Exploring privacy in public spaces

Originally posted at SeattlePrivacy.org: https://www.seattleprivacy.org/exploring-privacy-in-public-spaces/

 

What should I expect–as a matter of privacy–in public spaces? The City of Seattle, my home, recently accepted more Department of Homeland Security grant money to expand its existing DHS-funded wireless mesh and surveillance network to include cameras and facial recognition software.

Although I know city officials are trying to use technology to enhance the functionality of the city, there are many privacy-impacting technologies, like our plethora of transportation tracking mechanisms, that make me feel like they want to track my every move. What does it all mean? Is it wrong to feel uneasy about public surveillance?

In this exploratory article, I will apply some critical thought to the issue of personal privacy.

The concept of personal privacy is easily grounded in our idea of a home. A juxtaposition might be spending time in a public space, such as walking down the street or relaxing in a local park. This simple scale of privacy would look like this:

  • relaxing at home (high expectation for privacy)
  • relaxing in a public park (low expectation for privacy)

Fortunately, life is not as simple–or as constant–as living privately at home and hanging out in public. Depending on how you live your life, many circumstances and factors impact your personal privacy. It seems prudent to identify the non-linear constants in order to shape the scope of personal privacy. At a glance, privacy appears to be relative to the expectations of any given culture, and then further defined by any person. Here are a few generalized cases:

  • personal bathroom (high expectation for privacy)
  • intimate actions with another
  • relaxing at home
  • driving a personal vehicle on a public road
  • relaxing in a public park
  • presidential speech
  • pornography (low expectation for privacy)

These cases and their order will not be the same for every person. However, there are several observable and quantifiable constraints that shape these cases that probably will be applicable to many more people, and I will attempt to define these constraints:

  • physical security (PS) – how open to physical touch are you?
  • visible security (VS) – how open to visual inspection are you?
  • time of privilege (ToP) – when (an explicit or implicit range of time) is it okay to impede upon your PS or VS?
  • space of privilege (SoP) – in what physical spaces, or what obstacles, affect your PS and VS?

The role of privilege appears to provide the structure to any given notion of personal privacy. Fundamentally, there appears to always be some aspect of privilege in any circumstance, and every circumstance requires some form or privacy for psychological stability and physical safety. Let’s go a step further by defining and applying a sub-scale:

  • 4: you and only you are allowed (examples: you and only you)
  • 3: one-to-few persons that are explicitly defined as having an explicit purpose, and are allowed only during an explicit amount of time in an explicit amount of space (examples: intimacy with a loved one at home, a visit to the doctor at their office, or a meeting with your lawyer at their office)
  • 2: one-to-many persons, including automated systems, having implicit expectations, may have temporary PS or VS access but still limited in ToP and SoP (examples: attending a music concert, shopping at the mall, or dancing with friends at a club)
  • 1: anybody, including automated systems, has full PS or TS access, but still limited in ToP and SoP (examples: performing on stage, recording yourself for a YouTube video, Tweeting publicly)

There doesn’t appear to be any measurement that does not have a basic expectation of personal privacy due to the requirements of “time of privilege” and “space of privilege”. As intelligent and reactionary individuals, our expectations of privacy are extremely dynamic and are always based on the outcome of our expected actions, particularly where we are and why we are there. Once we end any given action, in any given space, our privacy expectations will vary depending on what we expect is next. Applied:

  • personal bathroom: PS-4, VS-4
  • intimate actions with another: PS-3, VS-3
  • relaxing at home: PS-3, VS-3
  • driving a personal vehicle on a public road: PS-4, VS-2
  • relaxing in a public park: PS-4, VS-2
  • presidential speech: PS-3, VS-1
  • pornography: PS-3, VS-1

With these cases, it is apparent that physical security has a certain priority over visual security, probably because people are generally more careful with what they allow people to physically do with them (risk of injury) versus what people are allowed to see. Again, this is relative to where certain people are and for how long certain people are there.

Privilege

A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.

Society has helped shape my understanding about sex, in that the act is very special and should always be protected. It is an event that is so sensitive that it requires physical exclusivity with that person. The complex nature of privacy requires the notion of privilege, an extremely important requirement in order to have an intimate relationship with another individual. Ordinarily, my partner should have cost me a great deal of time and energy to develop trust and understanding. Through relationship building, my partner and I are able to take part in acts with each other that, ideally, no one else in the entire world is supposed to be involved with. That being said, it still only gets a score of 3 for “physical security” and 3 for “visual security”.

Having intimate relations with another person still does not rival the time (ToP) and space (SoP) that I allot myself when I use the bathroom. No one can bother me there. In my bathroom, I can take a shower and be allowed to independently think and relax, be able to utilize the toilet, or be able to calmly take care of myself in front of my mirror. I have explicit privilege to all aspects of myself in this space. This level of privilege is not easily or willingly jeopardized, and is why it gets a score of 4 for “physical security” and 4 for “visual security”.

With these two cases, it is clear to me that the notion of both physical and visual security, shaped by time and space, are inherently important in order to define the context of privacy. Privilege is an expectation set by me that defines the rules for what I am willing to share with others during explicit amounts of time and space, and this all amounts to personalized privacy.

When I am at home, either by myself or shared with my friends and family, privilege is automatically extended to specific people that I have developed specific levels of trust. This trust is not always mutual, but it is trust that I extend to others nonetheless that is based on my expectations.

Considering more moderate situations of privilege, entering the “public sphere” means that I am leaving an explicitly trusted space. Concepts such as “access” and “trust” become more passive, implicit, and dynamic. We withhold more physical access privileges while passively accepting an increase in visual access, meaning that we are willing to give up a certain level of visual security in order to accomplish specific tasks. Basically, in public, we extend access to ourselves more often, but it is not given out as deeply. This is why “driving a vehicle on a public road” and “relaxing in a public park” have the same level of physical security as being alone in your “personal bathroom“, while it has the lower visual security that is exclusive to day-to-day action in the public sphere.

The internet is vastly different

Both private and public aspects of the Internet play critical roles in my life. I use implicitly-public internet mediums everyday in order to access and share information, probably more than most people due to my addiction to Twitter and my desire to stay connected with worldly events. And since I don’t use a cell phone, all of my personal communication with my friends and family are sent and received via digital networks using implicitly-private internet mediums.

Fundamentally, physical security becomes two things online, one of which is the security of my physical location, something that can be exposed either by automated processes such as GPS information, or by me sharing my whereabouts accidentally or on purpose. Physical security considerations also include the general maintenance and storage of information, either “data at rest” (i.e.: databases) or “data in motion” (i.e.: data transfer). Visual security is dramatically different online. The information that I consume and/or share is explicitly or implicitly indicative of my individuality, all of which can not only be seen by a huge amount of people, but it is copied, stored, and later seen by, possibly, a similarly huge amount of people.

Together, physical and visual insecurity, uniquely made possible by the internet, is the permanent exposure of my thoughts. The consequences of sharing information via digital mediums goes beyond anything that our human brains are capable of understanding.

Information security has three requirements for proper care, commonly defined as the “CIA triad“:

  • Confidentiality – Is the information only accessible to the right people?
  • Integrity – Is the information authentic and unchanged?
  • Availability – Is the information always accessible to the right people?

These requirements are deeply entangled with personal privacy and the protection of privilege. If the security of my information is not maintained, then information about me will be at risk for exposure which fundamentally violates my personal privacy. Online privilege can then be determined by explicit access controls that I set which is grounded by a personally determined understanding of consequences when information is exposed to anyone beyond me. The problem with controlling privilege online is that it’s nearly impossible to do.

Internet-based social networking is extremely popular. Over time, my social profiles require me to make a copy of my highlights, my achievements, my problems, my story; all of these unique and interesting things about me that help distinguish me, all of these things that prior to the internet only existed on a one-on-one basis with a very select amount of people. With internet-based social networking, my persistent profiles are not only available for everyone to see 24/7, but the companies that I entrust my story with can make a copy, can sell a copy, or can hand a copy over to anyone it thinks is justified. The real-time stories about my life, how I think, what I hate, who I love–the deeper notions of my individuality are brought out when I converse with people that I explicitly trust or want to trust. The companies that I have to trust when I want to connect with people get a permanent copy–a permanent version of me.

For the internet to work for me, I have to provide it something that goes dramatically beyond what I’m used to giving out. I have to give the internet my thoughts, and it’s not as simple as it sounds. The internet gets a copy of what I think, when I think it, how I think it, and worst of all, anyone who can see my thoughts and the meta-information about my thoughts gets to write it all down, permanently, for their own personal records. Fundamentally, I have to forfeit the security of my thoughts in order to use the internet.

Offline, a very controlled amount of people are able to have a copy of my thoughts. The probability of being able to maintain the control of my thoughts is vastly improved when I know that once I say something or share my feelings–shaped by an emotionally connecting expression–I don’t have to worry about those things being misused or mishandled.

When I make a status update online, write a comment, or send a message, people don’t get an emotionally connecting expression. People don’t get to simply remember what I say or how I say it. People–potentially many more than intended–can save it, can come back to it at any time in the future, and can think about it in new and unexpected ways because the state of that information will not change even though people do.

Surveillance

Close observation of a person or group, especially one under suspicion.

Surveillance is fundamentally a combination of search and seizure. When it comes to internet, telecommunications, or audio and video surveillance, you can not search something unless you seize it first. Spying is the act of looking at people and the information that they create that was not explicitly intended to be shared. In order to spy on people, other people have to compromise the confidentiality of me or my things. A compromise of confidentiality means a compromise in personal security. Surveillance should never be tolerated by a society if performed outside of the scope of explicit criminal inquiry.

Like the majority of commonly-privileged Americans, I do not actively perceive physically or visually violating search or seizure of my person or property in such a way that negatively affects my life. However, Edward Snowden has brought to light many facts that show that our government is actively violating my first and fourth amendment rights. This situation is the most pervasive example that any of us in our entire lives will ever indirectly experience. This situation is exactly why my rights are written down on the documents that founded this country, because the people that directly experienced persecution from Brittan in the 1700’s attempted to proactively protect the citizens of this country. This situation must be fixed in order to avert the slippery-slope conditions that make a tyranny possible.

I think that there is a clear difference between being watched given any particular activity, the recording of that activity, and further its long-term retention. Storing specific information about where I am, what I am doing, and with whom I am doing something with is a far more potentially damaging act than simply watching me and forgetting about me.

Conclusion

What does is mean when Seattle’s government takes money from a federal government grant program that came to be following a major terrorist attack? Has Seattle’s government lost its ability to keep the peace, or does it simply, fundamentally, not trust its citizenry? If Seattle’s government continues with the installation of cameras and facial recognition software, it is a demonstration of illegitimacy. Mass surveillance is terrorism, because it concisely says to the public, “You are the enemy.”

The circumstances of your life determine your privileges. Privacy is something that you always have and that you have to work to keep in order to protect your privileges, especially in public spaces where your security carries greater risk. If you have to request privacy from someone who inherently doesn’t care about you, then you have already been stripped of your privileges and you should reject this completely because you should not forfeit your identity, your intentions, or your thoughts so willingly. The exception to this is when you commit a crime, something defined by society as being counterproductive to a stable society. You are innocent until proven guilty because implicit trust is fundamental to a stable society. Your identity and your thoughts are what allow you to exist as an individual. The large majority of people want to do the good and right thing in any social context. Just because a small amount of society chooses to do the opposite does not justify the compromise everyone’s individuality and the devolution of a stable society.

Welcome: Society for the Philosophy of Information

I’d like to welcome the Society for the Philosophy of Information into the world. I’m so excited about the formation of this community that I became a Supporting Member and donated $50. Sadly, the lifetime membership was not an option when I signed up, but I guess I can do that in 2014.

SPI has released a CC-BY-NC-SA book, The Philosophy of Information: a Simple Introduction. According to the discussions going on via the email distribution list, a revised edition will be coming out soon, and the license may even be changing to CC-BY-SA to be compatible with Wikipedia.

We, the Web Kids.


Piotr Czerski
We, the Web Kids.
(translated by Marta Szreder)


There is probably no other word that would be as overused in the media discourse as ‘generation’. I once tried to count the ‘generations’ that have been proclaimed in the past ten years, since the well-known article about the so-called ‘Generation Nothing’; I believe there were as many as twelve. They all had one thing in common: they only existed on paper. Reality never provided us with a single tangible, meaningful, unforgettable impulse, the common experience of which would forever distinguish us from the previous generations. We had been looking for it, but instead the groundbreaking change came unnoticed, along with cable TV, mobile phones, and, most of all, Internet access. It is only today that we can fully comprehend how much has changed during the past fifteen years.

We, the Web kids; we, who have grown up with the Internet and on the Internet, are a generation who meet the criteria for the term in a somewhat subversive way. We did not experience an impulse from reality, but rather a metamorphosis of the reality itself. What unites us is not a common, limited cultural context, but the belief that the context is self-defined and an effect of free choice.

Writing this, I am aware that I am abusing the pronoun ‘we’, as our ‘we’ is fluctuating, discontinuous, blurred, according to old categories: temporary. When I say ‘we’, it means ‘many of us’ or ‘some of us’. When I say ‘we are’, it means ‘we often are’. I say ‘we’ only so as to be able to talk about us at all.

1.
We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.

Brought up on the Web we think differently. The ability to find information is to us something as basic, as the ability to find a railway station or a post office in an unknown city is to you. When we want to know something - the first symptoms of chickenpox, the reasons behind the sinking of ‘Estonia’, or whether the water bill is not suspiciously high  - we take measures with the certainty of a driver in a SatNav-equipped car. We know that we are going to find the information we need in a lot of places, we know how to get to those places, we know how to assess their credibility. We have learned to accept that instead of one answer we find many different ones, and out of these we can abstract the most likely version, disregarding the ones which do not seem credible. We select, we filter, we remember, and we are ready to swap the learned information for a new, better one, when it comes along.

To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds. Similarly, we do not have to be experts in everything, because we know where to find people who specialise in what we ourselves do not know, and whom we can trust. People who will share their expertise with us not for profit, but because of our shared belief that information exists in motion, that it wants to be free, that we all benefit from the exchange of information. Every day: studying, working, solving everyday issues, pursuing interests. We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolising it.

2.
Participating in cultural life is not something out of ordinary to us: global culture is the fundamental building block of our identity, more important for defining ourselves than traditions, historical narratives, social status, ancestry, or even the language that we use. From the ocean of cultural events we pick the ones that suit us the most; we interact with them, we review them, we save our reviews on websites created for that purpose, which also give us suggestions of other albums, films or games that we might like. Some films, series or videos we watch together with colleagues or with friends from around the world; our appreciation of some is only shared by a small group of people that perhaps we will never meet face to face. This is why we feel that culture is becoming simultaneously global and individual. This is why we need free access to it.

This does not mean that we demand that all products of culture be available to us without charge, although when we create something, we usually just give it back for circulation. We understand that, despite the increasing accessibility of technologies which make the quality of movie or sound files so far reserved for professionals available to everyone, creativity requires effort and investment. We are prepared to pay, but the giant commission that distributors ask for seems to us to be obviously overestimated. Why should we pay for the distribution of information that can be easily and perfectly copied without any loss of the original quality? If we are only getting the information alone, we want the price to be proportional to it. We are willing to pay more, but then we expect to receive some added value: an interesting packaging, a gadget, a higher quality, the option of watching here and now, without waiting for the file to download. We are capable of showing appreciation and we do want to reward the artist (since money stopped being paper notes and became a string of numbers on the screen, paying has become a somewhat symbolic act of exchange that is supposed to benefit both parties), but the sales goals of corporations are of no interest to us whatsoever. It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways.

One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.

3.
We are used to our bills being paid automatically, as long as our account balance allows for it; we know that starting a bank account or changing the mobile network is just the question of filling in a single form online and signing an agreement delivered by a courier; that even a trip to the other side of Europe with a short sightseeing of another city on the way can be organised in two hours. Consequently, being the users of the state, we are increasingly annoyed by its archaic interface. We do not understand why tax act takes several forms to complete, the main of which has more than a hundred questions. We do not understand why we are required to formally confirm moving out of one permanent address to move in to another, as if councils could not communicate with each other without our intervention (not to mention that the necessity to have a permanent address is itself absurd enough.)

There is not a trace in us of that humble acceptance displayed by our parents, who were convinced that administrative issues were of utmost importance and who considered interaction with the state as something to be celebrated. We do not feel that respect, rooted in the distance between the lonely citizen and the majestic heights where the ruling class reside, barely visible through the clouds. Our view of the social structure is different from yours: society is a network, not a hierarchy. We are used to being able to start a dialogue with anyone, be it a professor or a pop star, and we do not need any special qualifications related to social status. The success of the interaction depends solely on whether the content of our message will be regarded as important and worthy of reply. And if, thanks to cooperation, continuous dispute, defending our arguments against critique, we have a feeling that our opinions on many matters are simply better, why would we not expect a serious dialogue with the government?

We do not feel a religious respect for ‘institutions of democracy’ in their current form, we do not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see ‘institutions of democracy’ as a monument for and by themselves. We do not need monuments. We need a system that will live up to our expectations, a system that is transparent and proficient. And we have learned that change is possible: that every uncomfortable system can be replaced and is replaced by a new one, one that is more efficient, better suited to our needs, giving more opportunities.

What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment.

Perhaps we have not yet given it a name, perhaps we are not yet fully aware of it, but I guess what we want is real, genuine democracy. Democracy that, perhaps, is more than is dreamt of in your journalism.



___
"My, dzieci sieci" by Piotr Czerski is licensed under a Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Na tych samych warunkach 3.0 Unported License:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Contact the author: piotr[at]czerski.art.pl

What does it mean to know someone?

Imagine walking by a blue house on a warm June day. There’s a woman working in her garden this wonderful, breezy afternoon, and this woman looks up at you to give you a hospitable smile. You don’t know this woman. Though you do know that she’s a woman and that she loves her garden so.

Let us suppose that in this very instance of interaction that we know each other entirely.

I am proposing that to interact with a stranger on this basic level entails complete knowledge of the other — that everything there is to know about such a person is known and that nothing else is necessary. I am proposing that if and when you communicate further with an individual do you only complicate their identities, degrading the amount in which you actually know a fellow human being.

“Steadier Footing”

There is a commonality between us. It is not life; but instead, it is the role in which life plays. It is as if life is a song and sometimes we like to sing along. These expressions that we use, they emancipate us from our ego and put us into something that we can both understand. However different our eyes and our placement may be, we know this world. Take for instance this exact moment. The patterns of my thought weigh on your mind and yet this is not our common vessel. We are deliberate yet our intentions are only our own. What we share is the melody of this song. We share the commonality that the song that is played is never played again the same.

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto


Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

RIP

Artificial Free-Will

Life is a very small thing. But life is as life deems necessary. The human perception would indeed be a far simpler one if we were to live as a leaf of an Aspen tree identifies life. This paper is going to be written to help explore where human intelligence lies in comparison to the idea of artificial intelligence. In large part, I presume that human cognizance does not have free will, albeit this paper will also explore the idea of free will in a larger sense. I believe that the adaptation of computer processing, from a biological point of view, is beginning to merge with how and why we think about life. In correlation, I do not think that the notion of artificial intelligence is currently possible.

Computational Will
People, more so the brain of a person, appear to produce a considerable amount of “overhead” processing. Through the processes of our sensory organs detecting external stimulus and our brain rechecking this new data with old information, people conduct a great deal of sifting, scanning, and further identification of the information which we have come to know. We think of things as they occur. If they remain active in our conscience, the processing of that maturing information continues to be processed until a conclusion can be satisfied. Computers on the other hand, the system of which a modern day computer processes, includes its given data and its ability to respond to such data, governed by its privileged application. To explore these two notions in parallel, the application of emotion seems fitting to the identification of how and why people process data.

Goals
This world in which we live, it could be anything, and people have trouble dealing with that uncertainty. Computers are programmed to do what we tell them. Both computers and people possess the definition of a goal, however abstractly different they remain. Computers function by auto-building a task list and the resources necessary to compile the available data. This notion of a goal is similar to people’s understanding of goal setting—one must identify the necessary steps in order to take them, and to further streamline this process, we must abide by the resources that we are able to utilize.

Stimulus
The human brain shares a fundamental property with a computer. Our brain appears to work in such a way that is similar to the concept of cause and effect in that any given reaction of our brain is entirely determined by what is excited, and what is not. This notion is the same in application with the utility of binary code in a computer. Processing is coded by what is on or what is off. Excitement is stimulated from influence; computers do not have the ability to experience what is outside of them, until provided by humans, in the form of new programming code or new data to be processed by preprogrammed code. How then does one program artificial intelligence if computers do not have the ability to be stimulated? To further complicate this notion of stimulus, what then determines excitement in a person, from an internal-to-external point of view? Does stimulus alone allow for our idea of what it means to freely will our independent rule? From a complex point of view, perhaps how and why any given person is excited or not excited about any given subject is itself a learned application, a self building application, one which is merely an escalation of survivability. Applying this notion to computers, how then do we program a computer, one which does not have sensory organs, to be scared? Computers do not need the application of emotion if they cannot reason, for there is no currently programmed reason why a computer needs to react to its environment.

Double Helix
People have always been willing to spend an ample amount of resources in attempts to further streamline the way in which we manage all of the increasingly complex information that we must process on a daily basis. This process of learning new ways to do things, do to more without spending quite as much, is presumably something that every person wants. As computers and the tools that we continue to develop to outsource what we need to process evolves, we are increasingly becoming more like computers. Ironically, at the same time, we are putting a considerable amount of resources into making computers smarter by giving computers human-like characteristics; namely, curving the concept of processing to more effectively react to the life of a human, or, artificial intelligence. In retrospect, it would seem that creating artificial intelligence is more so the act of dumbing-down a computer. Making computers more like humans while humans attempt to process more like computers seems to resemble a double helix. However, through the advancement of computer-human interfaces, it is clear that one day this double helix will merge. But in that time, with respect to the development of computer processing, how will a computer actually respond as an intelligent being? Is it possible to create such an entity?

Biological Will
To create a fundamental understanding of what intelligence is, it would seem necessary to proclaim that the natural development of the biological mind supersedes the instant quantification of a computer. Computers can calculate incredibly complex calculations very quickly, while in contrast, a computer currently cannot calculate the answer to “would you kill yourself to save…” unless you were to apply a numerical value to all prospects, and then, if you can even create a formula that is repeatedly correct in its solution. In order to begin to program a computer as having any degree of intelligent process control, it would be required to develop a modularly-integrated, dynamically-evolving baseline be constructed to compare all old and new information to. Biological cells all have a natural, and perhaps, a “default” comfort level—a naturally predefined yet developing instrument to build from. In the sense of a human being, we are a composite of a trillion different, unique, comforts levels, all having to work together to react to our environment.

Further questions:

  • What would the human be without problems?
  • Is it possible to “be” without motive?
  • How do you program motive if the environment is static?

A Philosophy On Education

I believe in an open, connected, and educated world.

The education system in the United States is horribly flawed. I think that the basic structure of leaving one person to solving a politically constructed, test based (product emphasis, as to a process emphasis) curriculum all by one’s self is a fallacy in and of itself, in the society of the United States of America.

The business-oriented society that I am familiar with is one of a particular work unit; working together to accomplish any particular-to-wide variety of goals. There is a flaw in our educational system: when our educational endeavors are based on individualized work and not team work, students grow up deluded.

People who are educated as an individual and made to work as a team will still, ultimately, understand the system as dependent upon one’s self, thus distracting the fundamental ideas of working together, more efficiently, as a team.

I believe that if our educational system had an emphasis on team work and allowing every student to access every possible outlet of information, as we do in the business world, that students would learn at a very young age how to work together to solve problems, and how to be resourceful and handle information responsibly.

I believe that instructing students with a team emphasis would directly affect how children learn to understand our very world, thus impacting how they would react to new influence. Basic psychology, within the realm of human to human interaction and communication, would benefit from an education which relies on a team. This philosophy is a functional one in the fundamental areas of biology; single celled organism having simple tasks, combined as a multi-cellular organism via diversified functions, to reach their goals.

In the Interest of the Biologically Intelligent

It is truly very interesting to speak out, to denounce the structure in which someone has developed an idea that depends heavily on a supposition. I do not deny that my very knowledge depends greatly on how I think about me and that “I am,” nor my dependence on my belief that someone is an “I” in direct response of an anthropocentric relation and association between this body and another. The effects of this reapplication of individualistic existence is quite deceptive; I do suppose that I am separate from my fellow human beings and it is through this complication of the sense of individuality that allows me to generate this misappropriation of “will.” The extent of designing the entirety of my existence is in part “my will to live” to which my existence is a corrupted paradigm. It is in my interest to pose that a problem with human existence lies within our collective perversion of the notion of “will” and to emphasize that both “my will” and “our will” is a composite of a greater community—the interest of my biological community—cellular instrumentality and human instrumentality.

Suppose that it is impossible to learn about, to relate to, or to understand something without applying a basic concept of what you think it is to be human. Suppose that knowledge is a commodity of self actualization and that understanding something is an application of this innate ability to be familiar with particularized individuality. I despise the attempt to discover what it means to die—to determine the functionality of the non functional. Knowledge is only as extensive as one’s ability to relate to which is in the process of being understood, to which such intellect varies to which intellect is applied.

“Let the people suppose that knowledge means knowing things entirely; the philosopher must say to himself: When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, “I think,” I find a whole series of daring assertions that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to prove; for example, that it is I who think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an “ego,” and, finally, that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking—that I know what thinking is. For if I had not already decided within myself what it is, by what standard could I determine whether that which is just happening is not perhaps “willing” or “feeling”? In short, the assertion “I think” assumes that I compare my state at the present moment with other states of myself which I know, in order to determine what it is; on account of this retrospective connection with further “knowledge,” it has, at any rate, no immediate certainty for me.”

[Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, page 23, section 16, paragraph 2]

Even while Friedrich Nietzsche openly expressed his discontent with our continual presupposition of how “I am,” that my “ego” is an entity in and of itself, and that “thinking” could very well be the definiteness of emotion, all of my relationships with everything external are dependent upon these states of surmisable accusation. The usefulness of cognitive quantification in these respects is that I am capable of formulating controversy, a dialectical comparison in which multiple events can be diagnosed in order to compose a conclusion, a seemingly natural feature that allows me to identify me as being me and nothing else. I do assume that I am a reactant of my inner flux and that this “retrospective connection” is a relatively static, automatic introspective decision.

To learn about and to understand ones sense of individuality we (my anthropocentric reapplication of my definition, to suppose about those who appear to be comparable) must perceive by sensing information and defining it with previous information, to modify what is already known, recreating such concepts by means of different bits of information, concepts, or models that are conjured by the influenced thinker. Biased by perception is quite the feature of the human mind because of the limited capability in which human cognition develops according to its particular past, and in essence, an evolution of thought and of our world. Within the construction of consciousness lies the implications of what is being processed—two thousand bits of information are what comprise consciousness, two thousand out of the four hundred billion that are constantly being received by our sensory organs and processed by our organic calculator [What the Bleep Do We Know!?, page 46].

“Through the conditioned learning process, neural pathways between eliciting stimuli and behavioral responses become hardwired to ensure a repetitive pattern.”

[The Biology of Belief, page 133]

A good analogy that would help explain how we define our paradigms would have to do with our five senses giving us a blank, spatial rendition of a canvas. These patterns are effectively our different colors of paint that allow us to draw out this progressively active canvas.

“The way [our brain constructs reality] is to first break the incoming impulses into basic shapes, color and patterns. Then it begins pattern matching with stored memories of similar things, associating that with emotions and assigned meanings to events, trying this all together in an integrated “picture” and flashing that to the frontal lobe forty times a second.”

[What the Bleep Do We Know!?, page 44]

Actively deciding what colors and shades, etcetera, to use to paint (to perceive) our environments is a huge part of what it means to be conscious:

“Emotions give [actively processed bits of information] their relative weighing and importance. They are a hardwired shortcut to perception. They also provide us with the unique capability to not see what we simply don’t want to see.”

[What the Bleep Do We Know!?, page 48]

“In Molecules of Emotion, [Candace] Pert revealed how her study of information-processing receptors on nerve cell membranes led her to discover that the same “neural” receptors were present on most, if not all, of the body’s cells. Her elegant experiments established that the “mind” was not focused in the head, but was distributed via signal molecules to the whole body. As importantly, her work emphasized that emotions were not only derived through a feedback of the body’s environmental information. Through self-consciousness, the mind can use the brain to generate “molecules of emotion” and override the system.”

[The Biology of Belief, page 132]

“Endowed with the ability to be self-reflective, the self-conscious mind is extremely powerful. It can observe any programmed behavior we are engaged in, evaluate the behavior and consciously decide to change the program. We can actively choose how to respond to most environmental signals and whether we even want to respond to them at all.”

[The Biology of Belief, page 134]

To which these scientific observations and measurements become applied, we are able to receive information from the outside world, our reality in which we appear to be fluidly involved with, and thus able to impose our own subjective order. Ones perception is, in retrospect, dynamic; our brain constantly receives new information, yet this new information is always being defined, filtered, and streamlined by what is already known. Perceptual reciprocation, giving back to one’s self for the creation and sustainment of one’s self, would seem to be a biological allowance, an adaptation mechanism that gives an organism the basic construct to develop its individuality.

How is “individuality” and “will” intertwined? It is in the interest of single celled organisms to group together to form multi-cellular organisms in order to increase survivability. This evolutionary process could be deemed as the will to power—a will that is less an individualistic characteristic as much as it is a process to bring balance to which is in existence. To bring unbalance to existence, in the case of a single celled organism, is to inflict death. The amplification of this process, in the case of a human being, this will to power is increasingly complicated by the manners in which such a multi-cellular being has the ability to operate. In the case of a single celled organism, its operations are very limited in comparison to a multi-celled organism, the hominid, that has advanced to the point of using groups of multi-celled communities for specific tasks: the stomach, the heart, the brain, and etcetera; a community of communities.

So where in lies “my will” if consciousness, the active processing of information, and the unconscious, the habitually learned processing of information, is a biologic, chaotically systematic mechanism that has evolved from the point of a simple instance of sustaining balance to our notion of a complex instance of sustaining balance?

Is the process of identifying characteristics of cells that compose the human body an anthropocentric (1) application or an anthropomorphic (2) application? This seems to be an outstanding question. The application of understanding cells could be an anthropocentric process because it is quite the community project for cells to identify themselves. However this process could very well be an anthropomorphic application because through our experiences, this community project is acting in accord with, or is in the interest of the community, and is not in the interest of the individual cells themselves.

  1. Anthropocentric: Seeing things in human terms, especially judging things according to human perceptions, values, and experiences. [Encarta Dictionary]
  2. Anthropomorphic: The attribution of a human form, human characteristics, or human behavior to nonhuman things. [Encarta Dictionary]

So where in lies our notion of freedom, and how does that complicate, or confuse, our idea of what it means to “will?” Could it be an effect of our comparison to that of which is static—to which does not appear to intelligently change on its own accord?

The ability to be self reflective is not to be confused with any amount of freedom. Suppose that a child is playing with some different colors of paint. He does not know the basics of mixing paint, nor does he know which colors to combine to make any specific color of paint. When the child mixes two colors, he gets a third color. When he mixes two other colors, he gets another new color. The more paint he mixes, the more new colors he gets. And the child, not being smart enough to figure out the rules of mixing paint, might say that the paint has free will. The child might ask, “How could it be possible for green to exist, when before there were only blue and yellow?” The child would reason that the paint has a will to freely choose to make new colors and to which color it will change into. The child supplies the initial setup, and the paint’s free will chooses the outcome. The child would be wrong, of course. There are rules for mixing paint—mixing paint is entirely determined. The child’s ignorance of those rules however does not disprove determinism; it only proves the child’s ignorance. We are just simple children who don’t know the rules of how our body works. The body’s mechanics could be entirely determined, but our ignorance of the rules which determine them does not disprove determinism, it only proves our ignorance.

To be free in the sense of independent agents capable of operating without restriction would require an absence of limitation—a world composed of nothing. As liberating as this might appear to be, nothingness is not to be confused with the notion of zero, and is not something that human cognition can recognize due to our continuous calculations of something, much like human cognition is incapable of comprehending what it would mean to be dead; to actively process nothingness is a contradiction.

Am I consciously supposing that I have any amount of will, or is will an innate instinct that is confusing not how I operate, but instead why? I am not inquiring about any integral abilities that perpetrate in my subconscious, but instead a trait that is a compound of all of my cells of which I am composed. To suppose that I have any amount of will is to suppose that I, in at least any relative amount, have the ability to operate independently. Thus in this sense, the “will to power” and “free will” are one and the same but in accordance with what is needed to continue independence. In retrospect, the “will” of a single celled organism to thrive for independent balance by means of integrating itself with another single celled organism is in response to the rules of chemistry and electricity, and of its environmental stimulus—its “will” is dependent upon its requirements for sustained balance. Molecules, like people, prefer environments that offer them stability. Again, the amplification of this paradigm, in application to a human being, the very same rules do apply—irrespective of our inability to measure our extensive complexity with regards to what we require to sustain balance.

“In consequence, he acts necessarily, his action is the result of the impulse he receives either from the motive, from the object, or from the idea which has modified his brain, or disposed his will. When he does not act according to this impulse, it is because there comes some new cause, some new motive, some new idea, which modifies his brain in a different manner, gives him a new impulse, determines his will in another way, by which the action of the former impulse is suspended: thus, the sight of an agreeable object, or its idea, determines his will to set him in action to procure it.”

[Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature]

The hominid body is composed of many different organs that carry our many different functions. In the case of any cell, in comparison, its components have many various functions, but on a much smaller scale. It was in the interest of a single celled organism to combine with other single celled bodies to distribute its ordinarily natural functions so that communities of cells could specialize in their functions to gain an advantage over its environment. Apply this very same concept with Baron d’Holbach’s explanation of determinism and one could begin to understand that our motives are dependent upon our need to complete a specific task.

In comparison and dramatic amplification with which cells operate collectively to accomplish a necessary objective, the sharing of information via electrochemical synapses can be applied using the similar notion on how and why humans communicate with each other to satisfy a seemingly necessary objective. Such tasks are seemingly necessary on occasion because of how advanced the hominid is in comparison to its basic structure, the nature of a cell. Such collective will greatly affects how each individual cell operates; with regards to human kinds’ various cultures and communities, such collective will greatly affects how each individual human operates.

A Sense of Individuality

As an individual, I exist in a raw, natural form until I am perceived by either myself or by other individuals who are able to label my characteristics with a biased perception. [I use the term “biased” because of the limited capability in which human cognition develops according to it’s particular past]. These two forms of existence, raw existence and biased by perception, are uniquely different in that such unaltered subsistence solely exists without definition [without a “labeler”] and is only limited by its subjective, physical capabilities. The second form of existence, the biased by perception existence, only exists within the mind of the perceiver who is capable of creating and sustaining a concept of such a definition with their own limited ability to sense and calculate (to cognize) with their pre-conceived yet dynamic notion of not only what existence is, but how it operates.

However, my idea of myself is of the same qualities as ones idea of me, whereas my conceptual definition of who I am is of the same structure as my idea of another, being that my inherent ability to label my own distinctive characteristics are completed in the same fashion as my ability to label anyone else. I believe that, devoid of a physical appearance and a notion of sense-able physicality’s, my idea of self and another is identical in their cognitive assembly.

My perceived distinction between myself and others, excluding physical experiences, can only be achieved by perceptual reciprocation: our ability to internally (cognitively) respond to what we receive from the outside; the automatic capability to adjust what we receive with our already obtained knowledge. This distinction, however subjective and relative to my own perception, is why I am able to label myself me.

A position of ones mental self must be pre-defined and always in progression of being defined—the sense of ones self is to be defined in the manner of ones conscious wishes and unconscious tendencies. This definition of “I”, no matter how abstract or concrete, dynamic or static, must be perceived by its own perception. So, definition is constantly being perceived. The outcome of this, what one wishes to do with such a definition, or more importantly, what one wants to do with ones own perception, is limited to its own experiences. Ones perception is forever dynamic; perceptual reception constantly receives new information, yet this new information is always being defined, filtered, and controlled by what is already known—identified as: perceptual reciprocation—giving back to ones self for the creation and sustainment of ones self.

To learn about and to understand ones sense of individuality, we must perceive by sensing information and defining it with previous information, to modify what is already known recreating such concepts by means of perspectives, biases, and concepts conjured by the influenced thinker. People develop their character (a system of definitions and differences) by strengthening their own opinions, and others, through the instrumentality of others, depending upon the level of one’s introspection rather than conforming and integrating ones self into an already fabricated idea. But, someone’s openness to alien thoughts is where there is a conundrum. I think that, theoretically, you cannot base your opinion off of someone else’s because it is not yours. In order for you to create your own opinion, you have to take someone else’s and modify it in any way to make it understandable by you—though opinion that is heard is understood, it is really your own opinion that you are listening to because you are only reiterating their communication through your own perception. So, everything that is perceived is of its own originality, according to the uniqueness of its processing, thus reinforcing the personal notion of the individual.

The most direct form of building the sense of individuality is that of cause and effect—the consequence of a question—what is desired is that of a question, the answer, and the answers meaning. To answer what the meaning of life is, is to satisfy ones definition of individuality. The meaning of me cannot be given because I am subject to my own dynamic perception and my willingness to fulfill a definition that cannot be fulfilled because of its constant change. Therefore life cannot be answered and holds no meaning outside of its subjective nature. We feel as if it is possible to give meaning to life because we are in a habitual process of defining what we observe.

In [some form of] conclusion, without a nervous system we would be incapable of determining ANYTHING, for our nervous system is key to any form of sense inflicted by our tactile world. We quite plainly would not exist without a nervous system (our species). We would have no possible input, therefore no possible output. However, because of our ability to perceive based on cause and effect, we are able to adapt to our environments by remembering its inflictions. These inflictions are why we are able to differentiate ourselves from everything else that our nervous system is not interconnected with, thus imposing separation from such influences.