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Can slavery be made more ethical?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Mouthwash, Mar 20, 2019.

  1. inthesomeday

    inthesomeday Immortan

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    Only rapists are enslaved. Story becomes a clever criticism of mass incarceration
     
  2. Owen Glyndwr

    Owen Glyndwr La Femme Moderne

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    I was going to say "capitalism," but it seems Lex already beat me to it.
     
  3. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    What I described is not - quite -capitalism, as capitalism is based on human rental contracts rather than self-sale contracts. But the only difference in principle is that the rental contract applied at specified times for a limited duration where the self-sale contract applied indefinitely.
     
  4. inthesomeday

    inthesomeday Immortan

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    I get the joke but certain folks might not get it and think you were truly trying to describe an ethical relationship
     
  5. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    The vast majority of liberals will agree that I am describing a perfectly ethical relationship if the word "slavery" with all its emotional associations is taken out of the discussion. That is why it's so funny.
     
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  6. The_J

    The_J Say No 2 Net Validations Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Make slavery a form of divine service.
    Pure obedience to a master leading to enlightment, or salvation, or increasing your karma for the next round of reincarnation, or something similar.
     
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  7. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Yes. Create what are effectively slave machines (don't give them a utility function preferring non-slavery) or constrain slavery to people who aren't real (video games, movies, etc).

    Both of these make slavery far more ethical than it has even been in a historical sense.
     
  8. Tristan_C

    Tristan_C Chieftain

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    I am not sure I agree with your choice of the greatest evil. The loss of the current moment is arguably worse than the loss of potential. I mean the fruits of your labor going straight to the benefit of your owner, "the old serpent that says you work I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it," Lincoln put it. That immediate, uncompensated transaction distinguishes the evil of slavery from the good of trade. I read accounts from the US' founding fathers biographies about renting out or lending their slaves to neighbors. Someone owed a favor? Here have a domestic for a few months. When I think carefully about the nature of that arrangement, of "renting" out someone's efforts and being the beneficiary, it makes my skin crawl.



    The problem with evil is that it is inseparable from good. The only way to remove it is to remove agency. A devil's bargain.

    Like in the Brave New World, the gamma, delta, and epsilons are diminutive human castes. They are products of genetic engineering and post-birth indoctrination and nurturing techniques. They are slaves. But remarkably, they are happy people. The book goes into some length about the lower castes' grueling routines and their daily release and entertainment.

    You would expect the conditions of powerless people, like these gammas and deltas, to deteriorate. When left to the mercy of those with power in the real world, they would just be squeezed like fruit rinds despite everyone's good intentions. But the alphas and betas are also indoctrinated to serve. Alphas in particular seem to have superhuman specifications on beauty, intelligence, and awareness, but they are locked into the system just as tight as everyone else. Alphas are societal machine cogs in the same fundamental sense as epsilons. "Every one belongs to every one else," is the slogan of the brave new world. No one seems to have any real agency at all, they're just vessels for pleasure.

    That's basically your way to get out in front of the evils of slavery. The rulers themselves have to yield their ability to choose, creating a society that, because it cannot be evil, cannot be good either, but simply exists.
     
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  9. Farm Boy

    Farm Boy The trees are actually quite lovely.

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    Obligatory tangentially related 90s nonsense link.

    Spoiler :
     
  10. REDY

    REDY Duty Caller

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    I would have no objections if would be short-term slavery an alternative and voluntary punishment.

    I do not see slavery as evil, its just that I cannot imagine how to effectively enforce it without evil methods.
     
  11. rah

    rah Warlord Supporter

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    Voluntary servitude. It happens every day, and it's not necessarily evil.
     
  12. Kaitzilla

    Kaitzilla Lord Croissant

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    I really like the Murder-Gandhi hypothetical. :thumbsup:
    I've seen it show up as a main plot point in the web serial "Worth The Candle".
    https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249/chapters/25740126

    Yes, when a person's preferences are altered, then they might not care enough to alter them back or might even become more willing to alter them further!
    A true slippery slope.


    The author also had one more valuable thing to say.
    Squeezed in Civ 4 is the best + "one more turn" syndrome. :dance:
    I wonder if Murder-Gandhi is a sly reference to Warmonger-Gandhi from the earlier civ series?
    https://www.geek.com/games/why-gandhi-is-always-a-warmongering-jerk-in-civilization-1608515/

     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
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  13. Thorvald of Lym

    Thorvald of Lym A Little Sketchy

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    "My gift to industry is the genetically engineered worker, or Genejack. Specially designed for labor, the Genejack's muscles and nerves are ideal for his task, and the cerebral cortex has been atrophied so that he can desire nothing except to perform his duties. Tyranny, you say? How can you tyrannize someone who cannot feel pain?"

    -- Chairman Sheng-ji Yang,
    "Essays on Mind and Matter"​
     
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  14. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    It's a good point. If we're making something from scratch, nothing in principle dictates mechanical to be more or less ethical than biological. It's not going to be a fun time in our history when it comes to debating this if we actually attain the capability. I estimate it would be put into practice though, the advantages it would give relative to countries that don't are too large.
     
  15. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Having read the thread, I am reminded of the novels Cyteen and Regenesis, by C.J. Cherryh.

    Cherryh created a class of humans called azi. Azi are categorized into genesets of people bred and taught to perform specific types of jobs, and if they do well, they might later be rewarded by being allowed to become a citizen (essentially no longer a genetically/psychologically-engineered slave) with free will.

    There's a group of people in these novels who firmly believe that all azi should be free - that they should not be owned, that they should be allowed to choose for themselves. These people, known as Paxers, are regarded as terrorists (to be fair, a lot of them are since they blow up subways and murder people). The people who are in the business of genetically engineering people and programming them through a combination of "tape" learning and drugs to perform a wide variety of tasks from menial to a step below CITs (Citizens) are the "good guys" in the novels.

    I don't know if Cherryh will ever allow her protagonists (Ariane Emory, Justin Warrick, and other scientists) to see that they have created a slave class. One of the elite azi, an Alpha who is one of Ariane Emory's companions and security guards, states that she doesn't want to be free. She sees no reason to be free, as she is content to have the life she's been taught to want. She and the other azi are mostly incapable of wanting freedom; it scares them because they see "born-men" as chaotic people, apt to do dangerous things, and give in to muddled thinking. Azi, on the other hand, are taught to organize their thoughts and learn their tasks in an extremely focused manner.

    It would be interesting if Cherryh would tackle this ethical issue in another Cyteen novel (Regenesis introduced some plot threads that demand a sequel to wrap them up; Cherryh is getting on in years, so I hope she has plans for one more book in this series).

    Personally I can't fathom slavery being ethical at all, let alone "more" ethical.

    That was one of the more bizarre roles Peter Davison ever had (fun fact: in RL he's married to the actress who played Trillian).

    Or watch the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
     
  16. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    You had the good solution in the first paragraph. The second is just too contrived and less elegant.

    Having different values works best. Try to imagine a mindframe in which slavery is seen a bit as father-children relationship, so there is subservience but it's still considered positive. The master is socially seen as being responsible, and the slave "should" be eager to fulfill his part of the role, because it's his place in society.

    I mean, history itself probably has had slavery in one form or another that was considered normal/moral, for much longer than it had been considered evil. You don't even have to look far.


    IF the question is more : "how can we imagine a case where slavery is more moral according to today's standards", then it becomes quite harder, and probably requires to enter aliens/supernatural in the process.
    I can imagine a fantastical race of people who are intelligent, but follow an insect-like class structure which make the drone in NEED of being in an ordered society where they have a precise place and obey their "superior", whoever that is (just like we human have a need of being part of a group of which we're considered full and valuable members).
    Or a race of child-level intelligence individuals who are unable to fend for themselves so are legally under the responsibility of someone that they obey in exchange for taking care of them.
     
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  17. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Warlord

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    I was thinking about a hierarchical, caste system. Hinduism run amok. The European "estates" system could also be warped into something. Either way, fulfilling the expectations of the station you're born into could be considered honorable, with rewards paid in the afterlife. Such a religion could include tiers of slaves, even. I've read, for example, that slaves in Rome could own slaves of their own, which suggests a kind of "upper-class slave" and "lower-class slave." (I don't know if that's true about Rome, fwiw, but for the purposes of this thread, it doesn't matter.)

    In the case of a fantasy story where the supernatural is genuine and not mythical, the gods at the top might not only be real, but present in people's lives, maybe even participating in the society in some way.
     
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  18. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    I don't know if slaves in Rome could own slaves themselves (I have my doubts), but it's certainly true that there was a hierarchy between slaves. There were "personal attendant" slaves who could have some sort of social standing based on who they served, and among the household slaves there were the senior, higher-ranked ones with authority over the others.
     
  19. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

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    Slaves could not own slaves at ancient Rome, definitely not. Slaves were identified in the law as objects, property, and could not actually own any property; any personal items or effects they had were, I believe, the legal property of the master.

    Where you might have gotten that idea, @EgonSpengler, is from the fact that afaik freedmen (former slaves who had been freed) could own slaves and other property themselves, and while they could not hold (most? perhaps all) state offices their children had the full rights of citizenship.

    As @Akka points out there were certainly hierarchies among slaves. Educated "house slaves" who performed extremely useful functions for the household (e.g. Tiro, the slave of Cicero who served as his personal secretary) were treated almost as family members themselves and were quite frequently freed. Slaves performing hard manual labor (e.g. working in the fields) mostly died young and were treated as disposable.
     
  20. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Yes, and it could be argued that the "better" class of slave who sold themselves into slavery to provide for their family, could expect to be freed in time, and might even be paid and save up to buy their own freedom was being treated more ethically but they were still forced into it by economic circumstance, and they were always a small minority of slaves. The fate of agricultural and mine slaves was much worse,

    Sell worn-out oxen, blemished cattle, blemished sheep, wool, hides, an old wagon, old tools, an old slave, a sickly slave, and whatever else is superfluous. The master should have the selling habit, not the buying habit.
    Cato the Elder
     

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