Embracing Complexity

As the world changes, people change, and technology advances, issues and ideas that were once clear cut tend to grow more complex. As we grapple with the new ideas and new issues there are always people on all sides that want to deal with those issues in the same way they were dealt with in the past, and there are always people that want to change how we deal with those same issues -I'm typically one of those. Both of these groups will often oversimplify the issue. The first by ignoring the new complexity involved, the latter by ignoring, forgetting, or simply being ignorant of the context that gave the original issue meaning.

A good example of this comes in the form of individual rights. The rights of man were a clear-cut matter when "man" consisted of land-owning white English males. There was a reason for rights, a state of society those Englishmen were trying to avoid (tyranical rulers), and a state of society they were trying to create (presumably peace and prosperity among themselves). Add women to the mix, and non-whites, and non-english, and lord forbid foreigners (that was sort of covered with non-english but its worth reemphasizing), and non-land-owners, and children, and disabled individuals (including the insane), then suddenly the issue is not so clear-cut. If a child has a right to live why doesn't he have a right to vote? If an infant has a right to life, what about a fetus? If I have a right to pursue happiness what about my insane aunt velda (f.y.i. I don't really have an aunt velda). If I have a right to liberty what about a teenager who just learned to drive? How far should their liberty extend? Can they drive across the country without parental permission if they own the car?

If comatose patients have a right to be kept alive why don't deer have a right to not be shot? You see at this point I have clearly lost the original context of individual rights. Where that context was lost isn't clear, but the "rights of deer to not be shot" conceptually has certainly lost any relationship to the purpose of creating a society of peace and prosperity or the protection against the rise of tyrants. I'm sure the deer don't enjoy being shot, but last time I checked killing deer never led an individual to tyranical power over his fellow men - er people (with the exception perhaps of some celtic tribes no longer in existence whom I've heard had some sort of religious thing with deer).

In attempts to regain that context we hear absurd statements such as "animals are people too," and "holocaust on your plate," from groups such as PETA. Of course not even die-hard animal rights groups can hold these positions consistently. PETA for example recommends neutering your pets, but mysteriously does not practice nor advocate the neutering of actual people. :lol: But alas my intent is not to argue about animal rights but to discuss complexity and how we deal with it.

Another issue growing in complexity as I write this is property. I was actually quite surprised that my most recent entry on music downloading did not include a comment quoting webster's definition of theft for me. :wall: When property was restrained to physical inert objects it was a clear cut idea, more importantly "theft" was a simple idea. These objects are mine. Those are yours. If you take mine without permission you are stealing. Even owning other humans was simple in this light, though owning what those humans created is where things started to get fuzzy. But jump ahead to the ownership of ideas - designs, paintings, photos, music, schematics, patents, poems. I don't own the book your holding, nor the individual words within it, nor necessarily the order in which they appear, but instead I own the right to reproduce the words printed in it in the order they are printed. And still its not even that clear - taking a few words out would not invalidate the right or cause us to consider it another work.

Still there are those that will tell you that theft is theft is theft, and anyone who disagrees is just trying to get something for nothing. Even though stealing a diamond from a museum is clearly different from me making a copy of your book with my own materials on my own printing press, which is still different from downloading an mp3 file to your computer, capable of producing a song on your speakers that was written and produced by someone else. Now I wonder if perhaps in the very concept of "stealing music" we have lost the context that gave the term "theft" any meaning.

At some point we will have to contemplate the ethicality of patent infringement when the thing patented was a complicated sequence of DNA. What will it mean to steal genes, and in what context will it even be possible to consider such a thing theft? Will it be a crime relegated to biotech firms?

We have a fine line to walk between the new contexts of our world and how a concept must be changed and must be treated differently in that context, and the old context - the one's from which the concept originally derived its meaning. I can't feel the same moral outrage against someone who downloads music illegally as I would against someone who breaks into a home and steals a vcr. I can't consider the idea of eating chicken (or even the process of getting that chicken to my plate) to have any similarity ethically to the idea of rounding up people into camps and killing them. I can't consider copyright infringement to be theft, when nothing has been stolen (of course the issue of its ethicality is independent of whether or not the action is considered theft).

More than anything I'd like to see more people aware of the complexity of the issues they are so passionately arguing. Furthermore we need to be tolerant of the subtlety that is often required when taking on these issues, and ready to take a few steps back when we find we have tumbled into absurdity.

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I previously suggested that

I previously suggested that content creators could only sell copies of their work to people who agree to a set of rules, one of the rules being that they won't redistribute the content and they take it upon themselves the duty to restrict the access of others to their copy. That should allow us to point the finger and assign blame in any case since a voluntary contract was violated.

The issue is quite simple... if content creators are unable, for various reasons, to control the redistribution of their creation then their income drops to extremely low levels, compared with current ones. (Imagine bands which earn money only via concerns and deals with advertisers)

In any case you are right about the complexity, but you must also remember that complexity is the very reason we have generic principles, so when faced with complexity, by throwing principles out of the window you're only enlarging the problem.

If a child has a right to

If a child has a right to live why doesn’t he have a right to vote? If an infant has a right to life, what about a fetus? If I have a right to pursue happiness what about my insane aunt velda (f.y.i. I don’t really have an aunt velda). If I have a right to liberty what about a teenager who just learned to drive? How far should their liberty extend? Can they drive across the country without parental permission if they own the car?

You could either deny the child the right to life, or else say he does have the right to vote but simply is incapable of exercising it (like someone who is sleeping). Similar with your aunt velda, who normally would have the right to pursue her happiness but could be restrained to prevent injury (she's currently not capable of exercising her right to happiness). As far as children goes, I like Rothbard's system of determining adulthood vs. childhood (essentially whenever the child demonstrates the ability to hold a job and support him/herself somehow).

Now I wonder if perhaps in the very concept of “stealing music” we have lost the context that gave the term “theft” any meaning.

I agree, the word 'theft' has no meaningful application to things which are non-physical. You can think of it in terms of homesteading scarce means or of having the right to the product of your labor (for example, I have a prior claim on my property by having labored with it, even if it happens to be configured in a way which represents something you labored on, like a hard drive might be).

I can’t feel the same moral outrage against someone who downloads music illegally as I would against someone who breaks into a home and steals a vcr.

Here the key term is what it means to 'download' something. If you think about it, downloading from person A's computer to person B's computer is morally equivalent to person A saying the string of bits to person B directly (how would sound waves and electrical waves be morally different?). Since reading a bedtime story with an abandoned book is moral, it follows by reduction that downloading music is moral as well.

I mentioned this because I think one of the most powerful ways we have to deal with the 'new complexity' of issues is by considering what is really important about the issue and then asking "Well, what does reason suggest we do in an ordinary situation that's like it?". Unfortunately this is sometimes difficult to apply (like abortion for example), but arguably there are good analogies for abortion as well (the unconscious violinist plugged in to your heart). It's not a perfect way of reasoning, but at least it's reasoning.

That should allow us to

That should allow us to point the finger and assign blame in any case since a voluntary contract was violated.

Of course that system would only work if you had a super-government that had cameras covering every square inch of the populated sections of earth. Great idea, there.

The issue is quite simple… if content creators are unable, for various reasons, to control the redistribution of their creation then their income drops to extremely low levels, compared with current ones. (Imagine bands which earn money only via concerns and deals with advertisers)

Well maybe that's tough, and they need to find another way of generating income. Morality of downloading aside, there is simply no practical way of achieving what you're asking for. Ergo, musicians will have to do something else with their talents (possibly involving music, for example).

A solution would be to

A solution would be to provide each customer with a slightly different version of the music. Then you'd know who redistributed your stuff without your permission and hold him/her accountable. (I'm sure the fans of Britney Spears won't notice that 3 times during a track, at random intervals, a few miliseconds have a different pitch... Random watermarking could be very effective because you wouldn't know what to remove.)

I'm sure that sellers and buyers would manage to come to an agreement regarding the specific measures sellers would try to use, via the market. If you believe that authors can't monitor their sales then you have nothing to fear from my proposal, but if I'm wrong a minimum restricting on redistribution via contracts could work.

I don't intend to propose a system that would eradicate redistribution or tapping the radio but my only aim is to reduce these practices to the minimum possible under a system of law and contracts.

A solution would be to

A solution would be to provide each customer with a slightly different version of the music. Then you’d know who redistributed your stuff without your permission and hold him/her accountable.

I doubt the random water-marking would be effective; the would be distributor could just alter the file in any number of ways to destroy the watermark. And this wouldn't really help with movies, etc.

I’m sure that sellers and buyers would manage to come to an agreement regarding the specific measures sellers would try to use, via the market.

You mean like buyers not purchasing products that have anti-copying measures in them? Yeah I can see that happening.

By the way, your avatar

By the way, your avatar looks horrible. Did you take the picture in a closet? :juggle:

Also, there's the other

Also, there's the other point I forgot to mention, which is that even if you succeeded in finding the violator very frequently, it still wouldn't obtain the ends you desire. Music companies don't want to hear that they can only hold the initial violator responsible, because you can't sue an individual and get a zillion dollars (unless it's Bill Gates, perhaps). Efforts to enforce information protectionism are doomed to fail.

You could either deny the

You could either deny the child the right to life, or else say he does have the right to vote but simply is incapable of exercising it (like someone who is sleeping).

Or you could say that there's no such thing as a right to vote---that voting is just a (highly imperfect) mechanism designed to guard against tyranny and protect real rights, and which can and should be restricted only to those who are likely to vote responsibly.

Or, more precisely, you could say that a child does have the right to vote, but that he doesn't have the right to have his vote counted in governmental elections.

You're right. It's enough

You're right. It's enough for the genie to slip out of the bottle once and then the file could get replicated forever and you'd only have 1 guilty individual to prosecute. While I acknowledge that weakness, it's the best system I can think of, for content creators.

Re: my avatar, you're right. I changed it. I had the flu that day.

In any case you are right

In any case you are right about the complexity, but you must also remember that complexity is the very reason we have generic principles, so when faced with complexity, by throwing principles out of the window you’re only enlarging the problem.

I don't recall advocating the throwing of principles out the window. In fact I'm very much opposed to the idea. It certainly would not make things better and if anyone suggests that its a good idea I'll be happy to point this out to them. :grin:

Here's a complexity for you:

Here's a complexity for you: I still want an answer to my question about whether libertarianism implies that it's OK for Chief O'Brien on Star Trek to "kill" Captain Picard by failing to complete the transporter cycle. The argument about why sleeping or comatose people have rights doesn't apply, since Captain Picard ceases to exist once his molecules are disassembled, and hence can have no rights.

There is a tacit contract to

There is a tacit contract to reconstitute the Captain. The Captain has the implicit expectation that he will be rematerialized.
If there were any doubt of this it could be written in the standard operating procedure manual of the transporter and thus be a contractual obligation.
I would not want you as my estate attorney, if you doubt that you would be obligated to rematerialize the Captain. The Captain’s will does not disappear, when he disappears, any more than an estate planning will.

There is a tacit contract to

There is a tacit contract to reconstitute the Captain. The Captain has the implicit expectation that he will be rematerialized.

That's not good enough though; in ordinary life I don't have to contract with anyone for my life, it's mine automatically, so to speak. So if Chief O'Brien decides to go have tea and not finish the transport, at most I guess he would get fired and have to pay damages to Starfleet for breach of contract. That's a far cry from what generally happens to a murderer.

As for the remark about

As for the remark about estates, don't worry, your estate is safe with me (or a consistent libertarian at least). The reason for this is that since the property is yours, you have the right to transfer it to someone, which you can do by writing "Upon my death I transfer my property X to person Y" on a piece of paper, essentially. In the case of Picard, there's no individual to whom Picard has "left" his molecules. If there were, then it sounds like a slave-contract of some kind, with perhaps Starfleet command becoming the "owner" of Picard's body.

Stefan: Your conception of

Stefan:

Your conception of what constitutes a person isn't robust enough to be useful in a world where we can destroy someone and reassemble him in a different time and place while still preserving identity.

If someone is induced to allow himself to be destroyed by a binding agreement to reassemble him later, then he's still a person in the interim. And failing to reassemble him in violation of the agreement is murder.

Your conception of what

Your conception of what constitutes a person isn’t robust enough to be useful in a world where we can destroy someone and reassemble him in a different time and place while still preserving identity.

That's the paradox; I think my conception of a person is perfectly valid, yet it leads to unpalatable conclusions for the Star Trek universe. I think this just shows that the Star Trek universe is based on silly physics, not that my conception of a person is flawed.

If someone is induced to allow himself to be destroyed by a binding agreement to reassemble him later, then he’s still a person in the interim. And failing to reassemble him in violation of the agreement is murder.

What's the justification for saying that a collection of molecules is a "person" if they are scattered all over the place? I'm not saying there can't be one, only that it doesn't seem to make logical sense. It's like saying some deposits of iron and bits of plastic are a car because you could reassemble the molecules to make them into a car. Failing to reassemble Captain Picard might merit dismissal, but I can think of no logical grounding for my intuitive belief that it would constitute murder.

Stefan, it seems to me that

Stefan, it seems to me that if you tied up the Captain and sent him into molecular oblivion, you would be doing the same thing, at worst misusing government equipment. But why not just anesthetize him, dissolve him in sulfuric acid and disperse the solution into a fine spray.

Since the heisenberg

Since the heisenberg uncertainty principle precludes the existence of such a device (heisenberg compensators aside :wall:), you are actually asking us to analyze the moral implications of a scenario that is not actually possible - which may explain the difficulty our current ethical systems have in adressing it. All questions of morality, ethics, crime, etc. regarding actions committed against other individuals presumes the consistent existence of both parties involved.

A more interesting question is did they commit the murder when they disassembled the captain initially or when they failed to rematerialize him later?

Another scenario might be stopping the heart of a patient thus making him clinically dead to perform a delicate procedure. If the doctors chose to not revive him... I don't know I guess because they were evil maniacal weirdos or something... at what point would the murder have taken place. At the beginning of the procedure when the heart was stopped or when the procedure was done and they were expected to revive him?

Also since you don't have to use the same material to reassemble the person who is being transported in the star trek universe, perhaps its murder everytime they do it because they are killing the original and supplanting him with a copy.

A more interesting question

A more interesting question is did they commit the murder when they disassembled the captain initially or when they failed to rematerialize him later?

That's actually the core of the problem; the disassembling is essentially voluntary suicide, of a sort. Hence my question as to why there would be any obligation under justice to bring him back. (Of course they later introduce an inconsistency by positing that people are still conscious during the transport cycle, which under that interpretation solves the problem).

Another scenario might be stopping the heart of a patient thus making him clinically dead to perform a delicate procedure. If the doctors chose to not revive him… I don’t know I guess because they were evil maniacal weirdos or something… at what point would the murder have taken place. At the beginning of the procedure when the heart was stopped or when the procedure was done and they were expected to revive him?

I think the problem there is that "clinical death" doesn't really mean dead, the way you're using it. If they somehow cut his brain up and put it back together that would be difficult, but the scanrio the way it's posited is similar to throwing someone in the water to help them swim and then just walking away; I don't pretend to know if the murder takes place at a precise moment (and if so, which one), but throwing someone into the water and then letting them drown sure seems like murder to me.

Also since you don’t have

Also since you don’t have to use the same material to reassemble the person who is being transported in the star trek universe, perhaps its murder everytime they do it because they are killing the original and supplanting him with a copy.

I was under the impression you have to use the same molecules to do it. Otherwise I think the scenario is trivialized (an obligation to reconstitute the captain seems no different than an "obligation" to continually crank out clones from inanimate matter). They tried to address this in an episode of Enterprise by having the scientist say something like "People used to be superstitious and irrational and think the transporter was murder, but we're beyond that now". Not sure what that's supposed to mean however..

What’s the justification

What’s the justification for saying that a collection of molecules is a “person” if they are scattered all over the place? ... Failing to reassemble Captain Picard might merit dismissal, but I can think of no logical grounding for my intuitive belief that it would constitute murder.

First off, what is murder? Killing a human being, (or, since we're talking about Star Trek; a sentiant being) without a justifiable reason, (i.e. self-defense) and/or illegally.

Second, we are people because society and other people recongise us as people. You're using the Internet to access this, because people recongise this as the Internet. You're using a browser to read this, because people recongise this as a browser.

Now, Picard has been recongised as a human being by Starfleet, and I sincerely hope, by his crew as well. For Chief O'Brian to willfully not use the technology under his control to bring the Captain back, is murder because 1) He voilated the "contract", (for lack of a better word) that said Captain Picard had the sentaince to expect to be "brought back" and 2) because he allowed the Captain to remain "dead"/killed the Captain by not "bringing him back".

In essence, he willfully killed the Captain by not doing his job to the best of his abilities. Free will and all that...:dizzy:

First off, what is murder?

First off, what is murder? Killing a human being, (or, since we’re talking about Star Trek; a sentiant being) without a justifiable reason, (i.e. self-defense) and/or illegally.

It is true that ambiguity of some of these terms is the problem - my intuition is that failing to rematerialize the captain is morally the same as if I stabbed someone in the heart, or threw them into a lake and then failed to render assistance; in other words, murder. I can't think of any logical reason to support my belief however, so I have to consider the possibility that the Star Trek world is just so bizarre that logic doesn't even apply.

Second, we are people because society and other people recongise us as people. You’re using the Internet to access this, because people recongise this as the Internet. You’re using a browser to read this, because people recongise this as a browser.
Now, Picard has been recongised as a human being by Starfleet, and I sincerely hope, by his crew as well.

I think you're using a circular (or at least) incomplete definition of personhood. Say that I am a person because (sic) other people recognize me as a person doesn't really define personhood. The "problem" with my conception is that Picard ceases to become a person while inside the transporter buffer.

In essence, he willfully killed the Captain by not doing his job to the best of his abilities. Free will and all that…

I would agree with you if O'Brien had thrown the Captain into a lake and then stood by while he drowned. But in this case he is literally killing and then reanimating a human; that sounds much more problematic to me. Of course I imagine in the Star Trek world that markets in transporter use would still function to some extent, because customers would stop patronizing transporter operators that were negligent in rematerializing their clients. Unless you're a wealth-maximizing consequentialist of some kind, though, I don't see how that automatically makes it wrong (maybe O'Brien reasons at some point that wealth will be maximized if Riker takes over from Picard, in which case "killing" Picard might be justified).

Rainbough---“at what point

Rainbough---“at what point would the murder have taken place?”
The essence of murder is intent How long it takes or when it starts is not important.
If you successfully do something that is intended to induce death. It is murder, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as self-defense. Of course there are sneaky ways of intending to cause death that are buffered from intent and can’t be proven.
If you shoot someone it does not matter if they lay in the hospital for a week before they die, or even if the doctor botches the wounded man’s treatment.
Thus the evil heart surgeons would not commit murder until they began to intentionally harm the patient.
If O’Brien intentionally killed Picard, it is murder. If he just forgets to hit the return button on the machine it is an accident.

And-----“ Also since you don’t have to use the same material to reassemble the person who is being transported in the Star Trek universe, perhaps its murder every time they do it because they are killing the original and supplanting him with a copy.”

In teleportation it does not matter if the body is made of the same molecules or not. You are not made of the same molecules you were made of ten years ago either, as there is continual metabolic turn over. This could be interpreted as supporting dualism and that your consciousness is immaterial, but it can also be explained by information theory. Thus, life is information and killing involves the irretrievable destruction of the information you are composed of. That still leaves the mystery of consciousness.

You are not made of the same

You are not made of the same molecules you were made of ten years ago either, as there is continual metabolic turn over. This could be interpreted as supporting dualism and that your consciousness is immaterial, but it can also be explained by information theory. Thus, life is information and killing involves the irretrievable destruction of the information you are composed of. That still leaves the mystery of consciousness.

Does that apply to the brain too, and if so in what way? (I don't think anyone is suggesting that because people eat and digest that their personhood is changing.)

Your idea of persons-as-information, if true, would indicate that Captain Picard does exist during the transport - inside the Enterprise computer as a pattern of bits. This seems to lead to the odd conclusion that the Captain Picard that materializes is not "real", only the one in the computer memory is, in which case failing to hit the return button still wouldn't be murder.

I wonder what Peter Singer would do as the transporter chief. If there is some sort of obligation to "reanimate" a static pattern in this fantasy-land, I bet Singer would take upon himself the obligation to continually be rematerializing clones of the Captain to maximize utility. :sweat:

Stefan, _I was under the

Stefan,

_I was under the impression you have to use the same molecules to do it. Otherwise I think the scenario is trivialized (an obligation to reconstitute the captain seems no different than an “obligation” to continually crank out clones from inanimate matter). They tried to address this in an episode of Enterprise by having the scientist say something like “People used to be superstitious and irrational and think the transporter was murder, but we’re beyond that now". Not sure what that’s supposed to mean however.._

This doesn't actually work as it doesn't, for instace, explain the two William Rikers in "Second Chances." Nor does it explain how Scotty can hang around suspended for 75 years in "Relics" or how the transporter could be used to turn Picard et al into children and then turn them back again using old patterns in "Relics". Nor will it explain Tuvix from _Voyager_.

The use of the transporter isn't always terribly consistent, but it seems as if it would have to be an information transporter rather than a matter transporter. If the thing merely beams dispersed molecules and then reassembles them, then it couldn't possibly result in a duplicate of the person being transported. Besides, such a transporter seems pretty wasteful. Why bother moving stuff when all that is really necessary is moving information. A body really is just a certain pattern of matter, and as Dave points out, our own bodies are made up of matter that is constantly renewed. So really, what's the difference between my body make of _these_ atoms and my body made of _those_ atoms? Nothing really.

The information transporter does raise all sorts of odd moral problems, though. Why, for instance, does anyone ever die? When Tasha beams down to a planet and gets killed by a slime pit, why not just reactivate the transporter, recruit some new matter, and imposes Tasha's saved pattern on it. Out she steps, minus the 20 min. or so she was on the planet getting killed. And why can't you populate all the ships with Data? Or for that matter, have Kirk still captain the _Enterprise_. How hard would it be to store a copy of the young pre-bald Kirk and rematerialize it each time one builds a new _Enterprise_?

You should check out Richard Hanley's _The Metaphysics of Star Trek_. He takes up most of these questions in a pretty rigorous way.

I think you’re using a

I think you’re using a circular (or at least) incomplete definition of personhood. Say that I am a person because (sic) other people recognize me as a person doesn’t really define personhood.

Maybe, maybe not...

What is anything besides what we say it is? What is a cat? What is a dog? What is murder? What is self-defense?

These questions can easily break down into philosphic goo. Now, I happen to think that we are what we are because we all agree that that's what we are. ('Perception is reality' if you prefer it in a more "political" sense) Of course, that doesn't make it right nor perfect, but it certainly answers the question of "what are we?" doesn't it?

I would agree with you if O’Brien had thrown the Captain into a lake and then stood by while he drowned.

In a sense, he did. (Of course it would be different if you said he couldn't swim, but you didn't so I'm going to run with it! :grin:)

Because he had the knowledge and the ability to "reanimate" the Captain, and intently chose not to, (intent as Dave was saying; choice/free will as I was saying) it is equivalent with standing by and watching someone drown. (Assuming the person knows how to swim, there isn't a very strong riptide in the area, there isn't sharks in the water... etc, etc, etc)

This doesn’t actually work

This doesn’t actually work as it doesn’t, for instace, explain the two William Rikers in “Second Chances.” Nor does it explain how Scotty can hang around suspended for 75 years in “Relics” or how the transporter could be used to turn Picard et al into children and then turn them back again using old patterns in “Relics". Nor will it explain Tuvix from Voyager.

You're striking a low blow by bringing up "Relics". We have to disallow episodes that introduce complete craziness into the mix...

The information transporter does raise all sorts of odd moral problems, though. Why, for instance, does anyone ever die? When Tasha beams down to a planet and gets killed by a slime pit, why not just reactivate the transporter, recruit some new matter, and imposes Tasha’s saved pattern on it. Out she steps, minus the 20 min. or so she was on the planet getting killed. And why can’t you populate all the ships with Data? Or for that matter, have Kirk still captain the Enterprise. How hard would it be to store a copy of the young pre-bald Kirk and rematerialize it each time one builds a new Enterprise?

Actually I think you've proven that the Star Trek universe is inconsistent - because they would do exactly those things (or things like them) if they could. In any event, I think Rainbough's concerns don't stretch as far as solving impossible complexity, so I think we're OK.

You should check out Richard Hanley’s The Metaphysics of Star Trek. He takes up most of these questions in a pretty rigorous way.

Actually I read it in high school. The discussion, which is similar to Nozick's, is actually sort of tangential to my question, since he was concerned whether the "closest continuer" doctrine established that the Picard on the other end was the same as the Picard that went in. My question is whether there's any moral obligation to even have something come out "the other end", assuming either body transport or information transport. The only way (other than through O'Brien's contract with Starfleet) that I see there being an obligation to reconstitute Picard is if you accept that the "information" stored inside the computer is Picard, and that his wish to be reconstituted has to be respected (similar to how it might be unjust to keep someone in a coma forever).

Of course I also think the conclusion Hanley does draw is insane; I don't give a wet slap if by killing me you can somehow make an identical replica of me later, even if it is my "closest-continuer". I'm perfectly happy with the process I already have of establishing a closest-continuer, which mostly involves just sitting on my ass...

These questions can easily

These questions can easily break down into philosphic goo. Now, I happen to think that we are what we are because we all agree that that’s what we are. (’Perception is reality’ if you prefer it in a more “political” sense)

What does 'we' mean in that sentence?

Of course, that doesn’t make it right nor perfect, but it certainly answers the question of “what are we?” doesn’t it?

You can't answer the question of what we are by saying we are what we are. Geez, you're no better than that Jehovah guy in the bible.

Because he had the knowledge and the ability to “reanimate” the Captain, and intently chose not to, (intent as Dave was saying; choice/free will as I was saying) it is equivalent with standing by and watching someone drown. (Assuming the person knows how to swim, there isn’t a very strong riptide in the area, there isn’t sharks in the water… etc, etc, etc)

I've already said it, but I'll reiterate - the problem with the analogy is that there is no drowning man in Picard's case; all there is is either the molecules themselves (body-transport), or the information stored inside the computer telling you how to build a Picard (information-transport), or some combination. If you want to argue that the information inside the computer is really Picard then that's fine, but the analogy is extremely problematical.

Stefan –“Does that apply

Stefan –“Does that apply to the brain too and in if so in what way?”
I see the problem with the mechanism of sending information through hyperspace to reconstitute a being. Since it would not necessarily be made of the same substance would it have the same consciousness? Say it was made of different molecules arranged in an identical manner when it was reconstituted. If you are a materialist you must conclude that the reconstituted Captain Picard would be simply a clone. If you didn’t destroy the original copy when you transported it you would now have two copies. If you believe in an information theory of consciousness you would have to ask the reconstituted Captain, but you would have no way of knowing if he was deluded into thinking he was the real Captain when he answered you. The only way you could know the truth would be to get transported yourself. You would run the risk of ceasing to exist and having a fake person at the other location pretending to be you.

As far as the material integrity of the brain, I think most neurons maintain a stable structure through life, but you are loosing them all the time. Other neurons connect and form synapses that take over the function of the lost neurons. Simple elements like, calcium, sodium and potassium migrate in and out all the time. The basic protein structure could be stable for years, so the real conscious you might be a certain mass of stable proteins, but there is no evidence that consciousness has a certain locus in the brain. I don’t know if the amino acids, glyco- and lipoproteins that make up the brain substance undergo any turnover. If stability in these molecules controls the longevity of your original conscious existence, then they must last a long time, because I am the same person I have ever been so far. This also bring up the problem of when did the brain protiens that constitute your conscious existence originate? Did they come from fetal life or just when did they arise? To me the idea of brain molecules equals conscious existence seems rather shaky.

Stefan, Actually I think

Stefan,

Actually I think you’ve proven that the Star Trek universe is inconsistent - because they would do exactly those things (or things like them) if they could. In any event, I think Rainbough’s concerns don’t stretch as far as solving impossible complexity, so I think we’re OK.

I'm not entirely sure that such things would happen in the _Star Trek_ universe even if they are/were possible. For starters, there would be all sorts of issues about who, exactly, owns my pattern. There would be something odd about saying that Starfleet could own _my_ pattern since it is, in a very real sense, a recipe for building, well, me. So I suspect that there would be moral issues with simply running around creating duplicates willy nilly.

Interestingly, _Star Trek_ is generally better at keeping its _moral_ commitments straight. The Federation is very much grounded in deontology, something very like a Kantian respect for autonomy in fact. The Prime Directive, for instance, is very much a Kantian position. Consequentialists, on the other hand, are typically the antagonists, the bureaucrats who will sacrifice a ship (or a senior officer) to save others. Or my favorite utilitarians, the Borg, who have (or is it has; is there really just one Borg?) solved the interpersonal comparison problems of utilitarianism by simply eliminating individual persons. The Borg episodes, in fact, really draw out the moral position at the heart of _Star Trek_: the good Kantian individualists vs. the evil utilitarian collective.

Actually, I think what such issues really demonstrate is that the writers of _Star Trek_ are just clever enough to think up some interesting philosophical problems, but not quite clever enough to see all of the implications of their solutions to those problems. I keep offering to do philosophy consulting work for SF series, but so far no one has taken me up on the offer. Go figure.

Consequentialists, on the

Consequentialists, on the other hand, are typically the antagonists, the bureaucrats who will sacrifice a ship (or a senior officer) to save others. Or my favorite utilitarians, the Borg, who have (or is it has; is there really just one Borg?) solved the interpersonal comparison problems of utilitarianism by simply eliminating individual persons. The Borg episodes, in fact, really draw out the moral position at the heart of Star Trek: the good Kantian individualists vs. the evil utilitarian collective.

I must confess that's an interesting way to look at the Borg, although now that you mention it I do remember something to that effect being mentioned in the 8th movie ("by assimilating other species into our collective, we are bringing them closer to perfection"). The show almost would have been libertarian if you rewrote the Prime Directive to replace "civilization" with "individual".

Actually, I think what such issues really demonstrate is that the writers of Star Trek are just clever enough to think up some interesting philosophical problems, but not quite clever enough to see all of the implications of their solutions to those problems. I keep offering to do philosophy consulting work for SF series, but so far no one has taken me up on the offer. Go figure.

I thought episodes like "The Best of Both Worlds" and "The Measure of a Man" were well-written and resolved pretty well, although it is true the authors of Star Trek can be rather short-sighted at times (the caricatures of capitalists as greedy trolls in DS9 for instance). However, to their credit, I don't think an episode about intellectual property theft involving a transporter patter would be very popular with viewers.

What does ‘we’ mean in

What does ‘we’ mean in that sentence?

"We" means society, community, "we". So, in essence, I'm saying that we are who we are because that's what we say we are.

You can’t answer the question of what we are by saying we are what we are. Geez, you’re no better than that Jehovah guy in the bible.

:sigh:

Alright... let me answer this a different way.

We are what we are because we say that's what we are. What are we?

We are human. We are thinking, rational, (to different degrees, to be sure) intelligent human beings. Now, all these things mean that we use our brains, (usually) before we use our fists.

Because we have the ability to use our minds to conquer the problems around us, we can decide what we are. We get to chose what we are. We can chose to use our minds and we can chose to use our fists. All these choices mean that what we chose, makes up who we are. All your choices, past and present, makes up who you are. Thats what I meant when I said that "we are who we say we are".

If you want to argue that the information inside the computer is really Picard then that’s fine, but the analogy is extremely problematical.

I think that you're splitting hairs, but okay, I'll bite! :smile:

When a person drows, the lungs get waterlogged and you basicly die from oxygen deprivatation. When a person is teleported, the body is broken down into it's componet molecules and atoms, then transported to the place where all the componet parts are reassembled.

Now, while someone actually dies from drowning, technically, someone whose been transported, isn't really dead. The person can still be revived, so in that perspective, yes, I suppose that isn't technically murder. Delayed reanimation, is the term I think best describes it.

While not a crime, I have to wonder how intent fits into this. The Captain obviously didn't intend to be stuck in the "limbo" of the transporter. So, is it a crime for someone in a position of power to override what someone intends to do?

Well, I would say that it depends. In this particular case, there would have to be a very, very good reason why that the Captain wouldn't be brought back.

Now, while someone actually

Now, while someone actually dies from drowning, technically, someone whose been transported, isn’t really dead. The person can still be revived, so in that perspective, yes, I suppose that isn’t technically murder. Delayed reanimation, is the term I think best describes it.

The main problem the Star Trek scenario creates for itself is that "the person" ain't there anymore once the process is half-way done. If you think about what information transport really means, it's technically no different than assembling a bunch of molecules down on the planet into a "Captain Picard" and then killing your own Captain Picard in cold blood. That's why the scenario leads to my seemingly nonsensical conclusion that it's OK to send Picard "in" and not bring him "out"; the scenario starts with killing him and then ends with an identical copy being reassembled somewhere else. Once you've vaporized Picard, I can't see why there's any obligation under libertarian rights to create another one. They should have just shown them walking into shuttles to disembark between ships or something. :cool:

Once you’ve vaporized

Once you’ve vaporized Picard, I can’t see why there’s any obligation under libertarian rights to create another one. They should have just shown them walking into shuttles to disembark between ships or something.

I'm inclined to agree with Stefan here. The transporter kills Picard. If he volunteers to get on the thing, then I'm off the hook for killing him. Once he's dead, I can't possibly violate any of his negative rights by refusing to bring him back again.

Of course, if we're really going to analyze _Star Trek_ then it's worth pointing out that they aren't actually libertarians. They are non-classical liberals. Several different times (most notably in the 8th film) there is discussion that people are no longer motivated by money, an assertion which provokes a surprised, "You mean you don't get paid?" Indeed, it's hard to imagine in the Star Trek utopia that anyone would walk into a hospital and be denied care on the grounds of inadequate insurance. There are no homeless people in 24th C San Fransisco, etc.

I think, therefore, that it's safe to say that _Star Trek_ ethics recognizes the existence of positive rights. People have a right to medical care, to food and shelter and an education and so on. Once we accept a framework in which people can have rights to receive certain things, then it's not so hard to imagine that I have a right to be rematerialized on the other side of my transport. After all, if I have the right to medical care--to be kept alive whenever doing so is medically possible--then surely I would also have a right to be "revived" when the transporter kills me. For O'Brien to refuse would be a violation of my rights in exactly the same way that it would violate my rights if Dr. Crusher refused to cure my exotic illness.

This is why we _real_ liberals much prefer _Star Trek_ to _Firefly_. :grin:

I'm going to go hide now.

I think, therefore, that

I think, therefore, that it’s safe to say that Star Trek ethics recognizes the existence of positive rights.

That's true enough, seeing as how Gene Roddenberry was a statist (he served in the Navy after all).

This is why we real liberals much prefer Star Trek to Firefly.

As Roderick Long has pointed out before, if the Federation on Star Trek were implemented in real life it would look a whole lot more like the evil Alliance in Firefly than a bunch of peaceful explorers.

Okay, let's try it this way.

Okay, let's try it this way. Picard's not getting on the transporter unless someone promises to reconstruct him. If someone induces him to get into the transporter via a false promise to reconstruct him later, that's not much different from putting a breakaway floor in an elevator car and telling someone that it will safely carry him from the fiftieth floor to first---it's murder by fraud.

If someone induces him to

If someone induces him to get into the transporter via a false promise to reconstruct him later, that’s not much different from putting a breakaway floor in an elevator car and telling someone that it will safely carry him from the fiftieth floor to first—it’s murder by fraud.

The flaw in the analogy is that Picard consents to the initial stage of the process, which is his death. In your example the person doesn't consent to death-by-elevator.

Now that I think about it,

Now that I think about it, I'm guessing there's a technobabbleish way that the writers can get out of the conundrum they've posed for themselves (why do people cheerfully go to their deaths on the transporter in each episode?), although this method doesn't resolve all contradictions. As long as your consciousness is uninterrupted I see now way to claim you are 'dying' in any sense, so they could posit that the "beaming" really just sends you into hyperspace and rapidly down to the surface of the planet or something. All this business about disassembling molecules is just a perpetual can of worms. :juggle:

Suicide or homicide, that is

Suicide or homicide, that is the question
“Picard consents to the initial stage of the process, which is his death.”
“why do people cheerfully go to their deaths on the transporter in each episode?” Stefan
I think that Captain Picard, when transportation is under way is made up of at least two and possibly three elements.
1) His original molecules.
2.) The information that makes up the makeup and state of arrangement of these molecules before during and after transportation.
3.) His soul.-- optional ( I know this is an atheist site.)

Note that it does not affect the final product in any way if the original molecules are jettisoned and replaced, except that it is possible that the reconstituted captain may be an entirely different, newly aware sentient being and the old captain may be dead. In this case you are entirely right. If you fail to reconstitute him, you would be free of guilt of murder, just property damage, like failing to pack some glassware properly before shipping. However, in this scenario everyone who gets into a teleported is committing suicide.

There are two ways to avoid this suicide. If the original molecules are sent they must have some unknown spiritual essence in them, that will when reconstituted become the real, original and one and only Captain Picard. The other way to avoid this is if the captain has a soul. Since souls are separate from either the molecules or the data making up the captain, they will follow the body and reenter it when it is reconstituted. In either of these two cases, if Obrien does not do his duty he is a murderer.

So it is suicide or homicide. And if it is homicide there is body/spirit dualism. There are no other choices. Perhaps this just shows that the whole idea of teleportation is preposterous, but it is fun to think about.

here are two ways to avoid

here are two ways to avoid this suicide. If the original molecules are sent they must have some unknown spiritual essence in them, that will when reconstituted become the real, original and one and only Captain Picard. The other way to avoid this is if the captain has a soul. Since souls are separate from either the molecules or the data making up the captain, they will follow the body and reenter it when it is reconstituted. In either of these two cases, if Obrien does not do his duty he is a murderer.

I don't see the difference between "unknown spiritual essence" and a "soul".

Dave, NB, there are more

Dave,

NB, there are more than a few Catallarchists who are not atheists, and in any case we dont have a party line on the deity (we're "agnostic" on that question ;) ).

Stfan;- spiritual essence

Stfan;- spiritual essence vs. soul,--no difference

Dave, I dunno. For the sake

Dave,

I dunno. For the sake of argument, I can posit that ideas and such have a unique and non-material/indeterminate nature without having to hold that they have separate substance. If you presume that spiritual essence is an emergent indeterminate factor of a physical matrix, you do not have to go whole hog dualist and say "there is a separate coordinate essence that is not material" (soul).

“I can posit that ideas

“I can posit that ideas and such have a unique and non-material/indeterminate nature without having to hold that they have separate substance.” Brian

Right, those ideas are information, but that information isn’t permanently attached to just your molecules.
I am no dualist. Even though dualism is both pleasing and intuitive, I think there is too much evidence against it. For that reason I am not getting in one of those tele- transporters unless there is dualism.

I think it's worth pointing

I think it's worth pointing out at least that the writers of Star Trek don't believe in souls. For example, when the transporter is used to assemble two copies from a single source (as in the episode with two Rikers), the idea that there is only one "real" soul floating out there leads to the conclusion that one of the Rikers isn't really Riker, which is a somewhat problematic conclusion given that they are mostly identical.

Stefan-As you say they open

Stefan-As you say they open cans of worms without really tying the ends together, but they have been doing that since the beginning. Hay, if you are a Trecky you should see "Galaxy Quest." One of the cutest, funniest movies I have seen.

Wow, gentlemen, you all

Wow, gentlemen, you all cranked out a fascinating thread here.

Okay I missed a few days

Okay I missed a few days here but first of all I would like to say that clinical death is "real death" by any definition of the term and is not analogous to being thrown into water when you can't swim.

As for the picard thing, becoming a pattern in the "pattern buffers" of a transporters computer system does not actually constitute death in the startrek universe.

We consider it death because what else would you call having your molecules physically dissassembled. It seems to be a temporary state of non-existence or rather non-life. Since there is a pattern that still exists that represents you it could be argued that you still exist, as such I imagine that entities in the startrek universe rather than seeing their travel via transport as a temporary death see it as a state of transistion. Thus it is a continuous state of existence that goes from corporeal to noncorporeal (information/pattern state) and back to corporeal again.

In reality if you are entirely molecularly disassembled, given our current technological capacity, there is no chance in hell you are going to be put back together again. Thus you are dead. But if being put back together was as easy as pressing a button why would you consider disassemblement death?

If disassembling picard is merely the initiation of a transitional state in which he is not alive in the clinical corporeal sense but neither has he stopped existing then that initial action of transport is neither suicide nor homicide since the captain is not really dead (presuming you mean non-existence by death and not non-life of course).

Picard is not dead (non-existent) until his pattern can no longer be reassembled into its original form. Given that interpretation O'brien would be guilty of neglect (or whatever you want to call forcing picard to remain in his transitional state), and that brings up the question of information degradation. Its been suggested a few times in the star trek series that patterns cannot be maintained indefinitely, and of course the systems can be damaged through other means (fire fights, sabotage, etc).

Since there is a pattern

Since there is a pattern that still exists that represents you it could be argued that you still exist, as such I imagine that entities in the startrek universe rather than seeing their travel via transport as a temporary death see it as a state of transistion. Thus it is a continuous state of existence that goes from corporeal to noncorporeal (information/pattern state) and back to corporeal again.

I'll give you credit Rainbough, that's a very poetic way of looking at vaporizing someone. However, I'm still not going to use the services of "Kill you and Instantly Create an identical Clone Ltd." anytime soon however...

Given that the person was

Given that the person was not turned into a vapor they were not vaporized. Vaporization also implies that there was an intense amount of heat which also didn't happen. It is typically used in the context of something exploding in a ball of fire and gas, or in sci-fi when someone is destroyed via laser beam or phaser.

Thus no vaporization and certainly no poetry given that I was making a serious point.

Also I still consider it an impossible technology so one's willingness to try it out regardless of how we define the actual process is irrelevant.