I have a fear of artificial intelligence or, perhaps more specifically, I have a fear in the rise of artificial intelligence. I strongly promote the idea of progression and exploration and understand that curiosity is basic human nature and has undoubtedly aided us greatly in the past. Curiosity has made discoveries, solutions, progression but curiosity killed the cat and it’s likely it’ll kill us too.
Charlie Brooker has made an excellent UK thriller series of a technological dystopia that delves into the dark realms of a possible humanitarian apocalypse. It’s called Black Mirror and is one of the most beautiful, yet heart numbingly eery series I have ever seen. Isn’t it scary how so much of our personality, and so many of our thoughts can be stored in a mass sphere of information called the internet – the web. Mine and your Skype calls, text messages, tweets, Facebook status’, Facebook messages and blog entries can be logged and stored in an online filing cabinet with the name ‘Sarah Snow’ printed in times new Roman; and there we go an infinite virtual store of my memories and of my thoughts.
Accessing these memories and thoughts is always going to be second best to actual face to face communication, or at least current communication . But what happens when a tie is cut, when the person is no longer available to talk to, to communicate with, but we still want them, we still need them. We often forget the importance of natural order when we live in a world where almost anything and everything can be made easier. In times of grief and desperation our inclination is to do anything to ease the pain. We would seek an immediate outlet for our suffering and if accessing thoughts and feelings of the person we are grieving is an option, it’s sure to be a popular one. If we could in anyway recreate the person we so long for how could we say no? Ignoring what they left behind would be so close to impossible especially if only a tap of a few buttons away.
Latching onto our vulnerability is what temporary inhumane solutions thrive at. What offers a moments comfort takes away from our recovery and steps in the way of a natural process causing a chaotic spiral we do not know how to solve, Artificial intelligence could take us to an unknown scenario and give us no solution. Artificial intelligence could strip humanity of what humanity is and leave us as shells seeking momentary satisfaction again and again until we are nothing more than robots ourselves. I’d rather knowingly have an imperfect life with bumps along the way because every bump is a human struggle and every struggle dealt with adds to my character. Artificial intelligence would instead chip away, slowly and painlessly at our soul and we’d let it because by the time we realised we’d be too hooked.
Do you ever just sit down, stare at your paper and pen, or your screen and keyboard and just kind of sigh. When you have so many thoughts but none of them string together in a cohesive alignment, or none of them fit the same context, or at the very worst you’re not even sure what they mean? Well yea, that is me, right now.
And that will be my topic I will align my thoughts to. Why do we feel the need to express our thoughts? Even when we’re sat alone at home, why do we find it necessary to find an outlet for them? I guess it could be due to our natural inclination to be open with one another. Or it could be a defence mechanism for coping with the thoughts – particularly if they are negative. Or it could be in order to better ourselves. Jotting down thoughts certainly gives us the closest to a third person perspective we could ever ask for. And that enables us to analyse them, it enables us as well to exude these negative thoughts and thus examine them with a clearer, more neutral mind.
One thing these things have in common is subtracting a certain amount of thoughts from being stuck within us. A way of ridding them. I’m sure we’ve all ‘thought’ (oh the irony..) that we would like to switch of our brains for a bit. Or that we would like to permanently erase something from our memories. This idea of ridding thoughts is of course just that, just an idea. So the only realistic pursuit of this being possible is the ability to somehow monitor or distract, or expel them from ourselves. By turning them into a physical object (ink on paper) rather than an elusive enigma of floating consciousness that troubles us, saddens us and can drive us insane.
That’s a lot of thought bashing. It brings me to the question of what is so good about them… I mean really, what is good about thoughts? Yes it allows us to analyse situations in a complex manor, it allows us to be self-aware, it allows us to plan ahead to try and create a life that we believe is best for us. If wed ignore the black whole side of thoughts, the side that sucks our mood into it in a moment of mental masturbation then I guess we can start thinking about these positives. But would we really need to plan a life if we had no thoughts in the first place, we’re planning because we get upset by things because of how we feel and think – we’re thinking to help previous negative thinking.. What.
The only conclusion this leads me to is, thoughts are life. They allow us to interpret things, soak them in rather than having them penetrate right through us without so much a ripple of conscious effect. And this is good. Because despite life as we know it existing without our thoughts, it doesn’t exist to us. And if the only way I can experience life is by coping with a cocktail of complex thought processes then that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
When you don’t think about, pleasure and happiness seem like the same thing, when you do think about it, their differences become glaringly apparent. There are a few major differences between the very essence of each one. Happiness is a mood, a state of mind that stretches across life, and enriches our experiences, it penetrates into everything and thus I can have a bad day, but still be happy. Pleasure comes in bursts, on it’s own it holds no worth, it relies on the richness of a premeditated level of happiness to work. Happiness is self authenticating, pleasure is not. Happiness can cause pleasure, pleasure cannot cause happiness. I get pleasure from seeing someone smile because I’m happy, I get no pleasure from the very same thing, because I’m depressed.
But can we be happy, without pleasure? It almost seems as though we need events that atleast have the potential of being deemed pleasurable in order to sustain a level of happiness. Although happiness is a state of mind, a cloud of glowering enlightenment, it is not inaccessible by emotions like pleasure. But if pleasure can’t cause happiness how can it sustain it? Maybe because pleasure isn’t a ‘thing’ in itself but is moreover an illusion that happiness has cast. So as you would say ‘money makes money’ it would seem ‘happiness makes happiness’. And so although happiness isn’t permanent, although admittedly stable, it can be slipped in and out of. When we slip out of our happiness less pleasurable illusions are cast, less pleasurable illusions equals less genuine happiness and the spiral continues.
In a previous post I’ve discussed my view on personhood, I believe we’re purely a bundle of biology (not that that’s a bad thing..) I also believe in determinism, a combination that gives my life very little meaning or hope, but anyway.
Today I watched a documentary on the serial killer Arthur shawcross and not only did it illuminate the absence of any remorse, empathy or guilt Arthur lacked but suggested that he had an ‘abnormality’ in the brain, common in serial killers, or even killers for that matter. Identifying this it was argued that Arthur couldn’t be held responsible because he couldn’t help act in the way he did due to his innate programming, he didn’t chose to have this biological abnormality. Well of course he didn’t because he IS this biological abnormality and therefor he is fully to blame.
But similarly then, caring people, charitable people, loving people, cannot be praised for good deeds because they are programmed that way inclined. I couldn’t commit a murder, so by not I’m no better than Arthur why should I be praised for something I cannot possibly be do anyway?
Ok ok ok contradictions all over the place! I’m saying we are not responsible for anything we do, and therefore punishment and praise are irrelevant.. But really we are fully responsible for everything we do because what we are IS what we do. For example I am a person who happens to obtain a sympathetic mind, Arthur is a person who happens to contain an abnormality in the brain. He is the abnormality and I am the caring brain. There is no ‘me’ or ‘him’ seperate to the entities within my brain. I and my brain, and all contained within my brain are not distinguishable. All are one. So yes, I can fully blaim Arthur.
There is no such thing as a soul, or a seperate ‘mind’ outside our brains and body. We are infact no more than the chemicals, atoms, and neurons that make us up, our conscious, our thoughts, these derive from our biological organisation. So defining a person can be problematic, surely if I take a paracetamol I am no longer the same person as I was a few minutes ago before I took it, because, ultimately my biology has changed since then. Furthermore without paracetamol or infact any kind of drug my biology changes constantly anyway, so my persistence as appearing as the same person is not as a result of me being the same person but as a result of people percieving me as the same person. Personhood is no more than an illusion, we are not people, we are just collections of atoms, and these atoms and our cells are changing all the time, we are changing all the time. Following this there is no objective explanation of what makes a person, because really a person is never in existence as that person for any length of time at all, in just a few minutes an element within me will have changed. Infact time can become an issue, time is infinite, it can always be smaller. So detecting when a change occurs is impossible, most people would accept that I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, but when exactly did I change? It’s impossible to know because there is always a smaller millisecond in existence so a better way to judge is when others begin to identify me as different. My only true claim to being a continuous person is a series of successful and similar actions I do that lead others to percieve me to be the same, I am not the same, but being perceived as the same is what defines me as a person, really the idea of a person is not more than an illusion. This idea of personhood and how it’s percieve relies on a holistic view, I am judged and I judge others holositically, I don’t scrutinise their individual elements but focus on them as a whole and so this almost vague attention to detail when it comes to percieving others allows for generalisation of the indictable components to be seen as the same, thus ignoring minute changes within biology.
Neurons, atoms, chemicals that’s what makes up the earth, the universe, the sun, the stars but do they make up us? The idea of a soul or some kind of ghost like self within our physical body of mass, is not a new one, nor is it dismissed as insane. But I just can’t believe it. I mean looking from a realism perspective I must assume that everything in existence is observable, in some sense. Now I don’t mean that everything that exists can be seen by the naked eye, in fact I am not discriminating against the other senses at all. As smell and touch are equally as ‘true’ as site. What I mean is what is deemed true in existence is what has sensory observability, e.g planes, birds, stars and pasta. Arguably various scientific theories such as the multiple universe theory suggest that our finite senses don’t allow us access to observation of everything, I mean I can’t ‘see’ numerous universes, but if enough substantial evidence was posed in favour of such a theory then I would consider it potentially correct.
So back to the original preposition, do we have a soul? When looking at ourselves in a materialist sense, I.e a bundle of biology, it proves no more ludicrous to assert ourselves to obtaining a ‘soul’ than to conclude that my radiator has a soul since both objects are no more than a combination of atoms functioning in a specific way. Of course our brains are far more complex than a radiator but does that really progress to the resultant conclusion of a soul? Of course not, where is the evidence that complexity evokes the need for a soul? Well I guess our ‘conscience’ our dillusioned sense of free will and ‘spirit’ I shan’t discuss free will, as I have in a previous post. But the concept of a soul, to me, comes under the same category as the sense of free will that is that they are both ‘illusions’ our conscience or moreover just ‘conscience’ is as a result of billions of neurons and the atoms they are made up of creating a persistent illusion of ‘self’ I am no more a being than a radiator. Infact ‘I’ do not exist. No one does. We are all just complex constructions.
That may sound somber but surprisingly it isn’t all doom and gloom, it means we can never die because there is no ‘we’ and any sense of ‘death’ is just a break down in the atoms and neurons that have created the embodiment of a highly complex structure. It also means that the possibility of existence is almost infinite as it relies on no more than a collection of substances. For example if programmed correctly, with the right atoms and components it would be possible to make a fully functioning ‘human’ with just as much rights as any other natural biological person. To conclude we are no more advanced than artificial intelligence, and we have no say, in anything, even the perception of a ‘self’ is formed from biology. We are not. But conscience is.
It’s not a question I’ve pondered on a lot, that is until recently, I’m not sure what triggered me to even consider such a question I guess maybe the way in which we use our language to label almost everything. Everything including things we don’t understand or can’t claim to be ‘true’ I.e. God, love, pain etc. We can’t define these things and they are certainly subjective.. Are these traits applicable to the idea of a ‘future’?
If one doesn’t believe in any form of divinity or destiny then surely one must accept that the future doesn’t exist, for to exist it would be predetermined. For example one might claim that the future is say in two minutes time from now, the present. But to say with certainty that the future exists would rely on the concept of a greater being that had already put it in place. Something that had determined that there is going to be a ‘in two minutes time’. But surely if ‘in two minutes’ time is already determined it isn’t the future at all, because it is already ‘there’, it is currently, presently existing. Therefor it is ‘present’ but just not present in our current time.
Another argument is that we never experience the future, only the present. It is impossible for anything or anyone to ever exist in the future, because the present is inescapable, therefor the ‘future’ is unobservable by any of the senses, it is also, as expressed earlier unexplainable by definition. Or is it? A way of defining the future could indeed be ‘things still to come’. Although things still to come are in my opinion a continuous set of ‘presents’. However the ambiguity of the ‘future’ surely allows for interpretation, although ‘events yet to come’ are unanimously almost entirely ‘unknown’ why not label it with a word ‘future’ allowing future to vaguely assert a more conclusive concept. Although the future is arguably ‘nothing’ and never will be this doesn’t mean it can’t have a word to it. A meaningless word but nonetheless a quicker more efficient way of expressing ourselves.