Just another ghost in the machine.
This tumblr is science, world affairs, video games, technology, cinema, electronic & rock music, art, nature, writing, language, and introspection. Summary: the profound to the absurd.
Kredu tiujn, kiuj serĉas la veron. Dubu tiujn, kiuj trovas ĝin. -André Gide
- Terry Eagleton
(Thank you Khachig for posting this on FB)
Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. Its truths are objective, necessary and timeless.
It seems spooky to suggest that mathematical entities actually exist in and of themselves. But if math is only a product of the human imagination, how do we all end up agreeing on exactly the same math?
…one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. [img: DVDP ]
This would imply that we are Sims with free-will turned on.
What if the advanced programmer and others like this entity are themselves part of another simulation? What if the gods of yore were simply the avatars of those programmers, meddling about in their own creations, and then deciding to take a hands-off/Prime Directive approach and allowing the simulation to play out naturally? How deep does the rabbit hole gooooo?! How thick is the Inception?!
I disagree :)Before that happens, we’d probably need robotic/AI stewards to take care of everything because we would no longer be compelled to sufficiently connect and cooperate to maintain the complex processes that give rise to our modern society. :\
If it were to happen I think that everyone with artificial love would actually innovate and create things. Since they would no longer feel the need for time consuming human relationships they would direct their energy towards other things. Sleepless nights, hyperactivity, and increased focus collectively would lead to inventions never envisaged before. There wouldn’t be any war and crime rates would lower. Everyone would have a positive mental state continually.
Surely some vital, foundational layer that holds the human enterprise up would be lost when we no longer have to interface with each other to experience life-sustaining love, connection, and meaning? Take that carefully-crafted, primal structure away, and then it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens then. Although that paradigm may one day come to pass (when humans will almost by definition not even be considered ‘human’), Mother Nature will not be so easily fooled in the interim. It was no mere accident that a sentient social creature rose to preeminence on Earth. Using a chemical feedback system within a social framework—one that was forged in an evolutionary furnace billions of years old—has proven wildly successful. There are of course other successful strategies of life, but few to none have resulted in the raw power and flexibility of the human mind and body, and its collective presence.
Maybe my imagination sucks, but I can’t envision creativity and innovation flourishing in that scenario. Mainly because I believe both of those tend to arise from more ‘negative’ emotional spaces than ‘positive’ ones (e.g. creativity as a nullifying antidote or response to unhappiness, loneliness; innovation as a means to money and material things more than for the general good of humankind). Although it’s probably more accurate to say they arise from the tension of the negativity and positivity. But, perhaps more crucially, the motivation for pursuing creativity or innovation is often recognition, approval. And that only makes sense in context of other people. You can’t create or innovate to gain recognition from yourself! Other people are a requirement (unless you’re religious and genuinely doing it for the glory of (a) god). Does a pill that generates the chemistry of love also encode the object?
I wonder: how many times throughout human history has something momentous been created or invented because someone loved or hated someone else? How many times each day is this the case? Hard to imagine the rare individual who is full of love in general doing these things, for they are immobilized, made inert by the all-encompassing vibe of love. Stasis.
Now, having said all that, I suppose if the hypothetical drug were regulated somehow, and perhaps it made it easier or made people want to reach out and connect (as opposed to wanting to retreat into the feeling and into subjective reality), then what I said above may be just a bunch of overcautious, rambling words. But if it became de facto—or law, when people realize the peaceful world order it implies—then that would be worrying to me
I’ve come to a weird conclusion: Love isn’t everything. BUT… as it stands now, there is definitely not enough of it.
How José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses helps us understand everything from YouTube to Duck Dynasty
Ted Gioia | Daily Beast »
The key driver of change, as Ortega sees it, comes from a shocking attitude characteristic of the modern age—or, at least, Ortega was shocked. Put simply, the masses hate experts. If forced to choose between the advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. The upper elite still try to pronounce judgments and lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention.
Above all, the favorite source of wisdom for the masses, in Ortega’s schema, is their own strident opinions. “Why should he listen, when he has all the answers, everything he needs to know?” Ortega writes. “It is no longer the season to listen, but on the contrary, a time to pass judgment, to pronounce sentence, to issue proclamations.”
…The same people who get angry when I make judgments about the skill level of a pianist, would never question my decision to pay more to hire a superior piano tuner… >continue<
"Above all, he marvels at the fact that the “disdain for science as such is displayed with greatest impunity by the technicians themselves.” Or put differently, skill in manipulating a technology (say, Instagram or the iPhone, in our day) has nothing in common with a zeal for facts and empirical evidence. That shocked Ortega, but we encounter it daily on the web."
If you frame the question like that, it certainly seems subjective as opposed to objective. In any case, I tend to agree with that assessment. Science is a product of the unavoidable lens of language and the human mind that we use to interface with external reality, which are by definition subjective constructs. The aim and challenge of science is to attempt to understand reality in an ‘objective’ and consistent manner through that intrinsically subjective frame of reference. But, of course, there are endless philosophical debates to be had about language, meaning, and things—currently or perhaps perennially—beyond the realm or reach of science, things like “can any subjective framework of thinking arrive at accurate objective facts/truths? Do such things (like external reality) even exist?”
Whether or not science is or arrives at the subjective or objective turns out not to be that interesting to me, though. Having said all that, science is not diminished: there is no doubt that it (that is, the scientific method) is the most successful and reliable framework of reasoning and understanding we have to deal with our seemingly ‘subjective’ perception and reality. I mean, without the the hard-earned bedrock and applied lessons of abstract maths and physics, there’s no way this is happening right now, because there’s no Tumblr, no Internet, no computers! It’s ridiculously and wildly successful on the whole.
always ideally about perpetually moving from more uncertainty to less uncertainty. Sometimes along the way, science has to backtrack or throw away what was believed to be ‘objectively true’—what was the overwhelming consensus among scientists at the time. But that phenomenon should, over time, diminish until it’s virtually unheard of, or scientists discover something that indicates making logical sense of reality past a certain point inexorably breaks down. (So far, there’s nothing definitive that indicates there’s such a limit, but the implications of something like Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem makes me think that there may be.)
For all intents and practical purposes, science achieves through its rigorous and consistent method of examining the world a kind of subjective objectivity or objective subjectivity I think, and that’s probably the best we’re gonna get.
I dunno if it’s that simple. First I would want to know “what constitutes a triumph?” How is a discrete event called a ‘triumph’ determined? It has to be a discrete event to determine if Good or Evil triumphed first or not—something relative to measure off of. I would think that a triumph is not some physical phenomenon that exists or is determined independent of the mind. It has to exist because of language. Therefore, it seems like until a triumph is subjectively observed or declared, it exists in like a metaphorical quasi-quantum superposition, an indeterminate state. If that’s the case, Evil must not necessarily have triumphed over Good first as Neil claims. You can always claim that Good OR Evil triumphs every time when you make any determination (which is just a judgment). And we’re not even getting to the issue of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘evil’ (or if they’re even ‘real’) and how things attributed to those have underwent and can or will undergo polar shifts throughout time, and how people can’t agree on what constitutes those in the here and now. Nor are we addressing if the triumphing of Good and Evil refers to smaller-scale instances, or a more universal, long-range context—which I think would be a relevant consideration here.
A seemingly simple logical conclusion can easily disintegrate under semantic scrutiny (even the essence of what I’m saying)—unless it’s like a logical tautology and true by dent of language itself. Gotta love language! /overanalyzing
This has been an exercise in absurdity brought to you by someone that should be doing more practical things right now.
Is math a feature of the universe or is it just something humans made up?
- Plato, Timaeus
Whoa, nice intro to the philosophy of mathematics. I tend to take for granted math most of the time, because of how practical and powerful it is. But then I’ll remember after reading or watching something like this that in fact reality is still quite absurd. The arguments being made begin to break down into intractable philosophical ones. It seems like you can’t say whether or not math exists outside the brain until you answer other problems related to consciousness, language, knowledge, and reality. But then you can’t use math to do because you get stuck in an infinite loop. And then you get sidetracked debating the concept of infinity. And, well, it’s just a circular and mired mindfuck. That’s when you remember this Richard Feynman quote and move on.
Some scientists think we are already in the midst of the singularity.
Humans have already relinquished many intelligent tasks, such as the ability to write, navigate, memorize facts or do calculations, Joan Slonczewski, a microbiologist at Kenyon college and the author of a science-fiction book called “The Highest Frontier,” (Tor Books, 2011). Since Gutenberg invented the printing press, humans have continuously redefined intelligence and transferred those tasks to machines. Now, even tasks considered at the core of humanity, such as caring for the elderly or the sick, are being outsourced to empathetic robots, she said.
"The question is, could we evolve ourselves out of existence, being gradually replaced by the machines?" Slonczewski said. "I think that’s an open question."
In fact, the future of humanity may be similar to that of mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells. Mitochondria were once independent organisms, but at some point, an ancestral cell engulfed those primitive bacteria, and over evolutionary history, mitochondria let cells gradually take over all the functions they used to perform, until they only produced energy.
"We’re becoming like the mitochondria. We provide the energy — we turn on the machines," Slonczewski told LiveScience. "But increasingly, they do everything else."
That relinquishing of intelligent tasks is a definite trend, no? This also sounds a bit like The Matrix. :P However, the difference between the relationship of mitochondria/cells and humans/robots is that robots probably won’t need us to survive in the long run. We’re dispensable (we are not efficient batteries). :\
I am highly ambivalent when it comes to this topic of the ‘singularity’. I feel like I’m stuck in a space between the ‘artificial’ world of technology and the ‘natural’ physical world. I inhabit both easily, I think, when I’m in them. In my day job, I work outside in wild areas often, exposed to all of nature’s raw elements (aka wrath, hah). At night, I delve deeply into the world of the Internet in general and the highly abstract world of computer programming specifically. That dichotomy, when I ponder it, is jarring. So to see the world seemingly moving almost exclusively in one direction over the other—and the ramifications of that—is strangely disconcerting to me. Cuz I can’t see myself ever becoming divorced from the ‘earth’ so to speak. But I also recognize that distinction of artificial and natural probably isn’t ‘real’, anyway, and that any ‘artificial’ world can in theory be as real as the real one (eventually).
Glad I’m not the only one who thinks this about ‘sacred’ music. However I don’t think it’s always diminished in power by the listener not having a religious disposition. A lot of music appears to transcend that.
Though the point is possibly moot as I’ve never experienced it from the other side ;)
I thought about this some more, and I have concluded: words! Probably unclear words forged by fever, but words nonetheless.
I’ve been conscious of some strange dynamics lately. I commented on comedy the other night. Another one is knowledge. Generally we say knowledge is power, and you can’t have enough. But does there ever come a point where it becomes too much of a good thing (that’s a dynamic in itself—too much of something good becoming something bad)? I think so. It becomes a sort of “you can’t handle the truth” deal. Sometimes I find that when I learn more about some subject, I yearn to know less about it. There’s something within the mysteries of the world that give us the space of purpose (see this post as well). Lately, reading about how identity and self—and all that goes with those—how they may be more of a mechanical illusion than we realize makes me want to flip on the ignorance-is-bliss switch. If true, there might ultimately be a way to reconcile that beyond pretending or hoping it’s not true, but I don’t presently see it. Despite the best efforts and denials of some, the conclusions of science have historically reminded us of certain inconvenient truths…
Being a scientifically-minded person, there is within me that drive to know the world thoroughly and as objectively as possible. And I’m reminded of this quote attributed to the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, which states something like “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. This makes me think of how humans, in their steady march towards all-knowing, will be like gods to us in the future (if we prosper long enough). Extrapolating that bit further to some hypothetical supreme entity, something truly omniscient that like integrates itself with the very fabric of space and time, all I feel is emptiness and sadness: for if you know everything, and experience everything—you are everything—there is no wonder and mystery left. Would the only options left be to cosmically delude yourself, or to kill yourself in a big bang and start over? What happens to purpose then? However, the dynamics of such a state are beyond my comprehension, so it’s pretty useless to pass judgment on that, heh.
Similarly, does there ever come a point that progress must be tempered, diverted, or altogether halted to maintain our core humanity?
Socrates (via amslupski)
The poeisis of physicality. There’s a certain abstract ecstasy there. I become conscious of this fact sometimes. The other day, whilst surveying out the woods, I had to get across a creek. It was really cold, so obviously you gotta avoid getting wet. What better way than to take the most immediate route of tight-rope walking across a well-placed and narrow fallen tree suspended an appreciable distance above the surface? There’s a joy in being present and utilizing innate abilities to fight the natural forces that discourage such precarious positioning of physical bodies. There’s a certain expression and validation of the self to the self, and to the universe.
Poïesis (Ancient Greek: ποίησις) is etymologically derived from the ancient term ποιέω, which means “to make”. This word, the root of our modern “poetry”, was first a verb, an action that transforms and continues the world. Neither technical production nor creation in the romantic sense, poïetic work reconciles thought with matter and time, and person with the world. It is often used as a suffix, as in the biological term hematopoiesis, the formation of blood cells.
In the Symposium (a Socratic dialogue written by Plato), Diotima describes how mortals strive for immortality in relation to poieses. In all begetting and bringing forth upon the beautiful there is a kind of making/creating or poiesis. In this genesis there is a movement beyond the temporal cycle of birth and decay. “Such a movement can occur in three kinds of poiesis: (1) Natural poiesis through sexual procreation, (2) poiesis in the city through the attainment of heroic fame, and, finally, (3) poiesis in the soul through the cultivation of virtue and knowledge.”
Martin Heidegger refers to it as a ‘bringing-forth’, using this term in its widest sense. He explained poiesis as the blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt. The last two analogies underline Heidegger’s example of a threshold occasion: a moment of ecstasis when something moves away from its standing as one thing to become another.
In literary studies, at least two fields draw on the etymology of poiesis: ecopoetics and zoopoetics. As “eco” derives from the root “oikos” meaning “house, home, or hearth,” then ecopoetics explores how language can help cultivate (or make) a sense of dwelling on the earth. Zoopoetics explores how animals (zoo) shape the making of a text.
After reading that, I feel like there is at least two more poieses in the soul: ecstatic love and resonance with another ‘soul’, and ecstatic love and resonance with Nature/The Universe holistically.