Discussion questions for 2018

  1. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Is beauty merely an expression of an individual preference? Or does it reside in the object itself? When discussing this question we need to keep in mind the distinction between beauty in the natural world and beauty in works of art. Further, when considering beauty in works of art, we need to distinguish between spatial arts such as painting, sculpture, and architecture, and temporal arts such as music, literature, and drama. Do we require different criteria of beauty for these different types of arts?
  2. Do obligations indicate the goodness of a thing or is goodness quite distinct from obligation? Are there any obligations which are binding on all of humanity or are they all merely socially and culturally relative? If we say something is good, can we also command it to be done? Or does this commanding diminish its goodness? If we say something is good, do we require a free-will so we can choose to be good, or is this goodness causally determined?
  3. What is a mind? Traditionally, minds are said to be either cognitive (they have ‘consciousness’), affective (they are emotional), or conative (they strive after things). If we say that mind is identical with consciousness, can you describe your own consciousness without reducing it to merely what you are aware of, your memories, hopes, etc? Do sleep-walkers have consciousness? Are they even conscious?
  4. Is a society merely a collection of individuals or is it something more than that? Is a beach more than a collection of individual grains of sand?
  5. Is political power the preserve of professional politicians or can it be found in everyday interactions? Is a truly equitable society possible to achieve or is it simply an impossible Utopia? Are Utopias worth striving to achieve? Is revolutionary violence an acceptable way to achieve a Utopia? Does the end justify the means?
  6. Do we know things directly and immediately or do we perceive things as mediated and represented to us? If we always perceive things as represented to us, then how do we ever know if we correctly or falsely perceive the representations before us? Can we have direct experience of our emotional states?
  7. If we live in a fully-determined universe then human history is also fully-determined. In other words, there is no free-will and we cannot choose our own history. If this is so, then are our actions meaningless? Are we simply biological, psychological, and social puppets?
  8. The theory of Freethought (also known as secularism or naturalism) is the theory that no supernatural explanations can be admitted for natural events. In other words, it is the theory that there are no ideas which are ‘beyond’ or ‘above’ discussion. Are there any ideas (for example, the heroism of the ANZACs) in contemporary society which are ‘above’ discussion? Freethought is also opposed to any form of censorship. Can censorship ever be justified? Do the terms sedition, blasphemy, and obscenity have precise meanings or are they simply socially and historically relative?
  9. Is education no more than instruction in the skills and techniques for the workforce to function effectively? What role does criticism play in the educative process? What is criticism? What is the purpose of the university? If the State pays for University funding does it get to say what gets taught within the university?
  10. What is a thing? Is a universe merely a collection of things? How are qualities related to things? Do they merely ‘adhere’ to things like redness does to a rose? What can we say of the relations between things? If I smell a rose and say that it smells fragrant, does the fragrance belong to the rose, to me, or somewhere between us?

Some discussion questions from February 2018

Aesthetics

Is beauty objective or subjective? If it is subjective, then it is no more than personal opinion and hence does not really exist. If it objective, then it exists ‘in the object’ but where is it? The traditional Idealist and Platonic view is that beauty is the ‘ideal type’ (the ‘form’) of a thing and this is best exemplified in the statues from the classical Greek age. In contrast, Representational aesthetic theory (sometimes called ‘Realism’) holds that a work of art is beautiful only insofar as it reproduces exactly the object it seeks to portray. However there are many alternatives to these two theories. Impressionism, eg Monet, seeks to convey an image of a thing that is only accessible by a certain way of viewing the object (squint your eyes!), while Cubism (as in Duchamp’s ‘Nude descending a staircase’) seeks to unpack the inner structure of a thing itself. Cubism also requires a special way of looking at an object. The challenge for contemporary aesthetic theory is to locate exactly where beauty is. In post-modernism, ‘beauty’ and ‘art’ are merely social constructions and hence don’t really exist at all. One positive theory is that beauty is a phenomenological experience between subject and object – it is a ‘relating with’ an object.

Metaphysics

I spoke a lot about metaphysics this week, especially the theory of Space-Time and the universe. At the end of the 19th century, the Idealist view was that ‘reality’ was merely an aspect of the ‘Absolute Mind’. That view was challenged by Einstein’s relativity theory which held that the universe (Space-Time) was created at a particular moment in time. Einstein’s view were described by the Australian-born philosopher Samuel Alexander as ‘physical Space-Time’ which he contrasted with his own view of Space-Time as a medium in which things exist. Alexander’s metaphysics is often described as ‘emergent evolution’ for he held, somewhat inconsistently, that Space-Time does come into existence at a certain point from which it then ‘evolves’ and that Space-Time is simply a medium in which things exist. Alexander’s theory was ‘corrected’ by John Anderson who argued that if Space-Time is infinite then there can be no ‘thing’ – ‘the universe’ – that comes into existence. This position puts Anderson in direct opposition to 20th century cosmological theory from Einstein through to Hawkins. This opposition leads to some interesting epistemological questions. If we accept Anderson’s argument that Time cannot have a beginning (which is a temporal relation) or that Space cannot have a boundary (which is a spatial relation) because they are both infinite, then it follows that the cosmological claim for ‘physical Space-Time’ cannot be supported. Further, if there can be no physical Space-Time, then the very notion of a ‘Universe’ (defined as the totality of everything that exists) must also be rejected. Now if this is so, then the scientifically trained cosmologist will reply that all our scientific evidence since Einstein (eg quantum theory) has supported modern cosmological theory and therefore that the Andersonian argument must be wrong. The conundrum then is this: do we accept an apparently logical argument about the infinity of Space-Time or do we accept the apparently compelling evidence of modern cosmological science? It seems we can’t have it both ways.

Love

Is Romantic Love a characteristic of youth? Are we, as Sam Harris once remarked, simply ‘biochemical puppets’, our ‘love’ determined by our hormones? Or, do we, as we age and mature, change our concept of love to a non-Romantic view which denies, for example, the idea of a ‘soul mate’. Do we simply opt for the best available partner or does our understanding of love expand beyond the narrow parameters of Romanticism? For example, Skye Cleary states: “…an existential approach to romantic loving shows that once we free ourselves from externally-imposed expectations about how we ought to be in relationships, as well as from being slaves to our passions, then we will be free to reinvigorate love in authentically meaningful ways.” What might these new ways be? Cleary also writes: “Love based on friendship is a better way to think about relationships than merging [of two into one] because, although there is still the risk of power struggles, great friends respect one another’s freedom. They are generous, they cooperate, and they support one another’s flourishing. In ideal relationships, lovers transcend together, meaning that they have their own projects, but also create a future together by working towards common goals. Not only does having common goals give lovers something to talk about, but it also deepens their understanding of one another.” Is love an act of individual freedom or merely the expression of the activity of our hormones?

Art and Censorship

Are there ‘unacceptable’ limits to artistic expression which must be censored? The most common argument in support of this view is the ‘we must protect the children’ one. The censor argues that we must protect the innocence of children from adult exploitation and abuse. The ‘pure artist’ replies that there can be no limit to the subject an artist treats. Which of these is right?

Are there moral absolutes?

One of the more interesting things about John Anderson’s moral and ethical theory is that on the one hand he was a moral subjectivist (also known as moral relativism, moral skepticism, or amoralism) for he believed that no moral obligations were absolute, but on the other hand he was an ethical objectivist which is to say he believed that goodness was an objective quality of human activity. While post-modernists, for example, would agree that morality is relative to social and cultural conditions , they would deny that goodness is objective. However for Anderson this conclusion was the direct result of his Realist theory of relations. If Realism is true, then no quality can be a relation and no relation can be a quality. However, an obligation is a relation and therefore cannot indicate the inherent goodness or badness of what is being obliged. Therefore this inherent goodness or badness must exist in the object itself. He described these ‘goods’ in terms of things like creativity, inquiry, courage, co-operation, love, etc. However one interesting question that came up in a discussion about evolutionary ethics – that our concept of goodness is dependent upon our stage of evolution – was whether, as we move through into transhumanism and then posthumanism with sentient robots, cyborgs, and the like, will these qualities still define what is ‘good’? Would an intelligent robot, for example, think that love or courage would be good? Would it have other criteria for goodness?

The New Democracies

‘New Democracies’ is a generic term for a number of different alternatives to the traditional problems of large representative democracies. Since the emergence of the internet at the start of the 21st century, a number of theories have been proposed to return democracy to a direct system of government.

The first of these is Electronic Direct Democracy (EDD) which is where people vote directly on issues of concern. This may be done either in terms of special referenda or by regular voting on issues, particularly at local government level. A ‘hybrid’ model of both representative and electronic mediums is often proposed as a means of transition to a pure electronic model. The security of the electronic vote is cited as the most common criticism of this view.

The second option is a wiki-democracy. This is also a variation of an electronic democracy. On this system, a publically editable ‘wiki page’ is established at the start of each calendar year and citizens contribute to the development of policy on that page. At the end of the calendar year, the page is closed down and the various policies are then put to an electronic vote. Apart from the usual concern about voter security, another criticism is the question of how resources are going to be allocated to the implementation of policy. Votes would need to be taken on those issues as well.

The third form of new democracy is liquid or delegative democracy. On this system, individual voters allocate their vote to a delegate who then votes either in person or electronically. Liquid democracy is distinct from both representative and direct democracy. One thing in favour of liquid democracy is the use of blockchain technology. This appears to give some security to the vote.

The fourth form of new democracy is known as Issues Based Direct Democracy (IBDD). The system is based on a voter credit allocated to each voter which can then be used either directly, allocated to a delegate, or saved and used collectively on a decision which they regard as important. One Australian party that promotes IBDD is Flux.

The last form of new democracy is known as Citizen-Led Democracy. In Australia, this model is based on the Kitchen Table Conversation (KTC) concept used so effectively by Cathy McGowan in defeating Sophie Mirabella in the seat of Indi over the course of two Federal elections.

The KTC model operates by small informal groups getting together ‘around kitchen tables’ and discussing the issues that they think are relevant for their local electorate. The results of this conversation are then collated and published in either a physical or electronic form. At this point, the results are either presented to the local member to gain agreement to address these issues or are presented to a ‘town hall meeting’ where the conversation on the importance of the issues raised are discussed further.

The significance of this model is that it is not necessarily concerned with standing candidates for election. Rather it is a model that seeks to build community and get local issues addressed. Hence networking, community action, local resource development, etc. can all be important outcomes for a KTC. However it may be that standing candidates against sitting members will be a legitimate outcome of this process.

 

Woodbox Café, West Burleigh 14th November 10.30-Noon

Robina Tavern, Robina 14th November 5.30-7.00pm      

GC Arts Centre, Bundall, 15th November 11.30-1.00pm

 

Casual Rate $10 per class

Reading booklet $10

What are the cardinal virtues?

The cardinal virtues comprise a quartet set of virtues articulated by the philosophers of Ancient Greece. The term “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo (hinge); the cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. They are: justice, temperance, courage, and practical wisdom

Justice

For Plato, justice is a virtue establishing rational order, with each part performing its appropriate role and not interfering with the proper functioning of other parts. The just individual is someone whose soul is guided by a vision of the Good, someone in whom reason governs passion and ambition through such a vision. When, but only when, this is the case, is the soul harmonious, strong, beautiful, and healthy, and individual justice precisely consists in such a state of the soul. Actions are then just if they sustain or are consonant with such harmony. Aristotle says justice consists in what is lawful and fair, with fairness involving equitable distributions and the correction of what is inequitable. Aristotle treats the virtue of individual justice as a matter of being disposed to properly respect and promote just social arrangements. An individual who seeks more than their fair share of various goods has the vice of greediness, and a just individual is one who has rational insight into their own merits in various situations and who habitually (and without having to make heroic efforts to control contrary impulses) takes no more than what they merit, no more than their fair share of good things. Justice, then, is the settled disposition to act, so that each person receives their due. This settled disposition includes a practical knowledge about how to bring it about, in each situation, that each receives their due. It also includes a strong positive attitude toward bringing it about that each receives their due.

Courage

Courage is a settled disposition that allows one to act reliably to pursue right ends in fearful situations, because one values so acting intrinsically. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death, or threat of death. Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. Intellectual courage is having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing.

Temperance

Temperance is the espousal of moderation, marked by personal restraint. It is one of the cardinal virtues because no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, forgiveness, and mercy, each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.

Practical Wisdom: also called prudence or, in Greek, phronesis

Phronesis is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. In Aristotle’s ethics, it is distinguished from other words for wisdom and intellectual virtues – such as episteme  and techne  – as the virtue of practical thought. For this reason, when it is not simply translated by words meaning wisdom or intelligence, it is often translated as “practical wisdom”. Phronesis involves reasoning concerning universal truths and combines a capability of rational thinking, with a type of knowledge. It is concerned with particulars, because it is concerned with how to act in particular situations. One can learn the principles of action, but applying them in the real world, in situations one could not have foreseen, requires experience of the world.

In the Roman world, phronesis was translated as prudence. Prudence is the application of universal principles to particular situations. In scholastic philosophy, the integral parts of prudence are the elements that must be present for any complete or perfect act of the virtue. The following are the integral parts of prudence:

Memoria — Accurate memory; that is, memory that is true to reality; an ability to learn from experience

Docilitas — The kind of open-mindedness that recognizes the true variety of things and situations to be experienced; the ability to make use of the experience and authority of others to make prudent decisions

Intelligentia — the understanding of first principles

Shrewdness or quick-wittedness (solertia) — sizing up a situation on one’s own quickly

Discursive reasoning (ratio) — research and compare alternative possibilities

Foresight (providentia)  — capacity to estimate whether a particular action will lead to the realization of a goal

Circumspection — ability to take all relevant circumstances into account

Caution — risk mitigation

The cardinal virtues became the fundamental virtues for western culture and even though the so-called spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and charity were added during the Middle Ages, the cardinal virtues retain a central place in modern discussions of virtue theory.

The other history of the early Christian church

We are all more or less familiar with the early history of the early Christian church… persecution of the early Church by the Roman authorities, martyrdom and sacrifice, before the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early 4th century AD and the creation of an official ‘New Testament’ of Christian belief. But what of the other streams of early Christianity that existed during these centuries but were excluded from inclusion in the ‘orthodox’ doctrines? What do we know of these unorthodox voices?

After the death of Jesus (around 33 AD), Christianity grew from a small Jewish sect of apostles and followers to a religion that began to spread around the Roman empire. The uniqueness of early Christianity is that even though its early leaders were Jews, the Christian message was addressed to people of all nations and classes. For the first forty years of the movement, the records of Christ’s life and the acts of the apostles were primarily verbal ones, but after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ad the first gospels were committed to writing. The gospel of Mark was written at this time and over the next twenty years (to 90ad), Mathew and Luke were written, followed by John (95ad). These gospels were all ‘narrative’ gospels in that they essentially recorded the activities of Jesus’ life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christianity The remainder of the New Testament is believed to have been written by 150 ad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament

This early period was known as the Apostolic Church and after 100ad the Christian church moved into the Post-Apostolic period. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ante-Nicene_Period Justin Martyr (100-160ad), in the early 2nd century (around 120ad) mentions the memoirs of the apostles which are called ‘gospels’ and around 185 ad Irenaeus of Lyon insisted that the four gospels were the ‘pillars of the church’. The religious scholar, Elaine Pagels, argues that the gospels chosen by Ireneaus were concerned with providing moral instruction to the Christian community which helped served the institutionalising of the Christian movement. Ireneuas also referred to other Christian works (which he described as ‘heresies’) but these were excluded from the Christian Canon because they did not serve the purpose of institutionalisation. By the early 3rd century, Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books as exist in the modern New Testament.

During this time, Christianity suffered various persecutions, but continued to spread because of its appeal to Jews and Gentiles alike. However this persecution came to an end with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 323ad and Christianity became the official State religion of the Roman Empire. In 367ad, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, provided the earliest preserved list of the New Testament canon and the African Synod of Hippo of 393 approved the New Testament as it stands today. The Councils of Cathage of 397 and 419, presided over by St. Augustine, repeated the decision of 393 and Augustine regarded the canon as already closed.

Early church writers such as Ireneaus and Tertullian (150-220ad) wrote against alternative accounts of Christian doctrine and theology known as ‘Gnosticism’, although little precise detail was known about these views. Some fragments of Gnostic doctrine and theology were preserved in the ‘refutations’ of these Christian writers but it was not until 1945 when a large collection of Gnostic manuscripts were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt that the original documents of Gnosticism were first known. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library The word ‘gnosticism’ is derived from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge of a revelatory or salvationist nature (as against ordinary knowledge of the world). The intellectual movement known as Gnosticism incorporated Christian, Jewish and pagan belief systems and existed from the early first century to the end of the fourth century

The Nag Hammadi codex is a collection of non-orthodox writings (52 separate texts in total) dating from the 1st to the 4th century ad. Apart from texts relating to Christian Gnosticism, the other Nag Hammadi texts include discussions of Jewish Gnosticism (usually referred to as Sethian Gnosticism – Seth being the third son of Adam and Eve after Cain and Abel), Gnostic criticisms of Neo-Platonism (the late Platonic movement – 3rd to 5th century ad – dating from Plotinus (204-270) through to Proclus (412-485)) and discussions of hermeticism (also known as the Hermetica), the occult tradition of late antiquity incorporating elements of alchemy and astrology. Sethian Gnosticism is often thought to predate Christian Gnosticism and may have been influenced the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (25 bce – 50 ce). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo

Apart from its emphasis on the esoteric nature of gnosis, a consistent theme in Gnostic writings is the view that the creator of the physical world (known since the time of Plato’s Timaeus as the ‘demiurge’) is an inferior spiritual being or fallen angel. According to the gnostics, no truly spiritual being would consciously seek to create the physical world and this is the reason why the Neo-Platonic philosophers, who saw rational order in the physical world, were so hostile to the gnostics. Within the Nag Hammadi codex, dialogues which make use of Neo-Platonic ideas include Allogenes, Marsanes, The Three Steles of Seth, and Zostrianos, while those relating to Sethian Gnosticism include the Apocalypse of Adam, the Apocryphon of John, and the Thought of Norea.

The texts relating to Christian Gnosticism are diverse in number and dating, although in discussing these texts it must be remembered that early Church writers such as Tertullian and Origen had a hostile view of Gnosticism. Hence there is much dispute by modern orthodox writers as to the dating of any Gnostic gospels before the second century. (Elaine Pagels argues that the creation of the Nag Hammadi codex was in fact a reaction to the persecution and destruction of Gnostic communities during the 4th century).

Remembering that the original gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John were only written down in the late 1st century, it is significant that there are several Gnostic gospels which date from the early 2nd century and perhaps as early as the late 1st century. These include the Gospel of Thomas, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Gospel of Truth, and the Apocalypse of Adam. The most well known of these is the Gospel of Thomas which is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus and has been dated as early as 50ad. An example of this gospel:

“Jesus said ‘Blessed are the solitary and the elect, for you will find the kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return.”

This gospel also mentions a conflict between Mary and Peter which is a theme of the Gospel of Mary:

“Then Mary wept and said to Peter, ‘My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my own heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?’”.

The Dialogue of the Savior is an elaboration of traditional sayings and has a close relationship to the Gospel of Thomas. From the Dialogue of the Savior:

“The Lord said ‘Right. For do they see you? Do they see those who receive you? Now behold! A true Word is coming forth from the Father to the abyss, in silence with a flash of lightning, giving birth’.”

Within the corpus is a complete account of the Gospel of Truth, written by a 2nd century Gnostic (about 150 ad) Valentinus. Valentinus was an extremely important Gnostic and was, at one point, a candidate for the position of bishop of Rome within the Christian church. Another important Gnostic text (20 pages) was the Apocryphon of John which dates from before 185 ad and was still in use in the 8th century by the Audians of Mesopotania. Part of the importance of this text lies in its criticism of the Old Testament such as when Jehovah says “I am a jealous God”, this author of this gospel states:

“But by announcing this he indicated to the angels who attended him that there exists another God. For if there were no other one, of whom would he be jealous?”

A similar theme is treated in The Second Treatise of the Great Seth:

“And then a voice – of the Cosmocrator – came to the angels: ‘I am God and there is no other beside me.’ But I laughed joyfully when I examined his empty glory.”

And:

“For the Archon was a laughingstock because he said ‘I am God and there is none greater than I. I alone am the Father, the Lord, and there is no other beside me. I am a jealous God, who brings the sins of the fathers upon the children for three and four generations.’ As if he was stronger than I and my brothers! But we are innocent with respect to him, in that we have not sinned, since we mastered his teaching. Thus he was an empty glory.”

Both of these texts emphasise the common Gnostic theme that the God of the Old Testament (Jehovah), by his own words, demonstrates that he is not the only God in the heavens and that there must be others greater than him.

The Teaching of Sylvanus (dating from the late 2nd century) is not a standard Gnostic text but does present a unique view of Christ:

“Light the lamp within you. Do not extinguish it. Certainly no one lights a lamp for wild beasts and their young. Raise your dead who have died, for they lived and died for you. Give them life. They shall live again. For the Tree of Life is Christ. He is Wisdom”.

In the Apocalypse of Peter (a 3rd century text) the crucifixion of Christ is understood to be an illusion. In this docetic passage, Peter is standing next to Christ watching Christ’s own crucifixion:

“When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said ‘What do I see, O Lord, that it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?’ The Savior said to me, ‘He whom you see on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But the one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails in his fleshy part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and look at me…. But he who stands near him is the living Savior, the first in him whom they seized and released, who stands joyfully looking at those who did him violence, while they are divided among themselves. Therefore he laughs at their lack of perception, knowing that they are born blind.’”

Many of the texts present ascent rituals whereby through the uttering of certain sacred words and phrases, the Gnostic was able to ascend through the various layers of reality and return to the true God. In the Trimorphic Protennoia the overcoming of the Underworld is described:

“Every bond I loosed from you, and the chains of the Demons of the underworld, I broke, these things which are bound on my members, restraining them. And the high walls of darkness I overthrew, and the secure gates of those pitiless ones I broke and smashed their bars …indeed all these I explained to those who are mine, who are the Sons of the light, in order that they might nullify them all and be saved from all those bonds and enter into the place where they were at first.”

The Protennoia is the Voice of the First Thought and in this gospel she describes her nature:

“I am androgynous. I am Mother and I am Father since I copulate with myself. I copulated with myself and with those who love me, and it is through me alone that the All stands firm. I am the Womb that gives shape to the All by giving birth to the Light that shines in splendour.”

A similar idea is treated in The Paraphrase of Seth and the explicit imagery used makes it clear why some of these texts were not acceptable in the early church. The text describes Nature as a giant womb and the Savior puts on his Trimorphic garment and has intercourse with Nature. Nature has an orgasm and casts off its Mind in the form of a fish and as a result the physical world is created.

Much more could be said about the unique texts contained in the Nag Hammadi codex, although it should be clear that from a very early point in the Christian period, there were many other views apart from those that we have come to regard as orthodox. These views were not united by a single religious perspective but were simply alternative accounts, not only of Christianity, but also Judaism and Platonic philosophy. However there is a general theology that does characterise Gnosticism and this will be discussed in a later post.

 

In the Year 2025

Even though the year 2025 is only eight years way, it will be a transformed world to the one we now inhabit. We know quite definitely there will be less jobs and less hours to work. It has been estimated in a number of national and international reports that there will be 40% less jobs by 2030 due to the impact of AI and robotic labour. And with less hours worked, there will be less money to go around. Will we have to change our expectations of what we want in life? But the things we want may also be much cheaper. 3-D printing could change the way we build our houses and will cost a fraction of the price to build. And with less work, we will have more leisure. But what will we do? Will we spend our leisure time thinking of new ways to make more money or will we think about the meaning of making more money? Will we, in other words, engage in philosophy? Not if there’s going to be all these sex and companionship robots walking around. What will we do then?

Woodbox Café, West Burleigh 6th June 10.30-Noon $5

Krish restaurant, Easy-T centre, Robina 6th June 5.30-7.00pm $10 (includes nibbles)

GC Arts Centre, 7th June 11.30-1.00pm $5

 

Robots and Work

The landmark 2013 Frey and Osborne report predicted that 40% of jobs in countries such as Britian, the US, and Australia will be lost to robots and AI by 2025. However a Forrester report predicts only a 6% loss by 2021 and some writers think the danger is completely over-blown. Accurate industry figures can be found at the World Robotics Organisation.

Frey and Osborne 2013 report

http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/view/1314

Robots eliminate 6% of US jobs by 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/13/artificial-intelligence-robots-threat-jobs-forrester-report

Robotenomics: over-stated fear of job loss

https://robotenomics.com/tag/frey-and-osborne/

World Robotics Organisation

https://ifr.org/worldrobotics

https://ifr.org/downloads/press/02_2016/Executive_Summary_Service_Robots_2016.pdf

https://ifr.org/img/uploads/Executive_Summary_WR_Industrial_Robots_20161.pdf

https://ifr.org/downloads/press/02_2016/Presentation_12_Oct_2016__WR_Service_Robots.pdf

However the generally accurate recognition that many jobs will disappear has prompted speculation about a future world without work – will it be a utopia or a hell? In fact, the catch-phrase ‘robots are coming for your jobs’ has become so popular that it yields dozens of direct hits on a google search. An example of the rapid development of highly mobile robots can be seen on the links for Boston Dynamics. In 2016, a driverless bus was tested in Perth. This example illustrates how quickly these changes are happening.

World without work

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/19/world-without-work-utopia-hell-human-labour-obsolete

Google search: ‘robots are coming for your jobs’ multiple references eg on the need for digital literacy http://www.iflscience.com/technology/robots-are-coming-your-job-why-digital-literacy-so-important-jobs-future/

Robots at Boston Dynamics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf7IEVTDjng

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7nhygaGOmo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqn_TyFMPOA

Driverless bus in Perth

http://www.afr.com/technology/australias-first-driverless-bus-starts-service-in-perth-20160831-gr5yka

Humanoid robots

The World Robotics Organisation distinguishes between industrial robots and personal service robots, the latter generally having a humanoid appearance. Humanoid robots are either gendered (gynoids (F) or androids (M)) or are gender neutral.   They will be employed in a variety of occupations including aged care, domestic workers, and sex workers. The Pepper robot is now being sold for use in retail and domestic situations.

Japanese gynoid video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpO57NltoAI

German gynoid video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTGOjWv9fcQ

Non-specified gender robots

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/04/02/high-court-recognises-third-category-gender

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/neither-man-nor-woman-norrie-wins-gender-appeal-20140402-35xgt.html

Domestic robot gynoid

http://cooluniverse.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/gynoid-female-robot-domestic-servant.html

Gynoid sex worker

http://sexwork101.com/archives/1308

Pepper robot

http://singularityhub.com/2016/08/17/adorable-robot-assistant-pepper-now-available-in-the-us/#.V9B7yYvnMnc.facebook

Over the past five years, humanoid robots have developed so quickly that they are now almost physically indistinguishable from humans. There is currently a large demand for sex gynoids for men (at a cost of around $US15,000) but there is also development occurring for sex androids for women.

10 humanoid robots

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7ex3YDoNMo

10 robots that will change the world

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6feEE716UEk

8 robots that look human

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCRCVhzjYx8

Sex robots for men

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLVOnVsLXqw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vN0cs_-RSs

Sex robots for women

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKFHZuCvvS4

Robot psychologists

One unexpected area where robot growth is expected is in the field of robot therapy and psychology.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2012/02/07/i-robopsychologist-part-1-why-robots-need-psychologists/#.WTE4-sZL1N0

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2012/02/09/i-robopsychologist-part-2-where-human-brains-far-surpass-computers/#.WTE5N8ZL1HQ

Robot therapist

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201411/the-rise-the-robot-therapist

http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/meet-ellie-the-robot-therapist-treating-soldiers-with-ptsd/news-story/0201fa7cf336c609182cffd637deef00

Psychological intimacy with robots

http://depts.washington.edu/hints/articles/Kahn%20et%20al.%20psychological%20intimacy%20HRI%20paper.pdf

Robot Intelligence

AI programs have now surpassed human capacity in a number of games including Chess and Go and as this capacity increases in the future, there will be the development of super-intelligence in A.I. programs. This intelligence will have the capacity to connect wirelessly with robots, thereby creating super-intelligent robots.

Superintelligence https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/11/05/qa-philosopher-nick-bostrom-on-superintelligence-human-enhancement-and-existential-risk/

Intelligent robot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhVu2hxm07E

Robot intelligence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/11/02/robot-intelligence-a-primer/

Conclusion

In this brief summary view of the future world of 2025, I have focused exclusively on the role of robots even though there will be many other technological impacts including nanotechnology, cyborgs, 3-D printing, electronic surveillance, etc. There is no definitive resource for this topic and it is one of those issues where your own research will take you far.

Two interesting literary resources are the writings of Isaac Asmiov who looks at the development of robots into the far future and the TV series ‘Humans’ (derived from the Swedish noir ‘Real Humans’) which examines many of the issues raised here.

 

 

 

 

What is a syllogism?

It came to my attention last week, that I often use a word in class that many people don’t have a clear understanding of . That word is ‘syllogism’. The word itself dates back to ancient Greece and is a combination of two parts – ‘syll-’ (derived from ‘syn-’ meaning ‘with’ or ‘together’ – for example, ‘syllable’, ‘syllabus’, ‘syllepsis’, ‘synthesis’, ‘synthetic’, ‘synoptic’, ‘syntactic’, etc) and ‘-logos’ (meaning ‘reason’, ‘word’, ‘idea’, ‘theory’ or ‘discourse’ eg ‘logic’, ‘psychology’, ‘geology’ (and almost any other science you care to name), ‘logocentric’, ‘logorrhoea’, etc.), so that the word ‘syllogism’, etymologically speaking, means a combination of distinct ideas. The word itself was first used by Aristotle in his Prior Analytics, which is also the source for the term ‘logic’.

For Aristotle, logic had two meanings: dialectic and analytic and it was the latter meaning which was understood in terms of syllogism. Aristotle’s theory of syllogism effectively defined the field of logic for over two thousand years. His key texts in logic were widely used during the Roman empire, but after the collapse of the empire in the 5th century AD, these texts were lost in the Latin Western Europe. However the texts were preserved in their original Greek in the Eastern Byzantine Empire and after the rise of Islam in the 8th century AD, many of these texts were translated into Arabic. The dispute between the Platonist Avecinna and the Aristotelian Averroes was an important stimulus to the development of medieval philosophy, especially the theology of Aquinas. It is only since the start of the 20th century that philosophers such as Frege, Russell, and Quine have discussed non-Aristotelian (syllogistic) forms of logic.

Despite its long history, a syllogism has a very precise meaning. It is the connection between two propositions (known as premises) which imply a conclusion. A classic example of a syllogism is as follows:

Socrates is a man

All men are mortal

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The first two propositions are the premises; the final proposition is the conclusion. The conclusion follows logically from the premises. In technical terms, the conclusion is deduced from the premises; and this deduction is indicated by the expression ‘therefore’.

There is much more that can be said about syllogism – its components and conditions, for example – but to understand that the relationship between the three propositions is a logical relationship (as against, say, a temporal relation – eg ‘This happened, and then that happened, and then something else happened’ as so often occurs in narrative or story telling – is to understand the key feature of the syllogism.

 

Should humans be allowed to marry robots?

What is marriage? We all know what it means, don’t we? Traditionally it has been conceived as a legally recognised union between a man and woman. This is still the accepted view amongst a large number of Christian and conservative people. However in recent years, there has been a move to allow gay and lesbian people to marry – commonly called ‘same sex marriage’. This move has prompted a lot of debate about the nature of marriage. Is marriage to be defined exclusively in terms of its traditional connotation reflecting past values and arrangements or should the definition be extended to include more modern relationship arrangements?

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalised same sex marriage across the US. In its decision, the court emphasised that in a free society, individuals have the ‘fundamental right’ to choose the relationships that they pursue. No doubt this debate will rage for many years to come, although it may, in time, become a side issue.

 

 

 

 

Poster for 2017 Brisbane sexpo

Over the last decade, the development of robots has occurred so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with the changes that keep taking place. On the one hand, the appearance of humanoid robots are becoming more and more lifelike while on the other hand, the development of AI is creating a semblance of intelligence which is difficult to distinguish from the human mind.

AI programs are currently world champions across a number of games including chess, Go, and Jeopardy, and the development of AI programs which are emotionally intelligent are reaching the point where they may soon passed the equivalent of the Turing test for emotions. Also the development of humanoid robots have reached the point where life-like companion and sexual robots can be purchased for a reasonable price.

 

 

 

 

Man with robotic sex doll                                           French woman with robot she wishes to marry

It appears to be a foregone conclusion that humans will have sex, and sexual relationships, with robots in the not too distant future, perhaps 15 to 20 years. Many android robots for this very purpose are already in prototype development and this prospect already seems very appealing to some humans. Certainly the possibility of this development within 20 years, will have important implications for the prostitution and sex industry. Further, the prospect of ‘loving’ relationships between humans and robots may only be another 15 to 20 years after that.

When these two technologies – humanoid robots and emotionally intelligent AI – converge (say between 10 and 20 years), we will have humanoid entities which are sentient. Sex with these robots will be fairly well common by that time and, given that human nature is what it is, it is inevitable that some people will wish to marry their robots. This raises some interesting philosophical questions.

Will governments be able to prevent human to robot marriage? Assuming, for example, that a male human wishes to marry a female robot, there can be no argument that this is a male-female union. It will be objected that the intention behind the idea of marriage is that it is only humans who can be married. But if this intention is no-where clearly expressed as such, then it remains only an assumption.

Perhaps the more pressing point behind the concept of marriage is that is a choice, a contract entered into, between two rational beings. But if the issue is one of sapience, then there is no reason to assume that robots cannot be as intelligent as, if not moreso than, humans. And if this is the case, then the current dispute about same-sex marriage will, in the future, be irrelevant. Not only might we have human to robot marriage, but perhaps even human to AI marriage. Now that would be something to see.

 

What do you think your next job will be….. and why you’re probably wrong.

 

Are you under fifty? Do you think you will you be working for at least another twenty years?

Yes?

Then there is more than a one in three chance that your current job will be automated during that time.

A raft of reports over the past few years have emphasised the significant impact that technology will have on future employment. In a report for the Committee for Economic Development, it was estimated that 40% of jobs in the Australian workforce will be lost to automation over the next fifteen years.

And these wont just be the unskilled labouring and trades jobs that have traditionally been lost through the automation of the manufacturing industry. They will also include white-collar clerical and sales positions which have seen such strong employment growth over the past forty years.

Automation will even impact on some professional occupations such as accountancy, law, and architecture that were previously thought immune to technological unemployment.

In fact, it is unlikely that there will be a field of work that wont be impacted by technological change over the next fifteen years. And as workers are pushed out of their traditional sphere of employment, they will crowd into a labour markets where opportunities will be shrinking.

So how can you protect yourself against future unemployment?

Quite simply… become creative.

The single consistent feature that has been identified in those jobs most under threat from technology is the routine nature of the work task and the one skill that will not be impacted by automation is creativity. Workers in the future that will have the most secure and profitable employment will be creative workers. But this creativity wont be a special skill of artists and musicians.

All future workers will need a moderate level of creativity to thrive in the future workforce. These workers will need to be problem solvers. They will need to think laterally, both in their jobs and in the ways they get their work.

These workers will be curious about future trends and good at imagining alternative scenarios where they might profit. They wont work for any one employer for more than a few years and their work will be contractual, flexible, and part-time.

These workers will need to be creative in way they approach their home-life balance. They wont be going off to their office in the city anymore. Their home and their community will be their work hub and they will need to negotiate a whole new set of domestic relationships as a result.

What is creativity? Is it a skill I can practice? Can I test my creativity? Will my current job be under threat from technology?

Find the answers to these questions in a ‘Creativity and the Future of Work’ workshop, next Saturday 8th April 2-5pm at Robina Community Centre. Cost $30.

 

 

Creativity Workshop

What is creativity?

 

 

Who is the creative person?

A creative person chooses their own goals and how they will achieve them. The creative person is expressive and curious, often both introverted and extroverted, and is driven by an urge to create and produce things.

 What is the creative process?

The creative process is untidy and messy, undisciplined and unruly. It is lateral, playful, imaginative, unconscious, childlike.

 What are the techniques of creativity?

The creative person practices the techniques of creativity. They are not afraid to learn to be more creative. In fact, they welcome the opportunity because they know that they don’t know everything.

 How do I test my creativity?

The creative person is not afraid to test their creativity. Give me a puzzle, they say, and I will try to resolve it. And if I can’t, then I will learn something from it.

 What is the place of creativity in future employment?

The creative person will be a worker in demand in the future. They will have the creative skills that cannot be easily replaced by computer automation.

 

 What is this workshop about?

This workshop will be a discovery learning experience which will examine six knowledge areas: What is creativity? What techniques increase creativity? What is the creative process? What is the creative personality? How can I test my creativity? What is the relationship between creativity, technology, and the future of work?

 

Saturday 8th April 2-5pm

Robina Community Centre

 

Cost $30 Bookings through markweblin@gmail.com