Archive for the ‘provocation week’ Category

Oh the humanity!

October 13, 2007

6,624,177,565, roughly. That’s the number of people living on this planet right now! Luckily, most of them live in developing countries, with no chance of ever living the kind of lifestyle most of us, with easy access to a computer, indulge in. Lucky us. For, if they did, very soon nobody would live that life anymore.

It’s not just Climate Change, although that’s a huge factor. It’s also resources. Already we see China’s hunger for growth on the markets. Metals and coal are becoming more expensive. So is food. Some say that’s Climate Change, other’s say it’s China. Either way, it means more mouths need to be fed, and not just that. They want cell-phones, cars, computers. Good for growth, but can we sustain that? Do we really want the third world to catch up to the first? There might not be much left of the first world after that.

So do we really think that falling birth-rates in developed countries are worrisome? That China’s brutal one-child policy was a bad idea? That aborting female fetuses in India is a bad thing?

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Strategic bombers

October 12, 2007

A strategic bomber, according to some, is somebody who is willing to bomb a factory or some other strategic target, but wouldn’t attempt to harm innocent people.Now, as we all know all to well, in practice, strategic and civilian targets are rarely neatly separated. “Collateral damage” ensues.

But here’s a different thought: at the point where you have decided to attack strategic targets, you’ve decided to wage some form of war against another country/society. Now, once you’ve started to wage a war against a society, distinguishing between guilty and innocent members of that society becomes tricky. This is even more true in cases where the society is in part bound together by a powerful ideology of some sort. You have to assume that any member of that society is a potential enemy.

Hence, if you want to win, you should not distinguish between civilian and strategic targets. Part of your strategy should be to hammer home to your enemies that they cannot win. If you aren’t prepared to kill you enemies’  children, don’t start a war.

Silent guardian

October 11, 2007

Non-lethal weapons are big right now. In theory, if not in practice. Think of Tasers, but also microwave guns, like the Silent Guardian™. The point of the latter is to induce so much pain in your opponents, that they will be forced to run away. The effect goes away as soon as you are out of the range of the bomb (or so they say). Leave no trace.

The argument in favor of such weapons usually goes something like this:  look, if we hadn’t used the non-lethal weapon, we would have been stuck with a lethal weapon, and maybe we would have had to kill somebody, even an innocent bystander. Isn’t it much better to just induce pain?

Opponents usually raise worries like the following: how non-lethal are these weapons really, wouldn’t they be used in many more situations than just the ones where lethal weapons would have been appropriate, couldn’t they be used for torture? –

But even opponents agree, usually, that it is better to ‘just’ induce pain, even really bad pain, if that means nobody gets killed. But is that really so? If you run away from a gun because you are afraid you might get shot, you have a choice: risk your life, or run. There is no such choice with the microwave gun.

Isn’t it deeply dehumanizing to be forced to run from the enemy because you are in so much pain that you cannot help it? Hasn’t some crucial choice been taken away from you, namely to die for the cause you believe in, if necessary?

A Nietzschean thought

October 10, 2007

If (per impossibile?) we were ever able to end all human suffering (short of death, perhaps), life would become insufferable. Paradise is not a good place to be.
Without an aim that goes beyond food-sex-shelter, humans are basically animals. Without suffering, no such aim is possible. It can, and often is, somebody else’s suffering – but at least there has to be some suffering. So ideally, you want someone else to suffer, so that you can then seek to help them.

An immoral suggestion

October 8, 2007

Some of us are simply against capital punishment, period. Others are willing to compromise in certain cases – serial killers, evil dictators, the guy that raped your sister. Even to those willing to compromise, even suggesting capital punishment for spammers might seem outrageous. After all, spam doesn’t kill. Spam is annoying, but so is traffic, right?

But notice that the guy who raped your sister is causing more serious harm than a spammer, but at the same time, he is only harming a very small number of people. A spammer, on the other hand, is causing a very minor annoyance to a lot of people. Like: a lot of people. Anybody with a computer, basically. And not just once, but everyday. The annoyance adds up. It might seem that the spammer is causing as much harm as the rapist, albeit distributed over a large group of people.

Now imagine you’re taking something like the second attitude towards capital punishment, and imagine you are somewhat of a consequentialist, so you care primarily about outcomes of actions when you evaluate them. What is your reason for defending capital punishment in case somebody raped your sister, but not for spammers ?

Provocation week

October 8, 2007

This week’s posts will all deal with provocation or provocative issues . The claims made do not necessarily represent the author’s final thought on the subject. (But then, they rarely ever do). Some of the examples will be rather out of taste, but that’s what provocation is all about, right?