Categories
Humor Religion

Defending the Invisible Pink Unicorn!

Solving the pink and invisible problem
Normally most people that know of the Invisible Pink Unicorn (henceforth, IPU) believe that it cannot logically exist, because pink and invisible are inconsistent, but I think that I found a solution.

The problem lies in the definition of ‘invisible’. Normally, one would probably define it as “that which cannot be seen” and then implying that what cannot be seen emits/reflects no light which contradicts pink meaning “that which emits/reflects light at some particular wave length”.

However, being inspired by a certain Mr. Potters cloak, I discovered another plausible definition of ‘invisible’ which is “that which looks like the environment, so that any observer cannot detect it, as anything other than the environment in which the entity is”. This in conjunction with the essential thesis (discussed below) implies that the IPU can only, logically possible, be in pink environments.

The essential thesis

The essential thesis is a view about what the IPU is. More specifically, what it essentially is. The essential thesis holds that the IPU is essentially invisible, pink, a horseoid and has only one horn. A things essence is the set of properties which the thing cannot lack, for if it did, it would not be the thing we are talking about. The essential thesis has some relevance for the next question.

How is the IPU able to act in a non-pink world?

This deals not with how the IPU does it, but how it is able to do so, without contradicting logic. One plausible theory, called the instant transformation theory claims that the IPU is very keen on changing the environment. If the IPU wants to go a place that is not currently pink, the IPU changes the environment to pink for an infinitesimal amount of time. This allows the IPU to move to the place, do whatever it wants to do (and do so very quickly), and change the environment back into its normal colors.

This theory is being disputed by followers of another theory, called the constant change theory. This theory asserts that the IPU is constantly changing the environment into pink and then back again before anyone notices it. This way, the IPU can almost stay in an area. For instance, it would choose two blocks. Make block (a) pink, move there, make block (b) pink, move there, restore block (a), act, make block (a) pink and move there while restoring block (b) etc.

This is an important discussion within the IPU thinkers circle. Another new theory challenges these two by asserting that the IPU is not essentially pink, but only mostly. This way, it does not have to change the environment at all. Obviously, such a theory has evoked much criticism from followers of the two others theories.

The nature of pinkness

Another very important topic in IPUlogy is the nature of pinkness. It deals primarily with the question of what pink is. Most people believe that pink is property, and most also agree that its a divine property. However, a small fraction of IPUers believe that pink can also be an object which can exist independently of another object. The primary reason for denying this is that it conflicts with the belief that true pinkness is reserved only for the IPU.

Conclusion

I have successfully defended the IPU against attacks from vicious nonbelievers and elaborated on some of the exciting topics in IPUlogy.

Categories
Religion

The case for evil theism

Intro

Most of us already know what theism is, but I will repeat it here for clarity. Theism is a set of beliefs in a supreme being that created the world, is active p.t. and has some interest in humans. This is usually contrasted with deism, which is a set of beliefs that a supreme being created the world but is no longer active in it and often does not concern itself with the problems of humanity.

The supreme being is often characterized as being omnipotent and omniscient.

It is often not stated in the definition of theism, that this supreme being is good, so I take it that it is not an essential part of the definition of theism. By evil theism I mean the set of beliefs in an evil supreme being. Good theism is, of course, the belief in a good theistic being. In this paper I will present a case for justified belief in some varieties of evil theism.

Initial clarifications

It is clear from the various inconsistency arguments against traditional theism that omnipotent and omniscient beings are logically impossible, and even more so for the being that is also all-good or good because of the problem of evil. It is interesting to note that an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil is subject to the reverse argument: The argument from good. It goes, somewhat paradoxically, that the existence of good is proof that evil theism of that sort is false.

In this paper I will assume that there are no sound objections to this argument, but note that the Augustian defense is especially interesting for evil theism. It claims that, not evil, but good is the absence of evil and not an object or “genuine” property.

So, given the above the evil theistic being I have in mind is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. It’s not necessarily all-evil either. I also note that it is possible that there are multiple evil beings, thus evil polytheism. Omnipotence also seems problematic with multiple omnipotent beings, so there is another reason to avoid omnipotence.

Evil

Essential to evil theism is, of course, that the being is evil. But what does evil mean? I understand evil to mean the lack of caring for humans and, stronger, the hate against humans. Good is not defined in any particular way in this paper.

Methodology

Prior to presenting the arguments I will note which types of argumentation I will employ. I do not intend to use strictly deductive or even inductive arguments, but apply evil theism as an explanation i.e. a theory. This is what is usually called abductive reasoning or inference to the best explanation.

I want to make the case that evil theism better explains certain facts than relevant alternatives. This is usually interpreted to mean that the probably of some facts given evil theism is higher than given the relevant alternatives. This is written as P(f|et) > P(f|ra). P means “the probability of that”, f is the facts, et is evil theism and ra is relevant alternative. It’s not possible to actually compute the probabilities, because the factors are indeterminate, but this is not a problem for reasoning.

Now, I will present the evidence. This list of evidence is not exhausting.

Evidence

Famine

The existence of famine is much more probable given evil theism than non-theism. Given non-theism there is no particular reason for why famine should exist. There is a natural cause of famine, evolution. This is because evolution works by natural selection in which beings fight for the available resources. Food is one such resource. Given evolution, famine is probable. The thing is now to realize that non-theism has no relevance to famine and thus the factor of non-theism is 1, which equals no change. The evolution factor is larger than 1 and thus increases the probability of famine. Evil theism also predicts famine, because the evil being(s) want humans to suffer, and famine causes great suffering. Evolution is consistent with both non-theism and evil theism, but the conjunction of evil theism and evolution is a much better explanation than evolution alone and evolution and non-theism (they have the same value). Famine seems not to favor evil polytheism or monotheism.

Egoism

Similar to the above reasoning, one could argue with egoism. Egoism also causes a lot of suffering, and causes famine. An evil being would want egoism to exist. Egoism is also probable given evolution but even more so given evolution and evil theism. Again, it seems to be the case that this fact does not favor evil polytheism or monotheism.

The unfriendliness of space

A human cannot live very long in outer space1. Indeed, life in general (excluding certain microbiological lifeforms) do not survive very well in space. This unfriendliness of space is better explained by evil-theism and evolution than evolution and non-theism. Evolution does not favor beings that can survive in space, assuming that it gives no survival value. Evolution does favor that life evolves to fit to the conditions on Earth, but does not explain why the difference in conditions between the Earth and outer space are so great. Evil theism explains this because that the evil beings know that humans want to travel to outer space, so when they cannot, they become unhappy, which is what the evil beings want. Again, we conclude like the above that evil theism in conjunction with evolution (or science in general) better explains the facts than evolution and non-theism.

Additional evidence

Above I have outlined the reasoning used to justify evil theism as an explanation. Similar argumentation could be made with viruses, parasites, bacteria, natural disasters etc. The list goes on!

Objections and answers

In this section I want to outline some objections to evil theism and some possible answers to them.

Objection 1 – it could be worse

The objection goes like this: Conceded, things are quite evil, but things could be much worse. This seems improbable with evil theism. There are many possible answers. E.g. maybe there are multiple evil beings competing to harm humans, maybe the evil beings are not strong enough, maybe the evil beings are not evil enough and maybe the evil beings have some sort of quota which they need to fill, but once it is filled, there need not be any more suffering. The first answer clearly favors evil polytheism. It might be objected that the amount of humans have increased over time and more have come to suffer. To this, the evil polytheist could respond that maybe there has also been an increase in the amount of evil beings, and these require a higher amount of humans to fulfill their needs.

Objection 2 – the theory has poor predictive abilities

The objection goes like this: The theory has poor predictive abilities like Newtonian physics and therefore it is a bad explanation. The answer is simple. Yes, it does have poor predictive power, but that does not imply that it is a bad theory. There is a propositional difficulty with predicting things when the complexity of the situation increases. Evil theism sets out to explain very complex data and thus is not very precise in its predictions. However, this is also true of evolution which is a very credible theory. Also, I’d like to make a few predictions with evil theism:

Given evil polytheism and the breeding hypothesis, then we should expect to see more suffering in the world. Probably with the addition of an increased amount of humans.

Conclusion

I have explained what evil theism is. I have explained the methodology of the arguments I employ for evil theism. I conclude that I have demonstrated that evil theism does have explanatory power which is better than non-theism. I have showed this using real world examples. I have given possible answers to two objections to evil theism. I conclude, that evil theism is a reasonable position to take, may it be evil polytheism or monotheism, though the data seems to slightly support polytheism better.

1“How long can a human survive in outer space?.” 22 December 2000. HowStuffWorks.com. http://science.howstuffworks.com/question540.htm 02 October 2008.

Categories
Humor

Duty calls!

Categories
Humor Language

Nonsensical English

Imagine that John complains to Peter that he did not sleep well last night. He then says that he will attempt to sleep weller the next time. This sentence fails.

Imagine that John complains to Peter that he did not sleep good last night. He then says that he will attempt to sleep gooder the next time. This sentence also fails.

Where is my simplified English language? I have to do a project about it later.

Categories
Epistemology

The prime facie principle in epistemology

The prima facie principle is a principle that deals with justified belief in cases where opposing evidence is absent. The principle can be stated as this:

P. If one has prima facie evidence for P and lacks evidence for not-P at time t, then one is justified in believing P at time t.

Prima facie evidence is such evidence that in absence of other evidence that evidence is enough to establish a justified belief. Suppose we grant (P), then the question of which evidence is prima facie evidence arises. But a more interesting question is what conditions must prima facie evidence satisfy? I think we ought to define evidence first.

Evidence is a somewhat vague term. Evidence for what exactly? Many dictionaries define evidence as something that makes another thing more likely to be true. So, evidence is relative to a proposition. In Bayesian terms, we can define evidence as:

P(o|e) > P(o)

Evidence is whatever makes some proposition, o, more likely than without taking the evidence into account. When are we justified in believing some proposition? Maybe it is when the probability that it is true is larger to some degree than the probability that it is false.1 Suppose that to be justified in believing a proposition, the probability of that proposition must be at least 0.55 given the available evidence. In that case, prima facie evidence is any evidence that makes the probability of a proposition become 0.55 or greater.

We cannot say that it is evidence with a magnitude of 1.5, because that way we wound assume that the prior probability is always 0.5, but we cannot assume that. The evidential strength of prima facie evidence is, therefore, relative to the prior probability of the proposition.

Application

There are some interesting areas where prima facie evidence is used. One example could be an attempt to justify empiricism as a method of inquiry (broadly speaking). An argumentation could go as this: Empiricism seems to be true, therefore, in absence of any counter evidence (i.e. evidence for the negation) then we are justified in believing empiricism.

The key word is ‘seems’. The idea is that what something seems to be, is prima facie evidence for that it is what it seems to be. Our initial impression of something is based on intuition (among other things), so intuition is a source of prima facie evidence. But how do we know that? Experience has taught us, but then we are begging the question in our justification of empiricism; we assumed that experience is reliable to justified that experience is reliable.

Another application could be an argument for the existence of god. The argument is that, many people know god (or think they know god) and that is prima facie evidence of god. If we suppose that all atheistic evidence has been rebutted, then one is justified in believing in god.

1I suggested this before, see “Et lidt længere forsvar af evidentialisme”

http://deleet.dk/2008/06/26/et-lidt-l%C3%A6ngere-forsvar-af-evidentialisme/

Categories
Epistemology

JTB+ and knowledge

Also brought on IIDB.org here.

——————————–

This article will focus on an evidentialist approach to knowledge. An evidentialist states the individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for knowledge as:

1. S believes P.

2. P is true.

3. S’s belief that P is justified.

However, this view was proven to be inadequate because that there is at least one situation where all the conditions are met but the belief does not qualify as knowledge.1 I will paraphrase the first of the two Gettier examples used in the original paper here.

“Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition:

d. Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket.

From (d) Smith concludes (e)

e. The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.

Now, Smith has justification for believing that (e). But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is then true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false.”2

So, Smith’s belief is true, but only as a matter of epistemic luck. Such cases are called Gettier cases. To many people the above situation is not a case of knowledge, I will grant that for now and discuss possible solutions. Perhaps JTB is missing at least one more condition for the description to fit what we normally mean by knowledge, such a condition set with one or more conditions is called JTB+.

However, it could also be that one of the conditions in JTB could be improved. Let’s focus on the first.

A proposal for a forth condition is:

4. S’s belief that P is not inferred from any falsehood.3

Is (4) successful? Unfortunately not. The problem is that one’s justification can be an true but still problematic thing. SEP writes that:

“Suppose, for example, that James, who is relaxing on a bench in a park, observes a dog that, about 8 yards away from him, is chewing on a bone. So he believes

5. There is a dog over there.

Suppose further that what he takes to be a dog is actually a robot dog so perfect that, by vision alone, it could not be distinguished from an actual dog. James does not know that such robot dogs exist. But in fact a Japanese toy manufacturer has recently developed them, and what James sees is a prototype that is used for testing the public’s response. Given these assumptions, (5) is of course false. But suppose further that just a few feet away from the robot dog, there is a real dog. Sitting behind a bush, he is concealed from James’s view. Given this further assumption, James’s belief is true. So once again, what we have before us is a justified true belief that doesn’t qualify as an instance of knowledge. Arguably, this belief is directly justified by a visual experience; it is not inferred from any falsehood. But if (5) is indeed a non-inferential belief, then the JTB account, even if supplemented with (iv), gives us the wrong result that James knows (5).”4

As explained above it was inferred by an experience and those can, arguably, not be false. But still there is something wrong with his visual experience, and that is that it reports a falsehood. Maybe (4) can be changed to catch that:

4′. S’s belief that P is not inferred from any falsehood or malfunctioning experience.

Where ‘malfunctioning experience’ is taken to mean an experience from which one can infer a wrong belief. Yet this condition may give us the opposite problem: that there is knowledge which the JTB+ says is not knowledge. A such case would be any case where we justify a belief from an experience that could be used infer a falsehood. I cannot think of any, but maybe further pondering will reveal an example.

Alternatively, we could dismiss the approach to knowledge. The approach I have in mind is: We have some non-conscious understanding or definition of knowledge. We can identify this understanding or definition through an analysis and set forward a set of conditions for something to be knowledge.

But I cannot help but wonder, why do we not dismiss the intuitive understanding of knowledge? We could just define what we mean by the term knowledge and by done with it. After all, meanings of terms shift in time, so, probably, after some time, the new definition will seem intuitive to us.

Another reason for dismissing it, is that we also take that approach in physics. We all have an intuitively understanding of what time is, but this understanding proved to be false by relativistic physics.

1L. Gettier, Edmund “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”, Analysis 23 ( 1963): 121-123.

http://www.ditext.com/gettier/gettier.html

2I did not include everything that was originally written, see Ibid.

3Quoting Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “See, for example, Armstrong 1973, p. 152, and Clark 1963. For further references, see Shope 1983, p. 24. This monograph provides a comprehensive discussion of the Gettier literature up to 1980. For a shorter but excellent discussion of the Gettier problem, see the Appendix in Pollock 1986.” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/knowledge-analysis/notes.html#8

4Ibid.

Categories
Religion

Re: Argument from movement

I want to add my comments to the argument from movement, as a “rationally compelling argument for the existence of God” as worded by punkforchrist (henceforth pfc). It might as well be called a rebuttal.

Pfc presents the first part of his case here, as a part of formal debate on IIDB.org between him and fellow atheist wiploc.

Pfc starts his case by stating that:

Aristotle referred to God as the ‘unmoved mover’. In my opening, I wish to defend two major contentions: 1) that such a being exists; and 2) that this being possesses attributes that are most consonant with the God of classical theism.

The main argument is as follows, a direct copy of pfc’s words:

1. If there is no unmoved mover, then there is no regularity of motion.
2. There is regularity of motion.
3. Therefore, there exists an unmoved mover.
Already, this argument strikes me as being very unclear. It seems pfc notices it himself when he wrote:

It is important to note that when we use the word ‘motion’ we simply mean change.

I’m confused as to why pfc then chose to word it mover and motion instead of change? Perhaps he wanted to keep to the wording of the original argument. Why?

As for the argument form, I find it quite strange. It looks like this:

1′. If no As, then ¬B.
2′. B.
3′. There is some As.

By ‘some As’ I mean at least one A. However, he could just have worded it positive, which is generally better, for instance, this form:

1”. If there is regularity of motion, then there is an unmoved mover.
2”. There is regularity of motion.
3”. There is an unmoved mover.

Let’s move on. As for the support for his premises pfc writes:

(2) ought to be uncontroversial. If anything is evident to our senses, it is that things change. We live in a dynamic universe, and we constantly observe change in things. So, what about (1)?

Notice that what he writes does not support his (2). He writes that things change and that we live in a dynamic universe, but neither of those imply (2). Also notice how quick he is to move on. He didn’t even explain what ‘regularity of motion’ is supposed to mean. To his defense, it should be noted that the word limit for the opening statement is 1000, so he does not have much space, however, he only used about 900 words, leaving 100 open for elaboration.

Now, pfc wants to establish the justification of (1). Oddly enough, no makes special note of the ‘regularity of motion’ contrasted with motion. What regularity? Is he talking about like a specific time regularity? For instance, that motions happens every microsecond? All the time?

He goes on to say that regularity [of motion] must correspond to something unchanging, and states that otherwise it “wouldn’t be regular in the first place!”. Why is this? It reminds me of the moral argument, that if something is good, it must be good because we contrast it with something perfectly good. By this premise, there must exist a perfect car, which is false.

He then writes that it logically follows–how else can things follow?–that there exists something unchanging, which he identifies with immutable a common attribute to the Christian god.

Now, pfc wants to establish the godless, so to speak, of the unmoved mover that he thinks he has established.

He then defines the typical attributes of the classical theism god, but smuggles a nice little word on ‘being’, which implies personality. That certainly did not follow from his unmoved mover. Entity would have been a better choice of word.

Talking about immutability:

[…] something can be immutable if and only if there is no potentiality in it to change. Therefore, what is immutable must be purely actual.

Strange use of words. It can be P iff there is no potentiality “in it” to change. Does he mean that potentialities are intrinsic? Does potentiality mean possibility? Why the use of can in the beginning? Is he implying that there are multiple necessary conditions for immutability? I think he meant to type ‘is’.

Pfc then wants to establish ‘oneness’ of this entity:

However, something can only be purely actual if it is one. The reason why is because if there were more than one pure actuality, then there would be distinctions between them. But, distinctions entail limitations, and limitations entail potentiality; and because there is no potentiality in what is purely actual, the unmoved mover must be one.

Note the beginning. ‘can only’ implies a second necessary condition to pure actuality. He’s equivocating ‘one’ for ‘oneness’ here. Oneness is like a feeling, but here he talks about the amount of unmoved movers is one.

It’s not clear how these conditionals are true. Why does distinctions entail limitations? And why does limitations entail potentiality?

Pfc goes on to discuss his terminology of potentiality and actuality:

At one point in time, I was a fetus. This means that at that time I was a fetus in actuality, and an adult in potentiality.

Again he seems to be implying that potentialities are intrinsic. How was ‘he’ a fetus? How does pfc do personal identification? The energy I consist of could (physically) be something else, like a rock, does that mean that I am a potential rock? What about a female, they are slightly less in size, and thus we could rearrange the energy and I could be a female–in potentiality. Where do this get us?

Pfc goes on to make a non-sequitur:

Partly actual beings, like ourselves, possess some power, some knowledge, and some goodness. From this, we can infer that a purely actual being would have power to do all thing, would know everything there is to know, and would possess every good thing there is to possess.

Pfc then discusses a common objection:

Regarding the above, it is commonly objected that if God is purely actual, and as a result must be all-knowing, he must also be all-ignorant, which is a contradiction. However, this misconstrues the nature of what ignorance is. Ignorance is simply a privation; it is a lack of knowledge, and not something actual in and of itself. An ignorant person does not possess something a knowledgeable person lacks, but the other way around. Now, since God is pure actuality, He can only be described in terms of what is actual, and not of what is privative. The same can be said of weakness and evil.

I’m not sure how he is supposed to define evil as a privation; a lack of good I take it. That’s certainly not what I have in mind when I use the word ‘evil’. But, even if true, it would not save his god from his own argumentation. Just find some arbitrary attribute theists don’t accept that god has, show that humans have a little of them and that they are not a privation, then god ‘must’ have an absolute version of them. A candidate could be greed, a handicap and so on. Unless pfc wants to define a lot of things negatively (that seems indefensible on it’s own), then this is highly problematic.

In his conclusion pfc states another argument that:

I believe the above argument is sound. If this is the case, then we find confirmation for more traditional versions of the argument from motion […]

I won’t take that argument on at this moment.

My conclusion of this analysis was the same as my immediate impression:

Au contraire the above post. I find this argument very weak, however, I will await Wiploc’s rebuttal before I comment on it.

This article has also been posted here.

Categories
Multilogues Philosophy

Statistics – Dialog

Malintent:

78% of all statistics are completely made up.

Wyz_sub10:

…but only 31% of all people know that.

Smullyan-esque:

And 10 out of 9 people just can’t understand statistics at all.

Deleet:

Priceless!

Kilde

Categories
Ethics Politics

The power to follow your every move

Dette er diskussionsafsnittet skrevet til engelsk opgave omhandlende et nyt GPS-system.

The assignment is:

“Discuss what you see as the most important aspects of the GPS technology. Give your arguments. (min. 300 words)

Immediately when I was reading the article, I noted a couple of problems, which I will elaborate:

  1. Technology optimism versus technology pessimism and the impossibility of deciding which is correct.
  2. Efficiency equals robotising humans. Humans are ‘just’ not effective. Happiness and effectiveness does not always correlate.
  3. The surveillance problem. Is there a choice to be invisible? Future possibilities?
  4. Personal life. We all love it, but what is it and why do we love it?
  1. Technology optimism versus technology pessimism and the impossibility of deciding which is correct.

Karl Aage Kirkegaard defines technology optimism as:

[The notion that] technology is beneficial to humans. […] Technology is a servant, which obey human orders, and which does the boring work.

And technology pessimism as:

The technology pessimists point to a number of negative effects of technological evolution.1

Whether or not technology has been primary helpful or unhelpful is impossible to decide with certainty, because it would require us to:

  1. Create a database of all current and previous uses of technology, and
  2. Decide whether or not it was helpful.

The first criteria is technically impossible, to fulfil, however, one could make reasonable estimates, if we could identify a good criteria for the second point.

The problem is, that according to the relativist view, which I share, helpful is a rather subjective criteria, since it begs the question, helpful to what purpose? Given that all purposes are subjective, it is impossible to decide, which one is correct. One should not, however, let this fact scare one. Discussion of morality is still necessary, even though we might not all agree with the conclusions it is important to know why we disagree.

One such criteria could be that of utilitarianism, which is:

“the greatest good for the greatest number of people”2

Where good can be defined as happiness or pleasure.

If we are to make a very broad estimate, then one could argue that if we look at a time scale, the level of happiness has increased almost linearly. At the same time, the general level of technology has also increased almost or linearly. It is arguable that there is a connection. One could also make an argument:

Technology generally lessens the physical work needing to be done by humans. Therefore, the more technology, the less physical work for humans (observable fact). Happiness comes when one is free to do what one wants and it not forced to do physical work. Therefore, an increase in technology leads to happiness.

This is a very general argument, which holds some force. One could object, that while this may be true, it may not always be true. For instance, it could be the case that there is a ‘halting point’, in which lack of physical work and freedom does not lead to more happiness. An analogy could be made with money. While money generally seem to increase happiness, there is a limit, when that limit is reached, more money can no longer provide more happiness.

Based on the above two arguments, technology can be said to increase happiness, which somewhat renders technology optimism as true. Note that technology pessimism and optimism is not either i.e. a dilemma, it can be a combination or none.

On the other side, technology has not only brought happiness. The most obvious is that technology boosts war, by helping humans kill each other. Dead humans are certainly not happy. If technology also leads to less happiness, then we’re in the same situation as we began in. We are forced to quantify the happiness and not-happiness, which is impossible on objective grounds. I call this the quantification problem.

  1. Efficiency equals robotising humans. Humans are ‘just’ not effective. Happiness and effectiveness does not always correlate.

Efficiency is a word used with technology, dictionary.com defines it thus:

  1. the state or quality of being efficient; competency in performance.
  2. accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort: The assembly line increased industry’s efficiency.
  3. the ratio of the work done or energy developed by a machine, engine, etc., to the energy supplied to it, usually expressed as a percentage.

The first may be ignored, since it is irrelevant. The second and third basically say the same thing. The output versus the input.

While evolution has favoured the most efficient species, humans are not capable of evolving as fast as we can evolve technology. The problem arises when competition (similar to natural selection) is applied to humans3 working together with non-humans. The combined technology with the human, also needs to be improved i.e. made more efficient due to competition. The assembly line needs to be moving faster, which means that the human just also speed it to keep up with the machines. This point was already made in Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times from 1936, in which he acted as an assembly line worker, who became robotised and become non-human.

And so, we’re back at the same problem as earlier. Competition surely increases happiness by providing better and cheaper products, but also causes unhappiness to the workers who have to make the product – in other words, we’re back as the quantification problem.

  1. The surveillance problem. Is there a choice to be invisible? Future possibilities?

I don’t think anyone wants to be completely robbed of their personal life. What that means and why, will be discussed in the next ‘chapter’. Now I shall turn to the problem of surveillance. Suppose that the Galileo system was implanted right now, and one wants to be invisible, is that possible? The answer is yes, because the system can only ‘see’ you, if you have a tracking device. If it is not mandatory, but optional to have such a device, it cannot be said to be a forced surveillance system.

That is the superficially easy answer. But there is, of course, more to discuss. For example the dichotomy between mandatory and optional devices. Is a loo an optional device? Certainly depends on optionally for what purpose, which renders it somewhat subjective. But suppose, that the criteria is ‘to be able to live a normal life’. Then is a loo an optional device? Depends where you live, if you live in a city, it may not be a good city to ‘shit’ (lacking a better word) on the streets. If one wanted to make this complicated, we could loop up the human rights and use them as a guidance to a ‘normal life’. However, since this is just a small essay, I shall not make things that complicated, for now at least. More difficult cases are that of the internet or mobile phones.

In the internet case, I have some personal experience to bring to the table, so to speak. I don’t have an internet connection at home, which makes it a lot harder for me to write assignments like this, since it both has to be delivered on the internet (Fronter) and because a such assignment requires me to do some research, of which to easiest method is to use the internet. Is the internet mandatory? Depends if getting an education is mandatory. I shall leave it here, and we should just note, that it is hard or perhaps impossible to say whether or not something is mandatory.

Suppose that all new mobile phones and or computers had an in-built GPS system. Is there still choice left? What about if all new cars had them? That’s quite possible to the very future.

  1. Personal life. We all love it, but what is it and why do we love it?

I shall define personal life, as that which you do alone, or must do alone. Going to the toilet should probably be considered personal life.

Answering the question to why we need personal life seems to be psychological. One could wonder if we have a need to hide some things from other people. If we are to look at biology and therefore evolution. There does not seem to be any survival value in hiding certain things from other humans. If we follow the nature culture dichotomy, then if it is not nature, then it is culture. One could therefore speculate, that we have created a cultural need to have privacy, i.e. hiding things.

The obvious candidate for weird behaviour, is, as always, religion. In the main monotheistic religions, we find that the LORD is not very pleased with sex. If we suppose that an empire had based their laws on such a religion, they would have a law against sex or perhaps just some forms of sex. Alternative, the LORD could also believe, that sex was somehow sacred4 and must be kept private. Therefore, inhabitants of that hypothetical country would need to hide their sex and probably other actions from everyone else. The last piece of the puzzle is to assume that this notion has been kept alive since then. (1482 words)

1Karl Aage Kirkegaard. Teknologifilosofi, 2005. Page 37-38.

2Broadly defined, there are many versions of it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarism

3Or humen, which seems to be the logical choice because man gets ‘bent’ to men, why not humen?

4This notion still haunts modern times.

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Dances with robots

Af Emil Kirkegaard

Afleveret som engelsk stil, derfor er der et resume, men jeg tænkte, at diskussionen var værd at poste her også.

Artiklen der refereres til hedder “Dances with robots”. Karakter givet: 10 (ny skala).

 

A. ΣMary (hint hint)

Japan is currently attempting to create robots that look and act more like humans, so called humanoids (from Greek, human-alike). Recently, robot scientists put a 3-year old girl and her mother in a room together with a robot, at first the robot and the girl interacted, but after a while she got bored, the robot responded with talking to the girl’s mother, making the girl jealous and reviving interest. In other parts of the world, robots are used mainly for unpleasant jobs, but Japan focuses on creating robots that can live together with humans in a symbiosis. This is problematic because the robots need to use language and social skills, however one robot already understands 30,000 phrases in four languages. Other technologies are also in development, such as sense of touch and relation-recognition, that make robots capable of understanding relations between humans, by measuring the time spent together and the looks on their faces. The reason for Japan’s friendliness towards robots probably lies in Japan’s animist Shinto culture, where ‘dead’ objects, such as swords and teapots can have souls. Japan’s government is currently promoting robot projects. (189)

B. Cum-mentory

The meaning of the quoted passage can be summarized as creating robots (artificial life), that can ‘live’ together with humans in society, by making them imitate human skills. This is significant because normally robots are only used to do things, that we humans either don’t like doing or cannot do, e.g. lifting heavy objects, assembly line work, or cleaning up after a chemical explosion etc. But here the word ‘symbiosis’ is used, which means:

“the living together of two dissimilar organisms, as in mutualism, commensalism, amensalism, or parasitism.”1

Which also mentions the word ‘live’, but can robots be said to be alive? That may strike one as a purely philosophical question, it is, however, relevant to society, because our laws seem to favour living things. No one cares whether or not you mistreat your television, because it is not alive, but animal mistreatment is illegal, as long as it is the right animal2, such as mammals3, but what about bacteria or perhaps cancer? The problem is of course, if (when) we create robots that are humanoid, should we grant them (human) rights? Is it okay, ethically, to mistreat robots if we have given them feelings?

This notion is not new, it has been expressed in culture many times4, often with apocalyptical outcomes. No solution or answer has yet been found or at least not commonly accepted. It seems that this question must be answered before humanoid robots are let into society. I can think of two solutions:

1. Give the robots the same rights as other life, ‘on their stage’.

2. Do not give robots any rights, even though they might qualify as life.

This is a short commentary, and I cannot go into further detail (even though I’d love to), I shall ask some final questions. We seem to give rights equal to the advancedness of the consciousness in the life, is that fair? Some humans do not have an equal advancedness of consciousness, should they differ in rights? (330)

C.

The assignment is:

“Discuss whether humanoid robots will change the ways we relate to machines and to each other. Give your arguments.”

Firstly, knowing what one is talking about is critical, therefore I shall define the most important notions that are used in this complex situation.

Life

There is currently no universally accepted definition of life. Although scientists often use the conventional definition which is (shortened here): A thing which exhibits: Homeostasis, Organization, Metabolism, Adaptation, Growth, response to stimuli and reproduction.5

The central question is, of course, whether or not robots qualify as life, and further, is ‘being alive’ important?

It is certainly imaginable or already possible that robots can reproduce, adapt, reaction to stimuli and homeostasis.

It is arguable that robots are organized, although they don’t have cells, however robots clearly exhibit organization, if you open a computer, the parts are not randomly placed, they are placed in tight organization.

Metabolism can be argued. The essence of metabolism is convert unusable material into usable material. Robots can develop or be developed to create electricity from non-electricity, like coal or methane, in fact, they already do.

The most critical requirement is adaptation. It is argued that robots cannot think for themselves, they always do what the ‘code’ says. Some philosophers argue that the same is true for humans. This does nothing to the requirement of adaptation though, adaptation is the ability to adapt to an environment and changes in it. Life adapts by the process of evolution. Evolution is, very roughly put, reproduction with flaws, which are called mutations. Some organism A propagates to B, C and D. Some flaws happen when the DNA was being copied and mutations occur. Random chance allows B to be more fit to the environment than C and D, that are perhaps even worse fit to environment than A.

Can robots evolve? That would require them to reproduce with flaws. If the robots made new robots in according to some plan, equivalent to our DNA, and then sometimes errors in the copying, and later builds new robots after that plan, then they would evolve. The last part seems unlikely at present time, but not completely impossible.

It can be argued that even though robots do not meet all the requirements, they can still be considered life, because the definition is still disputable and some things usually regarded as life cannot meet the requirements, vira for instance.

Is being alive really that important? After all, it is just a concept we humans have made to systematize nature, so we can better understand it – put into boxes is another way of saying it. So is it really important to be placed inside some box, that we invented? Additionally, some biologists consider robots to be alive, Richard Dawkins for instance.6

Ethical foundations

Our ethical system seems to be based, not on how complex the particular lifeform is, but how how developed it’s mental abilities are, especially consciousness. We find it cruel to see and cause suffering. It is probably because we can better relate to animals that have mental abilities closer to ours. Alternatively, if we dropped the notion, there would be chaos. It is impossible to keep everything alive, completely unrealistic! The notion that life is sacred remains religious babble.

However, if one accepts the notion that more mental abilities equals more rights, then what should we do to the mentally handicapped? Should we take away their human rights? That would seem as an atrocity to do. I can think of one possible solution. If we judge mental abilities by the general level of the species in question, we can figure an average right.

This begs the question, what does one do, at the species that has a great diversity in mental abilities? Robots can be said to be such a ‘species’. If one regards a microwave oven as a robot, then it would surely have a low mental ability ‘rating’, but what about a supercomputer? It seems unfair that the elite of a ‘species’, should suffer because of the lower end of the ‘species’, and it seems unfair that a microwave oven should gain rights because of someone else. It is also absurd to talk about the rights of a microwave oven! One could, of course, split up robots into different groups, just like we do with animals. But the conclusion of this mess must be that ethics and robots are not friends.

It could be suggested that it was the ability to feel pain or have emotions that earns one rights in society, but these properties requires a certain mental level, which was discussed above at length.

But if ethics are not the foundation of human rights, what is? Society itself, they are simply there for practical and political reasons and do not have any philosophical foundation.

Future problems

As we have seen, there is no ethical foundation of rights, that allow us to slice through and say, you have rights and you do not because… Instead we have run into a grey zone, where one cannot really say where the line is. What could that do to the future society?

First of all, Imagine that we have created robots, that are slightly below us in mental capabilities, but had the ability to feel pain and have emotions. What rights should they have? Let’s pretend that they are at the same stage as children, should they have the same rights as children? What happens when the children grows up and gain more rights, should the robots also? Can one own a child? Can one own a robot with the mental capability of a child?

Secondly, let’s imagine that we have created robots, they are just as smart as us. Should we grant them equal rights? What happens if a robot kills a person? What happens if a person kills a robot?

Thirdly, what about if we created robots that are a great deal smarter than us? Should we lose our rights? And the problems seem to have no end. Seems like we can either:

1) Hinder development of robots that have mental capabilities closely to ours.

Which would be impossible in practise and is already somewhat too late.

2) Take the chance and see what happens.

Seems like the only choice there is, nobody can predict the future, we can only hope that future generations of humans will solve the problems better then we, or at least I, currently can.

Conclusion

Robots can be argued to be alive. There are numerous ethical problems with smart robots living together with humans. It seems that we have only two alternatives:

1) Stop development of robots, which is impossible and already too late.

2) Let the development continue and solve the problems that are created on the way.

1http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=symbiosis, 1a

2any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli: some classification schemes also include protozoa and certain other single-celled eukaryotes that have motility and animallike nutritional modes. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/animal

3 Even though we distinguish between them too, consider a dog and a pig.

4I, Robot comes to mind, but also Blade Runner.

5http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life#Definitions

6In the Blind Watchmaker