A fuller explanation

I feel that in my last two posts (on Tár and postmodernism) I managed to miss the big idea that was lurking in both of them. The idea is that the study of culture, and especially popular culture, is no substitute for understanding (what we might call) “the human condition” (if we didn’t know any better).

My brief and superficial post about approximating a definition of postmodernism was prompted by a book I am reading (Everything, All the Time, Everywhere, by Stuart Jeffries) that tries to explain the origins of postmodernism with a combination of economic policies and pop culture. The basic story, according to this book, is that, in the 1970s, neoliberal economics obliterated the modern dream of building a society that provided its members with fundamental goods (education, healthcare, protection against poverty, etc); at the same time, neoliberal politicians mouthed the ideals of freedom and the good life, with the rationale that untrammeled greed would provide everyone with a better lifestyle. Artists—and, especially, rock bands—responded by pointing out the manifest hypocrisy of both the modern promise and the neoliberal appropriation of that promise. They celebrated “western progress” ironically, pointing out the blatant lies and the cheap consumerism that was supposed to constitute human flourishing. This, basically, is what postmodernism amounts to: recognizing modernity for the fat lie that it is, and weaponizing its own false promises against itself.

There is much in this story I agree with, particularly the disasters that neoliberalism has generated and continues to generate. “Trickle down” economics really is just pissing on the poor, and all that. And rock bands and other artists have been pointing this out—at least until recently, as most of them by now have been co-opted by forces of capitalism. But putting these two things together (neoliberalism and rock bands) doesn’t really amount to anything like an interesting philosophical movement. I tend to agree with the economist Thomas Picketty that the neoliberal world economic order isn’t anything new: it is basically a return to how things were prior to WWI. And so protesting how bad this order is also isn’t anything new (see Marx, K.). I’m not sure there’s anything the Sex Pistols were trying to say that Rousseau didn’t say, and there’s something very 19th century about David Bowie. 

The deeper idea, I suppose, is that there is a fundamental conflict between some of the things we value in human life and our aspirations to create a system that provides those things or near substitutes. Humans have basic needs, and they like having loving communities of people looking out for each other; and they love creative expression, and they love some degree of conflict. They also hate being stifled by “loving” communities, and they hate being fenced in by rules that allow for greater population density (like “No loud music after 10 p.m.”). So they try to create systems that strike a livable compromise between meeting our human requirements efficiently but also allowing for individual expression. But every compromise proves unstable, especially when at the same time there are humans running around trying to enslave the others.

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Approximating post-modernism

Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse characterized by skepticism toward the “grand narratives” of modernism, rejection of epistemic certainty or the stability of meaning, and sensitivity to the role of ideology in maintaining political power.” [Wikipedia]

Postmodernism =

… a bunch of over-educated privileged urban types who like to make contradictory assertions and then defend them by insisting that nothing really means anything;

… a bunch of over-educated privileged urban types who like to make contradictory assertions and then defend them by saying that the meanings of claims always depend on who is speaking and what power they have over others;

… a bunch of over-educated privileged urban types who like to make contradictory assertions because by doing so they force the listener to think harder about what we say and what we mean;

… a bunch of privileged urban types who have studied books and artworks that undermine traditional assumptions, and who like to make contradictory assertions in order to prompt others to reflect critically on traditions;

… an intellectual and artistic movement among people who have learned to see through the sham-structures established by oppressive traditions, and who, through words and images, are pointing out the contradictions in those structures.

… an active critique of all the ways in which the assumptions of the past have infected our thinking, combined with an encouragement to think new things.

(OK, OK, it’s legit; but still, a lot of it is just smart-assery.)

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Reflection on Tár

[Spoilers to follow, in case you’re worried!]

We recently watched the film Tár starring Cate Blanchette. It’s a film with a lot, I mean a lot, of talking. We split our watching over two days. But the acting was so compelling, the camera work was so fascinating, and the story was so gripping, that we kept thinking about it over those two days. It’s a film mainly about power, and also what it means to dedicate everything to art, and the sacrifices one makes.

By the time we meet the main character, Lydia Tár, she is a monster. She is wickedly intelligent and utterly devoted to her career as one of the greatest musical conductors of all time. She holds her own with any intellectual and acts decisively and confidently. Also, she is a lesbian, and uses her power to entrap young lovers and burn their careers as soon as they become too demanding. Eventually, in the age of wokeness and #MeToo, her past catches up to her, and her career is destroyed.

By the end, I think no one can feel sorry for her. She has destroyed careers and driven one promising young talent to suicide. She has manipulated almost everyone around her, and the loss of her preeminent status, and more seriously of her relationship to her young daughter, is really a small cost to pay for what she has done. By the end she still has a life and a job in music, and she seems willing to return to the basics of her life and move on. She is a tragic hero who deserves what she gets, and maybe more.

We also see what goes into making this monster. Lydia—originally Linda—grew up in a modest household on Staten Island and had to work hard to gain her career in music. In the film, giving advice to young conductors, she says, “You want to dance the mask, you must service the composer. You gotta sublimate yourself, your ego, and, yes, your identity. You must, in fact, stand in front of the public and God and obliterate yourself.” It’s clear she has obliterated her old self, and as the film starts she has published her book Tár on Tár, a book by a constructed self about that self. It’s not clear that she can see much else beyond herself and her work, which is to wring the sublime from classical works, like Maher’s Fifth Symphony. 

Having constructed this new persona, Tár inevitably collides with a younger generation which is all about crowing over one’s identity. She harshly reprimands a young student who dismisses Bach on the basis of his heterosexual white maleness, starting with “Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring kind of conformity”, and then continuing on to “If Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth country, religion, sexuality, and so on, then so can yours”. He eventually calls her a bitch and storms out, and later the whole episode is distorted into a damning Tik Tok video.

The thing is, though Tár is a monster, she’s right. “The narcissism of small differences” does lead to an intellectual and aesthetic wasteland. I don’t believe that one has to obliterate oneself, let alone become a remorseless predator, to create great art. But great achievement won’t come from smugly defending one’s identity, either. At some point one must decide that the art is more important than the boundaries of one’s own comfort zone. Tár’s fame is not based on nothing: she is creating great performances, performances that change the history of music, and she is able to do so because she has sacrificed herself to the cause. The power of Mahler’s fifth is vastly greater than anything to be found on Tik Tok—and yet it is Tik Tok that slays this beast.

(added, upon further reflection) I don’t know how to balance the value of great art against the value of owning one’s identity and being accepted for how one is. I suppose there is an unavoidable conflict between wanting to be content with how you are, and wanting to change yourself or challenge yourself into being or creating something else. It seems generally true that significant creation costs something–time and effort at the very least, but sometimes also friends, family, simpler forms of happiness, and maybe bits of one’s soul. “Was it worth it?” is probably a question that often does not have a clear, stable answer. But when the cost is the suffering of innocent bystanders–well, then, no, I am tempted to insist: no, it was not worth it.

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Steven Pinker on linguistics

I just came across this excellent overview of the field of linguistics by Steven Pinker. Highly recommended.

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Some AI art

When I put together the “Two and a half minutes” piece for 3QD (below), I experimented with DALL-E to compose some art to accompany it. I ended up going with something less literal, but here’s what the AI did with the prompt “A painting of a muddy landscape with humans climbing out of brown pods”:

Looks like AI can pass the “think up some depressing imagery” test.

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3QD: Two and a half minutes

There is nothing new in this thought. But it’s worth revisiting now and again.

There’s an unbounded muddy terrain as dark and timeless as night. Drifting slowly over the landscape is a disk of light from an unknown source, like a spotlight. There’s no predictable pattern to its motion, and no place is illuminated for more than two and a half minutes. By then the light has moved on, never to return again.

When the light shines upon a circle of the land, its muddy features are revealed, tangled roots and rocks and mud. Look closer and you will see dull brown pods that stir into motion as soon as the light touches them. The pods break open and human beings climb out.

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3QD: Sea monster

Vasco da Gama was the first person we can name who successfully commandeered a voyage around Africa’s southernmost point, the Cape of Good Hope. It is a treacherous passage, where warm currents from the southern part of the Indian Ocean clash against the icy currents of the south Atlantic, leading to dangerous waves that have swallowed many ships. (Indeed, at the time it was known as “the Cape of Storms”.) Da Gama gave the cape wide berth, sailing far the sight of land, before turning northward and poking his way along the eastern coast of Africa, where many hijinks ensued.

This was in 1497, and Europeans were keen to find some route to Indian spices that didn’t involve crossing lands controlled by some sultan or other. Da Gama showed everyone the way, and the Dutch and the English rushed through and established colonies along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Da Gama’s fellow Portuguese established colonies as well, of course, but not with equal success. Part of the reason was that Portuguese sailors as a whole were not very interested in following da Gama’s Cape Route because they knew damned well there was a monster down there that ate ships like snacks.

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3QD: Give me monotony!

“Monotonizing existence, so that it won’t be monotonous. Making daily life anodyne, so that the littlest thing will amuse.” —Bernardo Soares (Fernando Pessoa), The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith, section 171

Senhor Soares goes on to explain that in his job as assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon, when he finds himself “between two ledger entries,” he has visions of escaping, visiting the grand promenades of impossible parks, meeting resplendent kings, and traveling over non-existent landscapes. He doesn’t mind his monotonous job, so long as he has the occasional moment to indulge in his daydreams. And the value for him in these daydreams is that they are not real. If they were real, they would not belong to him. They would belong to others as public resources, and not reside in his own private realm. And what is more, if they were real, then what would he have left to dream? Far better, he thinks, “to have Vasques my boss than the kings of my dreams.” It’s more than that he doesn’t mind his monotonous job. On the contrary: the more monotonous his existence, the better his dreams.

Read more here

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Knowledge for Humans

I have taught “Epistemology” for many years, but it has always been for me a difficult course to plan. I want to cover traditional philosophical questions about skepticism, justification, induction, and belief in the external world. But then I also want to cover topics arising from the social conditions of knowledge: how cultural ideologies and prejudices color what we perceive and what we think we know, and “the crooked timber of humanity” and all that. And then I also want to explore human psychology and our natural inclinations toward fallacious thinking, as well as how conspiracy theories arise, and the fresh challenges the internet brings to epistemology.

So finally, inevitably, I wrote my own textbook, and since textbooks are usually outrageously overpriced, I wanted to make mine an open resource ( = free!). I was lucky enough to gain tremendous, enthusiastic support from my university’s Open Educational Resource staff. And so here it is, for anyone interested!

Link to the book

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The argument from design, and the surprising significance of evolutionary explanation

At least on the surface, there seems to be something incongruous in regarding some artifact (like a watch) as clearly implying some kind of intelligent, crafty mind, but then regarding that intelligent, crafty mind as not implying any sort of further creator, but coming about through natural causes. A watchmaker is if anything more impressive and more in need of some explanation than the watch. So by what principle do we say that the watch requires design and artifice, but the watchmaker does not?

Rock Beast by Dusty101 on DeviantArt

It’s a tricky question, because it is difficult to sort out “order that requires design” from “order that does not require design”. If we point out that all of an entity’s parts work together, that its behavior is regular or uniform, and that it is clearly not a simple heap or aggregate of parts, it is not clear whether we are talking about a watch or a giraffe. Natural objects and artificial objects all exhibit order; but which kind of order implies design, and which does not?

To sharpen the question a bit further, imagine the following case. Suppose we land on Mars and we find remarkable entities composed of stone. These entities can move themselves over the landscape, and they have parts. We observe that they are able to seek out specific kinds of rocks and assemble them into copies of themselves. Sometimes they break or wear down, but enough of them are able to make copies of themselves before this happens that there seems to be a steady population of them on the planet.

Imagine further that, in response to this discovery, the scientists on earth form two camps. One camp proclaims, “We have found life on another planet! The surprise is that living beings can be made of rock.” The second camp proclaims, “These robotic artifacts are evidence for intelligent robot engineers, who either once lived on Mars, or at least were able to send some clever rock robots to Mars.” One might initially say these are just two equivalent descriptions of the entities, but that isn’t so, because the two theories are very different in what they imply about the past: one theory says the robots arose naturally, without any designers, and the other theory says there must have been designers. So they are saying different things.

How can we tell which theory is right? Suppose we examine the entities more closely, and learn that they are powered by some chemical process involving the rocks and the Martian atmosphere, and that each one has the parts it has because their “parent” made them that way. They don’t “grow” or change on their own, except through erosion and minor collisions. They don’t heal, and, being rocks, they don’t have DNA. They don’t communicate in any way we can see, and each one of them, when put into a similar situation, “robotically” will do a similar thing. So far, no clear reason to regard them decisively as living beings or decisively as artificial robots.

In this imagined case, there is nothing inherent in the rock entities that tells us whether they are natural or designed. But there should be some fact of the matter, because these rock things must have come from somewhere, after all. 

This leads us to another possible way of answering the question. Could these rock entities have evolved through natural selection? Answering this question requires that we try to construct an explanation for them that appeals to some sort of random generating process, some sort of environment that selects for some entities over others, and enough time for these factors to result in the rock entities in question. The explanation we construct will have to be consistent with Mars’ history, so far as we know it, and should not rely upon too many improbable, lucky accidents (each one counts against the explanation). 

If it turns out that we can construct such an explanation, then it is possible that these rock entities have come about naturally, and if we have no real evidence for Martian or other-worldly engineers, then that’s the more likely explanation. If it turns out there is no way to construct such an explanation, then we will judge the design hypothesis as more probable (leaving some room for the possibility that future theorists will know more than we do, and come up with an evolutionary explanation). So there is a way to answer the question, and it comes down to what kinds of explanations we are able or not able to construct.

This offers a surprising lesson about the role of Darwinian evolution by natural selection in the distinctions we make between what is natural and what is designed. Indeed, the story suggests that “natural” just means “can be explained through evolution”–and old Charlie Darwin may not have realized that, in his work, he was in fact providing a criterion for nature itself! It also helps us to understand why “the design argument” held such powerful sway over intellectuals before Darwin: there was no clear criterion for when we should regard an ordered thing as natural, and so there was really nothing to keep anyone from seeing any ordered thing as designed. 

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The Thing About Mary

One of the cleanest and most compelling arguments against physicalism in the philosophy of mind is the “Knowledge Argument”. (Here is a quick summary. The response I am going to offer doesn’t show up there, though it fits in as a variant of the “No Learning” objection. It’s also the reply Daniel Dennett gives in Consciousness Explained.) According to this argument, thorough knowledge of the physical facts of a human being will not reveal any of the subjective states of that human being–what they feel, think, and sense. But this means there are facts about a human being that cannot be known by knowing all of the relevant physical facts. Hence, physicalism is false.

The argument is typically presented in a story about Mary. Suppose Mary is a super-smart brain scientist who is unable to see colors. She learns everything there is to know about the brain, including what the brain does when it sees colors. So Mary has all the neurophysiological facts. But then suppose she is given the ability to see colors. She sees a rose and exclaims, “Oh! So that is what red looks like!” She didn’t know what red looks like, even given her knowledge of the brain. Hence there was something Mary didn’t know about human conscious experience. Hence there’s more to it than physical facts can tell.

It’s a cute and somewhat compelling example. But it’s misleading, and the misleading part is the part in the story when it is claimed that Mary knows everything there is to know about the brain. Set aside the problem that that is quite a lot. The problem, really, is that that is not enough.

Suppose Mary is a super-smart leg-scientist. She knows everything there is to know about legs, including what legs do when they walk. One day someone asks her for the best route for walking to Las Vegas. She doesn’t know, as she has spent all her time studying leg physiology. Hence, there must be more to to walking to Las Vegas than just walking.

Well, yes, we should say, of course there is. One should consult a map of some kind, and it would be helpful to recommend sturdy walking shoes and so on. Just studying walking won’t tell you which direction to take. Similarly for studying the brain. The brain evolves and learns in a natural environment. Elements in the natural environment evolve as well, and sometimes in response to organisms’ abilities to process color information. The red stuff in the world tends to be stuff that commands attention, as red stuff is usually poisonous, or pretending to be poisonous, or yummy, or blood, or meat, or something else you should pay attention to. Part of what red is has to do with what things in the environment get perceived as red, and why. Color perception would not have evolved at all if it had not been useful for processing information.

So we should change the Mary case so that Mary knows even more. She not only knows everything there is to know about the brain, but also everything there is to know about colored objects in the environment, and what role they have played in evolution. So now Mary knows that seeing red evolved so as to alert organisms to threats and opportunities in the environment, and that seeing red things usually results in a charged experience–scary, appetizing, sexy, etc. Red is attention-commanding. As such, it had better stand out brightly against things that can usually be ignored in crisis situations – green and brown things, for example. Mary may as well learn all the ways that red and other color words have been culturally embedded as well, in poems and stories and religious ideas, so as to understand the extensive role red plays in human experience.

Now once Mary knows all that, is it as obvious that she wouldn’t know what red looks like? I’ll admit, it may seem like she still wouldn’t know exactly what it looks like. But I don’t think it is obvious that she wouldn’t know. She might well gain her color vision, see a red thing, and say, “Ah, that’s pretty much what I expected!”

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3QD: Rat Man? Ewww!

It was announced last week that scientists have integrated neurons from human brains into infant rat brains, resulting in new insights about how our brain cells grow and connect, and some hope of a deeper understanding of neural disorders. Full story here. And while no scientist would admit they are working toward the development of some Rat Man who will escape the lab and wreak havoc on some faraway island or in the subways, it’s impossible not to wonder.

Read more here.

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Psyche: How to Read Philosophy

It might seem daunting to read philosophy. Giants of thinking with names like Hegel, Plato, Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard loom over us with imperious glares, asking if we are sure we are worthy. We might worry that we won’t understand anything they are telling us; even if we do think we understand, we still might worry that we’ll get it wrong somehow.

So, if we’re going to read philosophy, we need to begin by knocking those giants down to size. Every one of them tripped and burped and doodled. Some of them were real jerks. Here’s Arthur Schopenhauer on his fellow German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, for instance: ‘a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.’ I’m not sure whether this paints Schopenhauer or Hegel as the bigger jerk.

The point is that each giant of philosophy was a human being trying to figure out life by doing just what you do: reading, thinking, observing, writing. Don’t let their big words intimidate you; we can insist that they make sense to us – or, at least, intrigue us – or are left behind in the discount book bin. They must prove their worth to us.

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3QD: Thinking Big About The Future

I recently listened to a discussion on the topic of longtermism, or the moral view that we need to factor in the welfare of future generations far more seriously than we do, including generations far, far into the future. No one should deny that the people of the future deserve some of our consideration, but most people soften that consideration with fluffy pillows of uncertainty. We take ourselves to have a rough idea of what the next generation will face, but after that everything gets cloudy fast, and most of us aren’t sure what exactly we should do for those possible people in the clouds, so we start dropping them from our moral calculations.

But if you insist on considering them, and treating them as real (but real elsewhen), their numbers and their interests get big fast. How many people might exist in the whole future of the universe? Millions of billions, maybe, if we go full-on Star Trek. If they each deserve only one millionth of our concern, that still ends up being a whopping amount of concern. Look at things that way, and really just about all of our moral thinking should be focused on the future generations of the universe. The Iroquois who asserted that we should “have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations” were severely understating the magnitude of the task before us.

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Artificial Einstein

There is a set of interesting discussions posted on Scott Aaronson’s blog among Aaronson, Steven Pinker, and others on whether recent text generators like GPT-3 indicate that artificial intelligence is upon us. The discussion is informed, sensible, and well-mannered: these guys all respect each other’s views, though they disagree, so it’s a model of genuine discourse. The basic disagreement seems to be between the more impressed by GPT-3 and the less impressed, as one would expect.

Aaronson’s dialogue continues with Pinker on this page, and the two seem to get stuck on the question of whether we could have not just AI, but genius AI, such as an AI that duplicates Einstein’s intelligence. They arrive at this point because after Pinker points out that we really don’t have a clear definition of what constitutes “intelligence”, Aaronson counters that if one devised a program that could give you Einstein-level insights, that would surely count as an intelligent program:

“Namely, it could say whatever Albert Einstein would say in a given situation, while thinking a thousand times faster.  Feed the AI all the information about physics that the historical Einstein had in 1904, for example, and it would discover special relativity in a few hours, followed by general relativity a few days later.  Give the AI a year, and it would think … well, whatever thoughts Einstein would’ve thought, if he’d had a millennium in peak mental condition to think them.”

Pinker replies to this idea with skepticism toward treating intelligence or super-intelligence as a kind of magical substance that inhabits special brains: “I still think that discussions of AI and its role in human affairs—including AI safety—will be muddled as long as the writers treat intelligence as an undefined superpower rather than a mechanisms with a makeup that determines what it can and can’t do….[I]f intelligence is a collection of mechanisms rather than a quantity that Einstein was blessed with a lot of, it’s not clear that just speeding him up would capture what anyone would call superintelligence.” So Pinker would rather see a detailed account of how an AI is recognizing problems and thinking about them, rather than just wowing us with stellar performance.

Pinker has an interesting point, I think: it is easy to believe we will have programs that can maintain conversations and solve hard problems, but harder to believe that those programs will be doing it the way humans do it. The programming will require much more massive information than the human brain runs on, and so won’t fully answer the question of how human beings think.

It’s a good and interesting discussion, as I said, but there’s a further element I think they are missing, and that’s the social dimension of intelligence (and of “genius”, even more so). I am not at all sure Einstein would have been a genius if he had been born in 1779 or 1979 instead of 1879. As it happened, he was in the right place at the right time to make an important contribution in a certain problem space. We shouldn’t assume that he would have the same level of success if dropped into other problem spaces. Same goes for the others on the typical lists of geniuses: Plato, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Newton, etc. A lot of lucky circumstances need to come together before an individual set of abilities can plug itself in and solve a problem in an impressive way. Drop a genius into another time and they may cease to be a genius entirely.

(I am reminded of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in which Beethoven, brought to the present day, quickly masters disco. I don’t quite remember what the other historical figures master—Genghis Khan skateboards, and Joan of Arc jazzercises?!–but the trajectory of this idea would have Newton quickly mastering the internet, Lincoln bringing peace to the Middle East, etc. It’s a vivid expression of the common belief that genius is a superpower.)

A similar point might be made for sub-genius level intelligence, with which most of us are familiar. What matters is not what a smart device or a person can do, or what puzzles it can solve, but the ways in which it can be incorporated into the rest of society. So long as we stick with Turing-test-style contests to see if we have a genuine AI or not, we will always be in an argument like the one among Aaronson and his friends: enthusiasts and skeptics, progressives and cynics, arguing over whether “genuine intelligence” is a necessary condition for passing the test. By contrast, if we find one day that we already have incorporated an entity into our conversations and in our lives, and that in these roles we cannot help but regard the entity as a separate, intelligent person, then the debate is practically over. It’s intelligent, because we can’t help but treat it as intelligent.

So, for example, right now I don’t think anyone regards Siri or Alexa as intelligent. They’re still awkward to deal with. But if someday they are as easy to converse with as a genuine personal assistant, so that we have to think about our interactions with them in the same way we have to think about our interactions with human others, then we will have genuine AIs: not merely because of their programming (though that is not irrelevant, of course), but because they fit into our society in the right sort of way to be regarded as intelligent beings. 

We have done this with children over the last 60 years or so, and with animals over the last 20 years. It’s only been in the 20th century that we started inviting children into the adult world, where their feelings and ideas and abilities were taken as equal to an adult’s, or at least on many occasions we pretended as if they did. A kid in 1887 was not awarded nearly the same degree of intellectual authority and respect as a kid in 1987, let alone 2017. Same with our pets: though we do not treat them like fully adult humans—well, it’s not exactly common practice, anyway—it’s still a lot better to be a dog in 2020 than a dog in 1920. For some reason, we decided to include children and pets into the charmed circle of Beings Whose Intelligence Matters. Who and what they are as persons depends partly on their own abilities and capacities, of course, but also very much on the way we treat them. Talk of “rights” reflects our attitudes on these matters. To establish a being’s rights is to decide, as a matter of policy, how they are to be regarded, and that decision is informed in part by how intelligent we regard them as being.

I do think that, in general computer scientists and psychologists and philosophers are reluctant to get into the messy business of the social dimensions of all this stuff, because they prefer to work in more clearly defined domains: the confines of the skull, for instance, or the structure of an algorithm, or interactions among a small number of participants. Once we open the lid on the roles of culture, tradition, and even economics and politics on these questions, then the worms start wiggling out at an unmanageable rate. So it’s an understandable oversimplification. But that doesn’t mean that the social dimension can be ignored.

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