Category Archives: Philosophy

Reader’s Guide and Having Fun

One criticism about my book FREEDOM CLUB is about its alternate history flashbacks, and the fact that diverging from the primary plot makes the book more difficult to read. I suppose this is true to some limited extent. However, I also feel that readers have become overly accustomed to the homogenized story-telling techniques employed by big publishers. I’m not saying I don’t like a good thriller now and then. But for some reason it seems wrong to enforce preconditions on how one must write a book. Is this not art?

Now some people will say that intellectual issues within a book are fine if treated the right way. The ‘right’ way? Sadly, I translate this as a prerequisite to couch all text in nail-biting action which keeps readers glued to each line of text. Fine for thrillers; but not every book needs to be a thriller, right?

Right?

In any event, to help readers try to understand my non-standard flashbacks,  I’ve put together a ‘reader’s guide’. You can see it from the blog’s main menu, and I hope it helps extract greater meaning from the flashbacks, so that they don’t feel like they are just roadblocks.

It was always my goal to make a book that would entice people to think. How interesting to see that when you actually do this, you pay a price.

And to those who say all higher learning can be fun: sorry, I must disagree. Intellectual pursuits can be extremely enjoyable, but they’re not fun. Look at any serious artist painting, writing, making music, sculpting…. Are they skipping around and going WEEEEEEE ? I don’t think so. Normally, they’ve got on some hard face and look like they’re zoned out (or want to kill someone). For sure, they are enjoying themselves.

But that’s not the same as having fun.

Freedom Club – Promo Video

Not on sale until October, but thought I would share this anyway. My publisher, Hotspur Publishing, made this cool promo video. Enjoy!

Retrocausality – Is it real?

Even though central to my book’s theme in some respects, I only recently familiarized myself with Retrocausality. An interesting concept which boils down to this: effect before cause.

So is it real? I believe it’s more interesting as a philosophical topic. Certainly, we at times imagine our actions are based on the influence or desires of others in the future. No? Then just imagine someone who bucks society, and then defiantly slams a fist on the table. “I’m right god-damn-it ! You’ll see, time will tell!”

So…, taking actions now in the name of future morality (the cause) is employed. It’s not so strange  for the human animal. Even if it’s wrong, it certainly is poetic. Isn’t that enough to give pause to this absurd notion?

Anyway, I suppose time will tell if it’s right or wrong. Time will tell.

The Libertarian SF Subgenre?

Is this a hot topic or what? I came across this topic recently. After which, I searched on Wikipedia and found a page that claims that Libertarian Science Fiction is a legitimate subgenre of Science Fiction.

How interesting.

I recall starting discussion on LinkedIn sometime back asking how many sub-genres exist in SF. A small war broke out with lots of opinions in every direction. Of course there is no official gatekeeper, but throughout the discussion I never saw any mention of Libertarian Science Fiction.

The Wiki article mentioned  Robert A. Heinlein‘s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress  as a good example in support. Clearly, there are elements of truth to this assessment. However, I would want to see a very long list of books  (with their author’s approval ) that demonstrate this sub-genre is really out there. Otherwise, I would just chalk up SF as a genre that leans towards this philosophy because… well, it’s interesting.

Comments are welcome. But please! Let’s not have any war over this, it’s not worth it.

Why Good Old Fashion AI is Dead

Martin heidegger

The following paper is probably the best document which describes the death of “Good Old Fashion AI”.

Why Heideggerian AI Failed and how Fixing it would Require making it more Heideggerian

Okay, it might be a bit long for the casual blog readers. But Professor Dryfus makes a compelling case for the death of traditional AI, and why its future depends on Heideggerian philosophy. In reality, the AI community now seems to recognise that to crack the secret of consciousness, we must first understand how it manifests itself in living creatures. Only then can we begin to create artificial intelligence that represents that which we can only now imagine in Science Fiction.

It’s a fascinating topic.

Jacques Ellul – The Betrayal by Technology

Jacques Ellul was a 20th century French philosopher. He wrote several books, and some were about technological and its impact on society.  Perhaps the most important of these was “The Technological Society” (see  recommended reading list). Ted Kaczynski (also known as “The Unabomber”) often quotes from Ellul, and even though this might be considered a poor choice of reference, I do believe it highlights the fact that Ellul’s work has far-reaching implications and influence.

The following You Tube video is a short 6 part documentary produced by Jan van Boeckel. “The Betrayal by Technology” is a fascinating view into the thoughts of Ellul made before some time before his death in 1994. It is all in French, but does have English subtitles.

Please watch the entire documentrary at this link and feel free to leave comments. I think Ellul makes so many interesting points, it is sure to stimulate discussion on many levels.

Note: The above quote comes from Kaczynski’s book; Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski, A.k.a. “The Unabomber”

Technology’s Emotional Driver

Chimp using stick  Chimp Using Rock  Bonobo Eating 

I have often considered why man seems so hell-bent on changing his environment. Why humans invent many types of useful objects and techniques, all of which I deem to be technology.

Quite honestly, most philosophical books on this topic do not have an answer. In other words, the motivation behind man’s incredible creativeness is not explained. It remains simply,  a mystery.

From my point of view, such a position is tragic. Humans are by their very nature, technological creatures.  In my opinion, the very thing that separates us from the natural world (although this too is a pont of argument) is our ability to envision an optimal state of existence, and then work towards that state by applying appropriate tools or techniques. We want to create and invent, and deep down within us there seems to be a motivational driver. But sadly, no one seems able to put their finger on it.

However, after listening to an interview with Jaak Panksepp on the Brain Science Podcast, I was stuck with the possibility that man’s primary motivation to create technology could be a specific emotion. 

In brief, Dr. Panksepp has for some time experimented on the emotion centers of animals, and has concluded there are seven primary emotions that can be found within the brains of most mammals. They are; Seeking, Fear, Rage, Lust, Care, Panic, and Play. I won’t discuss them all, but I am very interested in Dr. Panksepp’s ideas on the Seeking system.

According to Panksepp, the Seeking emotion is a primary driver which is within all mammals, and presumably humans. It motivates us to find solutions to imminent problems, the most fundamental of which would be forging for food. However, the Seek emotion is a general goal seeking system. His own words sum up its complex behavior;

… the neuroscience evidence indicates that all mammalian brains do contain a general-purpose SEEKING system designed to actively engage the world, especially its life-sustaining resources. The active and automatized urge to energetically interact with the world and to help integrate associated information about environmental events, increases the future efficiency of behaviors through the emergence of cognitive maps, expectancies, and habit structures (Panksepp, 1986a, 1992a, 1998a).

After listening and reading up to the links above, I would ask anyone to consider whether this very same Seek emotion could be responsible for technology’s creation. Is it so strange? After all, our will to discover and invent seems driven by something. I would hypothesize that Panksepp’s “Seek” is in fact that force. And this would explain why technology is so general in nature. As I have argued in previous posts, technology is not just a simple tool or invention. It is more like a useful idea that helps us shape the world. Yes, technology can be instantiated into an object. However, the concrete form pails against the idea which created it. That is because, the idea within our heads can be passed down to others, and repeated when the desire to do so exerts itself.

However, even if Seek is the primary force behind our inventiveness, there are many more questions to ask. For instance, why is man so capable of going beyond the creative ability of animals? Is the technology we create  intrinsically different from what we see in nature? For example, when beavers build dams, and birds build nests; is that an application of technology? It could very well be that the emotional centers of all our brains are driving this, but I tend to feel our cognitive scope is much higher, and allow man to enter the world of the “unnatural”.

But as interesting as all these questions are, let’s not tackle them all here in this one post. For now, the issue is whether or not the Seek emotion acts as our primary source of invention, or want to invent. I believe it is. And hopefully new experiments in neuroscience will gather enough evidence to make a more objective case.

If you want to have a more technical breakdown of Dr. Jaak Panksepp‘s ideas, I would suggest you also look at the following paper. It is more technical, but still a good read.