Saturday, 30 September 2017

Passengers - and following the rules, or not.

I am watching Passengers, a movie about a man who wakes up from cryogenic sleep accidentally on an interstellar journey to colonize a new planet, half way through a journey that is taking 180 years. They are 90 years from their destination.
It is quite a philosophical movie, actually, and I'm a little more than half way through.
What is impressive about it is the perceptiveness of the film's depiction of AIs. There is an android barman who talks to him, telling him, "No one ever wakes up early in cryo sleep." But he says, "Then how come I'm here talking to you?" "You're right. It is impossible that you are here." Then continues talking to him, serving him, as if that's perfectly fine.
It is a perfectly accurate depiction of the way an AI would behave, for it is precisely this type of paradox that an automatic system is incapable of noticing.
This was Kurt Gödel's perception, actually, when he critiqued Russell's Principia Mathematica in the early 20th century (an attempt to define all mathematics completely); Gödel produced the Incompleteness Theorem, which points out that the paradoxical type of statement, "This statement is not true", cannot be excluded from any complete logical system.
This has a bearing on morals, actually. No system of logic or laws could ever totally describe moral human behaviour in every circumstance.
After a long time of living alone, with only machines for company and pointless activities to do, but no one to share them with, the space man in Passengers finds his loneliness crippling. It is then he has an agonizing decision to make - will he wake up someone else?
For at the end of the day, it is the fact that there is someone there, that makes all the difference. i.e. a machine loving you is not enough, because you know that it has been programmed to do this. A person's love is infinitely more valuable, because there is actually a person in there, making that decision, choosing to love.
Following the rules is never enough, because someone who followed all the rules would still just be a machine. It is love, eventually, that transcends rules, and is ultimately the only proof that we are human beings and not automata.
~~~an afterthought - this is why "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the most powerful summary of morals - it puts at the centre the personhood of both people.


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