Sunday, November 25, 2012


From a website called
The modern Paleo-machines do not recognize borders; do not concern themselves with values and morality and do not philosophize about the meaning of it all, not yet that is. As in our own Paleo past the needs of the machines do not yet contain passions for individuation, desire for emotional recognition or indeed feelings of dismay or despair, uncontrollable urges or dreams of far worlds. 
I'm not sure "machine" is the right word, but "paleo" seems right to me.  We are at the dawn of something, but I think it is that we are paleo-humans.  I know I refer to computers as "machines" but I probably shouldn't.  They are really code managers which has nothing to do with cogs and wheels, just electromagnetic flickers.  They have not achieved the “emergent” mind quality of self-consciousness or a feeling of identity, much less a sense of how they feel emotionally.

I suggest there are two realms that a human body/brain knows:  one is the realm that is outside the body and only accessed through sensory information: five senses plus some more that don’t work through obvious organs.  The other is the realm INSIDE the body -- the autonomic nerve system plus circulating hormones plus brain and heart waves.  I haven't seen anything that really considered those three forces and how the brain knows about them, but it seems to me this is where the passion, individuation, desire for emotional recognition, feelings, urges and dreams exist.  This is where structures and patterns and assumptions dwell and sing to each other.

So I think there are two moralities, one in each of these two realms: that of the world outside our bodies, the one the cultures agree on because they are rules that seem to eliminate trouble in the ecology where they form and promote group survival.  Don’t eat this, don’t act that way, don’t hurt each other.  But then the situation changes and these rules become irrelevant in the way that Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigms describes.  The paradigm just doesn't work anymore -- the terms have changed.  Then the larger cultural morality shifts -- it can't help but shift since it’s function-based and the fundies and Talabanists can rage all they want.  As was pointed out in this election, there aren't enough angry old white men to form a majority anymore.

If as Roy Rappaport says the index to morality is survival, then the culture that has the most fitting morality will survive.  (It has nothing to do with power or ruthlessness, though in a specific situation they MIGHT mean survival.)  More and more of us are seeing that responsible sexuality, nonjudgmental values, support when times are bad, protection of all children, opportunities for all people -- these things are moral values that work towards the survival of the whole.  They are not the same as the values and rules that used to work in a more tribal, boundaried world where things didn’t change very quickly.

The other morality is that inside the realm of the body.  It is the one that indigenous people, maybe Buddhists or Taoists and people who have been forced into their own depths, recognize and consider.  It is a survival kind of morality and sometimes very generous towards others, because that helps us survive in ourselves -- to have people we love and protect, even if they are outside our skins.  We are connected to them through intimacy and empathy.  They have become part of us.  Sometimes we yearn to be inside them, to have them inside us -- maybe literally.

Our modern American world still values things like getting ahead, tolerating many boring and repetitious jobs, looking glamorous, accumulating prestige and so on.  These are all things that leave us numb inside, unable to feel what our inner morality tells us we need for personal survival.

When the morality of the outside realm conflicts or threatens the morality of the inside realm, it is terrifying.  One can be a horse who bucks and then runs, or one can be a bull who bucks so it can trample and gore. (I learned this from a rodeo cowboy.)  Or one can try to find strategic accommodations: seclusion, forming communities, working for change, pulling others into empathy with us through art or story.

There ARE stories about “machines” that become human:  Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit.  Mostly they hinge on accepting human values and being loved by humans.  This is what we wish to impose on outcaste and lost humans in order to redeem them.  It does not reflect what they want for themselves, which may be -- painfully -- to distance and even reject us.  They say,  “You only care about me as a way of comforting yourself!”  Are they right?  Sometimes.

The brain research people speculate that the next development in evolution will be more empathy and care for each other, so that our personal and social moralities will take these realities into consideration.  There has been recent research on empathy in rats, which seems to develop with the familiarity of being cage mates.  A clear plastic tube confines one rat while the other rat must experiment until it figures out how to hit the release catch.  The motivation is ONLY that the confined rat wants out.  But the free mate-rat persists.  When it succeeds, and the release swings open, it jumps on the newly released rat and licks it, evidently with joy.  If there is a second plastic tube containing chocolate treats, the rat ignores them until it has released the mate, then -- now being an experienced catch-opener -- it will not only get the chocolate out but offer some of it to the released mate.

This means that empathy and helping each other is PREVIOUS to human development, probably rooted in child-bearing and rearing as mammals do, functions that depend upon physical intimacy.  It’s easy to understand that it is a moral given that helps the survival of both the individual and the larger species.  But sometimes I think that we have created a society that forces us to make choices between the two, and that what may evolve is the kind of uncaring we associate with machines.  That may be the price of survival.

Some people want there to be a third realm that is above both outside and inside any human being: a kind of magic.  I don't, but I would not say there isn't any such thing.  Clearly there are a lot of things past human perception -- and morality.  We are only now realizing some of the damage we have done to the planet and begun forging a new morality to deal with it.  At its heart there is a tremor of fear that we have already surrendered our survival.  But it is hopeful that the realm outside our bodies has now reached into us, our internal realm of emotion, so that we “feel” it.  Now maybe we can dream, not of far worlds but of a new one here.

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