Hubris

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society & Its Pathologies / Social Survival / Culture /
@ K. 2004 04 19

In the 1970s I was visiting Phil, my great army buddy. He’s the one who had suggested that we go to graduate school once we were free again so we could teach in a small college somewhere, find some special students and “make them really hip.” We both went to graduate school, we both taught in small colleges, but we never did it together. Phil had drifted into computers, then into programming. On this visit he was showing me his Commodore 64 and an AI program he was working on. The monitor challenged me to think of an animal: it would then try to guess my choice. I don’t push well into things, but this was Phil: I tried to cooperate. So I thought “mongoose”: perhaps “raccoon”: something. The monitor blanks for a beat, then prints: “squirrel. Want to try again?” I pressed Y for “yes”: squirrel wasn’t the right answer. “Dog,” it said.

I was trying to figure out how to communicate with this thing. Phil intervened. “It thinks it got it right,” Phil said. “It’s now guessing your second choice.
“Don’t worry,” he added. “It’s not very sophisticated yet.”

commodore 64
thanx oldcomputers

Not very sophisticated? I am sure that whatever Phil was doing, it was very brilliant: except in the result.

The program was wrong; but the program thought it was right! Stupid. And smug too.
(I don’t mean the programmer; I mean the program, at that point.)

Hubris is a Greek concept shoved at students (such as Phil and I had been). What’s wrong with the protagonist in the ancient Greek tragedy? Hubris. Pride of a sort: unjustified. We think we’re the cat’s pajamas when the gods have other plans for us, and quite other  views.

The Greeks concentrated on hubris in individuals whose essence as well as actions have consequences for the whole society: kings, for example. (That reminds me that I must create a module to weld that latter point to those made in my Tragedy, and to merge both into a consideration of quantum differences.) What kings used to be believed to be cannot easily be explained to contemporaries. Like Phil’s program, we think we’ve got it right. Like the tragic hero, we think we know what’s what.

And, like the tragic hero, even though we are not kings, our errors have consequences we barely know the beginnings of yet.

Americans don’t have kings, but we sure do have institutions: burning the candle at both ends while exploiting the middle. And institutions are as hubris raddled as any king ever was. They think they’re right. They think they’re legitimate. The magician, who ought to know full well how many phony props he uses, elevated by an institution, may believe his own hocuspocus. This Bush seems to think he was (ahem) elected. note

It is told how Jesus asked God to forgive those crucifying him: because they didn’t know what they were doing. Those who don’t know what they’re doing should not advance as far as the stone age: even stone can cause too much trouble. They absolutely should not be able to fill the world with plastic, napalm jungle … or sit in judgment on those who arguments they are too turbid to follow.

I’ll add plenty more after I go do something else: especially about institutions.

Notes

Elected:

And even if he was elected, where did humans ever get the idea that even a unannymous election could justify dropping bombs on things?
(2013 08 15 There’s no connection between majority and gravity: gravity is invariant: and homeostasis too: it doesn’t matter whether people know they’re being human: they are human, all the time.
Institutions convince themselves, and us, that they’re outside the truth of things. No: the Jesus gets crucified: by people who don’t know they’re doing the same-old.
Kafka’s The Trial asks K if he’s “guilty”: he says “I’m innocent.” Of what? No charges have been specified!
I live with no one having understood my Shakespeare thesis, with no one having understood my internet of 1970. It’s hardest of all that no one has understood my take on Homeostasis.
So funny to remember visiting Phil working on AI in the 1970s. We were in touch in 1970 when I presented FLEX to the public: assemble public databases (where the data is volunteered) on main frames, distribute the data to whoever wants it, no regulation, pay for it by voluntary taxation, self-taxation. I’ve reminded Phil of it, little hints. To this day he hasn’t indicated one iota of understanding. And if he had, he’d be the only one.) (Do I have anything interesting to say about his AI guessing game? Only what I say here.)

If human beings still lived in the Wood Age — worst they could do is poke you with a stick, I wouldn’t care what we could or couldn’t justify. With nukes, I don’t see how we can justify anything.

Commodore 64
By the mid-1980s, half-way into writing my first novel, I was fortunate enough to have been loaned a Commodore 64 by my brother-in-law. What an adventure!

Culture

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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