We occasionally hear about prison terms that stretch out to 100 to 150 years, though its clear that the prisoner won't live to see his full sentence served—these are essentially life sentences. Yet, as one philosopher puts it, advancements in biotech could see these prisoners serving their sentences in full—or at least feeling like they did.
One way would be tricking their minds into it. "There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people’s sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence," philosopher Rebecca Roache said in Aeon magazine.
"I had wondered whether the best way to achieve justice in cases like that was to prolong death as long as possible," she continued. "Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying. And so I thought, why not make prison sentences for particularly odious criminals worse by extending their lives?"
Or, even better yet: uploading their minds into a computer, and running their sentence through the machine.
If the speed-up were a factor of a million, a millennium of thinking would be accomplished in eight and a half hours... Uploading the mind of a convicted criminal and running it a million times faster than normal would enable the uploaded criminal to serve a 1,000 year sentence in eight-and-a-half hours. This would, obviously, be much cheaper for the taxpayer than extending criminals’ lifespans to enable them to serve 1,000 years in real time.
Sound crazy? Yeah. Twisted? Most definitely. Or is it?
"Is it really OK to lock someone up for the best part of the only life they will ever have, or might it be more humane to tinker with their brains and set them free?" Roache said. "When we ask that question, the goal isn’t simply to imagine a bunch of futuristic punishments – the goal is to look at today’s punishments through the lens of the future."
Read more at Aeon.