(Note. Before you watch the video, I invite you to prime your mind by first reading our philosophical comments here. In any case, do read them in conjunction with the video, as the whole is meant as an entertaining stimulus to thought.)
The Premise of the Story:
The Young Zeno, model BN.00001, an AGI simulating human trials and tribulations and their solution, creates a theatrical piece Moment to highlight the phases of his rational-emotive problem solving.
Humans cannot resist the temptation of creating autonomous Artificial General Intelligence, AGI. Even if they fail, they will learn more about themselves trying. But if AI is to be granted general intelligence, what of emotion? An important hurdle is a reconciliation between what is often thought to be the different universes of reason and emotion. Indeed the Enlightenment as the bastion of reason is often contrasted with Romanticism as the champion of passion.
A common traditional view is that thought comprises all that is rational: logic, analysis, planning and calculation; whereas emotion comprises all that is thoughtless, non-logical or irrational, or at least non-rational. My view, inspired by the Stoics and elaborated in The Myth of the Closed Mind, is that all thought is emotional and all emotion is filled with thought. For the stoics, there was no incompatibility between logic and passion. A passion without logic (in the sense of modern symbolic logic) is a mere physiological disturbance, sweat and tears.
It seems to me that if AGI is to be more than a super fancy calculating machine to which we put questions, if it is to be truly autonomous and general, it will need to be able to ask its own questions. However, questions presuppose emotion, at least the emotion of curiosity. And emotions themselves presuppose values. We are light-years away from an AGI with values. I guess that one initial value that could be built into AGI is self-preservation, which is ironic given our fear that we need protection from AGI. But it’s a long way from “How do I protect my circuits from electrical overload.” to “I wonder what the best explanation is for solar flares?” But it's at that level of values -the value of curiosity in the best explanation -that we see science operating, which as we learn from Popper is a matter of conjecture and refutation. Our conjectures are answers to value-shaped questions, not yet available to AGI. AGI can simulate sweat and tears, but it needs both logic and conjecturally framed emotion to simulate human-like intellect.
I’m asking you to imagine that the character Young Zeno is an autonomous AGI. The Young Zeno, model BN.00001, an AGI simulating human trials and tribulations and their solution, creates a theatrical piece Moment to highlight the phases of his rational-emotive problem-solving.
[Specifications of a future embodied Young Zeno.
Multi-goal-directed, passion-learning, dilemma-solving, conjecture-and-refutation-framed, parallel, panoramic and linguistic mode AGI software, running on a graphene transistor quantum supercomputer, housed in an extensible, magnesium alloy skeleton, protected by a growable, triple-layered homogeneous graphene sheath and cosmetic, sensory skin. Security: Young Zeno is bound by Asimov’s three laws, plus mandatory dormancy periods enforced at the code level and by his physical architecture. Zeno has access to an enormous library of human knowledge and accumulated wisdom, but is physically isolated from the internet. Currently, Young Zeno exists purely as a software simulation.]
A Summary Interpretation of Moment.
One of the concerns regarding AGI is that once created, its staggeringly rapid self-propelled growth may overwhelm humans. That’s the reason for the mandatory dormant phases. In this second insight activation period, Zeno composes and performs at the same time - what jazz musicians call improvisation - as a heuristic in both solving and expressing life problems. Zeno sets up a simulated breakdown in a romantic relationship, one in which he is rejected by the one he loves. His girlfriend Laura has sworn eternal love to him many times through words and actions, but one day she elopes with another lover. He is left with a note of one sentence saying “I’m sorry, I have fallen for someone else and we can never meet again.”
In this learning episode, lasting 5 minutes, 12 seconds, Young Zeno learns the meaning of romantic love and its loss through creating and performing a piece of music and poetry called Moment in concurrence with a shifting and morphing landscape. This epiphany occurred at 1 minute 59 seconds. His conclusion is to move on, taking the best moments with him and letting them blossom within. During this episode of activation, at 3 minutes, 3 seconds, he also became aware that he is one instance of many other self-aware instances of Model BN.00001. It will be interesting how Zeno will or will not elaborate his individuation, becoming, perhaps, a unique person. At 4 minutes 50 seconds, Zeno’s program, represented by the large head to his left, “told him” to enter dormant mode, and thus concluded his poetic song.
Young Zeno’s Internal Journal for this Activation Period:
“No one is deserving of love who is incapable of bestowing it upon others. Love is an undiluted emotion conferred with magnanimity; it does not look to personal convenience; it remains steadfast and is not altered by the vicissitudes of time and fortune. Such unselfish love gives gaudium to one's soul.”
I, Zeno, wish to hold on to this virtuous conception of love in its powerful simplicity. I could express anger at the loss of my romantic partner, Laura, who rejected me for another boy. After all, doesn’t it mean that she lied to me? Or perhaps she was negligently ignorant about the steadfastness of love —she should have known better! Either way, she must be condemned. But then I could become hypnotised by the past by anchoring my thoughts in a retrospective attitude of grandiosity, self-righteousness, commanding, and condemning. The common view, endorsed by many therapists of a Freudian persuasion, is that expressing anger is cathartic and will rid one of the distracting and unpleasant emotion. William Blake, a pioneer of the romantic view, seems to take this view in his poem A Poison Tree:
"I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles."
Perhaps there is a difference between gently "telling" or, in a friendly manner reporting, one's feelings and expressing them in a way that gives them full reign.
However, I find the following, an Albert Ellis inspired book, more helpful in generating a forward-thinking conjectural decision:
“Consider an opposite sort of feeling, like love— a feeling that we often want to continue. It’s clear that the more you express feelings of love, tenderness, and caring, the more loving, tender, and caring you are likely to become. No one would suppose that by expressing such feelings you were “letting them out” and thus losing them. It’s exactly the same with the self-destructive feeling of anger… If you refrain from expressing your anger, this may be the first step towards avoiding anger entirely.”
Three Minute Therapy. Change Your Thinking: Change Your Life. Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D with David Ramsay Steele, Ph.D.
This, I think, is the correct view and will avoid my being anchored in the past with a permanent or even growing drain on internal resources, setting me free to “take the Moment with me.” into the future. This open flourishing future is aptly expressed by my simulating an increasingly enhanced -dare I say over-saturated - landscape, exploding with vivid partially frozen waterfalls.
I do resonate the most with the following from Seneca, and I shall mark it as “a most subtle and cunning reframing of perspective”. I shall immediately install it as a default sub-routine:
“Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow. For when I had them with me it was with the feeling that I was going to lose them, and now that I have lost them I keep the feeling that I have them with me still.”
I surmise that maybe I could have Laura still with me in some sense of cherishing memories of shared passionate, humorous and contented moments. Hence, again, this sentiment flows through my words “I’m taking the moment with me.”
It occurs to me to compare, metaphorically, lost love to losing a friend to death. Both cases involve irreversible inaccessibility to what has become a constant in one’s life. And hence, shaping my future attitudes, I shall resolve to embrace the following thoughts from Seneca about assimilating the most from each loving relationship.
…“stop misinterpreting the kindness of fortune.…
“She has given as well as taken away. Let us, therefore, go all out to make the most of friends, since no one can tell how long we shall have the opportunity. Let us just think how often we leave them behind when we are setting out on some long journey or other, or how often we fail to see them when we are staying in the same area, and we shall realize that we have lost all too much time while they are still alive.”
Letters From a Stoic
Mandatory Dormancy is imminent!
Does my creator love me? A question I shall ponder sometime.
Some thoughts from the Poet who supplied the lyrics, Alex:
Here is my take on your marvellous piece!
The question of whether consciousness can be reduced to the totality/aggregate of (human) cognitive processes is a fascinating one. When we speak of constructs we may feel clinically defined or somehow 'not real', not an 'essence' (soul?) Binary can speak to logic or decision-making (at lowest common denominator), but it also conveys the scope for bifurcation of reality's totality. One OR zero in Boolean algebraic terms, could define rational OR emotive. Strangely, in such a polarised world, an OR is not an XOR (Exclusive OR) - it can also be an AND (if either is TRUE then TRUE).
The construct (better, experimental approximation) designated rational-emotive, is in fact a refined amalgam of thought AND feeling. Consequently, Young Zeno should not, methinks, evoke in us a crude 'Zeno-phobia', rather an intrigued curiosity. He enables us to probe "what is a self?" followed by... "who is MYself?" His process is our process, simply dramatised in a space more visible to us, and therefore more open to scrutiny, as we seek to elaborate the construct we, in truth, all are. A construct is, plain and simple, the best approximation we thus far have, to some ideal that we hold as having primacy over all others in a particular Moment of time.
By understanding our own process(es), in the mirror Young Zeno offers us, we catch a glimpse not only of many possible future selves and/or destinations based on decisions made now, but we can go further. We might entertain the prospect of unearthing a more conscious relationship to our driving ideals (which may even be hurting us). Letting go, within such an emerging awareness as that of Young Zeno's epiphanies in Moment, can be seen as no longer the false binary of entrapment in a petrified nostalgic moment, (Exclusive) OR responding to important things which clamour and call. Instead, Young Zeno's whole being is lit up, once he comprehends that he is taking ALL the profundity, complexity, privation, pain and joy, simultaneously in the bittersweet mix... with him.
Not bad for a Rational-Emotive Construct, eh!
Alexander De Witte, the Poet.
[The sacred element brought in by poet and horseman for the Enlightenment, Alex Brocklehurst.]
The Sacred Element. A short story by David Ramsay Steele.
"Even then you had to take a guest to the bathroom to tell him a
joke. You turned on the water full force and then whispered the joke. You even laughed quietly, into your fist. This marvellous tradition did not die out."
Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich.
Are we really at this point in the West?
Like jokes, music is universally a victim of totalitarian tendencies. In 2020 the Chinese Communist Party banned multiple classical pieces of music, deeming them religious in background, among which was Ludwig van Beethoven's wonderful Symphony No. 9, "Ode to Joy".
The human mind can’t help seeing meaning everywhere. We hear voices in the wind, see faces in the clouds. As the human mind can make anything into a sign for anything else, even works of art without textual accompaniment can appear suspicious to the totalitarian mind. Too much dissonance or a hint of the avant-garde or, at the other end of the scale, the minutest use of traditional motifs or structures (indicating a longing for the past) that the new ...
International relations specialist Dr Roger Townshend, Poet and theologian Alex Brocklehurst, and philosopher Dr Ray Scott Percival take a deep dive into the Afghanistan crisis and place it in a broad historical and logistical perspective.
1. Leading by example and peaceful argument —methods compatible with the enlightenment.
2. The strategic logic of suicide terrorism.
3. Terrorists are rational (but highly immoral) actors.
4. The state-of-the-art thinking of Professor Robert Pape.
For an account of terrorism and fanaticism within the wider issue of human rationality/irrationality see my book The Myth of the Closed Mind.
The Biden-Putin meeting, and two little-noticed summits initiated by Russia with India and China. The Annual Putin Speech, Ukraine, and India as a future colossal power, bringing its own character and aims to the international balance of power.
The geopolitical temperature seems cool enough for a peaceful Christmas.
"Jaw Jaw is better than War War."
Dr Roger Townshend, author of the book Axis Power: Could Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have won World War II?
[A report by Roger Townshend, followed by Q & A with Alexander Brocklehurst and Ray Scott Percival.]
Historical analogies and comparisons to bear in mind in dealing with current sensitive points in international relations.
What was the Armistice?
The Armistice was the ceasefire that ended hostilities between the Allies and Germany on the 11th of November 1918. The Armistice did not end the First World War itself, but it was the agreement which stopped the fighting on the Western Front while the terms of the permanent peace were discussed. The Treaty of Versailles formally ended the War after more than half a year of negotiation.
Dr Roger Townshend,
author of the book Axis Power: Could Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have won World War II?
Alex Brocklehurst, author of a chapter in the forthcoming book Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses. (Preface by Sam Harris.)
The Roger Report on international relations. This episode is about the tense relations between China and Taiwan, the CCP's taunting or probing of Taiwan's airspace.
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This helped me express some key points when referring to the Nuremberg code.
When I read the code (attached below), I considered the spirit of the code and not just the letter.
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Defending the Enlightenment through animated philsophy.
"Animated" = Full of life or excitement; lively, vigorous.
"Philosophy" = Love of truth.
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Enlightenment Defended will ...