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Joad
Wordsmith
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Jarad]
      #5563105 - 12/09/12 08:39 PM

Stephen Hawking has pretty much said exactly the same thing.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Jarad]
      #5563184 - 12/09/12 09:36 PM

Greetings Jarad,

You wrote, "Humans help each other because we are related. We are much more likely to help relatives than neighbors, more likely to help neighbors than strangers, and more likely to help members of our own cultural groups than members of different ones. We are much less likely to help other species - in fact, we mostly either eat them, use them for their fur or skin or other parts, or take over their habitat. We don't disguise ourselves as them to anonymously guide their development into a more sentient species."

There is much truth to your comment, Jarad. I'm going to think about it a while and decide if I think it is the conclusive thought on this issue, and then get back to you and all.

Otto


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5563311 - 12/09/12 11:07 PM

I have been an amateur microscopist as long as I have been a stargazer and (tele)scopist. Both began around age ten. Now, almost a half century later, I am still into both.

In my little office, behind me on a small table is a collection of microscopy equipment. This includes a jar of river bottom detritus and water from a stream near our house. Every so often I will take out a clean glass side, put on it a few drops of the water and scum and dirt from the jar, cover it with a cover slip and observe it with the microscope. When I am finished, using distilled water, I will carefully separate the slip and slide and wash the water and scum and dirt back into the original sample jar. Sometime later, I will take the jar back to the river and put all of the sample back in the river and rinse the jar out several times with river water. I do this because I feel I should not destroy life. It just feels wrong to do so when I have a choice.

Such an attitude is not rare. I believe many Buddhists abide by this rule. I know my personal physician does. He even avoids stepping on a bug in his house for this reason. And I know a good many who, unlike myself, will eat no meat.

What is remarkable is how much of a change this is for and in me. I grew up on the South Dakota border of Minnesota in the mid 20th century. Most people hunted. Before becoming a commercial fisherman, my father earned a living for his family by trapping and selling furs. I grew up with many animal traps and firearms in my house. By the time I was in my mid twenties, the number of animals I had killed, mostly for entertainment, sometimes for employment, and occasionally for food numbered in the hundreds. If I include fish in that count, because I worked on commercial fish crews, the number of creatures in whose death I participated numbered in the tens of thousands.

This all changed, one day when I was home from college and decided to pass time shooting. I took at twelve gauge shotgun with me. I walked down to the river behind my house. I saw a small bird on a branch perhaps ten feet in front of me. I think it was a sparrow. I shot it. Anyone who knows something of shotguns knows that a 12 gauge is, no pun intended, gross over-kill for shooting at a sparrow. Further, the odds of hitting it are poor because at such short distance, the spread of the shot is so small. I walked up to the branch after shooting the gun. Attached to the part of the branch which remained was half a sparrow. That was thirty or so years ago. It was the last time I discharged a firearm at a creature.

The creatures I no longer kill are not sentient, they cannot know my decision to never kill them again is an anonymous choice. It is an act of done in anonymity as far as they are concerned.

If there are sentient extra-terrestrials, the fact that they are sentient, aware, and have free will makes them, at least in that sense, more like us human beings on earth, than we human beings are like the other creatures on our planet. Assuming you agree with me on this point, it must then follow that they would be even more likely to act with anonymous care toward us who are more related to them, then we are willing to do so to the non-human creatures of this planet.

The thought crossed my mind that this reaction of mine is based on age, or based on growing up in a particular culture. I was disabused of this assumption about ten years ago when I was teaching astronomy to a group of high school juniors who were members of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Academy. For context sake, every one of the seventeen students were top ten academically in their respective schools.

I had arranged the use of a college biology laboratory. Each of the juniors was given the use of a college quality optical microscope. I had each collect a water specimen from a stream running through campus. I taught them to leave the sample uncovered and in indirect sunlight for a week or so until it was teaming with microbiotic life. Then I had them prepare a slide for microscopic examination. I had them observe and make drawings and notes of what they saw. For all of them this was a new experience as not one of them had ever used a microscope. After a couple hours I then told them to take a drop of fluid from a bottle I had provided them and to place the drop at the edge of the cover slip. Because of capillary action, the fluid was quickly drawn into the specimen. I told them to watch the microbes as they, at the same moment, placed the drop near the cover slip edge.

The fluid was alcohol. Immediately they all saw the microbes stop moving or explode or disintegrate. It was at this moment I told them what the liquid was and I told them that what they were seeing was the death of living things. There was an audible gasp; not horror, but shock, displeasure from many of them.

I think your original comment, Jarad, has a lot to say for it; regarding the issue of anonymous care being shown for those more closely related to us. But I also think many of us reach a point, some much younger than others, when we learn to anonymously care for those quite unrelated to ourselves.

Perhaps sentient and aware extra-terrestrials with free will will, who have had a very long time to think about it, also have reached such an attitude toward other creatures. And if they have already visited us, perhaps they have already chosen to care for us anonymously.

Otto


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Rick Woods
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Reged: 01/27/05

Loc: Inner Solar System
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5563355 - 12/09/12 11:48 PM

Quote:

This all changed, one day when I was home from college and decided to pass time shooting. I took at twelve gauge shotgun with me. I walked down to the river behind my house. I saw a small bird on a branch perhaps ten feet in front of me. I think it was a sparrow. I shot it. Anyone who knows something of shotguns knows that a 12 gauge is, no pun intended, gross over-kill for shooting at a sparrow. Further, the odds of hitting it are poor because at such short distance, the spread of the shot is so small. I walked up to the branch after shooting the gun. Attached to the part of the branch which remained was half a sparrow. That was thirty or so years ago. It was the last time I discharged a firearm at a creature.




Otto,
I know it's not relevant to this thread; but I'm completely in tune with you in this sentiment. I've had to kill a few animals, and it always haunts me, eats away at me inside. I had to kill a small kitten a few years back; I still have nightmares about it.
I have no quarrel at all with hunters, more power to them; but unless I'm threatened by it, I can't kill a living creature.


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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
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Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5563357 - 12/09/12 11:49 PM

Perhaps...

And perhaps not.


Attributing motivations to entities that are not known to exist, and if they did would have minds and bodies with completely different histories, requirements and environments, is little more than fantasy. Maybe even less.

Just as credible as the scenario you present is the idea that E.T.'s could be part of a super-organism, with individuals having little intelligence or imagination -- or empathy -- of their own, but their behaviors subsumed to the benefit of their "hive".

The Borg are just as plausible as are the Vulcans.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5563637 - 12/10/12 07:08 AM

Hi Dave,

Here is an example of philosophy being so very relevant to an "astronomical" issue. Is "humanity" (human being-ness) directly related to the qualities of sentience, self awareness and free will? That is, is "humanity" a spiritual (immaterial/incorporeal) quality in its phenomenological essence, or is humanity, just a matter of species difference at a biological level? Are homo-sapiens essentially part of a continuum of biological species, or is there a quantum-jump separating the human species from all other biological species on this planet?

If one holds, as I do, that human beingness is, in its essence, an issue of sentience, self-awareness, and will, finding their presence in an incorporeal/immaterial part of the person (i.e. soul, or to use the philosophical term, substantial-form), then human beingness exists wherever there is sentience, self-awareness, and free-will, regardless of what carbon based (or other based, i.e. silicon, fluorine, whatever) entity in which they are found.

Thus, to use the fine example you shared of the Borg, if they are in their essence insects without some fundamental capability to develop the essence of sentience, self-awareness, and free will, then they are not human even if they appear to be perfectly identical to homo-sapiens on our planet in all other biological aspects.


An unrelated "aside"; the fictional characters called the Borg of Star Trek fame, is a very good example of what Hannah Arendt was talking about in describing the prescience of science fiction. The Borg remind me, at an eerie visceral level, of what Bill Joy at Sun Microsystems was saying when he warned that if machines every truly become sentient, that we will immediately be faced with entities combining near infinite power and the moral self control of three year olds.


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Jarad
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Reged: 04/28/03

Loc: Atlanta, GA
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5563791 - 12/10/12 09:15 AM

Otto, it is not impossible that an alien species would be benevolent. But it is not certain.

You as a young man hunted and killed. You no longer do so. However, an advanced society is still made up of individuals who start out young, and may not have the benevolent attitude throughout their lives.

Further, not all humans come to the conclusion to treat other life (even other humans) with respect. While there are some groups that have turned vegetarian and display extreme respect for all living things, they are a small minority. We still have plenty of people who consider animals to be no more than a resource. For that matter, we have people who consider other people to be no more than a resource to be exploited as well.

There is no guarantee that "advanced" will automatically mean "benevolent". And while there may be some that are benevolent, it seems unlikely that all members of a single society would be so, much less that all advanced societies would be so.

Jarad


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Pess
(Title)
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Reged: 09/12/07

Loc: Toledo, Ohio
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Jarad]
      #5563883 - 12/10/12 10:14 AM

Quote:


For argument sake, let us assume the empirical and objective results of such recovery programs evidence the value of anonymous service. This assumption having been made, it would then follow that sentient extra-terrestrial beings, possessing vastly superior reasoning ability and technological proficiency might see it beneficial for us, human beings, that they keep their presence among us secret and beneficial activities as anonymous as possible.




Pesse (Sounds like the Star Trek Prime Directive.) Mist


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llanitedave
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Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Jarad]
      #5563901 - 12/10/12 10:34 AM

Quote:

Otto, it is not impossible that an alien species would be benevolent. But it is not certain.

You as a young man hunted and killed. You no longer do so. However, an advanced society is still made up of individuals who start out young, and may not have the benevolent attitude throughout their lives.

Further, not all humans come to the conclusion to treat other life (even other humans) with respect. While there are some groups that have turned vegetarian and display extreme respect for all living things, they are a small minority. We still have plenty of people who consider animals to be no more than a resource. For that matter, we have people who consider other people to be no more than a resource to be exploited as well.

There is no guarantee that "advanced" will automatically mean "benevolent". And while there may be some that are benevolent, it seems unlikely that all members of a single society would be so, much less that all advanced societies would be so.

Jarad




There have been examples in history of genocidal vegetarians.

There is simply no way to predict (although it's easy to fantasize) what the behavior of any alien species would be towards even its own kind, much less something totally alien to itself.

A lot of this speculation is predicated on alien intelligences coming from elsewhere to encounter us here on Earth. I think it much more likely that, if alien technological civilizations are out there to be discovered, then the discovery will take place out among the small icy bodies, where both they and we are likely to find resources much easier to acquire. In that situation, neither side is on home turf, so to speak, and there is likely to be competition for resources. The idea of benevolence on either side sounds much less likely in that scenario.


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Pess
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Reged: 09/12/07

Loc: Toledo, Ohio
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Jarad]
      #5563902 - 12/10/12 10:34 AM

Quote:

Humans help each other because we are related. We are much more likely to help relatives than neighbors, more likely to help neighbors than strangers, and more likely to help members of our own cultural groups than members of different ones. We are much less likely to help other species - in fact, we mostly either eat them, use them for their fur or skin or other parts, or take over their habitat. We don't disguise ourselves as them to anonymously guide their development into a more sentient species.

I think that an advanced species that came across us would be much more likely to adopt a similar attitude as we have to indigenous species when we find new territory than to adopt us as their "little brother" in alcoholics anonymous.

Jarad




Excellent point(s). Would we stop and try and teach a Neanderthal equivalent race about metallurgy?

I sincerely doubt it.

Look around our planet today, cyborgs with artificial hips, ears, knees are starting to proliferate.

When we gonna stop? You lose your arm and a mechanical prosthesis is available, are you going to turn it down? What if the prosthesis is an order of magnitude better than original equipment? Maybe you won't wait until you are damaged an opt for an upgrade?

Almost the entire world is wired together. Any reason to risk death by walking around in it? All we need are sensory modules installed all over and we can put our brain in Frankensteins jar and live a virtual existence outside of it with minimal risk of some nasty truck running us down.

Today kids DIE because they can't drag themselves away from a computer game that is represented on a *BLEEP* 2-D flat screen.

Naw, I think the next stage of Human evolution is obvious and will be as far removed from present humanity as we are from proto human apes...

Pesse (http://www.robotjoke.com/stanley/people-are-so-sensitive) Mist


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llanitedave
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Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5563929 - 12/10/12 10:52 AM

Quote:

Hi Dave,

Here is an example of philosophy being so very relevant to an "astronomical" issue. Is "humanity" (human being-ness) directly related to the qualities of sentience, self awareness and free will? That is, is "humanity" a spiritual (immaterial/incorporeal) quality in its phenomenological essence, or is humanity, just a matter of species difference at a biological level? Are homo-sapiens essentially part of a continuum of biological species, or is there a quantum-jump separating the human species from all other biological species on this planet?

If one holds, as I do, that human beingness is, in its essence, an issue of sentience, self-awareness, and will, finding their presence in an incorporeal/immaterial part of the person (i.e. soul, or to use the philosophical term, substantial-form), then human beingness exists wherever there is sentience, self-awareness, and free-will, regardless of what carbon based (or other based, i.e. silicon, fluorine, whatever) entity in which they are found.

Thus, to use the fine example you shared of the Borg, if they are in their essence insects without some fundamental capability to develop the essence of sentience, self-awareness, and free will, then they are not human even if they appear to be perfectly identical to homo-sapiens on our planet in all other biological aspects.


An unrelated "aside"; the fictional characters called the Borg of Star Trek fame, is a very good example of what Hannah Arendt was talking about in describing the prescience of science fiction. The Borg remind me, at an eerie visceral level, of what Bill Joy at Sun Microsystems was saying when he warned that if machines every truly become sentient, that we will immediately be faced with entities combining near infinite power and the moral self control of three year olds.




It's completely irrelevant to the topic at hand whether humans are "spiritual" or "merely biological". The examples we have to use to predict the behavior of humans are based on our experiences of the behavior of humans. The benign treatment of humans, particularly when there is resource competition involved is not something that's been particularly common or consistent among those same humans. Spiritually motivated genocide is just as ghastly as materially motivated genocide, I think. I don't see much difference in cause, implementation, or result -- or frequency.

Overprinted on the essential human traits of human behavior are the cultural traits that come from growing up in different societies. Although humans are human everywhere, culturally we are very different, and those differences are not very predictable over time and space. Some cultures have historically been more benign than others, but that scale has very little to do with the level of technological advancement a particular culture has attained.

If we can't predict the cultural behavior of our own species when faced with members of its own kind that come from either the same or different cultures, how can we possibly predict the behavior of non-human, non-mammalian non-earthly species? Speculation is fun, but one should never fool themselves into thinking that their speculative conclusions consist of "knowledge".


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llanitedave
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Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Pess]
      #5563950 - 12/10/12 11:03 AM

Quote:

Quote:

Humans help each other because we are related. We are much more likely to help relatives than neighbors, more likely to help neighbors than strangers, and more likely to help members of our own cultural groups than members of different ones. We are much less likely to help other species - in fact, we mostly either eat them, use them for their fur or skin or other parts, or take over their habitat. We don't disguise ourselves as them to anonymously guide their development into a more sentient species.

I think that an advanced species that came across us would be much more likely to adopt a similar attitude as we have to indigenous species when we find new territory than to adopt us as their "little brother" in alcoholics anonymous.

Jarad




Excellent point(s). Would we stop and try and teach a Neanderthal equivalent race about metallurgy?

I sincerely doubt it.

Look around our planet today, cyborgs with artificial hips, ears, knees are starting to proliferate.

When we gonna stop? You lose your arm and a mechanical prosthesis is available, are you going to turn it down? What if the prosthesis is an order of magnitude better than original equipment? Maybe you won't wait until you are damaged an opt for an upgrade?

Almost the entire world is wired together. Any reason to risk death by walking around in it? All we need are sensory modules installed all over and we can put our brain in Frankensteins jar and live a virtual existence outside of it with minimal risk of some nasty truck running us down.

Today kids DIE because they can't drag themselves away from a computer game that is represented on a *BLEEP* 2-D flat screen.

Naw, I think the next stage of Human evolution is obvious and will be as far removed from present humanity as we are from proto human apes...

Pesse (http://www.robotjoke.com/stanley/people-are-so-sensitive) Mist




An idea for a science fiction story I had a while back was about an age when humans develop the technology to enhance their brains with surgically implanted memory and logic chips. Those who can afford the surgery gain the advantages of improved memories, faster and deeper problem-solving abilities, and more effective analysis of new situations.

Those "enhanced" individuals are the ones who gain the upper hand in high-paying employment, social influence, and political power. Those who couldn't afford the enhancement would be left behind, qualified only for menial work, and socially and politically powerless.

There would be a "haves vs have-nots" struggle of a kind that would dwarf prior social inequalities, and it could be catastrophic.

It's a stage that we really have to think about if we're planning on developing intellectual enhancement technologies.


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Pess
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Reged: 09/12/07

Loc: Toledo, Ohio
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5564006 - 12/10/12 11:40 AM

Quote:



It's a stage that we really have to think about if we're planning on developing intellectual enhancement technologies.




Maybe. But I think once we get to such an advanced point we will have mechanical waldos doing most of the grunge work.

Or, perhaps, Otto is right. Maybe we are evolutionarily closer to a discorporate existence than we know?

What harbors consciousness? Is the electrical network in our brain The Consciousness"? Or are the neurons and connections more akin to a cage that releases the consciousness at death?

Perhaps the next step in evolution is the ability of our consciousness to exist in some physical way outside the biological?

In which case we might move on from this pedestrian Universe to some other Universe...

This could account for the lack of neighbors that come calling as, shortly, we will follow them to...well, elsewhere.

Pesse (Disclaimer: I do not imply ANY religious connection with this 'elsewhere'. In fact, I tend to hope there no religious 'elsewhere' as I imagine myself ending up in not so nice place to visit and no one would want to live there.) Mist


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Joad
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Pess]
      #5564065 - 12/10/12 12:20 PM

"If one holds, as I do, that human beingness is, in its essence, an issue of sentience, self-awareness, and will, finding their presence in an incorporeal/immaterial part of the person (i.e. soul, or to use the philosophical term, substantial-form), then human beingness exists wherever there is sentience, self-awareness, and free-will, regardless of what carbon based (or other based, i.e. silicon, fluorine, whatever) entity in which they are found."

There you go again with the placement of your conclusion as your premise, and then drawing a further conclusion from that. Professional philosophers haven't agreed in the least on your premise, so there's no need to proceed to a further conclusion. For if human beingness is self-awareness and sentience, who is to say that other animals are neither self-aware nor sentient?

You are repeating an Enlightenment era definition that Peter Singer and others in the Posthumanities have demolished.

Finally, by your definition anyone in a coma, or with a brain injury, is not human.

In short, your amateurish philosophizing isn't philosophy at all. It continues to be a matter of you pushing your own faith position upon us.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Joad]
      #5564146 - 12/10/12 01:04 PM

Thank you for your responses, Joad.

By Peter Singer, do you mean the Dr. Singer at Princeton? When I was proofreading papers on bio-medical ethics for publication in medical journals by a local physician/MPH (Harvard), I heard he held the position that infanticide of human beings is an ethically good choice consistent with the underlying assumption that human life forms are not human persons until many years after birth. I heard he said that infanticide is the logical conclusion to which abortion leads. You mean that guy?

Joad, I appreciate you calling me to task. It is good for me. However, I fear you sometimes don't adequately read what I write. For example, you wrote, "You are repeating an Enlightenment era definition..." Earlier in this same thread I wrote that the enlightenment ideal, that human reason alone, could be used to create a socially perfect world; that that idea died in the trenches of the first world war. By itself, I am not an advocate of the position that reason alone creates good things.

Similarly, you wrote, "by your definition anyone in a coma, or with a brain injury, is not human." In my post, I wrote that human beingness can include those who have "some fundamental capability to develop the essence of sentience, self-awareness, and free will."

To be specifically clear, I believe, we, whether we are a fetus, an infant, a teen, an adult, in coma, at old age, disabled, that we are all human-beings-in-development and by that measure alone possess the right to exist. Second, I do not believe that human reason alone leads to good things as was the attitude of the enlightenment ideal.

Otto


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Rick Woods
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Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Pess]
      #5564444 - 12/10/12 04:23 PM

Quote:

When we gonna stop? You lose your arm and a mechanical prosthesis is available, are you going to turn it down? What if the prosthesis is an order of magnitude better than original equipment? Maybe you won't wait until you are damaged an opt for an upgrade?




Robocop!

Quote:

Almost the entire world is wired together. Any reason to risk death by walking around in it? All we need are sensory modules installed all over and we can put our brain in Frankensteins jar and live a virtual existence outside of it with minimal risk of some nasty truck running us down.




Surrogates!


I tell ya, it's all there in the movies!


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Rick Woods
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Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5564450 - 12/10/12 04:25 PM

Quote:

An idea for a science fiction story I had a while back was about an age when humans develop the technology to enhance their brains with surgically implanted memory and logic chips. Those who can afford the surgery gain the advantages of improved memories, faster and deeper problem-solving abilities, and more effective analysis of new situations.

Those "enhanced" individuals are the ones who gain the upper hand in high-paying employment, social influence, and political power. Those who couldn't afford the enhancement would be left behind, qualified only for menial work, and socially and politically powerless.

There would be a "haves vs have-nots" struggle of a kind that would dwarf prior social inequalities, and it could be catastrophic.

It's a stage that we really have to think about if we're planning on developing intellectual enhancement technologies.




There will always be some unenhanced person smart enough to generate an EMP, which will level the playing field again fast enough.


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Joad
Wordsmith
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5564604 - 12/10/12 05:54 PM

No, I am not even trying to read every word you write here. It's out of place on this forum and isn't in the least interesting to me.

And my PhD is from Harvard, so I'm not impressed that you've proofread for someone from Harvard.

And I have no interest whatsoever in discussing Peter Singer. He is a leading figure in the animal rights world, and that's all I'm referring to. Cary Wolfe would do just as well for my purposes.


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Pess
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Reged: 09/12/07

Loc: Toledo, Ohio
Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5564680 - 12/10/12 06:32 PM

Rick-

Robocop was a clunky Model-T version of the Total Prosthesis.

I'm holding out for a sleeker more capable version. Something like a Replicant in a Harirson Ford movie...

Pesse (...but with a longer warranty) Mist


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llanitedave
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Re: The silence is deafening.... new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5564774 - 12/10/12 07:45 PM

Quote:


To be specifically clear, I believe, we, whether we are a fetus, an infant, a teen, an adult, in coma, at old age, disabled, that we are all human-beings-in-development and by that measure alone possess the right to exist. Second, I do not believe that human reason alone leads to good things as was the attitude of the enlightenment ideal.





Otto, since this is a science forum, the point that I, Joad, and several others have been attempting to make to you repeatedly is that any statement that begins with "I believe" and then asserts a value judgement is out of place here. It's not what the forum is designed for, it's not what most of us are interested in, and it's not something that we are here to discuss.

We are not interested in ethics, morality, social justice, spirituality, the meaning of life, or the zen of being.

Well, we may be individually, but that's not what we're all here for on this forum. So it's not appropriate.


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