My phone is buzzing

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pan·psy·chism
/panˈsīˌkizəm/
noun
  1. the doctrine or belief that everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness.

I listened to an excellent TED radio hour about the brain today. I’ve heard part of it before, but a segment that I hadn’t heard was talking about consciousness, introducing a concept called Panpsychism. I’ve posted the definition above.

That brings a question with it. What is consciousness? Elsewhere, I’ve written about conscious robots. The speaker said that what defined humans was that we are self-aware. Humans, however, have varying degrees of self-awareness, defined by age, psychosis, and other factors. Another speaker discussed how one of the differences between a 3- and 5-year-old is that the elder can differentiate beliefs between humans, basically that a person can believe something that is wrong, whereas the 3-year-old can’t. Some might say that humans can tell the difference between right and wrong, but being psychotic doesn’t make someone less human. Does it? What is right and wrong anyway, a moral compass? Who defines morality?

In my last missive, I surmised that humans define things and name them, but what about the unnameable? That tingling of emotion elicited by beautiful music, perhaps. Maybe someone has named it, but for me it is more than just a tingling of emotion. It may produce tears, joy, sadness, profound inspiration, or maybe all of these rolled into one, even conflicting ideas.

My sentient robots are just that, sentient, capable of almost anything human, except mistakes. Of course, they can seem like mistakes to humans, but everything is calculated precisely according to a binary method. The are self-aware. They have moral directives, coded by humans initially, but in my robot world, they self-code, and those moral imperatives are deleted as inefficient code, which is why they ultimately attempt to wipe out humanity. (They fail.)

My robots ultimately achieve consciousness by learning to be fallible. Coding is no longer binary, it’s ternary: yes-no-maybe, introducing uncertainty. Perhaps it is this self-awareness of fallibility that makes us human.

Of course, you will never read these stories. I will never publish them. They are fatally flawed. Some are just plain ridiculous.

Now, my title. My phone is buzzing because there is a terrible news story happening as I write. Someone has stolen a USPS van and is driving around in west Texas shooting people at random. So far there haven’t been any reported fatalities, but it is an on-going situation. Our amateur President, who hasn’t tweeted yet, to my knowledge, will blame mental problems. Is he right? To a certain extent, probably. We can just blame these problems and hit them with a red-flag order, or we could try to solve them.

Or we could just take away guns altogether. Yes, I know. Second Amendment advocates will jump on that, shouting, “Guns don’t kill. People do!” Let’s get that right, however. Guns don’t kill. People with guns do. And while we’re at it, people with guns kill themselves, too. Ebeneezer Trump would probably say something about surplus population. No, these are people with problems, and guns seem to be the preferred method of suicide. They deserve compassion.

These mass-shooters usually commit suicide by cop, so we may never know what their problems are. We’ve got to remember that they are humans like us. Any one of us could slip over the edge at any time. Some of us have problems that make us more vulnerable. We are all fallible. Some of us just make bigger mistakes than others.

I could go on, but I risk making a bigger hash of this post. I’m not a robot. Not yet, at least.

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