And Now For Something Reprehensible

There is no technology so beneficial that someone somewhere isn't thinking about how to use it to hurt people. That even holds true for means of rejuvenation, ways to eliminate the vast and terrible cost of degenerative aging, all of the suffering, the tens of millions of deaths each and every year. Some people look at the possibilities for near future human rejuvenation and think "I've figured out a way to use this to more effectively hurt the groups of people that we don't like."

Some argue that retributive punishment (reactionary punishment, such as imprisonment) should be replaced where possible with a forward-looking approach such as restorative justice. I imagine, however, that even opponents of retributive justice would shrink from suggesting that [the worst of offenders] should escape unpunished. I assume - in line with the mainstream view of punishment in the UK legal system and in every other culture I can think of - that retributive punishment is appropriate in [some cases].

Within the transhumanist movement, the belief that science will soon be able to halt the ageing process and enable humans to remain healthy indefinitely is widespread. Dr Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of the anti-ageing SENS Research Foundation, believes that the first person to live to 1,000 years has already been born. The benefits of such radical lifespan enhancement are obvious - but it could also be harnessed to increase the severity of punishments. In cases where a thirty-year life sentence is judged too lenient, convicted criminals could be sentenced to receive a life sentence in conjunction with lifespan enhancement. As a result, life imprisonment could mean several hundred years rather than a few decades. It would, of course, be more expensive for society to support such sentences. However, if lifespan enhancement were widely available, this cost could be offset by the increased contributions of a longer-lived workforce.

When the state enforces a monopoly on criminal dispute resolution, as is the case in most regions of the world these days, the only interests served are those of the state employees and appointees involved. Even in legitimate cases you end up with the worst of all worlds: the system remains based upon serving a desire for vengeance and appeasing the mob, imprisonment (as opposed to banishment or outlawing) removes the ability for an offender to work towards restitution, and those with the greatest interest in obtaining justice and resolution are cut out of the decision-making process. There is worse, however. The methods and traditions created for the worst offenders are soon enough applied to everyone without sufficient power and influence to buy their way clear. Modern systems of state justice are terrible impersonal engines, set upon expansion, and all too quickly used for self-empowerment and suppression of dissent by politicians and bureaucrats.

Link: http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2013/08/enhanced-punishment-can-technology-make-life-sentences-longer/

Comments

That website is known to me for advancing egregious ethical positions just to excite controversy. They have posted justification of infanticide as "post-birth abortion" among other things.

Posted by: José at August 8th, 2013 12:10 PM

To say that giving criminals life extension therapies, and in turn keeping them in prison for a longer time is completely disproportionate from what the norm is today; The norm today being our form of the most humane form of capital punishment available: Lethal Injection. That idea would be going in a completely different direction.

Although, it can be susceptible to rigorous debate on the issue of whether the "darkness of death" is better/worse than "a life condemned in possibly horrible working/living conditions." In the end, I think the financial paradigm will overrule the prospect of inflicting horrendous torment of those who deserve it any day.

Posted by: Donald at August 8th, 2013 6:09 PM

Truth is, most people love the punishments inflicted by the state, which is why it is done with such vigor and enthusiasm. The law is a mask for their cruelty.

Take lethal injection. This is supposed to be humane, but the process quite probably causes a lot of pain. A simple narcotics overdose would be enough, but instead there is a a cocktail of painful poisons chosen for strange traditional reasons, but kept, I believe, because they silently cause a lot of pain before the prisoner dies.

The whole execution process is designed to be as cruel as possible, with false hope held out to the last, along with a slow, deliberate process any sadist would agree offers maximum dread and fear. The whole thing is disgusting and clearly inhumane. If you are going to execute, a quick hanging which snaps the neck or a gunshot to the head shortly after trial is obviously the most humane method.

Life extension is a glorious goal and something to strive for, but like all technologies, the government will find a way to pervert it and inject some form of evil into something which would otherwise be an indisputable boon. I predict that should aging be defeated, the death penalty will be abolished not because it is less cruel (which is how it will be presented) but because it is MORE cruel. Eternal life in a box is so deliciously wicked the state will simply be unable to resist. All governments are evil, and the bigger and more powerful they are, the worse they get.

All the world suffers, and death is the only sure escape, including and especially the cruelty and evil of the state. Thank God for that way out. Read "I have no mouth and I must scream" by Harlan Ellison as a taste for what could happen should evil prevail and cut off escape from this life.

I am not saying that we should not pursue life extension--the good outweighs the bad--but never doubt that this technology, like all others, will find dark uses as well. Pray no method to record your mind and play it in a virtual reality is ever found, for you can be sure the state will then not settle for simple life in prison, it will build Hell itself.

Have a nice weekend! :)

Posted by: Paul at August 9th, 2013 8:43 PM

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