2020-03-22 12:30:41 UTC
As my previous post, about a very unfortunate news item concerning Brazil, has not
received the kind of replies I've hoped for, I've decided that perhaps I should
try saying what I want to say, instead of just implying it with subtle sarcastic
Throughout the long ages of man's history, many people have ardently hoped for a
world without suffering and injustice. The words from the Lord's Prayer which form
the title to this post are an expression of that hope.
If, however, one does not have hope that a God will someday come and put
everything right, then one has to face the question of how we limited human beings
can achieve such a lofty and difficult goal. It has even been argued, not without
reason, that it is _inherently_ impossible for humanity to achieve the eschaton
itself (in the sense of a perfect order, not in the sense of self-annihilation
which is all too well within our abilities).
One of the most obvious problems is: some of the victims of injustice are already
dead. How can we wipe every tear from every eye, unless we can bring back lost
loved ones? How can we have universal justice if it doesn't include those for whom
justice would otherwise arrive only too late?
In the current utter absence of any scientific understanding of what it is that
allows us to see what we see, to hear what we hear, to be conscious, to be
genuinely present in the world - instead of the world being a hollow empty silent
place of dead machines following physical law... not knowing what a soul or spirit
_is_, or if there is an afterlife of any kind, how do we find the dead to awaken
From a science-fiction point of view, we might attempt to fulfill certain
necessary conditions without at all knowing if we have managed to meet
sufficient conditions as follows:
Gather up the actual atoms that composed each person's brain, using some sort of
past viewer and teleporter, and put them back as they were a microsecond or so
(the time required would depend on the cause) after death, then, having the
actual, authentic, corpse of the individual before one (the body could, of
course, be a copy) resuscitate using super-advanced medical science.
Already, we've hit something too far-fetched to take very seriously.
But fundamentally, it's only a *technical* problem. We want to do something, but
we don't know how to do it. After we find out how, the problem is solved.
There are even _worse_ problems to overcome.
What about the case where what one wishes to do is _inherently_ impossible? On
the order of time travel into the past, of making something that has happened
instead not have happened?
Thus, take a woman who has, say, been the victim of a violent gang rape. Justice
demands that she is to be fully retored - to be caused to suffer no detrimental
psychological after-effects from this crime, but instead to be able to once
again fully enjoy life in all its aspects, yes, even her own sexuality, in a
manner completely unimpared and unclouded.
Imagine an omnipotent technology. Well, _sort_ of omnipotent. It can do anything
the laws of physics allow, but like Montgomery Scott, it cannot change the laws
This is the sort of omnipotence attributed to angels. And this is why the
mediaeval debates about "how many angels could dance on the head of a pin" were
actually addressing a meaningful philosophical question.
So, we just shove the victim into a transporter, replace the pattern buffer with
a snapshot taken just before her assault, and out she comes with no memory of it
or indeed any subconscious traces of it. Problem solved?
Well, no. All you've succeeded in doing is _killing_ her, and using the matter
of which she is made to create a new person, who is a copy of her as she was at
a previous time.
Once this fact is firmly realized, the problem becomes clear.
Just because we might have the power to edit and reconstruct the human brain
however we like, that doesn't mean that such interventions, even if intended as
therapeutic, will be genuinely therapeutic.
Very roughly, I think the appropriate rule is: do not tamper with the conscious
mind and will, but the *subconscious* is fair game.
So if someone can't stand eating vegetables, we can't force him to eat them -
but if there's an aversion to their taste in the subconscious, of course we can
edit it out so that the individual is no longer limited by this, and can then,
if he wishes, try eating vegetables again.
This rule, of course, leads to our ability to help those who have been hurt and psychologically impacted as a result being limited, perhaps tragically so.