Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Scene 1: At the time humans did not have enough intelligence to be distinguished from other animals, there were two rules.
  1. Eat and reproduce.
  2. Repeat
Scene 2: 10000 years ago, we were hunter-gatherers. There was no written law, and only loosely understood rules. Something like -
  1. Eat, reproduce and provide for your group.
  2. Find something which can make your tasks simpler - like fire, tools made of wood or stone, wheel etc. Once one human has found it, the whole group has a better chance of survival.
  3. Whoever is physically strong will survive better.
Scene 3: In feudal ages, majority of population was peasants and labourers. There were formal laws made by powerful like kings/thakurs/barons etc, which were followed by everyone. However, due to unequal distribution of power there were too many moral hazards to improve standards of life for everyone. So the rules of the game were like -
  1. Provide for family.
  2. Pay taxes according to your produce. The taxes will go for the welfare of everyone. So again, civilization as a whole will survive better.
  3. Do not question authority. Whoever has stronger connections will survive better.
Scene 4: Today we are at a stage we think about freedom, equality and justice. We aim to provide democracy, rights of property, voting, free speech, Habeas corpus[1] etc. Now the rules are loosely -
  1. Be responsible towards self, family and taxes. Taxes will go for providing of "public goods".
  2. Make use of freedom of rights, but do not falsely shout fire in a crowded theater[2]. Also uphold the freedom for everyone else (including those who are marginalized, not necessarily through specific concessions). Give respect to get respect.
  3. Whoever can contribute/innovate/raise standards of life can survive better (broadly speaking, whoever is more intelligent/wise can better provide for themselves/family/society/humanity).
Okay, maybe we have not reached this state fully yet. The previous rules are sticky, and have not gone out of the game.

Scene 5: In future, I think issues for the whole earth (like sustainability of environment) will be more important than ethnic and political differences. Hence we will need to democratize our powers over the earth's ecosystem further down to other animals and plants.

Giving voting rights to other creatures may sound outlandish and outright crazy. But only in 1948 did UN uphold voting rights to women[3]. Many suggested it was outright crazy. A large part of Arab world still denies the rights today. And I am not saying anything about rights denied to races and colonies in past.

You may argue that trees don't have enough capabilities to select wisely. But it was argued all the same about tribals, blacks and women. And see how it has been proven wrong.

The basic aim of life still remains survival - with all the other types of gender, preferences, races, and also with other species, not without. We need the diversity to hedge life on earth against possible future catastrophes like virus attacks. If we need to survive together, we need to treat everyone equal.

That is what the future is going to be - Orangutan rallies reaching UN headquarters in protest of declining tropical forests[4]. And do expect political lobbying from butterflies, salamanders, bats, vultures and lemurs with tacit support from plants and fungi, and blessings from endangered species or perhaps a directive from Gaia[5].

Related readings:
  1. Habeas_corpus - The right to appeal
  2. Shouting fire in a crowded theater - of rights and responsibilities
  3. Timeline of women's suffrage (nternational)
  4. Statistics of threatened species
  5. Synopsis about GAIA theory


Ashish Sarode said...

Last part was difficult to digest (grasp).
Overall a very good blog.
Are these ideas came (borrowed) from any book or article (particularly last ones)?

Kartik said...


Yes, all the concepts are borrowed - Gaia theory of earth as superbeing, Animal liberation (by Peter Singer), and other ideas about democratic freedom.

My only addition is adding 'voting' rights to other rights advocated by Singer. And as impractical and funny it seems, I think it is inevitable, if not in our lifetimes :-)

Devendra said...

It would be more practical to understand and define the 'rights' of non-human life forms on earth, by consensus among humans. I agree with the comment on survival being the #1 goal of all life forms.

Abhinav Somanchi said...

Nice !!

You have moved towards professional writing :)

Kartik said...

@Somanchi - thanks... Though I doubt whether it is professional yet. These are mostly musings.

@Devendra - It would be practical, but not ideal. It was not left to British to decide how Indians would treat each other after 1947. It could have been "practical" to copy their constitution (assumed to represent their consensus).

Basically who are "we humans" to judge other life forms as inferior? Does our higher intelligence lead to better survival with 100% certainty?

Devendra said...

Nope, you got it wrong.

Since the animals can't speak, it is left to us to understand the best course of action for them. It still remains an approximation, of course, but I guess we can do a pretty good job at it.
The ideal condition would be animals participating with us on equal basis, but that is clearly too far-fetched, even absurdly to a certain level.
Higher intelligence leads to more responsibility generally speaking, and we should shoulder that for the rest of species on the planet.

Kartik said...

We are wrongly assuming that animals can't think what is good for themselves. Do they explicitly think? Probably not. Still they evolved.

Animals before man didn't speak but still evolved. Our body cells don't speak, but communicate through enzymes/harmones. All life communicates.

And only intelligence may not be the best means to survival. There is a significant possibility that we nuke ourselves to extinction.

What if a superior alien race came in our contact? Would you like to leave it to them to decide the best course of action on earth?

Far-fetched it is. But it is just an extension of what we are currently observing.

Anand Gautam said...


Very nice :)
You inspire me :)