Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Some Simple Thoughts on a Complex Subject, or Is It Vice Versa?

A couple of posts back concerning the recent California Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage I used a sequence of possible future marriage "rights" that might have to be given out. The last two were marriages to "other species" and "inanimate objects".

The point, at the time was to suggest that somewhere in that list there had to be a line between things that could get married, and things that couldn't, because clearly people couldn't possibly marry those things. Just a simple thought on what looks like a complex subject, that would force people to think complexly about what is really a simple subject.

Or at least that was the idea.

See, a few days ago I ran into this article about an effort to have a chimpanzee declared "a person" so the chimp can have a guardian named. Well if a chimp gets that status, then maybe it isn't so goofy to think a person could marry that "person".

Then there is, more seriously, the question of what happens in the future (in my opinion not so far in the future), when an "inanimate" object has a brain, with sufficient complexity to pass a Turing test. If that object is then conscious (or at least claims it is), should it have civil rights (including the right to get married)? It seems it should.

So there I am. I wonder if any of my list is really a dead certainty to not be allowed to be married. Maybe the definition of "human" is something that needs to really worked out. Maybe we all need to start thinking about what is and isn't a human, and what does and doesn't have civil rights.

I semi-jokingly call myself a Luddite. I know that's not litterally true, that I actually am reasonably open to progress and technology (while remaining a certified fiscal conservative). I wonder what I'll do as technology does produce something that qualifies as intelligent. I wonder what I'll do as the capability to augment our intelligence with non-biological components opens. And I wonder, if I decide to augment myself, how much can that be done and still be me.

These are questions bigger than the simple issue of letting same sex people marry. But I really see the whole thing as a continuum. One we as a species are moving through. I hope we are all still as human, when we get to the other end.

So there I am, back to my simple thoughts on a complex subject.

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