Body in a vat

I recently watched a bit of a documentary describing hypothetical technological possibilities for immortality. It introduced a project someone was working on to completely model a brain in an electronic system, which could be seen as a way of reproducing a person’s self or somesuch in the machine.

When I thought about some of the problems with this idea, it occurred to me that some of them would also appear in the thought experiment of a brain in a vat: someone thinks they are living in the world and interacting with it, but they are really just a brain in a vat being simulated so as to experience an elaborate virtual reality. The idea of immortality by copying your brain is a bit like this scenario, because the only part of the person that is preserved is the brain — not the rest of the body. Well, for the brain in a vat to experience things like a human being, its body would have to be simulated as well, because the brain doesn’t just receive input and give input directly from and to the world without the rest of the body. So really, if you wanted to build such a system, you’d probably want to keep the person’s whole body, kind of like in The Matrix. (Except that in The Matrix, it was obviously thought enough to interface with the brain only, as the people who were unplugged but connected to the Matrix voluntarily only used the one plug at the back of their heads.)

I suppose this was supposed to be longer, but I don’t see that it needs anything added, as long as I don’t mind it being a fragment.

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How a double standard works, part 2

“60% of experts agree with you on this question. [citation needed]”

–Well, that just proves it! A majority of experts agree with me! Obviously it’s true, and everyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves, given this evidence!

“90% of experts disagree with you on this question. [cites an extensive survey]”

–Bah, like it matters. Appeal to authority is a fallacy, you know. Experts don’t know everything. We shouldn’t just grovel to them like we can’t know things by common sense. Anyway, I bet this information isn’t reliable in the first place.

So I’m a Goodreads author now

Nova 2015 antologiaI’ve been an aspiring writer since forever. I’d like to write both fiction and nonfiction – and also, you know, be read and published too. I’ve been taking slow steps in that direction, and just now, the first book containing a short story of mine was published. It’s the anthology for the Nova 2015 nationwide Finnish speculative fiction short story contest, in which I came fourth with a horror story whose title translates as “The Devil’s Cellar”. Nova 2015 -antologia

That was really nice, first winning and then being published. What I hadn’t realised was that this would also get me listed as an author on Goodreads. I’m certainly going to take that opportunity. And so I have an author’s blog there now: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17105199.Ville_V_Kokko/blog

My main interests as a fiction writer are in speculative fiction. The next thing coming out from me should be a fantasy short story in another, English-language anthology, although the schedule is unclear at the moment.

Pride-kulkue ja yläaste

PrideKävin tänään osallistumassa Turku Pride -kulkueeseen, koska olin samaa mieltä sen idean kanssa ja se oli kiinnostava tapahtuma. Siellä ollessani mietin, mitä erilaiset ihmiset mahtavat miettiä tapahtumasta. Olen kuullut joidekuiden ihmettelevän, miksi seksuaali- tms. vähemmistöt pitävät ääntä itsestään ja yrittävät olla niin erikoisia. Tiedän kyllä, mikä vastaus tuohon on. Kyse ei ole siitä.

Yksi esimerkki siitä miten asiat oikeasti ovat tulee helposti mieleen jos vain ajattelee, millaista oli kun olin yläkoulussa (siihen aikaan “yläaste”). En tiedä, kuinka paljon asiat ovat muuttuneet niistä ajoista, mutta tiedän, etteivät täysin.

Ihan yksinkertaisesti sanottuna: Yläasteella pojat haukkuivat koko ajan toisiaan homoiksi. Kaikki tiesivät, mitä se tarkoitti (tai ainakin tiesivät sillä tavoin kuin monet aikuisetkin, jotka eivät tiedä eroa sukupuolineutraalin avioliiton ja anaaliseksin välillä), mutta se oli myös vain haukkumasana. Ja vaikka olisi ollut kuinka hetero, piti varoa, ettei vain tekisi tai sanoisi mitään sellaista, että joku voisi vääntää siitä homoussyytöksiä. Ties millaista sitten oikeasti homoseksuaalisilla pojilla oli.

Kerran yläasteellemme siirrettiin vähäksi aikaa eräs poika. Minulla ei ole aavistustakaan, mikä hänen seksuaalinen suuntautumisensa todella oli. Mutta hän joutui silmätikuksi “homomaisen” käyttäytymisensä takia. Hän oli itse asiassa todella mukava ja avoin ja uskalsi olla oma itsensä, mutta hänet kiusattiin ulos siitäkin koulusta ja siirrettiin muualle. Ilmeisesti sellainen käytös oli liian normista poikkeavaa ja siksi ihmiset eivät sietäneet sitä. (Tietenkään en tiedä kaikkea, mitä tapahtui, ja tämä on vain paras arvaukseni.)

Tällainen oli siis tilanne jo koulussa. Ei ollut todellakaan niin, että seksuaalivähemmistöjen edustajat marssivat ympäriinsä kuuluttaen suuntautumistaan suureen ääneen ja halusivat huomiota. Päinvastoin oli niin, että muut tekivät koko ajan numeroa siitä, miten ei olisi saanut olla homo tai jotain vastaavaa.

Luuletteko sitten, että tämä loppuisi kouluun? Ettei siellä oppisi mitään asenteita?

Joten ei tarvitse ihmetellä, miksi vähemmistöt vaativat oikeuksia ja pitävät itsestään meteliä. Tarvitsee vain muistaa, millaista koulussa oli; eivät he sitä aloittaneet. Jos päästään siihen pisteeseen, että saa olla minkälainen tahansa eikä kukaan muu tee siitä numeroa, no, se olisi todella hyvä, mutta siellä ei nyt olla.

Vegans and humans: How not to use words

I’ve written before about how you should know whether you’re talking about the meaning of words or something else. Just now, I found myself thinking about an annoying example of how someone didn’t… and since I feel like explaining why it’s wrong, I might as well do so here and use it as an example.

The example comes from an interview on the radio where someone was talking about what it was like to be vegan. She talked about how this also involved wanting to make ethical choices towards humans, not just non-human animals. She mentioned that someone had been surprised about this and asked why, and she’d said that humans are animals too. But that had been the end of the conversation because they other person’s opinion was that no, they’re not.

I don’t know what the situation was really like. (I might even remember the details as told in the interview incorrectly.) But let’s take it as an example, and at face value: that the other person would just insist that humans are not animals, period.

Two points:

  • First, if we’re talking about the meaning of words, okay: There are basically two meanings of the word “animal”; one of them includes humans and the other doesn’t. Just because your linguistic intuition only recognises one doesn’t mean the other is invalid. And if the point is that you feel that there is some essential difference between humans and other animals, that’s at least not more accurate than to say that there is sameness, that they all belong to the same group. The definition that “animal” includes human is the more scientific one, after all. Humans are taxonomically in Animalia. (See also: The Mythical Animal.)
  • Second, why would this be a relevant point anyway? What would make humans not-animals in such a way that this would mean that humans could be treated less well morally? Of course people can base their morality on arbitrary boundaries, but why ask for that if someone isn’t doing it?

Words are just tools, but people like to use them like they’re something else — something more important than what they’re being used to talk about or that they’re otherwise doing. It’s not that word meanings shouldn’t sometimes be brought up. What you should do is to talk about what is relevant and understand what the words used are actually doing in that context.