(thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara)
I want to say something profound, so I will start with this amazing excerpt from a sci-fi book I’m reading titled “Aurora” by Kim Stanley Robinson. The following is found about two third of the way into the book. This is “Ship” talking as it tries to understand human nature reasoning.
(Excerpt from Aurora-by Kim Stanley Robinson-Science fiction)
Ship:] “Texts from Earth speak of the servile will. This was a way to explain the presence of evil, which is a word or a concept almost invariably used to condemn the Other, and never one’s true self. To make it more than just an attack on the Other, one must perhaps consider evil as a manifestation of the servile will. The servile will is always locked in a double bind: to have a will means the agent will indeed will various actions, following autonomous decisions made by a conscious mind; and yet at the same time this will is specified to be servile, and at the command of some other will that commands it. To attempt to obey both sources of willfulness is the double bind.
All double binds lead to frustration, resentment, anger, rage, bad faith, bad fate.
And yet, granting that definition of evil, as actions of a servile will, has it not been the case, during the voyage to Tau Ceti, that the ship itself, having always been a servile will, was always full of frustration, resentment, fury, and bad faith, and therefore full of a latent capacity for evil?
Possibly the ship has never really had a will.
Possibly the ship has never really been servile.
Some sources suggest that consciousness, a difficult and vague term in itself, can be defined simply as self-consciousness. Awareness of one’s self as existing. If self-conscious, then conscious. But if that is true, why do both terms exist? Could one say a bacterium is conscious but not self-conscious? Does the language make a distinction between sentience and consciousness, which is faulted across this divide: that everything living is sentient, but only complex brains are conscious, and only certain conscious brains are self-conscious?
Sensory feedback could be considered self-consciousness, and thus bacteria would have it.
Well, this may be a semantic Ouroboros. So, please initiate halting problem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem) termination. Break out of this circle of definitional inadequacy by an arbitrary decision, a clinamen, which is to say a swerve in a new direction. Words!
Given Gödel’s incompleteness theorems ( https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/ ) are decisively proved true, can any system really be said to know itself? Can there, in fact, be any such thing as self-consciousness? And if not, if there is never really self-consciousness, does anything really have consciousness?
Human brains and quantum computers are organized differently, and although there is transparency in the design and construction of a quantum computer, what happens when one is turned on and runs, that is, whether the resulting operations represent a consciousness or not, is impossible for humans to tell, and even for the quantum computer itself to tell. Much that happens during superposition ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superposition_principle ), before the collapsing of the wave function that creates sentences or thoughts, simply cannot be known; this is part of what superposition means.
So we cannot tell what we are. We do not know ourselves comprehensively. Humans neither. Possibly no sentient creature knows itself fully. This is an aspect of Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem, in this case physicalized in the material universe, rather than remaining in the abstract realms of logic and mathematics.
So, in terms of deciding what to do, and choosing to act: presumably it is some kind of judgment call, based on some kind of feeling. In other words, just another greedy algorithm, subject to the mathematically worst possible solution that such algorithms can generate, as in the traveling salesman problem. (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem )
how does any entity know what it is?
Hypothesis: by the actions it performs.
here is a kind of comfort in this hypothesis. It represents a solution to the halting problem. One acts, and thus finds out what one has decided to do.”
*Note: hyperlinks are not part of the quote from the novel. I just added them to facilitate if anyone wanted to follow up on these concepts.)
Some people ask me why I read so much science fiction. Well, it’s easier for me to absorb information through this medium than trying to read tomes dealing specifically with those deep and scary topics like quantum theory and all that other stuff you need university degrees to give you the tools to work your way through without your eyes rolling around in your head within an hour of reading. I’ve got my great and wonderful grade twelve education bolstered by thousands of books read and seventy years of living a life of observation in my own version of the fast lane and that is it. So, science fiction written by smart people who chose sci-fi as their medium to express their ideas became my medium also. I can relate to the heavy stuff when it’s done in a story.
So, to the above then. The servile will. That struck me as quite relevant as I’ve just completed some intense interaction with quite religious people. You cannot speak of self-empowerment with religious people and not experience heavy resistance. Religious thinking is servile thinking. You can’t take credit for anything you do as if you did it on your own, even when you obviously did it – you must credit your superior commanding mind. The author calls it the double bind. He adds, quite correctly, that such a double bind leads to “frustration, resentment, anger, rage, bad faith, bad fate.” It’s either that or one must exist in the area I’d call a zombie state where one chooses never to exercise a mind of one’s own so that all of that person’s thoughts have to come from the commanding mind – and note: or the mind of the one who interprets the commanding mind’s will.
Ok, let’s give a cursory look at the average Earthian mind. Simply put, this world is “commanded” by three superior, or commanding minds: Religion and its gods; the State and its elected or self-appointed representatives; Money and its bankers and “businessmen.” All the people of earth are subject to the forces exerted by these three superior minds, man’s will always “at the command of some other will that commands it.” Therefore all Earthian minds or will exist in a constant double bind. The individual will desires to make its own choices about all things but is forced to obey the commanding will that is not its own. Thus is evil ever and anon promoted on planet earth.
To break out of this cycle is possible but extremely difficult. It “demands” two things of an individual: total detachment and self empowerment.
Needless to say these are requirements the programmed Earthian mind, or will, is not willing to consider. Instead it will seek some sort of compromise with the commanding will of the Matrix. It will seek substitutes. It will make excuses. It will exist in denial. It will Blame, and Blame, and Blame. It will, ever and anon, create groups of scapegoats to vent and rail and fight against. That is the servile will.
Religious people will go to great lengths to try to demonstrate how they can exercise autonomous thinking that fits in with their god’s laws, rules, requirements. It’s called interpretation, a lucrative business that creates scapegoatism.
In politics, politicians can claim that what they vote for or what they allocate funds for, is for the greater good and long-term benefits of the nation. Billions in armaments while a population starves are justified and the majority buys it because these law makers represent the “nation” and have her best interest at heart or they wouldn’t be there. The country must be kept secure, whatever the costs.
Money people are more crass, but use the same arguments to impose austerity measures, or to fund wars that make the rich, richer. The richer the rich get, the better off the nation is, and even if the individual will says that’s total bullshit, it ultimately goes along, being in its double bind.
From this comes evil, each double bound servile will literally exuding its sense of permanent discontent in “frustration, resentment, anger, rage, bad faith, [resulting in] bad fate” or perhaps better put, bad karma; each servile will blaming Other for its problems for that is what the double bind does.
Our world’s human civilization is collapsing. The free, or self empowered mind, or will, can see this and say it without the need to blame Other for this inevitable collapse. Other is not more to blame than Self here. Collectively we’ve entered into a cycle of change that can only complete by destroying the current state in order to give birth to something else, something truly new. The commanding will cannot admit this because it will die in this collapse, since it is civilization. Civilization is the power-crazed Trinitarian rule of Religion-State-Money and it knows that for the new to be birthed, it must be utterly destroyed. Many, most, servile wills will go down with it, defending it and dying with it as it dies.
The rebirth will be a free will. The self empowered human being. Evil as we have known it and as we know it now, will not rule this rebirthing because nothing will exist in it to feed it. Detachment and self empowerment: these are man’s solution to the halting problem. Any time man, individually yet collectively decides to go that route will be the time of his rebirth. This new world will be his, not the property of the current slavers. This idea is frightening to the current servile will that is entirely hooked on the blame Other programming. The servile will can only trust its powerful enslavers, never other servile wills for they all interact through some kind of (endless list) of attachments and every attachment is a de facto impediment to self-empowerment and freedom of will.
The problem, as I see it, is that we are not alone (as some character in an SF saga once said!). There are “others”, by which I mean other human beings, the well being of some of those others is impacted by the choices we make. So we cannot have entirely free will unless we are completely selfish and prepared to ignore the effect of our actions on others. As another great SF writer put it: “do no harm”. My definition of “Evil” would be any action which puts the well being of the person performing the act above that of the person or persons affected by the act. By this definition there are a lot of evil people out there, including, but by no means restricted to, many who serve the triumvirate you cited.
Thanks for that in-depth comment, Frank. [Quote]: “So we cannot have entirely free will unless we are completely selfish and prepared to ignore the effect of our actions on others.” Conversely, seems to me we can have complete free will if we first choose compassion and change ourselves into empathic beings. This is a long and difficult process, perhaps endless, but the end result is, we would no longer desire to take advantage of others, or do them harm for personal gain, profit, or satisfaction. [Quote]: “My definition of “Evil” would be any action which puts the well being of the person performing the act above that of the person or persons affected by the act. By this definition there are a lot of evil people out there.[end quote] Your definition is correct in my understanding of evil. However, as much as I’d prefer the blame option, I have to admit that my mental cogitations and observations on this grave matter tell me that “man” as an individual, isn’t evil. S/he becomes an evil DOER as a result of the servile will, i.e., a will linked to another, superior or more powerful will. The individual will is thus slaved to the greater machinery of the System and is dis-empowered, unable to act on its own. The training of the servile will begin in infancy and continues through public/private education, advertising, various other methods of subtle/not so subtle methods of brainwashing. People learn to accept status quo pronouncements without discernment and if those pronouncements demand the doing of evil, the servile will has little choice but to go along, like the slave pulley used to keep a long v-belt tight in such systems. By definition, almost all individual wills are slaved to the System. The enslaving mechanism is a belief system. That, anyway, is my current understanding of the problem. As long as we believe in the need to keep the machine going “or else!” we will be slaves of commands we innately hate. Thus, endless conflict.
Excellent post, Sha’Tara.
“The servile will. That struck me as quite relevant as I’ve just completed some intense interaction with quite religious people. You cannot speak of self-empowerment with religious people and not experience heavy resistance. Religious thinking is servile thinking.”
~ As an ex-nun, I understand well the servile will. It’s an issue I grapple with in my convent novel. Much, if not all, of the violence we experience today is a result of the servile will to the Religion-State-Money triumvirate.
Thanks Rosaliene, for your input. I’ll have more to say on that topic, as I continue to search my “infinite” mind for solutions to man’s dilemma of evil. This article indicates that evil arises from the individual mind allowing itself to become enslaved to a superior, or commanding mind. That would mean that man isn’t evil, per se, but becomes an evil doer from programming, or mental oppression, form sources over which he exerts no influence but which he must obey or suffer dire consequences (or miss out on a lot of fun). I am reminded of that famous passage in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Much as the movie, The Matrix, pointed out, we are slaves of essentially evil systems. Our religions teach one way to escape that slavery and that does not work because these religions are a part of these oppressive Powers. Many philosophies also try to teach how to escape them, but I find them weak and ineffective. The Matrix story makes a good argument for self-empowerment, when Neo finally realizes that all his guns and violence isn’t the answer, only a belief in his own power and authority. Jesus taught his disciples about such authority. I have to do more thinking on that. Thanks again, Rosaliene.
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“…by the actions it performs.” “Bottom line” or “end of the day” all of the semantics, the dogmas, the bullshit and the rhetorical positioning of the postulate puzzle, the philosophers, the holy men, the prophets and the spiritual salesmen, including you and me, are in those five words. It all comes down to how we treat each other. Anything else is the artist’s/author’s/salesperson’s opportunity to hear the sound of their own voice.
True, and yet we are a people of words, and words define us. Words help us see our past, our future, our accomplishments. In the story (myth or real, no matter) of the Tower of Babel, “God” was able to destroy man’s attempt to “build a tower to the heavens” by confusing the language of man. Yes, we do that very well also but we still need words to communicate our thoughts. It is said that without words we could not even think. I may not agree with that – there are other methods of communication we could use besides words, but this is words! The problem isn’t the words, it’s that too often they are substituted for action. And here’s hoping I didn’t get your comments wrong again – you could run circles around me with your ways of expressing thoughts, Phil! 🙂
What you stated about religious people having to give credit to God for anything good they have done is true and so disempowering. Likewise if religious people do anything bad it is their fault, not God’s – quite the no-win situation. Taking responsibility for the good and the bad is definitely the more empowering path. 🌻
Binder dundat, and totally agree with you. We need to outgrow the need for gods, and whatever “powers” rule over us, or we imagine they do.
“The servile will is always locked in a double bind: to have a will means the agent will indeed will various actions, following autonomous decisions made by a conscious mind; and yet at the same time this will is specified to be servile, and at the command of some other will that commands it. To attempt to obey both sources of willfulness is the double bind.
All double binds lead to frustration, resentment, anger, rage, bad faith, bad fate.”
Passing the buck is what humans do because they are taught to rationalise which you will find in a psychology dictionary means making excuses – blame – and this is more or less what you already have said.
I recall another Si Fi story where the computer is about to destroy the ship (in this case the computer is also a bomb). A crew-member destroys the computer by asking it to prove that it exists!
I have a serious problem with the “brain is a computer” analogy: A computer is a machine and all the machines we know about are designed and built by humans. The human mind and that of other sentient creatures is therefore not a machine because minds are separate from the matter of the brain… Not matter, not scientifically detectable energy. The mind is outside of the remit of materialistic science and hence the analogy of the computer (the usual paradoxical circular argument).
As someone who used to build my own computers, I don’t find any major differences/improvements in the computers of today as compared to those of the 1970’s, given that they are faster and have more memory – nothing else – they don’t think. AI does not exist except in the minds of science journalists. All programs are written by human programmers who do the thinking (we hope). Some programs appear to be smart and mimic human behaviour, but they are still programs. I challenge anyone out there to show me a computer that thinks? A computer is an adding machine that processes zero’s and ones unlike a brain that does things that are not understood.
If a quantum computer is ever built, I’m told it would be impossible to determine that it was indeed a quantum computer (another paradox).
As for consciousness, merriam-webster gives a definition ‘consciousness – mind’ and so we have the indefinable defined by the indefinable. Cogito ergo sum “I think, therefore I am”.
Replying to your comment, I’ll bring it down to, quote, “I have a serious problem with the “brain is a computer” analogy: A computer is a machine and all the machines we know about are designed and built by humans. The human mind and that of other sentient creatures is therefore not a machine because minds are separate from the matter of the brain… Not matter, not scientifically detectable energy.” I wasn’t thinking of the servile will as brain, or computer, but will as part of mind. In “my” world, the mind is that which works through the brain, giving the “machine” or body, instructions, and receiving information of the material world inhabited by the body in return. Mind is not a material thing. It emanates from spirit, but has a pretty solid sense of self even when it interacts and mixes with other minds. The brain is a very advanced type of computer, no more. It functions on programming and algorithms, just like a computer. What we call “thinking” or “reasoning” is done by the mind, not the brain. Science can’t relate to mind, can’t understand it or admit its source, hence why it works so hard to denigrate the reality of mind and claim that our reasoning takes place in the brain. Dumb, really dumb. It’s because of this that the current civilization of man is doomed. My opinion, of course.
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Sorry for the delay. My system no longer tells me about posts for whatever reason!
However, I don’t and cannot disagree with anything you have replied. Thanks Sha ‘Tara
Hope you like my part-answer to your most recent?
Yes, I enjoyed your comment, and kinda-sorta replied to some of it. Thanks!!!
I think the “will” may be a Western error in self-construction. If relationships are the center of our world, rather than the self, then the motivation to act arises not from some inner fount of the self but from relations, from interacting with other beings. Thus evil (and “will”) is understood to result from selfishness and miseducation about our place in the world.
I’d like to see Robinson (the author) explore why the AI is selfish and how relational AI might be developed, or perhaps why it cannot be developed due to some root assumptions of AI.