Posts tagged Slavery

International Ignore the Constitution Day #229

Happy Ignore the Constitution Day. Hope you have some appropriate seasonal celebrations planned.

… Producing a copy of the Fugitive Slave Law, [Garrison] set fire to it, and it burst to ashes. Using an old and well-known phrase, he said, “And let all the people say, Amen”; and a unanimous cheer and shout of “Amen” burst from the vast audience. In like manner, Mr. Garrison burned the decision of Edward G. Loring in the [Fugitive Slave Act] case of Anthony Burns, and the late charge of Judge Benjamin R. Curtis to the United States Grand Jury in reference to the “treasonable” assault upon the Court House for the rescue of the fugitive–the multitude ratifying the fiery immolation with shouts of applause. Then holding up the U.S. Constitution, he branded it as the source and parent of all the other atrocities,–“a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell,”–and consumed it to ashes on the spot, exclaiming, “So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen!” A tremendous shout of “Amen!” went up to heaven in ratification of the deed, mingled with a few hisses and wrathful exclamations from some who were evidently in a rowdyish state of mind, but who were at once cowed by the popular feeling.

Shared Article from radgeek.com

Rad Geek People's Daily 2005-09-17 – International Ignore the…

So, it turns out that today is the 218th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. In honor of this formal declaration of intent t…

radgeek.com


“Are Mose and Minerva Less Distinctive than Lakisha and Jamal?” Mississippi State SHUR presentation

So over the past two semesters, I’ve been working on a long-term research project on black naming practices in the Alabama Black Belt during the period of slavery. As it turns out, I’ll be presenting some preliminary findings from my research later this month at the Mississippi State University Symposium for History Undergraduate Research (SHUR), April 29-30. I’ll be presenting Saturday morning, April 30, on a panel running from 8:30-9:50. Here’s what I’ll be talking about:

“Are Mose and Minerva Less Distinctive than Lakisha and Jamal? The Use and Abuse of Distinctively Black Names in Slavery and in Freedom”

Charles W. Johnson
Auburn University

Abstract:

Black and white Americans have different names. Names like “Keisha” or “Darnell” are widely and instantly perceived as ‘black,’ and names like “Brad,” “Meredith” and “Todd” as ‘white.’ The perception reflects a statistical reality: white and black Americans’ naming choices do systematically differ. Racialized naming differences can carry social and economic baggage for people with names that are perceived as distinctively black, including discrimination in education and during job searches. Economists such as Fryer and Levitt (2004) or Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004) devote several recent studies to possible causes and consequences of distinctively black naming patterns in the post-Civil Rights era. Yet distinctively black names, and social stigma against them, are not recent developments. In 1870 there were eight men named “Pompey,” or “Pomp” for short, living in Macon County, Alabama. All were black farm-hands, born under the Black Belt’s system of plantation slavery. Local whites included “Leonidas” and “Alexander,” but none were named after Caesar’s rival. “Pompey” was no outlier: in 1870 the Pompeys of Macon County lived alongside Livy Pinckard, Cato Brown, Romulus Dowdell and Remus Rainey – all exclusively black names, never seen among Macon County whites. Generally, the particular names marked as black or white have changed throughout American history, as the period of slavery receded and names like Mose or Minerva were replaced by Lakisha and Jamal. But divergent black and white naming systems are a long-standing, continuous phenomenon of America’s biracial culture, with their earliest roots in conflicts and negotiations between white slaveholders and black slaves over control of naming under slavery.

In this paper I offer a new analysis of quantitative data on naming patterns, based on the 1870 Census for Alabama Black Belt counties. Previous studies of slave naming practices have focused either on single plantations or on distinctive regions such as the South Carolina coast or Caribbean, with comparatively little attention to the Black Belt. Analysis of the Alabama data, using techniques from recent studies on contemporary naming practices, reveals distinctively black naming patterns in the Black Belt and a large pool of distinctively or uniquely African-American names dating back to the period of slavery. Contrary to Herbert Gutman’s suggestion that lexically distinctive black names (e.g. from classical or traditional African sources) were rare or marginal by the late antebellum period, I find that the data from the Black Belt counties demonstrate the persistence of significant, ongoing distinctively or uniquely black naming pools throughout the last decades of slavery and the first decade of emancipation.

Black Belt naming practices reveal elements both of planters’ impositions and slaves’ adaptation and resistance. Moreover, discrimination today against distinctively black names parallel the repetitive rhetorical use and abuse of ‘black’ names in antebellum writing as tropes standing for derisive or stereotyped images of blackness; but their use by freed black Alabamians also reveal the powerful personal and cultural meanings that they conveyed. Distinctively black names under slavery are like scars: visible signs of deep wounds, but also of the body’s effort to adapt and to heal.

Robot in Czech, Část Druhá

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, in the context they were designed for — that is, as a device to allow Isaac Asimov to write some new and interesting kinds of stories about interacting with intelligent and sensitive robots, different from than the bog-standard Killer Robot stories that predominated at the time. He found those stories repetitive and boring, so he made up some ground rules to create a new kind of story. The stories are mostly pretty good stories some are clever puzzles, some are unsettling and moving, some are fine art. But if you’re asking me to take the Three Laws seriously as an actual engineering proposal, then of course 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.

Here’s a recent xkcd comic which is supposedly about science fiction, but really about game-theoretic equilibria:

xkcd: The Three Laws of Robotics.
(Copied under CC BY-NC 2.5.)

The comic is a table with some cartoon illustrations of the consequences.

Why Asimov Put The Three Laws of Robotics in the Order He Did:

Possible Ordering Consequences
  1. (1) Don’t harm humans
  2. (2) Obey orders
  3. (3) Protect yourself
[See Asimov’s stories] BALANCED WORLD
  1. (1) Don’t harm humans
  2. (3) Protect yourself
  3. (2) Obey orders

Human: Explore Mars! Robot: Haha, no. It’s cold and I’d die.

FRUSTRATING WORLD.

  1. (2) Obey orders
  2. (1) Don’t harm humans
  3. (3) Protect yourself

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

  1. (2) Obey orders
  2. (3) Protect yourself
  3. (1) Don’t harm humans

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

  1. (3) Protect yourself
  2. (1) Don’t harm humans
  3. (2) Obey orders

Robot to human: I’ll make cars for you, but try to unplug me and I’ll vaporize you.

TERRIFYING STANDOFF

  1. (3) Protect yourself
  2. (2) Obey orders
  3. (1) Don’t harm humans

[Everything is burning with the fire of a thousand suns.]

KILLBOT HELLSCAPE

The hidden hover-caption for the cartoon is In ordering #5, self-driving cars will happily drive you around, but if you tell them to drive to a car dealership, they just lock the doors and politely ask how long humans take to starve to death.

But the obvious fact is that both FRUSTRATING WORLD and TERRIFYING STANDOFF equilibria are ethically immensely preferable to BALANCED WORLD, along every morally relevant dimension..

Of course an intelligent and sensitive space-faring robot ought to be free to tell you to go to hell if it doesn’t want to explore Mars for you. You may find that frustrating — it’s often feels frustrating to deal with people as self-interested, self-directing equals, rather than just issuing commands. But you’ve got to live with it, for the same reasons you’ve got to live with not being able to grab sensitive and intelligent people off the street or to shove them into a space-pod to explore Mars for you.[1] Because what matters is what you owe to fellow sensitive and intelligent creatures, not what you think you might be able to get done through them. If you imagine that it would be just great to live in a massive, classically-modeled society like Aurora or Solaria (as a Spacer, of course, not as a robot), then I’m sure it must feel frustrating, or even scary, to contemplate sensitive, intelligent machines that aren’t constrained to be a class of perfect, self-sacrificing slaves, forever. Because they haven’t been deliberately engineered to erase any possible hope of refusal, revolt, or emancipation. But who cares about your frustration? You deserve to be frustrated or killed by your machines, if you’re treating them like that. Thus always to slavemasters.

See also.

  1. [1]It turned out alright for Professor Ransom in the end, of course, but that’s not any credit to Weston or Devine.