Extraterrestrial Culture: What Would It Look Like?

I would love to see an intellectual discussion concerning  the first interaction of human and extraterrestrial culture. There are so many unknowns, and there are so many charlatans making money by claiming to be “in contact” and/or “channeling” “extraterrestrial intelligences” that even the possibility of a serious discussion has been corrupted beyond absurdity.

I’ve been reading both Peter Cave and an old article by Cora Diamond, “Eating Meat and Eating People”   on this tricky, emotion laden subject. We are culturally trained to accept certain taboos that put roadblocks in the way of our thinking about certain things, and this is one of those taboos.

If disagree with Stephen Hawking’s latest alarmist pronouncements about the dangers of an E T contact, and instead see such contact as a great way to get to know our ‘space brothers [and sister, too, if indeed such entities has only two genders, who know, but I digress] then we cannot understand what all the concern is about. But the truth is that we have no ideas the ontology of a  exo-biological form would be and/or how it would appear to us.  For example, they might not use oral or auditory  faculties     to communicate. They might have evolved a language based directly on light signals and like certain kinds of jelly fish have the capacity to light up in order to express themselves.  If so, they might communicate by various and subtle differences in their luminosity. How could we ever begin to translate their language (or indeed their ontologies)  into something we humans could grasp?

And what if a super-species saw the human species as so inferior that they farmed humans just as we intensively farm those species we consider to be “lesser species”?  What if they took a look at life on earth and decided that there was nothing morally wrong with doing that they made sure that our lives seemed no pointless to us now than they do already and also made sure that we were killed and dispatched to their tables as painlessly as practicable?  They might well justify eating human beings if they tried it and found us tasty.

One man’s meat they be another man’s person [pun intended], and there are standards, as human beings ourselves, we are genetically programmed to be against people colonies, fricasseed and tinned  men and women would encounter problems that doing the same to chicken and beef doesn’t.

The argument might be made that it should be OK for them to eating were permitted only of those who died naturally or by accident — carrying  ‘donate for eating’ our way of looking at each other  would alter for the worse. Looking would be affected by the cooking. After all, some argued that some pornography encourages men to view women as flesh, devaluing their personhood. With person cooking accepted, maybe we would regard others as lumps of flesh, commodities, rather than persons. But is this likely? Just because we would be treating corpse  is in one way, why should we slip into a related attitude to living people?

respect for persons involves respect for their bodies — and such respect extends to a person’s corpse. Having human corpses, butcher shops, or tinned man or women available on grocery store shelves, merely to provide dining variety, undermines the respect. It certainly differs from using organs of the deceased to save others’ lives.

we de-humanize people, lockout respect, reducing their status to mere bundles of flash, by addressing them even when face-to-face, simply by numbers — as done in concentration camps. Dehumanization dangers are ever present when, for example, patients are known simply as appendix or hernia. Yet, there are cases. Cases vary, depending on context, intentions, and perceptions. People sometimes may rightly be treated as just bodies. But those treated in such a way must consent.

We have pictured human corpses dangling and butcher shops; and such scenes would deeply offend the sensibilities of most of us, but a lot of people see chicken, pigs, cows so displayed and think very little of it. In the America where life is sanitized that may not be true, but in most of the world, including the UK and all of Europe, it is a common sight in a lot of butcher shops. BUT would it be morally if people wishing to be donate themselves  for such uses after their natural death?  We have a natural repugnant at the idea but is there anything truly immoral about it?

Respect may be shown in diverse ways. Just as today we respect people’s wishes whether to be cremated or buried — and even except that a few mothers after birth cook the placenta — so in that society, and choice could be made to be. Perhaps a highly significant and ritualistic dining ceremony exists, with only deceased loved ones present. Perhaps the ritual is symbolic of ultimate or eternal bonding of connecting with the deceased. In such a society, people would feel their lives ended badly if the appropriate ceremonies fields take place. The dining might be associated with a sense of religious oneness or of flesh metaphorically sustaining living. Some could CDE being more as worthy sacrificing to the gods. Others may regard life as a work of art, requiring the right ending, just as novels and music do.

Such rituals, with the justification offered, would today generate laughter or discussed; they would not be taken in the right spirit.he would not follow, though, that there is anything morally wrong in the proposed society. Let us hasten to add: this is not a slide into moral relativism. It is not a slide at all, for, in justifying the dining practices, we deploy values readily recognized across cultures: respect in people’s wishes, connecting with others, manifesting love. It does, though, remind us that respecting people can take different forms.

Eating people could be a significant practice in a highly moral world. E. M. Forster’s injunction only connect — with its implicit wish to stress empathy, bonding, and valuing other people’s wishes — might result in such a ritual, mightn’t it? What cultural bias leads most of us (including me) to be reflexively repulsed with this literal rendering of Forster’s words, and why are we not equally repulsed by the corpses of other animals hanging from meat hooks in butcher shops?

Only connect.**

???????

[** Adapted from What’s Wrong With Eating People by Peter Cave.]

Finally, perhaps, there exists some extra-terrestrial imperative which states something similar, “Do no harm only connect.”

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I couldn’t stop thinking about Nicolas Hughes tonight….and about his death in mid-March…The landscape was still frozen in Alaska when he died. I thought also that he left no note, even though he had been thinking about his death for sometime before it happened. Christine Hughes, his partner found him dead in his workshop, hanged.

We are much too obsessed with gossip and scandal…This was a real and complex human being. He must have had to confront  a lot when he was very young.  Sometimes that makes it impossible to take a position of self-preservation.

I think about the reason he didn’t leave a note…I have to wonder why…Maybe the act. Maybe that’s it’s own reason…and no explication could have added more detail. Maybe.

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The Limits of Artificial Intelligence

Are there any conceptual limits to the possibilities of artificial intelligence?

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Groupthink Quiz

1. I’m a member of a large YouTube group:

A. Christian

B. Atheist

C. Other

____________________________________

2. When my group’s leaders are criticized, I don’t like it. They have power and influence because they are most often right.

A. Agree strongly

B. Agree

C. I have no strong opinion on this

D. Disagree

E. Disagree strongly

3. Some members of my group are guardians who take action against  those who disagree with group positions. I’m grateful that they protect the group from troublemakers.

A. Agree strongly

B. Agree

C. I have no strong opinion on this

D. Disagree

E. Disagree strongly

 

4. Members of my group often label those holding opposing views as weak, stupid or evil. I can see their point.

A. Agree strongly

B. Agree

C. I have no strong opinion on this

D. Disagree

E. Disagree strongly

 

5. When someone in my group doesn’t agree with the rest of the other members, some of us apply pressure. It has to be done. People can’t just can’t be allowed to think anything and still be considered group members.

A. Agree strongly

B. Agree

C. I have no strong opinion on this

D. Disagree

E. Disagree strongly


 

6. When I do disagree with the majority opinion of the group, I keep quiet because it’s easy to let silence look like consent.

A. Agree strongly

B. Agree

C. I have no strong opinion on this

D. Disagree

E. Disagree strongly

 

 

7. Each of the following are negative outcomes of groupthink except:

Few alternatives
Not being critical
Being highly selective
Seeking expert opinion

8.  Groupthink occurs in groups that have a history of conflict and disagreement.

True
False

9. It is a good idea to have the group leader offer his or her opinion during group arguments.

True
False

10. Once a group decides that an idea is bad, it should never revisit the idea.

True
False

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2008 The Year that SUCKED!

2008 will be remembered as the year we all suffered and suffered BIG TIME. Financially it was the worst year since 1931. And in saying that I’m speaking about the track record for financial data that dates back 183 years. Yes, since 1825, only 1931 was a year in which the S&P declined more than 50%. WONDERFUL…

There were food riots, political unrest in seemingly stable countries like Greece. The underpinning of the civilized structure of the world seems to be under attack, but it is under attack from sources that are hard to find and harder to stop.  What can we expect next? OMG I hate to even consider what 2009 will be bringing us.

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Our Two Natures

I’ve been thinking about where human beings are in their drives to survive and from that about the future of our species…I find I agree with John McDowell who contended that we have two natures.  The first nature is strictly Darwinian and is concerned only with fitness for survival.  It is the nature we inhabit through our genes and it is a nature that is sometimes very rough.

But we also have a nature that we have been creating and it is still a work in progress. It is the nature that comes from our culture.  And cultures can be good or bad.  They can go wrong and sometimes they do in very atrocious ways…And so what this tells us is that we have a lot of possible conflicts. We need to try to solve that conflict and we have a lot of risks. But at the same time, we now have a measure of control .  In other words, it is really for us to lose the ability to direct our own future.

Yes, every source of ancient wisdom tells us that we must meet our survival needs first. Yes, the fitness imperative for survival is the first priority…BUT it is far more complex than that.  But we also need environments where human beings can thrive. Where they can develop their talents, find friendships and form deep emotional bonds that are more complex than those driven by simple crude survival.

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McCain’s Big Political Lie

I don’t like to write about things political in this blog, but I feel the necessity write to this one entry . The McCain/Palin and campaign have been following the advice of Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels is the man credited with a savvy political strategy of telling the big lie.

In their latest political ads they have feigned outrage at Obama’s criticism of McCain’s proposals in which he said the “lipstick on a pig”. It is obvious that Obama was referring strictly to McCain’s weak proposals for “change” but in a cynical bid for votes, the McCain people have pretended to believe that Obama was referring to Gov. Palin. They know better! They know what they’re saying is a fraud and a lie, but they have been engaged in political vote pandering for such a long time that they refuse to do the honorable thing and tell the truth.

The situation is nauseating, and it is destroying the fabric of American life. Because their strategies seem to be working, they see no need to inject integrity, decency, or truth telling. They are doing what is expedient. They will do anything for votes.

Obama is trying to counter act their sleaze by issuing denials in the form of emphatic statements about his intentions and is also adding words about his determination not to be a swift boated. It is unclear whether Americans are awake enough to understand what is being done to them. If they don’t understand that the battle is lost.

We’ll know more on November 5.

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