Saturday, December 31, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Let's get the boring statistics out of the way: the corpus contains 378,294 characters and 67,979 words. The Fleisch-Kinkaid Grade level is 11 (that is, the corpus as a whole is understandable only if you've reached 11th grade), while the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score is 52 (fairly difficult, good for those at the end of high school).
- "a lot of" - 50 times
- "be able to" - 37 times
- "one of the" - 34 times
- "I don't think" - 29 times (possibly there because I like to contradict people)
- "problem is that" - 27 times
- "in the first place" - 16 times
- "the problem is that" - 13 times
- "aabb aabb aabb aabb" - 10 times (this comes from me making Punnett squares)
- "would be able to" - 8 times
- "is going to be" - 8 times
|Brown Corpus||My Reddit Comment Corpus|
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
- Immortality. If your brain is virtual, you never have to die. Your virtual brain can be built to be more fault tolerant than your physical brain ever was, with error-checking built in.
- Low costs. A physical brain and body requires a home, three meals a day, and clothing at a bare minimum. To go different places, you need a car or public transport, both of which cost money. A virtual brain just needs a computer to live in, and bandwidth to interact with the world (if that's considered desirable).
- Full access to virtual worlds. I'm sort of working on the assumption that if you're able to upload your brain, the technology is at the point where we can make fairly accurate simulations of the world in general. To have full immersion into a virtual world, you need haptics, audio, visual, smell, taste, and physical feedback. Alternately, you would need someone to directly manipulate the brain, which either requires ultra-godlike levels of technology or invasive surgeries and merely godlike technology. If you're virtual, it's as easy as hooking up your virtual brain stem to virtual nerves in a virtual body. You'd be able to live in a perfect paradise, go on amazing adventures, and fulfil your wildest fantasies.
- Extra-human experiences. Would you like to experience what it's like to be a dog for a couple days? Go right ahead! Change genders, make up your own gender, live as a tree for a couple of years! Experience the wonders of five-dimensional living!
- Time control. If your brain is hardware independent, which it arguably should be, you would be able to speed up or slow down your subjective experience of time. The speed up factor would be limited by hardware, but even a conservative factor would allow you to experience two minutes for every one minute your physical brain would have experienced. At the higher end, you could spend a hundred years playing games while waiting for a friend to come over. Slow down isn't limited by hardware at all; once you got bored with life, you could take in a decade every few hours to see how human history ends up playing out, or you could set up the equivalent of Google Alerts to bring you into realtime when something happens (the invention of time travel, extraterrestrial contact, birthdays and anniversaries, etc.).
- Full control of your emotions and thoughts. This is a bit further down the road, and admittedly you'd be able to accomplish some of this with a physical brain once the tech improves. However, it would still be easier and faster in a virtual brain. If you're feeling depressed, you could just adjust your serotonin levels. If something bad happened and you don't want to remember it, you could just delete the memory. You could give yourself ambition, willpower, and whatever other quality you deem lacking in yourself. You could choose to live your life in a constant adrenaline high, or awash in a pure, non-addicting pleasure.
- The ability to fork your consciousness. If your brain is virtual (and hardware independent), you can freely make copies of it. Instead of "the road less travelled", you could take both paths, and talk with your other self to see how things are going. You could spin off a bunch of copies if you wanted to run a company with all the employees being you. Don't know whether you want to break up with your girlfriend? One copy stays, the other goes. That brings us to ...
- The ability to merge consciousness. You could merge the copies back together, so that you had both sets of experience. This would make it easy to learn new things and have different experiences, assuming that you didn't want to (or weren't able to) just edit those things in later. Or, if there's someone you like a lot, you could merge together with them and become one person.
- Identity theft. Imagine how fucked you would be if someone stole a copy of your brain. I don't normally use profanity on this blog, but that's pretty much the only word to describe what you would be: fucked. They'd be able to rip every secret out of your head, from passwords to crushes to things that you never wanted anyone to know. If you're lucky, the person who stole your brain only wants it to take all your worldly possessions and tell everyone about all the awful things you've ever thought. If you're slightly less lucky ...
- Eternal slavery. If someone got a copy of your brain, it wouldn't be too hard to construct a partitioned reality for it brain so that you didn't have access to the greater world. From there, they could get you to do anything they wanted to. Even if you only have a high school education, they could put you to work answering phones, running the AI in a videogame, or whatever else. Think of any current job that you don't really need a body for; they could have you (and lots of other copies of you) doing that for basically free. The virtual brain doesn't need to sleep or eat, and the cost to run it is the same as running a server. Because you're just a brain, they could cause you an infinite amount of pain, and reward you with small, sporadic doses of pleasure. But at least that's just for the purposes of conditioning and getting you to do something useful. It could be worse ...
- Hell. You know, being tortured in fire forever? Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "What kind of sick person would put a virtual brain into a virtual body in virtual hell?" 4chan, that's who. Or maybe just anyone who doesn't like you and has a different view about whether or not a virtual person is actually real. Or a religious group that thinks that virtual people don't have souls, and uses their hell as a way of dissuading people from uploading. The point being, there are lots of reasons for people to put you in a hell. All the wondrous possibilities of virtuality take on a darker tone when someone is using those features to keep you in agony.
- Lotus Eating. All the fun and games of the virtual don't actually affect anything in the real world. So while you're sitting inside the machine having a wonderful time, there's no longer any purpose to your life. Would you personally be able to resist a life of limitless meaningless pleasure, especially when you can delete the nagging part of you that wants more from existence? Whether or not you would even consider this a downside is dependent on personal philosophy.
- Uncertainty. Once your brain is virtual, you have literally no way of knowing what is or is not real, and your ability to discern truth becomes seriously impaired. From your perspective, you go to sleep inside the MRI and wake up with your entire reality attached to something that you don't really understand (unless you're one of the few people involved in developing the technologies, in which case you don't really need this guide). In the real world, there's a possibility (no matter how remote) that everything you see is being controlled by some near-omnipotent entity that alters your memories, moods, thoughts, and perceptions. If your brain is virtual, that possibility becomes several factors more likely.
- Self-competition. The continuity of consciousness argument would basically say that the physical you and the virtual you would be logically bound to following a heightened version of the golden rule. However, physical you and virtual you won't necessarily have the same goals, and could possibly see some benefit in screwing each other over - especially if the virtual you isn't under the direct control of the physical you. So as soon as you create this virtual copy, you'd have to worry about it competing for your job, or for your girlfriend's affections, or trying to get legal ownership of all the things that belong to the physical you.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Superman has always bugged me. The idea of dressing up in a special outfit and going to fight crime I can sort of understand, but it makes more sense for Batman than for Superman. Batman devotes nearly his whole life to fighting crime; even those token times spent as Bruce Wayne serve mostly to provide a cover (and income) for his crime-fighting. Batman needs a base, equipment, and intelligence gathering. And after all, it's not like Bruce Wayne can just disappear - if he did, all of the nice gadgets that makes Batman a real threat to the underworld would disappear too.
On the other hand, look at Superman. He's super-strong, super-fast, has laser eyes, X-ray vision, super-breath, flight, and invulnerability. He doesn't need money or a base. In most iterations, he doesn't even need to sleep. There's no reason for him to have a secret identity, from a crime-fighting perspective. The reason for Clark Kent must, therefor, be personal.
One of the biggest things I hate about Superman is kryptonite. To me it always smacks of a cheesy plot device. Authors and screenwriters seem to feel that Superman is too powerful, so kryptonite is needed to add in some element of danger, so that the audience actually feels suspense. They actually do the same thing in some of his rescue scenarios - Superman is almost always just barely strong enough, or just barely in time. But to me, that seems the wrong way to go. It should never be a question of whether Superman will succeed.Superman should be at risk for failure not because his powers don't work, but because the situation doesn't call for the application of brute force. He should have trouble fitting in with human society, wanting desperately to be accepted but not really knowing how to interact with people. The only reason that people adore him as Superman is because he saves their lives; as Clark Kent, he has no power, and without the grand deeds his attempts at charm just look weak and pathetic. Add to that the fact that he's kind of a uncompromising zealot, and you can see how he'd have problems when he can't hide behind having incredible powers.
And think about how tortured he must be. His super-hearing, depending on which version you go by, spans the whole world. With his super-vision, he can see through walls and watch the whole city at once. He knows that every second he spends as Clark Kent is a second that he's not saving someone from death. He can hear suicides screaming as they plummet to their death. He can hear women being raped, children being beaten. And the Clark Kent persona is so valuable to him that he stays in it, and only rushes off when there's a bigger emergency. Let's assume that Metropolis is like New York City. That means per day, there are 1.4 murders, 2 forcible rapes, 59 robberies, and 66 aggravated assaults. Those are just the violent crimes - that doesn't include all the fires, accidents, suicides, burglaries, natural disasters, etc. And yet Superman still spends a third of his time at playing human as Clark Kent. How did he come to that decision? Why does he choose to let people die?
One of the most common arguments against God is that there's still evil in the world. If there's evil, and God has the ability to stop but doesn't, then God must not be good. To my mind, the same applies to Superman. Especially after he has an interview with Lois Lane, wouldn't the public hate him for all that he doesn't do? Can't you just see the angry mother crying through an interview? "Superman stopped the train from derailing and then flew off, fast as lightning. Not three minutes later, my son was shot to death in an alley by a mugger. Superman was the only - theonly - one that could have saved him, could have stopped the bullets, and instead he just flew away. Where did he go? Why was my son less deserving of life than those people on the train?"
Or let's say that Superman actually does try to stop every crime in Metropolis. Even he isn't sufficiently powerful to stop them all, so he'd have to invent some kind of sorting algorithm (such as "If I have to choose between saving a life and saving property, I will choose to save a life"). And how would he decide? He'd be utterly crucified by the public, pretty much no matter what he chose, and it probably still wouldn't help him with the grey areas. People would write letters to the editor asking why Superman doesn't stop abortions from taking place, or they'd complain that his super-hearing and super-vision are tantamount to panopticon surveillance, or they'd complain that he's not doing anything about the prostitution problem, or they'd complain that he's exacerbating the plight of the poor, or they'd complain that he's contributing to the overpopulation of the prisons. A city with Superman working at full-speed, all the time, is one where he becomes the de facto police, and the policies that Superman enforces become far more important than the ones that are made by politicians.
You know what I think Superman feels when he comes across supervillains? I think he feels relief. Because here, finally, is something big and unambiguous, a true evil that can be stopped for good instead of a systemic problem that doesn't have a good solution. When he punches Luthor into the ground, he can forget about the liquor store robbery he stopped a few days before, and the man he put in jail whose children will grow up without a father. When Doomsday comes down, Superman can stop thinking about whether delivering food to starving people in Africa is depressing the demand for local crops and perpetuating the cycle of hunger, and just solve a problem by using his fists.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
- Identical siblings are actually just one person. This is logically consistent, but you'd get laughed at by nearly anyone you said that to.
- Identical siblings follow a special rule for personhood wherein they don't become people until the split happens. The original zygote was probably not considered to be a person in its own right. This is a poor explanation, because it's a partial concession that there are other factors for determining when personhood begins. Needless to say, "Personhood begins at conception, unless you're an identical sibling in which case it begins at division" makes the slogan pretty much unusable.
- A zygote which will eventually become identical siblings was actually two (or more) people all along, we just didn't know it. This is sort of logically consistent, but it defies the whole continuity of personhood argument a little bit.
- A chimera is actually two people. This means that legally, marrying one would be considered polygamy and murdering one would count as two homicides. This is stupid, and I doubt anyone would be content with this logic.
- Chimeras follow a special rule for personhood whereby they don't count as people until the merge happens. This has the same problem as with twins above, where it doesn't make all that much sense.
- The two zygotes that make up a chimera were each only half of a person. But that wouldn't make sense, because it would be a tacit admission that not every zygote is a full person, and introduces the whole concept of "personhood calculus" into the mix, which most people are quite eager to avoid. (I am too, mostly because the results of personhood calculus leads to things which are politically incorrect, but which I still believe to be true.)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - It had a good amount of British humor, though a number of the references were lost on me.