Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Roko's Basilisk & Pascal's Wager



Slate Magazine gave me some Food for Thought with a "Downworthy"-ish title:

The Most Terrifying Thought Experiment of All Time.

Dare I click?  (Duh, of course I did.)

Was it terrifying? (Well, no, it's a cybernetic version of Pascal's Wager, which should occur to most well-read people.)

Here at Strangely Blogged, I try to be pretty cool about spooky thought-experiments. (Right now I'm reading a really chill book by Brad Warner titled There Is No God and He Is Always With You which is helping reambiguate my relationship with That in Which I do Not Believe, Whether it Exists or Not.) But when my reading makes me wonder if there is good cause for a full-on freaking-out, well--I don't. I'm not sure how I missed this discussion at Stross' blog, but I get the basic idea of why this might provoke a crisis of consciousness for the cyber-inclined: living with the idea for so long that an information Omega Point might create an equivalent of the Christian Heaven, long after liberal theology has dispensed with the concept of a literal Hell, getting back to the idea of a material Hell (or material-enough for a simulated You, which you don't have a choice about) created by a potential superintelligence , one might be shocked to think that consequences for Thought Crimes might be inescapable.

The best system of living, whether one is subject to a computer simulation, the whims of a deity outside of time and space, or nothing at all, seems to be to just do your best. You can't know yourself for sure if you're really pissing off some God, or some evil computer, because most people aren't even aware that they piss off customer service reps, retail clerks, their co-workers. Start with friends, family, and your waitstaff, if you want to know how to be "good". Do them right. Work your way out. Be aware.


Deep down, I would find it immoral to be complicit with a God or God-like intelligence that actually acted in malicious ways. YMMV. And deal with any arising consequences--naturally.

(Image via. Which is definitely in good fun.)

UPDATE: We do all recognize we already are acting as if answerable to our new robot overlords, right? I notice that sposo mio prefers a GPS in Italiano even if she doesn't give out street names. Because the dulcet tones of computer lady are in his mother tongue. I will likely follow a helpy-sprite to my doom some day. We made them in our image--didn't we?

1 comment:

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, that sounds like a good book you're reading.

I think a personal sense of transcendence is important.

I don't know if a "belief" in a divinity that we designate in English directed at the Semitic religions called G-d is important or not.

On the other hand, a sense of personal transcendence can mean a very great deal.

A sense of transcendence leads us into the metaphysical. Religious belief involves a collection of metaphors or sacred symbols directing the mind to the ineffable. A sense of transcendence deals more directly with the metaphysical without necessarily requiring symbolic portrayals.

Still, there is a value to having a theological and symbolic way of conceptualizing the divine. For example, I have a personal sense of the transcendent. At the same time I have a pretty fair knowledge of the Qaballah. As a consequence, certain possibilities of experience, understanding, and participation are possible that might not be possible with my sense of transcendence alone.

A lack of a sense of transcendence is, in a way, an unfortunate sort of reductionism. A bit like being tone deaf.

Being restricted to the ego's involvement with cognition on the intellectual and emotional levels is a form of confinement that keeps one from experiencing parts of oneself that transcend those cognitive levels.

Personally, I agree with Eliade that the Sacred is irreducible and cannot be adequately fathomed by the reductionism of ignoring the ontological purpose in order to evaluate it from the point of view of another discipline. For example, an anthropologist or sociologist evaluating religion. The is alright as far as it goes, but only if the raison d'etre of the religion has been fully granted in its importance.

If you feel inclined, perhaps you will tell us what you thought of the book when you are done.