Category Archives: Philosophy

Lessons from the Matrix

I saw the Matrix sequel recently and found it to be about what I expected: a combination of mediocre philosophy thrown in at random and kick-ass digitized kung-fu (aka wire-fu) scenes. While the original was more interesting in terms of "deep thoughts," both movies raise a great number of interesting philosophical questions that can serve as a good introduction to philosophy to those fazed by the empty void of postmodernism. To help with the process, the Matrix website has a handy philosophy section featuring over a dozen different essays with all sorts of perspectives. Some of them are quite interesting and thought provoking, while others are hopelessly muddled in their own subjectivism. (Ex: "I think that even if I am in a matrix, my world is perfectly real.") I suggest reading the introduction to skip to the most interesting essays.

Anyway, there are several interesting points raised the essays that echo some things I’ve been arguing for years. One is that morality is as applicable to entities living in the matrix as it is to the flesh and blood variant. Because morality is based on the practical necessities of a rational entity’s life, it applies equally to all rational entities, including the vat-enclosed, artificial, and virtual kinds. Check out the essay "Artificial Ethics" on the site for more.

Another interesting issue is brought up by Kevin Warwick in the essay "The Matrix – Our Future?" who ponders the plausibility of humanity ending up in a real-life Matrix. (Dr. Warwick is actually the first ever cyborg, implemented not once, but twice with silicon chips. The second was a neural implant that allowed him to remotely interface with a robot arm over the net, record and play back sensory perceptions, and even communicate emotions to a similar chip implanted in his wife. He is actively working on developing the technology to make telepathy a reality, and at this rate, it may well become a reality in his or my lifetime.) Anyway, I have long shared Dr Warwick’s hypothesis, only I take it one step further: I believe that in the long run, the biological human race is doomed. The status quo is inherently unstable, and there are only three possible outcomes in the long run: (a) humanity is destroyed by internal or external factors (b) humanity evolves into non-biological entities or (c) artificially created (but not necessarily intelligent) entities wipe out humanity. This is a philosophical conclusion rather than simply a technological one because it is based on the basic relationship between humanity and technology rather than any particular trend or development. It requires a lengthy explanation, so if you’re up to it, go on to read my theory.

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New essay: Modern Art and Visions of Values

Inspired by Tim’s letter to ArtRenewal.com, I wrote a an essay dedicated to the evils of modern art. Here is the intro:

Today’s rant is dedicated to the general and overwhelming mediocrity of “modern art”. No, “mediocre” is too mild a word. Modern art is horrible! Pathetic! Rubbish! It has about as much artistic value as a sewage dump! No, I still cannot express just how pathetic modern art is. A sewage dump has but one purpose: to store sewage, and it may do it well, but modern art is such a complete failure qua art, that there is no term to describe it other than anti-art, the epitome of what art is not, and should not be.

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On Sex and Relationships.

I am well aware that I have very unique, and in fact radical views on just about everything when compared to the rest the world. It is hard enough to find friends who share my views, and even harder to find girls who share enough of my view on life to start a relationship with. Until now, I’ve never defined just what traits I’d look for in a partner, so I think it’s about time I gave the matter some thought.

There are probably about 0.0 people on earth who share my exact views, and even if I did find someone who matched all my philosophy exactly, I’d probably be bored to death becuase we’d have very little to talk about! So, looking for someone who matches my positions and values on everything would clearly be unproductive.

If, on the other hand, I ignored my values when looking for a girl, I would not benefit from a relationship any more than if I had found no one at all. If I relied on my good looks, ambition, and money (hah!), I might be able to get a girl in bed without too much trouble, but it would be an empty victory. Sex is neither an end in itself, nor an act solely of friction and hormones, but should be a celebration of shared values, ideals, and achievements. Sleeping with (or just dating) someone who did not share my values, no matter how attractive, would be like getting a big and shiny trophy without having won or deserved it. It might impress the rest of world, but it would only be a facade hiding a lack of self-confidence or true achievement.

Clearly then, any rational person who thinks of love and sex as more than mere social ritual or instinctive urges needs to have a standard for a potential mate, and in the first post dedicated to my personal life in nine months of blogging, I have decided to do just that by narrowing down the essential traits a person would have to have for me to begin a relationship with them. I would probably narrow the qualifications even more for a life partner, but here are the essentials of the “sense of life” that form my prerequisites to a relationship:

  • Gender (sorry guys)
  • Self-confidence.
  • An essentially optimistic view of life.
  • Their own happiness as a major goal in life (as opposed
    to duty)
  • Ambition for the future.
  • A passion for something.
  • Enough intelligence to carry out a serious conversation
    with me.

(Looks matter too, of course, but if attractiveness is
hardwired, there is no point setting standards anyway.)

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Art

My art gallery is coming along at http://www.rationalmind.net/art — not many images are present yet becuase I am working on the technical side…

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Listserv: Memorizing vs. Learning

Being inspired by other people’s ideas and not having any of your own are two very different things. I have many heroes and sources from which I gain inspiration and material to further my own ideas and actions, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The key difference between the copy-cat and the independent thinker is that the copy-cat is capable of merely reading and memorizing words and phrases. He never develops the critical thinking skills needed to analyze other’s ideas and compare them to personal experience and the rest on his knowledge. Rather, he merely memorizes them, stuffing them into an ever-larger closet full of contradictions and inconsistencies.

The errors of such a process becomes obvious when such a person attempts to apply his knowledge to answer a question which involves arranging the ideas he already holds in a new way: because he never learns to relate ideas and concepts together, he is unable to do anything but spit out the same old lines he has memorized word by word.

For example, a student may take a programming class and memorize all the commands of a language and all the functions needed to accomplish certain tasks, but ask him to write a program using the most basic of these commands, and he will be completely helpless unless he has learned the relationships and meanings of the commands and functions. Likewise, many students study arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus in their education, but without integrating and learning the meaning and inter-relationships of these subjects, they will be unable to solve the most basic mathematical problems in real life. They will study history not as a chain of causally-linked events and trends, but as unrelated dates and actions, and science not as integrated and related fields, but as abstract, trivial, and independent areas.

It is not surprising then, that such people will view philosophy not as an integrated, and hierarchical structure, but a series of abstract questions, to be solved by logical calculus or left open with a big question mark.

The person who actually learns, rather than merely memorizing is not only able to relate existing knowledge and apply it to new situations, but more importantly, he can critically judge the ideas of his teachers, no matter how well-regarded they may be. Most students take their professor’s ideas at their word, either neutrally memorizing material and spiting it back out, or finding something instinctively wrong with ideas (perhaps because their parents, peers, or preacher told them otherwise) but being unable to say just why because the professor’s words are just as un-integrated as their previous knowledge. So, they put a question mark on the whole thing, and adopt a general apathy and equivocate all ideas as just “opinions.”

This, then is the general stupor in which most we find most people today, and it is the direct result of an educational system that fails to provide students with the critical thinking skills (despite a superficial dedication to it) needed to integrate and evaluate knowledge.

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