Tag Archive for nietzsche

Ep 11: Self Awareness and AI; Do Cylons dream of electric sheep?

The guys start with definitions and a little talk about privacy of thought and asolipsism
Bruce asks about the granting of intelligence for argumentative purposes
Sean gives his definitions of the difference between virtual and artificial intelligence
Ryver asks how we might know the difference
Sean talks about the Turing test its strengths and weaknesses
Bruce asks if the god’s eye view might not break the vision of intelligence
the guys toss around the notion of an AI having a virtual world to be compared to and whether or not it would know there was anything else outside its artificial world
Bruce likens the theoretical AI to a child learning about the world
Sean asks if the AI’s reality would extend beyond the machine to the external world
Ryver asks how anonymity effects the ability to believe in the outside world
Bruce suggests that the AI may extrapolate a model of the outside world
Sean argues that it would not know this as another greater reality but more as if it were a game
Bruce suggests that it may view our world as a conspiracy theory
Sean suggests that to an AI the notion of our biological/physical world would seem so alien as to be absurd
Ryver suggests that the inability to directly observe is the problem
Bruce suggests that the AI might be atheistic in regard to humans
Sean likens the AI’s understanding of physical reality to our experience of dinosaurs if we had no evidence
Bruce points out that the topic has shifted to would an AI believe in us
Sean counters that this is a crucial piece because for an AI to know it is an AI it must understand that there are different intelligence
Bruce wonders if the AI’s inability to believe in our intelligence isn’t telling of our ability to believe in AI
Ryver brings us back to Cylon’s
Sean talks a little BSG lore
Bruce points out that in order to question the AI’s experience we first have to have granted that it has a Cartesian theater
Sean points out that arguing about whether or not a strong AI could exist is a bit of dead horse beating
Ryver brings up Moore’s law and the kind of futurism that leads to asking questions about AI
Bruce talks about semantics and syntax as seen in John Searle’s work and David Chalmers philosophical zombies
Sean talks about Cylon’s levels of self awareness and the awareness of humans about the presence of Cylon’s
Ryver talks about Cylon’s and emotions
Sean brings up replicants and Blade Runner
The guys talk about the Voight-Kampff test and what it tells us about our ideas of humanity
Ryver relates this back to existentialism
Bruce talks about the desire for humanity
Sean relates the inability to differentiate to a kind of creeping nihilism
Ryver points out that Philip K Dick had always intended for the story to leave us unsure if Deckard the main character was himself a replicant
Sean talks about the 4 stages of nihilism in Nietzsche’s work and the relationship between human and replicant
Bruce asks if a Cylon that doesn’t know what it is becomes aware does that destroy part of who that “person” was before?
The guys kick around that it means to have your world view drastically changed suddenly
Ryver brings in the concept of dreaming and what we mean by it in the title
Sean breaks down sleep dreams and aspirational dreams
Sean takes the last word to puzzle a bit about why we find the topic of sci-fi, artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human so fascinating

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Ep 10: Cyberpunk and Dystopia; Whats to love about what we fear?

The guys discuss the state of mega-corp’s and merging of very large companies

Bruce brings up the reduction in wages and the rise of available technologies

Sean talks about the tragic elements of Cyberpunk

Sean wonders what there is to like about tragedy

Bruce brings up the idea of noir romanticism

Sean talks about flawed characters and Ryver talks about the hopefulness embedded in tragedy

The guys discuss theories of tragedy in philology

Ryver asks us to consider historical forces as a central focus of the need for tragedy

Sean suggests schadenfreude as a possible explanation

Ryver talks about the focus of old tragedy being the world ending in some sense

Sean juxtaposes worlds ending with cyberpunk’s sense that the world just drones on without us

Bruce and Sean discuss the ideas of utopia and dystopia as less grand notions and more slight changes in trajectory

Ryver gives some examples of each and identifies some commonalities between them

Sean analogizes the concepts to Startrek vs Star Wars

Ryver talks a little about how scarcity and desire weave into the landscape of cyberpunk

Bruce brings up the prevalence of technologies that are amazing and yet treated as unimpressive

Sean paraphrases a quote “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” by G.K. Chesterton to discuss the technologies of the cyberpunk aesthetic

The whole group discusses the incredible ability of cyberpunk to predict future conditions and the humanistic elements that weave us into the story

Bruce brings up “1984” and “Brave New World” as archetypes of dystopian fiction that shape cyberpunk

Sean talks about Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and the duality of the Terrible Reality and the Beautiful Illusion as they are presented and how they influenced Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy

Bruce brings up H.P. Lovecraft and Ryver refines the concepts involved in dread

The guys discuss the notion of existential dread and how it relates to “Soylent Green”

Sean refocuses the discussion onto what what gets out of dread

Ryver talks about the satisfaction of being manipulated instead of being at the whim of uncaring unthinking forces

Sean suggests that the reason we connect so strongly is that we are all the people who would make the choices that lead to a cyberpunk future

Bruce suggests that the cyberpunk hero is the existentialist hero: condemned to freedom and burdened by the knowledge of whats really going on

Ryver disagrees and cites 1984 as a character who escapes the burden of absolute freedom

Sean brings up the famous Satre quote “Hell is other people” and suggest that if we are the background characters then we are the means by which the hero is made to suffer

The guys mull over the idea of what a hero or protagonist is in the cyberpunk genre

Ryver brings up the idea that our complacency is the force which makes cyberpunk possible

Sean talks about the rabble-rouser and journalism specifically the quote that the job of the press is “To afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.” and how it relates to the cyberpunk state of affairs

Ryver talks about this as it relates to the notion of stagnation and growth

Bruce talks about this as an appeal of cyberpunk

Ryver takes the last word to recommend some great cyberpunk literature.

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Ep 7: Batman And the Overman; Can a hero “Rise” above?

Today’s show focuses on the intersection of Nietzsche’s philosophy and Batman. To be specific Christopher Nolan‘s “The Dark Knight” Trilogy, the last of which was released in 2012 and, Allan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”. As such there will be spoilers in this episode so be warned if you haven’t had a chance to catch up on your Batman or your Nietzsche (neurosyphilis in the hospital, hold the candlestick). Also the terms Overman and Übermensch are used interchangeably during the episode if that kind of thing bothers you.

Professor Metal starts us out with his definition of the Overman.

Sean explains a little about Nietzsche’s “Doctrine of hardship” as he is calling it.

Ryver gives us some background on Batman.

Ryver and Bruce propose that batman may be a candidate for Overman status.

Sean lays out a first test for any candidate, specifically, that they have overcome hardship and the first proposal that Bruce Wayne (Spoiler alert: that’s Batman’s secret identity) losing his parents represents his seminal hardship.

Ryver rebuffs this by pointing out that Bruce never seems to really overcome this, but instead lets it consume him and shape his life.

Bruce and Sean point out the link to obsession and the dynamics of power between Batman and Alfred.

Sean suggests that Bruce Wayne’s physical and mental training to “Peak Human” levels constitutes a series of hardships which are overcome.

Bruce points Bruce Wayne’s chiroptophobia and his subsequent defeat and embrace of that which he had been terrorized by as significant over-comings for our purposes.

Sean Points to the struggles that Bruce Wayne has to overcome in the social, political, technical, and personal arenas.

These constitute the best evidence for Batman as Overman according to Sean.

But then the cons come in, specifically, his wealth and privilege.

Bruce points out that given his advantages he may not be using these gifts to the greatest advantage for the goal of making Gotham better.

Sean points out that the kinds of crime Batman wants to fight is violent street crime and not white collar crimes and that this is the kind of crime he sees himself as a victim of.

Sean and Bruce tackle the criteria of the Overman creating social standards and derive that Batman’s standard would be a kind of Justice.

Professor Metal tells the philosophers that batman can’t be the Overman because he’s “the Good guy”!

The Professor suggests that Batman just wants to preserve what is already in place and has no interest in changing the system.

Ryver points out that Batman isn’t the “Hero” as far as many of Gotham’s residents are concerned.

Sean counters by pointing out that we the audience are always shown that these opinions are wrong or based on spurious premises.

Sean points to the notion of Batman as “The Dark Knight” as proof. Batman is the dark knight because he’s willing to do the wrong things for the greater good of preserving society. And since society can’t embrace its own destruction in order to be rebuilt the “Good” guy cant really be the Overman.

Sean paraphrases a quote from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (Here’s the full quote)

“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue, §3, trans. Walter Kaufmann

Sean goes on to suggest the Joker as a candidate for the Overman and points to Joker’s monologue in “The Killing Joke” as evidence of his hardships. (full quote here)

“So… I see you received the free ticket I sent you. I’m glad. I did so want you to be here. You see it doesn’t matter if you catch me and send me back to the asylum… Gordon’s been driven mad. I’ve proved my point. I’ve demonstrated there’s no difference between me and everyone else! All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else… Only you won’t admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there’s some point to all this struggling! God you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that… Something like that happened to me, you know. I… I’m not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha! But my point is… My point is, I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! Why can’t you? I mean, you’re not unintelligent! You must see the reality of the situation. Do you know how many times we’ve come close to world war three over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you know what triggered the last world war? An argument over how many telegraph poles Germany owed its war debt creditors! Telegraph poles! Ha ha ha ha HA! It’s all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for… it’s all a monstrous, demented gag! So why can’t you see the funny side? Why aren’t you laughing?

Joker “Batman: The Killing Joke”

Sean suggests that the inability to understand joker as a hero is rooted in our social framework. And that his value is Radical freedom by way of ontological anarchy.

Bruce asks if the Joker isn’t just democratizing the will to power by forcing us all to decide what is most important.

Ryver suggests that joke isn’t really giving the victims a choice.

Sean counters that he is giving Batman a choice and that even the victims have opportunities to escape even if it couldn’t be called a fair chance.

Bruce points out that in some sense Joker seems to be trying to teach something to the people of Gotham by forcing them to embrace their own destructive power. Moreover he seems to feel that its not his place to tell people what to rebuild but only to show them that they can.

Sean points out that Joker is not concerned with “Good” or “Evil” and thus has another mark of an Overman. And that a project of chaos fits with Nietzsche’s philosophy

“”I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.”

from Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra, p.3 Walter Kaufmann transl.

Sean points out that Batman is a rule follower in many ways and that his singular purpose is based in morality which Nietzsche felt we needed to abandon.

Ryver talks about a crossover comic where Joker and Red Skull work together briefly before joker realizes hes working with a Nazi. Joker quickly decides he cant work with Red Skull any more and battle ensues. This suggests that Joker is anti Athouritarian and supports the idea that he values radical freedom. (Link to the book on amazon here)

Ryver points out that this supports the thesis of Joker as Overman because (Despite the inaccurate portrayal of Nietzsche as proto-Nazi in some popular sources) Nazi authoritarianism and perpetual dominance are antithetical to the Overman’s project.

Bruce questions whether the Joker is even really insane due to his high function and general capability level.

Sean points out that even the notion of sanity is a socially derived standard and as such being outside the system might just be a mark of being free from that system.

Sean wonders if Bane may be another candidate for Overman status.

Ryver supports the idea with Bane’s intellectual and physical superiority.

Bruce points out that if tearing down the system is part of being the Overman then Bane is significantly more efficient at it than Joker is.

Sean points out that all of Bane’s advantages are hard won by overcoming hardships.

Bruce points out that even the venom serum that bane uses only alleviates his suffering not extends his ability beyond himself.

Sean suggests that Bane’s very process of selecting henchmen reflects Overman thinking.

Bruce points out that Bane systematically eliminates Bruce Wayne’s many advantages and forces him to fight through the hardship that it leaves to make his return.

Sean Points out that in terms of “metaphor writ large” the Pit is a perfect analogy tot he struggle of overcoming and becoming better for it that Nietzsche describes in the doctrine of hardship.

Ryver points out that Bane falls short of Overman status because he has chosen to be subservient to the will of another, Talia al Ghul who, in Dark Knight Rises, is the true mastermind of the films events.

Professor Metal take the Last Word to discuss what it means to be a villain, his own personal philosophy, and the influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

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