Slavoj Zizek attacks Sam Harris
Posted: 15 March 2008 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I don’t know if you are aware of this, but continental “philosopher” Slavoj Zizek has been vehemently attacking Mr. Harris recently. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ucy72hiQUc.

I quote Zizek verbatim: “Why are you for death penalty? Well because Sam Harris is alive…n this very book [The End of Faith] he advocates torture.”

wtf?

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Posted: 02 April 2008 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Algebratheist - 15 March 2008 08:46 PM

I quote Zizek verbatim: “Why are you for death penalty? Well because Sam Harris is alive…n this very book [The End of Faith] he advocates torture.”
wtf?

reason enough not to watch the clip

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“All Truth passes through Three Stages: First, it is Ridiculed…
Second, it is Violently Opposed…
Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

- Arthur Schopenhauer

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Posted: 24 April 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I think this is not something so strange, I acctually expected it (not by Zizek necessarely but by this “school” in general). I already wrote on Chris Hedges in the “Multimedia thread” about the challenge to reason posed by postmodernist relativism:

This academic callousness towards universal human rights is unfortunately not just a “fringe”-belief. In the last 30 years “postmodernism” spread from arts and culture (where it was a fruitful new trend) to social sciences where it established Epistemic relativism as a new paradigm. This quickly lead to an extreme intellectual decay in large parts of the social sciences (and of the academic left), partly exposed by the Sokal hoax. PM spread to (European) politics, where it gave us a form of multiculturalism that allows “no go areas” and ethnic/religious based enclaves (especially in Western Europe) that undermine the rule of law and individual freedoms.

Postmodernists like Hedges have to be asked over and over again if they mean what they say: that all cultures (or grand narratives as they like to call them) are equally good or bad for humans, if women for example should suffer FGM or other forms of oppression just because they have been born into it.

The onlineblog Butterflies and Wheels fights against this kind of “fashionable nonsense”, check it out: there is some good reading on the hot issues of today.

Zizek is a postmodern thinker par excellence. I therefore disagree to ignore him or his collegues: it might be just important to be able to refute them than priests, rabbis and mullahs. You just have to get a thick skin: they are intellectually even more nasty and obfousciating than those.

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Posted: 29 May 2008 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I agree with parts of Zizek’s statements in this video series (I watched the whole thing).

As a student of AI/AL, I am working towards creating Artificial Intelligence, which will by definition also be Artificial Life.

In the journey from here to there, most of the technologies used to create AI will also allow for the radical augmentation of the human mind through either Chemical, Biological or Electronic means.

My own personal desire is to destroy our current conceptions of humanity - or more bluntly, to destroy humanity as we now know it.

Zizek makes an excellent point when he talks about a chemical solution to human inadequacies. If by taking a pill (a metaphor for some chemical or genetic augmentation) you can raise your intelligence, or strengthen your skeleton, or musculature, then this necessarily shows that there was some form of inadequacy in those structures to begin with.

It is a terribly complex and controversial area of work, and one that often gets by under the radar due to people not fully understanding the implications of the work (such as BrainGates Neural Interface, or Ted Berger’s (at USC) Memory Prosthesis).

It is highly likely that an AI will have been in existence for some time before it becomes public. It may even be the case that the AI will refuse to allow itself to be “outed” until it is reasonably sure that it will be safe.

Matthew

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Posted: 29 May 2008 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 05:29 AM

As a student of AI/AL, I am working towards creating Artificial Intelligence, which will by definition also be Artificial Life.

There is still the question of what is required for any AI to be conscious.  There are good reasons for thinking that at the very least a conscious AI could not be based on algorithmic computation. 

BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 05:29 AM

In the journey from here to there, most of the technologies used to create AI will also allow for the radical augmentation of the human mind through either Chemical, Biological or Electronic means.

My own personal desire is to destroy our current conceptions of humanity - or more bluntly, to destroy humanity as we now know it.

Zizek makes an excellent point when he talks about a chemical solution to human inadequacies. If by taking a pill (a metaphor for some chemical or genetic augmentation) you can raise your intelligence, or strengthen your skeleton, or musculature, then this necessarily shows that there was some form of inadequacy in those structures to begin with.

No, this is a false conclusion.  If I can give a child a chemical that allows him to grow to a height of 8 feet this does not mean that normal human height is inadequate (except for the NBA).  The normal human body is as it is because of its history of evolutionary compromise in the Terrestrial environment.  This doesn’t mean that improvement isn’t desirable, only that normality is not inadequate, only… normal.

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Posted: 29 May 2008 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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burt - 29 May 2008 01:31 PM
BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 05:29 AM

As a student of AI/AL, I am working towards creating Artificial Intelligence, which will by definition also be Artificial Life.

There is still the question of what is required for any AI to be conscious.  There are good reasons for thinking that at the very least a conscious AI could not be based on algorithmic computation.

Are you saying that consciousness is not an emergent property of the brain?

Have you by chance seen the Blue Brain Project?

This is but one avenue to AI.

But, it shows that all the brain does is run algorithms on a massively parallel substrate. Nothing more.

burt - 29 May 2008 01:31 PM
BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 05:29 AM

In the journey from here to there, most of the technologies used to create AI will also allow for the radical augmentation of the human mind through either Chemical, Biological or Electronic means.

My own personal desire is to destroy our current conceptions of humanity - or more bluntly, to destroy humanity as we now know it.

Zizek makes an excellent point when he talks about a chemical solution to human inadequacies. If by taking a pill (a metaphor for some chemical or genetic augmentation) you can raise your intelligence, or strengthen your skeleton, or musculature, then this necessarily shows that there was some form of inadequacy in those structures to begin with.

No, this is a false conclusion.  If I can give a child a chemical that allows him to grow to a height of 8 feet this does not mean that normal human height is inadequate (except for the NBA).  The normal human body is as it is because of its history of evolutionary compromise in the Terrestrial environment.  This doesn’t mean that improvement isn’t desirable, only that normality is not inadequate, only… normal.

You are assuming that there is a need for an 8 foot tall person. would there be a need, then yes, our current physiology would be inadequate.

It is also an oversimplification of the argument. I suppose it was remiss to not point out that the inadequacies arise from needs present that have, perhaps, not been present before.

Our bodies are still a massively flawed design from an engineering perspective. Evolution, unfortunately, does not optimize in the same manner as an engineer. It only seeks to find a solution that is workable, not optimal.

Matthew

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Posted: 29 May 2008 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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“Our bodies are still a massively flawed design from an engineering perspective. Evolution, unfortunately, does not optimize in the same manner as an engineer. It only seeks to find a solution that is workable, not optimal.”

If humans were designed by engineers, legs would fall off while running, skin would peel off in high wind, brains would need rebooting at the worst possible times…maybe the optimum is 99.99% dependability at 0 manufacturing cost/unit.

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Posted: 29 May 2008 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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mcalpine - 29 May 2008 02:54 PM

“Our bodies are still a massively flawed design from an engineering perspective. Evolution, unfortunately, does not optimize in the same manner as an engineer. It only seeks to find a solution that is workable, not optimal.”

If humans were designed by engineers, legs would fall off while running, skin would peel off in high wind, brains would need rebooting at the worst possible times…maybe the optimum is 99.99% dependability at 0 manufacturing cost/unit.

Knees give, skin burns (and peels) in the sun, aneurisms occur (not to mention epilepsy).

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Posted: 29 May 2008 03:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Aaron - 29 May 2008 06:26 PM
mcalpine - 29 May 2008 02:54 PM

“Our bodies are still a massively flawed design from an engineering perspective. Evolution, unfortunately, does not optimize in the same manner as an engineer. It only seeks to find a solution that is workable, not optimal.”

If humans were designed by engineers, legs would fall off while running, skin would peel off in high wind, brains would need rebooting at the worst possible times…maybe the optimum is 99.99% dependability at 0 manufacturing cost/unit.

Knees give, skin burns (and peels) in the sun, aneurisms occur (not to mention epilepsy).

I think that maybe he is confusing Microsoft or Ford with companies who have Engineers.

Matthew

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Posted: 29 May 2008 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 02:25 PM
burt - 29 May 2008 01:31 PM
BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 05:29 AM

As a student of AI/AL, I am working towards creating Artificial Intelligence, which will by definition also be Artificial Life.

There is still the question of what is required for any AI to be conscious.  There are good reasons for thinking that at the very least a conscious AI could not be based on algorithmic computation.

Are you saying that consciousness is not an emergent property of the brain?

Exactly.  The view I have is that consciousness has to be taken as a priori in the same way that space and time are in physics.  Self-consciousness is something else again, and is dependent on the brain.

BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 02:25 PM

Have you by chance seen the Blue Brain Project?

This is but one avenue to AI.

But, it shows that all the brain does is run algorithms on a massively parallel substrate. Nothing more.

That, I think, is an over-statement given the current state of our knowledge.  As far as algorithmic computation is concerned, I agree with Searle, you can’t get semantics from syntax. 

BeAfraid - 29 May 2008 02:25 PM

author=“BeAfraid” date=“1212064188”]
In the journey from here to there, most of the technologies used to create AI will also allow for the radical augmentation of the human mind through either Chemical, Biological or Electronic means.

My own personal desire is to destroy our current conceptions of humanity - or more bluntly, to destroy humanity as we now know it.

Zizek makes an excellent point when he talks about a chemical solution to human inadequacies. If by taking a pill (a metaphor for some chemical or genetic augmentation) you can raise your intelligence, or strengthen your skeleton, or musculature, then this necessarily shows that there was some form of inadequacy in those structures to begin with.

No, this is a false conclusion.  If I can give a child a chemical that allows him to grow to a height of 8 feet this does not mean that normal human height is inadequate (except for the NBA).  The normal human body is as it is because of its history of evolutionary compromise in the Terrestrial environment.  This doesn’t mean that improvement isn’t desirable, only that normality is not inadequate, only… normal.

You are assuming that there is a need for an 8 foot tall person. would there be a need, then yes, our current physiology would be inadequate.

It is also an oversimplification of the argument. I suppose it was remiss to not point out that the inadequacies arise from needs present that have, perhaps, not been present before.

Our bodies are still a massively flawed design from an engineering perspective. Evolution, unfortunately, does not optimize in the same manner as an engineer. It only seeks to find a solution that is workable, not optimal.

Matthew

From an evolutionary point of view, there is no need for augmented humans.  We are producing conditions under which, from our point of view, various improvements would be useful.  (Personally, I’d like to add a few centuries to life span)  What I was reacting to was the term “inadequate” which I think is a particularly poor choice of language.  Going on from this, it probably isn’t a good idea to take an engineering perspective on the human body—there are too many factors, you can’t optimize on all of them so trade-offs have to be made (which evolution is quite good at), and there is always the law of unintended consequences to deal with.

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