Behaviour, not form, defines a person

May 18, 2018

Within a decade or two we will need criteria to determine if an artificial intelligence has achieved consciousness. (I take consciousness without consciousness of self to be impossible). The criteria will have to be consistent and applicable both to life forms and to non-living entities. Within a few more decades, and certainly within one hundred years I think, we will need to be able to determine if an autonomous, intelligent, conscious entity meets the requirements for person-hood. At the same time it will become necessary to create criteria for judging what constitutes a person and what is meant by “mankind” (or person-kind).

Our use of the concept of “mankind” or “humanity”  or “humankind” is both concrete and abstract. It is used variously to mean:

  1. the 7+billion people alive today,
  2. the 110 billion modern humans who have ever lived (starting arbitrarily from about 200,000 years ago),
  3. all the people who have ever lived and all their works and all their dreams,
  4. an abstract vision of those who exhibit some ideal behaviour.

My own view is that it is behaviour which determines. To look like a human or to have the physical form of a human is not enough. It is the exhibition of “human behaviour” which determines who qualifies to be a human. “Mankind” or “humanity” or “personkind” then consists of those who exhibit or have exhibited and met some standard of human behaviour.  It also follows that any intelligent, autonomous, conscious creature or entity which exhibits these qualifying standards of behaviour is then a member of “mankind” (or of person-kind if language needs a new word). Genetics would then be involved only insofar as genetics determines behaviour.

“Human rights” as used today is a false concept precisely because it is divorced from behaviour. It is ethically and logically unsupportable. It is focused on the physical form of “being human” and not on the behaviour which makes a human. As used today, “human rights” is about form rather than substance, and about sanctimony rather than reality. When being a person is defined in terms of behaviour it then follows, naturally, logically and inevitably, that privileges for a person are also determined by behaviour.


It would then be perfectly logical to consider the privileges of personhood to be enjoyed by every entity qualifying as a person. And then it would not be necessary to consider privileges for members of IS or MS13 or Anders Behring Breivik or for an Adolf Hitler when he next appears.


 

 

Advertisements

Skin colour is written in your DNA

May 14, 2018

There have been taboos in science about studying race and genetics and race and intelligence and genetics and behaviour, among many other “forbidden subjects”. It has been particularly incorrect to study race and intelligence, even though it might seem obvious that race (as a clustering of visible physical attributes) is genetic and that intelligence is partially hereditary and must also have a large genetic component. It has not been  politically correct to study the link between genetics and behaviour especially if the genetics can then be linked to race. Studies concerning the impact of crime and DNA have been deemed taboo.

image IUPUI

But some of these taboos are breaking down. A new tool can accurately use DNA markers to predict skin colour, eye colour and hair colour.

Lakshmi Chaitanya, Krystal Breslin, Sofia Zuñiga, Laura Wirken, Ewelina Pośpiech, Magdalena Kukla-Bartoszek, Titia Sijen, Peter de Knijff, Fan Liu, Wojciech Branicki, Manfred Kayser, Susan Walsh. The HIrisPlex-S system for eye, hair and skin colour prediction from DNA: Introduction and forensic developmental validationForensic Science International: Genetics, 2018; 35: 123 DOI: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.04.004

Science Daily writes:

An international team, led by scientists from the School of Science at IUPUI and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands, has developed a novel tool to accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from human biological material — even a small DNA sample — left, for example, at a crime scene or obtained from archeological remains. This all-in-one pigmentation profile tool provides a physical description of the person in a way that has not previously been possible by generating all three pigment traits together using a freely available webtool.

The tool is designed to be used when standard forensic DNA profiling is not helpful because no reference DNA exists against which to compare the evidence sample.

The HIrisPlex-S DNA test system is capable of simultaneously predicting eye, hair and skin color phenotypes from DNA. Users, such as law enforcement officials or anthropologists, can enter relevant data using a laboratory DNA analysis tool, and the webtool will predict the pigment profile of the DNA donor.

“We have previously provided law enforcement and anthropologists with DNA tools for eye color and for combined eye and hair color, but skin color has been more difficult,” said forensic geneticist Susan Walsh from IUPUI, who co-directed the study. “Importantly, we are directly predicting actual skin color divided into five subtypes — very pale, pale, intermediate, dark and dark to black — using DNA markers from the genes that determine an individual’s skin coloration. This is not the same as identifying genetic ancestry. You might say it’s more similar to specifying a paint color in a hardware store rather than denoting race or ethnicity.

“If anyone asks an eyewitness what they saw, the majority of time they mention hair color and skin color. What we are doing is using genetics to take an objective look at what they saw,” Walsh said.

The innovative high-probability and high-accuracy complete pigmentation profile webtool is available online without charge.

The study, “HIrisPlex-S System for Eye, Hair and Skin Colour Prediction from DNA: Introduction and Forensic Developmental Validation,” is published in the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science International: Genetics.

“With our new HIrisPlex-S system, for the first time, forensic geneticists and genetic anthropologists are able to simultaneously generate eye, hair and skin color information from a DNA sample, including DNA of the low quality and quantity often found in forensic casework and anthropological studies,” said Manfred Kayser of Erasmus MC, co-leader of the study.


 

Political parties name themselves for how they wish to be perceived

May 8, 2018

Political parties adopt names according to how they wish to be perceived and because they actually are something else.

No political party wishes to be perceived as it actually is.

democracy – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

republic – a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.


 

Writing nonsense is hard (but writing rubbish is easy)

May 5, 2018

It is not easy to write nonsense which just hovers on the edge of being comprehensible – but is not. Writing rubbish is easy and examples can be seen every day.

But real nonsense is not so common.

Wikipedia: Gibberish, light verse, fantasy, and jokes and riddles are sometimes mistaken for literary nonsense, and the confusion is greater because nonsense can sometimes inhabit these (and many other) forms and genres. Pure gibberish, as in the “hey diddle diddle” of nursery rhyme, is a device of nonsense, but it does not make a text, overall, literary nonsense. If there is not significant sense to balance out such devices, then the text dissolves into literal (as opposed to literary) nonsense.

Light verse, which is generally speaking humorous verse meant to entertain, may share humor, inconsequentiality, and playfulness, with nonsense, but it usually has a clear point or joke, and does not have the requisite tension between meaning and lack of meaning. Nonsense is distinct from fantasy, though there are sometimes resemblances between them. While nonsense may employ the strange creatures, other worldly situations, magic, and talking animals of fantasy, these supernatural phenomena are not nonsensical if they have a discernible logic supporting their existence.

Edward Lear is among my favourites and his Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo living on the Coast of Coromandel is just genius. (Madras Day, the Coromandel coast and the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo). The Dong is not so far behind.

From The Dong with the Luminous Nose:

Long years ago
The Dong was happy and gay,
Till he fell in love with a Jumbly Girl
Who came to those shores one day.
For the Jumblies came in a sieve, they did, —
Landing at eve near the Zemmery Fidd
Where the Oblong Oysters grow,
And the rocks are smooth and gray.
And all the woods and the valleys rang
With the Chorus they daily and nightly sang, —
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and the hands are blue
And they went to sea in a sieve.

 

The earth may be spherical but the universe is (largely) flat

May 1, 2018

The earth’s orbital plane is not quite flat. The ecliptic is currently reducing by about 1.4 degrees over 100,000 years.


 

Swedish Academy is wallowing in the gutter – of its own volition

April 28, 2018

It would be a travesty if a Literature Nobel was awarded this year. It would a greater travesty if any of the present members of the Swedish Academy are allowed to remain in their posts. The Nobel brand is being tarnished by the Academy. It is time for the Nobel Foundation to put its foot down – and very heavily.

Svenska Dagbladet writes (with spelling errors corrected):

The man at the centre of the Nobel scandal is being accused of having harrassed Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Three people have told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that they witnessed Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure, touching the Crown Princess on her behind at an event in Stockholm.

The Swedish Academy, which has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901, is embroiled in the worst scandal since it was founded more than two centuries ago.

At the centre of the scandal is 71-year-old Jean-Claude Arnault – a French native who has close ties to the academy since he’s married to one of its lifelong members, and a close friend of the man who used to head the academy.

Inspired by the #metoo movement eighteen women last year accused Mr. Arnault of having sexually assaulted and harassed them. Some of the events allegedly took place at properties owned by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm and in Paris.

Other incidents allegedly happened at a prestigious private cultural club that Mr. Arnault ran together with his wife, Katarina Frostenson, who is one of Sweden’s most famous poets.

Mr. Arnault has also been accused of leaking the names of Noble prize winners. He and his wife have also been criticized for receiving money from the academy for their club’s activities.

Svenska Dagbladet can now reveal that three people within or with close ties to the academy have witnessed how Mr. Arnault sexually harassed Crown Princess Victoria by putting his hand on her behind. The incident allegedly took place at a gathering at the academy’s villa Bergsgården on the picturesque island of Djurgården in central Stockholm.

Additionally, according to two independent sources, the former head of the academy, Horace Engdahl, was told to “take measures” to make sure that the Crown Princess and Mr. Arnault did not end up “alone together” at the reception following a formal gathering of the academy in late 2006.

Horace Engdahl who seems to have been one of the staunchest protectors of Arnault has much to answer for.


 

The flow of time precedes causality

April 26, 2018

All origins, all beginnings presuppose the existence of a flow of time. Our imagination, our language and our thought are incapable of conceiving the non-existence of a beginning. We cannot conceive of anything in the world where a non-beginning is not also a non-existence. If it exists it must have had a beginning. There is no branch of science or field of study or area of thought which is not based on causality. We perceive the world around us through the eyes of causality. We perceive what is and look for what caused what is. We do not question that what is must have had a cause. We do not question either that what will be, will be caused by and follow what is. But causality pre-supposes the existence of a flow of time.

But there is no philosophy or theology or science which can explain

  1. what time is, and
  2. what causes time to flow

One could say that it is the existence of the flow of time which brings about causality. Causality is itself caused by time.

“Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God). That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?” ’ That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.”  Bertrand Russel – 1927

Time, or space-time nowadays, is sometimes considered as a river. The analogy with fluid flow does not help greatly and only raises further questions. Fluids flow (over time and space) as a causal consequence of forces and energies which are not in balance and which seek balance. Fluids flow from a higher pressure to a lower (in a gas pipeline), from a higher level of potential energy to a lower (in a river) or by being physically forced from one location to another (in a pump or a compressor). In the fluid analogy it is particles of the the fluid which are transported over space and time.

If the flow of time is a river then what exactly is being transported? What then is the imbalance, and in what property or state which causes the transportation of the magical thing called time? Rather than addressing the First Cause, perhaps we should be addressing the First Questions.

What is time? and Why does it flow?

The existence of time precedes beginnings. The flow of time precedes causality. The problem of course is that without time, beginning and precede are undefined.


 

Nobel Foundation may cancel 2018 literature prize

April 25, 2018

The Nobel Foundation has assigned the Swedish Academy the job of choosing the annual winner of the Literature Nobel Prize. However Horace Engdahl and his ilk have brought the Academy into such disrepute that the Nobel Foundation may find it necessary to distance themselves from the Academy and protect the Nobel brand.

Swedish Radio: 

This year’s award of the Nobel Prize in Literature may be postponed after the crisis in the Swedish Academy.

“We are working on it right now. We will return to the question. You will be notified soon” said permanent secretary Anders Olsson.

The storm around the Swedish Academy continues, and may affect the award of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. According to Kulturnytt’s information, there are some within the committee in the Swedish Academy, which chooses the Nobel Prize winner, and the , who believe that the prize can not or should not be awarded this year.

If this Academy chooses, any prize winner would be horribly tainted.

The problem is that those within the Academy who have fatally tarnished it, don’t get it and are in denial. They do not even see what they have done.

The Nobel Foundation needs to cancel this year’s award and to lay down the rules for any newly constituted Academy to choose a winner.

Horace Engdahl and co. have brought the Academy into disrepute (image TT)


 

Will “Americans” and “Europeans” ever become identifiable races?

April 25, 2018

Race is real and not just an imagined construct of modern times. Even two thousand years ago (about 100 generations) races were recognised and used as a classification. They were somewhat different to those recognised today – but not so very different. In the main, racial attribution followed known or assumed tribal affiliations and visible physical characteristics. Even in Roman times, members of the Celtic tribes and the Germanic tribes and Egyptians and Greeks and Africans were all depicted as differing in physical characteristics and of being of different races. Whether among the various European tribes or the 12 tribes of Israel or the castes established in India, parentage and ancestry manifested as visible, physical characteristics were – and still are – used in race classifications. It is virtually certain that the races that existed 2,000 years before the heyday of the Roman Empire were different again. If 5,000 years ago the Harappans were a race, their genes are now spread all over the sub-continent and they are are no longer identifiable.

Though classification of a race is by the visible attributes it is inevitable that they are accompanied by non-visible attributes. The non-visible attributes may show up as the ability to tolerate high altitude, or the aptitude for long distance running, or for sprinting, or for diving. They may include resistance to some diseases and a propensity for others. The non-visible attributes could include any characteristic dependant upon genetics. And even if politically incorrect to say so, it could include the genetic components of intelligence. Insofar as behaviour is determined genetically, a race may have characteristic behaviours.

  1. Race is a system of classification of humans by clustering their visible, physical attributes. The classification is real but is not static. It is dynamic in that the clustering may change over long time periods (hundreds of generations) as mixing or non-mixing between the clusters occurs. (One hundred generations would need about 2,000 years).
  2. Visible physical attributes are primarily determined by parentage and thus by ancestry and thus by genetics.
  3. Racial classification is therefore a genetic classification but sorted by visible characteristics.
  4. Differences in the visible attributes between clusters are emphasised when the clusters are genetically isolated from each other. Geographic isolation contributes but the critical point is genetic isolation.
  5. A particular race cluster persists only if breeding is constrained to be within and among members of the cluster.

Race is classification by snapshot – a current clustering by physical attributes. The clustering will change slowly over tens of generations but at every time, a snapshot of the current races will exist.

Great Britain has been a melting pot of peoples mainly from across Europe for 2,000 years. But the British “race” is still in flux. The US is often considered a melting pot for the blending of genes and it would then make sense for the gradual emergence of an “American” race. With the surge of emigration into Europe and the decline in fertility of the “native Europeans”, a gradual emergence of a “European” race would also seem probable. However the tendency of immigrant groups to marry among themselves and isolate their particular gene pools, works strongly against the emergence of new races.

If continuous, steady, immigration becomes the new normal and immigrant groups keep to themselves, it may never happen. If it does, I expect it will take more than a thousand years (50 generations) before the world sees an identifiable American or a European race.

But a thousand years hence there will still be clustering of peoples by visible, physical attributes and identification of peoples by the races of the day.

Skin colour is by far the most visible and thus the obvious attribute that is first used as a sorting criterion for race classification. I suspect that skin colour would dominate as the sorting criterion even if some race had some very significant, but less visible difference, such as – say – an extra finger.


Related:

The changing colours of the world’s population


 

Decimals are too simple

April 22, 2018

Of course all attempts to create a 10 hour day with 100 minutes to each hour and 100 seconds to each minute have failed. Similarly all attempts to divide the circle into 100 parts have not caught on.

The use of 60 is almost as basic as the use of 10.

The origins of base 60

All the non-decimal systems I learnt were embedded in memory before I was 20. I don’t expect many will remember these.

As a child I learned the use of 12 and 60 from my grandmother. The use of 12 was automatic with 4 and 3. Three pice to a pie. 4 pies to an anna and 16 annas to the rupee. When driving around India with my father, miles and furlongs and yards and feet came naturally. Bushels and pecks and gallons and quarts and pints came later as an apprentice in England.

Decimals are simple. But they are also simplistic.

Perhaps too simple.

Rupee, anna, pice, pies

Pounds, shillings, pence, farthings

Ton, hundredweights, pounds, ounces

Mile, furlongs, yards, feet

Bushel, pecks, gallons, quarts, pints


 


%d bloggers like this: