Contemplating the Minimum Threshold for Individual Rights

For a “heavy hitter” philosophical debate, see below. But probably worthless to most people since the Utilitarian argument against spanking is overwhelming anti-spanking.

Kids don’t have the same rights as a fully functional adult. The question is whether kids have more or less rights than a fully functional adult.

Even full grown adults, when they have dementia, or a severe mental illness, cannot be seen to have the same rights of a fully functional adult since they do not have either physical/mental capabilities to act competently.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear line between what defines a “child” and what defines someone with a debilitating mental illness. So it’s possibly more like a continuum. For example, if I’m physically preventing my child (which would be initiating violence) to not touch their penis to the urinal when they are age 3, that’s “protective custody.” But if I’m still doing that when they’re age 13, then that can be seen infringing on the rights of my 13 year old who probably has full cognitive knowledge of what they’re actually doing. Who knows? Maybe it’s their “sexual preference” and they like the cold feeling of porcelain on their junk.

If “full rights” are only given to those deemed competent, and those who fail that standard receive rights that are on a continual scale from that standard, then the next question is who has the authority to measure that?

So, for example, to an “average IQ” person, someone with “Down Syndrome” would have less rights than an average person being in “protective custodian” with Guardianship. But isn’t that all relative? We all operate to some degree of imperfect knowledge. The difference between ourselves and someone who with mental handicap is to the degree by which we have imperfect knowledge. One could argue that the genetic “hardware” of the individual with mental handicap is the measurement, rather than just being willfully ignorant of an average person who doesn’t want to put in resources to gain more knowledge (can be described as a “software” limitation).

But how does one accurately measure whether the lack of knowledge is a “skill” or a “will” issue? Is it a “hardware” or “software” limitation of an individual that so hampers their mental capability requiring them to lose some of their rights and enter “protective custody?”

For children, we would say it’s a “hardware” issue along with those with severe mental handicaps. They simply don’t have the physical capacity and it would be impossible for them to have it unless they have “upgraded” hardware. For children, this “hardware” is gradually improving in its capacity as they age and their brains develop.

But once again, isn’t this all relative? And who will be the authority to determine by what continuum of rights one receives as the “hardware” increases in potential?


Let’s look into the future of a time where the average human now has literal “hardware” implanted in their brain, which we’ll call “augmentation.” Now these Augmentated humans are crazy, super smart with levels of knowledge where they literally have instant access to all of humanity of all time. In addition, they are neurally meshed with all other human beings so that they connect emotionally with all other human beings and can know what they are thinking (I recommend “Nexus” by Ramez Naam to explore this sci-fi world).

To us non-augmented individuals, wouldn’t we see these augmented humans as being almost like demi-gods? Even today, the amount of knowledge I have compared to my father (who doesn’t use the Internet), must seem like I’m some kind of crazy smart person simply because I know how to “Google” things. Any question in the world is at my fingertips. Yes, it takes effort. But compare me, augmented with the tools of “Google Now,” and compare that with my father who has to ask his friends for advice, for which are super old and just as irrelevant as he is. We are all like demi-gods in knowledge compared to those who operated pre-Internet days.

[Let’s take this a step further. Now imagine an Artificial Intelligence with perfect knowledge and instantaneous speeds to process. One second is equivalent to 1000 years of human development. The scope of the potential of AI and the “Singularity” will make even those with Augmentation to seem pitiful and limited.]

Now when it comes to the new “normal” of augmentation, won’t the non-augmented humans be seen as “mentally retarded?” Just as we see today’s “mentally disabled” as needing “protective custody,” won’t there one day be a time when we can declare the necessity of “protective custody” on non-augmented humans? Certainly from the perspective of those with augmentation, those who are non-augmented are clearly “retarded” in terms of “relativity” and “hardware.”

Another look could be aliens who come down to Earth with intelligence so superior to us, that we look like ants to them. To the super aliens, we may not fit their standard of “competence” and we may be considered easily expendable, just as we easily step on ants. Can augmented-humans really be considered “human” anymore? “Augmented” humans with genetic manipulation will seem “alien” to us today.

To those in the future (or super aliens) with much greater “hardware” and mental capacity, wouldn’t they corral all of us human beings on Earth for “our own protection” and put us all in “protective custody?”


Separate thought going back to the AI. Perhaps the AI will realize the greatest threat to human flourishing is the FREEDOM of humans to choose. If the AI has perfect knowledge (and we’re going to assume perfect power as well controlling all the world’s resources), if the AI knows our wants and needs better than we do (and can predict into the future what our needs and wants will be), AND if the AI can fulfill those wants and needs better than we can on our own, then would we, as humans, object to the AI removing our FREEDOM in order to live our life better than us?

We may reject the notion that “other people know how to live our lives better than we do,” but what if you have an outside force that IN FACT does know how to live your life better than you do?

Do humans, in order to be happy, needs to have the FREEDOM to make bad choices? Is the freedom to make bad choices, within itself, a basic component for human happiness?

If given the choice to trust the recommendation of an AI versus doing it “your way” what would you choose if you knew the AI always made the “best” choice?

I tend to follow Google Maps religiously. Before, I wouldn’t always trust it because it would often have errors, but now that it includes traffic in its calculation for the fastest route, I tend to err on the side of the directions. I’ve discovered that when I go a different route than Google Maps, I end up regretting it when I hit the unexpected traffic that Google Maps was trying to have me avoid. My mom and I have this argument all the time driving in Los Angeles with all the freeways. She has the “fastest way” in her mind, but then I’ll tell her that I’m going to defer to the ALL MIGHTY GOOGLE MAPS with its traffic calculations instead.

What if we have a “Google Maps” but exponentially bigger that applies to the “road of life” for which we live? How many times will you have to veer “left” when the “AI of Life” tells you to veer “right”, resulting in regret and the realization you should had followed the AI’s directions?!!!!

Dating decisions? Job decisions? Home purchasing decisions? Who your friends are? etc. etc. the list goes on for the freedoms we have to make bad decisions, for which a Super AI may one day essentially guide us through life.

And then. . . you have the day when the power goes out. Without the Super AI. And now people have no ability to think for themselves since they relied on the Super AI to make ALL their life decisions. Aren’t we already severely hampered when our Internet goes down? Our memory is gone. Our sense of direction is less developed. etc.

Ok. My brain is spent. Thanks for reading!