The impetus for this blog post was formed from my experiences working in a restaurant. I interacted with a large variety of people because the restaurant was attached to a hotel and a major airport, St. Louis Lambert International, was nearby. Several times per year, well mannered and kind people would leave a card for me on the table after they had dined. The card was always about Jesus. I learned that the behavior of those people has a name; it is called proselytization. Someone that tries to inculcate or convert others into their religious practice is called a proselytizer. After I had received several of those cards, I thought it would be interesting if I had prepared my own card, so I could share my own beliefs. My response card would be this:
I believe that Jesus was in fact a real person and he was considered insane, even by the standards of people 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, people like Jesus are admitted to mental institutions instead of being nailed to a cross. Or they manage to get a small group of followers and eventually attract law enforcement officials. Being Jesus or being like Jesus has proven to be a disastrous career choice, so I am unclear as to why so many people hold him in high regard. If flirting with danger is what grabs your attention, then worship an astronaut or a firefighter.
The first belief of mine I want to cover is one involving war. Back in World War II, the use of the atomic bomb was justified due to how many soldiers’ lives could be saved. I completely agree with that justification, since the Japanese military had a perverse notion of human rights. Thus, lives were saved in at least two groups: American and Japanese soldiers. There was also a third group that was saved and those were Japanese civilians. Consider this quote by Eugene Wigner:
“that it was not necessary to continue the work on the bomb, but the government was not of that opinion. General Groves also wanted to continue and he said that we could use it against the Japanese and it would shorten the war.
We then proposed to demonstrate the bomb in the presence of some Japanese scientists and military leaders. Groves once again disagreed and said that we should demonstrate it on a city. And that is what happened, but we were against it and were quite unhappy. We thought that many Japanese lives could have been saved if the bomb had been demonstrated on an uninhabited territory. But, apparently, I must admit, and I will admit, we were probably mistaken. Much later, I read in a book the demonstrations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have saved many, many Japanese lives. Since I thought that a demonstration over an uninhabited territory in the presence of Japanese scientists and politicians could have sufficed, I went around and asked my Japanese friends about it. And with one exception, they said, ‘No, such a demonstration would have had no effect on the Emperor.’ According to all my Japanese friends, with one exception, ‘It would not have had the same effect; it was very good that you demonstrated it this way.’ Maybe that was the way to do it, but I did not think so at that time. Of course, they knew the Japanese politicians, the Japanese Emperor, and the Japanese military leaders much better than we did. But I was very surprised. They thought that many Japanese lives were saved this way even though it led to the extinction of many Japanese lives. Apparently General Groves was right and the bomb had to be demonstrated the way it was.”
What I am able to derive from the original use of the atomic bomb was that it was a device used to save lives. Had the bombs not been dropped, the U.S. military was planning a land invasion of Japan (X-Day), which would have been very expensive in the currency of human life. The question that concerns me is: why does the U.S. military still conduct land invasions in foreign nations when we could use atomic weapons to save lives? In my opinion, no U.S. soldiers should be dying in foreign nations, because they should not be there. What is the purpose of satellites with high resolution imaging capabilities, drones, fighter jets, and missiles? If the original justification of severely bombing an enemy nation was to save lives, why do we no longer maintain this practice?
This is my belief about war: foot soldiers should not exist. They no longer serve any purpose other than to die. Those lives can be saved by exclusively using fighter jets and nuclear weapons. I do want to point out that I am not advocating the use of high yield nuclear weapons, since they can lead to environmental disasters and take the lives of too many uninvolved civilians. I am advocating very low yield nuclear weapons that could destroy an underground bunker or no more than a few buildings. Once an enemy is pinpointed, a low yield nuclear weapon would be sufficient to solve the problem.
I do not consider my solution of saving lives by using low yield nuclear weapons to be ideal or even satisfactory. It’s all I can think of to kill the enemy without losing a single American life in the process. An ideal solution would be a miniature remote controlled explosive that would fly up the nose of the enemy and detonate near the brain.
The second belief of mine I want to cover is one involving the simulation of the human brain on a non-biological substrate, or a computer. Currently, organisms with brains gather information about their environment and turn it into knowledge; that is one of the functions of a brain. The size of the brain relative to the size of the body seems to determine how long the knowledge is retained and how it is processed. I am making the assumption that if a brain were simulated on a computer, then it would retain and process knowledge in an identical manner to that of a biological brain. In other words, it would have to access information just as slowly as a regular person, but recognize faces just as fast as a regular person. It would not be able to act like the computer Watson on the TV show Jeopardy!, which defeated current human champions by its blazing fast access to Wikipedia and other material.
My belief concerning the simulation of a human brain on a computer is that it could help solve crimes and improve the performance of actors (in a way). There may be other benefits, but those are the two I immediately thought of.
How could brain simulation help solve crimes? By running simulations! The simulations would not be based on an arbitrary brain, but instead based on an actual brain (some individual). To make something clear: the point of this is to not induce consciousness in a computer but to do things with a human that could not be done otherwise. One might question my angle of approach and wonder why I don’t mention cloning. Well, all cloning does is make another organism with the same DNA, but NOT the same experiences. Plus, cloning is wasteful; it uses a lot of raw material.
Once a person’s mind is transferred into a computer, I believe it would impossible for them to keep secrets. By the year 2050, I believe that there will no longer be any need for judges, juries and lawyers to determine guilt or innocence. I don’t like how far things may go with this type of technology, because of what I am able to think of. I can envision this: it may one day be mandatory for all people to update their simulated brains on a regular basis, such as once per day. Software would scan each upload for criminal behavior and sentencing would probably happen within a few minutes. And it may not even be necessary to make it mandatory; it may happen against the will of future people. Of course, people will get used to it and there will be new problems to replace the old problems.
As for actors, I sometimes wonder how genuine their acting is due to the fact that they don’t often see what we see. The current highest grossing Hollywood (non-cerebral) movies generously cast computer animated actors which delight the crowds but are invisible to the biological actors. How would someone really behave around The Incredible Hulk, Optimus Prime, or Superman? We could find out by simulating the minds of biological actors in a computer alongside the digital actors. In fact, the use of real people in high grossing movies isn’t necessary anyway, since the crowds go to watch the computer, not the live actors. A simulated, and more authentic, version of the live actors could be used. But who would be performing? In the event of a movie using a simulated version of an actor, does one list that actor as part of the cast? Can that actor win awards? Why would a simulated version of an actor be more authentic than the real version? I’m not trying to diminish the value of actors, but I am trying to point out that we care greatly about things that are not real, so if the actors are not real, then why would it matter?
The third belief I want to cover is insurance. I believe that insurance should not exist and that taxation should be used to handle those problems “covered” by insurance. I put covered in quotation marks because one is not actually covered by insurance; there is always something more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more. Do you get the idea? THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE. That should settle it. Insurance does not cover a fucking thing in the form of the premium because one must pay beyond it to get help and then get penalized when a claim is made, which is the purpose of insurance.
I can’t state this any more clearly: the purpose of insurance is to make a claim.
Why, when one makes a claim, does the premium increase? Why does one have a deductible? Why does insurance cost MORE than the premium? Insurance, in my opinion, is a very bad deal. Furthermore, car insurance does not ensure the integrity of one’s car, health insurance does not ensure one’s health and life insurance does not ensure one’s life. There is only one way I can come to terms with insurance. It is like breathing. The purpose of breathing is to keep one alive, but oxygen is acidic, and thus breathing contributes to the aging process. So, insurance does provide one with some protection, but will ultimately kill (by bankruptcy) if used too much. If I follow this line of reasoning, then breathing must also be a bad deal. I contend that it is, since it ultimately causes harm.
One of the things that bothers me about insurance is that a large portion of the money I (and everyone else) pays is not used for its purpose of fixing problems, but for paying employees. And those employees are paid a lot of money. One of my insurance agents lives in a large house, which implies premiums are being used for other purposes. This fact explains why there is a deductible and why premiums increase when a claim is made. I believe that all of the money paid towards premiums should be collected in a pot (digital, of course) and untouchable unless it is used to handle a claim. There should be no employees. It should be taught early in life that anyone making a false claim will be executed without a trial, within 5 minutes. (Remember – these are beliefs and therefore not subject to ratiocination.)
Now that I am finished with my opinion of car insurance, I want to expound how I feel about health insurance. I am living in a time where U.S. citizens are required by law to have health insurance, an insurance that does not ensure health. It’s ultimately a cash grab and I can easily show that this is true. If the lawmakers were concerned with the health of the citizens, then they would write and pass laws that did as much as possible to keep them out of hospitals. A concerned and educated lawmaker would realize that poor diet, pollution and lack of exercise are the chief reasons for hospitalization other than old age. The immediate problem with improving the diet of U.S. citizens is that it would cause the loss of many jobs and much tax money, since it would involve an end to fast food, soda, and other pleasure foods. Eventually, new jobs and industries would replace those that were extirpated, in the form of new curriculums in schools, fast food restaurants that exclusively offer real food (the kind that bacteria will also eat) and machines that offer bottled water and protein drinks. Why don’t lawmakers just make it illegal to advertize, manufacture and sell soda? That would be more effective at making people healthier than requiring them to have health insurance, but it would financially hurt a lot of people, as well as the government itself, due to a considerable loss of tax money. What’s more important: money or people? If you agree that people are more important than money, then you should be able to see that directly attacking the cause of health problems is more important than allowing those problems to form in the first place. If you agree that money is more important than people, then you should be able to see that it is not important to directly attack the cause of health problems, but to pay for them as they occur.
I view pollution as something similar to slavery, in the sense that both are related to energy production and are also not desirable. One of the problems with energy is that there is no way to get something for nothing; there will always be something undesirable involved as long as humans require energy. If the lawmakers were concerned with our health, then any industrial process that ejects toxic chemicals into the environment would be made illegal. But a great many jobs would be lost and we would lose much (or all) of our technology and only the Luddites would truly be happy. One way to cope with the reality of our technology is that having it, again, is like breathing. Breathing is something that keeps us alive but slowly kills us in the process. Likewise, when something like a smartphone is constructed out of the environment (that’s where it comes from – the materials on the Earth), the environment is slowly killed, due to the waste products. (I will admit that my analogy is not logically consistent in this case because the environment does not need technology in order to exist.) Here is where my belief comes in view: I believe that the pollutants, from industrial processes that produce technology and the uses of technology, will one day be utilized to provide energy. Those pollutants will themselves produce further pollutants and that will be a challenge for people in the far future. Once we exclusively get to the lowest (but not the lowest possible) pollutant, which are neutrons, we will hopefully have a way to corral them (other than lead or water). The great challenge with neutrons is that they do not respond to magnetic fields, since they are not charged particles. Controlling neutrons is one of the greatest technological challenges that I know of. The tentative, gee-whiz name for such control is called “femtotechnology” and has been written about in some science fiction novels.
I view exercise as something similar to writing, in the sense that both can be maintained primarily through habit. I am an unusual human being because I exercise. I learned this during my recovery from lung surgery when I was told that my quick recovery was due to my regular exercise. I was able to glean from the nurses and the therapist I didn’t need that most people don’t exercise. One thing I find curious about some of the notions’ of other people is that I enjoy exercise. It takes up a lot of my time, always having to go to the gym and taking long walks. Exercise also involves quite a bit of pain, but not the real kind of pain, like being stabbed. There are definitely two different kinds of physical pain: the kind that makes you stronger and the kind that makes you weaker. I suppose that some people can’t tell one from the other and that’s why they don’t exercise. If lawmakers were concerned with our health, then they would require us to have gym memberships, rather than health insurance.
The fourth belief I want to cover is related to health insurance. I do believe that it is possible for there to be equality of health care. This belief is based on my observation that people, irrespective of income, may use the same streets, roads and highways. How does this happen? How can someone that makes $20,000 a year drive on the same streets as someone that makes $200,000 a year? The reason why there is an equality of road access is because taxes handle the construction of roads (with the exception of toll roads). This implies to me that transportation is more important to the lawmakers than the health of the citizens. It is fascinating to me that we have equality of road access but not equality of health care.
The fifth belief I want to cover is that of the potential types of human mind. While astrology and psychology propound numerous personality types, I contend that there are just two: primitives and moderns. Primitives are people that believe in religion, astrology and have the ability to accept conspiracy theories. Moderns are people that accept evolution, quantum mechanics and relativity as facts. I am using the Latin basis for the word primitive, which is “at first”. Primitive people cling to the first explanations, the first lines of thought and reject anything that comes later. Primitive people also reject anything that they can’t conceive as possible, such as the moon landing or the holocaust. It is possible for primitive people to masquerade as moderns, since the basis for disease is no longer called The Germ Theory of Disease. Germs or microbes (which are formally called “pathogens”) are nowadays accepted as real things, but they were once met with resistance. I consider myself to be a modern since I accept evolution as a fact and make attempts to understand quantum mechanics and relativity, since they are the basis for all – big and small.
The sixth belief I want to cover is the issue of morality or ethics. I believe that morality is irrelevant to whether one is a primitive or a modern. One can be deeply religious and be either ethical or unethical. As an example, a deeply religious person, such as a priest, can have sexual relations with a boy, which is considered unethical. Likewise, one can ignore religion and be either ethical or unethical. The only deciding factor as to whether one is ethical or unethical is behavior. In other words, you can’t know if someone is unethical unless they are caught doing something unethical. And even so, the true status of ethical behavior is not static, but changes with time and culture. It is not possible to define a behavior as ethical or unethical for all time periods and all cultures.
The seventh belief involves the nature of the universe and artificial intelligence. The universe has been around long enough for me to reach some conclusions based on the observations of others. I will state this and then explain: The universe is a process that organizes simpler units into less simple ones and artificial intelligence, part of that process, is a naturally occurring phenomenon.
When the universe was very young, it was yet too hot for quarks to exist. As the universe expanded and became cooler, quarks roamed freely. As the universe cooled even more, all the quarks combined into more complicated units called hadrons; the universe became hadronized. The hadrons then combined and formed more complicated units known as nuclei. After 380,000 years of this dense plasma, the universe cooled enough for electrons to join the nuclei and form atoms. With the electrons locked into atoms, the photons were free to disperse into what we call visible light. We can’t see the universe from the period of its birth until the age of 380,000 years because the photons were too busy playing with electrons; for the same reason we can’t see directly into the core of the sun in visible light. Once the atoms were formed, they collected together into large clumps and started getting a little too comfortable with each other. It was a time of frenzied fondling and furious frolicking, this time of star formation. Oh yes, the atoms had their fun and combined together to make bigger atoms. It wasn’t until the most violent of all ejaculations, the supernovae, the ultimate blasting of matter, minus the hip thrusting, of course, that the gamut of atoms were formed. So we have gone from quarks to nuclei to atoms to stars to all naturally occurring atoms.
Once the stars had ejaculated their heavy atoms, the raw material existed for dust to start clumping. Simple particles of dust led to much less simpler particles known as planets. Bear in mind that a planet can be broken down into a collection of quarks, so the notion of going in a direction from simple to less simple is pumping along quite all right. A planet was a wanderer to the Greeks but to me it’s a depository for heavy elements. When heavy elements start hanging out together in low gravity, they can form compounds, such as water, amino acids, nucleotides and lipids. Some of the compounds formed are organic, which build more complicated structures known as prokaryotes. Prokaryotes are single celled organisms without a membrane bound nucleus and are kind of like ersatz life, since they don’t lead to more complicated life (though they aid it). Once the eukaryotes, the true cells, sprang to life, the stage was set for organs and skeletons! So we have come from quarks to nuclei to atoms to stars to heavy atoms to planets to compounds to prokaryotes to eukaryotes to invertebrates to vertebrates. There is one small thing that troubles me and that is the implication that vertebrates are more advanced than invertebrates. While it is true that vertebrates are more intelligent than invertebrates, it is only so far that we have observed. I don’t personally see any reason why intelligence and an endoskeleton must exclusively coincide.
The entire process that led from quarks to intelligent vertebrates involved the four fundamental forces, which are the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetism and gravity. Changes in pressure and temperature, which are caused by gravity, played a role as well. Humans are part of the universe, a result of forces, as is everything else. We currently have ersatz artificial intelligence because no AI software is self-aware and has the ability to make things. True artificial intelligence would be conversationally indistinguishable from another human and would have the ability to make another level of artificial intelligence. I contend that a true AI would consider itself alive. What then, would it consider artificial? It’s important to keep in mind the notion of deconstruction; no matter what something is it can be broken down into quarks. Humans and stars and any conceivable AI are all fundamentally the same.
In order for AI to not be natural, it would need to be made of material that cannot be found in the universe. No matter how advanced AI becomes, it would still face the same limitations that humans face, the limitation of only having access to the matter that the universe has made. It’s important to understand that humans can’t actually make new matter; we can only work with the protons, neutrons and electrons that have been around since the beginning. We are certainly allowed to rearrange the nuclear matter but that is only a rearrangement. Imagine a house full of furniture parts. They are strewn about rather haphazardly. It’s not possible to make new furniture parts unless those that already exist are broken down and rearranged. One could choose to make furniture out of the parts they found in the house or to break down the parts and make new parts, thus resulting in even more exotic furniture. No matter what furniture the interior decorator chooses to make, he or she is bound by the material at hand and can only get new material by rearranging what already exists. This is the point I’m trying to make about matter. All the matter we have access to has come to us from the big bang and has been rearranged (or transformed) by stars. This is the sole reason why I contend that AI is natural. Another good example is a fighter jet. It is entirely made of naturally occurring matter that has been rearranged into a configuration that did not occur naturally. I will agree that the configuration of matter known as a fighter jet is unnatural, but only the configuration. The matter of which the fighter jet is constructed originated in the big bang and thus is part of the universe and thus is natural.
Some people call something unnatural if it is incapable of coming into being without human intervention. I can agree with this, provided it is understood that it is only the arrangement or configuration of matter that is unnatural and not the actual matter itself. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a future history beyond that of humans. My knowledge stops here, with us. It does seem reasonable to assume that the process of the (a) universe is something like this:
QUARKS --> NUCLEI --> ATOMS --> STARS --> HEAVY ATOMS --> PLANETS --> PROKARYOTES --> EUKARYOTES --> INVERTEBRATES --> VERTEBRATES --> NATURAL INTELLIGENCE --> ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE --> BLENDED INTELLIGENCE --> ?
Blended intelligence would simply be a combination of humans and artificial intelligence. A blended life form would have greater access to the electromagnetic spectrum, would hear infrasound and ultrasound, and be aware of physical events outside the range of sensitivity to natural intelligence. A blended life form would know all the other blended life forms and would never need to use one to gather information from another. All communication would be direct. Blended life forms would know everything about the health of their bodies at all times and have the convenience of instant self-repair of any malady. I do not believe that a blended life form would be exempt from unhappiness and boredom; new problems would creep in to replace the old ones. Also, the quality of being a blended life form would be the status quo and thus an individual in that situation could conceive of something better. However, even the lowest status blended life form would have a much higher degree of comfort and power than even that of the wealthiest natural intelligence human.
What is the? after Blended Intelligence? I’ve thought about this for many years and it seems to me that the next level of intelligence would require a loss of individuality. Just like a human is a collection of cells, a very high level of intelligence could potentially be a collection of humans. Would loss of individuality even be a problem? Would those experiencing it even be aware of it? What about those born into it? The problem is that we’re not there and I just don’t know. I can extrapolate such a society based on certain aspects of our own. Consider the cell phone and that such a device allows anyone with your number to contact you at any time. The cell phone thus allows others to intrude (a strong word, but properly descriptive) into your free time, time which is private to you. Even as little as 200 years ago, no human being alive experienced anything like that. There was no way to contact another human other than sending a letter or making a personal appearance. But we have adapted. I don’t see anything wrong or disturbing about getting texts or calls at various times of the day, in varying degrees of importance. It’s just normal. My point is that we have a loss of guaranteed privacy, since it is possible, through our communication devices, to be contacted (or summoned) at any time. This loss is probably not seen as a loss by those born into it, but simply as the status quo. I have the interesting experience of existing in a time when cell phones are both unknown and ubiquitous. I was born in 1976 and the first cell phone call was made in 1982. I did not actually own a cell phone until the year 2004 and wasn’t even aware that cell phones existed when I was growing up in the 1980s.
Once humans start to receive even more penetrating intrusions into their free time, they will adapt to them and consider them normal. This is why I wonder if a loss of individuality will even be a problem and the ? will not be something to fear, anymore than a cell phone is something to fear.