Perhaps the omission is deliberate, because it does mention the origin of "family" from "servants".
(A delightfully unapropos Yeats quote is hidden in plain view at that last link. I wonder who stuck it in there.)
"'Person,' by the way, has a neat etymology. It comes from the Latin persona, referring to a mask worn on stage. Per (through) + sona (sound) — the thing through which the sound (voice) traveled."
The 'sound' bit is disputed, though, and probably too cute.
There are whole life strategies which are based around hacking the interface. Technically, we sometimes call people who choose them psychopaths and therefore less than persons, but realistically they often go undetected.
The way this is presented, personhood (which involves behaviours that we'd like a friendly AI to display) is an adaptation based on mutual benefit. We're not nice to other people because kindness and empathy is an unavoidable consequence of intelligence - rather we're nice because we're better off in a society in which we're known to be nice. And that's because we've got fairly limited personal capabilities so are heavily dependent on efficient cooperation with other people.
An intelligent entity without this constraint (e.g. a superintelligence that had access to advanced nanotech and could do pretty much whatever it wanted) w.r.t interactions with humans might not (probably wouldn't?) have any evolutionary pressure towards achieving and maintaining personhood. Which would mean we shouldn't take the approach of "Let's just make an advanced intelligence, because its intelligence will surely mean it behaves with empathy towards us".
Without water I will die in about 3 days. I have no "want" for the nicely brewed tea currently steeping on my desk. The point I'm making is wants invariably gravitate to what you can't get, at least not easily.
Its quite possible a nanotech equipped superintelligence (human or artificial) might really desire fame, or founding a new religion or philosophical school, or military conquest, or scientific discovery, or the creation of some really great art (fine or pop). Or maybe just collecting a vast pile of money. Those all have at least some requirement for empathy, however little.
Previous human fiction and semi-fiction along the lines of vampires, mythology, religion, and even robinson crusoe epics always seems to really like the idea of human culture even if the protagonist spends most of its time separate. As far as I know no one has explored the theme of introducing an AI to something like Buddhist meditation and letting it burn some machine cycles meditating, at least not in a hard sci fi setting (I would not be interested in that in a fantasy or soft sci fi setting, so if it exists I wouldn't know)
Some of this is self selecting in that its not hard to find lifestyles that human higher end intelligences like, and they're all vaguely empathic, and variations have only been cultural. Thomas Jefferson might not have empathized with his slaves very much, but that lack was because none of his people did, not because he specifically was very smart. There is probably some self selection in that smart people who completely separate from civilization are going to be unknown to civilization, so whatever they do, we as a group donno, so if they exist, whatever they do, there's not much evidence, and its likely an AI would have similar results.
But our sample size of what consequences intelligence has is effectively 1. Drawing any conclusions from that is dubious. We just don't know.
However, that also means that the worst case scenarios we come up with are as well shaped by our idea what a human with unlimited resources might do.
I think there's a very good chance that the real outcome will be so far outside our sphere of imagination that it simply won't affect us much.
> When you aren't your own master, the rest of the personhood contract breaks down. This is true, but to a lesser extent, among e.g. husbands who are "whipped" by their wives. A group of men who want to stay out late playing poker can't reason with their whipped buddy; all of their reasons fall on deaf ears. And thus he loses a bit of personhood within that community.
Wouldn't the more obvious example be wives who are "whipped" by their husbands? And wouldn't that example be better at explaining why in most societies, women feel like they're only half a person?
The point I got was that when people concede agency for their behavior to another (e.g. work, spouse, political/social organizations), they lose personhood. There were better examples for the author to use.
Or perhaps the author doesn’t himself feel that way, but still finds it unremarkable that this community of poker buddies does (i.e. it’s not worth mentioning how dysfunctional this situation is). He’s so casual about totally dismissing the obligations of a husband to his wife, when any other arbitrary external obligation would have presumably had similar concrete effects. (For example, if the man had to leave to visit his sick parent, help a work colleague, see an old friend in town for the day, or even if he just needed some time alone, would he still be considered a half person?)
My interpretation is that the situation he's describing isn't one where there's a specific promise to the wife for a particular situation - more like, your buddy who's never allowed to stay out past 10 because his wife is needy, manipulative, insecure, or some other negative personality trait. The perception is that he's giving up his autonomy for "no good reason", unlike the alternative examples you listed.
It's not necessarily that. Have you ever met a person who uses "Oh, my [X] won't let me do that" to get out of social situations? I think that's a better interpretation of what the writer means; it's not where they're keeping a promise to their spouse, but one where they use their spouse to deflect decision making. They make the choice, but claim it's their spouse's decision, to prevent having to explain their decision.
Children are another excellent example, I'd have to put up with an enormous level of extra B.S. in my life if I didn't have kids. "Oh you scheduled an all weekend teambuilding event on the other side of the state? soooo sorry I can't go, who would watch my kids all weekend?" "Whoops the company picnic is on Saturday, thats just too bad we have a soccer game" "I'd love to stay late to attend the diversity committee meeting but I have to pick up my kids at the library minecraft club meeting" "Oh the team is drinking until they vomit and then seeing who gets a drunk driving ticket? Wow that really sounds like fun, but the kids have a scouts meeting tonight and I'm the treasurer and in the leadership committee so I'll just see you guys tomorrow...". Back when I was single and childless I had to participate in all those idiotic primate dominance rituals, but having kids is a get out of jail free card preventing people from screwing around with my private life to prove they're superior enough to me to get away with it. Screw those bastards.
I suspect the business types know exactly whats going on and just don't want to make a scene.
Heh, very true. And the great thing is, it isn't even a lie—parents really do have better things to do. Not just because the things you have to do as a parent are always that wonderful, but also because the things other people want you to do are often really terrible.
I think it’s pretty weird that the only real discussions of gender relations in this essay are (a) husband and wife can be naked with each other, when they wouldn’t go naked in public, and (b) this cheap throwaway stereotype about the controlling wife not letting the hapless guy have fun with his buddies.
The essay would be stronger with the section about the “whipped” guy removed altogether.
> The essay would be stronger with the section about the “whipped” guy removed altogether.
I agree — these kinds of examples very much serve as triggers for people with gender-related issues or other axes to grind, and are therefore not very effective as examples.
You may be right. I know more of the "deflecting my decisions" people than the "whipped" people, so I had assumed the author meant the former. But you're probably right that he didn't.
Agreed. It was out of place, and at best a sitcom stereotype, rather than how real people interact.
I suspect that you are projecting.
Is the author even living in the same world as the rest of us?
In almost every society, there are large (sometimes extremely large) groups people who are more or less completely denied the right to "earn" personhood like that, because no matter what they do they will be considered inferior and less trustworthy.
At some level, personhood becomes interchangable with the concept of "brand", with the latter being an invention to piggyback on the interface of the former. President Obama is a person, Kellogg's is a corporation, and the USDA is a government institution, yet each is also a brand, carefully managed by a public relations team to mimic certain characteristics of personhood.
Thinking a little outside the box: perhaps some sort of portmanteau like "persozen" (a person who is a participant in society).
The author talks a little bit about Aspies, and he also talks about a metaphor of squares and triangle faces. He implies the possibility of clans, but doesn't go further. I think Kevin thinks that Aspies are an edge case because he relegates this part to the end of his article with relatively less content than the surrounding sections.
I would think that while people diagnosed with autism may be proportionally rarer, the clanish strategy, which they represent, is very common. I would add that I think religious and political folk are a part of this clan strategy, and that callous (not prepared with expected mitigating introductions or hedge words) contradiction of their political or religious viewpoints could be thought of as a threat to their personhood. The interesting part here is that they are not as interested in the opinions of those outside to their clan. Also, they maintain at least two personhoods, one being the interface for their clan, which they value the most, the other being the interface for either a generalized or specific external group. A person can carry many faces depending on the degree of logistical separation between the groups they belong to.
Since face is related to clan or group, some drugs elevate standing based on group culture, and the unwillingness to intake some drugs like alcohol could be interpreted as a failure to conform to group expectations.
How does this fit in with a High School mandating uniforms? Surely this encourages personhood in some way. In my experience, uniforms were very helpful in getting along with other people at my school.
School uniforms don't indicate nearly the same level of subordination to a command structure.
School uniforms don't really deal with this dynamic because they're only relevant for interactions internal to the school rather than interactions between the school and the outside world.
My school had explicit rules about how we should behave when in uniform outside of school, and we lost some agency because of that. Although I have to say it also felt empowering, to some extent, that we were kind of ambassadors for the school. We would definitely show off sometimes.
Similarly, sweet shops near another school I attended had signs saying 'no more than 3 children at once' or something similar. The uniform part was implied but I think a parent taking in four kids on a weekend day would have a different reaction from the shopkeeper than four uniformed children at 3:30pm.
Similarly, a group of teenagers in uniform may be less threatening on the street than one out of uniform, especially as fashions change. A certain school's uniform communicates a level of wealth or manners (or lack thereof) and therefore sets expectations for behaviour. A child alone in the library working in uniform may be far less likely to be approached by concerned staff than one in mufti - at least this was the case when I frequently stayed at the library outside of school hours.
Well they also have an effect on the interaction with the outside world: remember that Trainspotting scene when Renton wakes up to find out that the girl he picked up is a schoolgirl?
Every era adopts the metaphor of the day. In the early industrial age it was mechanism. Later, it was electricity. Today, we see the world through the veil of formalisms.
I'd like to see you explore the implications of the idea that personhood is socialized into we 'blank slate' human animals with regards to people with Aspergers. Bet you get into trouble :)