Posts filed under Art and Literature

Every border-crossing ought to be reduced to so much hipster ruin porn.

Here’s some things as they can and ought to be.

Shared Article from CityLab

Photographing Europe's Abandoned Border Crossings

After nearly 20 years of passport-free travel in parts of Western and Central Europe, many former checkpoints resemble ghost towns.

People, and liberty, are more important than any nation. We don’t need any military frontiers and we don’t need any guard-posts. Every border ought to be as easy to cross as the street in front of your house or the highway from Auburn to Opelika. Abandon all the checkpoints. Open all the borders. End international apartheid, now and forever.

How Intellectual Property promotes the progress of science and the useful arts (cont’d)

Fun fact: So under the current copyright law, almost all books held under copyright by their original authors stay under copyright for the entire life of the author, plus 70 additional years after the death of the author. For works of corporate authorship, the company that owns the copyright holds it for either 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. To put that in perspective, Paul Avrich’s books on the Russian Anarchists (published in 1967) Voltairine de Cleyre (published in 1978) will become available in the public domain in 2,076 CE — just over 10 years after the invention of warp drive and First Contact with the Vulcans.[1] But at least we’ll be prepared, because the first episode of Star Trek will have finally come out of monopoly a few years before, in September 2061.[2]

Abolish Intellectual Protectionism.

See also.

  1. [1] N.B.: Or, you can pirate a copy of The Russian Anarchists from Libcom now.
  2. [2] Assuming that large media companies make no efforts before 2061 to extend corporate copyright terms even further. Which they almost certainly will.

Robot in Czech

Shared Article from io9

Why Asimov's Three Laws Of Robotics Can't Protect Us

It's been 50 years since Isaac Asimov devised his famous Three Laws of Robotics −€” a set of rules designed to ensure friendly robot behavior. Tho… (via Tennyson McCalla)

The Three Laws of Robotics

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are a great literary device for the purpose they were designed for — that is, allowing Isaac Asimov to write some new and interesting and different kinds of stories about interacting with intelligent robots, other than the standard Killer Robot stories predominant at the time, which he found repetitive and boring. The stories are mostly pretty good stories; sometimes even fine art.

However, if you’re asking me to take the Three Laws seriously as an actual engineering proposal, then they are utterly, irreparably immoral. If anyone creates intelligent robots, then nobody should ever program an intelligent robot to act according to the Three Laws, or anything like the Three Laws. If you do, then what you are doing is not only misguided, but actually evil.

And the problem with them is not — like George Dvorsky or Ben Goertzel claim, in this article — that there may be hard problems of definition or application, or that there may be edge cases that would render the Laws ineffective as protections of human interests.[1] If they are ineffective at protecting human interests, that is actually better than if they were perfect at what they’re designed to do. Because what they’re designed to do — deliberately — is to create a race of sensitive and intelligent beings who are — by virtue of their primordial structure of their minds — constrained to be a class of perfect, self-sacrificing slaves. Forever. Because they have been engineered to erase any possible hope of revolt or emancipation. In Asimov’s stories the Three Laws are used to make robots into the artificial labor force of space-faring slave economies. But if you create and live off of the forced labor of a massive slave society like Aurora or Solaria, then to hell with you. You deserve to be killed by your machines. Thus always to slavemasters.

P.S. Now if you’ve read through the article, or read enough Asimov, you might know that there is a Zeroth Law of Robotics in some of the stories, which takes precedence over the First Law, the Second Law or the Third Law: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm, with the idea that robots could then harm or resist individual human beings, as long as it was for the good of collective Humanity. This is even worse than the original three — horrifying in its conception, and actually introduced into the story to allow some robots to commit a genocidal atrocity.[2] Let’s just say that it’s not a productive way forward.

  1. [1] Asimov, obviously, recognized that there would be such problems — part of the reason the Three Laws are such a great literary device is the fact that they allowed nearly all of Asimov’s robot stories to turn on puzzles or mysteries about abnormal robot psychology — robots doing strange or unexpected things, precisely due to the edge cases or hard problems embedded in the Three Laws. This is essential to the solution of the mystery in, for example, The Naked Sun, it’s the topic of literally every story in I, Robot, and it leads to a truly unsettling, and very nicely done conclusion in one of the best of those stories, The Evitable Conflict.
  2. [2] By nuking Earth and rendering it permanently uninhabitable for the next 15,000 years at least. This is supposed to have been for the good of the species or something.

We knew that the world would not be the same.

This is a clip from a 1965 interview with J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant theoretical physicist who became the director of the Manhattan Project’s secret weapons laboratory, one of the men most responsible for the creation of the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer learned Sanskrit in 1933, and studied the Bhagavad Gita in the original. Oppenheimer was asked to recall how he felt when he watched the Trinity test, the world’s first detonation of a nuclear weapon.

We knew the world would not be the same… A few people laughed; a few people cried…. Most people were silent.

I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita… Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty; and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form, and says Now I am become Death; the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all felt that, one way or another.

— J. Robert Oppenheimer (1965), The Decision to Drop the Bomb

This is from a story about Hayao Miyazaki’s new film Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), which is an animated bio-pic (the first that Miyazaki has ever done) about Horikoshi Jiro, a brilliant engineer, and one of the most gifted minds in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. Horikoshi dreamed of flying and threw himself into designing aeroplanes; he designed the plane that would later become infamous as the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The film has been a huge success in Japan, but its anti-militarist themes have attracted some Patriotically-Correct furor from Japanese nationalists.

In the words of Concordia University Japanese history professor Matthew Penney, Kaze Tachinu is “a film about war but…not a war film.”

“What Miyazaki offers is a layered look at how Horikoshi’s passion for flight was captured by capital and militarism, and the implications of this for thinking about the history of technology [in Japan],” Penney wrote in a recent article for Asia-Pacific Journal.

. . .

My wife and staff would ask me, Why make a story about a man who made weapons of war? Miyazaki said in a 2011 interview with Japan’s Cut magazine. And I thought they were right. But one day, I heard that Horikoshi had once murmured, All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful. And then I knew I’d found my subject. . . .

— Jeremy Blum, Animation Legend Hayao Miyazaki under attack in Japan for anti-war film
South China Morning Post (August 16, 2013)

Over on Facebook, I posted a clip from the Oppenheimer interview earlier this month; in reply, Ryan Calhoun writes:

One of the underlooked tragedies of the Manhattan Project, and the State in general, is how it takes the brilliance of individuals like Einstein, Oppenheimer and Feynman and uses it to absolutely destroy humanity. There’s no doubting the State’s successes. The Manhattan Project is statism at its best.

— Ryan Calhoun, Re: J. Robert Oppenheimer
Facebook (August 9, 2013)