The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Bubbling Ideas

I woke up with an idea this morning. Ideas, by the way, are like viruses. They have a life of their own, they breed more ideas and invade all sorts of nooks and crannies in one's brain where, scientists will one day tell us, they form tumors.

But the idea I woke up with this morning was pretty benign. It may have grown out of an old one. Or escaped from one of those nooks... or maybe a cranny... I'm no psychiatrist, I have no way of knowing. Anyway, the idea had to do with transferring the human being "self" into a computer. You know, all the memories, all the knowledge, all the emotions, into a computer. And then give movement, animation, to that computer.

I like to think I don't watch a lot of TV. I like to think that... but it isn't true. I do watch a lot of TV. One of the things I like to watch on TV is science fiction. One of the best of these in recent years was SyFy* channel's remake of the Battlestar Galactica series. That ran its course and came to an end. But it was successful. And success breeds sequels... or, in this case, a prequel. It's called Caprica. Caprica is the name of the home planet of the humans.

Just Google "Battlestar Galactica" and save me typing in all the background, will you?

In any case, this TV series ties into my idea because it is about transferring a person into the body of a robot, into the memory banks controlled by the robot's processor unit. In Caprica, this appears to be the birth of the Cylons and they eventually turn on their human masters.

This is not exactly a new idea. Well, the transference of a person into a computer is relatively new but the idea of sentient artificial life forms isn't. Pinocchio dates to 1883. And, of course, there's Frankenstein which was first published in 1818. But the concept can be traced back to creation myths where human beings were formed from mud and clay and water and given life. Another form (closer to Frankenstein's creation) is the Golem but is linked because he is (or "they are", really) made of mud. A Golem is sentient but really stupid.

Frankenstein's creation (contrary to the movies) is quite intelligent, which is perhaps what helps drive him mad and makes him commit horrific acts of murder. These murders end up being blamed on Frankenstein (which is the monster's plan). The tale is an old one, you see, and involves the concept of man acting as a god and the consequences which most often turn out quite badly for the protagonist. When you think about it, isn't that an allegory of mankind itself? Or maybe about having children?

I have talked about the concept of immortality by transference into an electronic entity before. In A New Old Thought and in Random Thoughts. So maybe I am just going over old ground... or worrying about death. And others have clearly written about this particular concept, such as in Souls in Silicon.

Still, ideas do not simply pop into our heads, do they? They are products of some subconscious thought process which bubbles to the surface (I was just kidding with the virus theory).

I wonder why mine bubbled up today?



*They used to be called "SciFi" but recently changed to "SyFy", I have no idea why, maybe they overheard someone call them "See Fee"...

10 comments:

Steven said...

We were enjoying Caprica and wondered what this "syfy" channel was...thought perhaps it was british. They rebranded because syfy is better for trademark purposes and because they play stuff besides just science fiction.

i read the heechee series because of a post on this blog and enjoyed it fairly thoroughly, at least after the first book, Gateway. I didn't think the stories or writing was that fantastic, but it really got me thinking about transhumanism, or more specifically, the fact that our brains are wet computers and someday we probably will be able to run our consciousness on a piece of hardware instead of our short-lived bodies. i give my chance of seeing it at about 1%, or perhaps a little bit higher if the troglodytes don't shut down life extension research...or we just keep improving medicine.

anyway...now it's time to go back and re-read the linked posts.

Steven said...

I'm getting sucked into the wikipedia vortex. There's a lot of thought and writing about the topics, including political: Libertarian transhumanism
(which brings me back to wondering if my mind's makeup and natural abilities in logic & math and liking sci-fi and etc make me predisposed to libertarianism)
Starting on this article: Mind uploading and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get back to work any time soon...

Douglas said...

Steven, I have often struggled to escape that vortex. Sorry if I set you down that path. Nah, you're a rational man and make your own decisions. I had no idea there was a movement, transhumanism, for this but I shouldn't be surprised. The concept is just an extension of man's fear of death... which has been the impetus behind so many things.

Steven said...

Well from the little i read, transhumanism deals with lots of things that are just about changing the body, including body modifications, genetic engineering, life extension...and then posthumanism is getting past meatspace and having consciousness outside of a body. i think. maybe.

i guess the movement probably comes from fear of death...but it does have a basis in rationality and possibility. we're getting close to useful gene modification and cloning. something i'd read and talked about before (and read again today) was the simulation of a rat brain on an IBM supercomputer...well, part of a rat brain anyway. And of course, last year's supercomputer is this year's doorstop. the discussion about the brain just being an interaction of chemicals and electricity was super interesting - consciousness, memory, and creativity aren't anything mystical...although if the activity between synapses involves quantum interactions then we're a lot further from simulating it. that's getting to the point of sufficiently close to magic with our current understanding.

I dunno, maybe this stuff about the brain is obvious to those not steeped in mysticism...but a lot of us were. so it fascinates me.

Douglas said...

Steven, you must forgive me, I think that there is only one instinct; survival. Everything else is a result of that. Yeah, I know... simplistic. Posthumanism is the (ironically) natural extension of transhumanism. Keep the current body going as much as possible; prosthetics, bionics, tissue replacement, various revitalization schemes (most of which are probably yet to be discovered), and transference into non-organic life. All of it in order to avoid death as long as possible. As is all research in medicine, I'd say.

It is seemingly obvious that there is something more to it (life/sentience) than just chemicals and electricity. And, you're right, it is "magic" at our current level of understanding.

You have a better chance than I of living long enough to see it move into the realm of knowledge.

Steven said...

I could see everything deriving from survival in an evolutionary sense...i guess we're somewhat conquering that in the modern world (so far just a blip in history). i can see all our pervasive traits being a result of survival instinct. thankfully we can enjoy some of those without having to deal with offspring these days.

/just woke up, forgot half of my comments and garbled the ones i didn't.

Douglas said...

Steven, one of these days we are going to have to sit down and have a several hours chat...

Ann's Rants said...

And War Games! Oh...War Games scared the bejesus out of me.

Cold War Meets Brat Pack = Awesome.

Douglas said...

Steven, one of these days we are going to have to sit down and have a several hours chat...

Steven said...

I'm getting sucked into the wikipedia vortex. There's a lot of thought and writing about the topics, including political: Libertarian transhumanism
(which brings me back to wondering if my mind's makeup and natural abilities in logic & math and liking sci-fi and etc make me predisposed to libertarianism)
Starting on this article: Mind uploading and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get back to work any time soon...