So there are quite a few things on my mind. First of all a comment about what Dave recently mentioned that I had actually meant to say a while ago. This is in regards to Connie’s observation that her interactions with people were weird when she didn’t know whether they had seen her page or not, in which case she might be redundant. I know Henry hates it when people say, “read my thoughts page” but sometimes I feel like saying that just because I’m lazy and I dislike saying the same things over and over. It’s just most efficient writing it just once, you know?
So this weird thing that’s been happening is that when I journal (I mean physically, not electronically) sometimes I don’t feel like going over the same things twice so I basically write – “refer to my web page.” So it’s like I’m telling myself to refer to my thought page. Anyway, that was just a really strange phenomenon that I noticed a while ago. I’ve got problems. 2 of them.
For Easter I went to my relatives’ place for dinner – the same relatives I joined on Thanksgiving. As always, it was really interesting. But the biggest thing I got was my great-uncle was telling me to take my time in life, but more specifically with school, not to hurry.
I think that’s great advice. You know, I love my life in school. It’s great. I learn stuff I’m interested in, my schedule is really flexible, there are lots of nice people around. I think it’s great. Anyway, I want to enjoy it, and I’m in no hurry to leave. Not that I could hurry even if I wanted to, but you know. School life is great.
You know, I think the biggest misconception about me is that I’m super social. I think I know how to carry myself in most social situations fairly well, but honestly, I’m not really “social.” This came about because someone made a remark to me like, “Oh yeah, I forgot that you’re the kind of person that likes to be around people all the time.” That remark kind of took me off guard because it’s so far from the truth. I don’t think people realize that I am truly a solo warrior, and I hang out by myself for most of my waking existence. Not that I don’t enjoy hanging out with people – I totally do, but most of the time, I’m doing my own thing, which is fine by me. The only person in this world with whom I have a consistent relationship is Jieun Park. Besides her, I honestly hang out with no one. I don’t think people understand that.
Even when I’m in Houston, and my group of friends is pretty tight, I spend a lot of time by myself. I don’t think my sister understands this. She always wonders why I just stick around at home so much. I don’t know. It’s just the way I am.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m reading a book by Bruce Bawer entitled Stealing Jesus, and it’s basically a liberal Christian’s criticism of fundamentalism. Anyway, as I started the book, I was interested, and I still am, but the more I read the more angry I get. Just because so many of his arguments are (in my opinion) unfair and unfounded, and it bothers me to no end that non Christians in the secular media might find this book compelling. As I read, I just accumulate all these counter arguments like constantly. It’s made me want to publish a book called “Why Bruce Bawer is wrong.”
Anyway, he engages in certain argumentative tactics that really annoy me. First, he chooses the most easily attackable figures and arguments of conservative Christians and presents them as representative. Thus, he can attack these weak positions and it seems like conservative Christianity in general is not defensible. That’s just lame. Secondly, he makes up positions. I first became aware of this when taking an epistemology class. The author of our text would present a kind of overview of different positions. One criticism of him is that he would invent positions, I mean, ideas that no one really believes or defends, just so he can attack them. I feel like at times, Bawer does the same with fundamentalism, just kind of making up arguments that I guess seem to be implications but ones that few if any conservatives really believe, and then attacking them. Ugh, these two tactics really really bother me, because there’s nothing you can really do about that. I mean, his arguments against them are sound (although that’s not always true) it’s just that few people really believe what he’s attacking. So he presents an unfair picture of conservative Christianity that he attacks. It bothers me because this book is clearly meant for secularists and liberal Christians, so it just gives an unfair and inaccurate picture of the conservative Christian.
Ugh, there is so much about the book that bothers me. Another thing is that the tone is so arrogant. Basically he says that all conservative Christians are people who refuse to think, noting that it’s strong in the (I imagine he would call it backward) South, and much weaker in more intellectual Northeast. Ugh I hate the arrogance. And he makes sweeping judgments, some of them super bold.
Anyway, I could go on and on about the stuff that bothers me. For example, he I think resents how fundamentalists call themselves that, as if they are more true to Christianity (which they are) than liberals. His view is that liberal Christianity is more accurate to the real Jesus. Anyway, what bothers me is how they use mainline Christianity and fundamentalism. As if fundamentalists are all like offshoots and cultish weirdos. Because no one uses the term “mainline” except for liberals. And why should that term be accepted? Aren’t there in terms of number more conservative Christians in America than liberals? (I’m not sure about that but I think it’s true.) So calling themselves mainline is totally arbitrary and condescending. Which is fine, except if you’re gonna do that don’t complain about the term “fundamentalism.”
His claim is basically that fundamentalists are all non intellectuals and deliberately don’t think in order to believe what they do. Which is not true, of course. Also he claims that fundamentalist thought has only occurred in America, and nowhere else. Which is false. What got me most riled up is that in the midst of this he quotes an argument that is originally from C.S.Lewis as an example of the backwards thinking of fundamentalists, failing to note the source, which is an English intellectual. Argh that made me so angry.
Boldest claim that made me angry – his personal experience with the conservative church was that he couldn’t believe, he just pretended to believe, or tried to make himself, but he couldn’t. He implies in the book that all conservative Christians are doing the same thing. Bold bold bold. Totally condescending. Anger.
Anyway, he makes fun of a lot of ideas in conservative Christianity. The thing is, he presents it as if they just kind of made it up or it came from nowhere. That’s the worst part. Because, I mean, maybe we have funky ideas, but it’s all in the Bible. For example, we say Jesus rose from the dead because I mean, first of all Paul and Peter and everyone say he did. And Jesus himself in the Gospels talks about it. He also ridicules the idea of propitiation of sins and atonement, as if God required it for some sort of cosmic transaction. OK, make fun of us, but like, it’s all from the Bible! Everything we believe is because it’s in the Bible! He seems to conveniently ignore that. Argh.
Anyway, like I said, I could go on and on, but it wouldn’t be fruitful. I’m sorry my minds can’t be more like Dave’s have been recently, and all encouraging and everything, even in the midst of his sketchiness. Too bad I’m not encouraging.
I recently saw a really interesting movie. The Matrix. I highly recommend it. The thing about this movie is that it’s highly flawed. I mean, really really flawed, story wise. Despite this, it’s a really good movie.
So it made me think about whether a script needs to be good for the movie to be great. Because the Matrix clearly wasn’t a well scripted movie. But it was a really good movie. For several reasons. First, visually, I thought it was well done – well lit and photographed. Also, the action sequences I thought were well choreographed as well. I also personally liked the music.
The best thing about the movie though is that it’s thought provoking. The best movies do that – make you think about it a lot. And that’s what the Matrix did for me, and for a lot of people, I think. Just made you think about a lot of things. After a while (or even immediately) you begin to realize how holey the plot to the Matrix is, but it made you think, and that’s a good thing. I loved it. But the best movies I think are those that are also consistent. So the Matrix was pretty complicated story wise so you can just say, well, it was too complicated to fit it all in and still not have plot holes. Which is kind of true. But then you have a movie like Star Wars. It’s also a highly complex story (of a different kind) but it’s consistent (for the most part). That’s pretty amazing. Anyway, that’s one of the reasons Star Wars is a great movie. It has a bunch of elements, including a good script. Consistent, I mean.
Anyway, as you may know, when I was in English 4 Honors the theme of the 2nd half of the class was Illusion vs. Reality, and that idea has really affected me in life. It’s something I’ve been really interested in ever since. By the way, the first half was about the industrialization and modernity, and what that means for humans. So we like started off reading that poem that talks about the widening gyre, and reading Ozymandias and Ode to a Grecian Urn. The 2nd poem is great. A reflection of the desire that things could stay the same forever. Good poem. Also we watched movies like Brazil, which I highly recommend. I really like Terry Gilliam for Brazil and 12 Monkeys. But I digress.
Yeah, so I’m really into illusion versus reality. It’s a cool thing. And basically, you can never know whether you are living in illusion or reality. You just can’t know. And that’s what the Matrix is about. How everything he thought was real was not. That’s great. I love that.
So one thing though is that – OK, so there’s this Chinese philosopher, I think it was Chuang Tzu, who said he once dreamed he was a butterfly, and after he woke up, he could never be sure whether he is a man who dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who is dreaming that he’s a man. Anyway, an idea here is that once you are awakened to the fact that your reality is unsure, you can never ever be sure again that what you are experiencing is real. Because who’s to say that you were awakened into just another illusion?
Anyway, in the Matrix, he offers him a choice, and he says, you can live comfortably in your illusion, but if you knew it to be illusion, could you still be happy in it? So he chooses reality, even though reality is that much harsher. The thing is, it’s weird, because once he’s awakened to the fact that he’s living in illusion, he can never know that he’s really in reality. Meaning, yeah, I would rather live in reality, but how do I know that what I’ve been awakened to is reality? You can’t know. So really, he rejected illusion, but he didn’t necessarily choose reality, because he can’t know that. Given that, would you still make the choice?
So once you know something’s illusion, you can’t ever not know that again. Total Recall kind of has that idea. To some people, it is unclear whether at the end of the movie he’s living in Total Recall or real life. And that’s the whole point – you can’t know, and there is no solution to that, because once you’ve been made aware of your illusory life, you can never be certain that anything is real again.
Anyway, the Matrix was basically a movie about Symbolic Systems. I’ve studied for 4 years in preparation of seeing this movie. It has everything I’ve studied about, in particular the nature of Artificial Intelligence, the capabilities of computers, epistemology, cognitive psychology, all that stuff. It’s all about Symbolic Systems. It’s great.
Anyway, there are so many ideas in the movie that just intrigued me. That illusion reality thing of course is big. Of course it talked a lot about Artificial Intelligence. I really think that most people have a fundamental misunderstanding of AI. Everyone seems to think AI is about making a sentient life form. But that’s really not it at all. It’s mostly about making machines work better – so that they’re adaptive, more autonomous, and stuff like that.
So one of my professors actually works at Nasa Ames and he’s working on the Deep Space 1 project. The idea behind it is to make the space probes autonomous, so that it can react intelligently to different circumstances, without mission control having to tell it to do everything. It would just give high level commands and the probe woult adapt to different circumstances appropriately. I mean, it’s not about sentient forms, it’s just about autonomous decision making by machines.
Although there is I guess some impetous towards making a sentient life being. So here’s one thing I wondered. Even if a machine became “self-aware,” (this is a phrase they use a lot in sci-fi in regards to AI. Like with HAL in 2001, the system in Terminator, and kind of in Matrix) why would the machine want to wipe out humans or even protect it’s own existence. The question is whether there is something inherent in consciousness that leads to self-preservation.
To me that’s a really interesting question. Because even if machines suddenly had consciousness, why would they want to survive or reproduce or destroy competitors? Because when I think about it, that’s different than consciousness. It’s like a survival drive, that men and animals and I guess every organism on earth has, but there’s no reason why a machine should necessarily have it, even if it were conscious.
Unless, there’s something inherent in consciousness that leads to a survival drive. That’s so interesting to me. That if a machine were to gain consciousness, it would automatically gain an instinct and drive to survival and self-preservation, even if that weren’t programmed in, because consciousness necessarily involves a survival instinct. So interesting.
But yeah, I think most conceptions of AI are misunderstood.
Anyway, the movie also deals a lot with I think what it means to be human, or not even human, just a being with drives and emotions and stuff like that. One of the most interesting scenes to me was when the Agent was talking to Morpheous and was saying how he really really hates that world and all he wants is to get out. That was so interesting to me. Because the agents are basically just software. They aren’t even hardware in the real world, you know? They’re just programs, like the world humans occupy is just a program, just software, with no physical counterpart.
So like, is it possible for a software agent to have feelings like that? That is just the most interesting question. Like could a program somehow have emotions? How would that work? How would you program emotions into a program?
So there’s this great book called The Emperor’s New Mind that talks about this a lot. One idea is that emotions and feelings are somehow like the byproduct of an algorithm. Does this make any sense? That humans are just algorithms, our brains are just like algorithms, and emotions and stuff aren’t part of the algorithms itself, but a byproduct of running those algorithms. That’s such an interesting idea. Anyway, so maybe the software agents weren’t programmed with emotion, but somehow a byproduct of running an algorithm with self-awareness is emotion. Wow.
So yeah, the movie made me think about a lot of the issues I’ve dealt with the last 4 years for my major. It was great.
Another interesting thing about the movie is how there’s all these Christian ideas in it. That we’re like slaves and waiting for the one who will lead us to the truth. How they all wait for “The One.” (and Neo = One) Cypher is like Judas. The original world is like Eden, but man is imperfect so the world had to be changed to include suffering. There’s names like Trinity and Apoc(alypse) which are straight from Christianity. Anyway, some people saw it as an elaborate Biblical allegory. With lots of violence and kung-fu.