Religion As Child Abuse

For some years I’ve been making the case that indoctrinating kids with Religious belief constitutes one of the more serious forms of child abuse.But frankly I can’t see any obvious way to prevent it without totalitarian coercion by the State (as practised, for example, during the 20th century in both China and Russia) against all those religious parents who think they’re actually benefitting their child by passing on the indoctrination they received themselves at the same age.

The one area where the State can legitimately intervene is in the publicly funded education system where they could prohibit all religious indoctrination (such as the compulsory “act of worship” required in UK schools) and restrict them to religious education, where students could be taught about the full spectrum of religious inquiry; the history of religion, its psychology, its attempt at answering the principal philosophical questions, its successes and failures at answering those questions and its overall benefits and costs. If done properly this could only offend fanatics and would greatly reduce the negative effects of home indoctrination. Over time, it should begin to reduce recruitment.

In contrast this case shows how stupidly the authoritarian State can handle such delicate issues.

What it amounts to is an assertion, by the State, that because a 7 year old boy rejects the fairy story the school is trying to inculcate (the Christian story) and prefers the fairy story taught by his Jehova’s Witness mother, the child has been emotionally damaged and should, therefore, be taken from his mother and placed in care. That is an obscene overreach by the State.

Now we can’t reach any firm conclusions about the individual story because we certainly can’t trust the source (Daily Mail). So it’s entirely possible that the Judge is responding to a wealth of plausible evidence regarding emotional damage which may or may not be entirely focussed on the religious issue and which the Daily Mail simply isn’t bothering to report. So we’ll take it with a pinch of salt and treat it only as an example of the potential dangers of allowing the State to use its coercive powers to intervene.

But the real point is simple. Why does the mother’s indoctrination constitute abuse while the school’s indocrination doesn’t?

Christianity – Genetic Blowback?

Just a thought.

Just watched the excellent “Sex and the Church

Learned a lot. Highly recommended.

But although it explained – very well – what we know about the history of the Christian church’s embarrassing obsession with sex, it didn’t explain how or why the ideas which formed the core of the meme managed to survive past the “raised eyebrow” stage. And they are so psychotic that an explanation is required.

Clearly by the time Augustine had “clarified” the doctrine of sexual sin, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that a truly sinless human race – which is, ostensibly, what the Christian church would have liked to achieve – would, by virtue of complete sexual abstinence, have made themselves extinct within about a century.

Is it conceivable that no one understood that at the time? Not for me it ain’t. For me, it’s bleedin obvious that it would have been bleedin’ obvious to any sentient human hearing that proposal at any time. So how did it get past the snorts of ridicule? What on earth made so many meekly accept – at least in public – such a message as meaningful ethical guidance?

Not, of course, that they paid anything but lip service to the resultant edicts; or else there wouldn’t be so many of the buggers around today. So the first tactical error (in this context) made by the authoritarian church had the effect of making private disobedience an essential tool of survival. That’s not a good trait to encourage in a “subject.”

More significantly, if the tendencies to either disobedience or submission (to the demand for sexual abstinence) had any basis in genetic predisposition, their strategy also ensured the evolution of increasingly sceptical and disobedient Christians, whom – inevitably – learned to value autonomy over authority and, eventually, to reject authority altogether. Delicious irony?

I know. It’s a fairy story. Nice one though.

About the Indian Rape Epidemic? Take a look in the Mirror

If you haven’t seen India’s Daughter yet, put it in your diary, or (until they take it down anyway) watch it right here right now.

Meanwhile scroll down to the second paragraph under the second picture in that story. Read the first 3 sentences.

Oh Bollocks. I’ll save you the trouble. You can read the whole thing later.

Each country has its own appalling bloody tally. India has a population of 1.2 billion. A rape occurs every 20 minutes. In England and Wales, 85,000 women are raped every year.

Now, ask yourself, why have they written it like that? 1 rape every 20 minutes in India. 85000 a year in England and Wales. I asked my wife that. She responded immediately: “They’re trying to conceal something”. Quite so. Obviously we’re supposed to be horrified at the extent of the Rape epidemic in India. Every 20 Minutes.

Do the math. 85000 a year is 9.7 every HOUR. That’s just short of one rape every 6 minutes in England and Wales. Makes India look almost restrained…

And England and Wales Population is less than a twentieth of the Population of India. Which makes our Rape Rate 74 times – ie 7,400 percent – worse than the Indian Rape Rate.

Now, actually, I don’t believe that. Even though, as the article goes on to explain, Jyoti’s story dramatically increased the Rape REPORTING Rate in India, I suspect it’s still way behind the Reporting Rate in the UK. And I’m sure if the reporting rates were the same, it would definitely close the gap. But it certainly doesn’t suggest we have any reason whatsoever to believe that women in our country are any LESS likely to be raped than their sisters in India.

I’m sure both of my readers will recognise that I’ve made this same argument before, back in January 2013, but I seem to be the only one pointing out the nakedness of our Empirical patronage. If you follow that link, it has the sources which also reveal that the USA rape rate is about the same as the UK and that Sweden, of all places, reports the highest levels.

I don’t believe that either.

I suspect the Rape Rate in Sweden is amongst the lowest on the planet, so if they’re reporting the highest rates, it almost certainly means that women in Sweden are probably the most likely to report their abusers. Probably as close to 100% as we’re likely to get and that suggests the UK/USA rates are at least double what those sources suggest. Definitely no room for complacent finger wagging.

And why is the Guardian, of all outlets, aiding and abetting this distorted view of our cultural superiority?

So Journos get a bit more Protection, what about the rest of us?

The Daily Mail is crowing over its small victory but, as usual, hasn’t grasped the bigger picture.

The Authoritarian Law (RIPA), whose abuse they have reported on for years, is about to be tweaked with another Law forbidding cops from prying into Journalists’ phone records without more serious oversight than the pathetic “superintendent level authority” required for the police to carry on spying on the rest of us.

First, it’s a VERY small victory. It reputedly only even attempts to improve the protection for Journalists. Not citizens. So, at most, a few hundred of our fellow, more privileged citizens, will be “protected” by the proposed new restrictions.

But second, note the quote marks around “protected”. That’s no accident. The truth is that the Law does NOTHING to protect us from abuse of surveillance powers and never has. At most it might deter those who think they are at risk of being caught snooping, which given the fact that they are not being snooped on themselves, is a very low risk.

But, as the RIPA saga amply illustrates, the vast majority of its abusers don’t even grasp the concept of “Abuse” in this context. They have routinely justified their illicit access as “proportionate and necessary” in pursuit of their aims to pursue petty criminality, littering, illegal parking, dog fouling, fly tipping, cheating to qualify for access to favoured schools and other matters of dubious relevance to our “National Security” which RIPA was deemed necessary to protect. And what we’ve suffered here in the UK is trivial compared to the institutionalised abuse and assault on civil liberties arising from the wholly illicit USAPATRIOT Act and its associated legislation in the United States.

This kind of mission creep is rampant around the world. The USA clearly does it most egregiously and most “professionally” but while they’re among the worst offenders, there is probably no government on the planet which doesn’t routinely abuse its authority to obtain illicit access to private data for reasons which no intelligent citizen would approve.

And anyone who thinks “The Law” can protect them from this kind of abuse doesn’t begin to understand the problem. The only way to prevent such abuse is to make it technically impossible to spy without audited authority. Wot that mean?

It means that it has ALWAYS been technically possible to control access to the data they want to snoop on. It means that such control can easily be made to include a form of authentication and authorisation which ensures that all the relevant data is captured to an audit trail which cannot be tampered with by those requiring the authorised access. It means that, though we can never guarantee to prevent illicit access, we can guarantee that we can always discover it and who was responsible for it.

Laws which make something illegal and threaten sanctions are, at best, only a minor deterrent, as we see in real life every day (think War on Drugs, Fraud, Burglary, Rape etc etc as well as the routine abuses by the Authorities themselves).

Conversely, the near certainty of detection is a major deterrent.

The audit trail would, itself, contain no sensitive data and could thus be entirely publicly accessible. It would serve three functions.

First, all requests for access could be technically blocked and only permitted to proceed on receipt of a key from the audit trail. That one time access key would only be issued once the audit trail has been persuaded that the requestor was a) authorised to make such requests and b) had proved deposit of the documentary evidence required to justify the reason for access.

Second, the public audit trail presents to the world an anonymised record, in real-time, of what the authorities are doing. That public record would not, for example, reveal whose phone records they had just requested access to, but would reveal that one or more such access requests had been made in the last few seconds or minutes. Nor would it reveal who had requested access. But it would reveal at least the organisation responsible for the access request. That might be as vague as “The Home Office” or “NSA” or it might be as specific as “Precinct 99” or “East Devon County Council”. That’s a matter for negotiation.

Over the course of days, weeks, months, it would reveal the extent of surveillance activity against the citizens and the patterns of what authorities were doing what kind of snooping.

The third function of the audit trail would be, in the event of any challenge to the authorities, over a specific access session, to verify (or falsify) their claims as to why they did what they did. Remember the one time access key? That only gets issued if the authority requesting access asserts that it has documentary evidence supporting its reasons for the request and that they meet the terms of any relevant laws. They have to “prove” the existence of that evidence by lodging its digital fingerprint (a “hash” for those who aren’t yet familiar with this incredibly useful crypto tool) with the audit trail.

Come the challenge, they must present that documentary evidence to the auditors and, possibly, a court. The beauty of the Hash is that, while maintaining the complete confidentiality of the evidence, it proves unequivocally whether or not the documents they present are identical to those they claimed, at the time of the request, supported their access request. If they don’t match, or if they are found to be attempting to bypass the audit trail altogether, they are automatically committing a criminal offence.

If they do match, the auditors/court can now study the documentation to make a judgement as to whether their reason for access was legitimate or not. If not, then, once again, they’ve committed a criminal offence. If they do match, then it’s a fair cop!

None of the above is rocket science. It doesn’t require any new technology. It does require some new programming and authentication procedures but nothing dramatic, even though the effects would be.

There are two roles for the Law in this area. First – what they already do – they need to define what we democratically agree to be acceptable and unacceptable practice, with a view to enabling appropriate sanctions against those we find in breach of the law. Their second, so far absent, and more important role, is to mandate the implementation of the kind of technical protection which makes the abuses we’ve forbidden impossible to hide. No more, no less.

If the media, including the Daily Mail, could understand this issue and campaign for the introduction of such legally mandated technical protections across the planet – or at least in their own backyards – then they might actually improve the human condition, and not just protect their own interests.

Now that would be something worth crowing about.

Scottish Independence – Promo For Democracy & Non Violent Politics

Holding a rally in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate England’s passionate desire to keep the Scots on board would have been a brilliant idea, if the passionate desire had actually been on show. Had a million people shown up, screaming in support of the Union, it’s possible that such a powerful demonstration of emotional support for our Caledonian Cousins would have swung a few percent of teary eyed waverers in the direction of voting against Independence.

In the event a derisory 5,000 showed up and politely applauded a few of the usual celebrity suspects. How would you read that tepid reaction from north of the border? If I were Scottish, I’d be taking that as confirmation of English indifference and make me more inclined to think “well fuck you too”.

I wish I’d placed a large bet on a Pro-Independence vote a couple of years ago when the odds were more favourable. Still, I have just managed to get odds of 11-4 on a small bet which, given the obvious momentum in the “Yes” camp, actually looks pretty generous to me.

It’s taken me almost as long as a large lump of the Scottish electorate to make up my mind but my excuse is that I don’t have a vote. Nevertheless, I’ve finally come down in favour of Scottish Independence. The turning point for me was actually a throwaway line from Dara O Briain on last week’s “Mock The Week”.

As he implies, we can’t imagine the fathers of the Irish Free State, gearing themselves up for a run-in with the world’s then biggest Empire, being deterred by the mundane issue of what currency they might be stuck with after their victory!

That hits the nail on the head. What has been going on up in Scotland for the last couple of years – and reaches its conclusion in just a couple of days time – is vastly more important than Money.

For the UK, it is the first opportunity for genuine democracy (where “We The People” decide the Issue rather than elect dictators to make decisions on our behalf) since the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the Common Market – as we used to call it when that’s all it was.

One of the major consequences of this prime democratic exercise is likely to be a demand for more of the same. The Scots have been truly “engaged”, on a completely unprecedented scale and it is widely agreed that, as a result, the politicians have paled into the insignificance they deserve. If and when this revolution takes place, Alex Salmond and the SNP can rightly claim a considerable degree of credit for starting the ball rolling and keeping it on course despite some forgivable wobbles; but the credit for putting the ball in the back of the net will belong entirely to the people of Scotland.

That’s a high they’re likely to develop a taste for.

And, if the prospective Scottish democratic revolution “works”, it could drag the rump of the UK along with it. With a thriving democratic and independent Scotland it will be much easier to make the wider case for Democracy. Why on earth (citizens will increasingly ask) should we continue to tolerate elective dictatorship when our immediate neighbours are so obviously benefitting from the practice of putting politicians in their place (advisors, campaign starters, critics, drafters) and “We The People” in our place (Decision Makers) .

And it won’t stop there. Successful secession from such a globally elite Union will embolden those with similar ambitions elsewhere. Which is why, for example, Spain is already so hostile to the notion of Scottish Independence. After all, if it works for the Scots, why not for the Basques? But have you any idea how many separatist movements there are in Europe alone? I gave up counting after 50…

Moving farther afield, have you seen how many American secessionist groups there are? That page lists a couple of dozen. And, as we learn here, some of them are already watching the Scottish experience with considerable interest.

And, famously, north of the US border, we’ve had the long running Québécois campaign. But they’re not unique even in Canada. There are another 8 Canadian campaigns in various states of array – which most of us have never heard of.

Not to mention more than 50 in China, Indonesia, India and elsewhere in Asia, most recent of which are the universally loathed Islamic State, who, like history’s long chain of extreme authoritarians, have convinced themselves they can bully people into long-term compliance with their brutal regime. They’ll learn. Eventually. After another couple of hundred thousand martyrs have fallen to their cause.

We have to hope, for the sake of that extreme example, amongst others, that Scottish Independence will be a Triumph for Democracy and demonstrate to the world at large that really significant change can take place through peaceful means. The worst possible outcome is that they vote themselves free of the United Kingdom and, ten years down the line, have nothing to show for it. That would send exactly the message we don’t want the authoritarians to be able to retweet.

And Dara highlighted the significance of that too:

Scotland has to prove, to all the doubters and doom-merchants that Secession can be Sexy and Democracy can displace Violence. So bugger the Currency, that’s a dream worth voting for.

State-Rape – Penetrating Justice

My first thought when I heard what David Eckert went through was “State Rape”, but I stuck with the title of the video when I posted it in a previous blog.

One of my readers suggested that, though obviously disgusting, abuse that insane was, mercifully, rare. I beg to differ. I googled “State Rape”. I was looking for more evidence of the cavity searches. I’d entirely forgotten about the first story that came up: The imbecilic proposal to force pregnant women in Virginia, Texas, and Iowa to undergo transvaginal ultrasound tests if they were uppity enough to demand abortions.

Yeah! that’ll put em in their place. We’ll consider letting em have their abortion if they’ll just let us rape them first…

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was actually a supporter of that proposal, until someone had the sense to take him aside and explain what a transvaginal ultrasound entailed. Fuckwit.

So that’s one definition of State Rape. Hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t. But cavity searching? That’s now a daily event somewhere between Sea and Shining Sea (although New Mexico seems to be a hot spot). And it’s every bit as brutal and illicit as bog standard Rape. Here’s another couple of examples, where a man and woman were (separately) suspected of carrying drugs and given the full State Rape treatment. And then DESPITE THE FACT THAT NOTHING WAS FOUND in either case, were then BILLED thousands of dollars for being the victims of obviously criminal assault by the State.

Apparently Eckert wasn’t the first New Mexico example. This unnamed woman was State Raped in 2011. And here’s a more recent example; this time from Milwaukee.

How the fuck normal Americans have let it get to this state is a wonder to behold. In a 2012 poll, 30% of Americans actually indicated they’d be prepared to a submit to a “TSA body cavity search!!!”

Just try finding that information anywhere close to a mainstream outlet. Not a chance.

Why not? because even though it’s a trustworthy poll conducted by the highly reputable Harris Poll organisation, the people who commissioned the poll – Infowars – are obviously too far out on the libertarian (American version) fringe to qualify for being taken seriously.

Presumably, if the Dalai Lama discovered, verifiably, a new law of physics, similar mainstream inertia would ensure that it too would be ignored by the “News” organisations, simply on the basis that as a mere religious leader, he has no business asking scientific questions.

It’s a bizarre reaction. Who gives a shit who asks the questions? What matters is what the answers reveal and, in this case of American willingness to let themselves be buggered by the State, those answers are pretty shocking but no surprise.

They are in line with the results of Bob Altemeyer’s findings on the prevalence of Authoritarian Followers, (which I blogged about here). About a quarter of the population fall into that category. They’re the ones who have taken the blue pills with a double helping of Koolade, and still believe that Authority exists to protect them.

So that wasn’t surprising. What did provoke a raised eyebrow was the political split. Altemeyors statistics show a clear authoritarian follower preference for Republicans over Democrats but here they’re evenly split. 31% of republicans will accept State Rape, 33% of democrats and 30% of the independents. Now that’s WEIRD.

Anyway, as I say, you won’t find (well, I couldn’t) that poll reported in a single mainstream source. Not even the populist Daily Mail which loves a bit of salacious America bashing picked it up.

dunno ’bout you, but I think that the fact that 30% of the population of the Land of Free is prepared to let the actors in the biggest Security Theatre on Earth mechanically bugger them is, at least, newsworthy.

Still, some good news on the Eckert case, turns out he was awarded $1.6 million in punitive damages for the illegal assault. That might take the sting out of it for him, and hitting the vicious bastards in the wallet might be the only way America is going to nudge itself back towards being a civil society…

Optional Mortality – The Informed Consent Protocol

It’s time we set the rules for reviving digitally stored humans, once the revival technology has become available. I’m sorry if you had other plans, but this is important.

I don’t usually post responses to my forum comments on this blog but given my recent ramblings on our future as Digital Humans, it seems apt. First off, hat-tip to MrJSSmithy for the nudge. His question (Ah. If you get nagged about the unknown certificate, on the way in to the forum, please allow the “security exception”. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe your feet.) His question forced me to accept that my assumptions (about when we might choose to be revived in digital form) were a) hidden b) possibly unfounded or at least not necessarily universally applicable and c) needed to be made explicit.

There are multiple reasons we need to consider an Informed Consent Protocol, some of which are touched on in the play (Resurrection), where I introduce the notion of Omortality (optional mortality). Other reasons are touched on in my initial reply to Smithy.

While the arrival of the technology capable of sustaining our digital existence is obviously still speculative, it is certainly reasonable to assume that we’ll achieve the prerequisite storage capacity and brain reading techniques required to capture the human brain map well before we achieve the ability to revive that map as an autonomous human clone, psychologically identical to its source, but in a digital environment. Personally I reckon that gap (between the ability to store and the ability to revive) will be at least a few decades. Kurzweil is more optimistic.

When would Sir like to be revived?
In any case we can certainly anticipate that many bitizens will sign up for storage before they can ever know whether it will even be possible for them to be revived. Which means, if and when the revival technology is available we’ll have a backlog of – possibly millions or even hundreds of millions – of dead but digitally stored humans available to be re-activated. One obvious potential ethical issue will be the question of whether and in what circumstances each relevant individual has consented to be revived.

This is the most important issue which I am proposing to tackle with the Informed Consent Protocol. The idea is to allow anyone who opts to be digitally preserved to record, for the benefit of the eventual Revival Team or Computer, the conditions under which they would like to be re-activated and, optionally, the extent of that re-activation. As you may have gathered, I do not regard it as a simple “Yes/No” question.

There are definitely conditions in which I, for one, would not wish to be revived. For instance, if the planet is about to be struck by a massive asteroid or if the current batch of Islamic Terrorists has won their war against the modern world and humanity all lives under a new Caliphate – or any other form of Theocracy. Revival Mr Stottle? Think I’ll pass on this occasion.

Yes, I know that even the option of Revival would almost certainly have disappeared under a Caliphate but, a) I’m merely illustrating the point that there are potential circumstances under which I’d prefer to stay in storage. (Try me again in a coupla hundred years). And b) even (or especially) under a Theocracy, there will be a Resistance movement and it might be them who are trying to revive me.

So the Protocol needs to allow bitizens to set the parameters or conditions under which they would wish or not wish to be re-activated.

and how much of you shall we revive?
There are also potential levels of activation, short of full autonomy, which an individual may wish to accept in preference to full activation. The protocol needs to capture these preferences as well.

I’ve already made it clear that I wouldn’t wish my digital self to wake up in “the wrong sort of future”. But that doesn’t mean that no part of me could be revived without the full Stottle. In a digital environment the options are limited only by our imagination.

One such is a functional avatar, based on me but without the conscious spark (whatever that turns out to be) that makes it “me”. Such an avatar could serve two useful purposes. First, it could answer, on my behalf, any question that I’d be able to answer and could choose to answer or not based on its awareness of whether or not the full “me” would consent to answering. Second, it could identify the presence of the conditions in which I would be happy to be fully activated. And that possibility would make the protocol much easier to implement.

Instead of trying to describe all the possible reasons you may or may not wish to be revived, it would be much more straightforward if you could just say “Revive my Avatar to the point where it is capable of making the decision for me”.

Wake me up when I’m thirsty…
As well as deciding the moment of initial digital re-activation, I have predicted elsewhere that this (functional Avatars) is how future digital humans may well cope with living potential eternal lives. Unlike some, I do not imagine that, after living a few million years, some individuals might become bored and choose voluntary personal extinction. But I can imagine that, in some circumstances (eg travelling to a distant galaxy which might still take millions of years) where individuals might choose to become dormant until or unless their permanently conscious Avatar wakes them up because something interesting is about to happen (or just has).

But even if such Avatars become possible, we still need the Informed Consent Protocol so that each digitally stored human can record their unequivocal consent to the revival of, first, the Avatar and second, subject to the Avatar’s judgement, the fully restored human mind.

The other reason we need the protocol is, of course, that such an Avatar may NOT be possible, so we have to be able to leave some kind of guide to the conditions which would meet our consent.

So with all that in mind, here’s my first stab at the kind of questions you’d have to record your answers to, in order to allow a future Revival Team/Computer to make a reasonable assessment of your willingness to rejoin the human race. I do not intend to design some kind of “form” we’d fill in. I’ll just describe the issues the “form” has to cover. I’ll leave it for the legal eagles to create the paperwork.

Section 1 – Identity.
Obviously the Revival team will need a fool-proof way to identify you as the owner of the relevant digital store. That’ll almost certainly require a cryptographic proof. So a digital notary will verify your identity, record your consent and have it protected on an Immutable Audit Trail. It will include embedding the hash of the digital store (which we can assume to be unique itself) in the document which describes your consent to revival. This will tie the consent to the data. (It might even form part of the key which must be used to decrypt and unlock the data) The crypto-geeks will no doubt improve on that outline as we get closer to needing to store the data.

Section 2 – Avatar consent
Here we’d sign up to allowing an Avatar, judged – in the technical context of the time – capable of representing your wishes, to make the judgement on your behalf as to whether “now” is the right time to revive you. This is obviously a conditional consent based on the existence of technology which makes the Avatars possible and capable of that level of functionality.

Section 3 – Unaided consent
This is the more difficult scenario where we have to try to anticipate, today, all the possible reasons which might exist tomorrow which might deter us from being revived. Or an overriding positive condition which will authorise our revival regardless of any potential obstacles.

However, I don’t think it’s as difficult as it may first appear. Because, in short, you could always decide to go back into hibernation. So you could stipulate that you’ll act, in a sense, as your own Avatar. You’ll wake up, take a look around and decide whether or not to make the awakening permanent or hit the snooze button for another thousand years.

That would only require one condition to be true in order for your revival to be permitted and that condition is simply that the newly awakened you will retain the sole authority on whether and how long you stay re-activated. You might even make that the ONLY condition for your revival. “Don’t wake me up until and unless when I wake up, I can choose to return to indefinite storage”, or the more positive “Wake me up as soon as it becomes possible for me to exercise the option to return to storage”

Section 4 – Arbitrary conditions
Where the first three sections really deal with the technical issues of identification and available functionality, this section needs to deal with non-technical issues which might affect the stored individual’s decision on revival. If the (section 2) Avatar consent is possible, then this section would be unnecessary, but if not, then the individual may need to list the conditions which they consider would block or permit their revival; or should at least be present/absent before attempting revival under (Section 3) unaided consent.

For instance, someone might stipulate that they would only want to be revived if other named individuals had also chosen to be revived. Or, more negatively, if other named individuals had NOT chosen to be revived.

Section 5 – Simultaneous Consciousness and the “Right to Murder”?
This section is the direct result of MrJSSmithy’s question. It is probably not going to be an issue for the first generation of digitally stored humans because it won’t be possible, as mentioned above, to re-activate your stored version until the technology has advanced to make that possible and that is likely, in my view, to be a few decades after we’ve begun to store ourselves in digital form.

But step forward, say, a hundred years from now and there is no obvious reason why your digital clone could not be re-activated as soon as the backup is complete. As I said in the forum, I’ve always been conscious of the myriad of awkward issues this would raise and assumed that we’d avoid the problem by forbidding such activation while the “source” (or “Simulee” as I’ve named it in the forum reply) remained alive. (see the reply for more detail)

That, I now admit, was essentially a personal prejudice. I wouldn’t permit it for my clone, but I can’t think of any technical reason why it would not be possible to have multiple versions of yourself active at the same time. I’m quite sure we will do that deliberately when we ARE digital humans. For example, I can imagine sending a version of myself off to live on the plains of Africa to observe the wildlife in real-time for periods of decades at a time. It might be an advanced Avatar or a full clone. It might have no physical form, or the form of an insect just large enough to fly around with an HD camera, or whatever, and it might link up other versions of me, from time to time to merge experiences.

The question is, would such an arrangement be feasible or “a good idea” while your organic self was still around and gathering experience and data in its own pedestrian organic fashion? The biggest single problem being that, whereas digital versions of yourself could easily choose to merge their experiences, and will thus always comprise the full organic you, plus any new experiences the clone/s gather in their new existence, the traffic is likely to remain very much “one way”. i.e. the organic you will never be able to assimilate the experience of your active digital clone/s…

… and a major consequence of that would be that the inevitable divergence between the personality of source and clone/s may quickly reach the point at which they can no longer be considered the “same person”. Indeed, as I suggest in the forum discussion, the clones might actually become antagonistic to their own source!

For me, therefore, simultaneous consciousness is a big “no no”. But others may be indifferent or even think it’s a good idea. So this final section of the protocol needs to spell out whether, while you remain alive, you would consent to the full activation of the clone. And even that, even for me, is not going to be a simple “yes/no” question.

Attending My Own Funeral
For example, as I say in the same place, I can well imagine circumstances in which my organic self deteriorates into the senescence of old age and dementia robs me of the ability to meaningfully consent to anything. At which point I would be happy for my digital clone to be activated and assume “Power of Attorney” over my organic shell until it shuffles off this mortal coil. Indeed it is the vision of that future which led to my saying somewhere in the distant past “I hope and intend to be one of the first humans to attend (perhaps even conduct!) their own funeral”

Actually I now recognise that to be a bit too optimistic. Although I hope and still expect to survive till the storage technology becomes available, hanging on till revival is also possible is probably a bit of a stretch given that I’m already in my sixties.

Nevertheless, this final section needs to allow the organic source to stipulate the conditions under which activation of the clone could take place during their organic lifetime. And it is actually the most potentially controversial component of the entire protocol.

Essentially, this section needs to cover the issue of whether or not the organic human can “murder” their own digital clone, and even, in the Power of Attorney scenario, permit almost the exact opposite – where the clone, for example, eventually gives the final authority to switch off the life support system for its organic source.

I point out, in the forum reply, that the ONLY reason I would want to activate my own clone while I was both alive and fully functional, is that I would need to be convinced that the clone really was “me”. (I raised the point, first, during a lengthy debate, on whether that was even conceivable)

And that the only way I can currently imagine being sufficiently convinced would be to engage in a fairly lengthy and confidential conversation with my clone to probe it’s conformance with me. For which reason it would obviously have to be activated.

When Does My Clone Achieve Normal “Human Rights”?
But that immediately raises the question of the legal basis on which I can then effectively say, “yup, you’ve convinced me, now go back to sleep”. That, of course, would NOT be murder. (because the clone could eventually be revived again) but if we allow the more extended activation suggested by MrJSSmithy’s question, it raises the possibility, as I’ve already mentioned, of the clone become hostile to the source, or even without such hostility, developing characteristics which so horrify the source that the source decides s/he needs to terminate their own clone. i.e wipe the storage – not just put the clone to sleep. Would we – COULD WE – ever permit that?

I think that’s likely to become a hotter topic once the technology exists and clones have started to be stored. But I can certainly imagine a rule which would encompass the simpler situation described by my own preference.

For a start, given that my own clone would start out as psychologically identical in all respects to me, I have no problem in stating, on behalf of my clone, that I am willing to be put back to sleep after I have convinced myself that, as a clone, I really am “me”. I have no problem further stipulating that if my clone indicates, during the persuasion period, that it has changed its mind and now wishes to remain active, that this should be taken as direct evidence that it is a faulty copy (because it clearly does not mirror acceptance of this crucial condition) and should thus not just be de-activated but destroyed.

The first question, if you like, for the newly activated clone, would thus be: “do you still accept these conditions?” If not, the clone is immediately destroyed, whereas, if it indicates it is still happy with the conditions, then it has already consented to de-activation after persuasion.

But that only really deals with the relatively simple scenario required for the short “period of persuasion” and I don’t anticipate that such periods will even be necessary once the technology has been running long enough for people to trust it without such tests.

So the really difficult question is whether and how we would frame rules to deal with de-activation or destruction after a clone has been allowed to develop its own new life during the lifetime of the organic source. My gut instinct is to avoid that problem by blocking the option, as I would do for my own clone. Once you’ve allowed the clone to become a “different person” you can no longer kill it. The only law I can imagine being consistent with our current notions of autonomy and “human rights” – once a clone has been permitted to diverge to the point where it no longer wishes to become dormant – is one that states, from that point on, the clone is one of us…

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(Feel free to discuss this here or on the forum. You have to be a WordPress member to post comments here and you need to join my forum to add comments there. Be seeing you…)

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