I have been listening to the audio book, Gods and Robots. It is a wandering journey through robots in greek mythology. Robots and myth are both topics close to my heart. What is technology? What is magic? What is supernatural? Is there a difference? Does it matter?
This book at one level is about what it means to be living vs non-living and how this is related to something that is artificial rather than natural. There is even a question of whether these categories even make sense entirely, but they are short hands that we use today. You microwave is artificial your dog is natural. Descartes would have thought that your Dog was a machine so a natural machine (and did not feel pain) even something natural can be mechanistic in some metaphysics.
Back to Gods and Robots. I was listening to this book and author wondered about a world where everyone could be a robot, as in the movie Blade Runner. Robots in that world are called replicant.. There is a test that humans can use to determine whether or not a replicant is a human – it is called the voight kampf test. But how can a replicant (robot) tell if he or she is a robot??? This is sort of the problem at the heart of Blade Runner. Does a human need to administer the test? What is the purpose of tests anyway?
Tests are supposed to sort things. In this case into human or not human.
This is an interesting issue… it is sort of like a problem of set theory. What can I prove about the set while I am in the set? It also sort of reminds me of Flatland by Edwin Abbott, how can I perceive other attributes of an individual that is in a superset of the category (or set that I am in) … It also makes me think about rules…
There are rules or laws to what numbers belong in what sets, there are laws of nature and laws of physics… And since humans are part of nature, there is this notion that humans also have laws.
I am a student of the enneagram and human design and other sightly woo/mystery tradition systems. Many of these teachings propose that humans act mechanically … that we are asleep. Being fully human or actualized, is about acting spontaneously – removing those programs.
This is also what Socrates thought – sort of. He talked about waking the Athenian citizens from their dogmatic slumber. This dogmatic slumber was in accepting certain mores, values and activities/rituals.
So this goes back to our original question… what kind of things can have laws…. can we who are alive – we think – understand the rules for what it means a live? This is a category, or set, that we are participating in, perhaps only something that is not alive can devise a test for what is alive. Or perhaps someone who is super- alive – alive plus plus can derive a test for what it means to be alive.
Perhaps there is no rule to determine what is natural vs artificial, because a natural thing does not operate according to laws (heuristics perhaps) nor does it fall into natural categories. What does it mean if something does not operate according to laws? For me this is what it means to operate spontaneously.