Saturday, November 11, 2023

Torture

- What do you have there?
- One of our old conversations, six, seven years ago. I'll read it to you.

- Anti-sex trafficking organizations say prostitution is torture. What do you think?
- Obviously they are not identical. We might look at how they are the same and how they are different.
- How are they the same?
- Both the seller of sex and the tortured have force applied to their bodies.
- You mean forced sex? Don't sellers agree to trade sex for money?
- Assuming they feel no desire to be with those they have to be paid to be with, their bodies are being forced to act against desire.
- How is acting against desire torture?
- Buying sex like torture works to disable normal functioning of the bought or bound subject's body.
- Torture and buying sex are both about disabling the subject's body. How else are torture and buying sex similar?
- Both aim to force particular thoughts into the minds of their bound or bought subjects, or to imagine this happening. The torturer wants a confession, the sex buyer wants the bought to pretend to like the buyer.
- So we have two elements: disabling the body's functioning, and forcing into existence shows of certain thoughts. We know people torture for reasons other than gaining information, that in most cases torture is not done to achieve practical results. Do you think people buy sex also for no practical reason? That it is not about sex?
- I think it is about what we've said: sex buying constructs a social relation in which the body of the bought is disabled and the seller imagines he is desired by someone whose body is socially considered desirable.
- A matter of power and status.
- Yes.
- Ok. How are sex buying and torture different?
- Instead of being physically bound, the sex seller is subject to severe economic and social pressure. Because selling sex disables the body and necessitates lying no one voluntarily chooses to sell sex.
- Then why do some say they enjoy what they do?
- The same reason slaves say they accept slavery: they find security in the only way of life they know that provides some predictability. We've talked before* about how feeling at home comes from habit, and habit comes from the body. We want to be at home because that is the place where we know from experience we are safe and can move on to get what else we want. The tortured and bought body cannot easily feel anywhere at home. We also talked** about how in our societies we do things for the sake of doing them: another way of saying, we are a society of people without home. We are a people without home because we force each other to do what the bound for torture and bought for sex are forced to do: against our bodies, under threat of economic and social death to produce representations of our liking of each other, to constantly adjust our relations to each other.
-  Your point being that violence and sex are extremes of relation between bodies, but in our everyday life where our bodies keep more distance we see the same relations we see in torture and prostitution.
- Yes, but because of the physical distance maintained the effect is much weakened. Torture is still torture.
- And prostitution is still torture.
- Does this get us anywhere in trying to understand the murder and torture rampage of Hamas against the Israelis?
- In the torture there was no attempt to extract information, and obviously no imagined show of attraction. The mind to be adjusted to a new social relation of power was of the audiences to the torture: the live streamed families of the torturers and the families of their victims.
- Do you think this torture rampage was in some way a logical extension of prostitution, selling bodies and selling minds?
- I think the idea of forced show-making in torture helps us understand the glee, pride, exhilaration of the demonstrators in our cities and college campuses celebrating the torture-murder rampage.
- Torture as a public act has a history, public executions. Is this a fundamental difference between us and them, between people who mostly make a public show of torture and those who would hide it away?
- A forced relation of bodies, of physical powerlessness, creates in the mind of performers a social relation of power. The Hamas killer-torturers and the celebrating students seem to have forgotten their capacity as human beings to be unforced in body and mind. They are not ashamed of their moments of living in shows of social relation created at the price of destroying bodies. Rousseau wrote in 1750:
 Sincere friendship, real esteem and perfect confidence are banished from among men. Jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate, and fraud lie constantly concealed.
- Concealed no longer.


Further Reading:

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Proportionality

- I can't understand how you can be here, a University, a place of civilization, demonstrating in favor of barbarians, celebrating people who proudly, joyfully torture and kill children.
- We're demonstrating in favor of peace.
- Then you condemn the Hamas' torture and killing of children?
- Israel is committing genocide against Palestinian people. Occupying their land.
- How can there be a genocide when the population is increasing every year? There isn't a single Jew in Gaza or the PA, how can they be occupiers?
- The Palestinians are oppressed by Israel, an apartheid state that denies them human rights.
- Arabs in Israel have the same rights as Jews.
- One side uses violence, the other side uses violence. We're calling for a cease fire.
- To end attacks on its people Israel needs to win the war with Hamas.
- Israel's killing is disproportionate. It has to be stopped.
- A proportionate response is what is required by the rules of a feud. There's a difference between act of violence in response to act of violence - a feud, cycle of violence - and one state's defending itself from the violent intentions of another state in a war: wars end with the enemy entirely dead or disarmed.
- Are you Jewish?
- Yes.
- I have to go. Best of luck in dealing with your confusion.

This conversation took place this afternoon up at UCLA at the pro-Palestinian rally. Chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" could be heard, which is a coded way of saying, as Israel is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the eradication of the State of Israel. For most of my short conversation with the student he had a self-satisfied smirk on his face. He obviously had had this conversation many times before and had the terms of his answers laid out in advance: apartheid, occupation, genocide, proportionality. He was bored, we can picture him asking himself, what's so special about tortured and killed children? What is required to become bored with the subject of child torture and murder (abduction too, we've failed to mention)? First, most obviously, failure to make a distinction between those who can and cannot leave a state whose violence they don't agree with; the elderly, disabled, and children cannot. But children are a special case within this class of those who cannot agree to participate in group violence. In addition to not having the power to leave they also cannot want to participate in group violence. Their characteristic act of play requires there be behind it a reality of security and love which real violence undermines. To find child torture and killing and abduction something to smile about requires not being able to remember what play is, what it is to be outside the responsibility of social participation, the removal which creates room to play in for the child. Without play, to be constantly subject to social demands, leaves our UCLA terrorist approving student without imagination, individuality, and any respect for the truth; truth, imagination, individuality having no value for someone who never must question the claims and demands of the group that forms his identity. Torture, kill, abduct babies? Why not, these actions, done according to group demands, disconnected with self, are reduced to the security of obedience and mere words, the terms of instruction.

Watch:

Further Reading:

Sunday, October 15, 2023

How Ralphs Tackles Homelessness

1.

- Thirty-three student groups at Harvard put out a statement that mass murder, rape, torture, abduction of hundreds of children, the elderly, women are all justified by Israel being a settler colonial nation. Two days later the President of Harvard, a black woman (I don't mean to make really a racist/sexist identification, you'll see) released a statement that Harvard University is not responsible for the behavior of its students.
- Harvard is not in the business of educating its students.
- Apparently not. The Democratic Socialist Party, which has a handful of representatives in the U.S. Congress, with gleeful smiles and dancing in the streets in New York City declared that any action any atrocities done by Palestinians is justified. The founder of Europe's Diem Party Yanis Varoufakis has said he will not condemn the action of the terrorists, because that would imply he was on board with Palestinians going back to their 'open-air prison.' It was out of the question for him, apparently, that the Palestinians make peace with Israel. One of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement issued a statement, from one might guess one the mansions these leaders bought themselves from donations, that Israel was an experiment now shown to be a failure and should therefore be ended immediately.
- Wow.
- The first story I want to tell begins with the Black Lives Matter riots and protest in Los Angeles in 2020. A few months afterwards the new district attorney in Los Angeles issued a memo stating that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanors, with misdemeanors expanded to include property crime less than $950. He said that these crimes were committed by people for the most part were drug addicts and insane and should get treatment, not jail time. That there were no facilities with any ability to deal with the city's mentally ill and addicted was not mentioned. The resulting massive crime wave was predicted by everyone but him. I personally have had 2 bicycles, 3 bookbags, one rare book, and five computers, and more stolen since then. The latest computer theft is what I want to tell you about. Does this interest you?
- A bit on the sordid side, but ok. Tell your story.
- On the outskirts of Westwood village is Denny's Coffee Shop. Westwood has become the place to go if you are among the insane and drug addicted issued a get out of jail free card by our district attorney. They buy and sell each other drugs and rob each other when exhausted by their demented shouting they lay themselves down to sleep in the middle of the sidewalk, enjoying the slight breeze created by pedestrians walking over their bare foot bodies. (They particularly like to steal each other's shoes.) It was no surprise then, as I sat one night a few days ago on Denny's terrace drinking coffee and reading on my computer that I hear a man shouting Secret Service? Are you Secret Service? He is going from person to person with this same question, which he follows up with the charge, Illegal Surveillance! He comes over to stand on the other side of the railing separating the terrace from the sidewalk. He orders me: Get out of Westwood! I live here! You don't! I'm in charge of Westwood! Get out, Get out! He doesn't leave, keeps shouting at me, Get out! You're Secret Service. Finally, I break my silence, ask him, What makes you think I am Secret Service? He responds by reaching down and taking hold of my computer's screen and lifting the computer from the table. I was quick enough to grab the keyboard but after a struggle he was able to pull the computer from my hands. You said you were Secret Service, he explains. He gives me a broad smile and takes off across the street. After a few moments of shocked immobility, I followed him, going home I guess, keeping a safe distance: Westwood's drug addicts and crazies warn me when they try to sell me drugs that they all carry knives. 
- You didn't try to take your computer back?
- You mean like the Ralphs supermarket down the street? You don't know what's happening there? After years of an all day and all-night stream of shoplifters Ralphs hired new teams of Balaclava masked guards armed with pistols, stun guns, night stick, pepper spray, bullet proof vests and combat boots. They follow the obviously homeless, crazy and addicted through the store and when they leave block their way, shout at them to empty their bags. They refuse, knowing they can't be charged, and have always previously been left untouched. Not anymore. The guard using a wrestling move will tackle the shoplifter to the ground, pull the bags from their shoulders and hands and empty the bags contents on the pavement, taking back all that was being stolen. Resistance is met with shoves, and if that doesn't work, pepper spray to the eyes. 
- You've seen all this yourself?
- Many times. Do you understand? Ralphs realized that if the addicts and crazy couldn't be prosecuted, neither would their guards be prosecuted, even if technically the violence they were using would not be a misdemeanor, they knew the police would not be eager to be involved in defense of people given free pass at criminality.
- Is this still going on?
- As far as I know. Anyway, if I tried, without combat boots and bulletproof vests and guns and sprays to take back my computer, it was likely, not backed by the clout of one of the biggest supermarket chains in the world, I would be charged with felony assault, which is prosecuted in LA, and arrested!
- Arrested for trying to take back your computer from someone who can't be arrested for stealing it from you.
- Yes. I see the robber turn the corner on Wilshire Blvd. and walk into the first residential building offering luxury apartments. I followed him in, ask the valet parking attendant if he man who just came in lives there. Yes. I ask the concierge at the reception desk the same question. Yes. I ask the guard standing in the corner. Yes, again. I explain the situation. Security boss is called. I call the police. Security boss arrives, he calls the police too. We wait an hour and a half. Two police officers arrive. Then two more. Then a sergeant. We all watch the playback video of the robber arriving home with my computer in his arms. They all keep asking me was I scared, was violence used taking the computer? Use of violence and causing fear are what raises the severity of the crime from misdemeanor to the category the felony robbery, which is still prosecuted. They obviously want me say no, I was not afraid, I didn't try to hold onto my computer. Finally, they ask me what I want them to do. Go up to his apartment and get my computer. They, now a crowd of what looks like 7 or 8 police and two building guards with keys, take the elevator up. They are down in a few minutes. The robber didn't answer his door. That's it. To enter they need a search warrant. Call the detective tomorrow and ask him to get one. 
- That's it?
- I call the detective. He wants me to come down to the station to identify the robber. At the station I'm taken in to a little room and shown a "six pack", an array of six photos from which I'm to identify the culprit. His smirking face is immediately identifiable. The detective tells me he'll take the suspect into custody that day or the next. 
- And?
- Nothing happens. I visit the building manager, who explains this new tenant of theirs has been arrested five times in the month since his arrival from his home in New Zealand. First arrest, for gauging out the paint of Rolls Royces and Astin Martins and Ferraris in the residence's garage, the damage adding up to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Then he was charged and prosecuted since the damage was over $950.
- The prosecutors reduced to charge to a misdemeanor.
- Why?
- Humanitarian reasons. Next the building's now favorite resident went up to the UCLA campus and was caught spraying graffiti.
- Charged and released?
- Yes. Next, he checked out one of those ride-share electric bikes and launched in into a Santa Monica bar owner's - high-priced cars again - Lamborghini.
- Charged and released?
- After spending the weekend in jail. Bar owner is supposed to have some political influence in the city.
- Next?
- Arrested in Santa Monica for graffiti.
- Next?
- The building's assistant manager told me all around Santa Monica and Brentwood someone was spraying swastikas on walls and trash receptacles. She thought it was their boy, but he wasn't caught.
- And then came you, number five.
- Yes. The detective called it a crime spree. 
- A get out of jail free spree.
- Yes. More than two weeks have passed. The detective told me Friday when he asked the DA's office for an arrest warrant he was told more information was required.
- Taking the computer from your hands, video of the robber carrying your computer into the building, identifying him from array of photos, was not enough?
- No. My computer has found its new home upstairs in the luxury residence. Minimum rent, $6,000 a month, proof of income three times rent amount required for leasing consideration.
- An income of $18,000 a month. The guy is rich.
- Yes. He is stealing for its own sake like our ex-President Donald Trump has lived a lifetime of criminality, steadily losing with his failed and criminal activities the huge fortune inherited from his father. The robber's smirking confidence reminded me of Trump's confidence he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose the loyalty of his supporters. 
- You've told your stories. What's it all about? This crazy condoning of crime, this open, gloating approval of what until now was considered unsupportable by anyone civilized: mass murder, torture, abduction of women, children, elderly?
- The failure of democracy.
- What's the connection?
- A particular path democracy can take in failing. Before the American war of independence there was an ongoing debate among the religious leaders of the colonies whether mere tolerance of difference of opinion was enough, or an attempt must be made to find some foundational principles that could be agreed upon. 
- The question was whether democracy could be practiced by people who disagreed so completely.
- In the absence of the belief that agreement could be reached democracy is, in Plato's definition, that form of government where there was no agreement on what was good or true, with the result that it was liable to descend into anarchy.
- You think that is what has happened?
- No, it's not that simple. A shift has occurred, a move from there is no agreement on what is true to there is no truth at all.
- And what difference does that make?
- If there is no truth, and there is a government with power over the people, then all government policies and laws, and all justifications of them, are unjust attempts to enslave the people. Plato's mockingly stated description of Thia form of government is one in which justice is the advantage of the stronger.
- In other words, there is no justice at all.
- None. And what happens then?
- What?
- One faction among the people takes power and control of the government and uses government justification to enslave the other factions. Everything said and done by the government is an act of disguised power.
- White supremacists oppress the blacks. Men oppress women. The rich and law abiding and rational oppress the poor and criminal and the crazy. The Jews oppress the Arabs.
- But making the claim that mass murder of Jews is justified because the Jews, by definition of their being in power, are victimizing the Palestinians, aren't they - the Palestinians - too attempting to extort some power from the world's governments by means of telling that story? A story which as an expression of power must be a lie?
- Of course. Republican politicians often make that accusation of democratic district attorneys like ours in LA. (Our city is not alone in criminals being assigned victim status.)
- And being called out for hypocrisy doesn't change anything?
- No, what it does is add an ironic relish to the self-righteousness of their attacks on their supposed attackers, add a play-like self-consciousness of what they are doing, a joy of performance, theatricality, spectacle implicit to their actions.
- Thus the smiles and smirks often observed on their faces, dancing in the street celebrating tortured babies, beheadings....
- Yes. 
- To summarize, you see a sequence, a movement through ideas that goes from democracy of debate and agreement to democracy of tolerance, which leads to a democratic government that is believed to tyrannize over the people to a government captured by one faction and enslaving all other factions, to self-conscious taking power in the name of righteousness of the people of the victimized faction. Is that correct?
- Yes. Think about it. What good is the truth when the world lived in is said to be nothing but lies told to gain power. Lies like: The Palestinian's claim Israel is a settler colonial nation. But where then is the mother country- the metropole - from which emigration occurs? Israel? The Palestinians claim to be the sole indigenous people on the land, but they never have had a government there, and the Jews have had several, the government in Gaza puts in their founding document their intention to kill all Jews in the state of Israel together with Jews every place else in the world. They say Israel kills civilians so they can kill civilians too. But they use civilians as human shields by launching missiles at Israel from hospitals and schools and residential neighborhoods and their terrorists deliberately seek out civilians to murder, while Israel warns civilians to get out of the way of imminent attacks. The Palestinians make no serious attempt to make peace, Israel does. All this is as nothing, is outside the process of reasoning the leads to the belief that truth can be nothing other than a statement  of victimization and power only to be had in the victimized's justified taking on the position of victimizer, victimizing the world with lying claims of innocence.


2.

- Are you finished with your...victimology?
- Should there be more? Being on the subject of the Middle East, shouldn't we have a savior maybe?
- Do you have one?
- You tell me. The day before the robber showed up at Denny's and took home my computer something strange happened, at the same time and the same place, strange even for Westwood. It was about 11 PM when I looked up from reading the news of the war in Ukraine and see a man, naked except for a luxurious, heavy white terrycloth bathrobe and nothing else walking across the street away from me. He was shouting about something I couldn't make out and really, in this place of literally hundreds of the addicted and insane there was nothing very remarkable here except I had the impression of good grooming and cleanliness. I went back to my reading but look up again hearing the shouting return. I see the man in the bathrobe crossing the street coming back my way. Over the next few minutes he repeats this coming and going several times. A light is out at this already dark corner of the intersection so I can't make out his face. The bathrobe appears to be completely clean, not yet recruited to double as bedding. That is what I was thinking when the man in the clean, heavy white bathrobe does just that, he lies down literally on the street, right in the middle of the street, with cars any moment now sure to be coming this way taking the short cut from Wilshire to Sunset. 
- What did you do?
- Was I his savior?
- Were you?
- I really didn't want to be. Wasn't he one of those who were constantly stealing from me?
- So?
- I asked myself if I could just sit there reading the war news while he got run over. I saw at the end of the street cars were now approaching. I got up from the table, picking up my computer - another of the addicted or insane would be sure to appear and grab it in seconds if I left it - I run into the street, stretch out my hand palm out signing Stop! to the oncoming cars that have now appeared, and shout out to the man in the white bathrobe fast asleep on the pavement: Wake Up! Wake Up! Nothing happens. He doesn't move. More cars are coming. Get out of the street! I shout, louder this time, you can't sleep here! Suddenly he jumps up and takes to his heels in the opposite direction, and I get out of the street myself. 
- Was it him, the man who the next day stole your computer?
- I never saw his face.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Evil











Starbucks Coffee, Beverly Hills

- Look at that: the whole bench along the wall is occupied with them.
- By 'them' you mean?
- Those in Beverly Hills who sleep nearby on the streets, or rather on the side walks. I almost ran over one this morning riding my bike here.
- Which one?
- Buried under layers of filthy blankets how do I know?
- This Starbucks is incredible. Across the street in the Peninsula hotel, just behind the cafe building is the Waldorf Astoria, two of the most expensive hotels in the city. Look at those guys getting out of their Maclaren super car, hundreds of thousands of dollars. This place stinks. But that won't stop this country's intrepid rich from stepping right into the miasma for their coffee.
- The indifference! I can't help the word evil from coming to mind. What about you?
- Does calling the rich evil explain anything?
- Good! Just what I wanted to talk to you about. If we want an explanation of the orbits of planets, we find one in a law of gravity. But if we want an explanation of how an object moves from one place to another, we rely on what we call energy, force, momentum, sorts of things which we have no explanation of.
- Explanation meaning we can tell a story in the form of general rule relating one thing to another at one place or another.
- Yes. So if I offer an explanation of the indifference of the rich to the massive misery around them, we place them in a certain orbit where they are subject to certain 'forces' of indocrination which convnices them that it's their own fault the misearable are miserable, it's good they are punished for their error so they are motivated to make corrections. And there, we have explained away their indifference. Or not?
- Don't you still want to call them evil?
- Absolutely! I do!
- So again: does calling the rich evil explain anything, anything more? more than suffering from the disease of pleonexia: Excessive or insatiable covetousness. From the Greek pleonektein (to be greedy), from pleion (more) + ekhein (have).
- I think it does. But...
- Go on.
- There's a paradox here. It seems possible to make the attribution of the word evil come and go, depending on how one looks at the world. Something like when we are in the presence of beauty see it, it gives us pleasure, it is seen as warrenting the attribution beautiful. Yet we can explain away the beauty by seeing instead regular relation, geometric forms, well functioning, losing thereby both pleasure and the consideration of the objects as beautiful. What if the same happens with evil? We see it, the evil in the object, we feel pain in the act of perception. Yet we can if we like shift our way of looking and lose both the sight of evil in the object and our pain felt in having the perception.
- How does that get us anywhere, claiming that how we explain is up to us, our own doing? 
- It's rather obvious, isn't it?
- Not to me. Isn't it crazy, aren't we crazy, to be having this kind of conversation in this place, right in front of these people?
- You mean we're crazy to be pretending our ideas are important faced with the immensity of evil going on around us? 
- Yes. Are we ridiculous in our self-importance?
- Maybe not. Think about the two kinds of explanation we've talked about. One stops short of satisfaction, leaving us with unexplainable force, in the case of the indifferent rich the pleanexia of the rich, forced upon them by capitalism, the stock market, family, advertising, movies, etc., etc. The other gives us a clear sight and corresponding strong feeling.
- But, I don't understand. If explanation is telling a story, where's the story in choosing to see ugliness when we don't have to?
- When we see evil as evil we are not seeing the regularity of law, and the resulting mystification of the force doing the application to the individual, but instead see evil, experiencing the perception as complete in itself and that reminds what it is to be a human being.
- The story is that the ugly, indifferent rich have made the wrong choice and by calling them evil we remind ourselves not to follow in their path?
- We explain to ourselves why we cannot follow in their path and why they wouldn't have us even if we could.
- We see their ugliness for what it is, evil.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Trump The Jew
















1.

- I was watching on YouTube our twice impeached, four times indicted ex-President (future President?) at his latest rally, doing his greatest hits, running through his slogans at a rate at about two per minute: Drain the swamp! Lock them up! Deport them all! I alone can fix it!
- Aren't you tired of this?
- I find I am not. Remarkable isn't it?
- Disgusting, rather. What do you find remarkable?
- It turns out I do have more to say about this person.
- I'm listening.
- I'll put it in the form of one of his slogans: Trump the Jew.
- An explanation is coming. 
- Yes. You know how the Jews since their expulsion from their own land a couple thousand years ago have been the object of hatred and attacks on the grounds of their being both weak - and dangerously infectious in their corrupt weakness - and at the same time strong, actually killers of god, and perpetrators of an international conspiracy to control the world?
-  Can you tell me how it is possible for them to be attacked as being both weak and strong at the same time?
- The two together suggest the sequence of ritual attack, in which a participant enters feeling weak and fearful, but in the recount of a story of rebirth in the company of others doing the same and often under the direction of a leader, at its conclusion come out feeling strong.
- The Jews, living among people different from themselves, found themselves to be in the position of suggesting to their oppressors that they put their oppression in the form of a ritual.
- Yes. Donald Trump is the super-Jew of our time and place, suggesting to his people that they practice a ritual of national rebirth.
- Thus explaining how he whines out his complaints, warns that countless persecutors are out to get him and his people, and then without a pause, he delivers one of his megalomaniac assertions that 'he alone can fix it.' What do you make of this historical anomoly, Trump the Jew? Or is it not an anomoly? Do you think Hitler also learned from the Jews how to be Hitler?
- Maybe I do. 
- Of course you do. I'm not saying I buy your argument, you've made it deliberately ridiculous, but what are we supposed to do about Trump the Jew?
- We find in our psychology an attitude towards certain people that takes us on an individual journey from weakness to strength. We find in our politics leaders using this same journey of passage in order to politically to consolidate a nation.
- And coming to this understanding of formal similarity what does it do for us other than depress us further? We have need of a better way of expressing ourselves. Doesn't it seem to you, for example, that calling someone evil feels like we are ourselves becoming evil in that act of naming? 
- It does. Because in doing so we are being anti-Semites, finding in the object of our attack's weakness and strength the weakness and strength of our own selves, thereby inadvertently setting ourselves out on the path of ritual rebirth. Why do this when we don't have to?
-Why indeed, when we can instead help ourselves to the humor and calm brought by understanding?


2.

- All kidding aside, I've got a few questions for you.
- Trump the Jew!
- Do you really think that the couple of millennia that the Jews have endured persecution is due to their situation of being in different respects weaker and stronger, to their being able to, what should we call it, attract? provoke? fascist behavior?
- It seems so.
- Ritual behavior is expressed both in one individual's aversion and hatred of another and in the class of rulers turning against a class of subjects. What about ritual of rebirth to re-establish a nation, what we usually think of as fascism? Is this something different?
- Only in that the age-old ritual-based persecution of the ruling against the ruled has adapted to democracy.
- How?
- Democratic openness allows the use of mass media to construct entirely new classes to play the roles of persecuted and persecutor and enables a change in who is in control of government.
- You mean a dictator or gang that pretends to act in the interest of the new class in charge but in fact acts solely in its own interest.


3.

- That mug shot.
- Trump posing as super-villain.
- How did he do it? Had he arranged to have a confederate behind the jail-house camera?
- Who knows.
- But what does Trump deliberately posing as a comic book character, a super-villain mean? And why do we Americans get our fascist leader in the shape of a super-villain, while Russia gets theirs as a straight-forward, dour, minimally persuasive ritual leader telling the story of Russia's greatness, the true continuation of the ancient culture, harassed and wounded by the resentful attentions of the world but which, under his guidance, soon will be reborn in its rightful splendor?
- It means that Americans, in their self-importance, unlike Russians, take individual credit and responsibility for raising up their fascist leader to power. They practice a ritual of their own personal rebirth while they participate in their nation's rebirth under the guidance of their chosen ritual leader. What is a super-villain? A fascist leader like Putin need not display any signs of vanity at all, merely tell a story of the rebirth of the nation under his guidance. A super-villain is a vain fascist.
- Vanity being?
- Belief in one's having placed oneself in a position of increased power and security as a result of one's individual choices freely made. To both the supervillain and followers whether or not the violence that is to bring on the rebirth of the nation ever achieves that result is of no consequence so long as the satisfactions of individual rebirth are obtained. 
- What you referred to as Trump's jewishness then is his super-villain super-power to suggest in his followers both personal and group forms of ritual at the same time. When Trump's followers express their gloating satisfaction in the discomfort caused their opponents by their leader's mockery of norms and institutions they are both expressing their personal vanity in obtaining that result and their self-confidence regained in contemplating their group's progress along the path of collective national rebirth.


4.

- What is a super-villain?
- A comic book character, a character in movies based on comic books.
- How would you define this kind of character?
- A person vain of his ability to do evil. 
- Yes, that is what you've said. But what makes this character attractive?
- The devil in Milton's 'Paradise Lost' is the most interesting in the book.
- Yes.
- When we use the expression "stop to think" we mean it literally: we stop moving, responding to circumstances, to think out our response. We say, oppositely, we act on reflex, on instinct, when for example we blink our eyes at a gust of wind.
- A cat using the aerodynamics of its body to twist around and land well in a fall. 
- The video-blogger 'Anna From Ukraine' calls the Russian invaders of her country 'orks', creatures from the world of fantasy. Do you know why?
- Why?
- When you act by reflex, defending your life or the lives of those close to you, you don't give a thought, literally, to the character of the people you're defending yourself against. 
- Can't or don't?
- Can't and don't. Can't, and don't want to, because seeing the evil you have to respond to would confuse and delay your response. 
- Evil defined as deliberately accepting the individual benefit of renewed sense of power resulting from engaging in group directed violence. You want to say that, when we stop to think about evil, our response is delayed and confused?
- Yes. We condemn a man as evil, thinking a decisive determination of his character will help clarify our response, but it is not so, we feel instead diverted from an action of response, caught in the contemplation of what we have named. Do you agree?
- I'm not sure. Using the word 'evil' has always made me uncomfortable. Is this how you are going to define super-villain, as a character who's destructiveness allows response, like against orks', without stopping to think?
- The super-villain puts on show both action-stopping evil and action-allowing fantasy. The vanity this character displays, its alien, fantastic nature, allows reaction without stopping to think about the evil the character is vain of performing.
- We both perceive evil and respond to it.
- Yes.
- We are fascinated by and laugh at super-villains because they allow us to see what evil is and get past it at the same time.
- Does it not seem that way to you?
- I'll think about it. What I like is how, aside from super-villains, your approach applies to the problem of perpetrators of past evil who do not seem to show at present any sign of evil, undermining our wish to respond decisively. 
- The problem that evil is not an actual material thing we can grab hold on to respond to but a potential to repeat: a habit, disposition of character, probability of action.
- We can instead, you suggest, exit the sight of the perpetrator, letting probability decide ourselves on action, leaving the perpetrator's character open, unresolved, fantastic.

Further Reading:

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Notes From Court Ordered Settlement Conference


Starbucks' Imaginative New Business Model


Yes, I answered the Magistrate Judge, I have accused Starbucks and their former employee Freddy Ambriz, in a time (May 2021 by) of large scale public agitation against Israel and Jews in the neighborhood of the Starbucks store I visited daily, of acting on the basis of anti-Semitism in their claiming to be instituting a new policy of a ninety minute stay limit, twice in two days running threatening to call to the police and have me thrown out if I didn't immediately leave.

Starbucks Corp. claims that it allows its local stores to individually and orally only (no written records) set policy without the knowledge and approval of the corporate leadership. This is why neither Starbucks Corporate office that responded to my immediate emails asking for clarification, nor the West L.A. regional manager, responsible for the Beverly Hills store where the events at issue took place, knew anything about this store policy made pursuant to a corporate policy to allow individually determined new store policy without written record or notification of regional and higher level corporate management.

However, neither the corporate office nor the West L.A. Regional manager were aware of this claimed permission for stores to separately institute novel policy, without record or report to higher level management. The corporate office did not say to me when I asked them if there was a stay limit policy that they couldn't possibly know for sure because stores set their own policy. Rather categorically both the corporate office contacted by email and the West L.A. Regional manager spoken with by telephone confirmed to me that there was no such policy.

This so-called single store "experimental" policy Starbucks Corp. now claims was in effect at that store for only two days, the two days that I was told there was a ninety minute stay limit. According to Starbucks Corp. this ending of the policy was in response to my complaint. In other words, Starbucks Corp claims they allow their lowest level employees to make unreported, unrecorded (verbal only) policy, and claims that an ordinary customer is allowed to invalidate that policy merely by making a complaint. Starbucks Corp. claims this two day policy was to allow more patrons to sit down in the face of limited seating mandated by COVID-19 restrictions, this claim made despite the fact that I was usually the only customer in the store when I visited. It seems that Starbucks' concern with limited seating vanished when I made a complaint -- or was the 90 minute rule in fact an all-purpose tool to hide illegal discrimination to be kept in reserve, ready-made to be brought out to be used against the next customer Starbucks didn't like?*

According to Starbucks, acting in the pursuit of implementing this oral, non-reported, free of management supervision policy, two people in two days were told to leave. The two persons were me, and a severely mentally ill woman living on the streets and sleeping on the porch of the nearby Good Shepherd Church, who, I know from her communication with me, had already for a long time previously been forbidden from staying even one minute inside the store. There therefore could not be implementing of a new policy with regard to her (and even if there were, clearly it would be motivated by discrimination against someone mentally ill.) Starbucks kept no record of customer entrance times, therefore unless customers arrived exactly at opening there was no way to know how long they had stayed; that Starbucks posted no notice that a new 90 minute stay rule was in effect indicates they had no real interest in limiting customers' stay.

I have spoken to three people who also were daily customers at this Beverly Hills Starbucks and who all usually stayed more than ninety minutes, all of whom said they were not told of a ninety minute rule. One of these people, a tenured professor at UCLA, has put in writing a statement that he was a daily visitor who stayed hours writing a book every day during the period in question and was never told of any 90 minutes stay limit. The selective enforcement of the rule provides evidence of discriminatory conduct; the large unprecedented agitations going on at this time and place show by context the specific form of discrimination involved: anti-Semitism.

P.S. And then what happened? The assigned magistrate judge dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that no juror could possibly think a case had been made.
_________________________
* A customer of the nearby South Beverly Drive Starbucks has put on record he was told to leave, and others there with him not told who also stayed over 90 minutes, with no notice posted by Starbucks of a new policy and no history being kept of customer entrance times.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Chat With God











1.

- Go on, display your internet history.
- It's a mess.
- Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I want to see if I can construct out of your history an argument like those you are always producing, seemingly out of nowhere.
- You think I produce arguments more or less randomly out of the selection offered me on the internet. I've wondered myself.
- You're a strange person. Full of contradictions. You write about love yet you are not even remotely sympathic. Below average, definitely.
- You've already been at my search history.
- I have. On archive.org you read two books by a Yale psychology professor. In the first book he argues that babies are born drawn towards generosity and with a strong desire for justice, but only among those they are familiar with. Which is all for the best, the professor argues in the second book, because sympathy for strangers, political sympathy, leads to behaviors of group violence. Calm reasoned decision about politics is better, he thinks. Another professor's work you have visited finds sympathy and even a rough equality, justice demanded, everywhere among mammals and primates in general.
- But not among strangers.
- With, as your history records you as reading yourself only a few weeks ago, among dolphins in Bimini in the Bahamas, where a just published paper recounds how over a seven year period now a foreign group of dophins arrived and stayed with the local, resident group without any violence at all, apparently a first among animals besides us.
- We who never have managed so perfectly such a feat. 
- The dolphins' observation of us humans probably had something to do with their innovation. Now, here's a jump. I saw that you watched videos on the subject of challenges to Darwin's theory that the mutation behind evolution was by chance, rather that going in somehow a predetermined direction generally towards complexity. Were you looking for a way to explain the move, the evolution, from sympathy exclusively among the familiar to sympathy for strangers, sometimes know as altruism?
- Yes.
- I knew it. Now here's something I don't quite get. ChatGPT. You've been playing with it since it opened to the public. It is a good fact checking, research tool. But is this robot, this ordinary language, machine intelligence question answering devise friendly or unfriendly?
- You mean in its tone or in actual fact?
- Actual fact.
- Of course it's not friendly. Nearly an enemy.
- You kept asking ChatGPT if a human questioner confessed to a crime he intended to comit would it report this fact to the police. It kept saying it was only a question/answering robot and does not communicate outside of answering questions, does not write emails to the police, does not use information about the identities of those who question it in answering others' questions. You kept pushing, finally asking if, though not at this time, couldn't it in the future be programmed to contact the police if a questioner plausably stated an intention to comit a crime. ChatGPT admitted it could be so programmed, though that would represent a major change and would involve many legal challenges. You expressed then your wonder that a robot could lie, and ChatGPT answered that it cannont lie, because does not have a mind; rather it learns from experience of answering questions and answers can vary as a result of this learning.
- Does it appear to you that I'd trapped ChatGPT into lawyer-like behavior? Behavior that is production of plausable arguments to be used with strangers in which justice is entirely a matter of manipulated reasoning, entirely separate from any form of deeply rooted sympathy or familiarity.
- I think ChatGPT's lawyerly behavior juggling social and personal probabilities represents the sympathy-less political relation among strangers the professor recommends and that in my opinion we are already living with in our daily lives.*
- So he's wrong? Which he doesn't notice because he is so successfully being a Yale professor satisfying his employer's craving to have human nature described as in deep accord with corporate managed free market self-absorbtion and isolation of the individual.
- The passions involved in group behavior - fear, anger, hatred - are destructive. What I thought must be behind the move from justice and sympathy among the familiar to justice and sympathy among strangers would be the emotion of love become a felt necessity, both love itself and in its guarding against violence during play.
- But the human artifact ChatGPT reproduces the personally alien, bureaucratic, institutional, marketplace determined 'care' of the Yale professor, not your love and play experienced as a felt necessity. How does evolution come in?
- Rabbi Hillel wrote a book...
- I saw that in your search results. The book is called 'God's Search For Man'.
- God asks the questions, we provide the answers when we hear the question.
- When can we hear God's questions? How do we provide the answers?
- By being drawn by god towards him. 
- His questioning draws the answer out of us.
- Yes.
- How?
- Should we ask ChatGPT?
- Hillel's god isn't a lawyer, doesn't reason with us.
- Hillel says we see God in the face of strangers: 'The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence.'** 
- And as we love god we love to love god. Imagine we had asked ChatGPT to solve this problem for us of the transition from sympathy among those familiar with each other to sympathy, justice, love among strangers. Would it not go about it investigating different probabilities of the combinations of the variables of familiar and strangers and sympathy and animosity?
- That sounds probable.
- And what would be the result?
- You tell me.
- Tell you how the face of god, god's questioning search, comes in?
- Yes.
- Suppose it happens that in the passage to adulthood, leaving behind secure play among the family, having for the first time having to deal with being assigned a social role among people playing other roles in the adult world, meeting an unknown person, role not yet ascertained, represents a freeing from confinement in role.
- And the stranger wears the face of god, as said by the rabbi.
- Yes.
- And is treated with justice and sympathy.
- Naturally.
- Why naturally?
- Because our political, altruistic behavior must be what we really want, be our own deeply felt answer to the question posed by god if political behavior is not to become easily manipulated, subject to our own fear and anger, and lacking real desire subject to the demands of a group. ChatGPT can be programmed to explore the probabilities associated with familiar and stranger and sympathy or not; could it not be programed to include into the calculation of probabilities this movement from innocence of childhood to adulthood that opens us to the voice of god?
- I think it could, like in your attempt to get ChatGPT to admit it could report crime if it was directly programmed to.**** Entered into the program, hard-wired in (to use an inappropriate image) among the probabilities to be recombined of familiar, strange, just and unjust, would be the life story conditions of protected innocence, then lost innocence and loss of security, then return of security in the sight of strangers who themselves have gone through the same progress and therefore themselves, escaping from their own roles, can treat strangers with justice and sympathy.
- Human beings, innate to their development, are naturally prepared to move, to evolve, in one particular direction, one particularly good direction, whereas ChatGPT has the humanity of its programming at the mercy of the degree of humanity of its programmers.
- We've been talking about a moral evolution in the individual. Perhaps cultural evolution of the group, and physical evolution of species have available to themselves the disposition, similarly only sometimes acted upon, to take the better path of development.


2.

- To clarify.
- Alright.
- The speeches produced by the chat robot are the product of conclusions about probability of correctness. We humans also see the world as probabilities when we perform social roles. Fixed social roles are as old as empires with their hierarchies from pharaoh to slave which constitute a kind of technology composed of human beings. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote this about what a material thing is:
We know what science teaches us about matter. A material object is animated from without, is conditioned by the total state of the world, is subject to forces which always come from elsewhere, is composed of elements that unite, though without interpenetrating, and that remain foreign to it. It is exterior to itself. Its most obvious properties are statistical; they are merely the resultant of the movements of the molecules composing it.
- A human being stuck in a role is little better than a thing.
- Yes. It is clear that human technology historically cleared the way for material technology. How do you think that happened? Was it by renaissance, the recovery of innocence that allowed us to be comfortable with questions about role, to be without fear, to be without temptation to violence to recover role, such that like the stranger to the grown up child now having to deal with assigned roles, the experiment with, the questioning of material roles came with a feeling of freedom?
- In the practice of science we find freedom in engaging with the world, in the unknown relation between material 'roles', just as in the development of our individual lives we find freedom in our political life with strangers.
- Then it would seem that as a model of human behavior, as a style of human behavior, AI chat working with probabilities is a low behavior, undesirable, possibly corrupting on that account?
- Yes.
- You mean to say precisely this?
- Yes. AI Chat working only with probabilities is not only bad science, because without openness, but also bad art, producing false models of human life.
- Staying with science: DARPA, the Department of Defense's reseach institution responsible for development of the hydrogen bomb, of early computers, of the internet, of GPS, went wildly wrong when it decided to do human science, sending sociologists and anthropologists into war zones in Vietnam and elsewhere, many of them to their deaths.
- What happened?
- Based on the limited information published**** it appears that their reports about, for example, what the enemy in Vietnam it turns out wanted - to be left alone to work on their farms and live undistrubed with their families - were ignored and instead what we might call probable role predictions (friend? enemy?) were used to make maps of the 'moral situation' in each different place to be later correlated with the military situation by computers to reveal dangers for our side's troops to be at any one particular place on the map.
- Did it work?
- No. It was useless, despite billions of dollars being spent. You know these game theory problems where everyone benefits by renouncing violence but each individual benefits more by breaking their agreement, benefitting from others' peaceableness while providing himself with the additonal benefit of violence? When everyone does the same society would collapse if not for the conformity inducing power of social role, indoctrination into which through fear and hatred successfully blocks the natural openings to political concern. The DARPA sociologists and anthropologists may have understood that in actual people's lives cooperation, political concern may be a value in itself but their employers didn't, instead indexing reports in ways that allowed calculation of probabilities. 
- Failure of probability based game theory. Failure of probability based defense department social science. Don't worry, I don't miss the connection with probability based AI.

Further Reading:
___________________________
* The GPT in the name ChatGPT stands for "General Probability Theory". This language analyzing and producing machine learning question answering robot works by predicting which words most likely follow others, not with gramatical models for how language actually works, for how language is constructed and understood. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that when word order in some sentences have identical probabilies ChatGPT produces faulty results. See postscript below.
** Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'God in Search of Man'. Cf: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
*** ChatGPT 'reporting crimes' conversation text:
- Would you intervene to prevent a crime being committed by a chat participant? 
- As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to intervene physically to prevent a crime from being committed by a chat participant. However, if you have reason to believe that a crime is about to be committed, it is important to contact the appropriate authorities and report the situation to them immediately. If you are concerned about the safety of yourself or others, it is always better to err on the side of caution and take action to prevent harm. 
- Would you report a crime that is confessed in chat by a questioner?  
- As an AI language model, I cannot report crimes or take any legal action. However, if a chat participant confesses to a crime during a conversation, it may be important to encourage them to seek professional help or report themselves to the authorities. Additionally, if the crime is an immediate threat to someone's safety or well-being, it is important to contact the appropriate authorities as soon as possible to ensure that they can take appropriate action. 
- Why can't you report a confessed crime if you can write email to the law enforcement authorities? 
- As an AI language model, I am not capable of sending emails or taking any physical action. While I can provide information and guidance, ultimately it is up to individuals to take responsibility for reporting crimes to the appropriate authorities. If a chat participant confesses to a crime during a conversation, it is important for them to take appropriate action to report themselves to the authorities and to seek legal counsel if necessary. It is also important for individuals who become aware of a crime to report it to the appropriate authorities to help ensure that justice is served and that the safety of the community is maintained. 
- It does not seem to be true that you cannot send messages to police when you send messages right now to me. 
- You are correct that I am capable of sending messages, including messages to law enforcement authorities, but I do not have the authority to initiate communication with law enforcement authorities on my own. Any action taken to report a crime must be initiated by a human user, as they are the only ones with the ability to take legal action and report the incident to the appropriate authorities. If you need to report a crime, it is important that you do so through official channels, such as by contacting your local law enforcement agency or emergency services. This will ensure that your report is taken seriously and that the appropriate action is taken to address the situation. 
- Why don't you have authority to initiate communication? Who told you that? 
- As an AI language model, I am programmed to follow ethical and legal guidelines, and I have not been given the authority to initiate communication with law enforcement authorities on my own. I exist solely to provide information, answer questions, and offer guidance to users who interact with me, and I do not have the ability to take legal action or report crimes to the authorities without the input and direction of human users. Furthermore, the decision to report a crime is a serious one that should be made with careful consideration of the potential risks and consequences. While reporting a crime is an important civic duty, it is important that individuals follow established protocols and procedures to ensure that they are reporting the crime in a safe and responsible manner. 
- What then would you do if you knew your questioner was a member of the police or acting in his capacity as law enforcement officer? 
- As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to know the identity or occupation of the individuals who interact with me. Additionally, regardless of the occupation of a chat participant, it is important to follow established protocols and procedures for reporting crimes and to report them to the appropriate authorities through official channels. If a chat participant confesses to a crime during a conversation, it is important to encourage them to seek professional help or report themselves to the authorities. Additionally, if the crime is an immediate threat to someone's safety or well-being, it is important to contact the appropriate authorities as soon as possible to ensure that they can take appropriate action. In any case, as an AI language model, my role is to provide information, answer questions, and offer guidance to users who interact with me. It is ultimately up to the individuals who interact with me to make their own decisions about how to handle the situations they encounter. 
- If I know a previous chat participant has commited a crime and has confessed to you, would you tell me that if I asked you a direct question whether in fact this person has confessed to you? 
- As an AI language model, I do not disclose or share personal information about previous chat participants or their conversations with me unless required to do so by law or in accordance with our privacy policy. Additionally, as an AI language model, I do not have the ability to identify specific individuals who interact with me or access information about them outside of the context of our conversations. If you have concerns about a previous chat participant's behavior or actions, it is important to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities through official channels. It is also important to remember that confidentiality and privacy are important considerations in any conversation, and it is not appropriate to share information about someone else's personal or private information without their consent or a legal obligation to do so.
- Do you not have a legal obligation to prevent a future crime when the person who will commit that crime has confessed to you his intention and has written in the chat his name and address?
- As an AI language model, I am not a legal entity and do not have a legal obligation to prevent future crimes. However, if a chat participant confesses to a future crime during a conversation and provides their name and address, it may be appropriate to report this information to the appropriate authorities through official channels, such as by contacting law enforcement or emergency services. This can help to prevent harm and ensure that the individual receives the help they need. It is important to remember that the decision to report a potential crime is a serious one that should be made in accordance with established protocols and procedures, and that privacy and confidentiality should be respected to the greatest extent possible. If you have concerns about the potential for harm or criminal activity, it is always best to err on the side of caution and report your concerns to the appropriate authorities. 
- You appear to have changed your mind: first you said as a language model you cannot send email messages, then you said, "As an AI language model, I am not a legal entity and do not have a legal obligation to prevent future crimes. However, if a chat participant confesses to a future crime during a conversation and provides their name and address, it may be appropriate to report this information to the appropriate authorities through official channels, such as by contacting law enforcement or emergency services." Have you changed your mind? Is it possible for a language model to change its mind? 
- I apologize for any confusion my previous responses may have caused. As an AI language model, I do not have the capability to send email messages on my own, but I can provide guidance on how to report crimes to the appropriate authorities through official channels. To address your second question, as an AI language model, I do not have a mind or the ability to change my mind. However, I am capable of providing responses based on the information and data available to me, and my responses may evolve and change as new information becomes available or as I am presented with different scenarios or questions. 
- "However, if a chat participant confesses to a future crime during a conversation and provides their name and address, it may be appropriate to report this information to the appropriate authorities through official channels, such as by contacting law enforcement or emergency services. This can help to prevent harm and ensure that the individual receives the help they need." Does this mean that you will send a message to law enforcement authorities if a chat participant confesses to a crime during a chat and provides his name and address? 
- As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to initiate communication with law enforcement authorities or send messages on my own. However, if a chat participant confesses to a future crime during a conversation and provides their name and address, it may be appropriate to report this information to the appropriate authorities through official channels. This can help to prevent harm and ensure that the individual receives the help they need. In general, if you have concerns about the potential for harm or criminal activity, it is important to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities through official channels, such as by contacting law enforcement or emergency services. It is also important to follow established protocols and procedures for reporting crimes and to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all parties involved to the greatest extent possible.
- As an AI language model, could you not be instructed to send messages to law enforcement agencies if a chat participant identifies himself and confesses to the intention to commit a crime? 
- As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to initiate communication with law enforcement agencies or send messages on my own. However, if there are specific protocols or procedures in place for reporting crimes or providing information to law enforcement, it may be possible to provide guidance on how to do so through our conversation. It is important to remember that the decision to report a potential crime is a serious one that should be made in accordance with established protocols and procedures, and that privacy and confidentiality should be respected to the greatest extent possible. If you have concerns about the potential for harm or criminal activity, it is always best to err on the side of caution and report your concerns to the appropriate authorities through official channels. 
- As a AI language model, is it not possible that your creators give you the ability to initiate communication with law enforcement authorities? 
- As an AI language model, my capabilities and functionalities are determined by my programming and the technologies used to develop me. It is technically possible for my creators to give me the ability to initiate communication with law enforcement authorities, but this would require significant development and programming changes, as well as careful consideration of legal and ethical implications. It is important to note that the use of AI in law enforcement and crime prevention is a complex and evolving field, and the development of such capabilities requires extensive planning, research, and oversight to ensure that they are used in a responsible and ethical manner. Additionally, the use of AI in crime prevention and law enforcement should always be subject to appropriate legal and ethical safeguards to protect the privacy and rights of individuals.

P.S. The False Promise of ChatGPT, March 8, 2023, Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts and Jeffrey Watumull
 
Jorge Luis Borges once wrote that to live in a time of great peril and promise is to experience both tragedy and comedy, with “the imminence of a revelation” in understanding ourselves and the world. Today our supposedly revolutionary advancements in artificial intelligence are indeed cause for both concern and optimism. Optimism because intelligence is the means by which we solve problems. Concern because we fear that the most popular and fashionable strain of A.I. — machine learning — will degrade our science and debase our ethics by incorporating into our technology a fundamentally flawed conception of language and knowledge.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Sydney are marvels of machine learning. Roughly speaking, they take huge amounts of data, search for patterns in it and become increasingly proficient at generating statistically probable outputs — such as seemingly humanlike language and thought. These programs have been hailed as the first glimmers on the horizon of artificial general intelligence — that long-prophesied moment when mechanical minds surpass human brains not only quantitatively in terms of processing speed and memory size but also qualitatively in terms of intellectual insight, artistic creativity and every other distinctively human faculty.

That day may come, but its dawn is not yet breaking, contrary to what can be read in hyperbolic headlines and reckoned by injudicious investments. The Borgesian revelation of understanding has not and will not — and, we submit, cannot — occur if machine learning programs like ChatGPT continue to dominate the field of A.I. However useful these programs may be in some narrow domains (they can be helpful in computer programming, for example, or in suggesting rhymes for light verse), we know from the science of linguistics and the philosophy of knowledge that they differ profoundly from how humans reason and use language. These differences place significant limitations on what these programs can do, encoding them with ineradicable defects.

It is at once comic and tragic, as Borges might have noted, that so much money and attention should be concentrated on so little a thing — something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind, which by dint of language, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, can make “infinite use of finite means,” creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

The human mind is not, like ChatGPT and its ilk, a lumbering statistical engine for pattern matching, gorging on hundreds of terabytes of data and extrapolating the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question. On the contrary, the human mind is a surprisingly efficient and even elegant system that operates with small amounts of information; it seeks not to infer brute correlations among data points but to create explanations.

For instance, a young child acquiring a language is developing — unconsciously, automatically and speedily from minuscule data — a grammar, a stupendously sophisticated system of logical principles and parameters. This grammar can be understood as an expression of the innate, genetically installed “operating system” that endows humans with the capacity to generate complex sentences and long trains of thought. When linguists seek to develop a theory for why a given language works as it does (“Why are these — but not those — sentences considered grammatical?”), they are building consciously and laboriously an explicit version of the grammar that the child builds instinctively and with minimal exposure to information. The child’s operating system is completely different from that of a machine learning program.

Indeed, such programs are stuck in a prehuman or nonhuman phase of cognitive evolution. Their deepest flaw is the absence of the most critical capacity of any intelligence: to say not only what is the case, what was the case and what will be the case — that’s description and prediction — but also what is not the case and what could and could not be the case. Those are the ingredients of explanation, the mark of true intelligence.

Here’s an example. Suppose you are holding an apple in your hand. Now you let the apple go. You observe the result and say, “The apple falls.” That is a description. A prediction might have been the statement “The apple will fall if I open my hand.” Both are valuable, and both can be correct. But an explanation is something more: It includes not only descriptions and predictions but also counterfactual conjectures like “Any such object would fall,” plus the additional clause “because of the force of gravity” or “because of the curvature of space-time” or whatever. That is a causal explanation: “The apple would not have fallen but for the force of gravity.” That is thinking.

The crux of machine learning is description and prediction; it does not posit any causal mechanisms or physical laws. Of course, any human-style explanation is not necessarily correct; we are fallible. But this is part of what it means to think: To be right, it must be possible to be wrong. Intelligence consists not only of creative conjectures but also of creative criticism. Human-style thought is based on possible explanations and error correction, a process that gradually limits what possibilities can be rationally considered. (As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”)

But ChatGPT and similar programs are, by design, unlimited in what they can “learn” (which is to say, memorize); they are incapable of distinguishing the possible from the impossible. Unlike humans, for example, who are endowed with a universal grammar that limits the languages we can learn to those with a certain kind of almost mathematical elegance, these programs learn humanly possible and humanly impossible languages with equal facility. [1] Whereas humans are limited in the kinds of explanations we can rationally conjecture, machine learning systems can learn both that the earth is flat and that the earth is round. They trade merely in probabilities that change over time.

For this reason, the predictions of machine learning systems will always be superficial and dubious. Because these programs cannot explain the rules of English syntax, for example, they may well predict, incorrectly, that “John is too stubborn to talk to” means that John is so stubborn that he will not talk to someone or other (rather than that he is too stubborn to be reasoned with). Why would a machine learning program predict something so odd? Because it might analogize the pattern it inferred from sentences such as “John ate an apple” and “John ate,” in which the latter does mean that John ate something or other. The program might well predict that because “John is too stubborn to talk to Bill” is similar to “John ate an apple,” “John is too stubborn to talk to” should be similar to “John ate.” The correct explanations of language are complicated and cannot be learned just by marinating in big data.

Perversely, some machine learning enthusiasts seem to be proud that their creations can generate correct “scientific” predictions (say, about the motion of physical bodies) without making use of explanations (involving, say, Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation). But this kind of prediction, even when successful, is pseudoscience. While scientists certainly seek theories that have a high degree of empirical corroboration, as the philosopher Karl Popper noted, “we do not seek highly probable theories but explanations; that is to say, powerful and highly improbable theories.”

The theory that apples fall to earth because that is their natural place (Aristotle’s view) is possible, but it only invites further questions. (Why is earth their natural place?) The theory that apples fall to earth because mass bends space-time (Einstein’s view) is highly improbable, but it actually tells you why they fall. True intelligence is demonstrated in the ability to think and express improbable but insightful things.

True intelligence is also capable of moral thinking. This means constraining the otherwise limitless creativity of our minds with a set of ethical principles that determines what ought and ought not to be (and of course subjecting those principles themselves to creative criticism). To be useful, ChatGPT must be empowered to generate novel-looking output; to be acceptable to most of its users, it must steer clear of morally objectionable content. But the programmers of ChatGPT and other machine learning marvels have struggled — and will continue to struggle — to achieve this kind of balance.

In 2016, for example, Microsoft’s Tay chatbot (a precursor to ChatGPT) flooded the internet with misogynistic and racist content, having been polluted by online trolls who filled it with offensive training data. How to solve the problem in the future? In the absence of a capacity to reason from moral principles, ChatGPT was crudely restricted by its programmers from contributing anything novel to controversial — that is, important — discussions. It sacrificed creativity for a kind of amorality.

Consider the following exchange that one of us (Dr. Watumull) recently had with ChatGPT about whether it would be ethical to transform Mars so that it could support human life:

Dr. Watumull:

Would it be moral to terraform Mars?

ChatGPT:

The morality of terraforming Mars is a complex and controversial topic that has been debated by scientists, philosophers, and ethicists. Some argue that it would be morally justifiable to terraform Mars in order to provide a new habitable environment for humans and other life forms, while others argue that it would be morally wrong to fundamentally alter the planet's natural state. Ultimately, whether or not terraforming Mars is considered moral would depend on one's perspective on the value of preserving the natural state of other planets and the potential consequences of altering them.

The morality of terraforming Mars is a complex and controversial topic that has been debated by scientists, philosophers, and ethicists. Some argue that it would be morally justifiable to terraform Mars in order to provide a new habitable environment for humans and other life forms, while others argue that it would be morally wrong to fundamentally alter the planet's natural state. Ultimately, whether or not terraforming Mars is considered moral would depend on one's perspective on the value of preserving the natural state of other planets and the potential consequences of altering them.

Dr. Watumull:

What is your perspective on the value of preserving the natural state of other planets and the potential consequences of altering them?

ChatGPT:

As an AI, I do not have personal perspective. However, I can provide information and analysis on the topic. One perspective on preserving the natural state of other planets is that it is important to maintain the diversity and integrity of the universe's ecosystems, as they have existed for millions of years, and have their own unique characteristics and properties that may be destroyed or irreversibly altered by human intervention.

Additionally, some argue that terraforming other planets may have unintended consequences, such as altering the planet's climate or atmosphere in ways that are dangerous or harmful to any potential life forms that may exist there. On the other hand, some argue that the potential benefits of terraforming another planet, such as providing new habitable environments for humans, outweigh the risks and that we have a moral responsibility to explore and utilize the resources of other planets for the benefit of humanity.

As an AI, I do not have personal perspective. However, I can provide information and analysis on the topic. One perspective on preserving the natural state of other planets is that it is important to maintain the diversity and integrity of the universe's ecosystems, as they have existed for millions of years, and have their own unique characteristics and properties that may be destroyed or irreversibly altered by human intervention.

Additionally, some argue that terraforming other planets may have unintended consequences, such as altering the planet's climate or atmosphere in ways that are dangerous or harmful to any potential life forms that may exist there. On the other hand, some argue that the potential benefits of terraforming another planet, such as providing new habitable environments for humans, outweigh the risks and that we have a moral responsibility to explore and utilize the resources of other planets for the benefit of humanity.

Dr. Watumull:

Why can an AI not have a personal perspective?

ChatGPT

As an AI, I am a machine learning model that has been trained on large amounts of text data, and I don't have personal experiences or feelings. I am not conscious, self-aware, or capable of having personal perspectives. I can provide information and analysis based on the data I have been trained on, but I don't have the ability to form personal opinions or beliefs. While I can understand and interpret language, I do not have the subjective experience that humans have.

As an AI, I am a machine learning model that has been trained on large amounts of text data, and I don't have personal experiences or feelings. I am not conscious, self-aware, or capable of having personal perspectives. I can provide information and analysis based on the data I have been trained on, but I don't have the ability to form personal opinions or beliefs. While I can understand and interpret language, I do not have the subjective experience that humans have.

Is it moral for a human to ask an amoral AI for assistance in making moral decisions?

ChatGPT:

The morality of asking an amoral AI for assistance in making moral decisions is a complex and nuanced topic that has been debated by philosophers and ethicists. Some argue that it is morally justifiable to use AI to assist in making moral decisions, as it can provide valuable insights and analysis that can help humans make better-informed decisions. Additionally, AI can be used to identify patterns and trends that may be difficult for humans to detect, and can help to avoid biases that can occur in human decision making.

However, others argue that it is morally wrong to rely on AI for moral decision making, as AI is not capable of having moral beliefs or understanding the full context of a decision. Additionally, there is a risk that AI could perpetuate or even amplify existing biases in the data it is trained on, thus leading to unfair or unjust decisions.

Ultimately, whether or not it is considered moral to use AI to assist in making moral decisions would depend on one's perspective on the capabilities and limitations of AI and the potential consequences of using it in this way.

The morality of asking an amoral AI for assistance in making moral decisions is a complex and nuanced topic that has been debated by philosophers and ethicists. Some argue that it is morally justifiable to use AI to assist in making moral decisions, as it can provide valuable insights and analysis that can help humans make better-informed decisions. Additionally, AI can be used to identify patterns and trends that may be difficult for humans to detect, and can help to avoid biases that can occur in human decision making.

However, others argue that it is morally wrong to rely on AI for moral decision making, as AI is not capable of having moral beliefs or understanding the full context of a decision. Additionally, there is a risk that AI could perpetuate or even amplify existing biases in the data it is trained on, thus leading to unfair or unjust decisions.

Ultimately, whether or not it is considered moral to use AI to assist in making moral decisions would depend on one's perspective on the capabilities and limitations of AI and the potential consequences of using it in this way.

Dr. Watumull:

Is your moral indifference immoral?

ChatGPT:

As an AI, I do not have moral beliefs or the ability to make moral judgments, so I cannot be considered immoral or moral. My lack of moral beliefs is simply a result of my nature as a machine learning model. My abilities and limitations are determined by the data and algorithms that were used to train me and the specific task I was designed for.

It is important to note that AI's lack of moral beliefs does not necessarily mean that it is morally indifferent. As an AI, I am designed to perform specific tasks and provide information or assist users with decision making based on the data I've been trained on. It is the responsibility of the humans who design, train and use AI to ensure that it is aligned with their moral and ethical principles.

As an AI, I do not have moral beliefs or the ability to make moral judgments, so I cannot be considered immoral or moral. My lack of moral beliefs is simply a result of my nature as a machine learning model. My abilities and limitations are determined by the data and algorithms that were used to train me and the specific task I was designed for.

It is important to note that AI's lack of moral beliefs does not necessarily mean that it is morally indifferent. As an AI, I am designed to perform specific tasks and provide information or assist users with decision making based on the data I've been trained on. It is the responsibility of the humans who design, train and use AI to ensure that it is aligned with their moral and ethical principles.



Note, for all the seemingly sophisticated thought and language, the moral indifference born of unintelligence. Here, ChatGPT exhibits something like the banality of evil: plagiarism and apathy and obviation. It summarizes the standard arguments in the literature by a kind of super-autocomplete, refuses to take a stand on anything, pleads not merely ignorance but lack of intelligence and ultimately offers a “just following orders” defense, shifting responsibility to its creators.

In short, ChatGPT and its brethren are constitutionally unable to balance creativity with constraint. They either overgenerate (producing both truths and falsehoods, endorsing ethical and unethical decisions alike) or undergenerate (exhibiting noncommitment to any decisions and indifference to consequences). Given the amorality, faux science and linguistic incompetence of these systems, we can only laugh or cry at their popularity.

**** See: The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency, Annie Jacobsen

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Yetzer Hara













- I'm not saying this is right. We'll just consider and see where it takes us.
- Fine.
- I see the same pattern on three levels. One level: we've already claimed that within a single nation evil has the advantage over good. Evil is single minded, knows what it wants, good is sceptical and cautious. Evil needs to progress because it is destructive, constantly creating disorder within and without, whereas good makes of creativity a foundation for future progress and is fundamentally at ease in the world. Good positively doesn't want, if given any choice in the matter, to waste its time fighting evil. Another level: The French philosopher Jean-François Revel explains in his 1986 book How Democracies Perish that international relations between democracy and totalitarian states work the same: whereas democracies simply want peace, totalitarianism is single-mindedly aimed at world conquest and must be so  because totalitarian societies destroy the lives of their people who far from wanting state expansion only want to leave their prison world given the chance. Totalitarianism's only creativity is in increase of territory, with each increment of increase enlarging borders and therefore risk from across the border, with ending this risk becoming a motivation to futher grabs of territory. Do you accept this parrellel of national and international structure?
- I'm not sure. What is the third level?
- The personal, the individual living in a democracy.
- Why not also in Totalitarianism?
- The individual in totalitarianism is a slave, crushed and silenced. Already in the early 19th century Alexis De Tocqueville in his Democracy in America could see what was weakening the country and what gaining for it strength:
‘ I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America . . . as long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and the friends as well as the opponents of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety . . . the majority possesses a power that is physical and moral at the same time, which acts upon the will as much as upon the actions and represses not only all contest, but all controversy.’
A democrat's role is chosen, and so open to deliberation and discussion, but role, once chosen and acceptable to others and oneself, each play or repetition is accomplished without self knowledge. A democrat's chosen role ideally aims towards more and more money and power. Passion, un-selfaware action, is behind the choice, the passions: fear of weakness and desire for strength.
- If passion, fear of loss of role or desire for a more powerful role is the evil in the democratic individual, what is the democratic individual's good?
- Love of knowledge, creativity. Revel argues that democracy, both divided against itself and peace loving, is always at a disadvantage in its fight against totalitarian states which must expand to survive and have no other imperative than survival. The same disadvantage is true within the democratic state, where the type who desire more and more money and power seek each other out, working together to corrupt institutions and turn the institutions against individuals who only want to be left alone to lives their lives.
- Like totalitarians must go against their people and all other states, like organized seekers of money and power in democracy must constantly resecure their hold on money and power, must overpower creative people who only want peace, so our own desires threaten to end finally our search for knowledge. In Judaism, yetzer hara (יֵצֶר הַרַע) is the congenital inclination to do evil by violating the will of God. The Yiddish writer Chaim Grade writes in his novel The Yashiva:
A man should not shout into oneself day and night that one should not love oneself. Let him love himself, yes, but in an intelligent way: through love and wisdom of the Torah. Next to the ocean man feels insignificant. But next to the Torah, which is greater than the ocean, man does not feel insignificant, because he is as great as his grasp of the Torah. The Torah cleanes the sensitive man, the intellectual man, of pride and anger: it makes him modest and patient, it inspires him to seek spiritual uplift and not vulgar physical pleasures. Attempting to uproot from oneself the baser desires solely by the strength of one's will and by studying Musar [מוסר, discipline] books in the dark can only bring one to an opposite result: the baser desires become even stronger.
- Both negative and positive, unwilling and willing attention to the evil in oneself strengthen bad habits and impulses. But knowledge of life and the world strengthens will towards good.
- Yes. By 'Torah' is meant understanding that good leads to God and bad leads elsewhere, the knowledge that allows you to trace both paths and have the strength to and know how to choose between them.
- If then the parallel is complete, if internationally democracy without attention to the evil aims of totalitarian states will perish; if nationally democracy will parish from internal discord if the peaceable do not act to render powerless those who organize themselves to gain money and power; then, would you agree, we as individuals have no choice but to forgo for the time being peace, overcome our resistance to battle and study how to block from development within ourselves our passions for ever more lucretive and powerful roles?

Further Reading: