The Dead Must Train Themselves

This is a continuation of the topic raised prior.

I’ve spent some time watching Black Mirror’s offerings and the one Duke Miller recommended, Marjorie Prime. The premise for these stories is that the living, bereft at the loss of a loved one, takes possession of a simulacrum. But, this virtual construct must be conditioned to behave like the deceased.

Who the fuck wants to do that?

Now, given the responses to the last post, it would seem the concept creeps some folks out. Others might find it hollow or shallow even. And then there’s the whole possibility question, could it actually be done? You’re all probably right on each front. However, I don’t know that the full potency of the idea has soaked in.

I’m convinced that this capability is coming. The crippled versions I’ve interacted with so far are limited I’ll admit. But, all the pieces are there. This will come to be, I know it. The first, I suspect, to be exposed as interactive agents will be dead celebrities. Those whose copyrights and trademarks are expired — open for exploitation, as it were. Imagine speaking with Shakespeare, or Nietzsche, Dickens or Darwin? Those representations will of course need Black Mirror’esque training, someone must do the deed of teaching ol’ William how to speak and how to be cheeky about love and life.

But that’s not where I think this will truly bloom (or die on the vine).

Given the technology—soon to be available, I’m certain I’ll be able to train my replacement. I’ll relate to him things I’d never tell anyone else, but things that would strike to the core of my persona. I’ll transfer other autobiographical stories that I’ve no intention of committing to paper, but would serve as flavor to any who come later — for those who might want to know me. I’ll record video of me speaking so that the DeepFake technology can make a model of me actually saying words. And I’ll de-age a bit, get back to around 45’ish, maybe.

I know my kids dig it.

Hell, wouldn’t you all be surprised to learn you’ve been talking to my digital duplicate now since early September. You think I survived that heart attack? Well, in a way, I did.

We are not conscious

Consciousness, at its simplest, is “sentience or awareness of internal or external existence”.

I’ve been thinking about the Singularity, the rise of the Machines, of AGI (artificial general intelligence) and how all of this may or may not give rise to AC – Artificial Consciousness.

We are not conscious. By that, I mean that this elevated concept of “Self” that we attribute only to ourselves—is a tautological illusion. It’s a transcendence we perpetrate as an ideal we set as an intelligence bar only we, so far, have attained.

Now, we can forever debate what consciousness is. No true definition has emerged from the age-old philosophical grindstone. But that won’t stop me from stepping up and out of the discussion and providing an armchair scientific analysis of the concept.

We think we’re conscious. OK, let’s go with that for now.

What if we take our brains, the source of our so-called consciousness, (we’ll include all the input senses and feedback loops connected to it), and cut our processing power in half. All the neurons, the tactile, aural, visual, all the sensory inputs and billions of neural connections — whack! Take just half.

Do you think the resulting entity would still be conscious? Who knows… Maybe, right? Okay, then let’s cut it in half again. And again.

Now we have an entity one-eighth of the mental capability of a human. Is that creature conscious? Let’s say they have the cognitive and sensory capacity of a salamander. Conscious? Some will still say, who knows? Well, for the sake of argument, let’s say Newt is incapable of the notion of “Self”. If they look in a mirror they won’t see themselves, a, you know, “Hey, don’t I look gooooood!” moment.

All we did to get to Newt, and his unconsciousness, was to regress our own capability backwards. If we progress in the opposite direction, doubling Newt’s brain and sensory power, we arrive at humanity’s ability level. And we’re to believe that once we get “here,” we’ve magically attained consciousness?

Maybe, consciousness is simply a capacity concept. What we think of as being self-aware is merely our vastly more complex and proficient ability to observe and analyze ourselves and our surroundings. Processing power. A numbers game.

We “think” we’re conscious, but maybe what we really are is being excellent at consuming data, examining that data and inferring outcome from that data, that is, following sequences of events to some conclusion. I think therefore I am.

Given this theory—that what we call consciousness is merely a critical amount of processing horsepower—we can expect that once an artificial general intellect acquires the threshold of an equivalent amount of cognitive and self-referential feedback processing, that it, too, will be just as “conscious,” as us, that is, not at all.

~~~

The corollary to this thesis would be: what of the artificial entity that is twice, ten times or a thousand times more cognitively capable than us humans? Would that entity truly have attained “consciousness”? Or, is this special concept we’ve awarded ourselves really just a numbers game, no matter how great the count?

Are you serious?

Seriously. Are you serious?

Why?

The world is a fucked up, nonsensical, phantasmagorical maelstrom of crazy shit.

That comes to an end.

Kaput!

Everyone and everything.

Undone.

YOU—You can’t do anything to stop the psychotic blender-on-high of sentiments and desires and pointless, petty spite all grinding, mincing and pulverizing ALL OF US—together in one massive gooey barrel of yuck. Can you? No!

So, why be serious? Seriously.

Imagination = Empathy

Humans are the only (to our knowledge) beings capable of intentionally imagining a fictitious or fabricated reality.

• Imagine you’re in a desert. There’s nothing but greasewood brush, tussocks of bramble and strange looking cactus, bulbous nodes dangling off platter sized palms like testicles on a dying mule. Overhead, buzzards like drones circle your desiccated shape, a shape barely wide enough to cast a shadow. You step aside an unsuspecting boulder to have your calf bit and pumped full of rattlesnake venom. No warning. No baby-rattle susurration before the strike. The agony hits like a hot brand. You stumble and fall, your breath squeezed from your chest. A sensation like molten mercury seeps up your leg. The beast bites and slithers off, content in the knowledge that, though you won’t be its next meal, you will most definitely feed a fellow high desert compatriot.•

OK. Did you go there? Did you read along and imagine your/their plight? If so, then it was your imagination that provided the empathy you felt for this unfortunate soul lost in the desert.

Empathy is your imagination placing you in the situation of another.

Empathy is you commiserating with, through the virtual world of your mind’s pictorial capability, another being, human or otherwise.

You can imagine, therefore you can feel another’s suffering—virtually at least.

It is due to our expansive, our far-too-large-for-our-own-good brains that we have been cursed with the ability to empathize with another creature. We can imagine their pain. Their suffering. Their soul crushing loss or failure, or shame. Our imagination gives us this ability.

Altruism is our ability to share, often to our own detriment, our personal safety, wealth and prosperity. Why would we ever do this? Dogs don’t do this. Dolphins, chimps, corvids—species with advanced intelligence, even consciousness don’t do this. Only humans go out of their way to ensure another’s survival. Why?

Because we can imagine how it feels to be that other being.

Our imagination is the source of our empathy.

Dear Mudge, Monkey Face

MonkeyFacedEel
Monkey-faced eel – not really an eel, but tasty.

OK, Mudge, you claim ambivalence rather than kindness. But at least you’re a polite ambivalent. (And didn’t you recently claim kindness as a goal? Which you retracted, yes, but I think the label stuck.)

As to making a worthwhile point—on any topic—all opinions matter equally, which is, as we’ve determined, not at all. Yours, piled high and reeking, would at least provide philosophic nutrition to worms, weevils and woodlice.

You posted a set of nice lyrics; hard to imagine they weren’t part of some sonnet or modern Shakespearean knockoff. I would point out that simply by acknowledging your appreciation of such a touching piece, you expose a human side that, although you state such sentiment has bled away, I think not.

Our recent conclusion that intelligence correlates with misery garnered numerous counter arguments. Here’s my rebuttal: Although the tally of those miserable on either side of the IQ curve may be equal, the quality and variation of misery on the high side and, were the weight of grief totaled (intensity + complexity + recurrence), our side would tip the scale. (If that’s not a Pyrrhic victory I don’t know what is.)

On the subject of writing about the philosophy of existence, upon reflection I’d say my personal intent is therapy. Vaporous thought is one thing, but persisting one’s ruminations, for me, allows logic to overlay the mystical. I gain perspective this way. Not to mention that rereading such pontifications, later in life, often provides a chuckle or two.

Writing fiction used to be me dreaming on paper. These days, given my blooming narrative enlightenment, attempting to create something of beauty is now my goal. Although also therapeutic, writing is a challenge and when executed well, proof that my faculties are still somewhat intact. In highlight, there’s nothing like being in the *flow*, the slipstream—time fades away, I exist only in the moment, the story. That feeling comes all to rare, but when it does, it’s euphoric. You should try it sometime (grin).

I’ve convinced my “writing class” that they need to deliver 1000 narrative words by the 4th of February. One has complied and I’ve already waded into that one, red pen slashing.  As I edit, I’m reminded of my own neophyte writing those years ago.

“Boy, you sure are brutal.” My first contributor patted me on the shoulder. “But all your comments are spot on.” I’m surprised at how effortlessly I see what needs to be changed. But this is all ground-level stuff. The elevated techniques, levels two and three and beyond, that I’ve mentioned in the Writer’s Log, are much harder to communicate and learn. These core writer’s skills, when they’re missing, stick out like a blue tie at a Drumpf rally.

Time and practice. Starting out, such advice always appears short-sighted, “well, duh.” Only after actually putting in the long duration effort, and then measuring one’s progress by analyzing beginners, can one acknowledge that dogged regimen is the only way to excel—at anything. I started this writing endeavor at age 55. You, just turning a half-century, I wonder what skills you could amass were you to apply such a theory. (Is Vet-Tech still in your cards?)

Concrete ideas are always so much easier to discuss. Can you build a birdhouse from clear plexiglass? Should Lunists & Martians leverage lava tubes as habitat? Would artificial floating ocean islands, SeaSteading, be productive and useful or a waste of resources? It’s fine once in a while, but getting wrapped up in continuous existential conundrums, oy, let’s go fishing for monkey-faced eel or hunting for peyote or something, anything…

Yours,
‘Mole