stereotype that old people are scared of change and vote, knee-jerk, against it. In a recent study published in the journal Electoral Studies, “The Grey Vote: Determinants of Older Voters’ Party Choice in Britain and West Germany,” academician Achim Goerres concluded there was no evidence to support this stereotype. Specifically, he found no evidence to support the hypothesis that older voters were more economically conservative in their political positions.

Instead, there are two main factors that affect older voter behavior. These are called generational and life-cycle factors. The generational factors are largely irrelevant over time because every ten years or so another generational trend appears, continually diluting the strength of any one trend. For example, a generation that came of voting age during the 1960s might share many of its cultural tendencies. However, seniors who came of age during the more conservative 1980s and 1990s would soon dilute them. Potentially more significant are life-cycle factors, which are trends that typify any older person, no matter what generation they grew up in. For example, we might logically think that old people cared more about health care policy than young people. However, the empirical research carried out by Dr. Goerres found no such trends (young people care about health care too). Similarly, no data was found to support the notion that older voters are more economically conservative because they have acquired more wealth. Instead,

“evidence also indicates that ageing democracies will neither show a simple pattern that confirms life-cycle regularities, nor a simple pattern produced by the sequence of political generations. Simplistic notions of the kind suggesting that ageing democracies will face insurmountable political blockades are not warranted.”

In the US, the 2008 election of Barack Obama was a transformative event. The only age group that voted as a majority against Obama were those aged 65 and over. (The demographic called “white voters” also voted as a majority against Obama). Hence, one might ask, would an increasingly aged population, such as one with many mindclones, militate against the type of progressive changes promised by the Obama campaign? Experts do not believe so. The reason most people over age 65 voted Republican (against Obama) is because these people are the generation that politically matured in the 1950s, under General Eisenhower as President, when Republicans were ascendant. (Someone born in 1960 was still under 60 years old at the time of the 2008 election). The 1950s generation have voted majority Republican throughout their lives. It is likely that if the election were held ten years later, when many of the senior citizens were individuals who came of age during the Democratic-dominated 1960s, the 65+ demographic would have voted as a majority for Obama. Indeed, one could also speculate that mindclones would identify with the tech-savvy Obama as compared to the email-phobic McCain, whereas the non-mindclone senior citizens of today may have simply identified with the septuagenarian McCain based upon age.

In summary, it does not appear likely that the mindclone voting block will vote significantly different from the populace as a whole, because their interests will not be much different. Also, there is no data to support the notion that older people vote more conservatively, per se, than any other demographic group. While such a trend may hold for a generation, it will just as likely be supplanted by a different trend in the next generation. The only thing about the life cycle of a person that, per se, leads them to vote one way or the other, is possibly party or candidate familiarity. The more impressions a party or candidate makes on someone the somewhat more likely they are to vote for them. In contrast, younger voters are more willing to vote for any candidate or party because none has yet made an impression upon them. However, this factor of familiarity does not imply either a liberal or conservative political position.

One can also take a fleshist, or Essentialist, point of view that mindclones will simply not be capable of rationally exercising a voting franchise. Such a point of view is inconsistent with the premise of this Question – if mindclones were so clearly “lame,” then they would never be counted as humans in the first instance, and there would be no question of their citizenship or voting rights. The Question here is if mindclones are worthy of citizenship, are there valid reasons to deny them such citizenship, such as fear that they will outvote the flesh population to its detriment.

One might argue that even if mindclones are deserving of citizenship they are too susceptible to mass manipulation to vote responsibly. Quite similar arguments have been used to forestall the extension of voting rights to subordinated demographic groups, from non-European descended peoples in South Africa to women worldwide. In every instance, once the franchise was extended, there has been no evidence that it was exercised any more or less wisely than those who previously monopolized voting power. We should not forget that the Germans voted Hitler into power. Public opinion polls regularly report that substantial blocks of American voters believe in things that are scientifically impossible.

Democracy and voting is not designed to reach the most rational decisions, unaffected by emotional manipulation of tribal or religious values. For such outcomes one needs Plato’s Republic, if it would work with the utopian order written into it. Instead, democracy is a mechanism for ensuring that a government everyone must support with sacrifice and/or taxes will remain attentive to electorally significant interest blocks within the populace. This generally overlaps with rationality (most of the voters making up the interest blocks want to live in a reasonable society). Consequently, even if mindclones will vote as a block, as humans frequently do, they will most likely vote to further their interests. As noted above, those interests are highly collimated with normal flesh human interests.

Will One Man, One Vote, Stop at the Mindclone?

A premise of modern democracy is that each adult citizen gets one vote; none get more or less. This principle remains inviolate with mindclones. As explained in the answers to Question 12, a new mindclone has the same legal identity as its biological original. If you mindclone yourself, you have crossed a Rubicon of identity – ever after your one identity is spread across two substrates, your flesh and your mindclone’s software. Thus, you are not entitled to two votes. Should you and your mindclone disagree over how to vote (which is the same as arguing with yourself over how to vote – most of us have been “undecided” at one time or another), the first of you to actually vote (yes, there will be remote electronic voting by then) will be the only vote of yours that is counted.

From Question 12 it will be recalled that upon creation a purported mindclone will not yet be deemed an adult. To have a voting right a purported mindclone will have to either (a) satisfy governmental standards that it has a unity of identity with its flesh original (i.e., that it is, in fact, a mindclone), or, if not (b) spend a childhood under the flesh original’s care (or that of a surrogate parent or agency) until it meets government standards for demonstrating adult autonomy and empathy.

The government standards for a mindclone will inevitably require at minimum (a) the use of mindware approved by a government agency such as the FDA as capable of producing human-equivalent mindclones from an adequately robust mindfile, and (b) the attestation by a flesh original that he or she shares a singular identity with the mindclone based on not less than a year of experience. If these standards are not met, the purported mindclone is not one at all, but is instead at most a new cyberconscious being. Whether such a new cyberconscious being (deemed in Question 12 to be a “beman”) can ultimately vote will depend on eir maturation over 18 years and meeting objective standards for national citizenship. Legally, they are like a newborn who immigrated from a country called “cyberspace.”

The difficulty of getting a voting right other than as the cloned identity of a citizen makes it most unlikely that flesh humans will rapidly find themselves a true electoral minority. As noted above, mindclones do not make flesh humans a real electoral minority because mindclones have the same personality and legal identity of the flesh precursor. They are but a techno-medical extension of a flesh human life.

Laws will be modified so that upon the bodily death of a flesh original with a mindclone there will issued a “life extension certificate” in lieu of a death certificate. (The life extension certificate would be delayed, with a revocable death certificate issued in the interim, if the flesh original died less than a year after the creation of the mindclone, and hence before the mindclone could meet the legal “one year real life test” standard for demonstrating unity of identity. In this case, as noted in Question 12, a panel of psychologists specializing in cyberconsciousness would need to make a recommendation). The life extension certificate will attest to the time and manner of bodily death of the mindclone’s flesh original, while at the same time documenting the fact of a continuation of that person’s identity. The life extension certificate will then be used by the mindclone for voter registration and other documentation requirements associated with citizenship.

Is There An Alternative to Mindclone Voting Rights?

For most of human history most people lacked voting rights. Indeed, universal suffrage became a cause célèbre only within the past century or two. Notwithstanding this lack of voting power, many disenfranchised peoples have done well and lived good lives. Hence, one alternative to the risks of mindclone electoral domination is to not extend suffrage to mindclones.

If voting rights are not extended to mindclones, a growing percentage of the population will not be as able as the rest of society to influence policy through elected representatives. The disenfranchised mindclones will probably be discriminated against, as legislatures will not fear the loss of their votes. Mindclones will find themselves in the company of demographic groups around the world who lack voting rights in the country of their residence:

➢ Women in Saudi Arabia
➢ Immigrants worldwide, unless naturalized
➢ Those convicted of crimes in most American states and many other countries
➢ Sixteen and seventeen year-olds in all countries except for Austria
➢ Stateless persons

For most of history voting rights were withheld from most citizens. In general, only men owning significant property could vote. Then, in the late 18th and especially 19th centuries, there arose social movements in favor of “universal suffrage,” which meant the extension of voting rights to men who did not own real estate. Decades later this was generally extended to all women. However, even “universal suffrage” has generally excluded criminals, the seriously deranged, and others deemed not to be qualified. Voting rights are important because they are the most effective, non-violent, tool by which to get legislatures to pay attention to a group’s concerns.

In the United States there is no constitutional right to vote. The qualifications for voting are left up to each state, although they may not exercise their power in a way that discriminates on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or age above 17. Consequently, different states will pass different rules governing the conditions under which (if any) mindclones can vote. Hence another alternative to mindclone voting rights everywhere is to leave the matter up to experimentation by the 50 American states (and similar political subdivisions outside the US). Different states will probably adopt different levels of qualification for mindclone voting rights. Then, depending upon in which state a mindclone is resident, ey may or may not have the right to vote.

Another alternative is called “census suffrage.” In this concept voting rights are apportioned in an unequal manner. For example, each mindclone could be awarded one-tenth of a vote on the argument that they are only able to fulfill one-tenth of the obligations of a flesh citizen. This would surely become a point of contention as in our increasingly computerized society (including the Department of Defense’s new Cyber Command) mindclones may actually be more useful than flesh humans. The contention would grow more severe if mindclones were not taxed at the same discount as that applied to their voting rights.

There are alternatives to mindclone voting rights. Amongst the world’s 200 odd countries it is rare to find any two countries with precisely the same voting rules – several countries even exclude police and military personnel from voting, notwithstanding the risks they take for their communities. I believe that the risks to flesh persons of including mindclones within universal suffrage are negligible. However, the societal tensions from excluding them are palpable. Consequently, it would seem wisest to extend voting rights to mindclones and other adult bemans. Although, as noted above, there are numerous avenues available to extend that franchise cautiously and based upon experience.

On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson made a historic appearance before Congress to urge passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered by many experts to be the most important piece of U.S. civil rights legislation. The previous weeks television delivered shocking images of peaceful African-American petitioners being clubbed, hosed, dragged and set-upon by attack dogs. In explaining to Congress why voting rights were, in particular, the most important of all human rights, he observed that it all came down to dignity:

“…dignity cannot be found in a man's possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated equal in opportunity to all others. … Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish, it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country, in large measure, is the history of the expansion of that right to all of our people.


Johnson was reminding us that all human rights rest upon voting rights. Without the right to vote, everything else can – and often will – be taken away. So while there are alternatives to extending full suffrage to mindclones, they are like a building full of trapdoors. You think you are on solid ground, but then, take a step forward, and at any moment you can be stripped of your very existence. Remembering that mindclones are not abstract beings, but are us, our parents, our friends, our fellow citizens, I believe the alternatives are but tranquilizing slips down into a dark social pit. We have an opportunity here to learn from history and do this right. For all of us to live with dignity, our mindclone brethren must have the right to vote.