FIND in
<--prev V209 next-->
From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Those chems
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2002 10:59:11 -0700

Roy, on chem "glands":

> Why would any robot designer in their right mind even 
> _consider_ building one hardwired (or programmed) to
> be subject to the equivalent vagaries of human emotions
> occasioned by glandular secretions?

Because the designers' goals are not what you assume they 
are -- they are attempting to build "chemical persons,"
the term actually used in the text which "chems" is short
for. More specifically, they are attempting to create a
consciousness of equivalent nature (though not identical
to) human consciousness. From my own reading in the field
(which is, granted, mostly on the level of Pinker and
Dennett), I am inclined to suppose that it is necessary 
for some kind of irrational drives to be present for a
consciousness as such to have even the possibility of 

> Hard to imagine Marble with a robot version of PMS. 

Granted; but then, she's _old_. I don't think we actually 
know enough about younger fem chems to make a statement
like this meaningfully.

> Would Sand have been any meaner to Silk if he had
> cranked out a little more of the robot version of
> testosterone?

Would Severian have been taller if he had been born on 
Lune instead of Urth? You're asking questions which are 
contratextual, and given that the text itself is a 
contrafactual, it's hard to make the questions mean
anything at all. Even if you grant per hypothesi that 
the chems do have a hardprogrammed equivalent of 
"glands," that doesn't mean that they duplicate the
specific functions of human glands; only that 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.

(Both of these are drives I can imagine even a highly
pragmatic engineer bulding into pure "robots"; 
reproduction to maintain the "supply" in the isolated 
_Whorl_ and self-preservation/maintenance, to extend 
the useful lifespan of the "units.")

> And where _do_ those parts needed to build a new chem 
> come from? Central warehouse? I guess not, or Olivine
> wouldn't have been left in the lurch.

I have the distinct impression that they have to _make_
the parts, though just _how_ this is done is not clear
-- but there's no reason it should be, since we don't 
see any of it happening. Olivine isn't incomplete 
because they ran out of parts; she's incomplete because 
Marble left too soon. (I think this much, at least, is 
pretty clear from the text.) 

> >> The gamut of human emotions attributed to the head movements and
> >> body language of Marble exist only in the eye of the beholder;
> >> they are learned associations or fanciful projections with no more
> >> (probably less) real-world meaning than those my wife assigns to
> >> one of our cats.
> >
> >And here the agenda steps forward: Roy, you are a victim of
> >pseudoscientific behaviorism, the idea that humans are somehow
> >the only creatures with real emotions or consciousness. While
> >only a fool would claim that the _exact_natures_ of a cat's
> >consciousness and emotions are identical to a human's, it is
> >equally silly to suppose that they don't have 'em ... in fact,
> >the only plausible argument for this is a religious one that
> >we have souls and they don't.
> 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? The parts of the brain where emotions are seated
in humans are much older than in animals, and have not changed 
terribly much in lo these many millions of years. To assume that
they do not produce similar emotions in animals seems very odd.

And why in Heaven's name do you assume that they can't "think 
like a human?" John W. Campbell used to ask for aliens that think
as well as humans but not like humans; some animals, I submit,
particularly a lot of our fellow mammals, are the converse: they
think not as well as humans but like humans.  

I have seen animals do what I can only call reasoning -- I have 
even seen a cat behaving in a way that I can only explain, 
admittedly by a sort of projection, by saying that the cat enacted 
a primitive form of the scientific method: observing, forming a 
hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by further observations, and 
acting on the results. Lengthy story on request, but it's even 
more off-topic than this -- which, I believe, remains topic-
relevant in that it relates (a) to the question of the chems, and 
(b) to such creatures as Oreb and Tik.

> Although this animal-rights stuff had nothing to do with my 
> post, you have several times brought up Heinlein on this list. 
> In TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE he said that when the need arises you
> must be able to shoot your own dog. I can; I have.

Are we establishing some kind of credentials? 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.

> That doesn't mean I liked it. I wouldn't eat chicken for 
> years; I kept seeing them headless, flapping around spouting 
> blood as I had seen them as a kid when they were fresh killed.

Ditto -- my dad raised chickens in a suburban yard, earning 
the enmity of his downwind neighbors. I never stopped eating 
chicken, but then my own position on animals has only gradually
evolved (and still does). Someday I may talk myself into becoming
a vegetarian...but I sure do like meat.

Meanwhile, back at the Whorl: one last question ... why, do you
suppose, Wolfe chose to call them "chemical" persons instead of
(say) "electromechanical" persons? Does this have any bearing on
your assumption that they are what we would call "robots" and not 
"androids?" (Yes, I know that Li'l Scylla uses the word "robot."
Proves very little, I think.)

  President and Founder,
  Chem Rights Now


<--prev V209 next-->