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.

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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?

Rabies: Vampires and Werewolves

Rabies, HIV, Hepatitis, Tetanus can all be spread through bites, animal or human. There are of course insect bites that will give you all kinds of diseases: yellow fever, dengue fever, Lyme disease, plague, malaria, etc. But I’ll focus on Rabies, for now.

The discovery of the cause of rabies didn’t occur until the early 1800’s and didn’t get a vaccine until Louis Pasteur figured things out later that century.

I have to wonder about the disease, Lyssavirus (named after Lyssa, the Greek goddess of insanity and rage) and its symptoms, in one variant, madness and an odd psychological fear called hydrophobia.

So, you, a carrier, bite someone and your victim becomes infected, insane with madness, and cringes from the sight of some mundane substance. Sound familiar?

(Seems that Lyssa and Lycaon, the Greek king who was cursed by Zeus to become the first werewolf, could have made the perfect couple.)

Hey, Bram Stoker, did you read about rabies in the London libraries around the 1890’s? Two legends, vampires and werewolves, both being vectored by saliva (viral infection) passed during a bite. Hmm, a curious coincidence.

Image courtesy: http://www.horror.land

Problematic Protests

Should I join a protest? Should you?

It turns out, at least in this day and age, protests are problematic agents of change.

Guidelines for starting or joining a protest:

  1. Do you have a legitimate grievance against a commonly accepted illegitimate power, institution or societal norm or establishment?
  2. Are you willing to go the distance and risk everything—your reputation, your income, your relationships, your future and perhaps your life?
  3. Are you willing to accept that the change that you fight for may not come within your expected time frame, may not come within your focus of the situation, may not come within your lifetime or may not come at all?

If you answered YES to those three questions, then you might consider joining or starting a protest. How to evaluate your decision:

ONE: Is your cause both worthy and viable.

• 2003 The Iraq War Protests: Worthy? Generally. Viable? No. The powers that be didn’t care what protestors thought. They went to war anyway.

• 1960 Civil Rights Protests: Worthy? Yes. Viable? Eventually. The legitimacy of the requests far exceeded the ability for government to ignore the worthiness of the underlying reality of what the protests were about.

• 2009 Occupy Movement Protests: Worthy? Yes. Viable? No. Although millions lost jobs and their homes, the central aspect that this was Wall Street and the powers that be are deeply entrenched with that band of thieves negated any hope of success for this movement.

TWO: You may die pursuing your ideals.

• 1989 The Tienanmen Square protests resulted in thousands of dead Chinese dissidents and resulted in no change in policy.

• 2011 The Arab Spring Revolts created nothing but chaos with tens of thousands dying if not hundreds of thousands, including Syrians who were emboldened by the so called success of the Tunisians and possibly the Libyans. The result? ISIS, and the Arab Winter with only Tunisia surviving the tumult that has rocked the region for a decade.

THREE: Change is hard.

• Women’s voting, Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Black rights, Workers and Teachers strikes throughout the ages and dozens of other examples. All of those protests, movements or actions resulted in change—eventually. Most took years if not decades.

The Problem

  • These days, organizing a protest is an app on your phone. Tap, tap, tap: Meet at First and Main, bring banners and gas masks.
  • Your cause might be worthy, but we’ve all now got Protest Exhaustion.
  • And the biggest deterrent to any protest—actually making a statement, actually raising awareness in the world today—counter-protest insurgents. Activists actively seeking to disrupt and escalate violence in your “peaceful” protest.

Do protests work these days? My personal belief is no. You want to champion a cause, change the world? Start a GoFundMe page to oust the politicians that are in the pockets of the lobbyists who actually run the world.

fist

 

Addendum:

Up until recently, protests seemed to work much more effectively. And I believe this was due to the egregious injustices that people had endured. As those injustices fall to the righteous revolts whereby lawmakers enact corrective and healing laws, fewer and fewer truly dreadful inequities remain to be corrected.

Yet, folks still feel lesser than—as they should. Look at income inequality, the rich and the rest of us, the 10% and the 90% and then there’s the gender and racial income inequality too. There’s the healthcare issues, and firearm reform. And a dozen other hot-topic issues. However, the intensity of injustice, the divergent level of what wrongs exist now compared to what the future might look like — someday, are not expansive enough to engender the protests reflective of the imbalances of the past.

When such apathy occurs, and it has, the only way to change the system is from within. Green shoots sprouting within the rotting trunk of the Tree of Liberty, not without.

Blood of patriots? If the Idiot-In-Chief gets reelected, well, we may again have thousands dying to water that tree.

 

Beyond Surreal

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“Oh, did you see that? That foul ball took the head right off that cardboard dummy standing in for a real fan. Brutal!”

…And their mouths hung open for a minute or two. Then all the Muds down in Mudville, the tall and the small, all cried ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Is this like some alter-universe baseball version of Brazil?

Cardboard-fucking-cutouts? As fans? I… I have no words for this.

Geezus, go play ball in an Iowan corn field. Find some goddamned high school that’s got no high schoolers in it due to, you know, pan-fucking-demic, and play at their field.

To stick cut-outs of people into seats—not just behind the plate, no, behind the outfielders too—is beyond surreal. It’s sick. This is a sign of sickness.

(And I don’t care HOW much those idiots—whose faces coat those cut-outs—paid to get their dopey faces onto those half-assed dime store mannequins. Nothing could be worth the SHAME of playing before a pantheon of paper people. Nothing.)

NRA: Nefarious Ravagers Anonymous

As a writer I tend to stand slack-jawed when I witness unexpected, fiction-worthy stories in the news. I think, how can reality create something so fantastical, so eyebrow twistingly warped, when fiction itself fails to compete?

It’s not that a not-for-profit entity collected sewer level executives to lead them.

It’s not that an ancient, heralded establishment became contaminated by vicious, greedy henchmen beholden only to their equally contemptuous brethren.

It’s not that a revered institution, once noble and forthright, succumbed to corruption, an internal rot the likes of which only a napalm enema could be rid of.

It’s that such a story line feels so utterly obvious that it should have been exposed through countless spy or intrigue novels over the last forty years.

The NRA is headed by crooks who used their power to buy candidates and boats and planes and take vacations to the islands? Duh! Quick, somebody write a novel.

(I sure hope the lead NY attorney knows how to protect herself…)

This era in politics will go down as one of obviousness. No shit the people we hire to run the country are nothing but scoundrels and self-serving egotists. That the so called President of the country has fewer scruples than a snapping turtle? That every fucking thing he’s done since being in office was to further his personal aggrandizement or his brainless agendas? That everyone he’s hired has been a stoolie, a lackey, or a cad for him and his promises of wealth — on the other side — if they don’t go turncoat and write a book about his idiocy?

No shit. None of this should be surprising. So, why is it we’re dumbfounded when things like this actually happen? That is, why hasn’t fiction done its job and warned us?

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In my teens, I was a member of the NRA. Hell, I was on the high school rifle team; went to college on a scholarship for marksmanship. So, go NRA!

But not now. Back then? Sure. Now? Well, look at what it stands for these days, archaic, out-of-touch nonsense and who runs that fucked-up bass-ackwards perversion of an institution. Dissolve the NRA?

About goddamn time!