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Date: Fri, 6 Sep 2002 13:39:30 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jerry Friedman 
Subject: Re: (urth) Those chems

--- "Roy C. Lackey"  wrote:
> Blattid
> President and Founder,
> Chem Rights Now wrote:
> >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;
> 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...

> Look, I've acknowledged that Wolfe intended chems to be regarded as
> sentient
> automatons pretty much on a par with humans. (The question of chem
> "souls"
> is one I'd rather not get into, but I seriously doubt the Vatican would
> buy
> it.) 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.

I think what you're assuming--that machines can't have emotions--is not
only unproven, but has a very strong argument against it.  If human bodies
including brains work by the laws of physics, than computers should be
able to simulate them as well as desired.  That is, it should be possible
to build robots that behave and feel the way we do.  Unless you think that
our behavior or our feelings are not something our bodies do unassisted,
in which case your position needs *lots* of explanation.  Not necessarily
on this list.

Of course the materialistic view I'm arguing for can't (yet) explain how
something made of matter can be conscious, but that is still easier to
deal with than claiming that matter organized in one way (bios) can be
conscious or interact with conscious spirit or whatever, but matter
organized in another way (chems) can't.

Or maybe your arguing that engineers and tyrants on Urth [*] wouldn't want
chems with consciousness and emotions.  But maybe they would, or quite
possibly consciousness and emotions are necessary to something to
something that has as much independent judgement as a person, or maybe
they're not but it was much easier to follow the model of human beings
(with minor modifications) than to create a new kind of independent
rational being.

> >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.)
> I assume that they were so called because chemical reactions (as take
> place
> in modern dry-cell batteries) were their power source.

Nuclear reactions are probably involved, since Crane mentions toward the
end of _Lake_ that lots of isotopes are released when a chem blows.

> As I said before,
> both Urth-born Mamelta and Kypris called them robots and mechanical
> (LS2, 10
> and 4, respectively). Mamelta was so incensed when Lemur (the chem
> version
> killed by Crane with the azoth) was hurting Silk, that she screamed at
> him
> "_You damned robot! You THING!_" (emphasis in text, LS2, 12). (I would
> give
> page numbers, instead of chapter numbers, but I have only the paperbacks
> of
> the first three books.)

Same buying plan as me.

>Clearly, people who had not been born on the _Whorl_
> did not regard chems as equal to bios.

Well, two out of two people surveyed, anyway.  Kypris's position is ironic
since she herself is a machine intelligence.

> Even on the _Whorl_, in Silk's day, such an attitude still apparently
> persisted, lest Silk would not have said to Lemur:
> "'You said something else that I ignored, Councillor.'
>     For the first time, Lemur sounded dangerous and even deadly. 'Which
> was
> . . .?'
>     'You said that you were not a chem. I'm not one of those ignorant
> and
> prejudiced bios who consider themselves superior to chems, but I know--'
>     'You lie!'"
> Then Lemur pitched a fit and fired the azoth. (LS2, 12) He didn't want
> to
> admit that he was a chem because he was aware of the prejudice, and even
> seems to have shared it.

Good point.

Jerry Friedman
> -- 

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