About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadPage 0Page 1Page 2Forward one pageLast Page


Post 0

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 6:31amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I'm part of a collaborative writing project, "Orion's Arm", http://www.orionsarm.com/ , a science-fiction, transhumanist space opera universe set around 10,000 years from now. So far, one collection of short stories in the setting has been physically published, and more ideas are on the way.

One of the polities in the setting is called the "Objectivist Commonwealth", which is supposed to be based on something approximating present-day Objectivist philosophy. While I disagree with certain of the conclusions of Objectivism, I seem to /know/ more about it than any other OA member, and so I've been asked to see if I can come up with improvements for the existing write-up. But, knowing the limits of my own knowledge, I thought it might be a good idea to ask for input from some actual Objectivists.

So... is anyone here interested in helping me make sure I don't make unknowing errors about Objectivism in the new write-up?

Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Post 1

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 11:10amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Doesn't it occur to you that acting in the certain expectation of error is in itself a psychoepistemological error? A self-inducing prophesy? Do you set off driving to a destination blithely assuming you will either get lost, or have an accident, or both? This is self-sabotage. You should read The Art of Fiction and of Non Fiction.

And where is your product? It's one thing to ask someone to examine a draft, and to ask him to help you check for errors. It's something else to as for an open ended commitment to examine a pig in a poke. Especially a piglet you haven't yet birthed. You should consider why James Taggart and Philip Rearden are villains, not heros.

And what's in it for us? Have you heard of a little idea called selfishness and the trader principle that's its politico-economic corollary?

So, there, I have pointed out three mistakes you have made already.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 3/05, 1:18pm)


Post 2

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 11:23amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ted,

If what you want is a selfish reason to help me out, then consider this: would you rather I wrote up whatever I was able to think of on my own, and have it posted under the label 'Objectivist Commonwealth', or would you prefer to have an opportunity to have your own views presented and promoted in a way and in a setting that you otherwise wouldn't have access to?


The existing article, which is what was in place before I joined the OA project, is at http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45cfd0563d016 . That existing article is what I have to take as a base to revise - nearly the whole thing is up for grabs, as long as it's within OA canon (described at http://orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-page&page=gen_canon ), and taking into account that I have to convince the other OA members to agree to the changes.


If you want a particular item to comment on, then how about this: the setting assumes the existence of 'transapients', sometimes called 'posthumans', which are capable of thinking useful thoughts that a human brain is literally incapable of thinking. (There are various levels of such transapients, the higher levels able to think in ways that the lower ones can't.) The page describing the setting's basic rules about any conflict between different levels is at http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-page&page_id=33 , but can generally be summed up as being about as lopsided as a group of well-prepared wolves (or amoebas, depending on the levels involved) trying to fight a group of well-prepared humans.

From what I understand of Objectivism's views of vegetarianism, as mentioned in http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Evil_Vegetarianism.html , those beings who are not 'rational' do not have rights, and thus an Objectivist does not have to worry about violating their non-existent rights. In OA, one of the interpretations consistent with the evidence is that a transapient is so much smarter than an average human that they effectively undergo a mental 'phase change', and such a being might consider a human to have precisely as many rights as a human considers a cow to have - that is, none. Going by this interpretation, Objectivist ethics would primarily deal with interactions between beings of the same 'toposophic' level, with no consideration given to 'lower' beings other than how they benefit the 'higher' beings, such as as property, or left in wild reserves, or even as parts of the higher beings' minds.

The other interpretation I can work out is that Objectivist ethics apply relatively equally to /all/ beings of human-level intelligence or higher, and the complications come from the inequalities of power between human-level intelligences and beings of astronomically greater intellect and power.


Which interpretation do you feel is more consistent with actual real-world Objectivism?


Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Post 3

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Humans have rights in a political context because it is reasonable for rational beings to respect each other's rights, and they are capable of realizing that fact and abiding by the principles it implies. It is in no way a matter of superiority. These supposed higher minds still exist in physical reality, and would still have property which humans could destroy, and which, presumably, they would expect humans not to destroy. The notion of "higher" beings not respecting the rights of less intelligent but still rational beings is paradoxically both Nietzschean and Platonic. Nietzschean, since it treats rights as if they depended upon a disparity in power, (and on an assumption that higher beings would want to violate rights,) and Platonic as if having "higher thoughts" provides one with access to a different reality.

Reason is recognition of the thing, not the "thought."

(Edited by Ted Keer on 3/05, 6:40pm)


Post 4

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
These supposed higher minds still exist in physical reality, and would still have property which humans could destroy, and which, presumably the would expect humans not to destroy.


As it happens, this topic has come up often enough that OA has a page detailing what happens when beings of various levels engage in such conflict: http://orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-page&page_id=33 . The short version is that the results are roughly similar to what happens when a well-prepared human engages in a conflict with a 'well-prepared' group of wolves... or amoeba, depending on the level of difference. The 'lower' mind won't even understand /how/ it lost - perhaps he happens to slip in the shower, knock himself out, and drowns; or wakes up and decides that attacking the transapient was a bad idea and forgets it... and neither of these events would be a coincidence.


But other than that detail, I thank you for your response, and will do my best to take what you've written so far into account in the revision. If you would like, feel free to skim through the 'Objectivist Commonwealth' page I linked to in my above post and let me know if anything egregious pops out at you.


One remaining question is where to draw the line between a "rational being with rights", and an animal without rights. In the OA setting, in addition to super-intelligent minds, there can also be found all sorts of beings who are less intelligent than humans - various species with average IQs similar to present-day chimps, parrots, and dolphins, call it the 40's; and others in the 60's; and others in the 80's; and others in the 100's. Objectivism draws a bright line between 'people' and 'not-people', which is easy enough in the present-day because of the vast mental gulf between humans and even the brightest animals... but in the OA setting, that gulf is well-populated, and figuring out where to draw the line is a bit trickier.


Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 5

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 2:24pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
That's what's called arbitrary nonsense.

Indeed, if humans couldn't understand what happened, then how do these authors know that such higher beings exist, and what they have done? Are the authors not human? This has nothing to do with Objectivism.

Ar-bi-tra-ry non-sense.

Post 6

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 2:52pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ted,

Of /course/ it's nonsense.

One of the "laws" of classic science-fiction is that you get one impossible thing for free... and then the fun comes in working out the various logical consequences of that one thing. Quite often it's a technology - warp drive, time travel, a teleporter, a positronic brain, an immortality treatment; sometimes it's a bit softer, such as a society containing a particular attribute, such as government-controlled reproduction, or the existence of a libertarian utopia. In the case of OA, that one impossible thing is the existence of transapients of certain sorts.

We have fun figuring out what the consequences of the existence of such beings would be; but if you dislike the premise, or if it stretches your willing suspension of disbelief too far, then you go ahead and pursue happiness your way, and we'll keep pursuing it in ours.


Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 7

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 4:24pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Daniel,

I am a self-proclaimed expert on Objectivism. I will extend a small amount of help to you.

Ed

p.s.

While I disagree with certain of the conclusions of Objectivism ...
You should disagree with certain of the reasoning of Objectivism. Anyone can disagree with a conclusion (e.g., just based on feelings or whatever). Only a critical thinker will disagree with reasoning, however. Is there anywhere you can point to where Objectivist reasoning goes awry?


Post 8

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 4:39pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Thank you, Ed. I look forward to your help, however small it may be. :)

Is there anywhere you can point to where Objectivist reasoning goes awry?


Reasoning, perhaps not; initial assumptions, perhaps.

I have a somewhat different ethical goal, or at least a different set of methods of achieving the ethical goal of 'preserving and promoting sentient life (in particular /my/ life)'. While I agree with a great deal of Objectivist ethics and politics, I am also in favour of the notion of a 'social safety net', the local version of which I have used (in all rational selfishness) to directly save my own life. Given current political realities, at least in my country, the only available such social net is managed by the government, which puts me squarely in opposition to Objectivists on a number of related issues.


Sanction: 16, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 16, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 16, No Sanction: 0
Post 9

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 4:50pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Daniel,

If these higher beings or transapients are in a position to violate the rights of human beings, then they are presumably in a position to interact with them, in which case, the question is: do they have more to gain by violating human rights or by respecting them? Given Ricardo's law of comparative advantage, I'd say they have more to gain by respecting human rights -- more to gain by trading with human beings than by exploiting them. The relationship between human beings and the lower animals is not comparable. Human beings cannot engage in productive trade with the lower animals, because the latter, in not being rational, cannot grasp the principle of voluntary trade as applied to productive activity. Human beings, even those of modest intelligence, can.

So, even though the transapients could do everything better than human beings, it would still pay them to spend their time doing what they do best and to trade with human beings for what the transapients can do less well -- which is the law of comparative advantage. The transapients have an absolute advantage over human beings in everything, but human beings would have a comparative advantage over the transapients in some things.

The law of comparative advantage can perhaps best be illustrated by the example of an attorney and her secretary. Let's say that the attorney can type 100 wmp, while the best available secretary can type only 80 wpm. Does it then pay the attorney to do her own typing? No, because she can make more money spending her time on lawyering, if she hires a less skilled typist to do her typing for her. She can type better than her secretary, but it still pays her to trade the products of her lawyering for the typing of her secretary.

The same would be true of a more advanced or more intelligent race of beings in their interactions with the human race. It would not be in their self-interest to exploit the admittedly less intelligent humans, even if they could. They would have more to gain by trading with them.

- Bill

(Edited by William Dwyer on 3/05, 4:52pm)


Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 10

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 5:12pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
William,

Thank you for your response.

As it happens, I've actually mentioned this precise sort of comparative advantage in a short story set elsewhere in OA, but I hadn't thought about applying it as part of the basis of the setting's version of Objectivism. Even if nobody else posts, your post has made the entire thread worthwhile, from my perspective. :)


Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 11

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 6:56pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I do not accept the one ridiculous thing premise, Daniel. It is not necessary to a good story. Look at The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Look at Rendezvous with Rama.

Logically, any contradiction implies every contradiction. Usually the only assumption allowed in good science fiction is FTL travel or teleportation, which is basically an issue of geography.

My rule is that once a story has degenerated into one of three ridiculous things, (1) the notion that mere wishing makes it so, (2) the notion that one is unable to tell reality from a dream (brain in a vat, evil demon, Matrix), or (3) the description of things the author says are undescribable, then it is a dealbreaker.

Post 12

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 6:57pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
But, Bill, you are forgetting that we don't have anything the Na'Vi I mean the trans-sapients want.

Post 13

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 7:14pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ted,

I do not accept the one ridiculous thing premise, Daniel. It is not necessary to a good story. Look at The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Look at Rendezvous with Rama.


Okay, I'm looking, and I see that the first is premised on the obviously nonsensical idea of a Prison on the Moon, and what the consequences of having one would be; and the second on the obviously nonsensical idea of a Big Dumb Object in Space that we just happen to have an opportunity to explore.


Anyway, I get it, you've decided you don't like the idea of the OA universe. You've established that. So how about you go do your own thing, whatever that may be, and leave this thread in peace for those of us who have different opinions on how much fun and utility can be found in the Fiction of Ideas, and who have different ideas than you about what 'good' SF consists of?

Or would that be too much benevolence to ask from you?


Post 14

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 8:04pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Daniel,

I can help. Email me. If you want the Objectivist Commonwealth to reflect Objectivism, you've got lots of work to do. I'm not an Objectivist, but I am quite familiar with the philosophy.

Jordan

Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 15

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 8:20pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Funny, I thought the ridiculous premise in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress would be the computer character.  Just happens to be sentient, just happens to be the establishment's main computer for just about every system, just happens to like and be loyal to our main character, just happens to be able to calculate bizarre figures such as the likelihood that our characters could win a revolution.  A moon prison has already happened metaphorically with Australia.

Ted's criticism stands if the premise is contradictory in principle.  Rather than merely bizarre or unlikely.  So I suppose the debate is over your premise being fantastic or impossible.

(Edited by Doug Fischer on 3/05, 8:22pm)


Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 16

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 8:23pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I refuse to pretend that you do not understand the difference between the perfectly plausible idea, for example, of a harsh and distant penal colony which becomes an independent nation, and arbitrary metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. (Unless, in a bizarre plot twist, you are writing from a psych ward?)

The essential difference you evade is that between a plausible plot premise and a self-contradiction.

In North Korea a civilian was just put in front of a firing squad for reporting the price of wheat to a South Korean. There is no contradiction of the laws of physics or logic or the knowledge of human nature in sending prisoners on a one-way trip to the moon.

Yet you would compare this to movies such as Solaris where metaphysics is reduced to the primacy of consciousness, to movies such as The Matrix where minds cannot distinguish between dream and consciousness, and hence nothing is real and no action is justified by the senses, or to the work of such poor writers who "describe" a reality they cannot identify in words? A penal colony is an unlikelihood. A universe where wishes and dreams trump consciousness, existence and identity is less than nothing.

In pretending not to understand the difference, you are just being contrary, and, frankly, boring.

This has nothing to do with me not liking some "OA universe" that, except for negations ideas that cannot be conveyed, has not been described. (But don't pretend I owe some sort of altruistic sympathy to this collective circle jerk. You are no Balph Eubank.) I have no problem with science fiction, just with terminally bad writing, three types of which I have helpfully identified. When I see such plots develope, as this thread appears to be doing, I run for the exit.




Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 17

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 8:34pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
How many years before we flew to the moon was the first novel about visiting it written? I see nothing implausible, Doug, in the eventual development of artificial intelligence. Unless one denies that the brain is simply a complex mechanism, and requires some sort of ectoplasm in one's theory of mind.

There are many excellent books of science fiction, such as Lucifer's Hammer, which require no contradictions of laws, just postulations of unlikely facts. Footfall doesn't require FTL travel either. And The Mote in God's Eye is hard science fiction which requires the very limited assumptions of limited FTL and a forcefield.

Even in Tolkien, things have identities, and the magic is very, very limited. Outright contradictions are an obvious plotcrime. The underlying problem is the bad author's denial of the concept of identity.

Post 18

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 10:00pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ted, unless there is some literal meaning to the word "ridiculous" that I'm not privy to, I just agreed with you.

Besides, the concept of AI isn't what I was referring to. For instance, the explanation for the sentient computer in Heinlein's book was no better than that 80's movie with the robot who says "number 5 is alive!" It was a cheap free-bee.

Btw, Ted, I'm only half way into The Moon... but so far I prefer Stranger in a Strange Land by far. Even though it had some of the faults you mentioned, I think its merits far outweigh those annoying conveniences. I'd like to hear your opinion of Stranger.




Ray Bradbury made a fine distinction between sf and fantasy, after being called a sf writer. He said he's only written one sf book, Fahrenheit 451, but he is more accurately a fantasy writer who happens to deal with future worlds.

I'd give fantasy a lot more liberty than sci-fi, but I agree with Ted: "Outright contradictions are an obvious plotcrime."
(Edited by Doug Fischer on 3/05, 10:05pm)


Post 19

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 10:12pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Oops, forgot to mention the distinction of Bradbury's.

SF describes a world that could loosely actually happen. Fantasy plays with the nature of reality (these are my words of course)

Post to this threadPage 0Page 1Page 2Forward one pageLast Page


User ID Password or create a free account.