Souls

After the Blade Runners and Black Mirror I’m almost tired of the question of soul-having. I get it, people jump through hoops to have a word that can’t be measured to draw a line between themselves and animals, computers, etc. ‘Soul’,  ‘internal experience’. Turns out there’s no hard line; there’s possibly no meaningful difference between slavery, caste systems, animal husbandry, and androids/AIs without human rights, and we are bad people until we acknowledge this.

In Fullmetal Alchemist, there are these “homunculi,” artificial persons, which are humans without souls. Besides the fact that they have superpowers, the only difference between them and humans is they spend all day bitching and moaning about how they don’t have souls. I’ve yet to see any fiction show me a “person without a soul” that had any compelling point to make. Every single example was just something like Data from Star Trek: boy I wish I had a soul; I’m so sad about the fact that I have no emotions.

Person A has a soul, person B lacks a soul.

What’s the difference?

Well, one has a soul.

Yes, but what does that mean?

The other doesn’t have a soul.

What are the implications of this? How is this a meaningful statement?

Well they don’t have a soul you see, you gotta have a soul.

What about the guy without a soul?

Well obviously he doesn’t need a soul. He doesn’t have a soul.

Powerless

fanboat [4:35 PM]
I think I have some kind of complex about feeling powerless
I feel like an ant on a planet of gods 99% of the time but 1% one of the gods stomps on me and I don’t know what to do
what the hell can an ant do
I don’t feel that way right now particularly but the way I was casually eliminated from that subreddit like dust off of a rolling tank, as meaningless an interaction as it was, is one of the little things that reminds me that, unless I stumble across a hundred million dollars or a radioactive spider gives me superpowers, I will never have personal agency outweigh, in even a single instance, the power that innumerable people have over me.
I got that E X I S T E N T I A L D R E A D A E S T H E T I C permanently embedded in ma brain
once again this [subreddit] thing isn’t really setting me off itself, though, just reminds me of the things that do


It’s like when you lose your job and crash your car and your girlfriend leaves you then you get home and stub your toe on the coffee table. The coffee table which you’ve probably never stubbed your toe on before. The coffee table that didn’t move and you didn’t forget but there it is stubbing your toe anyway. Why did you stub your toe? Randomness or Nothingness or God or whatever looked down on you and your life and your day and said “No! No, that isn’t enough. No, you’re getting this, too.” and you ask why, but there is no why. There is no question and there is no answer because there could not be an answer to that question and
It
Des
Troys
You

Arbiters of Wider Communication

fanboat
What do you think of this whole youtube/apple/etc dropping alex jones?
As I understand it he’s terrible and probably a poison to modern democracy, but I think people are way too into jumping behind these companies in shutting him down while almost exclusively citing the argument that “they’re allowed to because it’s their platform”

P
Yeah that’s pretty much where I stand

fanboat
These big tech companies are more and more every day the gatekeepers of modern discourse. If you had a grievance against them then they’d have just as much of a right to shut you down, and your millions of youtube views would be reduced to ones of views of your projector in a free speech zone near city hall
I don’t suggest that they’re obligated to host Alex Jones’ content but I am uncomfortable with their influence and few else seem to be.

P
Yeah that’s what I was about to say. It’s very much not in the spirit of net neutrality. But the important difference (which I’m sure people will point out) is that these services are not literally the gatekeepers, unlike ISPs
They’re just gatekeepers by popularity

fanboat
Yeah people bring up the comparison to ISPs and I agree that’s only useful partially, it’s not a complete or totally fair comparison
but Bell corporation was only in control by popularity, too. Power begets power and control begets control. They’ll only become more influential and it’s easier than ever to convince congress that they don’t need to be regulated or require competition.
It’s just the state of the whole mess, not any particular thing, that I find alarming.
Plenty of devs or companies could make a platform better than youtube, at least in specific metrics. But no one will supplant them because they’re it, they’re the platform, they’re the place you go.

P
Yeah idk. I started typing out a long paragraph about how a lot of this stuff is new with the internet, but then I realized it’s really not that new. Centralized sources of information have been a thing for over a century, they’re just taking a slightly different form now

fanboat
Yeah. I suppose there’s probably a history of politically charged books being unsupported by the library system or something. I wonder if there’s much historical analogues like that
But people will immediately dismiss most of those due to the fact that this isn’t the government
It would need to be an issue of private control over a strong majority of information channels. I guess Bell was pretty close.
lol I commented it something about it on a thread where people post that free speech show-you-the-door xkcd comic that was mysteriously absent from the net neutrality debate

P
ugh
Even the mention of that comic annoys me

fanboat
lol

[….]

fanboat
It’s just more about the uh, the fundamental workings of what brings about the outcomes to me, I guess. This Alex Jones things is like, imagine if instead of him being taken off the platform, he was killed by a drunk driver. Similar outcome, right? The guy was making the world a worse place, hands down. He added nothing of value and made normal operation impossible for many instances of social interaction. So how can anyone sit here and say “it was wrong of that guy to drink and drive”?
Well, because it could have happened to any-damn-one else is why.
The big difference in this case being it was unintentional by the DD. In the real world it was done because it benefited shareholders and furthered corporate interests.

Breaking the Lock on reddit Comment Sections

Locked comment sections have been a peeve of mine since the option’s inception. Though occasional legitimate uses arise, often the lock is a moderator’s lazy middle ground between deleting the post (and losing exposure for their subreddit) and actually doing the thing they volunteered to do. It is my general opinion that when a post on the front page is locked but not deleted, it stands as a monument to the failure of the moderators of that subreddit.

With that in mind, a few years ago, a post from r/science was on the front page. I can’t recall what question or comment I had, but I knew that this was the perfect (and perhaps only) place to voice it. I opened the thread, only to learn that it was locked. A few people had made a few jokes, and rather than continue the monumental task of occasionally moderating their subreddit, the mods decided that no one being allowed to say anything was the preferable decision. I was so annoyed by this that I made my own subreddit, r/CommentUnlock, a subreddit to allow the creation of surrogate threads for locked threads where conversation could continue.

While it did get a brief moment of activity when a post on r/wowthissubexists spread the word, it received very little activity other than me posting links to threads I had something or other to add to. When it did get that small degree of attention, though, the most prevalent suggestion was that I create a bot to automatically create surrogates for locked posts on the front page into r/CommentUnlock. And I finally did just that.

The main front-end function of this bot is to identify any post within the top 100 posts of /r/all and automatically create a linked thread on r/CommentUnlock. The back end, however, is where I started having fun. The bot also maintains a database of locked posts on the front page including when they were posted, when they were locked (if they were locked on the front page), and how long they lasted on the front page. With any luck this will come together into some rather interesting data.

As only a few posts are locked on the front page each day, it may take some serious time before a useful data set is accumulated. Until then, though, I am having quite a lot of fun adding features and just watching it shatter the locks on comment sections day by day.

The current state of the bot is visible on Github.

The Geneva Convention

An excerpt from a post I made on reddit.

 

The Geneva Convention is a set of rules put together by a group of world leaders. These rules were put in place to regulate the practice of war. War arises for many reasons, but is ultimately a method of settling dispute. You do not take turns. You do not have time outs. The purpose of war is to murder enough people that the remainder either begins agreeing with you or is rendered incapable of or unwilling to disagree with you.

The concept of war, while not applauded, is not considered something that ought to be completely forbidden.

If a group, such as a nation, believes themselves to possess lands settled by another, or believes another group ought to be destroyed for having incompatible beliefs, they may do war to them. They will go to these other people and make them dead until they adhere to the belief system endorsed by the first party.

Once again, this is not considered something strictly bad.

If a group believes they are beholden to rules which they should not be, they will do war to those asserting these rules. They will go to these other people and make them dead until the rules are no longer in effect.

This, too, is considered the gist of war, and there is nothing outrageous about it.

However, there are times in war where a party might do things that another party does not approve of.

I will stress at this point that the act of going to another party and making this party dead until they comply with demands is NOT one of these things. Consent to being killed for something you disagree with is implied to always be… agreed with.

The world leaders (in the form of the Geneva Convention) established rules forbidding things they disagreed with.

I must now remind you that we have already established that ‘things disagreed with’ and ‘rules’ are both valid and accepted cause for going to a disagreeing party and making them dead until they agree.

These rules are rules you have to follow, even if you don’t agree with them.

Reminder: You don’t have to obey any rules if you are able to kill or repel the enforcers. Reminder: killing is okay.

If you fail to obey these rules, you will be subject to sanctions and trade embargoes.

Reminder: We are discussing the massive orchestration of enormous groups of strangers killing each other.

The reason for the rules is as such: no one wants to get killed in this specific way, why don’t we all just… not do it?

REMINDER: NO ONE WANTS TO GET KILLED IN THE OTHER WAYS EITHER.

This was all said and done while all parties agreed, though, that an attempt to use similar measures to prevent war would be infeasible.


The Geneva Convention is a set of rules on how to kill people right. It forbids really bad things. It endorses really bad things. It is a guidebook for mayhem. Instructions for orderly implementation of anarchy. It has purpose, it has sanity. It is a monument to the tremendous amounts of insanity humanity had to feel that writing it was necessary.

The fact that this is almost completely unappreciated in this thread terrifies me.

A Man’s Gotta Eat

I’m kind of a pinko commie nutjob. I can’t really call myself a communist or socialist or any of that; I’ve never read Marx or researched what was and what wasn’t real attempts at such philosophies in history (a capitalist will ridicule a communist for saying Soviet Russia “wasn’t real communism” but no one seems to mind that bailing out industries and financial institutions to save the economy “isn’t real capitalism,” nor were the elements that led to their failures), so it’s possible there are some essential parts of the parties or philosophies that I don’t click with. That said, I do believe that with the inevitable increase in automation, we don’t have a future that includes both capitalism and everyone eating. I think a future with everyone eating is possible, from a certain point of view it in fact requires a hell of an effort to avoid, but we’re putting the work in.

I’m just elaborating on all that to describe my general gripes with capitalism, I suppose. Like fossil fuels, it was an amazing tool and we couldn’t have gotten here without it, but I believe it has outlived its usefulness. Basically I’m kind of a pinko commie nutjob. The second thing about me is I’m kind of a video game fanboy. Less than I used to be in spirit, but thanks to more disposable income, I do find myself going for the collectors’ edition more often. I must admit, capitalism feels really good when you’re doing it. So as a vaguely anti-capitalist lover of collector’s items, I get really wound up about scalpers. If I want some special edition of something, I have to be ready online with my finger on the button or waiting outside a store for hours, and why? Because of the rarity compared to how many people want to have it? No. Because of the rarity compared to how many people want to buy it. I’m not competing primarily with other fans. I’m racing against someone who wants to buy it, turn around, and sell it to me ten seconds later for a few hundred bucks extra. What a service they have provided! Anyone who says capitalism allocates resources efficiently ought to have their teeth reallocated. Dammit. This is the exact kind of attitude I’m trying not to have.

The thing about capitalism is it’s not just an economic policy, it’s an ethical philosophy. It’s like utilitarianism, but the nebulous ‘happiness’ is replaced for the concrete dollar, and ‘greatest’ is replaced with ‘greatest for you.’ It’s not that it doesn’t make perfect sense: it’s an imperative baked into us by evolution. Evolution is determined by who survives, and who survives is often whomever takes without giving. A man’s gotta eat, right? And so a man’s gotta do his best to guarantee he eats, today and tomorrow and the next day. I truly believe that this, like fossil fuels, has run its course. We still have to eat, but each day we move further into an age where one man eating does not mean another man starving (other than extreme examples, I’m not sure it’s a common issue in hominid history anyway).

The ethical philosophy of capitalism claims it is wrong to devote any of your resources to external causes (define as you see fit. It is common, for example, not to consider one’s children ‘external,’ as per evolutionary guidance), unless you anticipate a greater return. If you have ever volunteered at a soup kitchen or donated to a shelter, you either expected a net gain for yourself, or you are frankly doing capitalism wrong.

All of this serves to basically contextualize my thoughts on a conversation I had recently. A few friends and I want to see Dave Chapelle, so we get in a group text to see who wants to go so we can try to get all the tickets at once. He’s a popular guy, they’ll probably sell out quick, and we want good tickets. One fellow says he doesn’t want to go, but he’s going to try to “buy the best seats and flip em” on his own. I eventually made a joke expressing my disapproval and another friend rationalized “A man’s gotta eat” to which I replied “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell people”.

It got me thinking about that phrase. That’s what this post is about, really, how it changes based on who is saying it. If you were of a capitalist persuasion, a sort of libertarian outlook, then you would look at a scalper and say “a man’s gotta eat” and mean that the scalper’s actions cannot be unethical because they are profitable. On the other hand, a more socialist individual could look at the same situation and say the same words as a disparagement of capitalism in general. Why should someone devote such effort to scalping, which is basically like pulling a magic, unavoidable, service-less toll bridge out of your pocket whenever you see people want to go somewhere, when it provides no utility to anyone barring giving me something to be angry about? Why should there be such absurd artificial conventions forged around pulling profit from someone you don’t know while offering no recompense except a fuck-you and a receipt?

Of the many existing socialist institutions in the United States, from healthcare to food stamps, the detractors of these policies argue that their capital should not be diverted to others because they haven’t ‘earned’ it. Of course I’ve shown that I don’t believe having money correlates with earning it in cases such as scalpers, but I think it extends beyond that. Does a man gotta eat, or does he not? The ethos of capitalism extends to this concept of ‘earning’ and ‘deserving,’ which concerns whether someone ought to get capital from someone else, most commonly demonstrated in the employer/employee relationship. If this is the crux of capitalism, then a man does not gotta eat, a man only does or does not deserve to eat and should act accordingly. A man does or does not deserve to eat depending on the capital he has, and the capital he has depends on whether he’s earned it, and so in a capitalism-as-ethics system, everything neatly works out to the poorest being the least good and the most financially stable being the most good. Nice and symmetrical, and it reinforces itself!

Now I don’t believe most people treat capitalism so religiously, but I do believe this exists as the basic judgmental heuristic with which an American would operate. For example, in a recent stackexchance post, and the reddit thread discussing it, a programmer asks if it is unethical for them to conceal the fact that they have automated their week’s worth of work into a couple hours. Now as a vaguely-socialist-whatever guy, I totally get that his effort would immediately be consumed by the employer and he’d get a new load of work to do, and that his contribution would not benefit him at all. I think it totally sucks to abuse your employees by leeching from them in this way; the fact is, though, it is the most virtuous of acts in the ethos of capitalism.


I’m going to take a brief aside here to mention that this employee says he goes out of his way to fudge the data to appear to be created by hand, working small errors in here and there. No doubt that will be automated soon as well. From my perspective, this clear deception is a nail in the coffin on the matter, but others still disagree with me. They say it is still ethical. The reason for this, I’ll get to, but I intend to focus on the dynamics involving capitalism and making a deal banking on the fact that the other party is uninformed, and not primarily the fact that this person is actively lying.


A big disconnect I found in the thread was between an act being described as ‘ethical’ and something less strict: the actor didn’t feel bad about it; it was acceptable, forgiveable; okay, even. A friend said, concerning reversing the situation so that they lost money, “Well yeah, it’s not about that I noticed, it’s about how much it actually affected me.” I completely understand how this is going to be the practical rule by which we run our lives, but the point I make, which I think is fair given the title of the post specifically asked about it, is about whether it is ethical or not. This is, I assure you, a different question. Otherwise the answer we’d arrive at is something like this:

chart

I hope it’s self-evident the issues I have with a system in which you look at some act and say “This act is bad. I wonder if it is bad?” Yes, I’m afraid bad things are bad. Honestly, looking into this thread, there is a fair bit of “Yes, X is wrong, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.” What meaning could ‘wrong,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘unethical’ even have in this case? To be clear, I don’t think all this stems from some kind of sociopathic hyper-relativist amorality, though it may well be the case for some of the commenters. It does show that there is a communication issue between those who consider ethics to be indistinguishable from attitudes about what decisions have already been made, rather than an attempt to define what one should do.

Commenters in the thread largely encourage him. The primary argument is that the company would do the same, so it’s okay:

Of course it’s okay to fuck someone else, they’d do the same in your shoes!

Why would they do that?

Well, because you’d do the same in their shoes.

Why would they assume that?

Well, they’d do the same in… their shoes.

Yes, of course, doing anything to anyone is always justified in any ethical system based on treating others in kind. Anything you do is by definition what they would do to you, because the fact that you’re doing it means you would do it to them, and they should therefore do it to you. Wow. Ethics is even easier than I thought! The problem with such tautological systems as this is that there is no primary motivator. Doing good is good, doing bad is good. So what should one do? If the very question ethics seeks to answer is fundamentally asked by your ethical system, it’s not actually an ethical system. It’s nothing.

Capitalism does give answers though, and it shines through in these comments. It is good for the employee to continue because it is profitable for them. It would be bad for them to reveal the truth because it would be unprofitable. The curious part here is the disdain the commenters exhibit concerning the employer. One commenter says “Your employer would screw you over in a second if it meant a bigger bonus for the CEO. You don’t owe them shit.” Why such negative language? It would be the same act: pursuit of profit. The employer would be a veritable saint to ‘screw someone over’ in this manner.

If your ethics say it’s okay for you to benefit at the expense of another, but the same act in reverse would not be true, you don’t have ethics. You have an operating philosophy which does not concern itself with ethics, only yourself. At least a capitalist would applaud being screwed over by a corporation, or at least not bemoan it. “A man’s gotta eat” is just a meaningless platitude in capitalism akin to pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. It’s not just untrue, it violates the reality.

My conclusion: if you’re unwilling to feed anyone, don’t say a man’s gotta eat. You don’t believe it.