There cannot be any duties without any rights. This is true of even machine parts, because if you deliberately interfere with the working of a machine part with malevolent or even unclear or uncertain purpose, then you are likely to break down the machine, perhaps even irreparably.
Human beings are anyway not machines and they cannot be supposed to behave like machines. It cannot be expected that on giving a certain aggregated input, a certain aggregated output, previously decided, will be produced. This can work with machines under certain well-designed conditions, but it is guaranteed to fail with human beings.
It may, however be possible for human beings to live in a certain degree of natural (not artificial) harmony, where the meaning of the word ‘harmony’ can be taken as similar to that for notes in good music, keeping in mind that being off-key within limits can, in some ways, enhance the quality of the harmony, not spoil it.
In order for such a society of human beings to exist in a natural harmony, which allows occasional off-key notes and even violations of human-made rules of music in order to allow the music to evolve, diversify and improve, certain conditions must exist for individual human beings, excluding none whatsoever, including the ‘freaks’ and those found (or suspected to be) ‘criminal’ or some such, based again on human-made rules, which might go wrong (or be insufficient) sometimes, as can rules of music. In any case, the human-made rules keep changing all the time, so they are self-evidently more than imperfect.
As a first attempt to define such minimum conditions for naturally harmonious society to exist, the following are proposed:
1. Basic human rights, which are already well-defined and globally accepted, at least in theory
2. Minimal basic income: This too is well known, and is now finding increasing favour globally. Minimal here means an as high a basic income as is possible under the circumstances, without giving precedence to any particular individuals, sets of individuals or collectives (including entities like corporations) or sets of collectives
3. Total freedom of thought and maximal freedom of speech, without which no human being can really *be* a human being. This too is well-studied, but has now, unfortunately, become a matter of contention. Maximal here means maximum possible, i.e., maximum subject to some minimum required constraints, the less the better (constraints, that is, not freedom).
4. Minimal freedom of action. This is required for humans to not act like machines, because if humans are forced to behave like machines, nothing good can come out of that. The word minimal is defined in a way similar to the point 2.
5. Minimal knowledge: Just as Minimal Basic Income is required for a minimal degree of economic equality, so is minimal knowledge required for minimal epistemic equality. As the common saying goes, knowledge is power. It is also essential on principle, because a human being, for harmonious existence, is required to think, speak, listen and act on the basis of truth. And knowledge provides that truth. It’s not a static entity, whether for an individual, or locally or globally. Instead, it’s a constantly evolving dynamic ‘corpus’, for want of a better word.
6. Maximal Justice: Maximum justice has to be available to any and every individual, subject to the real Rule of Law as it was supposed to be in theory when this field has matured and had reached its peak. This is the formal justice. This too is already well-studied, well-documented and, in some cases, well-practiced at some points of time.
7. The Right to Physical and Intellectual Sanctuary: This is as proposed in the landmark book Surveillance Capitalism. The reader must refer to that book.
Conditions of Social Participation:
1. Knowledge: It is generally believed that in social interactions, particularly of private or intimate variety, there has to be consent. This is definitely true. However, there is another even more basic condition that has to be satisfied even before the matter of consent comes up. And this is the condition of knowledge. This point may, perhaps, be better understood with reference to crimes, particularly of the private and intimate nature — crimes, that is, where one or more individuals (or collectives) assault or harm other one or more individuals or even collectives. A simple question can illustrate the overarching importance of the condition of knowledge in social interaction. What are the most terrifying crime thrillers or horror films involving crimes of private and intimate nature, i.e., involving violations of not only privacy, but also consent? The answer is these are the ones where the victim(s) have no knowledge about the perpetrator(s) or their motivations etc. This absence of the condition of knowledge make the crimes (whether supernatural or not) not only more terrifying, but far more abhorrent than even those involving the lack of consent, because the presence of at least such knowledge, even without consent still leaves the victims with some degree of human dignity as victims (or survivors, if they do survive) of the crime. Absence of knowledge take away even this dignity. More importantly, and more diabolically, it almost eliminates any possibility of seeking redressal and the perpetrators and their motivations are not known and it is almost impossible to prove the crime. This was not possible earlier, except in thrillers about psychopaths, but now it is possible even for ‘normal’ people to participate in such crimes due to weaponisable remotely operated technologies that are may not be very ‘intelligent’, but they are capable of untold and unimaginable cruelty. This should not be surprising, as it is well-known, well-documented and well-studied that it takes much less to turn a powerful technology into a weapon, than it does to make it really proven source of good. You need to have talent and skill and immense amount of practice, for example, to throw a basketball in the net perfectly to score points, or for repairing a broken machine, which may involve the use of, say, a hammer. However, you don’t need much intelligence, skill, talent or practice to throw a rock or use a hammer to hurt someone. This should be very obvious with regard to technologies, but for some ‘understandable’ reasons, it is not.
2. Consent: After knowledge, comes consent. This too well-known to be elaborated here.
3. Acknowledgement: With the presence of knowledge and consent, if one participates in social interaction or activities, the least that is expected is acknowledgement from others. In other word, no individual can be made an unperson or outcaste.
4. Social Justice: Most of the above are conditions required for individuals. However, since individuals exist in and interact with other individuals and collectives in a society, the conditions above have be equal as far as possible for all individuals. This is where social justice comes in. It too is well-know and well-studied, but it has to be reimagined in the light of the above conditions required for individuals.
1. Natural Self: There has been a great deal of philosophical and other kinds of debate about the existence or non-existence of the self. It seems obvious to the author that most of such debate is the result of confusing individuality with extreme individualism. For us to be human beings at all, we have to have a self. If there is no self, than the whole framework within which we live, whatever may be the political system, ideology or the local culture, breaks down completely. Just to give one example of schizophrenic nature of the debate (in many circles, not all), the same people who deny the existence of a self, are the most extreme in ascribing accountability exclusively to individuals. If individuals have no self, then how can they be accountable for anything. This brings us back to the idea of humans as machines. If humans are just machines or machine parts, then they have no accountability. The designers, producers, maintainers, and operators etc. of the machine can and should be held accountable. That obviously is a nonsense scenario. Yes, circumstances do matter, but they do for all individuals, less for som and more for some. So, as is also well known (outside of the self-denying ideology), individual behaviour is the result of both the self (the nature) and the societal and environmental circumstances (the nurture). Note that the term used Natural Self, which means the nature endows us all with some kind of natural self, which can’t be wished away, if we want to avoid catastrophic results.
2. Maximal Natural Privacy: Apart from the self, which only needs to argued for, as it is a natural phenomenon, privacy is a function of circumstances and the environment. So, it has to be fought for. It is the most basic or root condition for any other condition above to exist, as it is a meta-right. Even the self can be crushed without privacy. Privacy, i.e., maximal privacy, not unlimited privacy, is not a matter of luxury. It is the most fundamental requirement for our existence as human beings. It is not possible to exist as a human being without meeting this condition. Like in the case of the self, this is a much misunderstood topic. It has been claimed that, like the self, privacy is also the creation of a particular kind of ideology, such as the ideologies based on the idea of private property. This confusion between privacy and private property has led to much wrong in though and action in our modern history. Just like there is a natural self, so there is natural privacy. It is the advent of invasive technologies that has converted privacy into something like property (private or otherwise). Nature didn’t evolve it that way.
3. Maximal Autonomy: Once we are allowed to be our-selves and have the maximal natural privacy, we can try to fulfil our responsibilities to society as autonomous sentient, conscious, self-aware and moral living beings, as human beings. Otherwise we are either machines, or at most pets or cattle.
4. Minimal Secrecy of those in power: The primary reason why the above conditions are not fulfilled is that those in power operate in secrecy, and therefore without accountability. This is not a new idea, of course. We just note here, again, that in order to ensure the above conditions to avail for a naturally harmonious human existence in a society, the secrecy of those in power has to be mimimised. Otherwise, there is no possibility of achieving the above conditions or natural harmony. The only possible harmony with maximum secrecy is 16 ton weight kind of harmony, as we know from Monty Python sketches, to end on a lighter note.