June 9th, 2011 § § permalink
The Mongols, famously, were not much interested in religious conformity. People who managed to avoid being massacred during the Mongol invasions were at least unlikely, subsequently, to be persecuted for their religious beliefs. What interested the Mongols was that holy men of all religions should both pray for the Khan (for there was no knowing who might have the best hotline to heaven), and, at least as important, provide the regime with access to their specialist skills. The Mongols were nothing if not pragmatists.
— David Morgan (?) in the TLS
[you hear this a lot. I do wonder how psychologically true it ever was]
December 6th, 2010 § § permalink
The therapist, the priest, the penpal, the stranger on a train. We always need some confessor who isn’t among our friends. Why? Because in order to respect our friends, we must believe that they will disapprove of some things — particularly, that they share something of our own set of morals. So when you’ve done something shameful, there’s no hope in telling your friends. Either they’ll lose respect for you, or (worse?) they’ll accept your failure, and so you’ll lose respect for them.
Just as Groucho wouldn’t join a club that would have him as a member, so — beyond a certain threshold of self-hatred — you can’t befriend somebody who would have you as a friend.
Here’s the role for the expendable not-quite friend, whatever medical, spiritual or social guise s/he may take. Here also is another reason why religions and mores usually have some system of penance and forgiveness — not just for patching up broken relationships, but because the /possibility/ of repair allows for openness.
November 21st, 2010 § § permalink
Is it true that neoliberalism and new forms of religious fundamentalism appeared simultaneously? If so, why? (cf. here)
August 16th, 2010 § § permalink
Just been to a RHPS showing. Remain somewhat astonished by how unknown it is in Berlin; it’s the kind of import you would expect to be overdeveloped here compared to its condition in country of origin. Not so.
Still, even here it has the makings of a secular ritual. The music, the comforting ritual, the morality almost as screwy as the Old Testament. Or maybe that’s just me
May 15th, 2010 § § permalink
While I’m on the subject of scholastics (I’ve just been listening to a lecture on the subject): had Ken Macleod been so minded, he could have found plenty o material in medieval theology to justify robot religion — perhaps starting with ideas of grace. In Aristotle’s conception, Grace is a form within the soul. That means it’s a shape, a pattern. The material in which it is embedded is irrelevant, just as a pot is a pot whether wooden or ceramic. Grace in silico would not be inferior to Grace in vivo**: robots would be as capable as humans of faith, hope and love.
* bear in mind, this entire concept remains somewhat new and alien to me; I’m almost certainly butchering some carefully-considered principle. In all honesty, I don’t much care.
** Doubtless you could concoct other arguments for robot inferiority, perhaps arguing that they weren’t created directly by good, and so are merely a shadow of a shadow of his Goodness. After all, Christians have plenty of experience justifying racism; justifying discrimination against machines would be an order of magnitude easier.