Reality Skimming
14Dec/11Off

Ethics in SF #11: Ethics Systems for Now and the Future (September 2003)

From the archives of the Okal Rel website, an article on ethics in the Okal Rel Universe written by Lynda Williams. Originally published in September 2003 under "Research and Commentary."

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Part 7: Healer's Sword arrives in 2012. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science.

Stimulus

An extract from the an essay by Kirdendal, referenced below, elicited a spontaneous comparison with moral philosophies of the Okal Rel universe. - ljw

The extract gave four pillars for a moral system, reproduced in their essentials below.

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. Survival, however, should be interpreted as more than mere existence. It should be survival with joy and satisfaction; both physical and mental...
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Ethical decision making must have an authoritative basis. Otherwise it is likely to be capricious and inconsistent, often contradictory. This means more, however, than simply balancing one research fact against another. It requires a respect for the intuitive wisdom acquired through the ages...
  3. Should be applicable universally. Increasingly we are living in a world where cross-cultural contacts are more readily experienced and communication between people and groups is becoming easier ...
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. The desire for edifying associations, both immediately and in the long run, is highly important and a deeply ingrained human need...we should not neglect the greater moral universe.

Response

Okal Rel Universe

Okal Rel meets the four criteria as follows:

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. This is Okal Rel's key tenet. That conflict between groups and individuals within groups must not escalate to the level of destroying the ability of planets or artificial environments to support life. Such habitats are intrinsically fragile and survival impossible if groups or individuals are able to exert maximum force or indiscriminate use of biological science in pursuit of their self-interest. Restriction of conflicts to personal combat is the Okal Rel solution, allowing the fortunes of individuals to rise and fall according to their prowess and connections without threatening society as a whole.
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Belief in reincarnation of the soul in descendants of one's own line underpins Okal Rel, explaining why extermination of a blood line is so much more serious than killing individuals and the horror of becoming "lost" during space warfare. Space warfare is, of course, an evil that Okal Rel strives to minimize. The role of the Watching Dead, also known as the Waiting Dead, who influence the living world and have a stake in civilization surviving for them to be reborn into it, is the spiritual threat meant to keep believers in line. Apparently irrational events are explained in terms of the moral struggles between the Watching Dead, who are likewise partisan, and the Gods of Earth, widely believed to be mad. Great Souls are those with special force of will and wisdom, re-born into lines to correct life-threatening imbalances and show their followers the way to survial for the good of all, both dead and living.
  3. Should be applicable universally. Variations exist between bloodlines and tribes of Sevolites about details as esoteric as whether new souls are a common or rare occurence, or as sweeping as who does and does not count as a moral being. On the whole, however, at least among the powerful (Sevolites), there is general agreement that sustaining a world for souls to be reborn into is the ultimate good, and that even enemies must unite to crush and exterminate the okal'a'ni -- those who put their own ambitions or desires above risk to the carrying capacity for life in the universe.
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. Okal Rel legitimizes murder in the context of duels. But it promotes altruistic behavior towards the children of enemies, and the avoidance of inflicting harm on by-standers or an enemy's dependents. Killing a leader is a triumph (provided it is done by the rules governing Sword Law). Exterminating a bloodline is a grave sin. Killing anyone could mess with the plans of some member of the Watching Dead, and should not be undertaken lightly.

Okal Lumens, and the Orthodox Nesak interpretation of Okal Rel, are variations cultivated by specific groups. Okal Lumens focuses on the pol, or "gentle" virutes. Orthodox Okal Rel excludes "inferior" classes of humans and promotes the goal of a universe populated by a single population of "souls", but not so much by "soul death" but by absorbing worthy enemies into the One True Line. Elements of both extremes are echoes in related, but less purist cultures. For example, Nersallian views are closer to those of their Nesak cousins than, for example, the Red Vrellish. And the Silver Demish value most of the works and beliefs of Okal Lumens, at least as an ideal too rarified for any but true Goldens to adhere to.

Okal Rel Universe

The Arbiter Administration of Rire meets the four criteria as follows:

  1. Should serve to insure the survival of mankind. Rire, too, must contend with the imbalance between the potential for destruction inherent in both reality-skimming in particular and the malicious use of science, in general. Surrendering the administration (although not the creation) of governance to arbiters, and living in a transparent society in which any kind of information hiding not of a strictly personal nature, is the solution they have struck on.
  2. Must rest upon a logical, rational, openly-acknowledged framework. Reetions are humanists who adhere to an egalitarian ethic making privacy a privilege, not a right. Misuse of everyone's ability to access nearly everything about nearly everybody is tracked via complaints and intervention by counselors or "first responders". The existence of arbiters makes this hugely complex system practical. Arbiters are symbiotic AIs with high intelligence but little or no self-awareness which administer all Reetion law. The laws are created and adjusted by human councils. About 10 per cent of Reetions, at any given time, are "Voting Citizens" who serve on these councils, devoting a large portion of their time to keeping the system in balance. Jurisdictional conflicts constantly introduced by lobbies for change from the populus or adjustments made by councils which impact other legislative bodies, are a common challenge.
  3. Should be applicable universally. All citizens of Rire must be willing to be governed by the arbiter administration. Pilots must concent to pre and post flight psychological profiling in order to be allowed to fly. Transparency is not an option.
  4. Should rest upon the basic need for enhancing altruistic experience, both in giving and receiving. The certainty of even minor misdemeanors being logged and shifted by arbiters able to act to correct the behavior or refer up to council of humans, tends to mold behavior as desired. The certainty of reward for acting in an altruistic manner, however small grained the "coin", is likewise motivating. For example, a person who does his or her share in keeping the neighborhood tidy is automatically observed doing so and credited accordingly. Defining what is credited and against which social "account" is, naturally, a challenge for those setting the behavior of the arbiters who administer the details.

reference:

Kirdendal, Lester A. "An Ethical System for Now and the Future". 1980. Humanist Ethics: Dialogue on Basics. Ed. Morris B. Storer. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980. p. 193-209

Your Turn: Comment with your own reaction to the questions.

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