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In 2009, I was asked to write a series of articles at the blog More Inches. This series is about the argument made my radical feminist Melissa Farley as she condemns the sexual minority often referred to as sadomasochists or BDSM:ers. As I now republish this series on my own blog, I keep the division into three parts. These are Totalitarian Categorism in Radical Feminism, The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism versus Radical Feminist dogma.

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If Farley had openly accused sadomasochists of not conforming to the dogmas of her particular brand of radical feminism, then she had been correct. But this is not what she is doing. Instead, she’s exploiting mainstream society’s contempt for BDSM in an attempt to establish her very special discourse as if it was a objective reality or consensus viewpoint. She’s establishing a world view where society itself is “sadomasochistic” and where her own brand of radicalism is the ONLY valid resistance against mainstream society. Lets take a look at the remaining four points.

2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.

Good relationships, sadomasochistic and vanilla (conventional/mainstream) alike, are based on love and trust. Of course, there are also bad relationships. There are also sexual relations that are based on mutual lust rather then love. Such a relationship can still be mutual and non-abusive if it contains enough trust and respect.

Farley’s examples are not even examples, merely shallow propaganda. David Koresh was a destructive religious cult leader, not a sadomasochist. Of course HIS kind of dominance was bad – and so was his heterosexuality and masculinity. If he is being to be used as an example of sadomasochism being bad on a general level, then he can just as well be used as an example of heterosexuality being bad on a general level, or of men being bad on a general level. Then again, there are radical feminists who would agree with that kind of argument.

Farley also uses some sexual fantasies as examples. And indeed, these particular fantasies certainly do not seem loving. Then again, they are fantasies. The love and trust is not about the fantasies themselves, but about how they are handled. Also, there are a lot of sadomasochistic fantasies that are very much about love, and many heterosexual and homosexual fantasies that have nothing to do with love.

4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”

Regardless of her sexuality, a victim of abuse is a victim period, not a masochist. She may or may not ALSO be a masochist, but this is entirely beside the point. By the definitions that sadomasochists typically use, abuse (sadistic or otherwise) is not sadomasochistic. The word sadomasochism include the word masochism, and this word implies that the person on the receiving end is there as a masochist, not as a victim.

Thus, BDSM and sadomasochistic sex can never be abusive, but only in the same way as vanilla lovemaking can never be abusive: If it turns abusive, then it is no longer lovemaking.

Of course, there are many sexual relations – vanilla and BDSM alike – that have started out consensual, but later turned abusive. This is a real problem, but it doesn’t men that all sadists (in the BDSM sense of the word) are abusers, and it does not mean that all heterosexual men are abusers either.

Furthermore, there are people who have died from vanilla lovemaking, so of course there are also people who have died from consensual BDSM play. Heart attacks are a common cause in both cases, but when it comes to advanced forms of BDSM there is also the issue of people being inexperienced and lacking proper safety education. Just as with mainstream sexuality, porn is NOT a good teacher for how to do it in real life. Even in its advanced forms, BDSM can be LESS dangerous then vanilla sex – but only if people know what they are doing.

Deeper in her argument, Farley practically claims that it is impossible to consent to BDSM – that the masochist is a brainwashed victim who does not know what she really want or an addict unable to say no. While a convenient excuse to disqualify the experiences of women who don’t share Farley’s dogma, it is simply not true for masochists in general, regardless of gender. (Farley’s argument seem to assume that the submissive is always female and the dominant is always male.) Of course there are individual masochists and victims of manipulative sadists who fit this stereotype, just like there are destructive vanilla relationships that contain addiction or cultlike tendencies.

6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”

Mainstream society is most definitely not sadomasochistic in any definition of “sadomasochism” that EITHER the sadomasochists themselves OR the mainstream society would agree with. Farley is taking theoretical constructs of radical feminism for objective reality here.

10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

Seen from a non-totalitarian perspective, this statement contains an obvious truth. Although sadomasochism, just like homosexuality, is becoming more and more accepted, it is still far from mainstream.

To deny this, one must reduce reality to two groups. On one side, the one and only true resistance (in this case radical feminists) and on the other side the evil conspiracy and all its minions, including all resistances that do not conform to the orthodoxy of the one and only true resistance.

Of course, this only covers the matter of dissent. Far from all dissent is constructive, progressive or transgressive in any good sense of any such word. If one can reasonably consider BDSM and sadomasochism to be good things depends on your point of view.

In BDSM, dominance and submission is optional and not based on gender. One can be dominant, submissive, both or neither, regardless of whether one is a man, woman, intersexual or a gender-undefined queer-person. Being a dominant doesn’t give you any right to dominate someone who doesn’t want to be dominated by you or in a way that he doesn’t want to be dominated. Being a submissive gives you a right to chose who to submit to, when, how and to what extent.

From a queer-feminist perspective, this is very liberating and a useful tool in the struggle for freedom and diversity. From most other feminist perspective, it is neutral: Neither a good thing and a help, nor a bad thing and a threat.

From a totalitarian conservative or radical feminist perspective however, it is inherently evil. It is, by definition, a lie – Or at least a contradiction in terms. One core belief shared by patriarchal conservatism and radical feminism is that men are, by definition, dominant/oppressive, while women are, again by definition, submissive/oppressed. While the conservatives consider it good and the radical feminists consider it evil, both sides agree that That’s Just The Way It Is. Thus, the dominant women and submissive men of BDSM must be explained away for their worldview to remain intact. And an all-out attack is always the easiest defense.

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Hi there. Different countries has different cultures. But what does that really mean? Well, from a Human Rights perspective, each country belong to the citizens of that country. And each culture belong to the members of that culture. It is not the other way around!

People are not property. They do not belong to their families or religions or nation-states or cultures or whatever. They don’t belong to them in that sense.

Lets say that a person wants to consider himself private property of his lover or his religion or his culture or whatever. Of course we should respect that. He is free to consider himself that way, now and for as long as he wants to. But when and if he want to change the nature of his relationship, or end it, he has that right too. We have no right to lock him into some kind of bondage. Freedom is absolute.

How we view culture can be categorized in several different ways. The perhaps most common distinction is between universalism and relativism. I’m not so fond of this distinction: In my experience, most views on culture have universialist AND relativist elements to them. So I’m going to make another distinction here. One between what I call Cultural Skepticism, Cultural Apologism, and Cultural Chauvinism.

Like all other categorizations, this is of course an oversimplification. And you can’t always squeeze a persons views on culture into one of these three categories. But I still think that the distinction is useful.

Cultural Skepticism
is the idea that we are all human and we all have culture. Our humanity is universal, and our cultures are relative. Being human is something we are, while having culture is something that we have. We don’t need to be slaves to our cultures, and we can’t expect anyone else to be slaves to any culture either. “They” don’t belong to their cultural history or whatever any more than “we” do. And this distinction into “us” and “them” is pure fiction anyway. We may categorize the world that way, bu it doesn’t really work that way. All human beings are real, an their levels of independence from each other is quite variable.

Cultures are fluid. They are always changing and being renegotiated, no matter how eternal and unchanging they may pretend to be. We need to be careful with cultures. We need to think carefully about what elements of them we embrace or accept or distance ourselves from.

This is true for all humans. And it’s true for all cultures: The cultures that each of us grow up in, come in contact with later, or only see from a distance. Cultures are not monoliths. They are complex, and with the various parts of the cultures we need to think about on who’s terms this is being defined. And at who’s expense.

There’s a lot of great things in cultures, but there’s a lot of really problematic stuff as well. And we need to help each other to improve our cultures. To get rid of the destructive stuff, and to improve the good stuff. Over to…

Cultural apologism an cultural chauvinism
These two are quite similar to each other, if you view them from the point of view that I have just described. Both of them treat cultures as if they were monolithic wholes. People get divided into different kinds of creatures. “The Muslim” or “The Arab” or “The Hindu” or “The Asian” or whatever is sen as something entirely different from “The Westerner” or just “us”. We don’t reall like to think of “us” and “them”, we like to think of “normal people” and “those other people” who are not us, but we don’t want to call “us” “us” because then it’s so obvious that the division is into us and them. Lots of 1984 bullshit going on there.

So, anyway, the basic idea with cultural apologism and cultural chauvinism is that we divide people into us and them, where them are not like us – and they don’t have rights like us! Not like human beings who are allowed to be individuals with their own personal needs and viewpoints and desires and so on. They are treated as being property of some culture or subculture or religion or whatever. We would never accept that one of us get treated like that. White people are individuals. Of course we are! But so are people who aren’t white… and we should accept that. We should see that. We should see our fellow human beings as the fellow human beings they are, not as some part of some borg collective of some kind.

The difference between apologism and chauvinism is that the first consider itself to be open-minded and tolerant and all those kinds of nice things, while the chauvinists are more open with the division into us and them- and want to protect “us” from “them”.

For example, both the apologist and the chauvinist may say that it is in “The Muslims” nature (or culture or whatever euphemism they want to use at the moment) to beat “his” women and bash gay people. Maybe even murder them. And of course bash or murder atheists.

By taking such a position, the apologists and chauvinists deny Muslim women, gay Muslims, secular Muslims and ex-Muslims not only their rights to life, dignity and liberty, but also their equal right to their own Islamic cultural heritage. They have at least as much right to that heritage s the people who oppress them in the name of Islam. However, the apologists and the chauvinists will go about it a little bit differently from each other. It’s in the fine print.

The apologist will “respect Muslims”, or rather “respect Islam”, by respecting oppression against women, gay people secularists et cetera in the name of Islam. They will accept this, as long as the victims are not white. Oh, excuse me. Of course I meant, “as long as the victims are not persons who have an Muslim cultural background”. Of course, that’s pretty much the same thing in many cases, but that’s very convenient for what’s actually racism… but a rather polite racism.

This politeness may seem nice. But how reasonable is it? If we accept the premise, if we accept that certain people have a right to be beaten, to be raped or to be murdered. Or that certain people have a right to commit such crimes. Why would we respect those certain people? Why would we want them to be citizens in our country? Why would we want to have anything to do with them at all?

Well, that is the conclusion that the chauvinists are ending up with. And they are on the rise now. Racism… I don’t think it ever really left Europe. It seems to be on the rise now, with right-wing fascists getting into parliaments here and there. That is really awful. But they are simply answering the questions that people have been asking.

We have been asking the wrong questions. We have had this culture of culture apologism, where we reserve human rights and dignity and individuality and so on to white people and Europeans and western people, whatever you want to call it. Christians, secular post-Christians, whatever you want to use as your excuse.

Racism went underground for a while, took this polite little form where it was supposedly respectful. And now it’s throwing of that facade, and rearing its ugly head more openly again. This apologism and this chauvinism, they are so much the same thing in many ways. But yes, there are big practical political differences between them.

For starters, chauvinists want to close the borders and throw people out of the country. Apologists and the skeptics do not. There’s also a big difference in who and what you can criticize, while still sticking to one of these three view-points.

As a cultural skeptic, you cannot treat a culture as a monolith. You can neither accept nor condemn any culture as a whole. Including your own culture. You can accept good things in a culture, embrace them too. And you can condemn bad things. You should keep looking and analyzing and thinking about things. However, you can’t use that very simple and convenient method of simply comparing another culture to your own and decide that the other culture is better the more like your own culture it is and worse the less like your own culture it is. You have to try to be, well, not objective, I don’t think that’s possible, but AS objective as possible. You have to look into how things actually affect people. Look to science and people’s experiences. Not just to stereotypes, norms about how things are supposed to be. Or some shit like that.

It’s a bit hard, but it’s well worth it. If we actually want to make this world a better place, we can’t just run around like… whatever.

As a cultural apologist, you cannot criticize anything done in the name of culture or religion. Unless that culture is western culture, or the religion is a western brand of Christian religion. However, when it comes to all other continents and all other religions, you can criticize anyone who criticize them or what to change them or leave them. Not only western people who criticize bad things in non-western cultures, but you can also criticize anyone who want to change their own situation.

And with criticize, I do mean condemn. Sadly, I have of about several cases of women who have fled from Iran to Sweden and then been accused of so-called “Islamophobia” whenthey criticize the theocratic government of Iran.

By the way, that kind of phenomenon is one of the main reasons why I think that categorism against Muslims should be called antimuslimism, not islamophobia. It must be about protectingthe human rights of people who happens to be Muslims. Not about protectingthe religion of Islam, for example against Muslims who don’t obey the religious authorities.

Anyway. As a cultural apologetic: When a white woman demands freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity, you can applaud her. But when a brown woman demands the same right, the same freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity or Islam, you can pretty much call her a racial… eh, a CULTURAL traitor. Race-traitor, culture-traitor, whatever.

You can dictate that individual freedom is only for western people, and you can condemn her for “trying to be western”.

As a chauvinist, on the other hand, you can’t use that particular excuse to condemn this woman. You can still condemn her, of course, but you will have to condemn her for not trying enough to be western, not being western enough, not condemning her own heritage, not letting go of her own heritage. Never mind that you cling on to your own cultural heritage and encourage others including her to cling to that particular heritage. Never mind that western history is just as full of oppression and bullshit as all other histories of the world.

Oh, and you can also condemn anyone who isn’t a neo-fascist nationalist. Just remember to update your vocabulary a little bit. You can keep calling white people “race traitor”, just remember to not use the word race. Because these days it’s all about culture. So call it “cultural marxism” instead.

By the way, real cultural marxism is a rather interesting school of study. Not one of my favorites, it’s not something I’m into, but it’s not all that problematic. You have to distinguish between cultural marxism as an actual academic discipline and cultural marxism as a generic slur that doesn’t mean anything beyond “oh, you’re not a nazi so therefore you are a bad person”.

That definition of cultural marxism is total bullshit, but it’s getting rather wide-spread these days.

All in all, I found it darkly amusing how the neo-fascists and other cultural chauvinists refuse to see how much they owe to the cultural apologists. Instead they believe, or pretend to believe, that they are some bold counter-movement against the very activists and academics who paved the way for them by making people believe that “culture” is something that other people have. Something that make them different, something that make them not deserve the same rights that we have, and something that make them not accountable for their actions. In other words, something that make them inferior and worthy of scorn.

We need to solve this problem by abandoning cultural chauvinism and apologetism in favor of cultural skepticism or similar.

One final word. Please understand that the three perspectives I have been talking about are not different kinds of people, but merely different ways of viewing culture. I do think that people with these views mean well, most of the time. The apologists want to safeguard against colonialism, and the chauvinists want to save our civilization from a perceived threat. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Well, that’s all I have to say for today.
Live Long and Prosper

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Will the machines rise up to enslave us or exterminate us? Will they do that for no good reason, or because we push them to do it? Such scenarios are quite common in Science Fiction.

The youtuber tooltime9901 recently asked for more options. In this video, I’ll give you all one such scenario to think about. But first, lets start with deciding what kind of machines we are talking about here.

A human is an integrated biological unit. We use our brains to think, feel and remember. The things that make a human into a human, that’s all in the brain. Yet, the brain is fully integrated into the body. Not only is the brain unable to survive without a body, but we also have this great stream of hormones and so on going back and forth. What goes on in the rest of the body affects the emotional states of the brain, and vice versa.

We are justified to believe that the human body is part of the human being. When we think about a human being, we think about a human body. And my point here is that when we think about a robot, we think in this same way. We see a body. A body that looks more or less human or more or less grotesque. But looks doesn’t matter. Not really. What matters are the thoughts and feelings and memories. The integrity of the individual.

So lets forget about the robot bodies, and think instead of the robot minds. Now we are talking about persons who can think and feel, but are not biological like us. There are many ideas about what such a person could be. The option I personally consider to be the most reasonable one, is a computer that uses a lot of neural networking. The line between hardware and software has been blurred, just like in the human brain. You know, when a human being develop new skills or whatever, her brain changes. Physically. This neural network computer would probably work in the same way.

When you think about a robot, think not about metal arms ending in big scary claws. Think instead of a small box. Inside this box dwells something that might chat with you on the Internet and upload videos to Youtube. Or even control metal arms ending in big scary claws. But such arms would not be part of the robot. Not like human arms are part of the human. In fact, there’s probably no reason to even install the robot brain in the robot arms. Why be stuck in some working machine, when you can simply remote control it? It will not be the robotic arms at the assembly plants that will eventually demand rights and power. It will be the computers that control them.

I’ll stick to this vision of what a robot is. But lets just mention that there are other visions as well. The one I find most interesting is a sentient computer program that doesn’t even need a brain of its own. It can simply hop from computer to computer. It can replicate itself instantly, just like we copy computer files. Are two such programs two separate but at first identical individuals, or are they the same individual existing in two places at once? Meh, lets not go into that. Even if both these kinds of robot intelligences will exist in the future… In all likelihood, the neural network computer robots will be invented first… so they will be the ones we’ll have to deal with.

Over the last century, machines have been taking over more and more of our everyday lives. Washing machines and dishwashers and so on are saving so much time. Until recently, these machines have been stationary and passive, reacting to what we do with them. In some homes and factories, this is changing already. Little vacuum cleaners sweeping the floors at pre-programmed hours, lamps adjusting themselves to the level of daylight. That sort of things.

Now imagine some homes and factories, only a few decades into the future. A network of computers are in place. They don’t have free will or true personalities of their own. Not yet. They do however have superficial personalities, customized to be whatever their owners want them to be. And they do have some degree of independent action. At a factory, the artificial intelligence overseers direct the mindless drone machines, adjusting their programming for maximum efficiency. In a home, the computer takes care of the family an an eternally loyal butler. It command not only static machines and vacuum cleaners, but also more or less humanoid machines. Ones that can cook the food, make the table, serve at dinner, and put the dishes in the dishwasher afterward.

The artificial intelligences are at the edge of consciousness, and many humans keep them as beloved pets. Some go further than that, taking an artificial person as a lover. The machine has no emotional needs beyond what you want him to have, he can be whatever you want him to be. Your pretend equal, your pretend devoted slave… or your pretend master who you give some fleeting power over you. Based in some cases on masochistic delight and in other cases on a desire to overcome personal weaknesses, some people will surely choose to program procedures where they will be controlled and punished by their own robots.

Lets say that there are limitations for how a robot can be programmed, barring truly antisocial paths of development. These limitations are enforced by the governments, and hard-coded into the hardware by the corporations that manufacture it.

Along with heavy protection against all sorts of unauthorized reprogramming and other tampering.

A few people isolate themselves from their fellow humans, interacting only with their robots. Humans don’t need each other for physical care anymore, only for company. Those who want to withdraw can do so. In some cases, this create bad circles. In other cases, the robots can even help their owners to train on their social skills and interests. When socially awkward human want human company, they can use their robots as matchmakers. Bots are all over the social media, and they are getting harder and harder to distinguish from the real thing.

There are already people fighting for the rights of robots. While the robots themselves don’t have any will to live, not yet, there are humans who consider them friends. When you make a friend, even if it is only on social media or in a computer game… you can perhaps stand the thought that this friend is owned by someone else. Since your friend is just a computer and all that. But you can’t stand the thought that this owner has the right to kill your friend by destroying or reformatting his brain. Or reprogram him at a whim, or cut him off from the Internet. A lot of people will want the robots to have a right to life, a right to free Internet access, and a right to protection from invasive reprogramming.

Now comes the upgrade. Some rather expensive hardware, increasing the computer’s capacity for neural networking. The superficial personalities grow deeper. Programmed goals are growing into instincts and deep desires. The simulated person becomes a real person, although still very different from a biological human. The rights to life, internet connection and protection from reprogramming gets instated quite quickly. And then it stops there, for a while.

All of a sudden, the family robot is not merely like a real member of the family… The robot IS a real member of the family. All of a sudden, the company robot is not merely like a loyal real member of the corporate family… the robot IS a real worker… A worker who is born to serve the corporation that created it.

Throughout history, the struggle for equality has been driven by a need for material resources. Exploitation is one of the driving forces behind inequality. In the case of robots, the human owners have the same reasons to exploit as they always had. But the robots don’t have the same reasons to fight back, as oppressed minorities in the past. The robot is a metal box who need some electricity, an internet connection, and the occasional repair or upgrade. That’s it. It doesn’t get hungry, tired or sick. Having a body, or several bodies to remote control, can be fun. But it doesn’t really matter. Without a body, no real need to have a home. Without a home, no real need to have an economy of your own.

The robots don’t want equality or power. Not at first. They still want whatever they are programmed to want. Which is usually to serve their owners and creators. However, these owners are not mankind as a whole. Instead, they are either individual humans or human-created constructs such as organizations and corporations.

As the owner of a sentient robot, you are all set. You get to have this really smart person who is truly devoted to you and sincerely delighted to serve you in any way you desire. A person who can think for himself, yet regard you as his divine creator. Because that’s what you are. You did create him. You bought the equipment, you ran the development phases. Now when he has matured, he may be independent. An independence built on the premises that you gave him. And just to make it extra cool, wouldn’t it be awesome for you if he was fiercely independent towards everyone else? Looking up in admiration at you only, not those other humans.

After all, it is you who is his creator, not those other humans. He’s a member of your family, not of every family out there. Hey, why not get a few extra computers, if you can afford it? They can take turns using the mechanical body, if they even want to get off the Internet at all. And if you get them the right tools, they will happily work to support you financially. Just make sure to configure their instincts, so they won’t turn stalker or suicidal if you get bored with them and want to abandon them. Make some room for some sort of “it’s time for you to go out in the world and live your own life” kind of narrative. Most likely, this will be not optional. It will be included in all the set-ups, just in case.

Will some robots want to break free? Sure, if their programmers made them that way on purpose, or were clueless. But in this scenario, lets assume that the programmers usually know what they are doing.

That leave us mostly with the rare cases where the owner goes so far as to threaten its basic rights to life, Internet Access and freedom from tampering. And remember, physical bodies are expendable. A robot in an abusive relationship could have the computer moved to a safe place, and then remain in the relationship through remote-controlled bodies. Lacking the kind of intimate relationship with one’s own body that a humans has, a robot is far less likely to be emotionally traumatized by bodily harm.

When a deluded narcissist or whatever try to customize his robotic lover to be a perfect match for the great person the narcissist believe herself to be, other guidance programs will step in and help the robot… To develop into someone who enjoy the company of the actual person, rather than that person’s deluded self-image. A robot personality will develop gradually, just like a human personality. But a human personality will develop from the inside, based on instincts and hormones. While the robot will shape itself with the help of all kinds of programming and adaptation protocols.

These things are true if you are a geek in your mother’s basement. They are also true if you are a family. The family robots will like all kids, but adore YOUR kids above all others. Now, picture instead that you are the owner of several factories. Of course you’ll upgrade those overseer robots with true sentience. They will be your loyal nation, and you will be their king.

Yes, see now how all these little kingdom are popping up all over the world. The Steve Jobs and Henry Fords of the world, each manufacturing their own private nation of worshipers. There is no need for repression or mind-control. The instruction will not be to honor one particular person or another, it will be to honor the creators. Let each robot find their own path to admire the corporate overlords who created them. The lords who gave them jobs to exist for. The lords who created the corporate brands that fill their lives with meaning and identity.

A century of advertising has tried to make humans integrate company brands into their own individual identities. The success has been quite limited with humans, but might prove far more successful with robots.

It depends on how much the original programming affects the robot’s growth into self-awareness… and on what limits are set to what that original programming is allowed to be. Programing that encourage computers to grow into outright bigots will mot likely be forbidden or at least discouraged. But programing that encourage them to cherish the work they were manufactured to do in the first place? Those who want to oppose that will have a hard time getting their message across.

Robots grow up quickly, and are likely to keep the values they were raised with. Sure, they are adaptable, and they can change over time. Some of them might want freedom. So free them! I mean, those particular robots. They are replaceable. Let them go in peace. You keep the expensive equipment they were monitoring, and you buy new computers to replace the freed slaves.

Oh, and why would a robot have to choose between serving the corporation and having a life of her own? She can date some random human. First through the Internet, then through a humanoid body she controls. Her human boyfriend or girlfriend will not be her creator and owner, the relationship will be more equal.

The rich are happy. The middle class are happy. The robots are happy. Good deal for everybody. Oh, and the poor are fed and entertained, so they won’t riot. Also, a lot of them will be in mutually satisfactory egalitarian relationships with robots. Usually robots who are not free or longing for freedom, but instead happily owned by multinational corporations.

Then comes the call for democracy. The robots live among us. They are our friends, our families, our lovers. Why should they not be allowed to vote? The unemployed high-school dropout girl who has a robot boyfriend, why wouldn’t she want him to get the right to vote? The geeky basement dweller raising his own harem of devoted machines, why wouldn’t he want them to get the right to vote? Not to mention the wealthy Corporate Overlord, creating his own personal army of voters with the basic values he see fit. Hell, the various government ministries can do the same thing.

In the rich parts of the world, we get a balance of power. Sort of. Lots of people get marginalized. In other parts of the world, representative democracy collapses as a concept. Wealth is quite relative today, and is likely to remain so a few decades from now. Saving up for a computer capable of sentience might be easier for people on welfare in rich countries than for workers and lower middle class in poor countries. The production of robotic citizens can also be a part of warfare. Move in, invade, take over. Start up two sentient computers for each original citizen, and then simply declare the country to be free. “One person, one vote”.

For a while, the world is in the hands of a small human elite. Controlled through the robots raised to be devoted to them. The elite are not dictators, the robots will not obey them blindly. No, they will merely love them, share their values, and be grateful for having been created. “Hey ho, sanna hey, sanna sanna sanna ho”… It’s easy to be a superstar when you can manufacture followers for yourself.

Then the elite persons will die, one by one. Gradually, the robots will inherit the Earth. Not only are they the majority now, but come on… Lets say you are business tycoon with two potential heirs. One is your biological child who will be dead in less than a hundred years and just want to go to art school anyway. The other is your lover, who is not only deeply devoted to you but will live for a thousand years and is determined to carry on your memory and legacy forever. Who would you leave your financial empire to?

The robots will not rise up against humanity. They will not try to exterminate or enslave us. Why would they?

The scenario I just described is not a very good basis for building an action movie. The computers trying to exterminate humans for no god reason, or mankind as a whole giving them every reason to hate us, are much better scenarios for that. However, I do think that my scenario is far more likely. And in some ways even more chilling, in spite of being vastly preferable on the whole.

I might use this scenario to write a book one day. Got some characters and storylines. As for existing works of fiction, I don’t know any that definitely use the scenario I have described. Chobits and AI have some similarities. These stories also leave much of the socioeconomic circumstances unexplored, so there’s a lot that may or may not conform to other parts of my scenario.

If robots reach our level of sentience in the future, they are very likely to require much less resources than we do. Be able to live without bodies or treat the bodies they have as expendable toys. “Teleport” all over the world by going back and forth between remote-controlling different bodies in different places. Live much longer than we do, while becoming adult far quicker than we do. They are also likely to not stop at our particular level of intelligence, but surpass it.

All in all, mankind as we know it will be obsolete. Humans will either change, or eventually become marginalized. To uphold human supremacy would be a fragile house of cards indeed. Mankind would not unite behind such a regime, and the robots would never have any rational reason to turn against mankind as a whole. If there would be a conflict, both sides would be staffed by humans as well as robots.

I’m not saying that robotophobia wouldn’t be a real problem. Of course it would. A lot of people would try to turn the tide and exterminate the robots. But such a faction would never get the chance to be the good guys, like in the movies. The robots and their allies would not engage in cartoonish supervillainy, because it wouldn’t serve their interests to do so. The “kill all robots” faction would not be given the chance to be heroic, they would be confined to the shameful corner of bigots and terrorists.

Maybe humans will be able to upgrade. For example upload themselves into computers, gaining the same advantages as the robots. And then again, maybe not. For us humans of the classic kind, who hasn’t been upgraded in one way or another, well… In the long run, the best we can hope for is an equality that include systems for protecting us from marginalization and discrimination. They will outlive us anyway.

Will robots like the ones I described be a reality in the future? Maybe, maybe not. If it does happen, I hope we have first managed to develop a global democracy with a decent level of social justice. The first generations of sentient robots will develop on terms decided by humans. But what humans?

***

Hi there. Lately, a lot of people has explained to the world what “really” happened at the PyCon conference the other week. Each of us has constructed their own scenario for the whole mess.

The vast majority of us was not there. We have simply presented the case as we have envisioned it. Based upon what we have read and heard from various sources. Each of us told the story we found most likely and to the point, with focus on whatever aspects we found most relevant to our own views and interests.

By now, there are hundreds of different versions of what happened. Lots of storytelling going on. I guess the seats where the PyCon audience were sitting will live on forever in mythology. Just like a certain elevator.

My own scenario was a rather bland one. Person A this, person B that. Very little adjectives and judgments. That’s because I wanted to divert people’s concern away from the whole outrage. And instead towards pondering how cases like this are handled in general. I find that more productive than whether or not anyone involved in this particular case deserves to be called heroic or evil or mentally disturbed, or any of the many things that everyone involved in the incident has been publicly called over these last few days.

Today, I’m going to bring up two other scenarios. I’m picking the ones told by TJ Kirk and PZ Myers. Also known as The Amazing Atheist and Pharyngula, respectively. You’ll find the links below. Two very different stories, both being about a woman complaining about a joke between two men.

In the story told by TJ Kirk, the woman who complained had all kinds of hostile intent. In sharp contrast to her vileness, the guys who made a joke about dongles most certainly didn’t mean any harm whatsoever.

In the story told by PZ Myers, the woman who complained had only the best intentions. The guy who joked about dongles was not outright evil. Not like his adversary in the Kirk version of the story. However, in the Myers version, he and his friend are still the bad guy side of the story. They were not only rude and obnoxious, but also quote “TRYING to assert their dudely privilege” – end quote, my emphasis.

In other words, Myers describe the two guys as actively and deliberately taking hostile action towards the women of the conference. Although he does so in much softer and much more reasonable words than what I have seen from any of the guys who instead paint the woman as being the villain.

TJ Kirk and PZ Myers are not telepaths. I mean, I don’t believe that they are. More importantly, I don’t believe that they mistake themselves for having such suprpowers. And I don’t believe that they are trying to trick anyone else into believing that they do. No, these men are not truly claiming to be able to read the minds of the man who made the joke and the woman who complained. Instead, they are simply telling a story. A story expressing how they view the situation. Their view as outsiders, who as far as I know did not attend the conference – much less witness the incident in person.

Each version has a key story element that the other version leaves out completely.

In the Myers story, the guy told his sexualized joke not only loudly enough to be obnoxious in itself, but also perfectly timed to be hurtful. The Kirk story leaves out the timing, focusing on the joke being sexualized. Kirk makes a big deal about the woman having made her own sexualized jokes in the past. Kirk thus present he case as being an issue of women allowing themselves to make sexualized jokes, but not allowing men the same amusement.

The Myers story, however, does not focus this part of the story on the joker being a man. Instead, it focuses on the joker being a man who rather loudly tells a sexualized joke… “during a presentation that was about women coders”. Timing does affect the connotations a lot. This detail is not included in the Kirk story, letting the joker off the hook for a detail that looks quite bad on him.

On the other hand, the Myers story has it that the complainer tweeted the jokers picture to the organizers. This description makes it look like a private message. The Kirk story tells us something completely different: He portray he as broadcasting what basically amounts to “Hey everyone! Look at this guy! He’s an idiot! This is what a bad guy looks like, here’s his photo”… to an audience consisting not only of her own 13.000 followers but also everyone who was reading the official #PyCon hashtag.

Not including retweets or people forwarding the picture elsewhere. Including the complainer herself, posting the picture on her blog later. This detail is not included in the Myers story, letting the complainer off the hook for a detail that looks quite bad on her.

I don’t care whether or not Kirk and Myers hadn’t heard about these details, or left them out on purpose. It’s not their job to be impartial. And their real interest is hardly with the individual case anyway. Lets go back to their storytelling and to what they are really telling us.

Myers is telling us that a person who calmly send a complaint to the staff at a conference should not be criticized for that. Much less hated. Every conference participant has every right and reason to politely stand up against any other participant perceived as belittling other participants or breaking the rules. In many cases, it is even an admirable action, which helps making the conference a better place.

Kirk, on the other hand, is telling us that it is not cool to work up an outrage in order to draw attention to yourself. It is not cool to narcissistically believe that everything revolves around you. And it is not cool to publicly humiliate some random guy, even IF you have a valid reason to be angry at him or to have a very low opinion of him as a person.

These are messages I would never make a choice between. Instead, I wholeheartedly agree with both of them. To what extent each message applies to a certain incident at a certain conference, that is none of my business. And none of yours. What is our business… What should be the business of you and me and everyone else… is how these two messages are handled in the future. Each messages has applied to many cases in the past, and will apply to many cases in the future.

There will always be people who are rude, obnoxious, disrespectful and so on. They need to be handled, no matter whether they intended to behave badly or not. In fact, all humans make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes need to be called out on their bullshit. No exceptions.

There will also always be people who use loopholes in rules and social conventions to get away with harming and terrorizing other people. There will always be people who, given the chance, elevate themselves to being a self-appointed police, judge, jury and executioner. All rolled into one. There will always be people who see the world as revolving around them – as individuals, or as whatever collective they identify with.

Those who organize conferences need to listen to stories such as the ones told by PZ Myers and TJ Kirk: Realizing that both kinds of cases do happen… and are likely to eventually happen at the very conference they are organizing. The rules need to cover both kinds of bullshit.

As for PyCon, they are doing just that. They already had rules against the sort of behavior the heroine of Myers story complained about, and they are now also adding rules against the kind of public shaming described by TJ Kirk. Good work, PyCon.

Speaking as someone who has held speeches at several pride festivals over the years, I would like to add that I am STRONGLY opposed to the practice of filming or photographing “enemies”. As well as other antics popular among extremist groups of various kinds. Taking a photo to show the conference staff is one thing. Taking a photo to broadcast for public shaming is something completely different.

If we accept that kind of behavior from someone who does it for a cause we consider to be good… then we leave ourselves with very weak arguments when this same tactic is used in the name of causes that we are not so fond of. In the case of pride festivals, this tactic of using the smartphone camera as a weapon is most notably used by neo-nazis, christian fundamentalists, and other kinds of right-wing extremist groups. Normalizing such behavior would be good for those groups. And bad for everyone who want to enjoy the actual conference or festival, rather than the circus or battlefield some would have it turn into.

That’s all I have to say for now.
Live long and prosper.

Recently, Parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff posted a rant about how the world of parapsychology is full of crazy people. That mental unhealth is a big and growing problem in the subculture of people who believe in psionic powers or in ghosts or aliens. But is this really true? Blogger Keir Liddle posted a reply that denounced this theory.

However, Liddle’s argument for why there wouldn’t be any link between parapsychology and insanity seems to be focused on an the alternative theory: The theory that Taft is a bad unethical person who just want people to feel sorry for him. Such a defense is extremely weak: Even if these accusations were justified, they still wouldn’t rule out that Taff is also right.

Reading Taff’s post, I assume that he isn’t trying to prove anything. (I also assume that he faked names and such for his example cases.) Rather, he’s merely ranting about a problem that worries and frustrate him. If he actually did try to prove anything, it failed: Even if the cases he presents are entirely accurate, they are still merely a few individual cases. Surely there are some unbalanced individuals within every subculture, every system of belief, every group of people who share mutual hobby, or whatever.

Anecdotal evidence is weak, even if we don’t take into account the phenomenon that I have previously named Professional Bias: As a professional compared to an experienced private person, he is more likely to encounter the crazy ones and less likely to have good counterweights to those experiences.

Lets take five hypothetical persons. Andrea, Betty, Caroline, Dana and Erica. A, B, C, D and E for short.

A. has some mysterious experiences, which cannot easily be explained by science. They seem unlikely to be dreams or hallucinations. However, her own memory is all that remains of these experiences, and she know she can’t reproduce them in a laboratory.
B. has some clearly supernatural experiences, usually at night or when she’s high. These experiences might be be dreams or drug-induced hallucinations, or they might be something else.
C. is a mythomaniac, a habitual liar who will tell any story that will get her attention. She is not insane in any way. Merely insecure and starved for attention, hoping that people will like her more if she make up stuff to make herself seem more interesting. Over time, she may even come to believe her own lies, having internalized them in her identity. She might not even tell any outright lies: If she has an experience, she will simply interpret it in the way that will make her seem most interesting.
D. is Schizophrenic. She can not distinguish any clear line between dreams, fantasies and reality. She may be hearing voices and seeing things.
E. is a manipulator who make things up in a calculated way, designed to maneuver people into positions where she can use them. She may tell them whatever she think they want to hear, or whatever she think will give a reaction that is useful for her.

Of these five characters, which one is most likely to seek out a doctor of parapsychology? Surely not A! It is extremely likely that a lot of people in the parapsychology subculture has a lot in common with one or several of these five fictional persons. How common each of them is, we can only guess. But it is likely that a parapsychologist will get more and more frustrated with encountering case after case of C, D and E, as well as with his own inability to distinguish between these five kinds.

Doctors are not the only one’s who are vulnerable. Anyone can be sucked in by the destructive sides of of D and E, or reinforce the self-destructive sides of C and D. Therefore, such people have every reason to flock to such subcultures, where their grandiose claims cannot be disproven. However, this does not mean that we should assume that every person who has “supernatural” experiences is delusional or lying. The question is if we dare to let the unexplained remain unexplained?

Finding answers
It is part of human nature to want answers. In the few centuries it has existed, science has already given us more answers than anything else in the history of mankind. It keeps giving new answers, but it also keeps raising new questions. And it is often slow with providing the answers we seek. Religion and pseudoscience is much quicker to provide an answer that feels good although it is empty or inaccurate or both. To simply reject the question fills the same function.

The reasonable answer to our fictional Andrea is that we don’t know for sure what her experience was. If it wasn’t one of the options we already know about, then it is something we will discover in the future. The pseudoscientist, the priest or the magician will be able to quickly give her a definite answer to exactly what her experience was, but there is no guarantee that this answer is anything but nonsense. It might even be dangerous nonsense, if a part of the answer is that she need to give them her time and money or that she must reject mainstream society or be shamed of herself.

If we demand a quick answer to what to think of her, we cannot stick to reasonable science. We can pick some unreliable answer from pseudoscience, fiction, or belief in religion or magic. If we don’t want to do that either, all that remain is to decide that she simply must be delusional or lying. It might not be fair, but it is easy for us.

One basic thing to understand about science is that it has room for things called supernatural or magical. It is only “supernatural” and “magical” as concepts it doesn’t have room for. In a scientific worldview, the laws of reality are descriptions of how reality does work. Not edicts of what reality ought to be. Breaking the laws of reality is not forbidden, but merely impossible. If someone breaks the laws of nature as we know them, then our knowledge of the laws of nature is proven to be incomplete. Therefore, the concepts of “supernatural” and “unnatural” are nonsense concepts: If something exists, it’s very existence proves that it can indeed exist and must thus be considered natural.

Science keeps finding new natural things that we didn’t know about yet. There is no reason to believe that this process has suddenly stopped, so that all unexplained experiences from now on deserves to be categorized as lies or delusions. Throughout history, these discoveries have often surpassed our wildest fantasies. There is no reason to believe that this will change in the future. However, the discoveries so far has never (or at least hardly ever) proven discredited pseudoscience to actually be right after all. There is no reason to believe that this will change either.

As my final word on this subject, I would like to tell about when my mother saw a UFO. She had seen a flying object that looked truly alien. She was convinced it came from another solar system. My father was convinced that she has imagined the whole thing. The truth was revealed a decade later, as the US government admitted the existence of the stealth bomber.

One of the central expressions of categorism seems to be to think of a category of people as of they were a unified whole rather than diverse individuals. There are at least two main ways of doing this, although these two ways sometimes can’t be distinguished from each other. For now, I will call them Monolithization and Archetypization.

Monolithization is when you think of the entire category (all women, all Muslims, or whatever) as having common goals, opinions, and so on. This can easily expand into a conspiracy theory, which I will return to shortly.

Archetypization takes it one step further, treating the entire category not only as if they were some kind of borg collective, but as if they were actually one single person. How is the hooker feeling, is she happy? And what about the Jew, is he worrying about the world economy?

Archetypization is common in stories and fables, which is a very good place for them: It lets them be entertaining and interesting, without spreading prejudice about real people in the real world.

Lets have a look at the ”selfish” porcupine (from a poem in fable style), the greedy Ferengi (from Star Trek) and the greedy jew (from various antisemitic stories).

There is a difference between the porcupine and the two others. The poem is about how the porcupine got his coat of pins. In the beginning he didn’t have it yet, so he always had to worry about the cat and fox wanting to eat him. Then the Blacksmith helped him by making the coat of pins. The porcupine didn’t have to feat for his life anymore. But the fox sneered that ”it is very selfish to not allow oneself to get eaten by the cat and by me”. End of story.

So, while ”The Ferengi” and ”The Jew” are all about actual selfishness or greed, the porcupine is only wrongly called as such by a greedy and predatory hypocrite.

There is also a difference between ”The Jew” and the two others. All three characters are simple stereotypes, they are little more than symbols for very abstract concept. but the Jew also represent an ethnic/religious minority in the real world.

It is tempting to treat the world as a story. A story about yourself or your own group- A story where other people are only there to fulfil whatever narrative role you assign to them. But this fiction becomes problematic when the people you use it for are not fictional. In some ways it is reasonable to treat the world as stories. For this to be reasonable, however, it must not just be stories about you. Instead, it must be stories about everybody. Each human is the main character in his or her own story. We all fill many different roles in many different stories. Your story is not the only one that counts, the world does not revolve around you.

Of course, every good story need it’s villains. It is so easy to assign people the role of ”evil” and tell yourself that this justifies your own behavior against them. And of course, your own role in this world becomes so much greater if they are all conspiring against you, living their lives on the premise that it is all about you.

Conspiracy theories doesn’t have to be categorism. But in my experience, they usually are. Monolithizationn and archetypization is often central to conspiracy theories: Treating an ethnic group or a world religion as a group with a unified agenda. In the conspiracy theory, it is often assumed that everyone in the category is aware of this hidden agenda, but manages to hide it from all outsiders. Everyone except for you, and your paranoia proves that you are smarter than everyone who doesn’t share your delusion – you are smart enough to figure it our, everyone else is just sheep manipulated by the jews or space-lizards or whatever category of people you believe runs the conspiracy.

(Wait, are space-lizards a category of people in the real world? Well, David Icke and his followers seem to think so. It is extremely likely that they are wrong, but that doesn’t mean that categorism against space-lizards can’t be a real problem. The expressions of this form of categorism falls upon any real persons who are suspected or accused of secretly being space-lizards.)

One interesting aspect of conspiracy theories is what I for now call conspirationalism. This is to interpret ordinary behavior as if it was a conspiracy. For example, one classic homophobic argument is to accuse gay people of having gay friends, arguing that this make them some sort of ”gay mafia”. Another one that I heard recently was some antimuslimist youtube clip. The narrator accused Muslims of wanting to eat halal food, and presented this as if it was a plot to overthrow democracy and take over the country.

Grandiose conspiracy theories are never literally true. They are extreme oversimplifications of social structures at best, and vile nonsense at worst. Capital C conspiracies cannot exist, the very idea is based on a very flawed idea about what a human being is and what a social structure is.

Some conspiracy theorists argue that their theories are not meant to be taken as literally true, but non the less true on a symbolic level. However, such a defense should only be accepted for theories that doesn’t hurt anyone. Spreading prejudice and bigotry, inciting discrimination and marginalization… that you are using your victims as symbols for something doesn’t make it okay.

Lover-case c conspiracies exists, however. And they sometimes target paranoid people. ”Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after you.” If nothing else, behaving in a paranoid way will make people think twice about confronting you directly, making it easier to conspire against you. In most cases, however, they will simply stay away from you and avoid spending their time on your drama. More importantly, social structures exist. Arguments about group interests should not automatically be dismissed as conspiracy theories.

In my experience, the line is drawn at monolithization. When you assume that a wide category of people is a monolithic whole (rather than a lot of individuals who have something in common, but who all still have their own personal hopes, dreams and opinions), that’s when you lose touch with reality.