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Post 20

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 10:35pmSanction this postReply
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I understood that you were agreeing with my wider point, Doug. Literally, ridiculous means worthy of ridicule, being laughed at.

To be exact, Mr Boese said "One of the "laws" of classic science-fiction is that you get one impossible thing for free." I would reject this law as formulated as overly broad. Again, logically, one contradiction implies every contradiction. The problem, as I have identified, is on what level does your "impossible thing" exist? If it is philosophically impossible, if it denies consciousness, existence or (the sin against the Holy Spirit) it denies identity, then it is blasphemy. If it is merely based upon some physical impossibility of a limited sort, such as FTL, it may work. If it is based on some improbable circumstance, then there is no objection that is what fiction means.

The specific problem with Mr Evil's Universe is not that there are beings more intelligent than humans. I can easily comprhend what this means. Consider this. Human intelligence is based on the hierarchical integration of neuronal feedback modules in the cortex. At the lowest level of the hierarchy integrate raw sense data and then at higher levels physically integrate inputs from other neuronal modules in patterns such as sound > phoneme > word > sentence, and so forth. The amount of information of which we can be aware of at one time is limited. The breadth and depth of our inductions is limited. And physically, the surface area of our cortices is about four times that of a chimp. Hence a brain with many times the processing power of ours could easily make "direct" inductive leaps that we could not. From what I know of the ability of linguists to compare languages, for instance, and reconstruct what their unknown common ancestor must have been like, if a mind were large enough to learn and compare every one of the 6,000 or so known languages simultaneously, it would be able to classify all the worlds languages and even reconstruct to a large extent the myriad proto-languages spoken at various stages by various ancestral ethnicities of the world going back at times to many tens of thousands of years a possibility that would make most respectable but less imaginative linguists who can only learn a few dozen languages and compare a few words at a time turn blue in professional outrage. Or, perhaps another such mind would be able, given a few weeks and a good telescope, to derive Newton's and Einstein's laws from scratch.

But these sorts of things aren't magic. Nor are they indescribable. Nor could we not achieve just the same insights with a little more time and effort. Mind is not magic. That is what is being asserted here, magic which supposedly cannot even be described, even if that is how the authors who do not notice the contradiction, are describing it. I have no problem with someone positing transhumans, whether as speculation or as science fiction. They simply shouldn't contradict themselves while doing it.


(Edited by Ted Keer on 3/06, 1:15pm)


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Post 21

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 3:54amSanction this postReply
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Ted,

I could try discussing various of your points and rebutting your misconceptions; but since, among your other incivilities, you have decided to descend back into petty name-calling, I don't see any benefit to be gained in doing so.


Everyone else,

Since Whatshisface has chosen to turn my request for help in describing Objectivism more accurately into a set of personal diatribes, then it's entirely possible that by the time you respond, I'll have left him to wallow in his own whatever and will not notice any responses you might make to this thread. If you are interested in this thread's original premise, then I suggest you contact me through the board's private messaging, or through email.


Post 22

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 5:28amSanction this postReply
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An OA universe? - try reading Tales of The Mall Masters, by Gulbraa...

Post 23

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 5:55amSanction this postReply
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Objectivist commonwealth? That name is a contradiction. How about objectivist colony or objectivist independence?

Post 24

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 8:08amSanction this postReply
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Objectivist commonwealth? That name is a contradiction. How about objectivist colony or objectivist independence?


If I want to make the proposal, even the name 'Objectivist Commonwealth' might be changed. However, since doing so would require changing not just the one article, but every article in which the ObCom is mentioned, I would need to make a rather persuasive case that the effort is worth the reward.

So, if you really do want the name changed, then please, explain why you think it is impossible for a commonwealth to be Objectivist (or why it is impossible for an Objectivist polity to call itself a commonwealth); and what title for the polity in question you think is best, and why. And remember, the editors will probably check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth , and note the variety of senses the word has been used, so to convince them, you will probably need to rebut them all.

I look forward to your reply.


Post 25

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 8:52amSanction this postReply
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One definition offered by a google search sounds very appropriate for your sci fi world.

commonwealth:  a world organization of autonomous states that are united in allegiance to a central power but are not subordinate to it or to one another.

I rather like that united, but not subordinate part.


Post 26

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Doug:

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

Yes, loosely. I think Wolfram, who is toiling in neither SF or fantasy with his NKS, has outlined some very compelling arguments, applicable to the topic of what 'could loosely actually happen.'

Two of his observational principles:

1] Simple rules can result in complex systems/processes,

and

2] in spite of being based on 'simple rules,' the resulting complexity is often computationally so complex that there is no computational equivalent process that can accurately predict where the process is going('can go')without simply letting the process run to completion...

... are applicable to the evolution of intelligence in the universe.

Where 'can it go?' We cannot always accurately predict in advance, without letting it go.

But we can have fun guessing, and that is both SF and fantasy. If it actually were possible to calculate in advance, then there would be a rational basis to seperate SF from fantasy. Maybe, as you say, SF is a kind of 'near horizon' intelligent guessing, while fantasy is a purely unlimited horizon intelligent guessing.

Both SF and fantasy may, in fact, be part of the process of the evolution of intelligence, pure shake and bake. Instead of just reacting to external stimuli, mankind has an ability to playback perturbations of external stimuli, to imagine, to what-if. Out of such 'playful' things come the shake and bake of new ideas, never before seen or imagined. Some, not all, even stick.

What sticks? What can stick. Who knows what can stick, in advance? Mankind is unique in his ability to direct his shake and bake. Prior to mankind, this process might have been pure shake and bake.

The question is, are we smart enough to direct the shake and bake, or said another way, are we smart enough to not tell ourselves 'that can't happen' as we shake and bake?

Before we were around to tell ourselves what wasn't possible, shake and bake just happened.

Post 27

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 1:51pmSanction this postReply
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Is anyone here familiar with "Beggars in Spain", by Nancy Kress?

Post 28

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 2:20pmSanction this postReply
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Yes - that and the two sequels are great and thought-provoking reads...

Post 29

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 2:44pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

Thanks for contacting RoR with your request.  My advice, to begin with, is to assume that Ted Keer is a Troll.  He will suck you in with pleasantries and useful ideas, only to insult you later, for the sole apparent purpose of creating pain and destroying motivation.

As to the commonwealth idea, I would suggest looking at the Common Law.  There are two, apparently fundamentally opposed, visions in play as to the basic nature of property.  One says that property emerges from individual actions to add or create value.  The value created belongs to the creator, as simple justice.  The other says that you are merely or mostly the product of your society and its history.  Whatever you create, therefore, is primarily the property of that society.

The problem is that both are true. 

Most of the wealth nd capability that you possess as an individual comes from the billions of years of evolutionary history and the tens of thousands of years of cultural history that resulted in you, plus all the advantages that living in a developed, specialized society brings. 

On the other hand, you have the Aristotles and Newtons,  people who, with the same social capital as beggars and thieves, used it to enormously benefit all humans everywhere.

The Common Law starts with the assumption that all propery starts in the commons.  All property has pre-existing claims from multiple sources.  Private property arises for good reasons - the tragedy of the commons being just one of many - but, under the Common Law, its removal from the commons must be compensated by an exchange of value.  I.e., you purchase - typically bid - for the rights to take property out of the commons and develop it as you see fit.  And this isn't some Divine Right that represents a conic section of the planet forever.  It is a clearly defined set of rights that has a finite span of time as well.

This means a stream of revenue into the commons itself from the private property bidders. 

Where is that stream? 

I would argue that what should be that stream of revenue from property owners to the proprietary human species at large is enough in itself to provide a very significant "safety net," NOT as some kind of altruistic, communalistic tax, but rather simply return on investment.  Do the math.  Or, look up Henry George's "Progress and Poverty."  Such a return to the Common Law would put everyone in the position of wanting everyone else to become as successful and prosperous as possible, simply because they would get a cut of the action, knowing full well that if they priced property out of reach, then productivity would suffer and the revenue stream to the commons would follow.


Post 30

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
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On Beggars in Spain from Amazon:

Five Star Review

Before I read 'Beggars in Spain,' I read the short story that the novel is expanded from. To be honest, I thought turning such a powerful story into a novel would lessen its impact. I was wrong.

The novel version of 'Beggars in Spain' begins with a simple premise: What if science could genetically alter humans so that they needed no sleep? Think of the advances and discoveries mankind could make, think of all the achievements that would be possible if we never had to sleep for 6, 7, or 8 hours a day.

The theory becomes a reality for Leisha Camden and many other "sleepless." It doesn't take long before the sleepless are shunned by the rest of society and forced to develop their own community. But the persection doesn't stop there...

'Beggars in Spain' has so many things going for it that so many science fiction novels lack. First (and most important in my mind), Kress gives us believable characters that are interesting. You actually believe that these people could be real and would be fascinated to meet them. Leisha is a character I will remember for a long, long time. Next, Kress does something that I wish more science fiction writers would (or could) do: She explains how the science in her story works in a way that a non-scientist can understand it! (Imagine that!) Let me say for the record that I have an extremely weak science background, but thanks to the author's talent, I felt that I understood the basis for all the science that was included in the story. In short, I wasn't intimidated at all.

The characters and the understandable science are important, but I was really knocked out by the multitude of questions that are raised by 'Beggars in Spain.' The book admirably addresses such questions as genetic engineering (How far should science go?), aging, class distinction, euthanasia, community rights,... Kress poses some very difficult questions without backing down from them one bit. I appreciate the honesty and courage that I'm sure it took to write this book. It is tremendous. This is not a novel just for science fiction fans. For anyone who appreciates good writing and an intelligent story that will stick with you long after you turn the last page, 'Beggars in Spain' will not disappoint.

One Star Review:

This book is a mess from beginning to end. Why is everyone so excited about it? The main character does nothing of consequence for the entire book, which is amazing considering that, as one of the sleepless beings Kress has created, she lives without aging (?!?) for centuries. Kress doesn't know what she is writing about. There is nothing plausible in her science, her sociology, her characters, or, worst of all, her plot. The plotting comes from the "One Damn Thing After Another" school where things happen because the author needs a plot complication (see Jack Whyte for another example of this style). There is nothing organic at all about the characters, either in how they relate to each other or to the plot occuring around them. this is truly Shakespeare's "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"


Post 31

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 3:31pmSanction this postReply
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Phil,

Thank you for the reassurance - I had started wondering whether this forum was worth continuing to participate in, but if the solution is to simply ignore one particular poster, that's quite doable.

As to your points on the origin of property from the commons, it's a viewpoint I haven't come across before, and I find it quite fascinating; unless you express displeasure, I plan to try to incorporate a form of it as part of a retconned background for the name of the fictional "Objectivist Commonwealth".

Only one possible problematic issue now occurs to me - and that is that, according to my current understanding of Objectivism, there is one form of property that doesn't originate in the commons: one's own body. In the OA universe, some rational beings are literally planet-sized, which makes the matter a little tricky; but if need be, I can probably gloss over the details by simply implying that the ObCommers /have/ come up with a solution (without going into details of what the solution actually entails).


Post 32

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 9:05amSanction this postReply
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As much as I don't see any relation to the philosophy of Objectivism in the fictional universe you have there, I will say that it's quite imaginative and somewhat realistic at least in certain areas. I would like to ask you who are the authors of this work? Just you alone or do you work with others?

Post 33

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 9:51amSanction this postReply
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Bridget,

As much as I don't see any relation to the philosophy of Objectivism in the fictional universe you have there, I will say that it's quite imaginative and somewhat realistic at least in certain areas. I would like to ask you who are the authors of this work? Just you alone or do you work with others?


It's definitely not me alone. :) I joined last year, and so far have gotten just one story 'officially' published in Voices of OA, http://www.voicesoa.net/ , and have one full article submission in the editing queue; while the Orion's Arm project started way back in 2000 ( http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-page&page=gen_earlyyears ). There's a mailing list for worldbuilding, another for storywriting and art, and at least one more for the final editing board that I'm not privy to.

http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-people contains brief bios of all the contributors so far...


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Post 34

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 12:55pmSanction this postReply
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Ted:

What if science could genetically alter humans so that they needed no sleep?

And, what if we aren't really that smart to know that sleep is not vital in some other sense? What if, in fact, we not only physiologically need sleep, but benefit from it in some unanticipated or insufficiently regarded intellectual fashion?

The assumption is that sleep is unproductive. I have experienced, and have run into many others who report the same experience: that isn't the case.

What is sleep? It is not purely a cessation of brain function. It is a cessation of brain function directly coupled to concrete external stimulation and concrete external response. It is the placement of the body into 'safe mode' while the brain, disconnected from motor function, plays 'what if', and imagines, and dreams, and plays back perturbations of recorded stimuli, and responds to them, without acting upon the results. It is like an intellectual laboratory. Our minds play what if, shake and bake. Even if we discard 99% of our silly dreams, we never know when that 1% will change our lives. (I of course have no idea if it is 99% or 99.99999999%...)

As well, there is a theory that dream state is required to seal the deal with our daily short term waking memories; it is when the brain categorizes and stores the previous days waking experiences.


The alternative-- a 24 hr waking state, might make us more
productive in terms of physical activity, but that could be at the cost of making us less productive intellectually.

Are we that smart, to 'design' ourselves into a 24 hr waking state? We don't know in advance, we'd have to try it and see. Shake and bake rears its head again, even in this SF hypothetical.

I'd hope that the SF or any similar hypothetical managed to address that before keeping the lights on all day.

I haven't read the story, what happens? Does it work out?

regards,
Fred


Post 35

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 1:23pmSanction this postReply
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I think you mean to address someone else, Fred. I haven't yet read those books and did not post the original reference to them here. I have the first book on order from the library.

Post 36

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 9:53amSanction this postReply
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Ted:

Sorry, I misinterpreted the reviews. Sounds interesting, be interested to hear how you like the book.

regards,
Fred

Post 37

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 10:41amSanction this postReply
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Yes, I did say from Amazon, didn't I? (Made me worry a second there.)

The five star review makes the book seem wonderful, but then the one star review pricks the balloon. We'll see.
(Edited by Ted Keer on 3/09, 10:42am)


Post 38

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 7:49pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

Since I don't know that much about your background regarding objectivism, I'll assume that you have probably at least read "Atlas Shrugged," so you have a basic flavor of the philosophy.

If you wiki on the history of objectivism, you will doubtless run into the name "Nathaniel Branden," which is anathema to many objectivists.  He was both Rand's lover and her number one advocate of her philosophy.  Then they split up.  There's a lot more.  However, the reason I bring him up is that he did write at least one thing well worth the effort of reading, namely, "The Psychology of Self Esteem," which is an extension of the philosophy into the realm of psychology and motivation.

Without any knowledge of objectivism or Rand, you could pick up "The Psychology of Self Esteem" and read it cold and get a world of great ideas and integrations that Branden pioneered.  Knowing Rand's positions and having experienced them artistically in AS would, of course, provide a far greater depth of context.

How does this apply to a simulation of an objectivist world?  It applies in understanding both the motivations of such people, and also in revealing something that Branden barely touches upon, yet by itself would be a major contribution to both psychology and ethics. 

There is a question that is explicated rather thorougly in Voltaire's "Candide," as to how well abstract moral ideas translate into real-world behavior, as the hero finds that all his rationalist friends will betray him.  And, as far as Rand's analysis of the selfishness of ethical behavior goes, it is not quite enough, at least explicitly.  What she never quite gets around to explicitly saying - although it is implicit in a myriad ways in her writing - might be summarized as this:

Why be moral, if you can get away with a crime and it materially benefits you?  So what if it became a universal principle of behavior?  You are one case and you stand to benefit.  That's all that matters or should matter.

The reason to be moral, however, is tied to that old concept of "honor."   The idea that one should live in such a way that one would never have to hide one's true self and character from other good people.  But why is that so important a motivation? 

Because, most of what you do is to translate mind into matter.  In a very Nietschesque way, you are what you do and create.  The effects of your actions and work and thought in the real world grounds your conceptual world.  Otherwise, as a floating consciousness, there would be no check on ultimate error and madness - a halting state in computer terms.  The most fundamental perceptual reafirmations of who you are come from honest interactions with the only physical mirror that can directly reflect your mind, i.e., another consciousnes.

If you are a crook, a predator when you can definitely get away with it or the risk is low compared to the benefits, then you have to conceal that fact, or people will behave accordingly.   Yet, living a lie, having to second guess one's personna, having to worry that someone might see through you, undercuts those most valuable interactions, the mirroring of ones "soul."

So it is that romantic love and admiration drive rational people to risk their lives to prevent harm to the loved one.  This is not a trivial motivaton.  But it is tied directly to that ability to look into another's eyes and not flinch.  Like the NaVi's "I see you."

This is implicit in so much of Rand's portrayals of her heros that it is sad that she apparently never quite got to the explicit integration, especially so in light of the groundbreaking work that she accomplished regarding the general "Is/ought" problem.  Branden did get there, but I don't think that he realized the full significance.  I think that he was so conflicted after the breakup that only something monumental could have gotten his attention.

I have attempted to create a further, more fully explicated rendition of the implications of Branden's "perceptual reaffirmation" thesis, which you can find here: http://philosborn.joeuser.com/article/301081/On_Morals

Enjoy.

(Edited by Phil Osborn on 3/09, 7:52pm)


Post 39

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 8:22pmSanction this postReply
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Mr Boese,

Have you heard of Bioshock?  Its aims were similar to yours.  I haven't played it, however.


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