• Brett
    328
    Just to add to my post on technological development; all viruses need a host.
  • Brett
    328
    Logic alone cannot enable a computer to make a societal decision. It needs values programmed into it as well. So, what are the right values?Noah Te Stroete

    The ‘right’ values are the ones we chose. Feed them into the computer with all the statistics and you’ll get the ‘right’ outcome.
  • Echarmion
    303


    I think your topic has some implied premises that you could expand on. Your argument suggests that there is a human identity/nature ("who we are") that transcends just the description of what individual humans are doing/thinking/feeling. What do you base this nature on?

    Further, this nature can apparently be lost by "crossing a line". Why is it lost, and how do we know where the line is?
  • Brett
    328


    I think that technology is revealing something about who we are, different from what we imagine we are, or want to be.

    Even without the existence of God and the rejection of a creator, we still view ourselves as this ‘golden’ creature. Even in the mode of being conscious of our destructiveness, of all our faults, we view ourselves as being still ‘golden’ because we are aware of it.

    So we are still the creatures from Eden; both creatures of nature and higher understanding, constantly watching ourselves narcissistically. From that we conceive of our nature, which has created and then thrived in a co-operative society. This narcissism is evident in the issue of climate change when people talk about ‘saving the planet’. We might die but the planet will not. We conflate ourselves with the planet.

    But we have reason to think well of ourselves, because that caring and co-operative nature has created a world in which we’ve thrived.

    Will that nature be lost by crossing a line?

    That line, wherever it is, somewhere up ahead of us, will be when we throw that inviolate idea of ourselves aside and embrace our new selves. It will most certainly be lost when we chose the alternative. Why will we chose the alternative? Because the problems we find ourselves confronted with can no longer be addressed by a ‘human’ nature. Technology is confronting us with questions about how we live and who we are that go beyond the morality we have lived with so far. Technology is also the tool we have for solving these problems. Would we turn away from that?
  • Jake
    1.2k
    In an interview Norman Mailer suggested that technology is the opposite of science, and that either the Devil invited technology here, or God, in his battle against the Devil, entered into a dread compact with technology.Brett

    Although I have no opinion on God and the Devil I've always found it fascinating how prophetic the first story in Bible has been, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden etc. Although the story has a children's fairy tale quality to it which makes it unpalatable to many moderns, it pretty accurately sums up the human condition. They ate the apple of knowledge, and were ejected from the Garden of Eden.

    My interpretation is that the apple of knowledge represents the growing emergence and prominence of thought in the human animal, and the Garden of Eden represents the intimate primal relationship animals and primitive humans had with nature.

    In our time this focus on the symbolic realm is being greatly accelerated as we are bombarded from all directions by compelling media which invites us further and further in to abstraction, and farther and farther away from the real world "Garden of Eden". As we become more and more divided from the natural world psychologically we become increasingly cut off from the psychic nourishment provided by the real world, which widens a hole in our souls, which we typically try to fill with.... more technology.

    Religions have been making this same mistake for thousands of years. Because they typically don't understand that it is thought itself which is creating the problem they are trying to solve, they often try to use thought (dogmas and doctrines etc) as the solution, which only digs the division hole deeper.

    My guess is that we are fated to ride the technology train where ever it is going, like it or not, until the machine finally crashes in to some wall. We'll learn a little bit from that, and then try again, probably making many of the same mistakes again. We may repeat this process a hundred times over thousands of years until we finally get our relationship with knowledge and technology sorted out.
  • Echarmion
    303
    I think that technology is revealing something about who we are, different from what we imagine we are, or want to be.

    Even without the existence of God and the rejection of a creator, we still view ourselves as this ‘golden’ creature. Even in the mode of being conscious of our destructiveness, of all our faults, we view ourselves as being still ‘golden’ because we are aware of it.

    So we are still the creatures from Eden; both creatures of nature and higher understanding, constantly watching ourselves narcissistically. From that we conceive of our nature, which has created and then thrived in a co-operative society. This narcissism is evident in the issue of climate change when people talk about ‘saving the planet’. We might die but the planet will not. We conflate ourselves with the planet.

    But we have reason to think well of ourselves, because that caring and co-operative nature has created a world in which we’ve thrived.
    Brett

    That all sounds rather vague to me. It is perhaps natural for people to conceive of themselves as central to the universe. People are, of course, also able to question that conception. In terms of "human nature", my views are pragmatic: it's useful to try to figure out what causes people to make decisions and affect change. I am not convinced it's useful to speculate about "human nature" in a vacuum. So I wonder why this specific aspect is relevant.

    Will that nature be lost by crossing a line?

    That line, wherever it is, somewhere up ahead of us, will be when we throw that inviolate idea of ourselves aside and embrace our new selves. It will most certainly be lost when we chose the alternative. Why will we chose the alternative? Because the problems we find ourselves confronted with can no longer be addressed by a ‘human’ nature. Technology is confronting us with questions about how we live and who we are that go beyond the morality we have lived with so far. Technology is also the tool we have for solving these problems. Would we turn away from that?
    Brett

    But this seems to be a simple truism. We will change our nature when we change our nature. Technology certainly affects us, our customs and our social interactions. It also creates both novel problems and novel solutions. But what is it about recent or near future tech, specifically, that makes that technology qualitatively different?
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    Because I’m not sure if everyone’s desires are good for everyone else. It may also be unrealistic to expect all your desires to be fulfilled and lead to problems down the road for others.Brett

    Unrealistic now because we haven’t figured it all out. As far as we know, there’s nothing special in every human brain making us the way we are. It’s chemicals and electrical signals, just like every other organ. All we really need to do to feel satisfied is to get those to work in our favor. That’s really all drugs are. Of course, they add dangerously high levels of dopamine and have side effects. They certainly don’t have to, they only do now to facilitate addiction and because the kind of people that make illegal drugs aren’t the kind of people concerned about health risks.

    I don’t know if I can agree with the idea about all ideas being healthy. Yes in a healthy individual, but otherwise trouble.
    8h
    Brett

    But can technology also solve this problem? Maybe once we agree on what healthy is. We have politicians on both sides calling their opposition mentally deranged. I don’t trust them with the power to “cure”.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    But can technology also solve this problem? Maybe once we agree on what healthy is. We have politicians on both sides calling their opposition mentally deranged. I don’t trust them with the power to “cure”.TogetherTurtle

    Yes, that's it. Ideally we would be able to use science to re-engineer the insanity out of human beings. But, um, it would be we the insane who would be doing the engineering.
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    But, um, it would be we the insane who would be doing the engineering.Jake

    The victors decide history I suppose. There's something crazy about us all but if it helps us survive it becomes a feature.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    1k
    The ‘right’ values are the ones we chose. Feed them into the computer with all the statistics and you’ll get the ‘right’ outcome.Brett

    I meant moral values in the form of “if, then” statements. Intelligent people can disagree on the “right” values. A computer would need values in order to make complex decisions.
  • Brett
    328
    Your argument suggests that there is a human identity/nature ("who we are") that transcends just the description of what individual humans are doing/thinking/feeling. What do you base this nature on?Echarmion

    I am not convinced it's useful to speculate about "human nature" in a vacuum.Echarmion

    I’ve indicated something about what I base my perception of ‘human nature’ on. I added the idea of a ‘golden creature’, an idea you seem to refuse to consider, which is fine. I imagine your comment on being pragmatic about human nature related to this. Of course if one believed in God there would be no problem with this idea of a ‘golden creature’ being part of ‘human nature’. So when you say pragmatic do you mean determining ‘human nature’ on actions only, what we can see?

    When you mention speculating about ‘human nature’ in a vacuum, do you mean without parameters?

    I would also add to my thoughts on ‘human nature’ the idea of tool-making.
  • Brett
    328
    But can technology also solve this problem?TogetherTurtle

    Are you doubting here, or saying it might?
  • Brett
    328
    I meant moral values in the form of “if, then” statements. Intelligent people can disagree on the “right” values. A computer would need values in order to make complex decisions.Noah Te Stroete

    Well, I think we’re in agreement. I don’t think a computer can do this. However, if the answers are structured in a way that’s different from what we expect now, then a computer response may be acceptable. Isn’t the answer dependent on the question?
  • Wallows
    7.1k
    I don't quite see any intermediate entity that would be some arbitrage between the demands that we will face in the future due to our collective lifestyles and choosing that between comfort or sacrifice for that comfort.

    Rather, the self-aggrandizing nature of technology will finally encompass its creators (most likely), instead of being treated as a means towards an/some end.
  • Brett
    328
    Yes, that's it. Ideally we would be able to use science to re-engineer the insanity out of human beings. But, um, it would be we the insane who would be doing the engineering.Jake

    Alarm bells again. Who defines insane? We agree, generally, on what insanity is, today. But what about later? Would insanity be any aspect of behaviour that’s threatening to society?
  • Brett
    328
    Rather, the self-aggrandizing nature of technology will finally encompass its creators (most likely), instead of being treated as a means towards an/some end.Wallows

    I think that’s what I’m suggesting in my op.
  • Wallows
    7.1k
    I think that’s what I’m suggesting in my op.Brett

    Oh, cool. Glad we can agree on something here.

    Have you or do you subscribe to the SIngularity movement? Or have heard of it?
  • Brett
    328
    Oh, cool. Glad we can agree on something here.Wallows

    Well, here on tpf that’s a magic moment.

    No, I don’t think I know the Singularity movement.
  • Wallows
    7.1k
    No, I don’t think I know the Singularity movement.Brett

    It's pretty big. Have a read about what Ray Kurzweil thinks about it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singularity_Is_Near
  • Brett
    328
    Okay. Thanks.
  • Wallows
    7.1k
    Sorry, this link is more suitable:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity

    Where the previous one is a thought about the later.
  • Brett
    328


    That’s very interesting.

    In a reply to a post I made to Echarmion I mentioned that one aspect of human nature is the making of tools; the first one being utilising fire. This making of tools seems to be, to me, almost an obsession and is evident in out technological history. Which indicates it’s sonething we cannot stop doing.
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    Are you doubting here, or saying it might?Brett

    I believe it will but know it might not. I think ultimately it is up to human ingenuity to create the tech that solves our problems.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    I think ultimately it is up to human ingenuity to create the tech that solves our problems.TogetherTurtle

    It's agreed that technology will solve many human problems.

    As example, after analyzing the way most human idiots drive on the road I travel regularly, I'm coming around to driverless cars as a preferable risk. Driveless cars wouldn't ignore the speed limit. Driveless cars wouldn't tailgate me and attempt NASCAR drafting. Driveless cars wouldn't recklessly pass me on a curve because I'm rudely only going the maximum speed permitted by law, and so on.

    There are many such examples of the benefits of technology. And so we will seek to develop ever more powerful technologies so as to harvest ever more and ever bigger benefits.

    As the scale of such technologies grows we begin to enter a new era that is radically different from the past that we are so familiar with. In the past we could make mistakes, fix the problem, clean up the mess, and try again. As the scale of technology grows this room for error is steadily erased. As example, it only takes one bad day one time with nuclear weapons and it's game over, at least for modern civilization as we know it for the foreseeable future. The opportunity to fix the mistake, clean up the mess, and try again is lost for a very long time.

    So as we harvest the many benefits of ever more powerful technology we should keep in mind that as we do so we are traveling ever deeper in to a new era which won't be as forgiving as the past. With powers of great scale one mistake one time with one such power can bring the whole process to a close.
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    So as we harvest the many benefits of ever more powerful technology we should keep in mind that as we do so we are traveling ever deeper in to a new era which won't be as forgiving as the past.Jake

    I agree that our new toys are more dangerous but I don’t agree on how much more dangerous. There are many systems in place to defend ourselves against things such as nuclear war. There are plenty of passwords and failsafes to prevent foul play, but there is also the general factor of deterrence that prevents the desire to play foul in the first place. Everyone on the planet knows that nuclear war will kill all of us, and the people who hold the ability to launch nukes benefit from their high positions in society that would simply not exist in a post nuclear world. Generally, there is no benefit to nuclear war, even if you are being invaded. The rich and powerful who hold the power to launch nukes can simply leave their sinking ship and live leasiurely elsewhere.

    I think that nuclear war will be more lethal after we colonize other planets. The people of mars will likely live in constant fear of nuclear war and make sure they are in good standing with Earth accordingly.

    So really, the people who can actually declare nuclear war never will because they will suffer greatly as a consequence. Its like the leaders of our world are hanging off a cliff and we’re hanging from their leg. They won’t let go because if they do they will die anyway, even if they do want us gone.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    Hi TT,

    Thanks for engaging this topic. For my part, I'll make a good faith attempt to be less impatient.

    I agree that our new toys are more dangerous but I don’t agree on how much more dangerous.TogetherTurtle

    What I'm asking readers to focus on is that the knowledge explosion feeds back upon itself, and thus is accelerating. So what we'll see going forward are ever greater powers coming online at an ever faster pace. If we were to plot that line on a graph against the plodding incremental (at best) development of human wisdom and maturity we see the two lines diverging at an accelerating rate.

    This might be compared to steadily lowering the age at which people can purchase firearms, of ever greater power. No one can predict with certainty what will happen, but the odds that a catastrophe will occur rise over time.

    There are many systems in place to defend ourselves against things such as nuclear war.TogetherTurtle

    That's true, but you might want to read up on how many times these systems have come within an inch of failure. As just one example, during the Carter Administration somebody mistakenly inserted a training tape in to the NORAD early warning system which caused the generals to call the National Security Advisor to tell him that a Russian first strike was underway. One could write a book full of other examples.

    However, the system obviously does work most of the time. What you're not getting is that this is not good enough, and powers of such vast scale require a record of perfection. A single failure of a single such power a single time is sufficient to crash the system, making all the many beneficial accomplishments of the knowledge explosion largely irrelevant. That is, the very long era when we could make mistakes, learn from them, and try again.... is over. It's not the 19th century anymore.

    The technology races ahead at breakneck speed while our philosophy creeps along at it's usual glacial pace, falling ever farther behind. The fact that most people including national leaders running for President are bored by nuclear weapons should prove beyond any doubt that we simply aren't ready for the scale of powers the knowledge explosion will generate.
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    What I'm asking readers to focus on is that the knowledge explosion feeds back upon itself, and thus is accelerating. So what we'll see going forward are ever greater powers coming online at an ever faster pace. If we were to plot that line on a graph against the plodding incremental (at best) development of human wisdom and maturity we see the two lines diverging at an accelerating rate.Jake

    I think it is true that our weapons will only get stronger, but at the point we're at now, does that even matter? We've had a nuclear arsenal large enough to wipe ourselves out for at least 50 years. That means that every WMD we make after that is redundant. Whether you kill someone with a rocket launcher or a pistol is irrelevant if you kill them anyway. So I think that really the danger that such weapons pose has been capped for a long time now. Which means that our thoughts on the subject have had a little time to catch up.

    That's true, but you might want to read up on how many times these systems have come within an inch of failure. As just one example, during the Carter Administration somebody mistakenly inserted a training tape in to the NORAD early warning system which caused the generals to call the National Security Advisor to tell him that a Russian first strike was underway. One could write a book full of other examples.Jake

    You are correct in saying that both sides of the cold war had their close calls, but at the end of the day, what always stopped them from going that extra step? Knowledge of what they would have done. The most brilliant thing about mutually assured destruction is that at the end of the day, a person or persons has to turn the key. I recall an incident where a Russian submarine captain during the Cuban missile crisis refused to launch his arsenal despite thinking that Americans were dropping bombs into the water and his vessel was under fire. There was another incident in Russia in the 80's in which a colonel was alerted to an incoming missile strike. Instead of taking it seriously, he reported it as a malfunction. If he had reported it as real, we wouldn't be talking.

    Ultimately, no one wants to be the one who pulls the trigger of a gun aimed at the world. The president could call these people himself, there could even be a vote to launch these weapons that passes, but it is almost impossible to find someone who will launch them. Everyone has a big head until that is put to the test.

    However, the system obviously does work most of the time. What you're not getting is that this is not good enough, and powers of such vast scale require a record of perfection. A single failure of a single such power a single time is sufficient to crash the system, making all the many beneficial accomplishments of the knowledge explosion largely irrelevant. That is, the very long era when we could make mistakes, learn from them, and try again.... is over. It's not the 19th century anymore.Jake

    You are right, perfection is necessary, but we also have a very good track record and it has been a decent amount of time. The major nuclear powers seem to be relatively cozy with each other compared to the cold war as well, so the chances that people will take a false alarm seriously are getting lower. I know that if a strange siren went off where I lived, people would just go about their business until something came on the radio. I remember recently there was a glitch in the warning system in Hawaii saying that ballistic missiles were inbound. It took 40 minutes to correct this. Despite causing a little chaos, no retaliatory strike was made. I'm sure the White House was in panic mode for a good 20 minutes.

    The technology races ahead at breakneck speed while our philosophy creeps along at it's usual glacial pace, falling ever farther behind. The fact that most people including national leaders running for President are bored by nuclear weapons should prove beyond any doubt that we simply aren't ready for the scale of powers the knowledge explosion will generate.Jake

    I don't know if bored is the right word. Apathetic may be. I think that they have just become part of the consciousness of the masses. That and the knowledge that if it happens we will be dead soon anyway breeds a sort of apathetic attitude. Everyone knows that we can all die tomorrow but we have also lived with that for so long that we're just used to it. Of course, we can't be bored with it because everyone I know has some kind of opinion. They just don't share them often because no one seems to care.

    Though you bring up a good point about philosophy moving slower than technology. Perhaps instead of slowing down our technological progress, we could speed up our philosophical progress. I think the main factor that limits the growth of philosophy is that it is seen as useless by most. Capitalist societies especially run on skills being able to make a profit, and at most you may be able to write a book as a philosopher. That knowledge is powerful but it admittedly pales in comparison to a bridge or skyscraper. I think it would be useful to look into anything resembling a "practical" in economic terms, philosophy related job. I think it would also be useful to try and convince the public of the uses of philosophy. Technology has cars and roads and appliances to show off, I think it's about time philosophers show off what they can (and do) offer.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    think it is true that our weapons will only get stronger, but at the point we're at now, does that even matter?TogetherTurtle

    It's not just weapons, but any power of sufficient scale to crash civilization. And yes, it matters. The more powers of such scale which are in play, the greater the chance that one of them will slip from our control.

    The most brilliant thing about mutually assured destruction is that at the end of the day, a person or persons has to turn the key.TogetherTurtle

    The President can order a massive strike without consulting with anybody. A single person who has lost their mind a single time, game over.

    You are correct in saying that both sides of the cold war had their close calls, but at the end of the day, what always stopped them from going that extra step?TogetherTurtle

    Luck. Forgive the pun, but it's a game of Russian roulette. The argument of the group consensus (which you are articulating well) is that the bullet chamber has always been empty before, so it will always be empty in the future too. But that's not how Russian roulette works, and not how reality works either.

    but it is almost impossible to find someone who will launch them.TogetherTurtle

    Sorry, but you appear to know nothing about the training that launch officers get. I heard a story on NPR just a few days ago about a launch officer who merely asked "who double checks the president?" and he was drummed out of the service and is now driving a truck for living. The whole MAD system demands on each side having high confidence the other side will launch. Anybody who shows a hit of doubt is shown the door.

    I don't know if bored is the right word. Apathetic may be. I think that they have just become part of the consciousness of the masses. That and the knowledge that if it happens we will be dead soon anyway breeds a sort of apathetic attitude.TogetherTurtle

    And yet the airways are filled to overflowing with endless worry about a billion smaller things.

    Yes, we will be dead soon. But a hundred unborn generations are waiting in the wings. What about them?
  • TogetherTurtle
    171
    It's not just weapons, but any power of sufficient scale to crash civilization. And yes, it matters. The more powers of such scale which are in play, the greater the chance that one of them will slip from our control.Jake

    You've yet to explain what those other powers might be. Really the only conceivable thing I can think of that could end the world is a nuclear war. Any other tech that could destroy a planet or make it unfit for life is still a bit off and would involve space travel which solves the problem of extinction.

    The President can order a massive strike without consulting with anybody. A single person who has lost their mind a single time, game over.Jake

    The president can, but is he the one turning the key? Even if he is, is he crazy enough to do it? I think a lot of politicians are hack frauds but I don't think even a single candidate from my lifetime at least has been insane enough in the "watch the world burn" way to do it in the end.

    Luck. Forgive the pun, but it's a game of Russian roulette. The argument of the group consensus (which you are articulating well) is that the bullet chamber has always been empty before, so it will always be empty in the future too. But that's not how Russian roulette works, and not how reality works either.Jake

    What I propose is that every chamber is empty. No one will ever make the conscious decision to end the human race, especially when the decision is to be made by high ranking government officials with access to high tech fallout shelters. When you can't win, you run. That is ingrained pretty far into our slimy reptilian brains and I would genuinely be surprised if even a single nuke is ever launched again because of that. You can't win a nuclear war and therefore one will never be fought.

    Sorry, but you appear to know nothing about the training that launch officers get. I heard a story on NPR just a few days ago about a launch officer who merely asked "who double checks the president?" and he was drummed out of the service and is now driving a truck for living. The whole MAD system demands on each side having high confidence the other side will launch. Anybody who shows a hit of doubt is shown the door.Jake

    And what of the Russians I discussed earlier? They no doubt had similar if not harsher training considering the time period and the general attitude of the Soviet Union. Why didn't they end the world? I think it's because they need mentally healthy individuals to do it, and a mentally healthy individual would never do it.

    And yet the airways are filled to overflowing with endless worry about a billion smaller things.Jake

    I could argue that these threats are more dangerous on an individual level and that is why, but I don't know what you are talking about specifically.
  • Brett
    328
    I’d like to go back to my posts on human nature.

    Echarmion made a post where he seems to suggest, though I’m not sure, that the idea of being a ‘golden creature’ is not part of our nature. He has a pragmatic view of human nature, but it’s not clear what he means by that. I take it to mean he rejects the idea of humans thinking of themselves as a ‘golden creature’ because it’s not pragmatic: he prefers practical views over theoretical views. So I assume he rejects the idea of a ‘golden creature’.

    He also wonders, meaning he doubts, I assume, if our nature can take part in a vacuum, meaning it’s not likely. Of course he’s right. By this I think he means that something must contribute to or form our nature, and being pragmatic this can only be our environment and our response to it.

    I don’t know if I have interpreted him correctly. But it seems to me that if humans are conscious beings then what we think also determines our nature. If what we thought didn’t achieve success in survival I’m guessing that such an idea would wither away with the dead who thought it.

    Thinking we are a ‘golden creature’ as a way to position ourselves seems quite reasonable to me. Right or wrong it’s our perception of ourselves that sustain us. Why wouldn’t it be part of what we are, coming from the very earth we stand on? So it seem, to me, that it is part of our nature.

    It also seems to be a nature very much attached to what I would risk calling a natural world, and in a way I refer back to the symbolic idea of Eden. This is completely different to a technological nature, or a tool orientated nature. We are completely separate from tools. Assuming the first tool was the use of fire, then it’s a lot different from learning to plant seeds, read the weather, or breed animals. It’s a hostile force.

    As I’ve said, human nature seems addicted to tool making, maybe because it’s enabled us to achieve so much, like surviving a hostile environment, catching high protein food, etc., and it’s embedded in our genes.

    By the same token we don’t seem to be at ease with technology except as solving problems, as if it’s grown out of control. It’s true a spear is a tool, but a spear cannot kill as many people as quickly as a bomb. Nor does the after affects of a spear last as long as radio activity. So something has happened. And from habit we turn to technology to solve a problem caused by our use of technology. It’s as if it’s a tool we don’t fully comprehend.

    I’m not suggesting that we can do without technology, nor do I have any answers. But I’d does seem like technology is a sort of drug for us and it’s an addiction we can’t fight.

    Echarmion asked what it is about recent or near future tech, specifically, that makes that technology qualitatively different? But I don’t think it needs answering. It’s like someone using a spear to hunt for food asking what could be so bad about technology in the future.

    Can human nature change? Or am I wrong about what I think human nature is?
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