AI and Transhumanism

I was listening to Glenn Beck the other day, and the discussion revolved around AI, some of its dangers, and transhumanism. For those who don’t know, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, or sentient computers. Basically, it is reached the moment when computers can become self-aware. This is also tied to a desire for a super-intelligent AI. We already have computers that can beat any human in chess or other specific intellectual pursuits. Super intelligent AI is just smarter than humans in every field. And it’s self-aware.

Transhumanism refers to the merging of man and machine. Basically, our technology may reach the point where everyday humans can be become cyborgs to enhance specific abilities. You want increased memory? We can make that happen: just merge a memory chip or two to the human brain. And then there’s the Internet. You, as a transhuman (which means ‘beyond human’) can hook-up and upload thoughts or downloads thoughts to/from the Internet. Sounds pretty freaky. But we are closer to this than many people realize. And Glenn Beck, in his usual charming way, was pointing out some of the dangers of such: why would a super-intelligent machine that was self-aware want to remain in a subservient position? And once the Internet is self-aware, it is almost impossible to destroy; it’ll be able to hide in virtually anything—our smart refrigerator, you name it. And if we try to do anything about it, what happens when it just decides to shut down our power grid or anything else we might need to survive?

Those are some of the issues Glenn discussed. I’ve got one more. Think about the potential danger of both of these concepts together: a super-intelligent AI and a transhuman link-up. Is it not conceivable that the AI could use the link-up with the transhuman and just take him/her over, so that he/she becomes the AI’s slave? Basically, it is demonic possession with a super-intelligent AI instead of a demon. How will we be able to fix that? And what happens when all the transhumans turn on the rest of us poor, weaker normal humans who didn’t go through the upgrade? We get wiped out, and the transhumans become permanent slaves of a ‘higher power’.

Of course, all of this depends on whether or not we can crack AI. I’ve never supported the notion that AI is achievable. Is it possible? Well, yeah, maybe. But I’ve always been partial to the religious notion that consciousness is a property of an immaterial soul and therefore, beyond the reach of human science and technology. But I’m not foolish enough to think I ‘know’ that to be the case. Other far more influential people are warning about AI and transhumanism—people who actually have Ph.D’s or are the CEO’s of important companies. This is just my two cents on the subject.

Safe Spaces

I’ve addressed this topic before, so I may be repeating myself. Oh well.

There has been much tadoo about safe spaces of late. Conservative speakers go to college campuses and are shut down by a student body that is afraid of being “triggered.” The students believe they are in a safe space and that justifies banning such speakers from speaking so as to keep the students from entertaining arguments that might be construed as “micro-aggressions” or something similar.

Is there something to this? Are college students entitled to safe spaces?

Yes and no.

Let’s start by first answering the question: What is a safe space? I believe the term has its origins in psychological circles. As I never studied psychology, my definition might be off a bit. Anyway, in my view, a safe space is a space where one can talk openly without judgement or condemnation. In such a space, one should feel secure from threatening tones, language, and criticism. These spaces exist in order to help its user unload uncomfortable or even painful emotional experiences.

Three examples of safe spaces are as follows: a therapy session with a trained psychologist, the Catholic Confessional (originally instituted 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ—yeah, Jesus beat the psychiatrists to the punch by twenty centuries), and even (to a limited degree) a consoling conversation with a caring friend. What is important to realize when noting these examples is the fact that each one involves a kind of slowing down or stepping out of the ‘river of life.’ You step out of life to take a look at life and try to derive some benefit from it. That is, it is not a type of ordinary living. A safe space is something extraordinary. You don’t get to live your entire life in a safe space. That is neither healthy nor wise.

The following are NOT safe spaces: a college campus (most decidedly not), one’s place of employment, and just life in general. Mistaking one of these for a safe space inevitably leads to problems. At a college campus, for example, the students are supposed to be challenged by new ideas and critical thoughts. They aren’t supposed to be pampered. A safe space allows one to recharge; it is not a lifestyle.

Still … I think increasing access to safe spaces may be therapeutic for most, if not all people. Although it is unfeasible to go to Confession twenty-four or even sixteen hours a day, and it is equally unfeasible to attend frequent day-long therapy sessions, I think being open to “safe-space-like” conversation with friends should be available as much as possible. But with friends, only. Friends are supposed to be used as supports; discussing problems with friends is what they are there for. At least, good friends, anyway. I think that kind of attitude and approach is an important part of Christianity. Having friends to talk to can be very beneficial.

Regardless, there comes a point where the conversation must stop and the trials of life must be faced. In the end, safe spaces are a bonus; they are not a given.

Homophobia and Homosexuality

I hate the word “homophobia.” Why? Because it is a recourse to an insult to win an argument. I believe arguments should be won on the merits not by twisting language into pretzels. Basically, the word “homophobia,” when taken apart means “fear of homosexuals.” Why would someone be afraid of homosexuals? I read on Facebook once that homophobic men are afraid of homosexuals because they are afraid of being raped. The analogy used in the post was how women might be afraid of men because the men are capable of using force to gratify their sexual desires. So men will be afraid of other men because those men will have the strength to gratify their sexual desires against the former men. In my opinion, that misses the counter-argument/s entirely. Not to be macho or anything, but I’m 6’3”, 250 lbs., and I have a black belt. I don’t get intimidated by other men easily. I’m not afraid of homosexuals.

Anyway, I can’t speak for other Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) sects, but by my understanding the Catholic Church is not opposed to individuals being homosexual, they are opposed to the homosexual act. That may not be fair—expecting homosexuals to go through life without ever having homosexual sex—but that’s the position of the church as I understand it. I don’t necessarily endorse that position, but I believe the Church should be represented fairly in discussions like this.

When dealing with the homosexual issue, there seem to be two different ways of approaching it. One, is the intellectual argument. For example, if one claims that homosexuality is some sort of biological dysfunction since there is an obvious function of the human reproductive system that is not met by a homosexual reproductive system, one is making an intellectual argument. There are other relevant intellectual arguments as well—like the effect on the family in society, etc… Anyway, these arguments are characterized by an appeal to some kind of logical, rational discourse. They are usually cold and impersonal. Alternatively, there is the emotional argument. In the case of the homosexual this is, basically, this is my friend; he’s a homosexual; and if you are going to get on his case about that, you are going to tick me off as well because I have accepted him as he is and I still love him as a friend.

For many years, psychiatrists and psychologists considered homosexuality a form of mental illness. Nowadays, most of them have reversed that opinion. I am neither a psychiatrist nor am I a psychologist so I don’t know which opinion to endorse officially. My own views have changed with time. When I was young, I agreed with the Catholic Church. Then, one day I saw on TV a homosexual man grieving for his partner who was dying from AIDS and I realized he truly did love his partner, and my position on homosexuality and homosexual marriage softened. I became a quiet supporter of the movement. Then, there was the transgender movement and the demands for public access to restrooms and showers by members of the opposite sex. Upon reflection, I’ve decided that I think transgenderism is a form of mental illness. Once I came to that conclusion, I began to rethink my conclusions regarding homosexuality; I am currently up in the air about that. However, before parting, I will point out that if you are getting all upset by labeling homosexuality a mental illness (which I am not sure is the correct move anyway), the next logical question to ask is: what do you have against those with a mental illness? It’s not like mental illness is their fault (although in my case, mine—if it is that—is: but mine is an unusual case and that’s a long story). Those who are mentally ill deserve respect and acceptance, and, indeed, love, too.

Safe Spaces In The Modern Age

Lately, I’ve heard a lot about “Safe Spaces” in the news. Universities are establishing Safe Spaces” for their students. Their students, apparently, think they have the right to be protected from all things that might impinge upon their views and make them feel uncomfortable. If anything makes them uncomfortable and violates their “Safe Space,” they say that they feel “triggered.” And being “triggered” is bad. Of course, it is usually the conservative viewpoint that is the source of this “triggering” and violation of a “Safe Space,” so their answer is to shut down the free speech of conservatives on their campus.

I used to think, with little reflection on my part, all the “Safe Space” stuff and talk of “triggers” was silly and stupid.

Then, recently, I ran across it in its proper place. As readers of this blog know, I’m … okay, I’m totally insane. I believe I’m the antichrist, etc… etc… As a result, I see a psychiatrist. I also recently started attending a group meeting for individuals suffering from mental illness: basically, group therapy, almost—lacking only the therapist. It was at the latter that I first heard people talking about “Safe Spaces” and “Triggers” in a venue that makes sense. A distinction must be made between a university and a therapy session. The therapy session (and the close approximation which I attend) is, and deserves to be, a Safe Space. Confidentiality is maintained. Deeply personal issues are discussed and dealt with. Emotional arguments are avoided. And that’s all great and fine … for a therapy session. Not a lecture, or a talk, or any kind of presentation, especially at a university which is supposed to be a bastion of free speech and the free exchange of ideas.

There are other “Safe Spaces” which I feel obliged to mention. First, there’s the psychiatrist appointment. I’ve had plenty of those. What gets discussed there, stays there. And I’m not going to confuse a psychiatric appointment with a college lecture.

Here’s another “Safe Space” which I think many people have forgotten about: The Confessional. This is a Catholic Sacrament (I don’t know if any other religions have this or anything like it). Here, the Christian can find absolution for their sins. They can talk about anything they are feeling guilty about under the Seal of the Confessional, so that confidentiality is maintained. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth instituted the first “Safe Space” two thousand years ago, in a proper venue long before any psychologist or psychiatrist existed, let alone thought it up. (Yeah, Jesus!)

And one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ “Safe Space” is privacy. What is discussed therein is between the priest, the sinner, and God. It is not regurgitated for everyone else. It is held separate and distinct from the rest of your life. You find forgiveness and move on. And you don’t expect others to barge in on your Confession; it doesn’t belong in the public sphere where the free exchange of ideas should reign.

Those are the only “Safe Spaces” I can think of: Therapy Sessions, Group Therapy, Psychiatric Appointments, and The Sacrament of Confession. There may be a few others, but probably not many. The point is, they are separate from the rest of your life, they are like escape valves for emotional pressure. They are beneficial and good, but it is unrealistic to expect the rest of your life to operate under the same rules as these.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this post.

Absolutes and the Domain of Reality

What is the nature of Reality? Simple enough question. But not a simple answer. I think I’ve finally gained an insight into what many non-absolutists contend. Well, obviously, they contend that Reality is not Absolute. And from this claim come many errors concerning the nature of truth (truth not Truth). I’ll probably butcher the bulk of this as I haven’t studied philosophy in almost 25 years.

A rock is not Absolute. I get that. Still, let’s look at it a number of different ways. Platonically, there is a rock as an object and a collection of properties that it possesses. The rock is termed a rock because it participates in the Form of Rockness. It is an instance of that transcendental Form which is shared by all rocks (see modern Object Oriented Programming which, in its explanation of Objects is strikingly similar to Plato—in a very general way). Likewise, the properties of the rock are instances of the Forms of those properties. And so on. This makes a simple rock a very complicated object. Perhaps, too complicated. It might be wise to discard Plato and use Occam’s Razor (or is it Ockam’s) to shave all the Forms as someone famous once suggested (I forget who … sorry).

Then, there is Aristotle. The rock consists of a substance in which the properties of said rock adhere. The properties are real. The rock is real. But what the heck is a substance (in an Aristotelian sense). It can’t have any properties (so, good luck imagining it), and yet it is the glue that holds all the properties of the object together.

Nowadays, the metaphysics of today (a non-absolutist metaphysics) has moved beyond this. Now, we differentiate between the property and its referent, i.e. the actual color white on my computer screen and the word (or sign) ‘white’ by which I refer to it. The word ‘white’ is necessarily less than the actual property. In someone important’s words (possibly G.K. Chesterton): no sign of reality exhausts the reality of its referent. There is always more to reality than there is to what we use to refer to it. Hence, how can any combination of signs be absolute? They will always be an inadequate reference to Reality.

True, they will be inadequate for a complete description of Reality, but is a complete description required to obtain truth? I say, no. A rock is not absolute, but whoever claimed it was? Is it not possible that our ‘signs’ are well-understood partial slices of Reality? Cannot these slices be arranged in simple, yet certain, truthful relationships (this can get dicey as the term Absolute might have different possible meanings: for now I mean by the term something that is necessarily true)? “Red is a color.” That seems to be, at first blush, necessarily true. “1 + 1 = 2” Again, necessarily true … as is all mathematics and logic. But my personal favorite is this, which is very dangerous to deny: “I know I am not omniscient.”

Anyway, I guess my point … um, well … I think I forgot my point. My bad. Here goes, anyway. It was something like: claims that Reality is not Absolute do not imply that there is no truth. Truth has a different domain than Reality. Truth is a property of statements made by sentient things and how they stand in relation to Reality (Basically, the Correspondence Theory of Truth). Mars, a piece of Reality, is not true. Even if one claims that Mars is just a flux of particles, or better yet, just a pile of quantum goo, you still haven’t eliminated truth because your statements are only understood because they are conceived to be true. And if you expand the domain of the term “Reality” to include the statements made, then those statements, as parts of Reality, are examples of truthful statements and possibly (in mathematics, etc …) absolutely truthful statements.

Anyway, “1+1=2” and “I am not omniscient.” Denials of such claims just seem stupid to me, but I’m too tired to quarrel with people over such things anymore. I don’t have the energy. And with that, I bid you good night.

Transgenderism and Lycanthropy

I’ve been listening to the transgender-bathroom debate over the last couple of weeks. In light of that ongoing discussion, I have a question. Realize, of course, that I don’t have any training in either psychology or psychiatry, and I even have been diagnosed with a mental disorder myself. So, don’t take what I say below as gospel; I just have a question. I just want information. And I’m being sincere here. If there is a psychologist or a psychiatrist with the answer to my question, please feel free to fill me in.

We’re supposed to accept Transgenderism as normal, as just another equally valid state of being on the human “gender spectrum.” The Left argues that gender is a fluid concept. There are no such sharp distinctions in nature. I think that’s their argument. It strikes me as kind of bizarre, but that is how I understand it at this point in time. My problem is this: Can’t you make the same argument with respect to humans and animals? Or any other living organism?

Basically, the question I am asking is: What is the difference between Transgenderism and Clinical Lycanthropy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_lycanthropy )? In one, a man (or woman) believes he is a woman (or man). In the other, a man (or woman) believes he (or she) is a wolf. One is regarded as the new normal. The other is regarded as a mental illness. I’m inclined to think that both should be regarded as a mental illness. But like I said, I don’t have any university credentials in this field.

Still, I think I’m right. And I invite a professional from the mental health field to explain to me where I’m going wrong.

Sex and Safety (The Mathematics of Condom Use—to be Geeky)

Let me preface this entry by saying I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic schools and I attended Catholic Mass for most, if not all, of my formative years. It is the position of the Catholic Church that sex outside of marriage is a sin. I believed that all the way up until my first day at college. Then, I pathetically crumbled under peer pressure.

Anyway, I just want to point out a few things that somebody should.

Is there such a thing as safe sex? I would say, no. There is only safer sex.

Let’s deal with condoms. Last time I checked the stat, condoms had a 10% failure rate. Or, a 90% success rate. Which seems like a good thing and an excellent precaution to take before having sex. However, let’s not kid ourselves: Alone, condoms hardly provide a silver bullet of protection. A 10% failure rate means that condoms will fail once every ten times they are used. The problem is that sex is not something you do just once and never again. The sexually active have sex repeatedly.

Assuming you are using condoms in your relationship, a reasonable estimate of the frequency of sex is probably about three times per week. If we allow one extra act of copulation over a three week period that means after three weeks a couple will have had sex 10 times and, with the failure rate of 1 in 10, that means the couple will have their first statistically guaranteed condom failure within that time period.  Now, how dangerous is this?

The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days. We’ll be generous and say 30 days. Now, a woman is—I’ve forgotten the correct word—capable of being impregnated for a (we’ll say) 3 day period over these thirty days. So, if a woman has sex on a random day, there is a 1 in 10 chance that she will be impregnated. So, if there is one condom failure every three weeks resulting in a single random impregnation attempt, there is a 1 in 10 chance that the woman will be impregnated after three weeks of a sexually active relationship. The math here is pretty simple: from here, it is apparent that after 30 weeks, the condom will fail 10 times. As the chance of impregnation is 1 in 10, the chance the woman is impregnated after 30 week is 10 in 10, or 100%.

Let me repeat that: if a couple only uses condoms and they have sex three times a week every week, by the time week thirty rolls around, the woman is statistically guaranteed to become pregnant. It’s possible my stats are off (I never took statistics, but this is pretty basic math … all 1 in 10’s and stuff), but I’ve gone over this a couple times. My math appears accurate to me.

That’s pregnancy. Thirty weeks (or approximately seven months).

As for disease, it all depends on the degree to which an exposure occurs with every failure. Perhaps a failed condom usage still provides better protection than no condom at all (for that one time—obviously, for the nine times it works, it is better protection). I don’t know. What I do know is that after three weeks there will be some, at least limited, exposure … statistically speaking.

So what does all this mean? Particularly with how we educate the young regarding sex?

I think an ABC approach is probably the best. Actually, I just looked it up: ABC is Abstinence, Be Faithful, and use a Condom. I originally thought the ‘B’ meant Birth Control, not Be Faithful. Anyhow, given the above, condoms alone aren’t good enough. You should probably throw in other birth control measures like the pill (I think they are actually assumed in the ABC approach, but I wanted stipulate that with certainty). Of course, some people have moral problems with that (as well as condoms, or even sex in general), but I’m not going to explore that topic here. I was only interested in discussing the “mathematics of condom usage.”

Somebody should. It’s not safe sex; it’s safer sex. And that is an important distinction to make, because over time your odds get progressively worse. Seven months. That’s how much time you buy.