Monday, December 19, 2011

fuck the self

Finally, a guy has added some detail to a vague argument I've felt vaguely strongly* about for the past few years: Sentience, the sense of self, is not a uniquely human trait, nor is it a necessarily important part of intelligence. The self is just a good, practical reference point in the design of thinking machine. And thinking machines are billions of years older than super-intelligent ones we are now. But you didn't come here for my perspective. Here's the video:

Hell yeah, down with the sentience cult. One thing that bothered me was the idea that the self is located down in the midbrain. I'd been rooting for the prefrontal cortex. But that's not a big deal. Only idiots worry about the location of the self.

An importanter lesson to learn from this is that intelligence is one little voice in the primitive democracy of our minds, which explains why it's so easily and often ignored. The only solution is to metaphorically locate its opponents and metaphorically beat them savagely. And that's why I didn't like the Damasio's (the guy in the video) defense of curiosity. It seemed so feeble. It also feels tragic that it's even necessary.

*Yes, you can use an adverb to modify an adverb, if you're an asshole like me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

swim test

We had our biannual swim test yesterday. Most of the company did the bare minimum basic-level test, and then sat up in the bleachers with their MRE's, watching the handful who volunteered for the intermediate test. I was in the handful of course. We couldn't do the advanced test, because that takes five days and we only had the facility for one. But we got to try the MCIWS indoc, which is supposedly just as good and only takes an hour or so. So now I'm qualified to go to swim instructor school. But obviously the motive was to show off, and here's me cashing that check.

Some highlights:
  • Floating in the diving pool, I had to take off my pants, tie the legs together, and blow them up, to make a flotation device. It wasn't hard, but it was funny.
  • The second hardest thing was the 25 yard underwater swim. It had to be deep, too. Making a ripple on the surface would disqualify us. I tried going calmly and efficiently, as instructed. I made it about 75% of the way before I started to panic, but then I thought of a trick: Instead of giving up and freaking out upward, I could freak out forward. So I quit the calm efficiency thing and went nuts for the rest of the way. It might have been unsafe, but how often do you get a chance to pass a test you haven't prepared for, at the mere cost of a minor risk to your life?
  • The hardest thing was retrieving some rifles and helmets from the bottom of a 16-foot diving pool, while wearing a uniform and boots. It wasn't even part of a test. The test only required us to drop them. But we couldn't leave them there, and the instructor sure as hell wasn't going to get them. My ears are still feeling that one.