Just another ghost in the machine.
This tumblr is science, world affairs, video games, technology, cinema, rock music, art, nature, language, and introspection. Summary: the profound to the absurd.
Kredu tiujn, kiuj serĉas la veron. Dubu tiujn, kiuj trovas ĝin. -André Gide
Tweets by @cosmotect
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.
Anonymous asked: Random question: since scientific knowledge is simply knowledge of the nature of objects and the way we perceive them and inquiry is based on human concepts, do you think science is objective or subjective?
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.
alwaysideally 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.
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).
The dynamics of knowing
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?
No man has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.
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.
I think one of the implicit criticisms many non-scientists have of science is the seemingly transient nature of certain knowledge and concepts. When these become outmoded or redundant—a natural process, which also seems to be misunderstood—they generalize that to the more fundamental areas of science out of mistrust, calling into question the validity of low-level, foundational conclusions that have held up for many years, even centuries. And then there are the scientists themselves who disagree with each other about whether or not the models and theories they have devised truly describe ‘real’ things, or they’re just useful abstractions that will probably change over time and never truly describe the indirect reality we cannot concretely perceive with our senses or with experiments. Are there such things as ‘electrons’, or ‘strings’? Those characterize the opposing positions of scientific realism and anti-realism, respectively, and if I had to guess, scientists take a case-by-case approach regarding which viewpoint they hold.
So, how do you bridge that divide for scientists and the non-scientist skeptics alike? Perhaps with the concept of structural realism.
In 1989, John Worrall, a philosopher of science at the London School of Economics, published the paper “Structural Realism: The Best of Both Worlds?” in the journal Dialectica. In it, he outlined structural realism, an approach he traced back to French mathematician Henri Poincaré, among others. For Worrall, what survives when scientific theories change is not so much the content (entities) as the underlying mathematical structure (form).
Worrall used examples from 19th-century optical theories to support this view. For example, in 1812 the French engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel developed a theory about the nature of light, from which successful predictions were made. Fresnel believed that light waves were a disturbance in an all-pervading mechanical medium. But this theory was overtaken by James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic radiation, in which light was seen as a disturbance in an electromagnetic field.
Despite the defeat, Worrall and others argue Fresnel had the correct structure of light, if not the correct entity, since some of his equations were successfully carried over into Maxwell’s theory, and the behaviour of light in Maxwell’s theory obeys similar laws to Fresnel’s theory.
This seems right (math to the rescue). I learned about this from a recent New Scientist article. If you’re interested, I posted the entire article on Pastebin.