Volume 1, Issue 4
4th Quarter, 2006

On Genes, Memes, Bemes, and Conscious Things

Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.

page 4 of 6

Let’s start considering the potential transhuman enhancements of beme uploading because that will allow us to begin to feel the value Rothblattof beming ourselves. Beming will allow real death to become rare because as bodies die out, bemes will be transporting ex vivo and can either live in virtuality, in a nanobiotech body, or in a cellular regenerated body.

Older knowledge will become a commodity as everyone collects themselves in beme form. There will be a collective consciousness that emerges in which older knowledge will be readily available to everyone. We should value beme lives highly because people will pay almost anything to escape death. People also will pay dearly for knowledge.

In order to value bemes highly, we must come up with a third way to define birth and death. Today we define death based on brain death, but this definition is only thirty years old. Back in the 1960s, we defined death based on heart death. The next transition will be to the information theory definition of death, which holds that an entity is alive as long as its bemes remain in organized form. If we can accomplish this through the legal and political community, then we will pave the way for valuing beman life highly.

Another enhancement aspect to beming is that it allows us to transcend substrate entirely. Beming will end up enhancing humans into bemans and transhumans into transbemans. Yet substrate is very important to people. It is part of the body politic. Revolutionizing this and going to a situation of substrate independence is equivalent to going to a colonial master of government independence and demolishing the state as you demolish the body. That is a tall order, but it has been accomplished before, although never completey.

The flip side of transbeman rights is transbeman obligations. Bemans will be able to comply with obligations just as well as humans do.

Image 4: The Path to Full Human Rights for Bemans

Humans control the entire world and decide what goes on. Humans essentially have a monopoly on rights. In order for nonhuman bemans to gain access to this privileged space, first they will have to evidence consciousness and then persuade other members of the club (the human club) that they have in fact evidenced consciousness. If they succeed in this, then they will be admitted to the club, where they must prove that they can comply with the club’s rules, which are basic human ethics. For example, they must not steal or kill. Will they be good bemans like good humans? If the answer is yes, then it is fully possible that bemans can acquire full human rights. If the answer is no, then bemans will end up with the protections of a unique life form or the rights of a baby, lunatic or felon.

How can nonhuman bemans actually persuade humans that they are members of the club? The answer lies in following Turing’s creed. Bemans must first pass as humans if they want access to full human space, which is where all the power is. Another strategy is to make having rights in the human’s interest. Bemans could start a political campaign. “Keep grandma alive!” “Two bodies are better than one!” These political campaigns could be a way to persuade Americans to grant bemans life.

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