Homesteading the noosphere: The ethics of owning biological information

Northern Plains Ethics Journal 6 (1):47-63 (2018)
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The idea of homesteading can be extended to the realm of biological entities, to the ownership of information wherein organisms perform artifactual functions as a result of human development. Can the information of biological entities be ethically “homesteaded”: should humans (or businesses) have ownership rights over this information from the basis of mere development and possession, as in Locke’s theory of private property? I offer three non-consequentialist arguments against such homesteading: the information makeup of biological entities is not commonly owned, and thus is not available for homesteading; the value of the individual biological entity extends to the information whereby it is constituted, and includes inalienable rights of an entity over itself and its information; and use of life as an information artifact makes an organism an unending means to an end rather than an end itself. I conclude that the information space of biological entities is not open for homesteading, not liable to private ownership, and should not be available for perpetual exploitation.

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