Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday Titivation

     There’s some comfort, some relaxation, and some renewal to be had from letting one’s mind go completely blank every so often. I had a blank-mind day yesterday. I spent it doing nothing but what I pleased: walking around in the woods, playing with my dogs, reading for pleasure, and generally being a Gentleman of Leisure.® But as Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde have told us, all good things must end someday, and so here I am back at the !@#$%^&* keyboard.

     That, of course, doesn’t mean I have to be serious.

     1. A Little More Dopamine, Barkeep!

     According to The Wall Street Journal, I can watch as many cat videos as I want:

     You like to watch panda videos. Admit it.

     This type of online activity may feel silly and a waste of time. But a lot of what we do on social media may be good for us, a growing body of new research shows. Our experiences online can increase our connectivity and combat loneliness, boost our mood and improve our relationships and our memory.

     We turn to social media for social support and engage online in topics and causes that matter to us: Facebook to connect. Twitter to follow the news. Instagram to show our artsy side. Snapchat to be funny.

     Neuroscientists believe that we get a spike of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases when the reward systems of our brain are activated, when we get a “like” or a comment on one of our posts. “It’s a powerful positive reinforcement,” says Patricia Wallace, a psychologist and author of “The Psychology of the Internet.”

     The very concept of “a waste of time” implies the existence of an urgent priority, one that supersedes all other considerations, that’s not being addressed because you’re “wasting your time.” But happiness is itself an urgent priority. God designed the need for happiness into our psyches. The pursuit of happiness – now where have I seen that phrase before? – isn’t just a right; it’s literally the whole of any human’s existence.

     When Smith tells Jones that “you’re wasting your time,” he’s implicitly setting his own priority scheme above Jones’s, with the further implication that Jones is too stupid to do so for himself. It’s probably for the best that we seldom grasp the insult embedded in such a declaration.

     2. We Don’t Do Funny Here!

     Twitter is doing a convincing imitation of a suicidal psychotic:

     This weekend I got “shadowbanned” on Twitter. It lasted until my followers noticed and protested. Shadowbanning prevents my followers from seeing my tweets and replies, but in a way that is not obvious until you do some digging.

     Why did I get shadowbanned?

     Beats me.

     Actually, it doesn’t “beat” the inimitable Scott Adams:

     But it was probably because I asked people to tweet me examples of Clinton supporters being violent against peaceful Trump supporters in public. I got a lot of them. It was chilling.

     Late last week my Twitter feed was invaded by an army of Clinton trolls (it’s a real thing) leaving sarcastic insults and not much else on my feed. There was an obvious similarity to them, meaning it was organized.

     The “Social-Justice” Left, with the tacit though ever more obvious connivance of Twitter’s management, has gone full retard become implacably hostile to any expression of adverse opinion. That, of course, goes double for those who dare to produce evidence of Leftists’ tendencies toward censorship, slander, blackmail, intimidation, and outright violence. And I have not the slightest doubt that in the sweet rushing fullness of time, they will bring Twitter down with them.

     I’m on Gab, these days.

     3. Do You Spend Time Thinking About This?

     And does your Significant Other® know?

     Would you have sex with a robot? An impromptu poll of colleagues and friends drew answers ranging from “yes, but only if it was a fully sentient, consenting robot” to “yes, but only if it wasn’t a sentient robot” to “yes, if I could program it and specify exactly what I wanted…no unexpected exploratory penetration, please”. (We’ve paraphrased that last one a little.)

     The enduring concept of human-robot intercourse – a concept that automatically seems to provoke queasy soul-searching and uncomfortable reflection – has been touched upon by films and TV shows from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (technically about replicants, but the human/non-human conundrum still holds), to Channel 4’s Humans, to Alex Garland’s dark 2015 drama Ex Machina.

     Now HBO’s new sci-fi series Westworld, set in a futuristic theme park (and inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 film), depicts human visitors having "non-consensual” sex with the attraction’s lifelike robot hosts. The bleak implication is that, given the opportunity to “rape” without consequences, humans would do just that.

     There is a serious question in there, though most people don’t have the intellect to see it, the courage to face it, or both:

What characteristics imbue a creature with rights?

     It’s not rape if the thing to be “raped” doesn’t possess a right not to be violated bodily. Therefore, as long as robots are not conceded that right, a law against “raping” one would be legal nonsense. The question will be discussed further, and with greater intensity, as advances in AI bring us closer to artifacts that appear sentient...perhaps even capable of moral and ethical judgment.

     But of course, the aspect of the article that will get the most attention is how sex-with-robots opens all sorts of possibilities that would otherwise be essentially out of reach for most of us. Smith’s bisexual polymorphous perversity; Jones’s two-Scandinavian-bikini-models-at-once ambition; Miss Davis’s fantasy about a man that would stay awake and listen to her talk afterward...all right, I’m really reaching with that last one. But you get the idea.

     Those with more adventurous imaginations don’t want to have sex with robots; they want to have sex as robots, as in the movie Surrogates. But that’s a bridge we might never cross.

     4. Announcement.

     I’m likely to be away from the keyboard for the next few days, as the C.S.O. and I are going on a jaunt to the wilds of Virginia for the weekend. So be not afraid; your favorite gadfly won’t have lost his life, his hands, or his tendency to dribble on for thousands of loosely connected pentasyllabic words; he’ll be safe, secure, and probably only a little damp.

     Enjoy your weekend.


Malatrope said...

You are aware that there's this hurricane-thingey heading for that region, right? Sunday is about when it could be affecting Virginia (probably not with hurricane force winds).

scttmtclf said...

I see what you did there! Pentasyllabic has 5 syllables......
Enjoy your trip and be safe. As our old friend says, avoid crowds.

daniel_day said...

"all right, I’m really reaching with that last one"
No, you weren't.

HoundOfDoom said...

Hey, what's your gab handle? I'm at

Bill St. Clair said...

"What characteristics imbue a creature with rights?

"It’s not rape if the thing to be “raped” doesn’t possess a right not to be violated bodily. Therefore, as long as robots are not conceded that right, a law against “raping” one would be legal nonsense."

A very good question. I consider sapience to be the source of rights, not just sentience, which animals possess, but the ability to reason about that sentience, to be able to understand and demand a right to life. That's why I do not believe that developing humans have rights until at least birth, if not later. Simply having human DNA is not enough.

Francis W. Porretto said...

On GAB I'm fporretto, Hound.

Unknown said...

Okay, I did the GAB thing, too... you know why? Because, Francis, I think you have a stellar sense of humor (an adjective I reserve for only those things I like bestest) and I know that one of these days you are
going to be curious about one of my 153 sonnets used to tell a story of
Spain in 711 A.D. but, never mind... I think daniel is right "...I'm really reaching with that last one.", you're not.
God bless you and keep you in good health

Linda Fox said...

Technically, many people - mostly women - have had sex with robots - their vibrator, without consent.

ZZMike said...

On the dopamine thing: recent studies have shown that watching cat videos (kittens, even more so) have a beneficial effect on the human nervous system, perhaps even more so than transcendental meditation.

On the robot thing - it's only a little more than the proverbial blow-up doll, articulated.

But about robots and AI and all that - is there really a difference (other than scale) between today's robots and ants? (We shouldn't ignore bees, either.)

It used to be that robots were machines with tiny little dinosaur brains, really good at putting the left front door on a car, but not so good at ice-skating. And it used to be that AI was a computer program, running in a water-cooled Cray computer. But now the two are coming together in strange ways - witness the new Japanese robot babies.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

Hmm. Sex with robots? It gives new scope to Asimov's definition of the "positronic" robot.


Anonymous said...

Linda might be on to something... According to the etymology of "Robot":

(especially in science fiction) a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically.
Example: "robots can perform certain tasks that are considered hazardous for humans"