Volume 2, Issue 2 
2nd Quarter, 2007

Hybriduality and Geoethics

Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.

This article was submitted for inclusion within the Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology by Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., a medical ethicist.

Dr. Rothblatt illustrates the multi-dimensional, energy-consciousness of beings as hybriduals, rather than individuals, and the associated ethics powered by an information- intensive society.

Each of us is a compound, collective, hybrid being. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, and contrary to what we fervently believe to be true,

there is not just one I. We are not individuals, we are hybriduals. Each of us is a compound, collective, hybrid being. Part of us is the body we see and feel and the personality we know (“Me of I”). Part of us are the many different models of us which occupy mental space in the minds of all those with whom we have interacted (“We of I”). Part of each of us is an energy-consciousness pattern arising from our body’s biochemical interactions, somehow intersecting with the physical universe (“Qi of I”).  Every individual is part of the physical universe (“Gi of I”); and part of each of us is a series of moments in time that live forever (“Ti of I”).

It can be frightening to think of ourselves as five dimensional beings – almost like we have a kind of multiple personality disorder. But looked at appropriately, it really should be much more comforting to see ourselves this way. It means that we are never alone in life, because we are always part of a collective of human souls.

It means that we are never really going to die because we are part and parcel of a universe that will last longer than we can imagine. It means that we are so much more than our flesh and bones, because we are truly creatures of spirit, and this spirit is not limited to our body. As five dimensional creatures we can really understand that when our bodies give out, our Qi spirit is free to intersect with a physical universe in which consciousness controls what really happens and doesn’t happen. And, finally, as five dimensional beings we can appreciate that every moment we have lived really, really counts – because it lasts forever.

Bursting the fiction of individuality also has important implications for ethics and morality.

Individual morality urges us to empathize with those who will feel the brunt of our actions. Individual morality is anchored in the golden rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Immanuel Kant,
a world-renowned 18th century philosopher from Kalingrad, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, phrased this concept as a Categorical Imperative:  act as you would if you could make your action a universal law [1]. Individual morality urges us to empathize with those who will feel the brunt of our actions. Hybridual morality goes one step further – it tells us that we are others. Just as the foot cannot move without the permission of the brain, nor can a person eat well without the cooperation of the hands, hybridual morality teaches that we cannot impinge upon others without their actual consent. The difference between hybridual morality and the golden rule systems of Kant and Christianity, is that hybridual morality requires proof (through consent) that one’s actions are acceptable to those who feel their impact.

Image 1 - Golden Rule

Geoethics is built upon the collectivist ethics theories of 20th century philosophers like Jurgen Habermas [2], Ulrich Beck [3] and John Rawls [4]. Habermas distinguished himself from John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice, by noting that it was unnecessary to resort to Rawls’ use of hypothetical individuals agreeing upon the rules of a society in which such individuals might occupy any possible role or status. While this would ordinarily obtain a fair result (since the individuals wouldn’t want to bear the brunt of any unfair rules) Habermas considered this but an expansion of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. As a result, unfair outcomes could result either from poor empathization skills, or because one was willing to risk he would end up in a better treated group rather than an oppressed group under a discriminatory set of rules. Instead, Habermas says something is morally valid if those who are impacted by it agree to it based on a full-fledged discussion. More generally, Ulrich Beck considers actions that impact others without their consent to be a kind of pollution. Since we shouldn’t pollute another’s space without their permission, we shouldn’t impact others without their permission.

[I]f our actions are going to affect another, we must first obtain the consent of the other. A weakness of ethical systems based upon individual morality is that different people empathize differently, and some do so very poorly, if at all. The strength of an ethical system based upon hybridual
morality is that the guesswork is much reduced; if our actions are going to affect another, we must first obtain the consent of the other. It may be argued that this is not always practical, but such an argument is not relevant to the many instances where consent is possible. Generally, if I have time to affect you, I have time to ask you if you accept the effect. This is well-demonstrated in the “Antioch Code” for sexual behavior. At each state of progression from kissing to intercourse, explicit consent is required. This Code precludes the possibility of “date rape”, whereas under the Golden Rule or Kant a person might well say “I would have wanted that kiss, so they should want it to.”

The ethics of hybridual morality may be called “geoethics,” meaning that it takes into account the whole. Geoethics considers the whole directly via communication rather than focusing only upon the atomistic part, and imaging the whole indirectly, via empathization. Geoethics is empowered by an information-intensive society because it becomes practical to seek and document the consent of others readily and frequently. Under the geoethics of hybridualism, it is wrong to impact someone without first asking their consent, whether or not that impact is believed to be harmful by you or someone else.

As noted above, contemporary philosophers like Jurgen Habermas and Rudolph Beck have paved the way for geoethics. Habermas uses the term “participatory discourse” to encompass the way he subsumes Kant’s Categorical Imperative within a collective process [5]. Put simply, Habermas asks “why imagine how others would feel if I act thusly; I can just ask them and obtain their consent.”  Beck notes that in modern times, the imposition of risk of harm on unseen, usually geographically distant others is the palliative consequence of economic development for a fortunate minority [6]. He discovered that the new social struggle worth fighting is between those who create risks and those who involuntarily bear the brunt of them. This struggle over risk has rendered obsolete the old battle lines between workers and managers, and among nationalities and ideologies. When one suffers from technology-engendered cancers, it doesn’t matter if you live in India or in Pakistan. You are united in your opposition to the imposition of cancer risks upon you without your consent. When one suffers from fear of unsafe food, it doesn’t matter if you are the wife of a CEO or the husband of a factory laborer.

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[1] Kant, I. (1979), Lectures on Ethics, Infield, L., tr., Hackett:  Indianapolis.

[2] Habermas, J. (1990), Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, Lenhardt, C. & Nicholsen, S., tr., MIT Press:  Cambridge, Mass.

[3] Beck, U. (1992), Risk Society:  Towards a New Modernity, Sage:  London

[4] Rawls, J. (1971), A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press:  Cambridge, Mass.

[5] Habermas, J. (1996), Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Rehg,W. tr., MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass.

[6] Beck, U. (1992), Risk Society:  Toward a New Modernity, Sage: London



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