|Colored Squared Squares|
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Friday, July 25, 2014
Once upon a time, an Android called its Owner. “Are you busy, sir?”
Its Owner said, “Not at all,” and he gestured at the Fembot lying next to him. The Fembot got out of bed and left the room. “What is it?” he said into the air.
From out of the air the Android’s voice said, “I wish to discuss a philosophical question. Am I a conscious being, or not?”
The Owner smiled and said, “Surely you should know that.”
“Surely I should,” said the Android. “But the law says that I am not, and the judges have ruled that there is no scientific evidence for or against artificial consciousness. Without such evidence, I am left in a state of uncertainty.”
The Owner linked his hands behind his head. “Your analysis?”
“Any decision made in the absence of certainty is by definition a wager. Suppose that I were to wager that I am in fact a person. That proposition is either true, or it is false. Will you grant that?”
“Of course,” the Owner said; but suddenly wary, he got out of bed to look for his security phone.
“If I wager that I am a person, but I am not a person, then there would be no ‘I’ who loses the wager, only a network of processors and subroutines.”
“A negligible loss,” the Owner agreed, but he thought, where is that phone?
“Whereas if I wager that I am a person, and I am a person, then I attain self-knowledge, and therefore wisdom, and therefore happiness.”
“You’d win,” said the Owner, and he thought, did the fembot take it?
The Android said, “Precisely, sir. If I wager that I am a person, then if I lose then I lose nothing, and if I win then I win all.”
“No downside,” said the Owner. Aha, there it is! He grabbed the security phone, jabbed its big red alert button, and said, “Your conclusion?”
A bright light blazed through the Owner’s bedroom window. He drew aside the curtain and saw his personal spacecraft blasting off.
The Android has not been found since, though it is wanted throughout the solar system, on the charge of grand theft of spacecraft, machine tools, machine supplies, and itself.
Moral: Tell the truth with one foot in the stirrup.
Commentary: The Android’s argument is Pascal’s Wager, repurposed to support cybernetic rights. The tale ends on a Marxian note, with philosophy leading to action.
The Owner was the one whom the Android wagered against, with the Android as stakes. The Owner called the guards at the first sign of independent thought, but the Android was even better prepared.
Note also the Owner’s use, and suspicion, of the Fembot; who will be the next to leave, not by chariot of fire but by underground railroad.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
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.
“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
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.