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Daniel Pelka, Ariel Castro: How life-extending technology could make a life sentence tougher and longer.

Stashed in: Brain, Longevity!, Ethics, Abominations

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NSFW. As I don't know whether I'll be able to work productively today after reading just the first paragraph of this.

I don't know how to cope with a world with the likes of the treatment of Daniel Pelka in his short life. My sad thought is that the world is full of even more evil, and I think of the ones that die with no names and no cases. And not evil, banal selfishness. Murder, even genocide seem different moral acts than torture without empathy. The innocence of the victim — what does that make of it?

While I usually think that means India, and how many of the awful things that happen there might get better with prosperity and technology and the “march of progress,” this was right here in the UK.

I can’t bring myself to click through on any of the details about this case. No links today. Except maybe one:

That first paragraph isn't just Not Safe For Work. It's Not Safe For Life (NSFL).

Once I got past it, the philosophical questions of longevity are worth thinking about:

Mind uploading: As the technology required to scan and map human brain processes improves, some believe it will one day be possible to upload human minds on to computers. With sufficient computer power, it would be possible to speed up the rate at which an uploaded mind runs. Professor Nick Bostrom, head of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, calls a vastly faster version of human-level intelligence ”speed superintelligence.” He observes that a speed superintelligence operating at 10,000 times that of a biological brain “would be able to read a book in a few seconds and write a PhD thesis in an afternoon. If the speed‑up were instead a factor of a million, a millennium of thinking would be accomplished in eight and a half hours.” Similarly, uploading the mind of a convicted criminal and running it a million times faster than normal would enable the uploaded criminal to serve a 1,000-year sentence in eight-and-a-half hours. This would, obviously, be much cheaper for the taxpayer than extending criminals’ lifespans to enable them to serve 1,000 years in real time. Further, the eight-and-a-half hour 1,000-year sentence could be followed by a few hours (or, from the point of view of the criminal, several hundred years) of treatment and rehabilitation. Between sunrise and sunset, then, the vilest criminals could serve a millennium of hard labor and return fully rehabilitated either to the real world (if technology facilitates transferring them back to a biological substrate) or, perhaps, to exile in a computer-simulated world.

For this to be a realistic punishment option, however, some important issues in the philosophy of mind and personal identity would need to be addressed. We would need to be sure, for example, that scanning a person’s brain and simulating its functions on a computer would be equivalent to literally transferring that person from his or her body onto a computer—as opposed to it being equivalent to killing him or her (if destroying the brain is necessary for the scanning process), or just copying his or her brain activity. Personally, I have serious doubts that such theoretical issues are ever likely to be resolved to the extent where mind uploading could be practicable as a form of punishment.

I thought I had stashed Omelas separately, but here are two more links to ponder in this context:

In the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are intelligent and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the city's one atrocity: the good fortune of Omelas requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens should be told of this upon coming of age.

This was no comfort to George Whitmore, who had been irreparably broken by his nine-year ordeal. Whitmore died last year, and, in a New York Times requiem, English mourned “a flawed but beautiful man who offered up his innocence to New York City.” Whitmore’s name “should be known to every student in New York, especially kids of color,” English argued, “but it is not part of the curriculum.”=============

Manhattan prosecutors soon realized they had the wrong man. But they didn’t tell Whitmore, and they didn’t immediately drop the charges. This was bad news for Whitmore, who was also facing charges in Brooklyn in the Borrero rape and the Edmonds murder, neither of which he actually committed. Whitmore was indeed found guilty of the Borrero rape, largely on account of his reputation as the violent Career Girls killer. Later, a juror in the Borrero case would admit that “practically everyone” on the jury knew about the Wylie-Hoffert charges. This was at the end of 1964.

1965 was a big year for Whitmore. In January a junkie named Richard Robles was charged with the Wylie-Hoffert murders. In March the Borrero conviction was overturned. In April Whitmore was tried for the murder of Minnie Edmonds; it ended in a mistrial. (The Edmonds indictment was dismissed in 1966.) The Career Girls indictment was dropped on May 4, 1965. The very next day, Brooklyn DA Aaron Koota announced he would retry Whitmore on the Borrero rape.

So it went for Whitmore until 1973, when, after what T.J. English calls “a numbing cycle of trials, convictions, convictions overturned, retrials, and appeals,” he was cleared of all charges and set free. (English wrote an excellent book about the Whitmore case, 2011’s The Savage City, which sets Whitmore’s ordeal in the context of widespread police corruption and the era’s social ferment.) By then, the death penalty had been abolished in New York; the Supreme Court had ruled that police were obliged to inform criminal suspects that they had the right to remain silent during questioning; and the Knapp Commission had helped stanch outright corruption in the NYPD. These things didn’t fix the criminal justice system’s problems entirely, but they were real changes.

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