META: The problem of "Good vs. Evil"

Jamas Enright thad at
Wed Feb 20 10:27:48 PST 2008

On Wed, 20 Feb 2008, Tom Russell wrote:

> A robot can think, but it cannot _create_.  A robot can "randomly"
> decide things by a programming a command such as, "with a chance of
> one out of twenty, perform the following action".  A robot cannot make
> a real and true decision between two equal alternatives; the best it
> can do is throw a die.  It can never act on a "whim" because there's
> no such thing when you're talking about a program.

Many animals and insects will always respond to the same stimulae in the 
exact same way. They have been "programmed" by evolution to do this. Aside 
from being biological, and extremely complex, they are just as much a 
robot as any machine we create.

> It cannot write a novel or a symphony.  There will never be a Mozart
> machine.  It cannot love or hate or act silly-- viruses withstanding.

Do not mistake a difference in quantity for a difference in quality. 
Humans do this all the time. Mozart was a product of quantitative 
differences (and also studied damn hard under his father to be as good as 
he was), albeit that the quantitative difference is to an extent that is 
appears to be a qualitative one.
(And the quantity of neural connections is all that distinguishes us from 
other life forms. We got lots, them not so much.)

I highly recommend Richard Dawkins' series "Growing Up in the Universe", a 
series of five lectures about life, the universe and everything, available 
for free at:

Jamas Enright
Blue Light Productions homepage:

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