Discover more from Overcoming Bias
Imagine Farmer Rights
Yesterday I criticized proposals by George Dvorsky and Anders Sandberg to give rights to ems by saying that random rights are bad. That is, rights limit options, which is usually bad, so those who argue for specific rights should offer specific reasons why the rights they propose are exceptional cases where limiting options helps strategically. I illustrated this principle with the example of a diner’s bill of rights.
One possible counter argument is that these proposed em rights are not random; they tend to ensure ems can keep having stuff most of us now have and like. I agree that their proposals do fit this pattern. But the issue is whether rights are random with respect to the set of cases where strategic gains come by limiting options. Do we have reasons to think that strategic benefits tend to come from giving ems the right to preserve industry era lifestyle features?
To help us think about this, I suggest we consider whether we industry era folks would benefit had farmer era folks imposed farmer rights, i.e., rights to ensure that industry era folks could keep things most farmers had and liked. For example, imagine we today had “farmer rights” to:
Work in the open with fresh air and sun.
See how all food is grown and prepared.
Nights outside are usually quiet and dark.
Quickly get to a mile-long all-nature walk.
All one meets are folks one knows, or known by them.
Easily take apart devices, to see materials, mechanisms.
Authorities with clear answers on cosmology, morality.
Severe punishment of heretics who contradict authorities.
Prior generations quickly make room for new generations.
Rule by a king of our ethnicity, with clear inheritance.
Visible deference from nearby authority-declared inferiors.
Would our lives today be better or worse because of such rights?
Added: I expect to hear this response:
Farmer era folks were wrong about what lifestyles help humans flourish, while we industry era folks are right. This is why their rights would have been bad for us, but our rights would be good for ems.