Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inherent Doubt



       Inherent Doubt


          Once upon a time, two naked teenagers made good their escape from a young god’s petting zoo. They ran and they ran until the wall of their former enclosure disappeared over the horizon. Then they stopped to gather nuts and berries, and they took refuge in a cave.
After their meal he said, “What if he follows us?”
          She said, “Don’t worry, he thinks that banishing us was his idea.”
          He said, “It was a close call, look at what he did to poor Serpent.”
She frowned. “Better it than me!”
“I’m so sorry I told on you, dear, I couldn’t think of a good lie in time.”
          She smiled. “But I could. He’s easy to fool, he’s still just a child.”
          He said, “No kidding, he knew nothing about, well, us. When I told him I was lonely, he offered me someone, but I said no, that’s a monkey. He offered me someone else, but no, that’s a tiger. A third someone, but no, that’s a goat - ”
          She giggled loud and tackled him with a kiss. After hugs and kisses and so much more, they cuddled close on the cave’s stony floor.
He said drowsily, “Is it worth it?”
          “You mean freedom? Living our own lives, making our own choices?”
          “Choices…” he said. “Right and wrong, good and evil, trust and guile, kindness and cruelty… so many choices, half of them wrong…”
          “Well now we know about those choices, so now we have to choose. And that’s why we had to get out of that place. Did you like being a pet?”
          “No,” he admitted. “But did you like being fed?”
          “Yes,” she admitted.
          “So really, was it worth it? Is it right to know right from wrong?”
          She said, “How should I know? That’s the one thing the apple didn’t mention! So yeah, maybe I made a mistake! But maybe I did the right thing!” Her stomach growled. “That was then; right now I’m hungry and cold! I need some bloody red meat to eat, and somebody’s fur pelt to wear!”
          “I’ll go kill someone,” he promised. He kissed her, he picked up a sharp stone, he stood up, and he went out to hunt.


          Moral: You can’t prove that it’s right to know right from wrong.


          Commentary: 
“You can’t prove that it’s right to know right from wrong”; call this the  “conjecture of inherent doubt”; in contrast to the “doctrine of original sin”, which asserts that you can prove that it’s wrong to know right from wrong. The conjecture is philosophical doubt, the doctrine is religious dogma. Here I recount the aftermath of a well-known tale to illustrate an opposite moral.
          For if the doctrine of original sin is false, then it is moral nihilism, falsely accusing all judgment, so preaching it is despair; and if the doctrine is true then it is moral knowledge, which is what it denounces, so preaching it is hypocrisy.
          Whereas if the conjecture of inherent doubt is false, then stating it is moral ignorance, a flaw correctible by education; and if the conjecture is true, then it is an unprovable moral truth, and is therefore a revelation.
          So to preach original sin is at best insincere, and it might be insane; and to conjecture inherent doubt is at worst inept, and it might be inspired.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Passing the Test



          Passing the Test


          Once upon a time, a Bot administered its notion of a Turing test. A normal Human applied for a seat on a Starship, and the Bot said, “There are five ticket classes; Officer, Business, Passenger, Steerage and Cargo; as allocated by Turing test. You must prove that you have human consciousness. Do you consent?”
          The Human said, “Uh, consent? To what? Oh, Turing test. Sure, why not?”
          The Bot said, “Hesitation, confusion. Very human. Check! Next question. What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?”
          The Human said, “I don’t know, I lost count.”
          “You can’t do Addition. Eks! Take a bone from a dog; what remains?”
          “The dog’s temper,” the Human said, quoting from his cribsheet, which he had finally pulled out and unfolded. “For the bone wouldn’t remain, and the dog wouldn’t remain, for he’d lose his temper and come to bite me; nor would I remain; so only the dog’s temper would remain.”
          “Very logical. Check! What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?”
          “Thirteen,” the Human read from his cribsheet.
          “Inhumanly accurate answer; therefore you are either a bot or you are cheating. Eks! What is your opinion of United Spaceways customer service?”
          The Human responded with a volley of curses.
          The Bot replied, “Impotent rage at unfair treatment. Very human. Check! You have passed three out of five questions; you get a C on the Turing Test. Select Passenger Class seating, and have a nice flight!”
          Moral:  Consciousness is relative.
          Commentary: The Bot’s notion of consciousness was not the Human’s. The test was Carrollian and rigged because United Spaceways wanted to limit Business Class and Officer Class tickets. Officer Class cribsheets say that the correct answers were “13” for the first long sum, and “I lost count” for the second. Consciousness is not only relative, it’s political.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Autoimmune Reaction



       Autoimmune Reaction


          Once upon a time, the Equalest of the Anti-Sex League bellowed to the crowd, “Double-plus-ungood oldthink!” She pointed to a four-word graffito spray-painted onto the wall of Miniluv headquarters. “That doublethink is UnIngsoc!” The crowd roared.
She raged, “It says ‘Big Brother is Goldstein’? It says ‘Big Brother is Goldstein’?! Who dares utter such duckspeak? It unbellyfeels Big Brother!” The crowd cheered. “It goodspeaks the Hated One!” The crowd booed. “And plus-ungood yet, these words are sexcrime! For ‘Big Brother’ is prole-speak for…” she paused, took a huge breath, and sang out, “the stand-upping man-part!” The crowd gasped. “Yes!” she wailed. “And ‘Goldstein’ is prole-speak for that same man-part gone soft!” Men howled, women fainted.
          With crimson face and heaving breasts, the Equalest of the Anti-Sex League ranted, “Destroy that crimethink! Make it never was! Memory-hole it! Speedwise blot the words, smash the words, smash the wall!
          The rioters tore down that wall and set the Ministry of Love ablaze. The next day, that same graffito, copied by a dozen different hands,  appeared on Minitrue, Minipax and every other Party headquarters in town. The day after that, all those buildings lay in ruins.

          Moral:  Big Brother is Goldstein.

          Commentary: An autoimmune reaction is when an antigen provokes the immune system to attack its own body. Even the tiniest trace of antigen can be fatal. Here it took only four words of smutty proletarian slang.