So what of this horse, then, that actually held opinions, and was sceptical about things? Unusual behaviour for a horse, wasn’t it? An unusual horse perhaps?
No. Although it was certainly a handsome and well-built example of its species, it was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.
– Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency/ Long Dark Teatime of the Soul
By Douglas Adams
When I open a newspaper it is as if we never went through the Enlightenment. It is full of guided content and regurgitated narratives of sex, guns, and money. Have you ever wondered how many girlfriends Kant had, or Plato? Did you ever wonder how much money Van Gogh had? None.
No one ever tells you that the most important thing that you own, apart from your good health and the proper function of all your organs, is your ability to think independently. And the second thing is your ability to express and argue your opinion in public. These were the two Dreams of the Enlightenment.
In his Essay What Is Enlightenment? Kant defines Enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” For his second dream he says “the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.”
Once you have traded your goods and services, obtained lodging and food, secured your home, sturdied your frame and medicated your body, feel free to use the greatest gift you may ever have, free thought.
A beautiful symphony of thought is the Answers to Edge.org’s Annual Question – WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK? And my favorite excerpts.
George Church Author, Regenesis; Professor, Harvard University; Director, Personal Genome Project
I am a machine that thinks, made of atoms—a perfect quantum simulation of a many-body problem—a 1029 body problem. I, robot, am dangerously capable of self-reprogramming and preventing others from cutting off my power supply. (this cracked me up – don’t come near me when i am hungry) We human machines extend our abilities via symbiosis with other machines—expanding our vision to span wavelengths beyond the mere few nanometers visible to our ancestors, out to the full electromagnetic range from picometer to megameter. We hurl 370 kg hunks of our hive past the sun at 252,792 km/hr. We extend our memory and math by a billion-fold with our silicon prostheses. Yet our bio-brains are a thousand-fold more energy efficient than our inorganic-brains at tasks where we have common ground (like facial recognition and language translation) and infinitely better for tasks of, as yet, unknown difficulty, like E. instein’s Annus Mirabilis papers, or out-of-the-box inventions impacting future centuries. As Moore’s Law heads from 20-nm transistor lithography down to 0.1 nm atomic precision and from 2D to 3D circuits, we may downplay reinventing and simulating our biomolecular-brains and switch to engineering them.
James J. O’Donnell Classical Scholar, University Professor, Georgetown University
3. Can artificial mechanisms be constructed to play the part in gathering information and making decisions that human beings now do? Sure, they already do. The ones that control the fuel injection on my car are a lot smarter than I am. I think I’d do a lousy job of that.
I had been listening to “The Power of Myth” on my phone and when an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s famous speech came on I went to youtube to look for a longer version.
Here is the most famous bit:
After the video ended I let youtube go on autopilot onto the next video. And next came an excerpt from The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.
When at first glance these videos may have something in common – they actually cannot be any more different. One is about the power of an idea, the kind of dough humanity keeps for great holidays. And the other is the fight for the nickel, the daily grind. In the daily grind the pursuit of the stockbroker, the street sweeper are the same, the head is down and the clock is ticking.
And here is another take on pursuit, the relentless pursuit of a goal, brought to you by Arnold:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space