Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Robot Passover

Here's a video which seems doubly-appropriate because it came to my attention at Passover time, and when we've been discussing robots and artificial intelligence in class. So I wish a happy Passover to all who celebrate it - human or not!

HT Thoughts In A Haystack

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is a Soul?

I have never really felt like I understood what exactly people meant when they said soul. If I had to define it I would say that your soul is just your internal sense of self, your own sense of who you are or the you that you are in your head. Dictionary.com defines a soul in many different ways, but here are the ways that I find the most relevant.
1.the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.
2. the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.
3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased person: He feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.
4. the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments.
5. a human being; person.
I think these definitions help to clarify my own position. A soul is not your human body, but your mental existence. It your sense of individuality, humanity and self. Some of the definitions include ideas about the afterlife and assume that your essence or soul will survive your body's death. In regards to robots and their potential rights I can image a robot with the self awareness and personality that would make me think that it does have a soul and deserves rights. However I don't know that I would be able to believe that a man made being's essence or soul would live on after it was destroyed or shut down. If a robot can't have a soul that lives on after system shutdown then presumably we don't have to worry about robot conversion. If we ever do reach I time when robots are given rights and recognized as sentient I think that it may bring about questioning of the widely held belief in life after death. After all, if robots can seem human to people, but we deny that they can have some sort of afterlife what makes us so sure that we will have an afterlife?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If we look within our own human history alot of groups have fought to gain rights. Whether it be for their religion, sex, race, or ethnicity all people want is to be treated equally. We humans understand this human want to gain equality but what if things/objects wanted to gain equal rights, such as animals, plants, and the earth? We have humans who are fighting for the fair treatment of animals and the planet, but we never look at this as a form of gaining equality. Is equality the same as fair treatment?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Our class discussion today put me in mind of Star Trek: Voyager and the character Seven-of-Nine. Is she human? She was as a child, but then assimilation into the Borg did something to her that causes her to function in many "automated" ways that are sort of Vulcan-like and Data-like at the same time. Does she have a soul? How might it have been affected by the Borg?

Artificial Intelligence & Racism

After discussing the idea of artificial intelligence, I was left with a lot more questions.

(I’ll call them robots for the sake of space in this blog posting.)

Do robots have rights? Would we add constitutional amendments guaranteeing them rights? Would it take years for robots to gain equal rights like it did for African-Americans and women?

What happens if the robots are faced with racism? Would it even be considered racism if someone discriminated against the robots? Would the robots be considered a new race or would they be considered an offshoot of the human race since we would be their creators?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Second Life

I’m not sure how many people have heard about second life but some interesting things have happened on it. Second life is where you have your own little avatar and basically live in a digital world. In class we briefly talked about if something happens virtually world if it has the same meaning. For example in second life there was one particular avatar that mess up the system and went around raping other avatars. I’m not sure what entire happened to the person who went around raping other people’s avatar but I do know that they were at least going to charge this person with criminal matters. People whose avatars were raped were damaged from the incident since the avatars represented who they were as people. Some people might look at that and think it absurd but these avatars were part of these people’s identities and they felt that the person was attacking them personally. If someone had some type of religious ceremony with their avatar people might not think that it is worth anything. However the avatar represents who these people are and sometimes people are more willing to be themselves in these virtual realties than they are in really life.

Vanguard, laggard or relic? The possible futures of higher education after the Epistemic Revolution

Okay, it's heavy on academic speak. However, it does tangentially address that which was brought up in Wednesday's class.

The early twenty–first century networked information economy has generated new communicative fields and literacies, and new forms of knowledge production, sociality and creative expression. The emergence of decentralized techno–fields, such as Facebook, Twitter, Second Life and virtual gaming communities, on teaching, learning, institutional hierarchies and sources of authority, presents both problems and opportunities. This article claims that the current moment represents an Epistemic Break in the Academy, and this piece traces some of how this is so. In doing so, we argue that as educational products and experiences contend with other multi–mediated forms of communication, significantly more attention must be paid to the aesthetic, functional and emotional elements of multimedia design creation and modification of course materials, as these materials vie for the attention of Digital Natives. The conclusion suggests both practices and policies needed for higher education to successfully compete for student attention in the current media intensive environment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do cylons have human feelings?

I personally think that if robots are able to grow and mature that should be given the same right as humans. One of my favorite science fiction shows of all time is the new Battlestar Galactica. In the show there are cylons which are not your typical robots. The cyclons believe in God in fact they believe in the one true God. One reason that cyclons stick out to me as being human is their ability to change between the same models of cyclons. In the show the number six model have many different unique personalities. One of them is Caprica she originally starts off by being a key part to destroying the majority of the human race. However throughout the series we see her start to not only love humans but to become protective of them. In one episode one of the six models kills a human because this particular human kept killing her again and again for no given reason. Every time she felt pain and had the memory of her death she did not forget it and her death became part of how she was. Another cyclons that is key character in this show is Athena. Athena is one of the number 8 models. Athena goes against her kind in order to be with the person who she loves this being is human. She was originally supposed to just mate with this person and move on. However she eventually tells Helo everything and they escape and these two characters are probably the most stable couple in the entire show. If we are made human by the ability to chose and feel for others it is clear that cylons are able to do this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Human vs. Automated Sainthood

Presumably, a seminary would like a mechanism like Gus because it is programmed to answer questions which they cannot from a theologically sound perspective. However, St. Augustine was, in life, human. Though he was a man of extraordinary intelligence, he was not governed by purely logical beliefs. He made mistakes but his rational decisions also had human emotion behind them, I imagine. This is because he was sentient, which Wikipedia defines as “the ability to feel or perceive subjectively.”

We, as people, would probably be subjective even if we never knew our parents. There are certain foods we dislike, for example, no matter what we grow up eating. A computer (or any machine, I think) only gains subjectivity from being programmed in that way, and therefore I think it is not sentient. As the programmer Holtz says, “It’s programmed from Augustine’s work. And what we know about his life” (6-7). In other words, the computer is programmed subjectively based on scholarly guesses about the person of Augustine based on some evidence in his work and, presumably, writings about him. However, that means that Gus is programmed according to someone else’s subjectivity. He has no original subjectivity of his own. This reliance upon another being to attain a personality seems to me to make Gus only a shadow of another person’s opinions.

I think, in some ways (but not all) that Gus's insights on dogma are less valuable than the original saint's because he abides by the hard-and-fast rules of his programming. Saints are venerated on Earth because they lived virtuous lives, which we recognize as being a difficult thing to do. If a computer is programmed to be virtuous naturally, then where is the struggle in that? Where is the depth of experience of suffering? Where is the wisdom in a computer? But on the other hand, I imagine a machine like Gus might be useful with which to have an argument to understand one's self better.

But then again, this might only seem that way to me because I have not yet encountered a technology which stretches my theory of sentience.

Gus come to life

The scary thing is, the idea of a program like Gus is not very far fetched at all. Honestly, all you would need would be a computer with a couple zetabytes of memory (you've all heard of terabytes being 1000 gigabytes? yeah those numbers keep getting bigger and already exist). In fact, I would say the only thing preventing such a thing is broadband and capitalism. The computer would have to have unlimited access to the internet and have enough broadband to analyze all aspects of human trafficking on the internet. That of course would cost alot of money for web hosting, but the technology is already there. And what would we make of this computer? hypothetically with that kind of info it could very well understand humanity better than any one person could. Our brains have the capacity to learn something every second for over 900,000 years before it would begin to fill up...a wonder of nature that was once thought to be forever unequalled. not for long, it's entirely feasible to make a computer with similar properties now. The only problem I have with the story of Gus is that I think no matter how human-like we make machines, we are never going to consider them so like us that we feel the need to have a funeral for their processors and intel chips...*made in taiwan* stamped on the back and everything

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Madness & Monty Python’s Life of Karl

So…my first thought was of “Life of Brian.” My second thought was about what a marvelously thought-provoking story this was! And I'm sorry I write long posts...I am an English major, after all. >_<

The lines of reality and fiction are very blurry in this story, both in terms of his dialogues with Monica and Karl’s seeming descent into madness. The overlap of fiction and reality seems parallel to how Christianity might fit into our contemporary society. Extremes exist within it even now: on one hand, there are scholastic logicians like St. Gregory Palamas, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas…etc. which people still read and contemplate, and on the other hand there are fanatics, perhaps not unlike the Essenes in the story, prone to insanity because of their intense rituals. This leads to discussion of an issue that any modern follower of an ancient faith must face—should a person believe in the spirit of a holy text versus the letter of a holy text? Where Karl seems on a quest to uncover what the spirit of Christianity means (which is particularly interesting in light of his Jewish descent), Monica wants to dismiss his quest entirely because she relies on the letter, the facts of the historical circumstances under which Christianity developed. Karl’s struggle between the two appears to drive him into madness. My question is this: does Karl’s insanity make his journey any less valid?
It is interesting that Monica, the paragon of logic, is the one who tempts her husband in the wilderness in a parallel of Satan and Jesus. In some ways, Monica seems to fill the role of a temptress not unlike medieval depictions of Eve. It seems that Moorcock is almost making logic out to be a dark and negative force through her character, and yet Karl seems to need her antagonism. He cannot have an honest dialogue about theology with himself. He needs to struggle with her logic. However, Karl imagines the dialogue with his wife to be peppered with value judgments. In Karl’s mind, Monica says, “Okay, Karl, carve your own crutches. Just think what you could have been if you’d have come to terms with yourself” (82). Karl is pinning his own misgivings about himself onto his mental image of her. He imagines her to be disappointed with him on the basis that he lacks logic in his choices. Karl is on a quest for meaning, however, and he argues that logic cannot provide that for him.

When Karl is described as a madman in part IV, it is difficult to know whether or not he is actually mad or whether he simply appears that way to the Romans and the Essenes. He may have gone mad as a result of his mental conversation with Monica, or he may only be described as a madman because he has abandoned his dependence on logic and reason which, in fact, is a criterion for being labeled as crazy, according to Webster’s dictionary (“unreasonableness”). After all, the Romans in the Bible spoke to Jesus as though he were a madman. As Moorcock informs the reader, “Every other man you met claimed to be spreading the message of their god” (85). And furthermore, Moorcock points out the Essene’s perspective on Karl, “He could be a wandering prophet or he could be possessed by devils. It was often hard to tell” (86). That is the heart of the matter, really. A modern reader (and for that matter, a modern writer) will care about whether or not the Messiah is mentally sound. I think that quite possibly, to Jews of that time and place, perhaps it did not matter. Many cultures have dubbed the mad or the epileptic of their tribes as spiritual leaders. Native Americans smoked peyote before receiving visions, those who convulse or go into trancelike states are believed to be having spiritual experiences in a variety of African religions and also in Creole Voodoo, which grew out of those traditions. In Western Christianity, particularly after the Protestant Reformation, there was, of course, a great backlash against “Catholic” mystical practices, which eventually led to negative responses toward visions and epilepsy, climaxing in the Salem Witch Trials in New England.

Monica’s distinction between Western philosophy and Eastern thought is appropriate in the story, because where Western thought would care about the sanity of the Messiah, Eastern thought might adopt a both/and policy toward mental health—yes, the Messiah might be mad, but that makes him no less valid as the Messiah. However, when Karl meets Jesus, and he perceives him to be madder than himself (and rejected even by his parents), Moorcock begins referring to him as “the prophet” (90). Perhaps he had abandoned logic before, but he regains it with despair after he meets Jesus and sees that he is a “congenital imbecile,” unable to utter anything beyond his own name (91). Madness is redefined in the story at this point.

The way the story ends seems to ultimately condemn Karl’s faith in something greater than himself. Moorcock, though he led readers on a journey through Karl’s struggling with faith and logic, ultimately chose Monica’s answer, even though he persistently describes her as cold and harsh. Perhaps Moorcock wishes to believe as Karl does, but is ultimately afraid that Monica’s answer is the truth. In any case, madness is a convenient way to explore alternative viewpoints, because it is as though it excuses everything. People are not held responsible for their actions when they are mad. Perhaps Moorcock is suggesting that Karl was mad from the beginning, to even believe in the possibility of truth behind Christianity.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LOST and Religion

In the Bible Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons named: Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were the 1st pair of twins and according to Genesis 25:21-26 they were fighting in the womb. Jacob and Esau were famous for starting the tribes of nations.

In Lost Jacob and his Nemesis (Flocke, MIB, Esau, etc. I will refer to him as Esau) represent the fighting between the biblical versions of these characters. Right now Jacob and Esau are trying to gain as many followers as possible to create their own tribes. Possible setting up a battle between the two in the end. This also intersects religiously with the concept of good vs. evil. Jacob being good and Esau being evil (obviously).

It also, which I recently realized intersects with the Taoist concept of balance. This concept consists of light balancing out dark, evil balancing out good, etc., but when one of these sides are eliminated, the balance is lost and chaos breaks loose. With the death of Jacob (good) there is now nothing to balance out Esau (evil). That is why Jacob is in hot pursuit of a candidate which are currently: Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Sawyer, one of the Kwon's. As of right now it looks like neither Sayid nor Sawyer will be candidates for the good as they have sided with Esau. That leaves Jack, Hurley, and Sun or Jin. Jack is definitely the favorite to take over for Jacob because one, Jack has been a leader throughout the whole show. Two, Jack and Locke have balanced each other out throughout every season (Man of science vs. man of faith).

I cannot wait to see the rest of the season and how all of this plays out.

7 Kids Guaranteed to become Trekkies


I thought some of you might get a laugh out of this. Someone sent me this. Some are actually quite amusing.



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bishop Zarcon Alexis, Diocese of Scoprite V

Well, I honestly forgot about the Science Fiction short story until Sunday, when I re-looked at the syllabus. I thought it was going to be difficult to write a short story, and that I would just put in enough effort to get it done.

So, I just sat down at a computer and started writing whatever popped into my head. I'm about half way done with my story, and never would I have imaged in my mind the intricacies in my story. The general basis of my story: It's in the future, and the Catholic Church is facing a shortage of priests in some areas of the world. Earth has already established friendly relations a while back with the people of Scoprite V. The Catholic Church has decided to pioneer an effort to eangelise these people, but also to look into establishing a seminary here on Earth, to ordain Scopritians to become priests to not only tend to flocks on Earth, but Scoprite V as well. However, this presents a few problems. One being, people not being very accepting of these beings. (They are very human-like, with a few differences.) Also, some people are reluctant to be ministered to by a flock of 'alien priests', for some believe they are not considered 'God's Creatures'

Throughout the rest of the story, I try to grasp these problems, and search for an inclusiveness for these Scopritians, and how Earth comes to grips with such a situation.

I find the process of just sitting down writing it bits and pieces at a time very gratifying and somewhat cathartic, because it's like the story is unfolding before me, and I can take it wherever I want."

In essence, it allows me to take a break from my regular static academic pursuits, and let my creative genius (what little I have) explore the "what if" and have some fun.

How Star Trek Should Have Ended

For your amusement...

HT SF Signal

Monday, March 1, 2010


In a previous class that I took a group of students, not including me, had to visit a community of scientologists and then make a classroom presentation on them. They tried hard to as fair as possible, but frankly it was clear that they were a bit freaked out be the whole experience. They mentioned the auditing and anti- mind altering drug stance that was spoken about in the presentation, but they didn't mention Xenu at all so his existence was news to me. I decided I wanted to know a bit more about him and I'm going to share what I have found. (Beware, dubious internet sources may have been used) Apparently the Church of Scientology attempts to cover up the story of Xenu thus probably why the group in my previous class didn't mention him. Knowledge of this story is reserved for those who have reached a high level called Clear. The story goes that Xenu's planets were very overpopulated so with the help of psychiatrists (!) he lured people together, knocked them unconscious, and then froze them in such a way that their souls were captured. He then takes them to Earth and proceeds to blow them all up, but while thier bodies die thier souls remain. Xenu then rounds up these souls and essentially forces them to watch a 36 day long movie which brain washes them making them forget who they are and implants all sorts of false beliefs including all of the world's religions. Eventually Xenu's intergalactic buddies catch up with him and lock him in a mountain. An interesting little factoid is that apparently reading the Xenu story without first completing the appropriate courses and levels (and paying the appropriate amounts of money) will cause pneumonia. So if anyone reading this starts to get sick, I'm sorry. Reading this story kind of makes me sad I'm not a scientologist, this story is so awesomely epic that I wish I could believe it.