So our conversations about Petrolea and the environmental philosophy questions it raises are getting really interesting. This is what I have so far.
Why save the mechanical rainforest?
1) The mechanical rainforest is more useful alive than dead.(the Pragmatic Argument)
1a) Its life-forms or even communities of life-forms might wind up having useful industrial applications. We should at least study them before destroying them (thanks, Flesh-pocket)
1b) They are also beautiful (some of them), although Titan is not going to work very well as a tourist destination. (thanks, Steve Bein)
1c) But who knows, right? Maybe in the future tourists will be able to visit the moons of Saturn. Maybe we’ll discover some use for the life there only after we destroyed it. Maybe the mechanoids on Titan will evolve intelligence. Are we willing to deny those resources to the future? (thanks, Tex Thompson)
1d) Everything is connected, maybe the destruction of the biosphere on Titan will have some negative impact on Earth. (but come on, how likely is that?)
2) It would be wrong to kill the mechanical rainforest(the Moral Argument)
2a) The life-forms on Titan, even though evolved from von Neumann robots, are sentient. They have feelings, and they can suffer. It is wrong to cause avoidable suffering. (thanks, Steve Bein, for this utilitarian argument)
2b) But, even if you could prove that NOT destroying the robots would cause more suffering, as sentient beings, they have an inherent right to exist. (thanks, Steve Bein, for this Kantian argument)
2c) We would be horrified to contemplate the utter destruction of Earth’s biosphere. We should also be horrified at the destruction of Titan’s, even if that destruction has no negative consequences that we can see. Do we want to be the sort of people that would strip-mine a whole planet?
2d) Petrolean mechanoids are the descendants of von Neumann robots that aliens planted on Titan millions of years ago. As such, they have Derived Value from their original manufacturers. If we believe we might one day meet those manufacturers, we’d better respect their works. Yes, this is a religious argument. (thanks, Writer of Minds!)
2e) What would you think of someone who over-consumed so thoughtlessly? Greed usually has negative physical consequences, not to mention the psychological consequences of pursuing pleasure instead of truth. What are we really losing with the destruction of the Petrolean biosphere? Can we even know? (thanks, Mat Sheean)
Any other reasons we should save the mechanical rainforest?
Once again, thanks to everyone who’s participating in this conversation with me.