sentient, malevolent, whatever :-)

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From: Strata Rose Chalup (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 11:00:42 PDT

In terms of "the box", why is it that it is so important to determine
if something is sentient or not?

Could it be that we, for large values of "we" (Western culture, some
Eastern culture, etc) believe we can shamelessly use and abuse for
our own reasons anything which is non-sentient, but sentient things
or beings are different?

It's nice that we're evolved enough to ask the question, but I think
we need to keep going. I'm not a raving tree-hugger, but I think that
the whole assumption that our ecosystem is a "resource" to be "utilized"
is rather a bit off.

If you think that the recent spate of email virii brouhaha is
lamentable, consider this-- the very same attitudes and practices,
namely short-term goal-directed behavior without consideration of
interoperability and emergent behavior, that led to the current state
of email and internet "security" has been going full-tilt for
generations in this country with respect to ecological and
environmental practices. What will be our physical environment
equivalent of the Melissa or

Maybe the frog devastation across much of the world, maybe something
else, who knows? Maybe it's already hit and we just didn't recognize
it yet.

Entertaining yet topical tidbit, encountered this morning
while reading "The Perfect Storm": Remember the old warnings about
how swordfish contained dangerous amounts of mercury, where dangerous
meant "exceeded some gov't agencies guidelines about how much was safe"?
Then the flap kind of went away? Apparently it didn't go away because
of any change in the environment, it went away because said agency
just kind of relaxed its requirements. Doh. The fishing industry is
a big, big lobbying force. The author doesn't come out and say that's
what happened, but it's pretty obvious. And if anyone had come up
with studies that said mercury was really less toxic than anyone had
thought at those concentrations, my guess based on the author's style
is that he certainly would have included that info. Now I'm curious
and intend to look for myself...


The metapoint I'm trying to make here is that we should pay less
attention to sentience and more attention to how we treat everything,
sentient or not. I think the silent taboo in the discussion is that
no one wants to talk about slavery, and if certain things end up being
sentient (anything from dolphins to gorillas to AI) we will be in
another one of those situations again. Hell, it's already set up and
waiting-- there is already a tremendous economic inertia working to keep
any of those categories I mentioned above a non-sentient resource,
and the folks trying to argue for sentiency are getting the same old
stuff that went on for generations in the slave era as "proof" that
folks with a different skin color couldn't be as human as others.

Bah humbug.


Strata Rose Chalup []   |
Project Manager                             |     VirtualNet Consulting
iPlanet/Netscape Professional Services      |

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