Here are a few things that I enjoyed reading, but haven’t found the time to write about.
Faith is a post-agricultural concept. Before you have chiefdoms where the priests are a branch of government, the gods aren’t good, they don’t enforce the chiefdom’s rules, and there’s no penalty for questioning them.
And so the Untheist culture, when it invents science, simply concludes in a very ordinary way that rain turns out to be caused by condensation in clouds rather than rain spirits; and at once they say “Oops” and chuck the old superstitions out the window; because they only got as far as superstitions, and not as far as anti-epistemology.
Of course the Untheists are not inventing new rules to refute God, just applying their standard epistemological guidelines that their civilization developed in the course of rejecting, say, vitalism. But then that’s just what we rationalist folk claim antitheism is supposed to be, in our own world: a strictly standard analysis of religion which turns out to issue a strong rejection – both epistemically and morally, and not after too much time. Every antitheist argument is supposed to be a special case of general rules of epistemology and morality which ought to have applications beyond religion – visible in the encounters of science with vitalism, say.
Conscientiousness, i.e., not being lazy, matters about as much as intelligence, i.e., not being stupid. And it is similarly heritable, i.e., genetic, it is more correlated with gender, and probably similarly correlated with race, class, and ethnicity. Yet stupidity seems a far more sensitive topic.
- Bamboozling Ourselves (7 part series)
The Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht, which has become a tourist attraction and a symbol of Dutch resistance, should also serve as a reminder of Dutch complicity. It’s just that we prefer to remember the past as human triumph rather than human failure.
And so, after the war, the Dutch wrapped themselves in the cloak of Anne Frank and pretended that they, too, were innocent. As such, Van Meegeren becomes not just the story of the self-deception and duplicity of one man, but of an entire nation.
There may be yet one more principle at work – something very simple. The bigger the lie, the more willing we are to believe it.
- Machine Minds (Michael Vassar’s contribution to Forbes’ AI series)
Dogs care greatly about our welfare. Cats and coyotes care much less. This isn’t because dogs are smarter, dumber or more kindly treated than cats or coyotes. Many types of minds are possible–some care about humans but most are indifferent. What we care about is determined by our structure, which was created by evolution. What artificial minds care about will be determined by their structure, which we will design.
Unfortunately for us, the consequences of an artificial mind’s interests may not be obvious to us before we create it. Evolution caused us to like sex because in nature sex typically leads to offspring. It didn’t anticipate birth control, and so this adaptation fails to achieve its purpose 100% of the time in a modern environment. Likewise, an artificial mind designed to care whether humans smile might force humans to smile through means other than joy and laughter once it gained the means to. Choice of preferences is tricky business.