From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes"
Subject: RE: (urth) Those chems Date: Fri, 6 Sep 2002 15:12:18 -0700 > The books may be fresher in my mind since I am currently > re-reading them, and have paid particular attention to the > chems. Time and again Wolfe portrays chems, mostly > Hammerstone and Marble, experiencing all-too-human emotions, > and that's the very thing I can't swallow -- at least on > this side of the looking glass. Okay, then, we're agreed on this pernt: in the Lupiiverse of discourse, chems experience emotions reasonably comparable to those experienced by humans. Now, assuming (and I think that this is a reasonable thing to assume) that Wolfe has point in giving them emotions, I can see at least three "thematic" possibilities: 1. As Bre'r Jerry done point out, in a mechanistic universe, there is no Urthly reason why emotions and all the other things that us bios think of in relation to a "soul" should not be plausible in a construct. For consciousness and emotion to emerge in a computing device of sufficient capacity is a time-honored, even a creaky, stfnal theme ... of precisely the sort Wolfe loves to reappropriate and make anew. 2. In a divinely created universe, on the other appendage, there is no reason to believe that, if we bios were to build a device _capable_ of housing a soul, the Increate (or the Outsider or whatever you want to call the divine) should or would refrain from instantiating a soul in that device. (Related to this is the fundamental Catholic position on test tube babies, genetically engineered humans, etc. Technical language aside, it comes down to the idea that their creation would be a sin, but their existence would not be a sin on their part; God would give them a soul just like any other human.) 3. One of the overarching "themes" of the Long/Short books is imitation and identity. Perhaps its most explicit statement is found in Silk's comment that a demon who impersonates a god is in danger of becoming the god. This is an example of a general theme I first encountered in Vonnegut, and so often think of as "Bokonon's Law": you must be careful what you pretend to be, because if you pretend to be something long enough you become it. An excellent example of this "theme," discussed occasionally here and there, is Quetzal; he pretends to be a good shepherd to the flock of Viron, and in the end dies to save them, because he has become one. Now the interesting point about these three "thematics" on chem emotions is that they are in no way exclusive of each other; in fact, I think that all three are necessary to a proper understanding of what Wolfe is doing. The third "thematic" presents no problems, but I think it important to observe that the first two blesh in a way precisely harmonious with Wolfe's observed practice in other matters. In short, and I'm going to leave specifics to your own memory, Wolfe repeatedly presents us with events that simultaneously have a miraculous quality and are completely explicable in materialistic terms ... Wolfe brings this out in the discussion of the flying Cathedral of the Pelerines, observing that the rising of hot air doesn't make it not a miracle; rather, the miracle is that the universe was made so that hot air would rise, so that the Cathedral would fly. (This is a gross over-simplification from memory, but I believe it captures the essence of the argument.) Simply, then: "thematic" 2 is the miracle, and "thematic" 1 is the mechanistic explanation that does not make it any less a miracle. > >... there is some built in drive equivalent to the > >(glandularly influenced though not, I think, determined) > >human drive to reproduce. We see in Marble at least one > >other drive -- a drive to maintain her own bodily > >"health" to the extent possible. > > Then why did Olivine give up an eye if it wasn't in her best > interest? Human altruism, that's why. Quite likely, but that's hardly a contradiction of my general point. Indeed, it's another example of humanlike irrational emotional ("glandular") behavior where I had only offered two ... Humans have a survival drive too, and (as the phrase 'human altruism,' though unfairly ignoring the many examples of self-sacrificing behavior on the part of many other species, usefully points out) do similar things to what Olivine does -- the actual donation of an eye not being perhaps on the spot, organ donations (a kidney, part of a liver...) are, if not everyday behavior, certainly well withn the normal spectrum (in cultures where they can be performed). > Look, I've acknowledged that Wolfe intended chems to be > regarded as sentient automatons pretty much on a par with > humans. So ... uh ... what were we arguing about? > (The question of chem "souls" is one I'd rather not get into, > but I seriously doubt the Vatican would buy it.) I suspect that the Curia would be against the proposition until powerful evidence (though it is hard to imagine what would constitute "evidence" in this amtter) was offered; I further suspect that they would be opposed to the building of such a device in the first place. But I don't know, and the Vatican often takes surprising positions on issues. > He goes out of his way to do it. But I don't start turning on the > lights before entering a dark room just because I've read a > ghost story, either. You're braver than me. I was afraid to get into a bathtub for weeks after I read THE SHINING. I don't even want to tell you what IT did to me. > >> Perhaps you missed the "(probably less)" part of that quote. > >> Anyone who has seen a whipped cur, or one that has just been > >> handed a piece of meat, can see that the dog acts very > >> differently in those cases. Likewise the cats don't purr when > >> I yell at them to get off the screen door. Animals seem to > >> have a certain degree of consciousness and emotions, sure; > >> they just don't have the ones my wife projects them to have: > >> they can't--their brains don't have room for that complexity, > >> even if they could think like a human, which they can't. > > > >Why in Heaven's name do you assume that emotions are more complex > >than thinking? > > How does that follow from what I wrote? I didn't say that. Clearly I misunderstood; You said that their brains haven't the room for the complexity of emotion, without making a parallel statement supporting your belief that they dont' think "like a human." > >And why in Heaven's name do you assume that they can't "think > >like a human?" > > Because they can't. Language and thought are inextricably > related in humans; cats don't have the language, ergo . . . Do you do all your thinking in words? I'm one of the most verbally-oriented persons I've ever known, and I certainly don't. Language isn't how we think, it's how we express our thinking -- including to ourselves in the "conscious" mind. If you think this is an overfine distinction, just consider the many times you've had a complete thought (and even perhaps acted on it, as in an emergency) prior to language-ing the thought. (If you say this has never happened to you, I will take your word for it but consider you a statistical freak.) > >Are we establishing some kind of credentials? > > It was my response to your "'naked lunch' principle" spiel. Okay, though I wasn't sure how it applied. > >I haven't shot my > >own dog; it would be illegal where I live. I have held my dog, > >and my cat, while the vet gave it the final shot, and continued > >to hold them until well after their hearts had stopped. Same > >logic, different environment. > > Not the same at all, Doubtless true, though at a minimum there is the commonality of feeling that you've killed something that trusted you. > >Meanwhile, back at the Whorl: one last question ... why, do you > >suppose, Wolfe chose to call them "chemical" persons instead of > >(say) "electromechanical" persons? > I assume that they were so called because chemical reactions > (as take place in modern dry-cell batteries) were their power > source. Noooo ... their power source is clearly nucyulehr. Isotopes everywhere when a chem blows. That won't work. If you're wondering, I don't have an answer sitting up my sleeve; I just think it's an interesting question with some bearing on the question of "glandularity" and emotion. Regarding the use of the word "robot" by Kypris and Mamelta, well, most people don't distinguish the two words the way SF people do -- consider the use of the word "droid" in the Star Wars films for what any SF person would call a robot. Nonetheless, we are given lots of evidence to support the idea that they are android in appearance -- that is, they seem to have been built to visually resemble bios to as great an extent as possible, to the point of including plastic or plastic-like "skins" -- and in design, to the point that they are clearly part-compatible with replacement parts for bios. --Blattid --