Invasion of the Mind Snatchers

/ Integrity /
@K. 1998 06 26
revisions, additions, inserts have made this classic K. post corpulent. I’ll keep this descendant as the “original”, will extract the orignal original and post as new, stringing the additions separately.

Integrity & the Human Spirit pk’s Turing Test

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers

from Knatz.com Society (& Its Pathologies)
Survival / Integrity
1998 06 26

via the IonaArc blog

What’s Happened to the Human Soul?

It’s been around forty years since The Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out. I think it was Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter who found their neighbors turning into zombies. Giant seed pods were appearing in the closets, silently cloning mindless substitutes for the humans. It struck a nerve with lots of people.

Leslie Fiedler, the Renaissance man of American Literature, traces science fiction back to the Gothic novel where the English, having rid themselves of troublesome Rome as well as put an annoying king in his place, scared themselves witless with the specter of things Catholic and things aristocratic. (Why, after all, does Count Dracula wear a cape?) So: the gothic novel can be profitably seen as fear of the past. Fiedler then turns that on its head: science fiction is fear of the future.

Not only do we worry about our bodies, even our planet, being abducted, we use science fiction to worry about computers taking over our special place at the center of God’s Creation. The nascent science of AI (or artificial intelligence), has been forced to compete with theories of cosmology and evolution for the cellar floor on the stairs of infamy. Commando tactics are used against them all: systematic misrepresentation (not that the scientists haven’t done some misrepresentation of their own), choreographed misunderstanding, sabotage …

Blade Runner featured Harrison Ford as an exterminator whose specialty was sniffing out and destroying androids who found their way to earth. Ah, but even he has trouble ID’ing the new models. And once the audience gets a load of replicants as interpreted by Sean Young and Rutger Hauer, we have a nice ambivalence as to what we want done with them. (Ambivalence becomes a dilemma when we can’t decide whether we’d rather jump on their bones or worship them.)

Early on in information theory mathematician Alan Turing proposed a test for synthetic intelligence. A candidate AI and a human, concealed from the tester, may be addressed via some arbitrary label: the tester can ask A or B any question. The tester has to make his judgment of who is which based on their answers alone. Turing suggested that if, after some period of time, the tester was unable to correctly identify the AI, then the AI must be admitted to be “intelligent.” (Note: Turing here has trimmed away all considerations but output! That’s how he broke the German codes in WWII: he trimmed the mess to a section he could handle!)

I apply the Turing Test as a matter of habit: in conversation, while reading, at the movies, watching TV … My conclusion is that we’ve had it all wrong. We were wasting our time worrying about our bodies being snatched; it’s our minds which have been stolen! (Our souls?) And I fear the job is nearly complete. I can identify very few human beings among my fellows.

Bucky Fuller pointed out that if you draw a square, say one foot by one foot, you’ve enclosed not one but two areas: inside your lines is a square with four ninety degree angles having an area of one square foot; outside your lines you have another square of four equal angels. Only there the angles are each two hundred seventy degrees! There the area is all of planar space minus one square foot! You can never do just one thing. Always there is at least one complement, perhaps silent, perhaps invisible: but there. (Fuller also said that 99% of reality is invisible.) (No, he didn’t measure it: it’s a symbol—like “forty days and forty nights” or “a million dollars.”)

Even where someone does pass my test for being human, further testing casts doubt on my first impression. We’re told we live in a democracy. We aren’t like those awful Europeans: we don’t have rulers; we have representatives! I have something to say to my representative. I write a letter. I get an utterly irrelevant response.

In school I was taught that the first step in answering a test question is to carefully read the question and to understand it before answering. What was my representative taught at his school? My correspondence is just like a Turing Test. I can’t see him. I address him by a label: a name, a title, and an address. What I get back doesn’t even impress me so much as an AI who’s trying; just some aphasic automaton following a program which is a mockery of democracy: get something in the mail, put something in the mail. A pigeon could do it. (Tax, spend, tax again … No accountability as to what it was for? It’s certainly pigeons that have it done to them.) How can “my” representative represent me if he doesn’t understand what I’ve said even after I’ve gone out of my way to compose it?

I develop my doctoral thesis. I try to present it to the faculty of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. The chairman of the comparative literature department says Right on! But my own department? Niente. [pk’s Interrupted Doctoral Orals] Nada. I may was well have been speaking Mandarin.

Ivan Illich knocks my socks off. Now there’s a human being. Not just human: a genuine imitator of Jesus. He’s got our number and doesn’t pull any punches. He’s got solutions! Dazzlingly simple. Right on the money. A genius. His writing is so relevant to us, he puts mere literature in the shade. I write him, offering my aid. Go to it, he answers. I do. (Screw the morons at NYU.) 1970, I found FLEX. The public responds: a little; not at all financially. I write Illich’s New York Roman Catholic priest friends. They answer that they understand his proposals to be a metaphor. So do I. So what? Does the existence of a metaphor preclude other kinds of existence? Where they denying that there was any reality represented by the metaphor? A reality in need of big-time correction?

I write Illich what’s going on. Nothing. Finally, years later, I get a letter. He’s sorry. Less than a page sorry.

Gregory Bateson knocks my pants off as well as my socks. Not just a human: the greatest teacher of all time. A footnote in his book Communication inspires me to write my first novel. His daughter is executor of his papers. I write to tell her what I’m up to. Nothing. Not even a Don’t bother me. (Decades later, the 2000s, I hear from his other daughter! But I tell her what happened, she goes silent!)

In Heinlein’s Job, God keeps changing reality on the protagonist (very much like in my The Model: First Week.) Maybe I’m wrong about Jehovah. Maybe the invented God of the imaginary Creation of six thousand years ago (or some other demon) does have powers independent of his inventors’ hands and bombs. Or maybe it’s the aliens after all. They’ve snatched everyone’s mind but mine. And now they’re just tormenting me, writing great books, palming them off as written by human beings, luring me to bite, and then pulling the lure away while jeering at me. Maybe they snatched all of you just to mock me.
(See my parallel piece God’s Lure.)

I produce this site like the guy at the telegraph in On the Beach, hoping that there’s some one out there, at least one other human being left.

Nothing. I’m alone.


Or maybe it’s me who’s got it all backwards. It must be. Of course. What could I have been thinking? No human beings’ minds have been snatched; human beings don’t have any minds. Or have seldom had much more mind than a chimpanzee. Their talk is delusional: monkeys unable to tell whether the characters they randomly peck on the typewriter make Shakespeare or gibberish. What made me think human beings had ever had minds? Or souls? I knew better than to think that a cartoon was really talking with Mickey Mouse. What made me think that human speech was anything but demonic lip synching? I heard too much of the gibberish too early.
Then again, maybe human beings are whatever they are; and I’m not a human being. What am I then? A mutant? Merely insane? A species of one? Maybe there’s a dozen of me. Maybe a thousand. That’s still too few to find. Will I die before I find my Eve?
Or is solipsism the truth after all? No. I don’t think so. I think it’s me: and a whole bevy of demons: jeering.

(Revisiting 2014 09 23 to expand comments on Alan Turing I’ll also utter an opposite interpretation of experience: in a senseless universe sense-making is delusional. It’s an hysterical accident that Shakespeare or Newton seem to make sense.)


Turing Test Scrapbook follows below.


Notes
AI: I detest the term “artificial intelligence” except as applied to pundits wearing pants. For cybernetics I prefer the term “synthetic intelligence”: intelligence as a manufactured artifact. If the AI ever becomes “intelligent” then what will be artificial about it? Artificial does mean “manufactured,” but it has connotations of being “fake.”

In harmony with Stanislaw Lem, I wish synthetic intelligences would bypass us soon. Maybe, if we can be housebroken, they could keep us as pets.

Alone: It’s at least a year, a year and a half, since I mounted this piece. And I have heard from a few people who sound human to me. I haven’t actually met them, mind. In any case, I’m not ready to modify the above rhetoric. 2014 09 23 Does anyone still doubt the potential of AI?


Now it’s more like five years and it only just occurs to me that a Pema Chodron quote used elsewhere at Knatz.com should be repeated here:

The difference between theism and non-theism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us …
From this point of view, theism is an addiction. We’re all addicted to hope … Non-theism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves … In a non-theistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning.

Right: but not while I’m writing the ironic humor of a kleptocratically trained Christian! (How that’s Hindu humor!)

So Sorry: My last letter to Illich remains unanswered this decade. (Three years later: he’s too sick to read my paper on Macroinformation. Didn’t even answer himself.) (I’ll be publishing old correspondence soon and you can compare for yourself what’s gone out in relation to what’s come it.) [2009: I hadn’t found much of our correspondence by the time of my arrest in 2006: entropy (disorder, lost items) reigns all the quicker when you’re homeless, unable to pay the rent on storage bins: and since the FBI went through all my things at their leisure, I can’t find any Illich correspondence. Some of his books too are missing from my library.]

I wish also to add that there’s a huge difference between a defrocked priest not answering mail he may not even have received, his status something like a fugitive, and a well-staffed president not answering his mail.

Understand What’s Said: It never occurred to me as a child that the lessons were not mutual for teacher and student, for governor and governed. The student is obligated to understand what the teacher says; the teacher is not obligated to understand what the student says (or, for that matter, what the teacher himself had said. The grader of the test need not understand the test: only recognize the right answers.) The governed must understand the governor; the governor has no need to understand either the governed or the governor.


Turing Test Scrapbook

Explaining to me what he liked about my writing, poet and army buddy Phil Rowe said that it always arrives at a point where it “goes totally insane.”

I like that too. And in this piece that point comes early. Comes early and stays.


Catfarmer has been gracious enough to recommend these Invasion of the Mind Snatchers files through the pages of Strike-the-Root.com.


2003 I added parallel pieces: Potemkin People, Algorithm … not yet re-posted at a blog.


Honey, lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.
Spanglish

If you don’t see the body of this piece as humor, you’re not seeing it as the author intended. If you don’t simultaneously see that I’m serious in the piece’s implications, then again, this literature is failing to fulfill as literature. This autumn I received an email from a precious correspondent. She had come upon this piece in her new-found, avid reading of Knatz.com. Now she was worried that I was thinking of her. Thinking of her as not human? I was a half a dozen years short of even making her acquaintance when I wrote it. But: could a time come when I said something to her and … blank! Whoops. ? Of course. And visa-versa. This piece takes the rhetorical stance of a single speaker. Indeed, “I” wrote it. But if “you” yourself don’t fit right in to the speaker’s feeling, then … whoops indeed. Don’t we all identify with Hamlet? Of course you don’t share my exact experiences, may not feel comfortable going quite as far as I do with some things … Then again, neither do you have the same name. Neither are any of us really Prince of Denmark.


2005 02 22 I just posted the following at IonaArc:I have never had an intelligible discussion of any of my theses with anyone connected with a university.
I am not sure that any of my theses can be presented with mutual intelligibility to anyone connected with a university: or a church: or the human species.
On the other hand, I have never had an intelligible discussion with a god either, or a devil. And I admit I have seldom had an intelligible discussion with anyone not connected with a church or a university.

I wrote this for Knatz.com. In 1999 I tried rescuing it at IonaArc. Now it goes here: till there’s a Knatz.com again.

Turing Test Scrapbook

Explaining to me what he liked about my writing, poet and army buddy Phil Rowe said that it always arrives at a point where it “goes totally insane.”

I like that too. And in this piece that point comes early. Comes early and stays.


Catfarmer has been grecious enough to recommend these Invasion of the Mind Snatchers files through the pages of Strike-the-Root.com.


2003 12 23 These half dozen years later I’ve added a parallel piece: Potemkin People. 2004 12 05 Also see Algorithm.


Honey, lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.
Spanglish

If you don’t see the body of this piece as humor, you’re not seeing it as the author intended. If you don’t simultaneously see that I’m serious in the piece’s implications, then again, this literature is failing to fulfill as literature. This autumn I received an email from a precious correspondent. She had come upon this piece in her new-found, avid reading of Knatz.com. Now she was worried that I was thinking of her. Thinking of her as not human? I was a half a dozen years short of even making her acquaintance when I wrote it. But: could a time come when I said something to her and … blank! Whoops. ? Of course. And visa-versa. This piece takes the rhetorical stance of a single speaker. Indeed, “I” wrote it. But if “you” yourself don’t fit right in to the speaker’s feeling, then … whoops indeed. Don’t we all identify with Hamlet? Of course you don’t share my exact experiences, may not feel comfortable going quite as far as I do with some things … Then again, neither do you have the same name. Neither are any of us really Prince of Denmark.


2005 02 22 I just posted the following at IonaArc:

I have never had an intelligible discussion of any of my theses with anyone connected with a university.
I am not sure that any of my theses can be presented with mutual intelligibility to anyone connected with a university: or a church: or the human species.
On the other hand, I have never had an intelligible discussion with a god either, or a devil. Or anyone not connected with a church or a university.

2014 06 14 Time reports that a computer app has finally succeeded in imitating a human: Time, 2014 06 23.

2014 09 22 email to bk

Codebreaker, biopic this is so delicious: Alan Turing was paid well as a codebreaker, but he didn’t trust the banks, so he converted his money to silver ingots and buried them in the park. But then he forgot where he buried them. Many have still not been found!Poor bastard, loved a fellow codebreaker, female, proposed, was accepted: then broke it off!

his school friend had died young, Turing said the boy was still with him, co-working with him. How much of the universal machine should we attribute to the dead friend?

I suppose he feared she’d want consumation, doubted his ability to be hetero even part time.
I’d paused Codebreaker to jot that to bk, but then the rest of the biopic is so great, reveals so many additional things I hadn’t known, never guessed at. I string a few points:
Brittain’s code breaking work in WWII was top secret, in a kleptocracy used to secrets, better at being anti-democratic than is the US. Turing and his fellows inclucing his fiancee, took vows, were bound by law, not to reveal what they were doing, working on, thinking … even after the war! (In parallel, Chuck Yaeger couldn’t say that he’d broken the sound barrier. Culture under a veil.
An additional irony: the geniuses were paid peanuts: and Alan T’s fiancee, as a woman, would have been paid even less! much less. Furthermore, after the war, no royalties were paid: either for Turing’s genius, or any of their genius, or even for their scutwork. Theft is built into the system.Royalties get paid, but to the kleptocracy’s known, familiar, come-lately stalwarts.
Microsoft and Apple make billions after my democratic internet of 1970 got kicked in the teeth. Paul get paid for what Jesus said, after Jesus has been tortured to death. (We should share if for no other reason than that humans are not competent to trace “causes”.)
OK, after the war: Turing meets a man, they make love, a third man gets involved: the third man & an associate robs Turing. Turing is indignant, he wants his grandfather’s watch back. Turing, for all his brilliance, believes what he’s been taught: the official thugs are there to protect him: he goes to the police, tells what happened. The cops ignore the theft: they’ve got a queer to torture!
(I’m repelled by homosexuality, but I don’t do anything but retch out loud.)
The kleptocracy orders Turing “chemically castrated”: they fill him with female hormones, his balls shrink, he’s impotent, he grows breasts … and: his mind regresses. That’s it, get the smartest guy of his generation, on that side of the pond anyway, let him save your ass by his code breaking, the lobotomize him: don’t pay him, don’t acknowledge him, torture him.
If you’re intelligent, creative, original, and you haven’t been hung in the dungeon, then you were third fourth or fifth tier intelligent, not the most intelligent. Kill Jesus, then listen to Judas, that’ history.
Turing was sent to a shrink, the shrink became his friend, the shrink’s family became his family, beautifully portrayed in the film. The shrink analyzes what happened: Turing went to the cops, Turing told the truth. The cops are the thugs who enforce the law, but Turing is the educated one, he’s a law maker, not a thug, the cops work for Turing; except: Turing has confessed to being a queer: therefore … Turing has no rights, he is not educated, the cops do not work for him …
The law poisoned Turing with his chemical castration, Turing couldn’t work, couldn’t think, couldn’t fuck, knew he had been destroyed. So he fed himself a cyanide laced apple. Poor bastard, RIP.
Decades later Britain actually apologized! But they still crippled intelligence, murder God: as do we.

Why does God allow this to continue? two millennia after Jesus? Obviously, God, whatever he is (or isn’t), is not what we’ve said he is!

Integrity Menu

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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