Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Solid Gold oldies from the 'sa and Lumpy

so I dont know why I am a philosophy major at this large, moderately goodschool in the middle of the country, that flat green place where all those adventerous settlers hesitated before making the giant jump westward to california and the gold and gubernatorial candidates its shores had to offer. but I am sitting here, in my rather comfortably sized apartment at this moderately good midewestern school, and I can't for the life of me figureout what I am doing here. Its strange, though. something about this place reeks of incompleteness,of a desire to continue moving westward. the entire city feels as if it is on a layover between flights, like it is just waiting to move on. I never quite noticed california's overall sense of polish, like it is ready for packaging and placing on a shelf. California feels like a finished product, or atleast this year's model of a finished product, where you can buy now or wait for next year's promised improvement. Illinois feels only half done- it gives me that same guilty feeling I get when I have checked the baked potato in the oven too many times, and am running out of places to stick the fork in before it looks more like a wiffle ball than a side dish. but I am here, and there is not much left to do but wait around for school to start. hopefully it will be enough to occupy myself and all this free time I have. I have spent far too much time sitting in my room, glacing over my scant belongings, trying to make sense of it all. I suppose my existence is valid, but it is hard to tell from a look around my room. I have 4 warner brother's character cups. The Bugs Bunny cup is full of pens and pencils, which is normal enough until you realize that none of the
(disposable)pens actually work and the pencils are far too dull to use for anything more exacting than a cave painting; and though I have no sentimental attachment to any of these writing implements, I trucked them all over from the coast, and haven't the heart to throw them out. The tweety bird cup has ticket stubs and other rat-packy type things, but is mostly hidden behind my computer, andI dont expect it to move any time soon. These too cups sit on the desk I just bought, which also hold my computer, cds, and my alarm clock- all the comforts from home. The rest of the room looks far less modern against the dull wood floors, though it does, I am proud to say, look like my room. I'm not quite sure what that means apart from my being comfortable in here. The urine smell so prevalent a few days ago seems all but vanished, thanks to far too many cans of lysol's 'natura-air' sprayed liberally around the room at fairly regular increments. so the other grad students here are smart. really smart. and in a way that doesn't seem pretentious. or at least, because we all know that I'm the most pretentious person there is, in a way that makes them seem unusually comfortable with their pretenious-ness. in a way so normal and casual that you can't help but admire their sheer underline-commitment-/underline to the importance of their ability to name drop obscure translations of cervantes and long and forgotten 60s era film parodies of the nixon administration. And I do admire it. I admire their opinions and their no-bones-about it arrogance, because it looks like they enjoy life, not only now, but that they are headed to do fulfilling, life-type things. But I can't see me doing that. I can't be so sure of my opinions as toargue them to these opinionated people. Not that I dont have some, because I do. (they were arguing over the deficiencies of science fiction as a genre- that because, by its nature, it has to spend so much time in the way of explanation and scene setting, that it takes on more of a
'travel-log'quality rather than apparently more authentic 'fiction', soap operas types such as star wars excluded. The other argued that sci-fi spends no more time on scene setting than any other genre-fiction. I agreed with him, not damn it. it took me over an hour to write that explanation. why do I do this?I can't write. I can't. I can try to write, and I can see when writing is good, but I can't write. I can't get it to flow. fucking weed. They were aguring about sci-fi, but they didn't seem to understand (I can only assume because of the amount of time they spend generating their name-dropping skills) that science fiction is in the public awareness. we will accept sci-fi absurdity without elaborate explanations. we, as a culture, have caught on to this new-fangled thing called sci-fi long ago, and understand the basic premise of space (and time) travel without the need forcumbersome explanations. we aren't stupid. but I didn't say anything, because... because when they are opinionated, it is really easy to see their faults, where they went wrong. spotting theimperfect is easy, and once you catch on, you see it everywhere. so why form an opinion? this is why I dont get much of philosophy. or at least, everything after and including aristotle. socrates went around not knowing anything and he was the wisest man in athens. and yet people thought
they could build on this. and they have convinced themselves that they have. it doesn't make sense to me. if we want accuracy, then dont form beliefs. its the only way to be sure. there is no need to progress beyond the foundation if it is sturdy enough to support your weight. but people go
around thinking they are a lot heavier than they actually are, and reinforce it with unnecessary buttresses and superfluous rivets and then start plugging in holes and soon you can't turn around without bumping into tangled wiring and a convoluted piping nightmare. we do this without even realizing we are. and we go about life so ignorant of our surroundings, but still so sure of ourselves, that we can swing through life without a care at all. here is my mission in graduate school. I want to prove that we, as a species, contrary to pervailing sentiment, are not aware. we are not self-conscious.we only realize the importance of self-awareness, and we think that thisis all that is necessary to being self-aware. but it isn't. recognizing the goal is not the same as achieving it. what does it take to become self-aware? when did we first become aware, andwhen did we recoginze it? or if both those questions are as bad as I think they are, when did we first go around calling ourselves aware? do we even understand this? so the first book I am reading as a graduate student is Sartre's Nausea, which I think is satisfyingly appropriate. you know, I really haven't taken many classes on existentialism, though I have felt its push throughout my readings, and it really seems kind of silly and trivial now, reading it over. I know I would have been gobbling this stuff up a few years ago; and even now it is interesting, but almost as a kind of historical oddity, and not in the kind of gripping meaningfullness (-lessness) that I should be taking it as. I had a great conversation last night, after the last bit of my weed was spoiled by my roommate's inept handling of my pipe, with his friend from spain, about the european opinion of the united states. he seemed to understand what was going on, and while maintaining
(and continually asserting) america's importance on the global scene, he was cautiously critical of it, in what seemed to me to be a mature, enlightened european way. I dont know if his caution was due to the language barrier, or that he was still so impressed with america, or my own citizenship... but it was interesting to hear another perspective. I should probably start dating these entries, if this is going to be a bonafide journal. so 8/26. last night I had a nice little chat with Iker, going over his pictures from new york, barcelona, and madrid. the pictures looklike typical tourist photos, and I am slightly embarassed for him; especially the way he stands with the exact same wide stance in every picture- here pointing at the center of town in madrid, here looking at the ground-zero construction site. his posture is always the same, and he holds theexpression of not really being comfortable with this whole picturephenomenon, like he isn't used to the fact that we have started to smile in front of the camera nowadays. I mean, I suppose he is smiling, but in a forced, contrived way that is barely smiling
at all. Well, I suppose that is how people see the camera. I had to take a picture today for the philosphy department, for them to put up on the wall. which is fine, except she asked me to pose in 3 different ways, to take 'the best one'. See, a picture, in my mind, is the capturing of a moment. each picture is valid. there can be no bad pictures.

ahahhahahdsalkhflksd;oIAkfimahnvcdamb,dMAnvd<>I<- am at the center of my world, and that is the basis for myunderstanding.which makes sense, I suppose. but look- the chair's being is at the centerof it's existence, as is everything else that is. by the way, you put mypoint about nature very nicely, though when you did it you made me seemwrong, and that surely wasn't my intention. because I dont think I am.because what else is nature besides 'everything that is'? I mean, we areanimals that flow in the evolutionary stream just like all other animals.and we developed this ability to use reason (which other animals have, ofcourse) and symbolic language (which other animals also have) together tomake big buildings and bombs and whatnot (which again, is not uncommon inthe animal kingdom, just not to the degree that we have). but for somereason, out of all this language and reason, we see ourselves as seperatefrom nature, and we justify this by saying we are 'self-aware' in someway. but what does this amount to? what could we possibly mean by this,and is it enough to seperate us from the world?I said I wouldn't respond. you made me. you bastard. :PI hope you are happy.I have to get off the internet now. sorry about last night, my computerdecided that would be a fine and dandy time to just shut down forabsolutely no reason. as soon as I get the ethernet set up...eh ok, see, you have started it off by replying to me way sooner than I hadexpected, and now I am thrown down all sorts of paths and I think I knowhow to reply and I sit there anxiously trying to figure out how to say itand....and so I think I know how to clarify what I said in such a way as to makemy intentions more clear. I mean, I was talking about awareness, right,and then I switched to talking about utopias and nature, and it wasn'tclear to me how they fit togetherbut I think I see a link now. but I need to run it by you to see if iteven makes sense (and you know you did more than nod. if you dont want totake credit (which, of course, you completely deserve) then at least yougave me the confidence enough to keep speaking, which was more than Icould do on my own....)So we are an 'intelligent species', right? and like I said, there isn'tany one feature of humans that sets us apart from animals- it is only aquestion of scale, really. and not even that: it is that we are humans,and so we see things in terms of humanity. I mean, for instance, my roomis several times larger than it actually has to be to shelter me from theelements; and yet it is mine- even the space in the corners that I donttouch or even look at, it defines my space. Of course, the rest of theplanet doesn't care for my arbitrary line drawning, and ants and bugs andtiny germs that will undoubtedly kill me flow in and out of 'my' spaceindependent of my own wants or even of my knowledge...in any case, we have decided to call us an 'intelligent species', but weare the only ones, as far as we know, in this giant, relatively lifelessuniverse. specifically because the rest of the animal kingdom doesn't seemto use reason; that is, we are intelligent because we are rational.however, there are other rational things on this planet that are nothuman. specifically, this computer that I am typing on is based almostpurely in reason- its processor is wholly rational and logical. it isn'tquite alive, so much (and the only thing preventing it from being alive isits ability to reproduce itself... but this is merely a temporarytechnological hinderance, and nothing in principle prohibits a machinefrom making another machine). it also isn't quite intelligent yet, butagain, this is merely a temporary thing, and after all, evolution takestime. and I firmly believe that technology flows in the stream ofevolution in the exact same way we do. machines are better now than theywere before; and not just 'better' in terms of faster or sleeker, but interms of their ability to conform to the pressures of their environment(that is, economic viability- the invisible hand of the market is just assure a driving force of natural selection as is resource acquisition anddog-eat-dog), and their ability to interact with the world- and what moreis required to become intelligent than a further expansion of these twofeatures? as computers and machines are able to interact better with theworld, and with us, the line of 'artifical intelligence' will dim to thepoint of being a historical oddity.and I see the computer, sleeping there next to me in my room, and I thinkwe can figure out a lot about our own 'intellectual' development by seeingthe intellectual rise of the machines. we can study our own awareness bypaying attention to the developing awareness of computers. and eventuallycomputers will seem for all practical purposes as being 'aware'- they willself-replicate and talk to us and each other and use symbolicrepresentations and everything, and I'm not sure what else it could meanto be 'aware' than to have a mental life similar to ours, which is reallynot that complicated to begin withbut the problem, then, is that ->we<- are the creators of thisintelligence, and the prevailing sentiment is that this somehow makescomputers or machines not subject to the same laws of nature that we are.because things that we create are not part of nature for some reason, arenot natural, and we are somehow seperate from this nature that is 'outthere' (as i had been saying).in other words, machines have an 'intelligent design' that you dont findother places in nature, because we made it. therefore, you can't expect toreveal anything about us from looking at machines.but this is where I am having the problem, because I dont see thedistinction between us and nature. or, like you so eloquently put it,between 'anything that is' and nature. in other words, the machines thatwe are creating- well, this is just the kind of thing that the universedoes. it makes creatures organized in some specific way to adapt to itsenvironment, and aparently it creates creatures that have the capacity formaking other creatures that similarly adapt. which is what we are doingright now. and it is wholly natural. and machines have no more of an'intelligent design' than we ourselves do- just because they were created'intentionally' does not mean they aren't a natural consequence of auniverse of this type. I mean, because they were created, right? and theuniverse is of this type, right?um... I think this makes sense. but it is probably very, very wrong. butstarting from my assumptions from the last letter, I dont know what elseto think.the other thing, and I have told you this already, I think... is that thegoal of any ideology is to form the perfect world, a utopia. but as longas we still have problems with the way the world is, then we will neverget that desired perfection... so the only sure-fire way to perfection isto start realizing that we are already there. if everyone admits that thisis the best of all possible worlds, then it immediately is.anyway, I have been keeping my journal, still... but this question of the'artificality' of AI has been bugging me, so I need your impressions.also, have you been writing, dustin? please tell me you have been writing.I wrote this today in a fit of rage after sitting through a rather stupidclass on kants moral philosophy. the lecture itself were interesting, butthe undergrads in that class are stupid. like, the kind of stupid thatonly comes with far too much (and inadequate) education. because they knewhow to say stuff, but they didn't know what they were saying. and everyother thing was related to justifying nazi germany. which pissed me off(especially because the nazi's themselves used nietzsche as justification,and nietzsche hated kant, and all the whiny goth philosophy majors in thatclass obviously have a hard on for nietzsche, but they have no idea whatis actually going on...)oh well. read it. and I am planning on doing some of my cartoons over, except much bigger,like 2 panels per page, and sending them to you, so you can resize themand format them however you want, but you will have a nice clean copy to do it from. unless you have a better idea ok. http://douweosinga.com/projects/googletalk