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Post 20

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 1:06amSanction this postReply
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Regi, Glenn,
Thanks for the advice, unfortunately it doesn't work for me. I have M'soft Works. When I followed your directions Regi, it re-translated the symbols back into alphabet. Grrrr!!!!
Cass




Post 21

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 2:10amSanction this postReply
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If an extra-terrestrial life form discovered earth, and this life form had a rational capacity and intelligence that far exceeded our own (to the level that a human's exceeds a dolphin's for example), would that species have the moral right to enslave and/or exterminate us? 
Hey Pete, that question may not remain hypothetical for much longer.  Scientists are hard at work developing artificial intelligences (A.I's), which within the next few decades, should reach the 'hard take off' point of rapid self-improvement, enabling their intelligence levels to accelerate far beyond the human levels.

Thankfully for the future of humanity, the programmers won't be Objectivists (Most Objectivists are far too stupid to even accept the possibility of advanced A.I, let alone have any idea how to develop a safe ethical system for A.I)  Provided the ethical system of the A.I's are at least partially altruistic, they'll respect our rights.  Of course, programming into them the psychopathic 'Rational Self-Interest' imperative would destroy the entire world in very short order.  I can imagine Regi and Linz still blindly extolling the virtues of Objectivist ethics whilst A.I's operating off 'Rational Self-Interest' were eating them both for lunch.




Post 22

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 8:25amSanction this postReply
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Of course, programming into them the psychopathic 'Rational Self-Interest' imperative would destroy the entire world in very short order.


If these alleged thinking machines have to be “programmed” with any ethical system, then they aren't really intelligent (sentient, volitional), now are they?



Post 23

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 8:26amSanction this postReply
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Ed Thompson wrote:"
Glenn is right. The difference between man and animal is understood by examining the difference between signs and signals (between designators and signals)."

This could be the key. My arguments did not distinguish between the two.

Let me think.
coaltontrail



Post 24

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 9:00amSanction this postReply
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Cass wrote:"Yes, coalton, I beleive it is, although the concept "rights" doesn't apply. I have been working on this for some time, and am close to framing my essay on it. I believe Obj. has been workin from the wrong premise in this, and it has led to confusion among lots, and even a rejection of Objectivism itself from many people I know of. I am going to put it all together soon, and see if Lindsey is interested in publishing it as an article."

I am interested in reading it. If SOLO doesn't publish it, perhaps you would post it in the general forum?

"On a different note (sic), I keep thinking I should know your name: is it related to music, or a music maker? R&B or country? It's tantalising me."

I have to disappoint you. It has nothing to do with music (I am not into music). It is a trail near my home which offers a magnificient view of the Rocky Mountains and it is one of my favorite trails to run.

coaltontrail



Post 25

Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 3:23pmSanction this postReply
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Cass:
Not all "language" (if by language you mean, human speaking) involves concepts.  "theres food at macs" doesn't.  "Watch out," doesnt. "Me want sex "doesn't.

Ed:
Cass, these are examples of humans using signs AS signals. We have the power to choose to communicate with signals OR designators (signs) - animals do not. Just because we can communicate like them, doesn't mean they can communicate like us.


Cass:
There are many humans for whom this is the most of language they manage. 

Ed:
Cass, if this is true, then I blame Dewey & Co. for this educational abomination. Early human philosophers (Thales & Co.) had surpassed this meager capacity thousands of years ago.


Cass:
And birds have been observed to make behavioural changes after receiving a call from another bird they cannot even see, so the sound conveyed a meaning the human listener could not understand.

Ed:
Cass, hearing IS perceiveing. Also, I do not understand what weight or force of argument you are attempting to marshal with that last phrase about human listeners not understanding bird calls. You seem to be using this as an indictment of our "relatively limited intelligence" compared to "birds" (they understand themselves, but we don't) - is this true?


Cass:
The problem with lots of Objectivists, I suspect, is that they are not the sort of people who have ever closely studied animals, their behaviours especially.  Those who have are increasingly learning of complexities which were once completely unknown and unsuspected leading to the conclusion - quite scientifically - that the "higher order" animals have awareness, ie consciousness unlike that of humans, but present, nonetheless.

Ed:
And the problem with a few Objectivists, I suspect, is that they are the sort of people who think that perceptual powers noted in animals (perception and memory) entail "consciousness" of some "higher order." An ape who can memorize the meaning of a dozen or so designative signs (names of things) does not constitute an ape who is thinking more like a human than apes who haven't yet been trained to memorize such things.



Post 26

Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 6:37pmSanction this postReply
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Coalton trail;
Thanks for your reply - although now I am truly confused as to why I feel some familiarity with your name :-)
Yes, If Lindsay does refuse the article, I will try and post it somewhere else, not sure where tho. I have to say now, "mainstream" objectivists aren't going to like what I will say, although it is all thoroughly reality, and logic based.
Cass




Post 27

Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 7:47pmSanction this postReply
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It’s also worth noting that “simple” human verbal communications such as, “There’s food at Macs” and “Me want sex” express powerful conceptual abstractions unavailable to animals.

 

“Me want sex”: Well, I covered off the conceptual richness of sex on another thread. “Food at Macs” (presuming this means McDonald’s?) subsumes the entire McDonald’s menu, including burgers, fries, salads, drinks and desserts, as well the various combo meal options, and then you get into packaging and promotions … The rich conceptual scope of the phrase, “There’s food at Macs” is beyond any animal’s ability to grasp.

 

So, good luck with showing the conceptual nature of animals, Cass. If you’re successful, well, that would significantly reduce what’s on the McDonald’s menu, that’s for sure. J




Post 28

Monday, September 13, 2004 - 12:26amSanction this postReply
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Well actually Glenn, I'm not going to be "showing" animals having a conceptual nature - I don't think they do. It's not  the premise that applies I suspect.
I have a couple of weeks holiday from next week, (to be spent in horrible New Zealand, Ugh!!) - and I shall write the essay then.
Cass  




Post 29

Friday, September 17, 2004 - 9:29amSanction this postReply
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Vienna, September 17, 2004

 

To Pete, who wrote: „If an extra-terrestrial life form discovered earth, and this life form had a rational capacity and intelligence that far exceeded our own (to the level that a human's exceeds a dolphin's for example), would that species have the moral right to enslave and/or exterminate us?„

 

There is a peculiar and utmost distressing way of determining if a given species is rational or not. Since I love Science Fiction I am a little bit versed in relation to what the masters of the genre wrote. Bertram Chandler (1912-1984), an English author, wrote a fascinating short story on what an extra-terrestrial intelligence would do with another species: exterminate it, enslave it or find out whether or not the species is or isn’t rational.

 

I will summarize the story in which Chandler (no connection with private eye Marlowe) takes up the question and, at the end, tell you the name of the story (to put a little suspense into this writing):

 

A terrestrial space ship explores a region of the hitherto unexplored part of outer space. They travel through “hyperspace”, stop here an there, are millions of light years away from home and have, out of a sudden, a very big problem with their hyper atomic engine. So they have to interrupt their travel and descend on a planet that looks as being capable of supporting life (water, eatable food, etc.). They start to explore the planet, trying to find means to repair the ship. The ship’s captain leads the crew – among which there is a woman, a very important part of the story as we shall see – and, for a time, all goes well until there are some quarrels among the men about who gets the lady. At the same time they have the strange feeling that they are not alone. Something spies what they do.

 

The question of what will happen with the lady erupts finally into a large quarrel and, in the midst of it, evidently using the fact that nobody cared of what happened beyond the immediate issue, a spaceheli hovers over them, a net falls engulfing all and immediately they are carried through the air to a strange city. Here the captured humans are placed into two cages made of an unbreakable type of glass: males in one cage and the lady (Mary Hart), which was the cause of the turmoil that took place prior to being captured, in the other.

 

The inhabitants of the planet examine what the humans do in their respective cages and finally, having recognized that the captured species is separated in two sexes, decide to reunite the girl with the rest of the crew. They are being fed and handled with care and the captors see that the males behave decently toward the female… but none of them is released.

 

Noticing that the captors are intelligent (after all, they built the city, they have flying vehicles, etc.) the prisoners decide, as the only thing they can do, to show that they themselves are also intelligent. So they start a series of undertakings to demonstrate what they can do.

 

Taking branches from a tree-like fern that grows in their cage, they form geometric forms on the floor: triangles, squares, etc. but this doesn’t impress their captors. Some of the prisoners remember that on Earth there exist some types of birds who also form simple geometrical figures while building a nest to tempt the females of the species.

 

So they weave baskets with the tree’s twigs but, again, their captors seem to know that animals can weave rudimentary nests to hatch their youngs.

 

Then they place the twigs on the floor starting from 1 and increasing the numbers, showing rudimentary mathematical counts with the sticks but very, very primitive beings, which live at the level of their instincts, can do this too. Evidently nothing works.

 

But then something very particular happens. Something like a rat or a hamster finds its way into the cage. Mary, the female, is horrified. She screams at the sight of the little animal and urges the other inmates, with tears in her eyes, to capture and kill it. So the men take two of the weaved caskets and, using them as a trap, capture it. However, since they find the small animal adorable, they don’t kill it but instead build a small cell with the branches of the tree, large enough for it to run around. Then they feed it.

 

The captors, who are carefully looking what is going on in the cage, leave the place and come a day later to take the captain of the crew with them. Everybody is sure that he must have done something unacceptable for the captors and that he will now be killed. Nothing of the sort happens. Not many hours later the captain returns, surrounded by the locals and tells the crew that all is O.K. now, that they can come out of the cage and that the extraterrestrials will help them to repair the ship.

 

But the doctor of the crew has a question. He asks the captain what convinced the inhabitants of the planet that their prisoners are as intelligent as they themselves. At this question the face of the captain gets a bleak expression. Reluctantly he says: “Well, it’s very simple: Only rational beings put other beings in cages.”

 

The title of the story is, of course, “The Cage”. Should we ever build an Objectivist society we will necessarily even have to get rid of some of our habits and show that we are better than normal, intelligent humans.

 

Hopefully we will neither be destroyed nor enslaved by any extraterrestrial civilization. However, in one of his books, Arthur C. Clarke states that it is very good that the universe is so tremendously big and that all civilizations live beyond the possibility of getting in direct contact… since human history has proved hundreds of times that wherever an advanced civilization meets an underdeveloped society this last one is definitively wiped out. Not a good record, to say the least.

 

I remain, by the Sign of the Dollar!

 
Manfred F. Schieder



Post 30

Saturday, September 18, 2004 - 10:04pmSanction this postReply
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"There is first a mistake in the question. The difference between a dolphin's consciousness (which does not have any "reasoning" ability at all) and a humans is not a difference of degree, but a difference of kind. Reason is not possible without volition, and volition and instinct are incompatible. It is not possible for a pre-programmed pattern of behavior (instinct) and volition (all behavior must be chosen) to both exist in the same consciousness. It is one or the other. The dolphin's is instinct; very complex instinct, capable of learning (read being programmed) to a very high degree, but rationality is impossible to the dolphin. "

Sorry, but you obviously are not a marine biologist (neither am I, but I appear to be better educated in the area of Dolphins that you are). Dolphins exhibit free will. Case and point, an animal would sacrifice itself for it's young. It would also exhibit fight or flight response. Dolphins do this, just as humans do. However, just like humans, dolphins can and have chosen to give their lives for humans (for what reason, I don't know you'd have to ask a dolphin, and no, I'm not indicating that self-sacrifice is a positive thing, only that it goes against instinct as you suggest and thus disproves your point). (before you say it, yes Dogs do something similar, however they do it because they feel love as an offshot of dependance and thus respond to that concrete. Since dolphins have no dependance on humans, this condition is not valid) Further they demonstrate the ability to cognitively overcome their fight or flight response and attack predators (sharks) instead of fleeing as their flight response would dictate in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Further, Dolphins exhibit reasoning abilities as well. There is a species of Dolphin that has figured out a way (and their parents now teach their children) in the last 2 generations to get a fish that hide in the rock walls of the islands of a Caribbean. This isn’t an instinctual thing that we’re talking about here. They drive them out based on a reasoned approach. If you compare this to humanity is directly comparable to the natives driving Buffalo over a cliff. They may not have guns or even bows and arrows, but they do have a complete communication system that is a fully formed dialect that is different between different types of Dolphins and even Dolphins of the same type but from different regions of the world that is clearly (based on response from one Dolphin to another observed using scientific method) complex abstractions based on concretes around them. The difference between a Ring Necked Pheasant and a Dolphin is that the Pheasant never goes beyond the base concretes. It never abstracts and it certainly never creates a definition that would indicate true communication, just as a dog is capable of communicating fear, hatred, love etc., the bird can do the same. But these are concretes to the bird and the dog (just as emotion is to a human). "I feel fear." Not "I feel fear because…" Dolphins feel fear, and they understand why. They then overcome that fear and act in a rational way just as a human being feels fear when confronted by a bear and then reaches for their shot gun. The dolphin uses sometimes very advanced military tactics to out whit and defeat its enemy (mostly sharks) that cannot be anything other than a coordinated effort using communication to plan and execute the attack often with multiple dolphins involved.

There are assigned sounds by Dolphins that are specific for specific concepts and it is used to Define these conceptualizations just as Ayn Rand describes. That human beings have yet to be able to understand and translate these communications effectively is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is that they exist, they can be shown, and eventually through rational thought, we will be able to communicate with them on a higher level than sign language as we do now.

Further, you speak of Dolphins being programmed, but if you have ever observed Dolphins, they don’t have to be programmed, they simply have to be shown what it is you want them to do. If they choose, they will do it. If they do not, then they won’t. In some cases (military uses mostly) dolphins will even refuse to do the task the way the human wants it done, because it might harm them in the process and do it another way far outside the programming that you suggest. (If there was a more apropos example of volition and reason, I don’t know what it is)

What you have mistaken is that enslaved Dolphins will act just like enslaved humans. They will do anything to appease their captors; even things that they don’t really want to do, because their spirit is broken and the only thing left is the instinctual desire to LIVE.

The pre-conceived notion of most objectivists is that humans are the only rational creatures on the planet. However, the only reason we think that other humans on the planet that speak other languages other than our own are rational is because our eyes tell us that they are human, and thus must be rational and we then put in the effort to bridge the communication gap. Dolphins live in the ocean and do not look like humans, and don’t communicate in the same language structure as humans, and thus we irrationally assume that they cannot possibly be rational will-full creatures because we cannot understand their (fully formed) language and most of us observe them in captivity as slaves to our whim, simply because we are the more powerful and have violated the first law of rational creatures: Do not initiate force except in self-defence. Simply because we assume that Dolphins are mindless creatures like birds and dogs and cats.

Why do I choose to pick at your Dolphin analogy? Because it is apropos to aliens. Since it is a statistical certainty that there are other rational creatures in the universe, it’s a matter that we have not met them yet. However, rational creatures looking at irrational animals with the power of science (i.e. the Hydrogen bomb) by the analysis in this conversation, decide that because our actions make little or no sense, and we don’t look like them (presumably unless we’re playing out Stargate: SG1) are going to do exactly what you have done, rationalizing that ALL Dolphins act irrationally and in trained behaviour and ignoring individuals, and more importantly, those that have free will and embrace logical thought.

What would the course be for a truly logical alien?

To judge each and every individual on this planet, man, dolphin, dog and cat, understanding that a mistake of birth does not provide any value to that individual nor can you intelligently say that just because the majority of a group exhibits a certain behaviour that all will. They would seek out those that exhibit logic and free will and work to understand them and visa-versa. They would then take the rest of the irrational human beings possessing the hydrogen bomb and let them continue to destroy themselves. If those irrational humans didn’t, then and only then would aliens kill them in self-defence. (i.e. Iraq)

Notice that I didn’t make the false assumption that all humans are rational and volitional. That is intentional because, most of the world chooses to be ignorant, and chooses to be irrational and chooses to give up their right to volition. (i.e. through religion or socialism) Thus they are not “rational animals” because their actions demonstrate that they have not earned that definition simply because of a mistake of birth (being born to a human female).

Think about it for a minute. This very web site is proof of a rational person’s will to find more rational people. To a rational human (and presumably aliens as well) there is nothing more important in the universe (well other than knowledge) than finding other rational creatures to share what they have learned, refining that and growing on it. We seek out this site because of the concept of Objectivism and the group that identifies themselves as Objectivists. This term increases the odds that we will find individuals that are rational and volitional. It does not guarantee it and that is the key concept here. The greatest evil that all humans (even objectivists) always face is that the greatest power that we have, the ability to abstract and group things and define things, is also the greatest power to do evil, because it is so easy to group things and define worth by group, not by individual. Aliens able to travel interstellar space would not have survived that long and not have noticed this major problem, and will be on guard against it at all times, ensuring that their own arrogance (i.e. the assumption of their superiority over other creatures) doesn’t blind them to the gem of finding, through hard work, creatures that possess the same volition and logic that they do. (i.e. Dolphins)



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