Archive for the ‘life insurance’ Category

Jihad of the Heart – episode 4

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

This is the final episode of the story.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s lawyer confronts him at the break.  “You didn’t shave this morning!”  Javeed doesn’t bother to answer.  He didn’t shave yesterday either.

David brings his face down close, nose to nose, so that Javeed smells the lawyer’s sandwich.  “To win this we each have a job to do,” David tells him.  “My job is to argue your case.  Your job—no less critical—is to present yourself as the guy you were before you were arrested.  A professional engineer, a proud Canadian, a young husband looking to build a life for yourself and your wife.  You can’t afford to let this stuff get you down!  Now, I’m going to hoof it to the hotel and beg a free razor; you can shave in the washroom.  Another thing—you fell asleep in court yesterday.  If you won’t eat, at least have an energy drink!”  He hands Javeed a bottle of bright repulsive liquid. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 3

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

This is episode 3 of a story about life insurance and the law.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s journal: Apr. 1st, 2089.   Federal Corrections Facility Abbotsford.  This morning I was outside with nothing between me and the open sky—the almost-infinite blue across which puffy clouds blew freely from the wire-topped fence on the west side of the yard to the same fence on the east.  Birds fly over the fence, in and out.  The robots on the corner towers pay no attention to them.  We men, who know we are being watched, do not go near the fence.

I got a call from the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, some kind of liberal-minded NGO.  The guy said I shouldn’t give up hope.  I said nothing—but kept listening.  In the CCLU’s opinion my trial was a travesty.  I was incompetently represented.  Instead of hanging up, which I should have done, I said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” That only encouraged him.   He said there are grounds for an appeal.  I told him I’m already in debt, expecting him to back off, but he did not.  He said money was no concern—an important principle of law is at stake, and the CCLU is ready to fight for it.   I’d be represented by a team of top lawyers, CCLU members passionately committed to overthrow the terrible precedent set by my case.  Moreover, I’d qualify for legal aid!  There are several grounds for appeal, including egregious lapses of duty of my former counsel (may he eat flies!), all the way to potential conflicts with the Charter of Rights.  Would I launch an appeal?

“At no cost to me?” I repeated, to be crystal clear.

“No cost whatever.”

It being April Fool’s Day, and being a fool myself, obviously, I agreed to meet their lawyer, Mr. David Ogilvie.

As I just now read in the Qur’an, “Fighting  is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.”  So I fight. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 2

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

This is episode 2 of a story about life insurance and the law.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

Javeed’s first day in court lasts all of ten minutes.  The crown prosecutor—Vinod Dasgupta, JD—requests a three-week delay, to March 14.  Justice Mackenzie grants the request.  Javeed is disgusted that Darren doesn’t object.  “Javeed, bud, there’s a simple thing called playing by the rules.”

 

Rex vs. Amiri. On the morning of March 14, Javeed finds himself at Darren’s elbow listening to the theory of his life according to Mr. Dasgupta.  The Crown will show that although Javeed purchased life insurance for himself as soon as he was married, he did not suggest a policy for his wife.  That the marriage began to deteriorate in the fall of 2086, when the couple came under financial pressure as interest rates rose sharply after they bought their condo.  That an expected year-end bonus from Javeed’s employer failed to materialize, and so did a hoped-for promotion.  That Javeed was chronically over-optimistic about his prospects, and clueless about the financial health of his employer.  That, unlike Javeed, Laila made an astute career move, landing a better-paid and more responsible job in the emergency ward where she worked.  That Javeed urged her not to take the promotion; in fact, implored her to cut her working hours, even leave the workforce entirely, despite the couple’s obvious inability to meet their obligations on his salary alone.  That Naser, the couple’s friend, who worked as a paramedic at the same hospital, helped Laila make her move, and tried his best to help Javeed see that it was in their interests.  Tried in vain.

The Crown will also show that Javeed neglected to go in for a refresher scan on his policy’s anniversary date, although he continued to pay the premium, thereby ensuring his old backup would remain on file.  That there was no plausible motive for this failure to update, other than Javeed’s belief, confirmed in his journal, that it would allow him to evade responsibility for his actions. (more…)

Jihad of the Heart – episode 1

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

“Jihad” is a story/thought experiment about our legal system coming to grips with restorative life insurance.  What happens to someone who is charged with a crime committed by his later self?  It is also about the Canadian immigrant experience, a few years down the road.

It’s Canada Day.  But he and Laila are not at any of the usual patriotic festivities—they wander the heat-softened asphalt of the Playland midway breathing vivid airs of onion rings, candy floss and puke.  They don’t speak, except with clasped hands and their eyes—of lying entangled and sticky on sun-struck sheets, that long holiday morning.  The Maple Leaf snaps overhead.  Hucksters lean from booths offering three balls, knock down the jugs and win a bear for her—Javeed waves them off, knowing the game is fixed.  Now she points to something she wants—a flailing horror of cartoon teacups.  He laughs—“No, Laila!  My stomach won’t stand it.  Let’s try that one” —the ferris wheel, stately benches rising into the blue view in which lovers can lose themselves.  But she has pulled away.  A carny opens a door and she almost collapses into the arms of Canadian strangers.  The machine starts up, leaving him, Javeed the engineer, inspecting the mechanism, greased rods and pistons blackly abused.  A bolt is loose. “Laila!”  She spins up, and then he knows—but cannot watch her fly off the handle.

Javeed finds himself on his back under a light blanket, full of panic that begins to fade as he sorts out dream from reality.  On his cot in the Detention Centre.  Again.  How many times has he woken, in just one night, to find himself here?  The light is too bright.  He understands why they keep a light on.  But why so bright?

The first of how many nights?

The first and only!  He did nothing wrong.  This is Canada, not Tehran; not the hell-hole of Guantanamo either.  Canada is a country of peace, as he learned in immigration class, and good government—and a third thing, order—gentle and tolerant, welcoming of newcomers.  The lawyer will return and explain everything at tedious length.  There will be apologies all round.  They will let him go home.  Let him go…where?  He heard his address had changed.   Home to what, exactly?

They said he was charged with….  “That’s insane!  You’re talking about my wife and my friend!”  But it’s useless to argue with the police. (more…)

Persons in Law

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

We cannot understand the self by examining people in isolation.   Too many important aspects of personhood only appear in a social context.

Thomas Metzinger’s work describes the self-model in which our ideas about ourselves are rooted.  The model is (usually) transparent, in that we operate through it without (usually) any awareness of a distinction between the model and the underlying reality.  It is a model to which we have a profound emotional attachment—most of us care, deeply, about ourselves in the past, present, and future.  As a result, our self-models are motivational.  They spur and shape our actions.  We evaluate possible courses of action by putting our self-models through various simulations, and responding emotionally to the different outcomes we imagine.  The research of Antonio Damasio has begun to show how our emotions must inform our executive decision-making processes in order for us to make what are commonly recognized as ‘rational’ decisions.

Most of what Metzinger and Damasio have to say about the self is as true of isolated individuals as of human beings immersed in society.  But a case can be made that the concept of the self could only have emerged in a social context.   I have argued that our concepts, particularly the entities recognized by our ontology, reflect what is important to us. The spatio-temporal boundaries between ‘things’ are artificial, not natural; they do not exist in nature, but are imposed upon nature by human beings.   A person is an entity whose boundaries roughly coincide with those of a human biological organism.  A person is commonly considered to begin sometime around birth; sooner in some traditions, later in others.  The person is usually thought to persist until biological death; but many people believe that it continues much longer than that; and some believe that if the organism is sufficiently damaged, then the person may cease to exist before its organism dies.

Among other things, a person is a unit of moral and legal responsibility—a bearer of enduring rights and privileges, duties and obligations, merits and demerits, assets and liabilities, debts and credits.  Those attributes of individual persons result from, and depend on, the fact that individuals are members of a larger society.  If a human being is isolated for a long time from other human beings, legal obligation disappears from his life, and moral obligation, if it does not entirely disappear, is vastly curtailed.  I would not go so far as to say that an isolated human being ceases to be a person; only that certain central and important aspects of personhood simply disappear from his or her life.  Having moral and legal rights and obligations is a central and important aspect of personhood. (more…)

The Neurology of Anticipation

Friday, August 27th, 2010

In the previous post, I asked what is the difference between having a painful experience myself and feeling sympathy for someone else’s pain.  The answer seems pretty clear.  My experience of my own pain is neurologically ‘hard-wired’, but there is no direct neural connection between other persons and myself which exposes me to their pain.  Things could have been different.  If we, like the Na’vi of the movie Avatar, had the physiological equivalent of USB-ports which allowed us to connect our nervous systems at will, then we could experience the pains, pleasures, and other sensations of other people while we were connected to them.  The ‘privacy’ of our minds is an anatomical limitation, not a metaphysical necessity.

A parallel question can be asked about future experience.  What is the difference between anticipating my own pain and having sympathy for a friend whose pain I can foresee?  As in the case of present pain, there is a vivid difference in my experience between anticipating having pain, and expecting you to have pain.   There is nothing resembling a direct neural connection between myself, now, and myself in the future, to explain this difference.  Nevertheless, neuroscience can help us understand it: why it is so vivid, why expectation of my own pain makes me anxious rather than just sympathetically concerned, why foreseeing pain in my own future feels like an unavoidable problem for me in a way that foreseeing your pain does not.

Another difference is that sympathy for others, unlike self-concern, seems at least partially under conscious control.  When we feel we cannot afford it, we tend to dial it down or switch it off altogether.  It feels optional, in contrast to the sense of unavoidability that clings to self-concern.

In his book, Hardwired Behaviour, Laurence Tancredi of the New York University School of Medicine offers some clues to an answer from a neurological perspective.  The engine of self-concern is a cyclical interaction between the limbic system, which generates our emotions (giving emotional ‘meaning’ to experience), and the prefrontal cortex, which makes plans and decisions. (more…)

Life Insurance as Game Changer

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Who would have predicted that boring old life insurance would become the ‘killer app’ that makes human replication technology truly transformational?  But that does seem to follow from the logic of the situation.

The arguments for information-based life insurance are even more compelling than the arguments for teleportation.  The advantages of travelling as information are speed, convenience, cost, and sustainability (in the form of lower carbon emissions).  The final product is the same as conventional travel – the customer is (to all intents and purposes) transported from place A to place B.  But in the case of life insurance, the product is radically transformed.  Whereas traditional insurance merely mitigates the damage of death by providing monetary support to surviving family, the new insurance warrants the life of the policyholder by – in the event of his death – restoring him from a backup file.   It changes our relationship to death, which is no small matter. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 3

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This is the third and final episode of “Phoenix,”  a short story about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

(video on – metallic cylindrical interior)

Frank here.  So here I am in the itravel pod on Olympus Station, Mars orbit, which is home, heading out to Prince Rupert BC.  Who the heck was Prince Rupert, anyhow?  This system’s running slower than ever.  I’ve been sitting doing dick for five minutes, bored out of my skull, listening to Eleanor Rigby on their crappy sound system.  Okay. here we go, I’m finally getting a tingle…a-a-a-and…must be there!

Welcome to Prince Rupert, Canada’s Pacific Rim deep-water port. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 2

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This is the second episode of “Phoenix,”  a short fiction about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

That was my first taste of problems involved with using my life insurance policy.  I didn’t think they were all that bad, considering the alternative.  It was only after I died a second time that I felt a tiny bit concerned, because it was so stupid.  Even now, now that the pattern is obvious, I have trouble understanding how I could have done it.  Back then, I couldn’t begin to understand.  My log entry after I saw the evidence is pure confusion – just screaming question marks.

I’d survived a year and a half since the volcano.  By that time I had lots of experience and was diving safely.  In fact I was getting bored, and looking at other sports.  Anyway, this is what happened, as well as I’ve been able to reconstruct it.  I needed the cruiser for a date with a girl on some other station so I asked Dad well in advance and he agreed.  Fine.  Eight o’clock Friday night I climbed in and the fuel-oxygen was down to zip.  Almost.  The spare tank was empty too.  How could Dad let that happen?  I was probably late, probably frustrated.  I drove that thing into a station and traded in the spare.  The attendant was pretty young – I saw him at the inquest later – didn’t know much.  He gave me a tank with the wrong fitting.  And I didn’t notice. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 1

Friday, March 12th, 2010

“Phoenix” is a short story about a young guy who found freedom in a life insurance policy.  Here is the first of three episodes.

This is Frank Forster speaking on January 7, 2092.  This is a confidential message for Frank Forster.

Frank…if anybody’s around, save this for another time.   You’re going to have to make a decision, and you don’t need anybody’s advice except your own.

You’re probably wondering why there’s no video.  I turned it off.  I’ll explain why later.  Just keep listening, Frank, I need you to hear this through to the end without any interruption.  Arrange that, okay?  I don’t want somebody like Georg dropping in for a cold one in the middle of this.  Not that Georg will, ‘cause he’s dead.  I assume you heard.  God, I hope you did – I’m not trying to be brutal.  Yeah, Georg’s dead, permanently…yeah, permanently…and that’s a lot of what this message is about, so pay attention, hamhead!   Oops, sorry, sorry, I, uh…Frank, I’m not trying to offend you.  I don’t want you to stop listening.  Don’t stop listening.  Understand that I have strong feelings.  You will understand, if you just listen to this.  So, if I start to get abusive, just go with it, okay?  Do that for me.  Shit, do it for yourself.  I don’t want to edit this, I’d mess it up.  So some parts may be a bit raw, so what?  I care about you, Frank, so no bullshit.  You’re my future – all the future I’ve got.

I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t like.  It’s about life insurance, Frank.  I’m going to ask you to cancel your policy. (more…)