“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
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
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.