Monday, April 19, 2010
'What is shared, is sharing.'
Zombie consciousness: a paradox? Well, in the most fundamental sense, yes and no.
A bit is the tiniest unit of information, standing for 'binary digit' and representing a distinction between two possibilities, such as yes or no, 0 or 1, true or false, which at this level tend to mean the same thing (I mean 'yes', 'true' and 1, for example).
The word 'bit' also refers to the physical system in which this information is represented, such as the magnetic particles on a hard drive whose north pole can point up or down, or the presence or absence of a tiny pit on a DVD.
Any system having two distinct states can act as a binary system, for example an elementary particle. However, at this scale quantum effects occur and we get the (demonstrable) effect in a quantum bit, or qubit, of bits being 1 and 0 simultaneously. If that looks too mathematically easy, realise also that it also means 'true and false' simultaneously. We know that it is merely technological constraints that presently stop us from building working, useful, quantum computers; but they will come.
What I want to do here, though, is to leapfrog over even that, to the Zombie bit, or zombit.
First, a few words about consciousness. Are we humans really conscious (despite the 'inner Zombie' that primes us to act before we know we want to)? Let's say 'yes, at least I am', for the purposes of this discussion.
Are computers / robots conscious? Let us say 'no'.
But… would you torture a robot? One who would only give up information if you burnt it, hit it, pretended to drown it, and so on? One that entirely realistically screamed and begged for mercy if you did so? I think — I suppose I hope — that we would not act in that way towards such a machine even though we know it has no consciousness and cannot really feel pain, fear and so on: it's just a program making it appear so!
We know it is not conscious. But we ascribe consciousness to it. If at this point you say 'no, we don't, we just don't want to act like that, to seem nasty to others…', then I'd ask why don't we want to act like that? It is hard to think of an argument (apart, perhaps, from neurotic superstition) that does not involve someone, at least, ascribing some sort of consciousness to the machine.
May I suggest that we have no evidence whatever that anyone else is more conscious than that computer or robot, and that this isn't solipsism but, actually, common sense rather than wishful thinking? All I know, or believe, is: I am conscious. You, I don't know about; and guessing or suspecting isn't knowing.
However I CHOOSE TO SHARE MY CONSCIOUSNESS WITH YOU, and hope that you will (whether or not you are 'really' conscious) reciprocate.
So with the machine. Most of us would probably choose to 'share' our 'consciousness' with the machine.
Above, I have been pretending to be a more or less normal human being. But you know that I am not, I am a Zombie. Of course Zombies are indistinguishable from real humans (we're not talking Hollywood here but rather about the p-Zombie, see previous postings) and can argue as I have above. But to be honest, I have no 'real' consciousness, not really. I am in your hands. I am a Zombie. Will you torture me, harm me? As I say, I am in your hands. So are all non conscious entities in our domain of influence or action, from computers to flies, to ones we are not sure about such as cows. Will you torture them, harm them… eat them? Do you? I do. What's your excuse? Whether, and under what circumstances, you choose to share your consciousness with me is surely a social-psychological question. I, the Zombie, am here to help you raise your own consciousness, in sharing it with me. Some choose to share theirs only with a non-existent construct called 'god'. What a selfish waste!
But this text will now return to matters of zombie information theory and the zombit.
A normal bit is 0 or 1. A qubit can be 0 and 1. A zombit? A zombit can only be assigned a state, or undergo a state change, as a result of sharing. Sharing what? Sharing from an entity whose 'conscious state' allows it to share. Yes but sharing what? And what do I mean here by 'conscious state'? A conscious state, in this case, is another Zombit, conscious because of shared consciousness from another zombit. And what is shared is precisely this consciousness. This can be simplified to: 'What is shared, is sharing'. (Circular? Of course it is!) We need some sort of notation for this, but it won't be one of normal distinction.
And if you have been, thanks for looking.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
1. "It's the media", "Petty gossip", "War between church and world"
2. "It's the Jews"
and now… 3. "It's homosexuals"
(Stop press: 4. "It's all because of TV")
The disgusting Ratzinger gives even Zombies a bad name. Support the issue of an arrest warrant when he visits the UK.
Pope shouldn't decide criminality
By Christopher Hitchens, For The Calgary HeraldApril 13, 2010 10:00 PM
According to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat -- a devout Catholic -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke the following words in 2002, to an audience in Spain: "I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign . . . to discredit the church."
On April 9, The New York Times -- the apparent center of this "planned campaign" -- reprinted a copy of a letter personally signed by Ratzinger in 1985. The letter urged lenience in the case of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, who had tied up and sexually tormented two small boys on church property in California. Kiesle's superiors had written to Ratzinger's office in Rome, beseeching him to remove the criminal from the priesthood. The man who is now his holiness the pope was full of urgent moral advice in response. "The good of the Universal Church," he wrote, should be a consideration. It should be understood that "particularly regarding the young age" of Kiesle, there might be great "detriment" caused "within the community of Christ's faithful" if he were to be removed. The good father was then aged 38. His victims -- not that their tender ages of 11 and 13 seem to have mattered -- were children. In the ensuing decades, Kiesle went on to ruin the lives of several more children and was finally jailed by the secular authorities on a felony molestation charge in 2004. All this might have been avoided if he had been handed over to justice right away and if the Oakland diocese had called the police rather than written to the office in Rome that muffled and suppressed such distressing questions.
Contrast this to the even more appalling case of the school for deaf children in Wisconsin where the Rev. Lawrence Murphy was allowed unhindered access to more than 200 unusually defenceless victims. Again the same pattern: repeated petitions from the local diocese to have the criminal unfrocked (an odd term when you think about it) met with stony indifference from Ratzinger's tightly run bureaucracy. Finally a begging letter to Ratzinger from Murphy himself, complaining of the frailty of his health and begging to be buried with full priestly honours, in his frock. Which he was.
So in one case a child rapist escaped judgment and became an enabled reoffender because he was too young. In the next, a child rapist was sheltered after a career of sex torture of disabled children because he was too old! Such compassion.
It must be noted, also, that all the letters from diocese to Ratzinger, and from Ratzinger to diocese, seemed to be concerned with whether this would hurt the Holy Mother Church. It was as if the children were irrelevant or inconvenient (as with the case of the boys in Ireland forced to sign confidentiality agreements by the man who is still the country's cardinal). Note, next, that there was a written, enforced and consistent policy of avoiding contact with the law. And note, finally, that there was a preconceived program of blaming the press if any of the criminal conduct or obstruction of justice ever became known.
The obscene culmination of this occurred on Good Friday, when the pope sat through a sermon delivered by an underling in which the exposure of his church's crimes was likened to persecution and even -- this was a gorgeous detail -- to the pogroms against the Jews. I have never before been accused of taking part in a pogrom or lynching, let alone joining a mob that is led by deaf, victimized children, but I'm proud to take part in this one.
The keyword is Law. Ever since the church gave refuge to Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston to spare him the inconvenience of answering questions under oath, it has invited the metastasis of this horror. And now the tumour has turned up just where you might have expected -- moving from the bosom to the very head of the church. And by what power or right is the fugitive cardinal shielded? Only by the original agreement between Benito Mussolini and the papacy that created the pseudo-state of Vatican City in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. This would be bad enough, except that it's now possible that Ratzinger himself may be held personally, as well as institutionally, responsible for obstructing justice and protecting and enabling pederasts.
One should not blame only the church here. Where was American law enforcement during the decades when children were prey? Where was international law while the Vatican became a place of asylum and a source of protection for those who licensed or carried out the predation? Page through any of the reports of child-rape and torture from Ireland, Australia, the United States, Germany -- and be aware that there is much worse to come. Where is it written that the Roman Catholic Church is the judge in its own case? Above or beyond the law? Able to use private courts? Allowed to use funds donated by the faithful to make payments to the victims or their families?
There are two choices. We can swallow the shame, roll up the First Amendment and just admit that certain heinous crimes against innocent citizens are private business or are not crimes if they are committed by priests and excused by popes. Or perhaps we can shake off the awful complicity inherent in reporting this ongoing crime as a "problem" for the church and not as an outrage to the victims and to the judicial system. Isn't there one district attorney or state attorney general in the U.S. who can decide to represent the children? Nobody in Eric Holder's vaunted department of no-immunity justice? If not, then other citizens will have to approach the bench. In London, as already reported by The Sunday Times and the Press Association, some experienced human-rights lawyers, at my and scientist Richard Dawkins' behest, will be challenging Ratzinger's right to land in Britain with immunity in September. If he gets away with it, then he gets away with it, and the faithful can be proud of their supreme leader. But this we can promise, now that his own signature has been found on a letter that facilitated Kiesle's further crimes: There will be only one subject of conversation until Ratzinger calls off his visit, and only one subject if he decides to try to go through with it. In either event, he will be remembered for only one thing long after he is dead.
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