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.