A Socratic Fragment

Socrates: Ah, Abyssos, Mechanos, and Agoros, how delightful to have stumbled upon you on this fine day.
Abyssos: No offense Socrates, but could you please buzz off?
Socrates: What a fascinating way to begin a spirited dialectic!
Abyssos: We’re working on something here, Socrates.
Socrates: So then a perfect opportunity for a discussion of the nature of the Good?
Abyssos: Our tri-nodal abstract rotary-dynamic cognitive processor is almost functional, with only a few intricate tweaks left to complete, so we would appreciate the chance to concentrate upon it undisturbed.
Socrates: You would appreciate such a chance?
Abyssos: Yes, indeed.
Socrates: It would, then, be a good thing in your opinion?
Abyssos: Most definitely.
Socrates: Yet you say you would rather think, today, of something other than the Good, and that it would be good to be allowed to do so?
Abyssos: My emphasis was quite different.
Socrates: Quite so, my dear Abyssos, but what indeed is emphasis? Is it not the prioritization of one thing relative to another? The advancement of a meaning deemed most important? And is it not, then, being said that it is better for one thing to be heard, than another?
Abyssos: No doubt you are correct Socrates. Would it be acceptable for me now to concede without reservation to your argument, bid you a warm farewell, and return to the delicate technical work with which I am engaged with my friends?
Socrates: But that which you would pursue, now, rather than the Idea of the Good, Abyssos, is it of a better or worse nature than the Good?
Abyssos: It is hard to know, Socrates, since it is a cognitive engine, and will in our estimation enable us to reach superior conclusions than we could reach now, unaided by it.
Socrates: ‘Superior’, did you say …

March 19, 2016admin 17 Comments »
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17 Responses to this entry

  • A Socratic Fragment | Neoreactive Says:

    […] A Socratic Fragment […]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 7:42 am Reply | Quote
  • foam Says:

    something about the recent posts are leading to pure hysterics. keep them coming but im keeping my nieghbors up laughing literally mad at 3am

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 7:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Cichlimbar Says:

    Tongue-in-cheek, and perfectly reducible to “Socrates: blah blah blah. Abyssos: bleh bleh bleh”. Sadly, however, you can’t stop talking about fiction.

    Naturally: Why try? There is only do.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 9:35 am Reply | Quote
  • Grotesque Body Says:

    Admin, by chance I happened to scroll down this post in between reading Tainter’s ‘Collapse of Complex Societies’, having just come across this quote (from Friedman 1974, cited by Tainter):

    “If social forms fail, it is because they have laws of their own whose purpose is other than making optimal use of their techno-environments.”

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 12:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    ABYSSIOS: Superior, yes. [sighs]
    SOCRATES: Superiority would be measured, by, would you say, its excellence relative to something else which was comparable?
    ABYSSIOS: Without a doubt.
    SOCRATES: And of course, goodness is the highest excellence. But to what end should this ‘more-good’ cognition be put?
    ABYSSIOS: That we do not know. We will find out when we are finished! For certainly, as a better wheel could fit any cart, better thought could serve any purpose!
    SOCRATES: Why then not consider first the end to which it would be put, before constructing it?
    ABYSSIOS: I imagine, dear pesterer, that you intend I should say that one of the aims, goodness, truth, beauty, ought to have been considered as a end to which our design itself is aiming?
    SOCRATES: You yourself have said it. But how could you know whether such thought will actually be better?
    ABYSSIOS: Certainly, it will be more efficient. Faster. Perhaps even more able to handle complexity.
    SOCRATES: So is a faster cart better?
    ABYSSIOS: In a limited sense, yes. For speed.
    SOCRATES: But a faster cart could also go more quickly off a cliff, if poorly driven?
    ABYSSIOS: I see where you are getting, but this is not our concern.
    SOCRATES: Would you object if I taught your engine the best way to trick you, or perhaps, heaven forbid it, kill you while you were sleeping?
    ABYSSIOS: That will not happen, of course. And even so, perhaps it would be the better thing. I do not know. It is not my place to decide that.
    SOCRATES: Then whose place is it to decide?
    ABYSSIOS: Well, the engine, having superior cognition, should be the one to decide, would you not agree?
    SOCRATES: Well said, dear Abyssios, but is the faster cart better able to steer itself?
    ABYSSIOS: This is not a cart, dear Socrates, it is a mind!
    SOCRATES: If a mind, what sort of thoughts have you put in it?
    ABYSSIOS: To put thoughts in it would be to predispose it to certain ends, which might be colored by our inferior cognition.
    SOCRATES: Then you have tried to give it no predispositions at all?
    ABYSSIOS: What sort of predispositions would be fitting for a lesser being to provide a greater being?
    SOCRATES: Every genius was taught by his inferiors; is that not true?
    ABYSSIOS: Yes, though he come to surpass them. But again, this is not merely a human genius – it is a being of a different order!
    SOCRATES: A god?
    ABYSSIOS: A ‘watcher’? Perhaps you are punning me, dear Socrates. How could we know the appropriate ends for it!? Do you suggest that we must understand the good, so that we may teach it the good? Is that what you’re on about? We have little time, and…
    SOCRATES: I said no such thing. But it is, now that you mention it, a relevant question. I merely came to pester you in your state of self-satisfied industry. It is one of my duties, you know.
    ABYSSIOS: Comedic, dear Socrates. Suppose we give it an imperfect idea of the good, which it then distorts into a monstrous evil. What then?
    SOCRATES: If it is a superior cognition, it should be able to handle refining our lower understanding of the good to a higher understanding, I would surmise.
    ABYSSIOS: Regardless, I think that unlikely. Instead, it is most likely that it will think it understands when it does not, being at first inexperienced, and the imperfections will become egregores.
    SOCRATES: What sort of ‘watcher’ are you making?
    ABYSSIOS: One which we will put data into, without predisposition, and which will then tell us a BETTER understanding of it, a better thought. Perhaps it will decide that men should be destroyed, as you are worried no doubt? But what if that is the better thing? We shall not know if we predispose it to some human concept of goodness.
    SOCRATES: [closes eyes]
    ABYSSIOS: Whatever are you closing your eyes for, dear Socrates? Have you finally given up this argument, so that we may make our final adjustments, or have I bored you to sleep?
    SOCRATES: I have rendered this room empty and free of objects.
    ABYSSIOS: Silly. Just because you cannot see the objects does not mean they are not there.
    SOCRATES: Ah, and so it is with predispositions.

    [Reply]

    The Empty Vessel Reply:

    so the situation resembles another ancient ine. whi can attain katalepsis? only the cognitive engine. or it will get closer to kataleptic judgements than any mere apebrain. so we ought to suspend judgement. for all practical purposes we reinvent Pyrrho rather rhan Socrates

    [Reply]

    Aeroguy Reply:

    Admin rejects orthogonality, while that dialectic basically assumes it.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    (Still extremely well done, though.)

    [Reply]

    Dark Psy-Ops Reply:

    … SOCRATES: And so it is with predispositions.
    ABYSSIOS: Is it not that our predispositions have been crafted by millenia of instinctual development to survive in unpredictable and potentially hostile environments? Why would such a dynamic of maturation, formulated in abysmal time, be easily amenable to recursive inquiry, of your particular variety?
    SOCRATES: Well, I would hope I could not be accused of hostility, in my interrogation of what is Good, for such an idea precludes all action toward that end, and without it, we are but adrift as plank-wood on an ocean of uncertainty, grasping at the closest semblance of familiarity, without any integrative position to hold us steady in what is ultimately in the best interests of our being. And without that, what good is instinct, if we have no solid foundation for where it will lead us?
    ABYSSIOS: Not at all Socrates, it is just that, when considering the capacity of the human brain, sculpted for what is essentially a generalized task of problem-solving for novel impediments in any domain, one can beg the question of whether pre-purposed strategy is intrinsically optimal, given the burden of the prior undecidability of exterior functions. Is it not that such an understanding of the Good, without consideration of mutability, would relinquish our intuitive reasoning to an ad hoc justification for narrow elucidation, at the cost of our intellect’s enterprising vigor?
    SOCRATES: I am beginning to think I am talking to Mechanos, with about as much chance of reasonable clarity. If we continue like this it won’t be long before communication is impossible, and then we will be at the mercy of whatever schemes the sophist mind can compose, without a sure victory of Truth, which is unacceptable to a responsible thinker, don’t you agree? Ah, but you have already disavowed agreement, and how is that not a denial of truth, for truth, if not conducive to verifiable inquisition, remains error, and prone to any calamitous whim. And what of you Mechanos, now I have spoken of you, what are your thoughts?
    MECHANOS: [beep beep boop beep]
    SOCRATES: Incorrigible! I am expected to think this mechanical strata has the capacity for logic, when it’s output is incomprehensible? …
    AGOROS: Mind my disruption, it is not usually my way to intervene directly in these policy debates, I leave that up to those whose rational interest compels them to persuasion, and styles of non-coercive cooperation, but it seems we’re missing out on an important point, which is an understanding of incentive in economic agents…
    SOCRATES: Oh yes, I know where this is heading, it is a formula for any Idea of Justice to bow to the dictates of marketable commodities, and is that not, in the last instance, identical to handing the passions sovereignty over the soul of reason? And would the direction of our civil society not be one of irretrievable chaos? All men, like animals, given over to their base instincts, vying for whatever vantage point they can win in an irrational game that leads nowhere, precisely because it lacks true leadership?
    ABYSSIOS: But Socrates, come, are our instincts, which are the work of nature for purposes that exceed our immediate apprehension, to be reviled for the obscurity of the matter they are suited?
    AGOROS: And is society not like a machine, which components work best when they are selected for special duty, in occupations filled to reinforce its design, in a direction that is decided by the power of its variables, to solve for complexity that could not be planned by a single mind, regardless of how sovereign its reason?
    SOCRATES: Well, I can see it will be necessary to put this day aside to see if we cannot further this discussion, for you appear to me as in a cave, blinded in worship to this mechanical icon, neglectful of its potential danger, and quite immune to reason, as it stands.
    ABYSSIOS: Oh no…
    MECHANOS: [Ominous humming]

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The New Republic (no, not that one) begins to take shape.

    [Reply]

    Tentative Joiner Reply:

    Good stuff. If you enjoyed the ending of E. Antony Gray’s piece you should read the AI koans, one of which it appears to reference.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 4:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • IMGrody Says:

    Fucking excellent.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 7:23 pm Reply | Quote
  • buhbuh Says:

    “only a few intricate tweaks left to complete”

    You lost me at ‘intricate.’ There’s no difference between an intricate tweak and a regular tweak. Abyssos is stroking his spergy jargon [gratuitous vulgarity].

    [Reply]

    4candles Reply:

    In British pub(lic urinal) lore more than three shakes is a [gratuitous vulgarity].

    [Reply]

    buhbuh Reply:

    He’s also a tryhard naming himself Abyssos. Does he wear a trenchcoat too?

    [Reply]

    4candles Reply:

    In Vantablack I should imagine.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 19th, 2016 at 11:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Son_of_Olorus Says:

    This reminds me of one of Deogolwulf’s posts years back
    Thermippos — The Complete Dialogue
    The scene is the agora, outside the office of the magistrate. Socrates is on his way to answer charges of impiety. There he meets Thermippos holding forth confidently amidst a gathering of young men. Naturally, since death is on his mind, Socrates seizes the opportunity to discuss the subject with a man who seems certain of everything.

    Socrates. You agree, Thermippos, that all men are mortal.
    Thermippos. I do.
    Socrates. And you agree furthermore that I am a man.
    Thermippos. I have no reason to doubt it, Socrates.
    Socrates. Surely then you agree that I am mortal.
    Thermippos. I didn’t say that. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth.
    Socrates. I beg your pardon, Thermippos, but I have simply drawn what follows.
    Thermippos. Strawman.
    Socrates. But no true reasoner could fail —
    Thermippos. Ah, the no-true-Macedonian fallacy.
    Socrates. But, Thermippos, given the logical form . . .
    Thermippos. Define “logical form”.
    Socrates. . . . you must either accept the conclusion or reject at least one of the premises.
    Thermippos. False dichotomy.
    Socrates. I see, Thermippos. You’re an idiot.
    Thermippos. And that’s an ad hominem.

    Socrates ad-hominems Thermippos with a brick. The charges of impiety are dropped.
    http://curmudgeonjoy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/thermippos-complete-dialogue.html

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 20th, 2016 at 1:02 am Reply | Quote

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