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Michael Hopcroft

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    Michael P. Hopcroft
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    RPG Writer

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  1. (Moderator's note: Merged new thread with a similar thread. - sNerd) Being a person who was at one point diagnosed with a severe disability and as a result lost both the ability to support myself and (in part because of the way my treatment was conducted) the ability to gain the ability support myself (in other words, I am both too old and too impatient to gain the social and job skills needed to survivie in the workplace), I frequently find myself dealing with the question of why I perosnally still live and whether it is just that I do so. A part of me has long held the belief that it was justifiable to remove persons like myself from society through euthanasia, outrigth execution, or simply allowing them to die naturally from not being allowed to obtain the neccesities of survivial. For a long time I erroneously considered with an Objectivist belief. It has been explained to me that at least most Objectivists do not believe this. (I wonder whether Rand did, but she had her own issues -- it's easy to label the bulk of humanity as bloodthirsty savages after being on the losing side of a blood-soaked revolution). Now there is a strain of Social Darwinism which says that death is an acceptable consequence of personal failure. Which brings me to a pair of related questions, both of which have the potential to sound extremely insulting so I ask your forgiveness in advance if they appear so. 1. If it is indeed possible to determine the value of everything in the Universe by some rational standard, including human beings, what is a reasonable thing to do in relation to human beings whose achievements, qualities or talents do not meed a reasonable standard that is acceptable for them to interact with other human beings? 2. If intervention by outside forces on behalf of a person who is having problems of their own making is almost always wrong (which seems at least implied because most of the agencies in society which do so -- governmewnts and churches in particular -- do so for decpetive and immoral reasons) and the person is for whatever reason incpaable of "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" (they do not have access to useful resources, their physical mental or emotional problems are too severe, etc.), what choices do they have (assuming that extreme measures such as suicide are taken off the table by definition) in trying to recover some sort of decent life for themselves?
  2. I do not agree with the assertion that the physical nature of an AI preculdes it from being either intelligent or alive. After all, our brains work through electric and chemical reactions, and yet they still produce independnet thought. If a machine does, in fact, become capable of true intelligence and indpendent thought, there is no reason to believe it should not be granted the rights and responsibiltiies of any sentient being. My intial thesis has not been disproven, and probably cannot be totally disporved until someone actually attempts to create a true artificial intelligence.
  3. But who would benefit sufficiently to justify the expesne required to somehow "harness" what so far has seemed more a theoretical construct than anything we've been able tof ind. (We've found evidence that strongly suggests that black holes exists, but I don't know if the same has been said for wormholes.) Research may be fine for its own sake, but action is another matter. Wormhole manipulation is so expensive that there would have to an enormous reward for completing it to justify the effort. In other words, there has to be something in it for somebody other than the simple thought of "It's there, let's see what it is."
  4. Where am I making that assertion? Much of what we think about the social effects of things like human cloning and artifical minds are inherently speculative. I am merely basiing my speculations on two things: the currently knwon science as I understand it and the speculations of the writers and artists with whose work I am familiar. I am certainly open to an alternative explanation, but it would be nice if you could actually offer one rather than simply shooting down this one. I merely mention ideas. Do with them what you will.
  5. This is an odd place to ask the question "who needs philosophy?". I have troublre with the idea that deliberate ignroamnce on any subject is a good thing. Even someone who is home-schooled, apprenticed or trained by some other means can benefit from the sort of training that makes one more capable of rational thought and understanding. There is also the additioanl complciationt hat adolescents, almost by definition, have no idea what they want to do with their lives, and that an indivudla make take on several professions or avocations over the course of a lifetime. So, whatever the means by which the knowledge is provided, soem degree of education si good for everyone if they wish to meet their potential as human beings. This opens up the question of whether a 14-year-old kid can ever really know what he really wants to do with the rest of his life. The other implication of your statement is that the society we live in is so utterly irrelevant to our lives that it is not neccesary to learn what is required to participate in it. if you were accused of a crime, would you want people on your jury that had never been taught the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"?
  6. Sort of. She can use artificial insemination to become pregannt without direct contact with a man. A man is still needed to supply the sperm, however. if human cloning ever becomes reliable it opens up the possibility of completely asexual reporduction of the human species. And if ti becomes common or a norm, the role of the male in the world could be greatly reduced or even eliminated. (And, since clones are almost always female, the proportion of males in the population could also decline.)
  7. Even if we do not yet have that capacity (mainly because our understanding of the process that we call thought is still extremely limited), it is still fair to ask the question because fifty, a hundred or two hundred years from now the capacity might well exist. When it does, we will have the prospect of a set of artifically-generated minds interacting with naturally-created human minds. Many science fiction writers (who are, in a sense, writing more about tehoetical philosphy than about science) have postulated concepts like "downloading" a mind from a biological from (a human brain) into a computer or computer network, transferring an intact human or other mind from one body to another, etc. An entire genre called "transhumanism" has emerged that deals with these issues, which is seen in RPGs like Transhuman Space and Ex Machina and in films like Ghost in the Shell and its sequels GITS 2: innocence and the Tv series GITS: Stand Alone Complex. Stories like this frequently find themsevles dealing with what the ability to transfer, preserve, and erase consciousness means to the concepts of life, idendity, and gender. (How does it change a mind to go from a male body to a female or neuter body?) So even though we do not yet have that capacity, there is a lot of literature on the social and ethical implications that capacity would generate once it exists. It's just like FTl and time travel; they don't exist now, and the science we understand now indicates they never will, but there is a lot of speculations on what those technologies would mean to the humans and others that use them.
  8. I admit to being intrigued by the idea. My financial situation is such that i cannot afford the $300 fee for a custom essay, which would porbably be potentially very valuable. the state may have kept me alive, but they also keep me perpetually broke. I only get approximatelt $540 per month, of which all but $200 goes for rent and most fo the remainder goes to such other bills as my Internet access. Given my income, even if I can make Dr. hurd aware of my situation, I cannot afford the fees he would porbably charge, and I am hardly in a position to ask him to charge me less than the going rate.
  9. Bill Gates, in a column carried today in The Oregonian, has urged a unviersal high school cirriculum that prepares all students for higher education. Sveeral poltical figures, including Oregon governor ted Kulongoski, have endorsed the idea. Gtes contents that the roughly 30% droput rate indicates that high school has become irrelevant to many pupils, and that it would improve if students were challenegd more. His basic contention is that people who are not rady to advance to college should not be awareded high school diplomas. The heart of Gates' contention is that the economy has evolved to the point that it is impossible for anyone without a college education to earn what most of us would cosndier a decent living. This in spite of the fact that gates himself never did complete his bachelor's degree, and yet is the richest human being on the planet. The thing is, there are numerous essential tasks in any technolgocial society for which colege is poor preparation. And many college programs are in fields that are utterly useless in the real world -- why are the liberal arts even taught anymore? If education is intended to be the engine of preparing the next generation of workers, then anything that does not lead towards that goal would be wasted effort. perhaps it is college itself that is becoming obsolete....
  10. I have yet to see "A beautiful Mind". I think my intelligence might actually get in the way of the sort of work that my lack of a degree qualifies me for. It's hard to be a janitor when you're always tempted to read the books or magazines in the room you're cleaning. The few jobs I have been able to hold for any length of time have been numbing, dead-end positions whose only real function was to generate a paycheck. In my current situation, I ahve free time to pursue my real craft, but at the same time I am not doing what i feel i need to do to ethically maintain myself. I want a job, but I want a job that I can hold onto and one that I can actually enjoy doing and take pride in. Unfortunately, in this economy that may be far too much to ask.
  11. Would a machien that is capable of original, rational thought and independnet action be alive even though it is not biological in origin? Many science fiction authors have been dealing with this question, in one form or another, for over sixty years. And the concept of "man-made" life goes even father back, to Mary Shelley and to the legends surrounding golems.
  12. True. I think even we are in agreement that surpporting a person who does not work is not one of those functions. At least a soldier DOES something to earn his pay. All I do (aside from my writing, which is utterly independent of my icnome from the state) is seek treatemtn, take the medications I am perscribed, and try to get through each day. I would think that were a corporation or other employer to give me a similar amoutn fo monye, they woudl want something more than that in return. I cannot tell whether my depression counts as mere neurosis or as psychosis. Depends on how you define the terms, which have never really come up in my treatment. My biggest problem, as far as the exercise of sound judgment is concerned, is that I often find myself having throughts and thought patterns that are intrusive, and often unspeakably evil. I consider those thoughts at least somewhat psychotic, as they are divorced both from reality and from what I would cosndier my "genuine" beliefs. The question then becomes whether I actually have genuine beliefs or whether those too are delusional. I do take medication. It doesn't seem to affect my thoguht that much or prevent the intrusions of what i consider "the dark side" of my nature. Their main functions eems to be keeping me somewhat physically stable and enabling me to sleep. I sometimes think my sole function in society's eyes is as a conduit between the pharmecutical industry and the taxpayers. The problem is that the traditional ways of earning a lviing are pretty much closed off to me because my illness interferes. If theer were a reasonable, ethical way I could earn the funds I need to live a decent lfie without the help of the government, I would do it. what the fact that i cannot says about me, though, I don't like. My ability to pull myself up by my bootstraps is hampered by a deep-seated belief inmy own lack of value, based on the years I have spent on esseintally the fringes of the world. I am a writer, a trade that has a notriously difficult time earning one's keep, especially at the beginning, and I have been at it for two decades. I'm not even close to earning a decent living with my work. On that level, I consider my current status to be that of a failure. I sere your point. As an artist, how my work is viewed by others is very important to me, in short because if others do not like it they will not buy copies and I will not be compensated for my efforts. At the same time, I do feel that there is some minimum standard of achievement or, at the very least, self-sufficiency that a person must be able to meet to justify their presence in this world. it may not be a strictly Objectivist view, but it resonates with me. I feel I must rpove that I am a worthy indivudal, if only to myself, and so far I have not met my own expectations for myself. Admittedly, it was not my desire to be depressed or to be on a pension. when i was intitally diagnosed I was preparing for a career in academia or the arts. That did not happen. Still, I am not totally convinced that my depression is not a character flaw rather than a disease. if it is a disease, then yes I should treat it and yes getting aid in doign so is somewhat acceptable (we do not lvie in an ideal world, after all, and people do have to pay taxes). if, on the other hand, it is something that I SHOULD be able to hold a job through and I am merely lazy ro incomtetent, then I desrve nothing. The big, bad world doesn't owe me a thing, to quote Don Henley. So the heart of the question si wheether I personally have the power to reach a poitn where I no longer need assistance. If I do have that power, then I should be doing everything I can to reach that point, for my own benefit and peace of mind if nothing else. I would feel a great deal less guilt and anxiety about drawing a paycheck than I would about drawing SSI and SSD benefits. I mostly write role-playing material these days, a not very lucrative field but one I enjoy. But what would I say in such an editorial, given how conflicted I am about the nature of my disability? <Edited by Elle to fix the quote boxes.>
  13. A related question: if somene creates a piece of software or sets up a compouter netowrk that enables copyright infringement, even if they do not indulge in it directyl themselves, are they morally responsbile for the infringment? example: A gentleman whose name I forget developed a piece of sfotware called Bittorrent. It is a file sharing application under which the user is dwonlaoding and uploading a file from the Internet simultaneously. Although tis creator claims there are legitimate uses for the software, about 85%-90% of the users of the software use it to exchange and download copies of copyrighted material. Without limiting the responsbility of the poeple who indlulge in the practice, does the creator of the tool that allows it to happen ebar some responsbility for the infringment of copyrights that his software enables?
  14. I'm not that well-off now as far as economic circumstances goes, so I couldn't really give a good answer to the question of how I would "bootstrap" myself up from nothing. One thing I can say is that there a lot of things on the streets that will derail any attempt faster than anything. It would be imperaitive to avoid alcohol, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, or anything else that could cause impaired judgment. The result of not doing so would be an extremely rapid downward spiral. If I had no money, no resoucres, no skills and no education, if I were of the right age, and if I did not have any signficant physical or mental impairments, I would frist try to enlist in the military. Although the service is dangerous by its very nature, they do feed and clothe their troops, give them some sort of rude\imntary training, etc. One my the great regerts of my life is that a physical impariment cut off my military service a few weeks into basic training -- I feel I would be a much better and more secure person today if I had been able to complete at least one term of service. Even without a home base, it should be possible to do some sort of work (again, this assumes that there is no major impariment preventing this). I don't know if this ever happens anymore, but in the old days many small businesses would employ people who, despite being 'down and out", had potential and abilioty, and would feed and house them in addition to paying a minimal wage. Although the worker would essentially be sleeping in a little room in the back of the store, at least he would have a roof over his head. The important thing, I think, is to hold onto your wits and judgment at all costs. A person who acts without concern for the consequences is not going to help himself.
  15. I wish I had a link to point to -- maybe someone who is in Oregon can find one. Newlty elected Portland, OR mayor Tom Potter has made one of the priorities of his administration the abolition of homelessness in Portland. Right now anywhjere from 2,5000 to 5,000 people in the Portland area are believed to be homeless. Potter wants to see that eliminated in ten years, mainly by trying to see to it that, if all possible, everyone who needs housing gets it. He has not annoucned the details of the plan, obviously, but he has made aboloishing homelessness a major policy goal. Two questions from this: 1. Is there a good way to deal with homelessness and the problems that spring from homelessness? 2. Is eliminating homelessness in a city the size of Portland even THEORETICALLY posslbe/ Is it even desirable?
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