Sunday, November 2, 2008

What exactly do you mean by machine, such that humans are not machines?

That is Eliezer's question to Jaron Lanier in their bloggingheads dialog yesterday. Lanier dodges the question at first but eventually responds that we should think of humans and machines as distinct because it is "pragmatic." That responds reminds me of Denyse O'Leary, coauthor of The Spiritual Brain, who claims here that "non-material neuroscience is pragmatic." And based on the first scathing review of her book, the association is not a compliment to Lanier.

All of this pragmatics talk smacks of vieled paternalism. Claiming that something is true because it is pragmatic is not far from claiming that it is true because you want it to be true. It is perfectly fine to do this on a personal level, but persuading others to believe in your desired belief as well means that you think you know what's good for them better than they do. That is paternalism, and I am steadfastedly opposed to spiritual parternalism.

You see? I just took on this non-materialism nonsense without once mentioning the r-word. Aren't you proud of me?