s3e26: The Defense of Humanity Act 

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

Tuesday, 19th July 2016 at the XOXO Outpost after having watched some of the tire fire of the Republican National Convention on streaming video last night – not the Melania Trump bit (and seriously, we’re paying attention to the *plagiarism* and not the full-on Aryan Nationalization of the Republican Party in their platform?), but the Michael Flynn bit where he ineffectually tried to get some USA! USA! chanting going and instead tried not to feel sorry for the uncanny valley simulacra stuck in a skinsuit trying to pretend to be a Normal American Person.

The clouds are moving, the sun is coming out, I set a lure when I got into work this morning and got some tasty XP and now I’m guiltily listening to Katy Perry *not* because I’m ashamed of my susceptibility for mass-produced pop music, but because I’m #taylorsquad.

Anyway.

2016 continues to happen and about 7 billion of us are observing and collapsing wavefunctions all over the place. The only way past the abyss is, as they say, through.

1.0 Baseline Humanity Is Under Attack

On Sean Stewart’s recommendation, I’ve been reading Linda Nagata’s The Bohr Maker[0] which is a wonderful story about an augmented human whose 30 year experimental license is about to expire and the tenuous hold that a security agency has in controlling access to fabricator/nanotech to prevent a hard take-off and ending Life As We Know It.

Kristin, our antagonist and Chief of Police has a somewhat religious bent: she’s a gaiast, a believer in the living system of the earth and in *that* system, it’s normal for humans and the kinds of things that humans do (multiply and not worry about externalities that gaia takes care of, like functioning environmental ecosystems) to be treated as a sort of virus, or a sort of feral animal that needs to be domesticated, made fat and slow like in a sort of bread-and-circuses manner, so that gaia can be protected from the unconsidered actions of selfish, battle-suit wearing homo sapiens urbus.

All of this precipitates in a head-on collision inside my brain: Kristin is fighting a rearguard action in a world trying to keep humanity pure – whatever that means. Pure humanity in the world of the Bohr Maker means you can splice whatever you want into your genome – you can have *biological* augmentation, but you can’t have turing-computing-style augmentation. Artificial general intelligences are banned. People have additional organic computing infrastructure in their brain that can interface with not-too-smart intelligences, but damnit, they’re not *computers*. They’re biology, doing biology stuff.

The head-on collision was reading about the GOP’s lurch-to-the-right platform[1], a sort of orgasm of fear, uncertainty and doubt that everything we stand for is under attack from Progress, progress this time being tolerance of other people and anything that’s outside of the conventional Judeo-Christian worldview (or, these days, an even more constrained and conservative subset of an overall Judeo-Christian worldview which, I like to think in its liberal and tolerant form is more or less “be nice to be people”).

So we have the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as only between a Man and a Woman because of what we read in an Old Book. And never mind further down the line when we have to have our Defense Of What Qualifies As Legal Personhood because we crossed that particular rubicon a while back when we decided that corporations counted and other abstractions. No, what I’m interested in now is the Defense of Baseline Humans Act which is this: at what point to conservative organizations like the GOP start restricting what technological progress can be made?

We have some of this already, obviously. We still, sometimes, don’t let people take their exoselves and outboard brains into exams where we dispense professional qualifications and licenses. The abilities and skills we test are *baseline* abilities and skills, not necessarily network-based, augmented skills. Hell, hang out on Hacker News for 48 hours and you’ll probably see a vigorous discussion about whether it’s appropriate for We [certain values of we] prefer humans to fly planes. People like to keep being employed. We’ve had luddites protesting against machines coming in and doing Real Peoples’ Jobs in the same way that Other People Come In And Steal Our Jobs From Us. But at some point, some enterprising political soul is going to say: where do we draw the line? Is America for Proper Human People, Not Weird People Connected To The Network? What would a GOP against, well, people becoming even more connected, even more plugged into the network look like?

I mean, I’m not talking about *regular* people. Regular people who live in the midwest and use their smartphones to get the latest Walmart coupons or maybe play Clash of Clans. Right? Not people who use computing infrastructure to support kinship groups radically larger than their Dunbar number. Is a large Dunbar number something that will be legislated against? Baseline humanity is only supposed to live in small groups of huts, and clearly Bad Things Can Happen when people can organize so easily and quickly. Baseline humanity can’t spread information as we can now, as we will be able to even more quickly next week and the week after that.

See, the new GOP platform declares that the internet must be made safe for children. You can drive a truck through that. There is so, so much you could lock down and take away in the name of making the internet safe for children. I mean, really, you could make the internet safe for children by just removing it in the first place.

[0] The Bohr Maker, Linda Nagata
[1] Republican Party Platform | GOP (sorry, but I have to link to it)

2.0 Miscellanea

My domain habit continues and for the three [yeah, it’s probably more than that] of you who will get this in-joke, then I present to you tamarian.news[0] with Darmok, reporting from Earth. Darmok informs me that he has two reports yet to file, PIKACHU, HIS FISTS CLOSED and ERDOGAN, HIS FACE TIMED.

And for the other venn diagram of sad humour, here’s a US-CERT advisory[1] about Pokemon Go exploiting critical vulnerabilities in the baseline human brain architecture.

[0] tamarian.news
[1] Alert (TA16–192A) — Medium

OK, bye. Also keep sending notes because I like them.

Best,

Dan