Sunday 31 December 2017

Thinking inside a remote-controlled robot suit: a thought experiment

If we consider life as thinking and acting (thought versus action) - it is vital to recognise that thinking comes first. Indeed Primary Thinking (a particular type of thinking) is the main task of our era.

Yet pretty much all social and legal interpretation is against this; and Christians are also very much at fault in regarding a persons actions as of first importance, even when it comes to spiritual matters - ignoring thinking.

Thinking comes first in reality, because thinking is potentially free; whereas action is always, and often heavily, constrained. We can think, from our real-divine selves - in absolute freedom; but this can never be the case for our acting.

Thinking may be free: but acting is always constrained.

As a thought experiment, consider life in a remote-controlled robot suit: an 'exoskeleton' or 'mech suit' - so we dwell inside a metal shell that is being compelled to do things by a remote-control mechanism.

Imagine being inside this shell - thinking freely about the world, understanding in some ways, and wanting to act in some ways - yet our actions, our limb movements - what we do - is being compelled by the robot suit (and whoever controls it).

So, we are constantly observing our bodies doing things we do not want to do, under compulsion of the robot suit. 

Inside this shell we can think freely - but our limbs are (mostly) being forced, by the superior strength of the robot suit, into doing things that are not chosen by us - but are compelled on us.

However, to be more accurate, we should regard the power of the robot suit to be greater than our own muscular strength - but only quantitatively greater - because it is sometimes possible for us to resist and even overcome the robot suit for some period of time - by exerting all our muscular strength against it. However, this overcoming the suit is exhausting, and therefore sooner or later we will tire and the robot suit will again take-over...

Thus our situation is that on the one hand we are compelled to act in specific ways by the external control of the suit; yet on the other hand we can sometimes force the suit to act in ways that our free-thinking desires.

This combination of freedom and constraint may then be used-against-us; if our thoughts are judged by our actions - from the correct fact that actions are visible while thoughts are not; plus the false assertion that, because we can sometimes act as we think, then we could (in principle) always act as we think...

So people whose thoughts are detached from their actions, but not wholly detached, are treated as if their actions are of first importance, and their 'real' thoughts can be inferred from their observed actions.

This is deadly: because instead of thought being free and knowingly-experienced as free - thought becomes regarded as constrained by action.

And if/ when a society can (mostly) compel action (like a robot suit compels action), then society can claim to control thoughts - because thoughts are (in practice) being assumed by inference from actions; thoughts are being regarded as secondary, to the point of irrelevance...

Society puts us in a robot suit, which externally-forces us to do this-and-that - then society tells us that we chose to do this-and-that! That we wanted to do this-and-that. That what we did and continue to do is the real us... 

The analogy in this thought experiment is that living in human society is like being encased in a robot suit - our actions are mostly compelled; but by exerting maximum effort and concentration we can sometimes briefly overcome this compulsion; and either refuse to act or - even more rarely and for lesser periods of time - overcome the suit and act against the compulsion.

Different people find themselves in different types of robot suit, with different compulsions at work - these correspond to our different bodies and personalities and the different social and political circumstances in which we find ourselves.

So our exoskeletal robot suit has different strength, robustness, intelligence, different ways of understanding and behaving, and is externally operated by very different compulsions - according to time and place.

This is our situation. We may have the intuitive insight that our thinking is of first relevance and our actions are being compelled - but 'other people' and the rules and assumptions of social institutions are judging us by our actions.

And this even applies to many Christian churches for much of the time. We may repent in our thought world... But our repentance is judged by changes in the behaviour of the robot suit - and that suit does not reflect our own Primary Thinking.

Indeed we mostly have a very imperfect degree of control of the suit, and the suit frequently forces us to do things we do not want to do... We try to resist it, but we get tired and distracted, and sooner or later, the suit takes-over again...

While we focus our efforts on forcing the suit to perform one particular action, we find that another part of the suit is being remotely-controlled to do something against our wishes. So while we effortfully-compel the suit-hand to stroke a dog, we realise the suit-foot is meanwhile kicking that dog...

The purpose of this thought experiment is to remind us that in an ultimate sense the most important things that happen in our lives are happening in thought, not action; and that the understandable tendency to focus on actions as 'evidence' of thinking can be deeply malign - especially if we ourselves come to believe it.

When that happens; we may come to believe that repentance means nothing unless it is revealed in action, in a change of life. And then to believe that that repentance in thought - as an act of thinking - is, of itself, worthless...

If, then, the robot suit cannot be compelled in practice fully to act-out our thought-repentance, then we may be convinced that the repentance was unreal merely because consistent reform of our actions was not possible...

In sum, societal control of actions has been metaphysically (i.e. by assumption) represented as societal control of thought. In truth; the robot suit of our our charecter, bodies and society cannot ever fully-control thinking. But if we allow ourselves to be convinced by this action-over-thinking metaphysics, we will find that we cannot repent unless society wills it! - and our society does not will it...

By granting primacy to action over thought, Christian repentance is lost to us; the robot suit (and its remote-controllers) take charge; and our damnation is assured.

Note: Imagine the situation of the above-illustrated soldier. The 'exoskeleton' might serve as a strength enhancement for much of the time; but that soldier's movements and actions could in principle, to greater or lesser degrees, be influenced or taken-over by a remote operator. Such a soldier could not be judged by his actions - but only by his thoughts.

Another Note: The above was prompted by what I regard as a major method of corruption in the modern West; which is, by one means or another - often sexual but there are many possibilities - to induce a young person to some sinful act or another under the understanding that having performed this action defines them. Repentance is ruled-out since anything less than 100 percent perfection of behaviour (i.e. of action) is regarded as insincere and hypocritical. Yet perfection is unattainable - for everyone, but especially so for adolescents. In such a society it is vital to regard the autonomous divine thinking self (our thinking self at its best and highest and purest) as the real and defining self.



MultiplayerMario64 said...

God bless you Mr Charlton. This writing and its insights had an immediate positive effect on me. It certanly feels like I was meant to read it and I’m sure there are many of us out there.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I'm rather pragmatic. If I found myself in a remote-controlled exo-suit that acted entirely contrary to my desires, then I would think about how to defeat the suit by selecting my resistance (or over-'assistance') for maximum effect, refined by continuous experimentation on how to best defeat the suit to the point where I could eventually disable and remove it. I would certainly not regard anyone attacking the suit, which acted contrary to my will, as attacking myself. But such confusion is required in order to have the idea that anyone judging the actions of the suit to be adverse and in need of restriction should be inferred to be judging me.

I thus would judge myself by how effective I was at sabotaging the suit's use contrary to my desires. And it would be hypocritical of me not to likewise judge anyone else by that same standard. It would likewise be hypocritical of me to aver that, because they were not responsible for the actions their suit took against their will, that I should make no effort to free them from such a captive existence.

Of course, I do not accord the dignity of being considered "thought" mental activity that has no purpose reflected in planned actions. A person who gives up, who thinks that, because the situation is unfavorable, there is no moral imperative to take action at all, has forfeited the ability to think and can only daydream. But there are qualitative differences in daydreams. Someone who longs to be liberated from their imprisonment and looks with hopeful eyes towards anyone that offers to disable their mobile prison and keep it from continued outrages against their real desires is in quite a different position from someone who only wishes to be considered unaccountable for the behavior of their suit while entertaining not the least desire of being freed even by others, let alone devoting real effort to that end themselves.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - My point here is Not pragmatic. Discussing the best pragmatic strategy to deal with the situation, implementing a plan etc., depends first on recognising the reality of the sitiation.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, and I don't take this to be the reality.

I feel more that we are on tricycles or bumper cars, testing to see if we're willing to learn how to operate a more powerful vehicle with some degree of competence and responsibility.

Yes, there is a learning curve, and yes, the conditions of the test might make these vehicles even harder to master than those we should eventually obtain if we prove adept and conscientious. But a rather large part of the difficulty of the test is clearly a result of those testing along with us who are not making the slightest effort to master their training wheels. If they should graduate alongside those who have shown an ability and inclination to control their vehicle properly, then the real road should be even more challenging than the test run.

One can look at life as a sort of test, or not. Whether or not I'm going to graduate from a tricycle to a motorcycle if I do well in mastering the first, whether or not it has even been intended in giving me the tricycle that I master it, I'm going to master it.

Or throw a tantrum and smash the wretched thing, I recall I did that once in my youth.