In my opinion, the most despicable thing in the world is physical torture. Not death, nor disease, nor eating junk food for breakfast. Torture, that fearful spectre that’s been haunting humanity since the dawn of time.
Torture makes me so angry that I believe national sovereignty is worth overruling to prevent it. For instance, North Korea is running a network of gulags observable by spy satellites. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering there, with at least a few tens of thousands undergoing actual torture every year, if not many more. Punishment cells, and worse.
Why not march soldiers right into North Korea, free people from the camps, and set up a government that doesn’t imprison and torture its own people for political reasons? Well, as we’ve seen with Iraq, it’s not so easy. But if we had the money, the manpower, and reason to believe we could set up a stable government after the invasion, would it be worth it? It warrants thinking about. My answer is yes. (Assume we did actually have reason to believe we could set up a stable government, even if you believe that’s impossible. If it is impossible for an invading force to ever set up a stable government, under any circumstances, then obviously the plan wouldn’t work.)
Technological advances in the next few decades are going to make unimaginably horrible torture possible. Much worse than we’ve seen already. For one, there’s the “pain beam”, a laser pulse tuned perfectly to stimulate human pain receptors. I won’t say anything more about high-tech torture, because I don’t even want to risk the minute chance a torturer sees this page in coming decades and gets any ideas. For instance, an Iraqi citizen commented, “the day Uday Hussein discovered the Internet was a dark day for Iraq”. This is because Uday used the Internet as a source of inspiration for torture.
For me, the issue of high-tech torture is sufficient to legitimize the prospect of a trans-national body capable of violating the sovereignty of states to intervene in cases of state-sponsored torture. Police are the world’s number one torturers. Of course, this is a step towards world government, and I’m perfectly comfortable with that. I love my country, the United States of America, but I think some causes are so important they transcend statehood. Preventing torture is one of those causes.
People used to think that torture is one of those things that only bad people do. Not so. Under the right circumstances, practically anyone could become a torturer. The long-term solution is overwhelmingly obvious — modify the human genome so that we no longer have the desire to torture, no matter the circumstances. This is a case study for the generalized argument that reengineering the human species is a moral imperative. It might make some people squirmy, but because humanity isn’t perfect, there are some major possibilities for improvement. When the potential benefits become obvious, the polity will welcome them wholeheartedly.
When proposing modification of the human species, note that I advocate leadership by example, and never obligatory eugenics a la all the scaremongering sci-fi out there.