Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not Very Nice, But Necessary

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot, Michael Anissomov wrote: Personally, I welcome criticism of my ideas, but the ad hominem intensity of many of your past posts has been insulting.

Don't press your luck, Michael. Robot Cultism is ridiculous and dangerous. Ridiculing the ridiculous always has its place. And strictly speaking, not everything that you happen to find insulting in my critique, whatever its intensity, qualifies as ad hominem.

Just because I can play nicey nice of a rainy afternoon, trading barbed witticisms with the Robot Cultists, don't imagine you've bamboozled me into forgetting that you and your friends want to code a superintelligent Robot God to solve all the problems of humanity you deem to be real in your impoverished instrumentalized accounting of them, upload your informational "essences" into the cyberspatial sprawl for all eternity, or at any rate lounge about in a treasure cave getting waited on hand and foot by a swarm of programmable nanobots functioning as Anything Machines, meanwhile many of your number peddle eugenicism in the name of a parochial "optimality" that denigrates viable, wanted, flourishing lifeways of peers of yours who share the world with you, share its problems with you, and will collaborate in the making of the futures that will present themselves to you in the fullness of time, whatever your facile blueprints and piecharts say on the matter.

Of course the Robot Gods and Immortal Robot Bodies and the Robot Slave Swarms are all the most infantile wish-fulfillment nonsense imaginable, conjoined to delusions of grandeur at their most flabbergasting, boys with their toys who fancy themselves holders of the Keys to History, Champions of the Enlightenment, the Futurological Brain Trust, but what you are saying is worse than wrong, worse than embarrassing, worse than fundamentalist.

In bulldozing around with your superlative megaphone you make it harder for people to talk sensibly about technodevelopment at a time when sensible talk is urgently necessary and enormously difficult. Disruptive technoscientific change activates irrational passions in any case -- hysterical fears of impotence, greedy fantasies of omnipotence -- that superlativity elaborates and exacerbates to a fever pitch.

If you were just a klatch of sf fanboys blueskying there would be nothing in the least problematic about any of that, but you fellows fancy yourselves a "movement" (and one sufficiently cultlike in some of its aspects to introduce a third set of worries about the damage done to some of the impressionable rubes you manage to hook) with "policy think tanks" offering up position papers that feed the deranging hype that already suffuses public technoscience discourse to the cost of all but the corporate-militarists who, in the short term at any rate, feed on it like gluttons at a buffet.

My unkindness to you is a kindness you'll never find among the self-appointed Elect of your Robot Cult -- somebody to knock some sense into you, figuratively speaking, and if nothing else laugh you out of town before you and your absurd friends manage to do too much damage you might after all be bright and decent enough to regret over the long-term.


jimf said...

> Of course the Robot Gods and Immortal Robot Bodies and
> the Robot Slave Swarms are all the most infantile wish-fulfillment
> nonsense imaginable, conjoined to delusions of grandeur at
> their most flabbergasting. . .

A pressing question: Is Superman super-smart as well
as super-strong, super-fast, etc., etc.?

"Barry Mahfood runs a neat blog that provides 'bite-size' reflections
on the Singularity. His most recent post has to do with how useful
a superintelligence would be for solving problems that we're grappling
with in today's world. A good point, and what I like most about
it is how he gets us there -- via a chat between George and Jerry
on an old Seinfeld episode about whether or not Superman should
have a super sense of humor. This raises the broader question of
whether Superman acquired a super brain to match his super brawn
when coming to earth."

Seinfeld, Superman, and the Singularity

jimf said...

"'Jerry: "I think Superman probably has a very good sense of humor."
George: "I never heard him say anything really funny."
Jerry: "It's common sense. He's got super strength, super-speed;
I'm sure he's got super-humor."
George: "Either you're born with a sense of humor or you're not.
It's not going to change. Even if you go from the
red sun of Krypton all the way to the yellow sun of the Earth."
As George makes his point, he uses the red ketchup bottle
and yellow mustard bottle to represent the red and yellow suns.
Jerry: "Why? Why would that one area of his mind not be affected
by the yellow sun of the Earth?"
George: "I don't know. But he ain't funny."

As far as we know, George was correct. Superman was not funny.
Neither was he unusually intelligent. But what if he was?
What if Superman were super-intelligent."

Y'know, I just don't think that would've worked, in general.
I mean, yeah, he could have had a machine to hook up to in
the Fortress when he needed to crack a particularly difficult
problem (or when he was dealing with Brainiac). But in

For one thing, it would've tanked his relationship with
Lois Lane.

Unless you wanted a posit Superman as a purely instrumental
superintelligence, with a carefully-crafted "interface" to
the human world. But that would go against the grain of
Superman as Super-Boy-Scout -- it would just be too creepy
and Greg Eganish to fly among the Mormon readership.

(Not that there haven't been SF stories along that line --
superintelligences kept in a bottle most of the time,
with stripped-down human personas that don't even know
what they're carrying around inside -- Piers Anthony's
_Macroscope_ -- which I must've read 40 years ago --
comes to mind.)

Anonymous said...

Wow... Dale, that reply to Micheal was masterfully devastating!

jimf said...

> [Y]ou fellows fancy yourselves a "movement" (and one
> sufficiently cultlike in some of its aspects to introduce
> a third set of worries about the damage done to some
> of the impressionable rubes you manage to hook) with
> "policy think tanks" offering up position papers that
> feed the deranging hype that already suffuses public
> technoscience discourse to the cost of all but the
> corporate-militarists who, in the short term at any rate,
> feed on it like gluttons at a buffet.

But seriously, folks, keep those donations coming in.
You can even donate via, er, PayPal.

The ideas of a singularity scenario and Friendly AI
are powerful, but more importantly, relevant now.
I support the Singularity Institute because they are
making unique contributions to these critical areas
of knowledge. I have pledged $200,000 in matching
funds to the challenge to help grow the Singularity Institute.
I hope you will join me as a donor, and support this
important nonprofit organization.

— Peter Thiel, SIAI Advisor, PayPal Founder & Former CEO

Dale Carrico said...

Via Wikipedia:

Peter Andreas Thiel (born 1967) is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, and venture capitalist. With Max Levchin, Thiel co-founded PayPal and was its CEO. He currently serves as president of Clarium Capital Management LLC, a global macro hedge fund… He was an early investor in Facebook, the popular social-networking site, and sits on the company’s Board of Directors…. Thiel was ranked #377 on the Forbes 400…. He is also the co-author (with David O. Sacks, who produced TYFS) of the book, The Diversity Myth: 'Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, and has contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, First Things, Forbes, and Policy Review, the journal of The Hoover Institution (on whose board he sits)…. In February 2006 Thiel provided $100,000 of matching funds to back the Singularity Challenge donation drive of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Additionally he joined the Institute's advisory board and participated in the May 2006 Singularity Summit at Stanford. In September 2006 Thiel announced that he would donate $3.5 million to foster anti-aging research through the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation. He gave the following reasons for his pledge: "Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries this century…. In May 2007 Thiel provided half of the $400,000 matching funds for the annual Singularity Challenge donation drive. On April 15th, 2008, Thiel pledged $500,000 to the new Seasteading Institute, whose mission is "to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems" … When asked about his political beliefs in a 2006 United Press International interview, Thiel stated, "Well, I was pretty libertarian when I started [in business]. I'm *way* libertarian now." In December 2007, he endorsed Ron Paul for President.

jimf said...

> When asked about his political beliefs in a 2006 United Press
> International interview, Thiel stated, "Well, I was pretty
> libertarian when I started [in business]. I'm *way* libertarian now."

The good news:

The bad news:

Marc_Geddes said...

Readers should be warned of my own experience with these robot cultists:

From around 2002-2006 I posted on the mailing list SL4 (robot cult central), trying to brain-storm various ideas. All I ever got was nastiness and talk of how only 'smart' people (ie the robot cult elite) could save the world and how only 'smart people' had all the correct answers.

As regards his views back in 2002, EY himself admits he didn't then have a clue about AGI. And even as recently as 2004, he once famously stated on SL4 that; 'I haven't done mathematical logic yet' (even though in any programming 101 course the first thing you are told is that mathematical logic is crucual for computer science).

He evades responsibility for his past behaviour by lamely claiming that EY_ Version 1996-2002 'wasn't was another person with the same name'.


I gave as good as I got, getting in some heavy punches in on robot cultists on the mailing lists. Unfortunately they their got their friends to 'run me out of town', getting me banned from the transhumanist lists.


Of course, most of these people were also rabid supporters of capitalism and 'the free market' (Libertarianism), and enthusaiastic 'investors' in the stock market.

We all know what happened. Madoff (the guy actually running the Nasdaq stock market so loved by the robot cultists) turned out to be the biggest fraudster ever, and in fact the entire banking/financial sector seems to have been riddled with fraud. Ironically, the stock market has crashed to the point that it is now below where it was when the robot cultists first started out (EY_version 1996!), Talk about retrodiction!

All the while of course, the Singularity resides ever further into the future, and year after year passes without the Robot God making an appearance. We are still here using one-finger typing as our programming interface, staring at Java code.

The typing fingers of the Robot cultists are probably as sore as they would be if they've spend all their time masturbating instead, only all the programming and proselytizing can't have been nearly as much fun.

But fear not Dale, the robot cultists have a new scheme.. if the Robot God is taking too long to appear, we'll just to become immortal won't we? (That way we can live long enough to see Robot God's coming!)

So they consulted Kurzweil, extolling us to swallow 200 vitamin supplemt tablets a day. Of course, we just found out in the biggest study yet that vitamin supplements are useless for preventing any of the diseases of aging. Yet another let-down.

It's just one 'extropian' scheme after another turning to custard before our eyes: the stock market, vitamins, etc etc.

When will all this silliness end Dale?

giulio said...

Sorry to give you a cold shower anonymous, but I find Dale's logorrhea against Michael pathetically ridiculous rather than "masterfully devastating".

Like, you know, those endearing fellows who insist on licking stamps and snailmailing dead tree letters in the age of the Internet. Wake up, we are in the 3rd millennium since almost a decade, in case you didn't notice. We are the future, like it or not.

Dale Carrico said...

I want to point out to idle readers or newcomers to the topic of Robot Cultism that in addition to Being The Future, the ridiculous Giulio Prisco is actually one of the most longstanding prominent figures in "movement transhumanism," on the Board of Advisors of several of their organizations.

Go Democrats said...

I'm sorry, but no one who goes around the internet masquerading as a turban-wearing mouse can be expected to be taken seriously.

giulio said...

Thanks for googling me Go Democrats! I also use the same mouse in an astronaut suit, a handsome multimetaversal Blood Elf character, a fractal portrait done by another futurist thinker, and several real pictures. Take me seriously or not seriously as you like -- not that I give a damn you know.

Dale Carrico said...

As for me, I don't have a problem with the mouse. I have a problem with the stoopid.

Anonymous said...

Giulio, can you please explain to us why you found Dale's reply to Michael "pathetically ridiculous"?

I understand you are a transhumanist who will naturally side with Michael but can't someone as educated as you even acknowledge that some of Dale's criticisms of transhumanism are fair and accurate? If you can, can you actually name them here?

jimf said...

Marc Geddes wrote:

> He evades responsibility for his past behaviour by
> lamely claiming that EY_ Version 1996-2002
> 'wasn't was another person with the same name'.

Sounds almost [Alfred] Korzybskian, dunnit?
Well who knows, maybe Eliezer will re-invent
General Semantics.

However, here's something that's unlikely to have

From: [JimF] on 02/06/2003 02:21 PM
Subject: Wind one up and watch him go

Eliezer on Gregory Smith (13-year-old wunderkind graduating
from college ):

> "Greg dreams of mining asteroids, curing cancer, eradicating hunger and
> becoming president."
> Ah, I remember those days. I had almost exactly the same dreams as a kid,
> before I got ambitious.

"'The Narcissist may be intimidating, mesmerizing, even
larger-than-life,' [Sandy] Hotchkiss [author of _Why Is It Always
About You? Saving Yourself from the Narcissists in Your Life_]
warns, 'but beneath the bombast or the charm is
an emotional cripple with the moral development
of a toddler.' . . . It's rare, however, that I've actually witnessed
Hotchkiss's toddler within rear its ugly head. Though I did once
see a narcissist friend of mine throw a temper tantrum, literally
kicking and screaming, at the age of 29, when a doorman wouldn't
let us into a party because we weren't on the guest list. 'Do you
know who I am?' she shrieked and then karate-chopped the
glass wall dividing us from the festivities. Again, I was impressed,
and not only because I'd never actually heard someone use the
phrase 'Do you know who I am?' and mean it. . .

And yet time and again people are drawn to these individuals.
Hotchkiss calls this condition -- that is, falling prey to the frothy
appeal of narcissists -- 'narcissistic vulnerability.' Interestingly,
more of Hotchkiss's book is devoted to the danger of becoming
involved with a narcissist than to the hazards of actually being a
narcissist. Perhaps this is because, as far as therapists are
concerned, narcissists are generally a lost cause. (As a psychiatrist
once explained to a friend of mine, narcissists are the bread and
butter of the therapeutic enterprise, not because they so often
seek professional help -- they're too impressed with themselves
to ever think they have a problem -- but because they drive so
many of the people around them crazy.)

Or perhaps this is because narcissists rule the roost for a
reason -- our whole culture is narcissistically vulnerable
and can't help but fall in love. . .

The narcissistically vulnerable are, in many ways, just as
loony as their counterparts. They hope to borrow from
the power and confidence that radiates from the narcissist
or to mend an old wound left by a narcissistic parent by having
a happy relationship with a replacement narcissist (a doomed
scheme, needless to say) or perhaps they're simply bored.
'Sometimes life just seems a little humdrum, a little flat,'
Hotchkiss muses. 'When you haven't felt excitement or
motivation for a while, there's nothing like a little narcissism
to perk you up.'

And that, I realize, is the point I've been driving at all along.
I know narcissists are dangerous to relate to in any serious
capacity -- someone capable of breaking your heart, for
example, or firing you -- but they are interesting in a superficial
way. Hotchkiss gives solid advice to those of us dealing with
the narcissists inextricably woven into our lives, but she neglects
to mention that the ones we need only deal with from a
distance -- an acquaintance or colleague or, say, Angelina Jolie
and Billy Bob Thornton -- can actually be a a lot of fun. Look,
we're not getting over our fascination with narcissists anytime
soon -- it's hard-wired into our hungry little hearts -- so why
not use them every once in a while? Even better, you can
enjoy the perks of narcissism without actually suffering the
hangover in old age. So wind one up and watch him go.
The brazen sense of entitlement! The mad theatrics! The
byzantine needs! Henry James couldn't have written it better."

> When will all this silliness end Dale?

Oh, it's never going to **end**, you know. The Scientologists
are still rolling in dough, and I daresay L. Ron Hubbard
was (or at least managed to **become**) a bigger SOB than anybody
we've encountered on the Extropians' list.

I see the Scientologists and the Extropians (and the Objectivists)
as successive generations of the same thing. The Scientologists
attracted a generation of SF fans (and authors) from the 50s,
typified by somebody like A. E. Van Vogt. They promised to
unleash "hidden powers of the mind" by applying a "technology"
cooked up from the cocktail-party Freudianism that was so
chic at the time. Nowadays it's computers -- and Greg Egan.
So we have AI, and uploading, and the rest. The lure remains
the same -- power, and wealth, and immortality. So what
else is new?

giulio said...

Re "As for me, I don't have a problem with the mouse. I have a problem with the stoopid"


jimf said...

The College's Anti-Intellectualism: Bourgeouis Administrators Run Amuck
By John Bruce
Wednesday, February 5, 2003

I saw an affable-looking, WASPy guy in his mid 30s, working the
people in the room the way a bumblebee works the flowers in my
back yard. . . [H]e started the conversation with some twist
calculated to flatter, something along the line of, 'Well, . . .
what affluent, successful part of town did you come here from?'

. . .

'I live in Westwood,' he said. I think he gave me the intersection,
so if I knew real estate, I could gauge his monthly payment. . .

Finally, he spoke: 'Do you live north of Los Feliz Boulevard or south?'
He wanted to keep the subject on real estate, not southward facing slopes.
If I lived on the right side of the street, there might still be hope.
We chatted a little longer, but he'd decided that, whether I was rich
or not, there wasn't much more nectar to be gathered at this particular
flower. . .

[O]ne term that's kept coming into my mind as I read alumni
communications is 'Babbittry'. As soon as I encountered my bumblebee
friend, I knew he was a Babbitt. . .

[For] H.L.Mencken, who may have invented the term 'Babbittry'
(as opposed to inventing [Sinclair Lewis's] character Babbitt)[,]. . .
Babbittry was a characteristic of the Booboisie, a 'large, bland,
self-satisfied group' that Mencken felt 'dominated the American South
and Midwest.' It's important to note, though, that. . . [b]landness
and self-satisfaction no longer belong to Midwestern Protestants of
the 1920s. . .

Essayist Ron Rosenbaum, writing in Salon, says Babbittry
'became a shorthand way of describing a kind of boosterish provincialism,
a disdain for the arts, a smug self-congratulatory belief in prosperity
and success above all other values.' He finds an outstanding example
in the text of Lewis's novel: ''I'll tell you why you have to study
Shakespeare and those,' George Babbitt says. 'It's because they're
required for college entrance and that's all there is to it!' . . . .
Shakespeare, . . . for Babbitt, is something useful only for Getting Ahead.'

I would add that, though I haven't seen it in these definitions, I've
always thought an additional feature of Babbittry is vapid, self-important,
cliché-ridden chatter. This, of course, is a staple of class newsletters,
the Class Notes in the Alumni magazine, and so forth. You can certainly
say, 'Come on, leave the class newsletters alone. They are what they are.
Every class newsletter in the country is like that.' But that's exactly
my point. Every once in a while I get a thickish envelope with a Hanover
return address, and when I open it, it's my old classmates Peter Punt and
Bob Baloney saying something like, 'Well, howdy, classmates, betcha
never thought Bob and the Puntster would show up at the Cornell game!!!!!
But here we are!!!! And here's a picture of the Puntster to prove it!!!!!
That's the charming and beautiful Mrs. Puntster there, too!!!!!!
After the game Puntster, the missus, and yours truly had dinner with
Bill and Billie Bilious!!!!!!!'. . .

I don't have anything against Puntster or Baloney, but where is the
remotest high and noble purpose and sense of obligation here? I'm not
looking for Lincoln's Second Inaugural, but is there anything here to
tell me these guys ever came close to something called an education? . . .

My answer to this would be that Babbitts of the clearly vapid
kind probably have their characters well formed by the time they
apply to. . . [c]ollege. . .

I see more resistant strains of Babbittry in places like the
'Faces to Watch' section of the. . . Alumni Magazine. A photo sticks
with me from a year or more back: an alumna, promoted to CFO of a
major company, had her picture there. But it wasn't an ordinary
corporate portrait -— she was out in the woods in a brand new
Banana Republic outfit, skipping down a forest path, blonde tresses
trailing in the breeze. This was the kind of picture where something
kept bothering me. Eventually I saw that it was the problem of the
Hitchcock film _Lifeboat_: how did the camera get there? The lady
is having her free-spirit moment, and somebody is taking her picture.
For that matter, you don't get something publishable by taking
just a snapshot in a leafy glade -— lighting is a problem.
And since this is a CFO, the picture is likely being taken by a
photographer from the corporate PR department, and there are takes.
She skips once, click, whirr, click, whirr -— and she goes back
and skips again. Hair not blowing as well this time, so she skips
once again. Click, whirr. Try it with the back pack this time.
And so forth.

This photo and blurb appeared in the Alumni Magazine not long
before CFOs began to receive a bad odor in society due to corporate
financial scandals. A few of them seem to have been crooks from the
get-go, but many more, with their complaisant subordinates, appear
simply to have been attractive drones, drawn into chicanery a
little bit at a time as their companies' outlooks diminished.
The alumna in question here appears to have been lucky enough not
to work for a company like Quest or Adelphia, where her moral
choices would have been stark. But if we follow the principle
of faithful in small things, faithful in large, I'm not sure,
from the admittedly limited picture she's presented of herself
to alumni, if her undergraduate education would have equipped
her to deal with those choices. Perhaps other resources might
if Dartmouth failed her; let's hope we never need to know.

Dale Carrico said...


If true, we can only assume that Giulio spontaneously combusted on the spot upon offering up this utterance, like some robot sooper-villain in a Star Trek ep stymied by a command to calculate pi to the last digit: "No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!"

Go Democrats said...

Maybe it's time for you to post a pic of Giulio in your "Would You Hit It?" section? I can only assume that Dale/Giulio congress would lead to a great matter/antimatter explosion, thus ending the multiverse.

Michael Anissimov said...

None of the stuff Jim posts about narcissism is testable or empirical. There is no empirical support for any of these theories -- they're just made up based on intuitions, plus further intuitions that are selectively plucked to support the prior intuitions.

Calling high-achievers "narcissists" and people that support them the "narcissistically vulnerable" is a great way of dismissing anyone you don't like. It has no explanatory power because it can be used with ANYONE, especially a boss that fired you and you're pissed off at, for instance. Anyone with self-confidence is narcissistic in this bizarre formulation.

I have a new definition: the narcissistic-theory vulnerable are those people attracted to untestable theories of narcissism supported by anecdotes because it allows them to reject all the people that are more intelligent or successful than they.

I think that Jim and Dale don't acknowledge Eliezer's genius because they're just jealous.

ChumpChange said...

Okay, so, space migration, intelligence increase, life extension -- that's three pillars of the transhumanist agenda.

And didn't Timothy Leary invent this agenda on the tail-end of an acid trip 30 years ago?

And how much more acid was required to turn these three fantasies into a movement?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Dale Carrico said...

I think Jim overapplies the narcissism diagnosis, too, but I must say I'm a bit amused by Michael's alternate suggestion that describing many of these assholes Jim is talking about as narcissists is "non-empirical" while apparently describing most of these assholes as "high-achievers" is supremely empirical. Are these "high-achievers" the same jackholes who say they need bazillions in bonuses whatever their failures because they are "the talent"? And, okay, I'll bite -- do you think Eliezer is a genius? Really? I must say I think that designation, too, is rather, er, overapplied in certain quarters.

Dale Carrico said...

To "Go Democrats": ew.

jimf said...

Michael Anissimov wrote:

> [T]he narcissistic-theory vulnerable are those people
> attracted to untestable theories of narcissism supported
> by anecdotes because it allows them to reject all the
> people that are more intelligent or successful than they.

Michael is absolutely right, of course. "Narcissistic theory"
was invented to sell books to people like me who read them
so they can feel better about their sad, unsuccessful

Certainly, anyone who would dare to call Ayn Rand a
"narcissist" must be one of the subhumans she was trying
to warn the world about -- one of the moochers who
deserve nothing but the contempt of their betters.

The technical term, by the way, is "ressentiment".

"The sick are the greatest danger for the well. The weaker,
not the stronger, are the strong's undoing. It is not **fear**
of our fellow-man, which we should wish to see diminished;
for fear rouses those who are strong to become terrible
in turn themselves, and preserves the hard-earned and
successful type of humanity. What is to be dreaded by us
more than any other doom is not fear, but rather the great
disgust; not fear, but rather the great pity -- disgust
and pity for our human fellows. . . . The **morbid** are
our greatest peril, not the "bad" men, not the predatory
beings. Those born wrong, the miscarried, the broken --
they it is, the **weakest**, who are undermining the vitality
of the race, poisoning our trust in life, and putting
humanity in question. Every look of them is a sigh --
'Would I were something other! I am sick and tired of
what I am.' In this swamp-soil of self-contempt, every
poisonous weed flourishes, and all so small, so secret,
so dishonest, and so sweetly rotten. Here swarm the
worms of sensitiveness and resentment; here the air smells
odious with secrecy, with what is not to be acknowledged;
here is woven endlessly the net of the meanest of
conspiracies, the conspiracy of those who suffer against
those who succeed and are victorious; here the very
aspect of the victorious is hated -- as if health,
success, strength, pride, and the sense of power were
in themselves things vicious, for which one ought eventually
to make bitter expiation. Oh, how these people would
themselves like to inflict the expiation, how they thirst
to be the hangmen! And all the while their duplicity
never confesses their hatred to be hatred."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche, _Zur Genealogie der
Moral_, Dritte Abhandlung, Sect. 14 (quoted in
William James, _The Varieties of Religious
Experience_, Lectures XIV and XV "The Value of Saintliness",
pp. 406 - 407)

But on the **other** hand,

"Narcissists are aided, abetted and facilitated by four types
of people and institutions: the adulators, the blissfully ignorant,
the self-deceiving and those deceived by the narcissist.

The adulators are fully aware of the nefarious and damaging
aspects of the narcissist's behavior but believe that they are
more than balanced by the benefits - to themselves, to their
collective, or to society at large. They engage in an explicit
trade-off between some of their principles and values - and
their personal profit, or the greater good.

They seek to help the narcissist, promote his agenda,
shield him from harm, connect him with like-minded people,
do his chores for him and, in general, create the conditions
and the environment for his success. This kind of alliance
is especially prevalent in political parties, the government,
multinational, religious organizations and other hierarchical

The blissfully ignorant are simply unaware of the "bad sides"
of the narcissist- and make sure they remain so. They look
the other way, or pretend that the narcissist's behavior is
normative, or turn a blind eye to his egregious misbehavior.
They are classic deniers of reality. Some of them maintain
a generally rosy outlook premised on the inbred benevolence
of Mankind. Others simply cannot tolerate dissonance
and discord. They prefer to live in a fantastic world where
everything is harmonious and smooth and evil is banished.
They react with rage to any information to the contrary
and block it out instantly. This type of denial is well
evidenced in dysfunctional families.

The self-deceivers are fully aware of the narcissist's
transgressions and malice, his indifference, exploitativeness,
lack of empathy, and rampant grandiosity - but they
prefer to displace the causes, or the effects of such
misconduct. They attribute it to externalities ("a rough patch"),
or judge it to be temporary. They even go as far as accusing
the victim for the narcissist's lapses, or for defending
themselves ("she provoked him").

In a feat of cognitive dissonance, they deny any
connection between the acts of the narcissist and
their consequences ("his wife abandoned him because
she was promiscuous, not because of anything he
did to her"). They are swayed by the narcissist's
undeniable charm, intelligence, or attractiveness.
But the narcissist needs not invest resources in
converting them to his cause - he does not deceive
them. They are self-propelled into the abyss that is
narcissism. The Inverted Narcissist, for instance,
is a self-deceiver ( )

The deceived are people - or institutions, or collectives -
deliberately taken for a premeditated ride by the narcissist.
He feeds them false information, manipulates their
judgment, proffers plausible scenarios to account for
his indiscretions, soils the opposition, charms them,
appeals to their reason, or to their emotions, and
promises the moon.

Again, the narcissist's incontrovertible powers of
persuasion and his impressive personality play
a part in this predatory ritual. The deceived are
especially hard to deprogram. They are often
themselves encumbered with narcissistic traits
and find it impossible to admit a mistake, or to
atone. They are likely to stay on with the narcissist
to his - and their - bitter end.

Regrettably, the narcissist rarely pays the price
for his offenses. His victims pick up the tab.
But even here the malignant optimism of the
abused never ceases to amaze. . ."

-- Sam Vaknin, "Facilitating Narcissism"

You pays your money and. . .

Marc_Geddes said...

Michael said:

>I think that Jim and Dale don't acknowledge Eliezer's genius because they're just jealous.

I used to think Eliezer was at least dangerous, if misguided. The truth is that he's not even a threat, since he's dead wrong about virtually *all* the big issues he prides himself on having 'solved'.

Where to even start? Suffice it to point out that Bayesian Induction is not even the foundation of logic. (In fact analogy formation is more powerful than Bayes). The robot cultists are wrong on even the most basic foundational issues of rationality.


Genius and IQ are two separate things. To worship one narrow component of the mind (IQ) at the expense of everything else is crazy.

Even purely in terms of intellect, IQ is just one of many other important qualities. Examples: Rationality, Creativity, Originality, Determination. A robot with only a super IQ and no other qualities, wouldn't be anywhere near as useful or powerful as the robot cultists think it would be.

giulio said...

Re "post a pic of Giulio in your "Would You Hit It?" section?"

Wow thanks Go Democrat, this is really flattering! But I am afraid whatever sex appeal I may have had a couple of decades ago is now lost in the mists of other days. Also, I am not much interested in these things anymore.

Instead, why don't I send a design blueprint for one of the humanoid actuators of my post-biological upload self. Piercing violet eyes sensible to all wavelengths, copper skin covering muscles of steel, snow white teeth able to chew diamond, and dulcis in fundo [let's skip this part].

jimf said...

Marc Geddes wrote:

> Genius and IQ are two separate things.

I have no problem with the label "genius" when it's applied
retrospectively -- when it's a judgment conferred by history
on those who are recognized to have made significant

It's a lot more problematic when it's applied prospectively,
as part of an attempt to identify kids with "potential"
(the whole gifted child -- or worse, "Indigo Child" -- morass).

But when people start thinking of **themselves** as "geniuses"
(well in advance of any particular reason for the rest of the
human race to think of them as such), then we're well into
narcissists' country.

"I used to have a neighbor who told his wife that he
was the youngest person since Sir Isaac Newton
to take a doctorate at Oxford. The neighbor gave
no evidence of a world-class education, so I looked
up Newton and found out that Newton had completed
his baccalaureate at the age of twenty-two (like most
people) and spent his entire academic career at
Cambridge. The grandiose claims of narcissists are
superficially plausible fabrications, readily punctured
by a little critical consideration. The test is performance:
do they deliver the goods? (There's also the special
situation of a genius who's also strongly narcissistic,
as perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright. Just remind yourself
that the odds are that you'll meet at least 1000 narcissists
for every genius you come across.)"

> To worship one narrow component of the mind (IQ) at
> the expense of everything else is crazy.

There's a political motive to it, of course. For people who
are bound and determined to separate the wheat from the chaff
of humanity, who want a single figure of merit to separate
the best from the rest, it's a very attractive metric.

jimf said...

Turbanned Mighty Mouse wrote:

> [W]hy don't I send a design blueprint for one of the
> humanoid actuators of my post-biological upload self?

How much does a good comic-book artist charge for that sort
of thing?

> Piercing violet eyes sensible to all wavelengths,
> copper skin covering muscles of steel, snow white teeth able
> to chew diamond, . .

Stop it. You're gonna make me embarrass myself in public.

> . . .and dulcis in fundo. . .

Tish! You spoke Latin! (Now, now, not in front of the
children, Gomez.)

> [let's skip this part].

Oh, let's not. Let's see.

A latin phrase meaning literally "The sweet part in the end".
It is often used metaphorically to mean "to top it all".

It is widely known, maybe because it was a ribald goliardic joke
probably spread in post-Renaissance Europe by travelling students:
"Dulcis in fundo (vaginae)" (that means exactly what it looks like,
or "The sweet part in the end [of vaginas]").

Now this jocular meaning is almost forgotten and the phrase is
used only to give your words a touch of latin charm.

You think you're still gonna need (or want) one of those
after your Transcension?

The human body had changed not at all in the billion years
since the building of Diaspar, since the basic design had been
eternally frozen in the Memory Banks of the city. It had changed,
however, a good deal from its original primitive form, though
most of the alterations were internal and not visible to the eye.
Man had rebuilt himself many times in his long history, in the
effort to abolish those ills to which the flesh was once heir.
Such unnecessary appurtenances as nails and teeth had vanished.
Hair was confined to the head; not a trace was left on the body.
The feature that would most have surprised a man of the Dawn Ages
was, perhaps, the disappearance of the navel. Its inexplicable
absence would have given him much food for thought, and at first
sight he would also have been baffled by the problem of
distinguishing male from female. He might even have been tempted
to assume that there was no longer any difference, which would
have been a grave error. In the appropriate circumstances,
there was no doubt about the masculinity of any male in Diaspar.
It was merely that his equipment was now more neatly packaged
when not required; internal stowage had vastly improved upon
Nature's original inelegant and indeed downright hazardous
arrangements. It was true that that reproduction was no longer
the concern of the body, being far too important a matter to
be left to games of chance played with chromosomes as dice.
Yet, though conception and birth were not even memories,
sex remained. Even in ancient times, not one-hundredth part
of sexual activity had been concerned with reproduction.
The disappearance of that mere one per cent had changed the
pattern of human society and the meaning of such words as
"father" and "mother" -- but desire remained, though now its
satisfaction had no profounder aim than that of any of the
other pleasures of the senses. . .

Thus they talked and argued, until presently Hilvar said:
"I'm tired. What about you -- are you going to sleep?"
Alvin rubbed his still-weary limbs. "I'd like to," he confessed,
"but I'm not sure I can. It still seems a strange custom to me."
"It is a good deal more than a custom," smiled Hilvar. "I have
been told that it was once a necessity to every human being.
We still like to sleep at least once a day, even if only for
a few hours. During that time the body refreshes itself,
and the mind as well. Does no one in Diaspar ever sleep?"
"Only on very rare occasions," said Alvin. "Jeserac, my tutor,
has done it once or twice, after he had made some exceptional
mental effort. A well-designed body should have no need for
such rest periods; we did away with them millions of years
ago." Even as he spoke these rather boastful words, his
actions belied them. He felt a weariness such as he had
never before known; it seemed to spread from his calves
and thighs until it flowed through all his body. There was
nothing unpleasant about the sensation -- rather the reverse.
Hilvar was watching him with an amused smile, and Alvin had
enough faculties left to wonder if his companion was exercising
any of his mental powers upon him. If so, he did not object
in the least. The light flooding down from the metal pear overhead
sank to a faint glow, but the warmth it was radiating continued
unabated. By the last flicker of light, Alvin's drowsy mind registered
a curious fact which he would have to inquire about in the morning.
Hilvar had stripped off his clothes, and for the first time Alvin
saw how much the two branches of the human race had diverged.
Some of the changes were merely ones of emphasis or proportion,
but others, such as the external genitals and the presence of teeth,
nails, and definite body hair, were more fundamental. What puzzled
him most of all, however, was the curious small hollow in the
pit of Hilvar's stomach. When, some days later, he suddenly remembered
the subject, it took a good deal of explaining. By the time that
Hilvar had made the functions of the navel quite clear, he had uttered
many thousands of words and drawn half a dozen diagrams. And both he
and Alvin had made a great step forward in understanding the basis
of each other's cultures.
Arthur C. Clarke, _The city and the Stars_

giulio said...

Re "You think you're still gonna need (or want) one of those after your Transcension?"

Sure thing! After my Transcension I will still be interested in fun and pleasure, so I will want all possible body parts that can be used for a good fuck, on demand, including but not limited to everything that we use at the moment. I am sure future body designers will come up with very imaginative options. Posthuman designer bodies can be implemented in atomic reality or in VR -- I don't see much of a difference if the VR includes a full 100% emulation of our current sensoria (plus other things of course). It is going to be a lot of fun.

giulio said...

Re "Oh, let's not. Let's see."

It is a date then. Send me a telephatic IM in a few decades. Any preferences about gender, body type or posthuman implements? I plan to have many synthetic physical or VR actuators to use on demand, of many different genders and look&feels.

Go Democrats said...

"a great step forward in understanding the basis of each other's cultures?" Is that what they call it nowadays? I have to tell you that I found that passage to be just as homoerotic as the passage in Road to Wigan Pier where George Orwell is admiring the tight buttocks of the laboring miners. Understanding the basis of each other's cultures indeed.

jimf said...

> I have to tell you that I found that passage to be just
> as homoerotic as the passage in Road to Wigan Pier where
> George Orwell is admiring the tight buttocks of the
> laboring miners

Oh, yeah. I was very disappointed that Alvin and Hilvar
didn't end up having a Brokeback Mountain encounter.

It was another twenty years or more before Clarke dared
to include an explicitly homosexual relationship in one
of his novels -- that was _Imperial Earth_, from the 70s.

Despite all the rumors that swirled for years around
Clarke himself and his life in Sri Lanka (which threatened
to derail his knighthood at the end), he never ever came
out publicly.

Strange man. I'm looking forward to the revelations sure
to be made when a decent biography is written.

jimf said...

Giulio Prisco wrote:

> It is a date then. Send me a telephatic IM in a few decades.
> Any preferences about gender, body type or posthuman implements?
> I plan to have many synthetic physical or VR actuators to
> use on demand, of many different genders and look&feels.

Giulio, even decades-old TV portrayals of transhumans are
more imaginative than that.

_The Artilect War: Cosmists vs. Terrans: A Bitter Controversy
Concerning Whether Humanity Should Build Godlike Massively
Intelligent Machines_ by Hugo de Garis
Chapter 5, "The Terrans"
As engineering and biology merge, more people will
want to try to become artilects themselves.
The technology will allow it. In the late 1990s,
there were social movements advocating that
human beings could become super-beings (artilects)
via a three-phase transitional process; i.e.
from human to Cyborg to artilect. . .

I have restricted my discussion largely to the
Terrans and the Cosmists, but one could argue that
there will be a third category -- the 'Cyborgs.'
These would be human beings (if one can call
them that, especially if they are radically
modified) who have decided to have themselves
restructured into partial artilects. The main
motive of the Cyborgs is simply that they want
to experience being an artilect themselves.
They will want to be superhuman.

Another motive may be that by implementing this
third major philosophy, the bitter confrontation
between humans and artilects may be avoided.
If human beings become artilects a step at
a time, then a smooth transition from human to
artilect might be possible without the risk
of a species-dominance war.

Frankly I think this is naive. It would only
work if everyone undertook the human-to-cyborg-
to-artilect transitions at the same rate,
which is obviously totally unrealistic. I
think what is much more likely to happen is
that millions, perhaps billions of human
beings will remain stolidly Terran and will
not want to modify their bodies and brains
too much. Perhaps a little genetic optimization
within human limits is OK, but they will
viscerally reject the Cyborgs. They will be
afraid of them and probably banish them from
their communities, especially when the
Cyborgian differences from the human norm
become great.

To the Terrans, the Cyborgian philosophy will
be simply a variant of the Cosmist philosophy.
The Terrans will probably detest the idea of
Cyborgs almost as much as the idea of artilects.
The more a Cyborg becomes artilectual, the
more alien 'it' will become in the eyes of
the Terrans. If a Cyborg modifies itself a
lot, it becomes more artilect-like. In the
limit, the human portion of the new creature
will be dwarfed by the artilectual portion,
both in terms of performance and possibly

For example, imagine that a Cyborg wants to
become an artilect. He wants to experience
being an artilect him(it)self. He/it continues
to add components to its brain and/or uses
genetic engineering techniques to modify
its body; e.g., by expanding its head size
so that it can fit more artificial brain inside

Let us concentrate on intellectual performance.
If the Cyborg adds molecular-scale, 3D, heatless
circuits of only a few cubic centimeters, which
would require almost no skull expansion, then
his/its mental processing rate would expand

Let us calculate the difference to give a feel
for how great the increase would be. We use
figures from an earlier discussion to obtain a
ballpark estimate of the processing speed of
the brain. Assume that each synapse . . . of
a total of 10^15 in the brain, processes 10 bits
a second on average. That is 10^16 bits a second
for the whole human brain. But the few cubic
centimeters of artificial brain will have nearly
a trillion trillion atoms -- i.e. bits (at one bit
per atom) -- and can switch them probably in
femtoseconds . . . i.e., a processing rate of
10^39 . . . bits a second.

So the human brain portion would contribute only
about a trillionth of a trillionth of the processing
capacity. The Cyborg would already be an
artilect. To the Terran, such a 'Cyborg' would
be just **an 'artilect in human disguise,'** i.e.,
a human body to carry around its artilectual
brain. The behavior of such a Cyborg would be
totally alien compared with normal human behavior.
Such a Cyborg would be doing 'other things'
with its trillion-trillion-fold-superior
brain-processing capacities.

Perhaps the Cyborgs, at the human level, before
adding on artilectual components, could argue
that because human brainpower can be increased
so easily, without any modification to the
external human body form, Terrans might be
more inclined to accept the idea of becoming
Cyborgs themselves. This may be true. Instead
of adding cubic centimeters of artilectual
brain, only cubic millimeters could be added,
by a simple injection of a small amount
(e.g., a cubic millimeter) of artilectual
material into the brain, which then self-assembles
and integrates with the human brain by
growing appropriate connections.

This still does not change the above calculation
very much, because if one adds only cubic
millimeters, i.e. only thousands of times
smaller, that would only reduce the processing
capacity difference to billions of trillions
of times the human level instead of
trillions of trillions of times. The modified
brain would still be an artilect. . .

The distinction between an artilect that has
no traditional biological component and an
artilectual Cyborg is not one that will be
very important to Terrans, I believe. The
two categories will simply be lumped together
as non-Terran, as non-human. The brain-injected
Cyborgs might look human on the surface, but
their behavior would be totally alien. Perhaps
the Cyborg might spend a trillionth of a
trillionth of its brain-processing time acting
like a human, but why bother thinking in
human terms? What would be the point?

...[V]ery quickly it would probably feel frustrated
at the extremely limited life-style available
to it as dictated by the constraints of its human
body. It would probably want to free itself
from the human body to build its own interface
to the external world. It would probably want
to slough off its human form and create a better
carrier, which could leave the planet, have many
more sensors, be immortal, etc.

So if the Cyborgs start getting smarter and smarter,
the Terrans will fear them in the same way that
they will fear the growing intelligence of artilects.
The Terrans will reject them both.

"If your brain is the size of Jupiter and your
hardware runs a trillion times faster than biology,
you have less in common with a human than a human
does with a grasshopper -- the gulf
is much wider."

-- Perry Metzger, one of the founders of the
Extropians' mailing list.

jimf said...

According to one of Clarke’s correspondents, author Toby Johnson,

> He demurred about coming out publicly as gay, he wrote,
> because he felt this fact would be used to discredit his ideas.
> He was 61 at the time of Stonewall, already past the sexual prime
> in which it’s meaningful to identify oneself as gay.
> He had a cute quip about not being gay: “At my age now,” he said,
> “I’m just a little bit cheerful.”
> He wrote that he was quite fascinated with the role homosexuals
> have played down through time as revolutionary thinkers. (In our
> correspondence, he expressed great interest in C.A. Tripp’s
> book about Abraham Lincoln as gay.) He kept a private collection
> of writing which is not to be published until 50 years after his
> death. I’d wager the world is going to receive the open acknowledgement
> of his homosexuality and of his theory about gay consciousness as
> revolutionary come 2058.

Johnson’s story is confirmed by Clarke’s friend, Kerry O’Quinn, publisher
of Starlog:

> Yes, Arthur was gay – although in his era that wasn’t the term. As
> Isaac Asimov once told me, “I think he simply found he preferred men.”
> Arthur didn’t publicize his sexuality – that wasn’t the focus of his life –
> but if asked, he was open and honest.

It is sad that this luminary was not more open about his orientation,
though not surprising considering his generation. And it is discouraging
that newspapers couldn’t get beyond his “cheerful” quip to report accurately
on his life.

Well, I'm not likely to be around in 2058.

And from a comment on a blog which seems to be by none
other than Charlie Stross:
My understanding is that Clarke is not only homosexual but left
the UK in a hurry in the early 1960s, one jump ahead of an arrest
warrant – I may be misinformed in this, but it would explain why
he didn't return for nearly forty years.

Note I use the term "homosexual" not "gay". The current-day subculture
didn't exist in anything approximating its current form back in England
in the 1950s. While there was indeed a subculture, it was intrinsically
closeted, clad its discourse in an almost-incomprehensible dialect of
slang – polari – and had very strong inhibitions against public displays
of sexuality. The UK in the 1940s to 1960s was not a good place to be
gay; indeed, if I remember correctly about 30% of the prison population
were inside for having a sexual orientation that today would simply
be considered non-mainstream. I don't know how many older gay men
you know -- men who matured before Stonewall -- but it was a very
different world, and not one in which it was terribly safe to form
romantic attachments. And it was this world in which ACC matured
and began writing.

jimf said...

> . . .none other than Charlie Stross. . .

Who is **not** himself gay, by the way, though after reading
the following blog entry I thought he might be. Then I saw
the next one.

Well, he's an ally, anyway.
3: Stuff I find objectionable

Trolling, spam, personal attacks, racism, religious evangelism,
and homophobia will reliably annoy me.

Beyond that, I'm not going to give you a laundry list. If you want
to second-guess me, you might want to bear in mind that I'm an
adoptive Scot of Jewish ethnicity, whose religious outlook is
similar to that of Richard Dawkins, who votes straight Liberal Democrat
in elections, who sees eye to eye with Cory Doctorow on IP
and civil liberties issues, and whose partner does AIDS charity
work. If you want an SF writer who shares American conservative
sensibilities, you're reading the wrong blog.
Speaking as a man who happens to be married to a woman, I'm mystified
as to how banning someone else from marrying can in any way protect
my marriage; but this kind of Orwellian misuse of language is typical
of witch hunters.

jimf said...

Dale wrote:

> Don't press your luck, Michael. Robot Cultism is ridiculous
> and dangerous. Ridiculing the ridiculous always has its place. . .

Unless, of course, you live in the U.K., where calling a cult
a cult can get you sued for libel. And apparently, you don't even
have to **live** in the U.K. to get sued in the U.K. -- you just
have to write something that can be **seen** in the U.K.

(I have no idea what I'd do if I were sued in the U.K. Probably just
blow it off, I suppose – I don't imagine I'd be in any danger of being
extradited, though I'd have to give up any idea of ever travelling
there, and I guess I'd have to make sure none of my assets
ever passed through a business or bank under U.K. jurisdiction.
The British Empire ain't what it used to be, but I wonder if I'd
be in any danger from Canada or Australia? Who knows!)
(linked to from )

Note that a recent book about Scientology, while it is (now) available
in the U.S. from Amazon
is not being carried by Amazon U.K. “for legal reasons”

jimf said...

> You pays your money and. . .

Chacun à son goût. But pity the husband and kids.