Kant around the back

Schmidhuber exemplifies the path, while talking about robots:

One important thing about consciousness is that the agent, as it is interacting with the world, will notice that there is one thing that is always present as it is interacting with the world — which is the agent itself.

(Some room for quibbling, but it doesn’t get serious. This is where transcendental subjectivity comes from.)

Quotable (#191)

Nagel on (Gottlieb on) Hobbes, getting the critical point:

What was distinctive about Hobbes’s theory, and what led to his being attacked as a moral nihilist, was his refusal to appeal to any concern for the good of others or the collective good as a basis for moral motivation. He demonstrated that the familiar rules of morality, which he called the laws of nature, are principles of conduct such that if everyone follows them, everyone will be better off. But the fact that everyone will be better off if everyone follows them gives no individual a reason to follow them himself. He can have a reason to follow them only if that will make him individually better off. And there is no natural guarantee that individual self-interest and the collective interest will coincide in this way. […] Hobbes concluded that although we all have a reason to want to live in a community governed by the moral rules, we cannot achieve this unless we bring it about that it is in each person’s individual interest to abide by those rules. And the method of doing that is to agree with one another to support a powerful sovereign with a monopoly on the use of force, who will use it to punish violators. Only then can each individual be confident that if he obeys the rules, he will not be laying himself open to assault and dispossession by others. Without the trust engendered by the knowledge that violators will be punished, civilization is impossible and individual self-interest — the same rational motive that supports morality — leads to perpetual conflict and constant insecurity. This is the famous Hobbesian state of nature, and Hobbes was most notorious for saying that in this condition, we are almost never obligated to obey the moral rules, because it is not safe to do so.

The identification of a collective optimum does no realistic theoretical work. Irrespective of the status of his concrete conclusion, Hobbes’ methodical principle is impeccable.

Quotable (#148)

Contemplating cognitive dependence:

Michael P. Lynch is a philosopher of truth. His fascinating new book, “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data,” begins with a thought experiment: “Imagine a society where smartphones are miniaturized and hooked directly into a person’s brain.” As thought experiments go, this one isn’t much of a stretch. (“Eventually, you’ll have an implant,” Google’s Larry Page has promised, “where if you think about a fact it will just tell you the answer.”) Now imagine that, after living with these implants for generations, people grow to rely on them, to know what they know and forget how people used to learn — by observation, inquiry, and reason. Then picture this: overnight, an environmental disaster destroys so much of the planet’s electronic-communications grid that everyone’s implant crashes. It would be, Lynch says, as if the whole world had suddenly gone blind. There would be no immediate basis on which to establish the truth of a fact. No one would really know anything anymore, because no one would know how to know. I Google, therefore I am not. […] Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. …

Quotable (#133)


The problem is that we evolved to be targeted, shallow information consumers in unified, deep information environments. As targeted, shallow information consumers we require two things: 1) certain kinds of information hygiene, and 2) certain kinds of background invariance. (1) is already in a state of free-fall, I think, and (2) is on the technological cusp. I don’t see any plausible way of reversing the degradation of either ecological condition, so I see the prospects for traditional philosophical discourses only diminishing.