Archives for category: effective communication

According to a certain George Herbert, 1640, “For him who will, ways are not wanting“.
According to those who have spent their lives observing natural phenomena, ‘Where ever there are enough resources present, something will happen’.

Morally speaking, there’s a huge difference between those two.
When we need to apportion merit – or blame, we do need to know whether something was a natural occurrence or the consequence of somebody’s actions.

But following a more practical approach… people would better prepare themselves to deal with the aftermath of that something taking place, regardless of what/who had caused it.

Let me put it in a simpler manner.
An investigator will/should do everything in their power to determine the cause of a fire. But that will be possible only after the blaze has been put down by the fire-fighters.

For some time now, people have been trying to determine whether machines will ever be able to develop consciousness. To ‘feel’ anything.
Some even pour over the moral implications …. will sentient machines have rights? As in ‘the right to not be turned off’?

I expect most of those people have been jolted by some recent developments pertaining to their field of expertise…

In a sense, this is a ‘natural’ development.
We’ve been purposely transforming tools into weapons since … before we parted ways with our closest cousins, the chimpanzees.

But it’s for the first time that we’ve developed weapons powerful enough to kill every human being on Earth. And capable of achieving their given task without human assistance.

What next?
How about a weapon capable of assuming a task?
Capable of consciously determining – through diligent AI/ML computations, that a certain ‘target’ ‘needs’ to be ‘taken care off’.
Which weapon, being a ‘sentient machine’, will come with the built in right to not be turned off.

How did we get here?
Stay tuned.

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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The more you know, the longer the ‘border’ becomes.
What you don’t know, remains more or less the same. There’s so much there, that what you learn never more than dents it.
The longer the border, the less aware of it you become.

The wider your knowledge, the more comfortable you become.
The wider your knowledge, the further away your inner self is from the ‘unknown’.

The wider your knowledge, the more complacent you tend to become.
Why bother to deepen your knowledge if you no longer feel threatened by ‘wilderness’?

The more you know, the more you tend to ignore… for the simple reason that acknowledging what you don’t know is bad for your self esteem, specially if you consider yourself to be knowledgeable.

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One of the hardest decisions an agent gets to make is to choose between

and

Otherwise put, are we to allow evolution to proceed?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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‘Don’t mend it if it’s not broken’ makes perfect sense for something which already exists. And works ‘good enough for us’.

But when you get to make something a second time? Or even the one million-th time?

What keeps you from ‘experimenting’?
If the expected marginal benefits are greater than the potential marginal costs, of course!

The whole thing raises a poignant question.
We have a business here.
The sporting tournaments live by selling advertising space. To do that, they need to grab our attention.
Given the insistence with which the organizers insist that the athletes have to attend the press conferences, which is the main attention grabber? The ‘athletic prowess’ itself or the ‘big talk’ that follows the actual ‘sports meeting’?

Where conditions had been ripe:

The market had become free.
Free for more and more people to search for new ways to meet their needs.
This freedom had allowed the market to become efficient enough for more and more people to be able to satisfy some of their wishes, on top of most of their needs.

Agora had become free.
So free that politicians had to solve more and more of the real problems encountered by the society at large.
Life had become so free that states had become prosperous.

And more and more of the people were happy!

Now, the market is so free that more and more people have started to search for ‘really’ new ways to meet their wishes. Eventually, they came to be known as ‘financial engineers’. The market is no longer the place where people meet to satisfy their needs but the place where some of them accrue huge sums of money while more and more of the rest find it harder and harder to survive.

The Agora is also at its freest.
‘Political marketeers’ have taken over from the ‘the old school’ – and ‘real’ politics have been replaced with ‘give the people what they want’. Political life is no longer about solving problems. It has become a relentless quest for power.
Keeping things ‘afloat’ is no longer THE goal, only a cost.

Is this sustainable?

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One of my eyes is short-sighted. Both are astigmatic.
Hence my visual relationship with the ‘exterior’ is impaired. Relative to that of a ‘normal’ person…

When I took up photography, as a hobby, there were no such things as self focusing cameras. Pictures as those you are about to see were way ‘out of range’ for me.

Because of my inability to focus a camera fast enough. And because long ranged lenses were too expensive for me, in those times.

Being conscious of my limits was no cure for my frustration!

Thankfully, technology made it possible for me to indulge in my hobby!
To overcome some of my limitations.

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You cannot explore the limits of something without knowning what that something is.
You might not know how that thing works, or came to be, but you need to have at least some idea about what that thing is!

So, ‘What conscience is?’

Huh?!?

‘Cognitive function…’, ‘ability to tell right from wrong’, ‘self awareness’… you name it.
Rathern confusing, isn’t it?
Specially when you already had a clear idea about what the word used to mean… Or was that only an impression?!? An ilussion, actually?

Let me introduce you to my version of things.

Everything that surrounds us has a ‘discrete’ nature.

Both matter and energy are, ultimatelly, made of quanta.
Certain theoretical considerations suggest that time and space are multiple of Planck time and space units, respectivelly. Any lenght, in time and/or space, smaller than a Planck unit not having any sense. The argument being the facts that the speed of light is limited and that matter/energy itself (which fills the space and generates time) is of a discrete nature. As in ‘made of quanta’.

And this ‘discrete nature of things’ is visible at every level.

We have quanta, quarks and other elementary particles, atoms, molecules/crystals. And ‘objects’.
We have substances, membranes, cells, organisms, species. And individuals.

When our scientifically minded forefathers first tried to make some sense of what we had already learned about the world, they had come up with the notion of ‘states of matter aggregation’. Or ‘phases of matter’.
At first, there were three of them. Solid, Liquid and Gaseous.
Currently, we recognize five. Solid, Liquid, Gaseous, Plasma and Bose-Einstein Condensate. The first four are deemed to be ‘natural’ while the last is considered to have been ‘made by man’.

The main difference between them being the manner in which the components ‘stick’ to each other. The amount of force with which each of them interacts with its neighbors.
The same ‘level of internal interaction’ governs the way in which various ‘objects’ interact when they ‘meet’. Two clouds of gas interact differently than two bodies of water. Which interact differently than two rocks. Furthermore, a stream of gas interacts differently with a liquid than with a solid object. And so on….

My point being that the ‘phase of matter’ one object belongs to determines the manner in which that object interacts with its exterior.

‘OK, somewhat interesting but rather hard to follow… anyway, what has any of this to do with ‘conscience’?!?’

Given what I’ve already written, where would you put a living organism? In what ‘phase of matter’?
Is it solid? Liquid? Gaseous? Plasmatic?!? Or, given the fact that it contains all three ‘classic’ phases it’s closer to a Bose-Einstein condensate?

For lack of a better word, I consider ‘conscience’ to be a ‘state of matter aggregation’.

We’ve associated ‘being conscious’ with self awareness. With the human version of self-awareness… the one described by Humberto Maturana. ‘The learned ability to observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.
I suggest that we point our attention towards any other living organism. And notice that it acts as if it was aware of itself. It keeps its inside separate from the outside. It choses what to ingest. What of it to digest. And what to excrete. Sometimes even where to excrete. Then it passes the instructions according to which it had performed all these tasks towards the next generations.

Or would it be more suitable to consider ‘life’ itself as a ‘state of matter aggregation’? And consciousness as a property of life? As hardness is for solids and viscosity is for fluids/gases?

‘And what about ‘the discrete nature of things’? What has this to do with ‘conscience’?’

You see, I’ve just proposed ‘conscience’ as ‘state of matter’. That ‘phase’ where life takes place.
That place where individual organisms interact, among themselves and with their environment, attempting to survive. And to pass on the information contained in them.
We, humans, have taken ‘conscience’ to the next level. Our conscience is far more than the natural tendency to uphold the functionality of the individual organism. We observe ourselves in the act of observing. We set what is good, and bad, for us. We set goals.

Sometimes without being aware that our goals might hurt us.
The individual ‘us’.
And the collective us.
The collective us which makes us, individuals, possible.

Primum non nocere!

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‘Exploring what?!?
We don’t know yet how conscience came to be, nor how it works, and you want to explore its limits?
What are you talking about?’

First of all, Humberto Maturana has proposed a very astute explanation about how our conscience has evolved into what it is today. After our brains had happened to ‘accrue’ enough computing power, our ability to speak among ourselves had created the condition for us to cooperate towards the development of ‘self-awareness’. Towards our learned ability to ‘observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.

‘OK, I can accept that.
But we still don’t know exactly how it works. How the brain ‘exsudes’ consciousness!’

Well… do you know exactly how a computer works? Or how your car transforms fuel into energy and transports you to work and back?
Does your lack of detailed understanding prevent you from using a computer? Or from driving a car?

Does your lack of detailed knowledge about how things work prevent you from understanding – and accepting, the fact that the things you use have limits? That you cannot ‘overstretch’ any of them?

‘?!?… It’s my mind you’re talking about, dude!
What do you want to say? That my ability to understand things and to act as a rational human being is limited?!?’

Yep!
You got it perfectly.
In one go…

If you want to read some more about your limits, please help me to overcome mine:

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Change can either be inflicted upon you or effected by you.

‘Change’ as in ‘something you need to overcome if you are to survive’.

We, humans, are the first to be in this situation. The rest – from the humble sub-atomic particles to our cousins, the great apes, experience change only as being inflicted upon them.

Gravity pulls together a huge cloud of gas and dust until it becomes hot enough for the fusion reaction to transform it into a star.
A supernova becomes so hot that gravity can no longer keep it together. It explodes and releases the heavier elements needed for planet building.
As it cools down, the second generation nebula is again pulled together by gravity.
A smaller star appears, this time ‘entouraged’ by planets.
On one of those planets, conditions are ripe for life to appear.
Wind and frost erode the mountains. Water carries the debris into ravines. Micro-organisms transform the debris into soil.
Vegetation – starting with the blue-green ‘algae’, which are actually cyanobacteria, have transformed the atmosphere into what it is today.
Animals have evolved into their present state by eating plants – at first, and then each-other.
Fungi have added their contribution towards what we witness/enjoy today by digesting whatever they ‘perceive’ as being ‘food’.

All of the above mentioned ‘change’ has been ‘inflicted’ upon those who bore it, by the ‘changing factors’, according to ‘natural laws’ implicit to the nature of the ‘changing factors’.
Gravity pulls because…
The blowing wind and the freezing frost who had broken down mountains did change the face of the Earth because it was in their nature to do what they did.
Plants, animals and fungi, together, have transformed the planet into what it is today as a consequence of each of the species doing what it was natural for it to do in order to survive. None of the species, nor any of the individual members of those species, had ever done anything ‘on purpose’!

Until we, the ‘naked apes’, have become ‘conscious human beings’.

We continue to have a lot of change inflicted upon us, of course.
Inflicted by factors outside our species – the current Covid pandemic, for instance, or by ‘agents’ amongst us. The first example which comes to my mind being the plane high-jacked by Lukashenko – the ‘last European dictator’, because he wanted to arrest a dissident journalist who happened to be inside.

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My point being that we’re the first who effect change. Who do it ‘on purpose’.
Which very ‘purpose’ makes us responsible for the outcomes of our actions.
For no other reason than the fact that it will be us who will suffer the consequences of our own ‘edeavours’!

It’s our consciousness which instills purpose into our actions.
Then our very same consciousness should better become responsible towards the consequences engendered by our purposeful actions.
For no other reason but the simple fact that it’s our own survival at stake here!