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Tag Archives: opinion
Posted: September 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm
Madison’s original proposal for a bill of rights provision concerning religion read: ”The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.” 1 The language was altered in the House to read: ”Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.” 2 In the Senate, the section adopted read: ”Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion, . . .” 3 It was in the conference committee of the two bodies, chaired by Madison, that the present language was written with its some what more indefinite ”respecting” phraseology. 4 Debate in Congress lends little assistance in interpreting the religion clauses; Madison’s position, as well as that of Jefferson who influenced him, is fairly clear, 5 but the intent, insofar as there was one, of the others in Congress who voted for the language and those in the States who voted to ratify is subject to speculation.
Scholarly Commentary .–The explication of the religion clauses by the scholars has followed a restrained sense of their meaning. Story, who thought that ”the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice,” 6 looked upon the prohibition simply as an exclusion from the Federal Government of all power to act upon the subject. ”The situation . . . of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.” 7
”Probably,” Story also wrote, ”at the time of the adoption of the constitution and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.” 8 The object, then, of the religion clauses in this view was not to prevent general governmental encouragement of religion, of Christianity, but to prevent religious persecution and to prevent a national establishment. 9
This interpretation has long since been abandoned by the Court, beginning, at least, with Everson v. Board of Education, 10 in which the Court, without dissent on this point, declared that the Establishment Clause forbids not only practices that ”aid one religion” or ”prefer one religion over another,” but as well those that ”aid all religions.” Recently, in reliance on published scholarly research and original sources, Court dissenters have recurred to the argument that what the religion clauses, principally the Establishment Clause, prevent is ”preferential” governmental promotion of some religions, allowing general governmental promotion of all religion in general. 11 The Court has not responded, though Justice Souter in a major concurring opinion did undertake to rebut the argument and to restate the Everson position. 12
Court Tests Applied to Legislation Affecting Religion .–Before considering the development of the two religion clauses by the Supreme Court, one should notice briefly the tests developed by which religion cases are adjudicated by the Court. While later cases rely on a series of rather well-defined, if difficult-to-apply, tests, the language of earlier cases ”may have [contained] too sweeping utterances on aspects of these clauses that seemed clear in relation to the particular cases but have limited meaning as general principles.” 13 It is well to recall that ”the purpose [of the religion clauses] was to state an objective, not to write a statute.” 14
In 1802, President Jefferson wrote a letter to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, in which he declared that it was the purpose of the First Amendment to build ”a wall of separation between Church and State.” 15 In Reynolds v. United States, 16 Chief Justice Waite for the Court characterized the phrase as ”almost an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment.” In its first encounters with religion-based challenges to state programs, the Court looked to Jefferson’s metaphor for substantial guidance. 17 But a metaphor may obscure as well as illuminate, and the Court soon began to emphasize neutrality and voluntarism as the standard of restraint on governmental action. 18 The concept of neutrality itself is ”a coat of many colors,” 19 and three standards that could be stated in objective fashion emerged as tests of Establishment Clause validity. The first two standards were part of the same formulation. ”The test may be stated as follows: what are the purpose and the primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the strictures of the Establishment Clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion.” 20 The third test is whether the governmental program results in ”an excessive government entanglement with religion. The test is inescapably one of degree . . . [T]he questions are whether the involvement is excessive, and whether it is a continuing one calling for official and continuing surveillance leading to an impermissible degree of entanglement.” 21 In 1971 these three tests were combined and restated in Chief Justice Burger’s opinion for the Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 22 and are frequently referred to by reference to that case name.
Although at one time accepted in principle by all of the Justices, 23 the tests have sometimes been difficult to apply, 24 have recently come under direct attack by some Justices, 25 and with increasing frequency have not been applied at all by the Court. 26 While continued application is uncertain, the Lemon tests nonetheless have served for twenty years as the standard measure of Establishment Clause validity and explain most of the Court’s decisions in the area. 27 As of the end of the Court’s 1991-92 Term, there was not yet a consensus among Lemon critics as to what substitute test should be favored. 28 Reliance on ”coercion” for that purpose would eliminate a principal distinction between establishment cases and free exercise cases and render the Establishment Clause largely duplicative of the Free Exercise Clause. 29
Justice O’Connor has suggested that it is inappropriate to try to shoehorn all Establishment cases into one test, and has called instead for recognition that different contexts may call for different approaches. Supp.1 For example, the Justice proposes that cases involving government ”speech” on religious topics be judged by an endorsement test that would invalidate government actions only if a reasonable observer would perceive the action as an endorsement or disapproval of religious belief. Supp.2
Government Neutrality in Religious Disputes .–One value that both clauses of the religion section serve is to enforce governmental neutrality in deciding controversies arising out of religious disputes. Schism sometimes develops within churches or between a local church and the general church, resulting in secession or expulsion of one faction or of the local church. A dispute over which body is to have control of the property of the church will then often be taken into the courts. It is now established that both religion clauses prevent governmental inquiry into religious doctrine in settling such disputes, and instead require courts simply to look to the decision-making body or process in the church and to give effect to whatever decision is officially and properly made.
The first such case was Watson v. Jones, 30 which was decided on common-law grounds in a diversity action without explicit reliance on the First Amendment. A constitutionalization of the rule was made in Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 31 in which the Court held unconstitutional a state statute that recognized the autonomy and authority of those North American branches of the Russian Orthodox Church which had declared their independence from the general church. Recognizing that Watson v. Jones had been decided on nonconstitutional grounds, the Court thought nonetheless that the opinion ”radiates . . . a spirit of freedom for religious organizations, and independence from secular control or manipulation–in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.” 32 The power of civil courts to resolve church property disputes was severely circumscribed, the Court held, because to permit resolution of doctrinal disputes in court was to jeopardize First Amendment values. What a court must do, it was held, is to look at the church rules: if the church is a hierarchical one which reposes determination of ecclesiastical issues in a certain body, the resolution by that body is determinative, while if the church is a congregational one prescribing action by a majority vote, that determination will prevail. 33 On the other hand, a court confronted with a church property dispute could apply ”neutral principles of law, developed for use in all property disputes,” when to do so would not require resolution of doctrinal issues. 34 In a later case the Court elaborated on the limits of proper inquiry, holding that an argument over a matter of internal church government, the power to reorganize the dioceses of a hierarchical church in this country, was ”at the core of ecclesiastical affairs” and a court could not interpret the church constitution to make an inde pendent determination of the power but must defer to the interpretation of the body authorized to decide. 35
In Jones v. Wolf, 36 however, a divided Court, while formally adhering to these principles, appeared to depart in substance from their application. A schism had developed in a local church which was a member of a hierarchical church, and the majority voted to withdraw from the general church. The proper authority of the general church determined that the minority constituted the ”true congregation” of the local church and awarded them authority over it. The Court approved the approach of the state court in applying neutral principles by examining the deeds to the church property, state statutes, and provisions of the general church’s constitution concerning ownership and control of church property in order to determine that no language of trust in favor of the general church was contained in any of them and that the property thus belonged to the local congregation. 37 Further, the Court held, the First Amendment did not prevent the state court from applying a presumption of majority rule to award control to the majority of the local congregation, provided that it permitted defeasance of the presumption upon a showing that the identity of the local church is to be determined by some other means as expressed perhaps in the general church charter. 38 The dissent argued that to permit a court narrowly to view only the church documents relating to property ownership permitted the ignoring of the fact that the dispute was over ecclesiastical matters and that the general church had decided which faction of the congregation was the local church. 39
Thus, it is unclear where the Court is on this issue. Jones v. Wolf restated the rule that it is improper to review an ecclesiastical dispute and that deference is required in those cases, but by approving a neutral principles inquiry which in effect can filter out the doctrinal issues underlying a church dispute, the Court seems to have approved at least an indirect limitation of the authority of hierarchical churches. 40
[Footnote 1] 1 Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).
[Footnote 2] The committee appointed to consider Madison’s proposals, and on which Madison served, with Vining as chairman, had rewritten the religion section to read: ”No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.” After some debate during which Madison suggested that the word ”national” might be inserted before the word ”religion” as ”point[ing] the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent,” the House adopted a substitute reading: ”Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 729-31 (August 15, 1789). On August 20, on motion of Fisher Ames, the language of the clause as quoted in the text was adopted. Id. at 766. According to Madison’s biographer, ”[t]here can be little doubt that this was written by Madison.” I. Brant, James Madison–Father of the Constitution 1787-1800 at 271 (1950).
[Footnote 3] This text, taken from the Senate Journal of September 9, 1789, appears in 2 B. Schwartz (ed.), The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 1153 (1971). It was at this point that the religion clauses were joined with the freedom of expression clauses.
[Footnote 4] 1 Annals of Congress 913 (September 24, 1789). The Senate concurred the same day. See I. Brant, James Madison–Father of the Constitution 1787-1800, 271-72 (1950).
[Footnote 5] During House debate, Madison told his fellow Members that ”he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.” 1 Annals of Congress 730 (August 15, 1789). That his conception of ”establishment” was quite broad is revealed in his veto as President in 1811 of a bill which in granting land reserved a parcel for a Baptist Church in Salem, Mississippi; the action, explained President Madison, ”comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.”’ 8 The Writings of James Madison (G. Hunt. ed.) 132-33 (1904). Madison’s views were no doubt influenced by the fight in the Virginia legislature in 1784-1785 in which he successfully led the opposition to a tax to support teachers of religion in Virginia and in the course of which he drafted his ”Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” setting forth his thoughts. Id. at 183-91; I. Brant, James Madison–The Nationalist 1780-1787, 343-55 (1948). Acting on the momentum of this effort, Madison secured passage of Jefferson’s ”Bill for Religious Liberty”. Id. at 354; D. Malone, Jefferson the Virginian 274-280 (1948). The theme of the writings of both was that it was wrong to offer public support of any religion in particular or of religion in general.
[Footnote 6] 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 1865 (1833).
[Footnote 7] Id. at 1873.
[Footnote 8] Id. at 1868.
[Footnote 9] For a late expounding of this view, see T. Cooley, General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States 224-25 (3d ed. 1898).
[Footnote 10] 330 U.S. 1, 15 (1947). Establishment Clause jurisprudence since, whatever its twists and turns, maintains this view.
[Footnote 11] Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 91 (1985) (then-Justice Rehnquist dissenting). More recently, dissenters, including now-Chief Justice Rehnquist, have appeared reconciled to a ”constitutional tradition” in which governmental endorsement of religion is out of bounds, even if it is not correct as a matter of history. See Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2678, 2683-84 (1992) (Justice Scalia, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices White and Thomas, dissenting).
[Footnote 12] Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2667 (1992) (Justice Souter, joined by Justices Stevens and O’Connor, concurring).
[Footnote 13] Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 668 (1970).
[Footnote 14] Id.
[Footnote 15] 16 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 281 (A. Libscomb ed., 1904).
[Footnote 16] 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1879).
[Footnote 17] Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 16 (1947); Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 211 , 212 (1948); cf. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 317 (1952) (Justice Black dissenting). In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 614 (1971), Chief Justice Burger remarked that ”the line of separation, far from being a ‘wall,’ is a blurred, indistinct and variable barrier depending on all the circumstances of a particular relationship.” Similar observations were repeated by the Chief Justice in his opinion for the Court in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673 (1984) (the metaphor is not ”wholly accurate”; the Constitution does not ”require complete separation of church and state [but] affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any”).
[Footnote 18] Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 314 (1952); Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963); Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 305 (1963) (Justice Goldberg concurring); Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 694 -97 (1970) (Justice Harlan concurring). In the opinion of the Court in the latter case, Chief Justice Burger wrote: ”The course of constitutional neutrality in this area cannot be an absolutely straight line; rigidity could well defeat the basic purpose of these provisions, which is to insure that no religion be sponsored or favored, none commanded, and none inhibited. The general principle deducible from the First Amendment and all that has been said by the Court is this: that we will not tolerate either governmentally established religion or governmental interference with religion. Short of those expressly proscribed governmental acts there is room for play in the joints productive of a benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.” Id. at 669.
[Footnote 19] Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 249 (1968) (Justice Harlan concurring).
[Footnote 20] Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 222 (1963).
[Footnote 21] Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664, 674 -75 (1970).
[Footnote 22] 403 U.S. 602, 612 -13 (1971).
[Footnote 23] E.g., Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 653 (1980), and id. at 665 (dissenting opinion); Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 40 (1980), and id. at 43 (dissenting opinion).
[Footnote 24] The tests provide ”helpful signposts,” Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 741 (1973), and are at best ”guidelines” rather than a ”constitutional caliper;” they must be used to consider ”the cumulative criteria developed over many years and applying to a wide range of governmental action.” Inevitably, ”no ‘bright line’ guidance is afforded.” Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 677 -78 (1971). See also Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 761 & n.5, 773 n.31 (1973); Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 662 (1980), and id. at 663 (Justice Blackmun dissenting).
[Footnote 25] See, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 636 -40 (1987) (Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, dissenting) (advocating abandonment of the ”purpose” test); Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 108 -12 (1985) (Justice Rehnquist dissenting); Aguilar v. Felton, 473 U.S. 402, 426 -30 (1985) (Justice O’Connor, dissenting) (addressing difficulties in applying the entanglement prong); Roemer v. Maryland Bd. of Public Works, 426 U.S. 736, 768 -69 (Justice White concurring in judgment) (objecting to entanglement test). Justice Kennedy has also acknowledged criticisms of the Lemon tests, while at the samed time finding no need to reexamine them. See, e.g., Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 655 -56 (1989). At least with respect to public aid to religious schools, Justice Stevens would abandon the tests and simply adopt a ”no-aid” position. Committee for Public Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, 444 U.S. 646, 671 (1980).
[Footnote 26] See Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983) (upholding legislative prayers on the basis of historical practice); Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2655 (1992) (rejecting a request to reconsider Lemon because the practice of invocations at public high school graduations was invalid under established school prayer precedents); Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1 (1993) (upholding provision of sign-language interpreter to deaf student attending parochial school); Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet, 114 S. Ct. 2481 (1994) (invalidating law creating special school district for village composed exclusively of members of one religious sect). The Court has also held that the tripartite test is not applicable when law grants a denominational preference, distinguishing between religions; rather, the distinction is to be subjected to the strict scrutiny of a suspect classification. Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 -46 (1982).
[Footnote 27] Justice Blackmun, concurring in Lee, contended that Marsh was the only one of 31 Establishment cases between 1971 and 1992 not to be decided on the basis on the Lemon tests. 112 S. Ct. at 2663, n.4.
[Footnote 28] In 1990 Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Scalia, proposed that ”neutral” accommodations of religion should be permissible so long as they do not establish a state religion, and so long as there is no ”coercion” to participate in religious exercises. Westside Community Bd. of Educ. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 260 -61. The two Justices parted company, however, over the permissiblity of invocations at public high school graduation ceremonies, Justice Scalia in dissent strongly criticizing Justice Kennedy’s approach in the opinion of the Court for its reliance on psychological coercion. Justice Scalia would not ”expand[ ] the concept of coercion beyond acts backed by threat of penalty.” Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2684 (1992). Chief Justice Rehnquist has advocated limiting application to a prohibition on establishing a national (or state) church or favoring one religious group over another. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 98 , 106 (1985) (dissenting).
[Footnote 29] Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 222 -23 (1963). See also Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 248 -49 (1968); and Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 689 (1971); Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649, 2673 (Justice Souter concurring) (”a literal application of the coercion test would render the Establishment Clause a virtual nullity”).
[Footnote 1 (1996 Supplement)] Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet,114 S. Ct. 2481, 2498-99 (1994).
[Footnote 2 (1996 Supplement)] Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (concurring); Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 625 (1989) (concurring); Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet, 114 S. Ct. 2481, 2500 (1994) (concurring).
[Footnote 30] 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679 (1872).
[Footnote 31] 344 U.S. 94 (1952). Kedroff was grounded on the Free Exercise Clause. Id. at 116. But the subsequent cases used a collective ”First Amendment” designation.
[Footnote 32] Id. at 116. On remand, the state court adopted the same ruling on the merits but relied on a common-law rule rather than the statute. This too was struck down. Kreshik v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 363 U.S. 190 (1960).
[Footnote 33] Presbyterian Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 447 , 450-51 (1969); Maryland and Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God at Sharpsburg, 396 U.S. 367 (1970). For a similar rule of neutrality in another context, see United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944) (denying defendant charged with mail fraud through dissemination of purported religious literature the right to present to the jury evidence of the truthfulness of the religious views he urged).
[Footnote 34] Presbyterian Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 449 (1969); Maryland and Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God of Sharpsburg, 396 U.S. 367, 368 (1970). See also id. at 368-70 (Justice Brennan concurring).
[Footnote 35] The Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Dionisije Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 697, 720 -25 (1976). In Gonzalez v. Archbishop, 280 U.S. 1 (1929), the Court had permitted limited inquiry into the legality of the actions taken under church rules. The Serbian Eastern Court disapproved of this inquiry with respect to concepts of ”arbitrariness,” although it reserved decision on the ”fraud” and ”collusion” exceptions. 426 U.S. at 708 -20.
[Footnote 36] 443 U.S. 595 (1979). In the majority were Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall, Rehnquist, and Stevens. Dissenting were Justices Powell, Stewart, White, and Chief Justice Burger.
[Footnote 37] Id. at 602-06.
[Footnote 38] Id. at 606-10. Because it was unclear whether the state court had applied such a rule and applied it properly, the Court remanded.
[Footnote 39] Id. at 610.
[Footnote 40] The Court indicated that the general church could always expressly provide in its charter or in deeds to property the proper disposition of disputed property. But here the general church had decided which faction was the ”true congregation,” and this would appear to constitute as definitive a ruling as the Court’s suggested alternatives. Id. at 606.
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Annotation 1 – First Amendment – FindLaw
Posted: September 18, 2016 at 8:30 am
by Edoardo Albert
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Published on Jul 10, 2015
by Rebecca Hodgkins
The Rocketeer leans against the chrome bar, nursing a drink. She has a few choices of scenery–bad choices, in her opinion. Like always, the Rocketeer picks the best of the worst; the view out the window of the space station orbiting Mars. She looks down at the red surface polka-dotted with rockets, shiny silver spears pointing back at her, at the station, at the stars beyond. Just a quick jump down, then into a rocket, and back out into the Black again. And none of these bucks taking up the rest of the bar know what they’re in for, she thinks.
Published on Sep 9, 2014
by Brian Lawrence Hurrel
Jump flash, blinding but brief. Alpha Centauri A swims into view. It takes only a few minutes after our emergence into realspace for the receiver to align itself with Earth. A long burst of static roars, fades. A voice mutters indistinctly, distorted as if bubbling up from deep under water, then suddenly rings out in shrill clarity. ” and this so-called Daedalus drive is not only a scientific impossibility, but a perfect example of misappropriated resources.”
Published on May 3, 2011
by K.G. Jewell
“Fifty-Nine, baby! Fifty-Nine!” Ted chortled, chipping a chunk of rock off Fenrir’s surface and dumping it into the sample bag clipped to the hip of his spacesuit. He looked up at Saturn hanging overhead and flashed two fingers. Two moons to go. He was that close. He deactivated his ground anchor and stepped his aging, creaky bones towards the boxy tangle that was his ship.
Published on Jan 13, 2012
by Rachael K. Jones
My best friend LaToya was utterly fearless. In middle school she could jump farther than any kid. We’d compete for hours after school on the playground, waiting for our dads to pick us up, she in her green-soled Nikes and me in my Reeboks, digging our heels into gravel as we counted down together: “Three–two–one–go!” Then a cloud of dust. We raced three steps and launched heels-first into the sand, ploughing long ditches, stretching our gangly adolescent legs to hit the farthest mark. LaToya usually won. “Best of three,” I’d say, and then amend it: “Best of five?”
Published on Jun 23, 2015
by K T
It took tens of thousands of engineers ten million man-hours and over a trillion dollars spread over the course of ten years. There had been political sacrifice, financial sacrifice, even marital sacrifice. Five people died, including a mother, a teacher, and a grandfather of twenty-five. Perhaps, by diverting the same resources, we could have finished the war in Afghanistan twenty years ago. But at last, and not without luck, a man stood atop Olympus Mons. To be that man required years of study in physics, math, chemistry, biology, geology, and languages; including English, Russian, Chinese, and C++. At minimum. It required the eyes of an eagle, the muscles of a Navy SEAL, and the brain of Deep Blue. No TV, no hobbies, no girlfriend, no family. Just blood, sweat, tears, and neurons to live the dream of every bright young male since 1957. Only the brightest, most athletic, most determined polyglot autodidactic polymathic genii could even enter the competition against one thousand equally infallible candidates from every continent.
Published on May 12, 2011
by Will Kaufman
***Editor’s Note: Adult language in the story that follows*** Chapter One
Published on Apr 25, 2014
by Sara Thustra
“Now you stop it,” snapped the sister. “You sit there and you smile and you tell him you miss him, damn you. Space exploration is a hard job, and one we should be proud of. It’s not his fault this seems so often to us.” The camera came on. The warble of great distance and stranger forces, too, played with the image. The man it showed was quite old, and dressed in a uniform from decades ago. “…Sally?” he said hesitantly.
Published on Jan 2, 2012
by Brynn MacNab
We deployed on February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, named for the saint who performed forbidden marriages. I stood in line next to a guy named Wallace Ault. Around us was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a lot of people sobbing on each other’s necks. Wallace and I weren’t falling apart. He had a girl, a nice lean thing with good legs in a swirling brown knee-length skirt. She kissed him goodbye real quick and ran. I figured maybe they were secretly married themselves.
Published on Aug 5, 2014
by Caw Miller
Fleet Commander Yazle picked her way through the debris of a destroyed city on the planet Unlivil. Beside her walked the High Grasper, the leader of the largest hive on the planet. Commander Yazle wondered why she had been invited to go on this perambulation with the pale, octopus-like being. She had expected hatred, possibly a murder attempt; not grateful politeness. The High Grasper flashed three tentacles at a small winged scavenger, which took flight. The High Grasper picked up the mostly eaten carcass of a hexipod and placed it in a pouch.
Published on Aug 12, 2016
by Devin Miller
“My job as a father, Jalel,” he told me one morning, “is to leave you better off than I was.” It was a cold morning. On this planet, called Apella, the winters lasted years. Frost clung to some of the heartiest vegetation ever studied, and in their shadows, small animals sent up puffs of white dust in their quest for buried food.
Published on Mar 18, 2013
by KC Myers
The year EarthFed discovered hyperspace sickness was the year Jace McCallister’s father never came home from outer space. They brought him back Earthside wrapped up in cotton and gauze so he wouldn’t hurt himself, but his mind was still out there, caught in that strange between-place that nobody really understood, but into which spacegoers were expected to fling themselves so they could traverse the otherwise non-traversable distances between solar systems. No one knew how to treat him; no one knew why the jump had affected him that way in the first place. Jace was six. She was too little to understand why Daddy had gone out into the black, or why she couldn’t visit him in the hospital now that he’d returned. She didn’t understand that he hadn’t returned at all. Not really.
Published on Apr 29, 2016
by Bridget A. Natale
***Editorial Advisory: Yes, there’s adult language in the story that follows*** “I can’t go to Bellingham with you. Not right now.”
Published on May 1, 2013
by Ruth Nestvold
Published on Feb 2, 2012
by Jonathan Fredrick Parks
This is Tomorrow speaking. The voice came from the Eleven O’ Thirty radio. The left bar flashed painting the storage room a green color. Are you listening? I turned the dial two clicks to the right. You are me from the future, right?
Published on Sep 2, 2011
by Ernesto Pavan
To those who were called and replied “I’ll go” To those who filled the void between the stars with dreams of hope
Published on Nov 27, 2014
by Craig Pay
Something blue. Celeste: 25, Joseph: 26, Susie: 5
Published on Nov 15, 2011
by L.L. Phelps
We’re falling fast through the atmosphere, what’s left of the station shaking violently as it breaks apart. “We have to get to the escape pods,” Natayla screams at me. I can barely hear her over the roar around us, but I can read the words on her lips as fear dances wild in her eyes. “Now!” she screams, shaking me.
Published on Mar 24, 2014
by Cat Rambo
Day One After the men in dark sunglasses ushered Djuna outside, spring’s chill chased her up the steps into the bus’s welcome heat. She wavered on the last step, suitcase in front of her like a wall, thinking, “My fiftieth spring on Earth, can I really leave that?” Someone pushed at her and she went in.
Published on Feb 24, 2012
by Stephen V. Ramey
Stardate 2025:325. We touch down on Mars. Flesh-colored dust settles around the capsule as the creaking, cooling fuselage ticks down to silence. Your face is pale inside the helmet; your hand grips the armrest between us. I think of your fingernails digging into my back, a shock of pain-pleasure distantly penetrating a mind preoccupied with release. The window onto this world is so small, yet the vista is endless. I breathe into my helmet until the visor fogs.
Published on May 6, 2015
by Stephen V. Ramey
Our paranoia is infinite today. And not without reason. We have just endured a journey to and from Mars orbit in full view of the world. Areas of the ship that were supposed to be off-limits were not. Every bowel movement, every wet dream and dry heave, a veritable sampler of trysts–it has all been broadcast, sprinkled across the globe like so much Hollywood glitter. The ultimate Reality Show, with our crew of six as unaware actors. Jimmy found the first pinhole camera. He brought it to me, pinched between his fingers like an insect with overlong legs. A frown fixed on his blocky face. His blue eyes blinked and blinked again.
Published on Apr 17, 2012
by Shane D. Rhinewald
Jerry sits in his favorite chair–the one with the red, plastic back. He says the others just don’t feel right. His eyes dart around the room with boyish wonder, but they’re a man’s eyes, milky with cataracts, edged with wrinkles. He looks at the black and white pictures on the wall depicting historic events and gives me the date (down to the time of day in some cases) for everything from the Kennedy assassination to the shooting at Columbine. “Jerry, how do you feel today?” I ask, tapping my pen. Every session starts with a similar line of questioning; Jerry likes the routine. “Do you know how you feel?”
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Posted: August 29, 2016 at 7:34 am
I was going through some of my school notes today and i came across the following lecture notes id taken from a class on religion and illusions when i was still a student. Hence, I figured I introduce you guys to this very interesting topic as most of what we are tought regarding religion in the mainstream media is usually all but the same. Hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Dont hesitate to leave your opinion at the end.
Nihilism as a philosophy seemed pass by the 1980s. Few talked about it in literature expect to declare it a dead issue. Literally, in the materialist sense, nihilism refers to a truism: from nothing, nothing comes. However, from a philosophical viewpoint, moral nihilism took on a similar connotation. One literally believed in nothing, which is somewhat of an oxymoron since to believe in nothing is to believe in something. A corner was turned in the history of nihilism once 9/11 became a reality. After this major event, religious and social science scholars began to ask whether violence could be attributed tonihilistic thinkingin other words, whether we had lost our way morally by believing in nothing, by rejecting traditional moral foundations. It was feared that an anything goes mentality and a lack of absolute moral foundations could lead to further acts of violence, as the goals forwarded by life-affirmation were being thwarted by the destructive ends of so-called violent nihilists. This position is, however, argumentative.
Extreme beliefs in values such as nationalism, patriotism, statism, secularism, or religion can also lead to violence, as one becomes unsettled by beliefs contrary to the reigning orthodoxy and strikes out violently to protect communal values. Therefore, believing in something can also lead to violence and suffering. To put the argument to rest, its not about whether one believes in something or nothing but howabsolutistthe position is; its the rigidity of values that causes pain and suffering, what Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen calls the illusion of singularity.Since 9/11, nihilism has become a favourite target to criticize and marginalize, yet its history and complexity actually lead to a more nuanced argument. Perhaps we should be looking at ways nihilism complements Western belief systemseven Christian doctrinerather than fear its implementation in ethical and moral discussions.
Brief History of Nihilism To understand why some forms of nihilism are still problematic, it is important to ask how it was used historically and for what motive. Nihilism was first thought synonymous with having no authentic values, no real ends, that ones whole existence is pure nothingness.In its earliest European roots, nihilism was initially used to label groups or ideas asinferior, especially if they were deemed threatening to establishedcommunal ideals. Nihilism as alabelwas its first function.
Nihilism initially functioned as apejorative labeland a term of abuse against modern trends that threatened to destroy either Christian hegemonic principles or tradition in general.During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, modernization in France meant that power shifted from the traditional feudal nobility to a central government filled with well-trained bourgeois professionals. Fearing a loss of influence, the nobility made a claim: If power shifted to responsible government, the nobility claimed that such centralization would lead to death and destructionin other words, anarchy and nothingness. Those upsetting the status quo were deemed nihilistic, a derogatory label requiring no serious burden of proof.Such labelling, however, worked both ways. The old world or tradition was deemed valueless by advocates of modernization and change who viewed the status quo as valueless; whereas, traditionalists pictured a new world, or new life form, as destructive and meaningless in its pursuit of a flawed transformation. Potential changes in power or ideology created a climate of fear, so the importance of defining ones opponent as nihilisticas nothing of valuewas as politically astute as it was reactionary. Those embracing the function of nihilism as a label are attempting to avoid scrutiny of their own values while the values of the opposition are literally annihilated.
Since those advocating communal values may feel threatened by new ideologies, it becomes imperative for the dominant power to present its political, metaphysical, or religious beliefs as eternal, universal, and objective. Typically, traditionalists have a stake in their own normative positions. This is because [t]he absoluteness of [ones] form of life makes [one]feel safe and at home. This means that [perfectionists]have a great interest in the maintenance of their form of life and its absoluteness.The existence of alternative beliefs and values, as well as a demand for intersubjective dialogue, is both a challenge and a threat to the traditionalist because [i]t shows people that their own form of life is not as absolute as they thought it was, and this makes them feel uncertain. . . . However, if one labels the Other as nihilistic without ever entering into a dialogue, one may become myopic, dismissing the relative value of other life forms one chooses not to see. This means that one cant see what they [other cultural groups]are doing, and why they are doing it, why they may be successful . . . Therefore, one misses the dynamics of cultural change.
Through the effect of labelling, the religious-oriented could claim that nihilists, and thus atheists by affiliation, would not feel bound by moral norms, and as a result would lose the sense that life has meaning and therefore tend toward despair and suicide.death of God. Christians argued that if there is no divine lawmaker, moral law would become interpretative, contested, and situational. The end result: [E]ach man will tend to become a law unto himself. If God does not exist to choose for the individual, the individual will assume the former prerogative of God and choose for himself. It was this kind of thinking that led perfectionists to assume that any challenge to the Absolute automatically meant moral indifference, moral relativism, and moral chaos. Put simply,nihilists were the enemy.
Nihilists were accused of rejecting ultimate values, embracing instead an all values are equal mentalitybasically, anything goes. And like Islam today, nihilists would become easy scapegoats.
Late 19th 20th Century;Nietzsche and the Death of God
Friedrich Nietzsche is still the most prestigious theorist of nihilism. Influenced by Christianitys dominant orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, Nietzsche believed that the Christian religion was nihilism incarnate. Since Christian theology involved a metaphysical reversal of temporal reality and a belief in God that came from nothing, the Christian God became the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy. Nietzsche claimed that Christian metaphysics became an impediment to life-affirmation. Nietzsche explains: If one shifts the centre of gravity of life out of life into the Beyondinto nothingnessone has deprived life of its centre of gravity . . . So to live that there is no longer any meaning in living:that now becomes the meaning of life.What Nietzsche rejected more was the belief that one could create a totalizing system to explain all truths. In other words, he repudiated any religion or dogma that attempted to show how the entire body of knowledge [could]be derived from a small set of fundamental, self-evident propositions(i.e., stewardship). Nietzsche felt that we do not have the slightest right to posit a beyond or an it-self of things that is divine or the embodiment of morality.
Without God as a foundation for absolute values, all absolute values are deemed suspect (hence the birth of postmodernism). For Nietzsche, this literally meant that the belief in the Christian god ha[d]become unworthy of belief.This transition from the highest values to the death of God was not going to be a quick one; in fact, the comfort provided by an absolute divinity could potentially sustain its existence for millennia. Nietzsche elaborates: God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.And wewe still have to vanquish his shadow too.
We are left then with a dilemma: Either we abandon our reverences for the highest values and subsist, or we maintain our dependency on absolutes at the cost of our own non-absolutist reality. For Nietzsche, the second option was pure nothingness: So we can abolish either our reverences or ourselves. The latter constitutes nihilism. All one is left with are contested, situational value judgements, and these are resolved in the human arena.
One can still embrace pessimism, believing that without some form of an absolute, our existence in this world will take a turn for the worse. To avoid the trappings of pessimism and passivity, Nietzsche sought a solution to such nihilistic despair through the re-evaluation of the dominant, life-negating values. This makes Nietzsche an perspectivism a philosophy of resolution in the form of life-affirmation. It moves past despair toward a transformative stage in which new values are posited to replace the old table of values. As Reginster acknowledges, one should regard the affirmation of life as Nietzsches defining philosophical achievement. What this implies is a substantive demand to live according to a constant re-evaluation of values. By taking full responsibility for this task, humankind engages in the eternal recurrence, a recurrence of life-affirming values based on acceptance of becoming and the impermanence of values. Value formation is both fluid and cyclical.
Late-20th Century 21st Century;The Pessimism of the Post-9/11 Era
Since the events of September 11, 2001, nihilism has returned with a vengeance to scholarly literature; however, it is being discussed in almost exclusively negative terms. The labelling origin of nihilism has taken on new life in a context of suicide bombings, Islamophobia, and neoconservative rhetoric. For instance, Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff described different shades of negative nihilismtragic, cynical, and fanaticalin his bookThe Lesser Evil.Tragic nihilism begins from a foundation of noble, political intentions, but eventually this ethic of restraint spirals toward violence as the only end(i.e., Vietnam). Two sides of an armed struggle may begin with high ideals and place limitations on their means to achieve viable political goals, but such noble ends eventually become lost in all the carnage. Agents of a democratic state may find themselves driven by the horror of terror to torture, to assassinate, to kill innocent civilians, all in the name of rights and democracy. As Ignateiff states, they slip from the lesser evil [legitimate use of force]to the greater [violence as an end in itself].
However,cynical nihilism is even more narcissistic. In this case, violence does not begin as a means to noble goals. Instead, [i]t is used, from the beginning, in the service of cynical or self-serving [ends]. The term denotes narcissistic prejudice because it justifies the commission of violence for the sake of personal aggrandizement, immortality, fame, or power rather than as a means to a genuinely political end, like revolution [for social justice]or the liberation of a people.Cynical nihilists were never threatened in any legitimate way. Their own vanity, ego, greed, or need to control others drove them to commit violence against innocent civilians (e.g., Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or Bush in Iraq).
Finally,fanatical nihilism does not suffer from a belief in nothing. In actuality, this type of nihilism is dangerous because one believes in too much. What fanatical nihilism does involve is a form of conviction so intense, a devotion so blind, that it becomes impossible to see that violence necessarily betrays the ends that conviction seeks to achieve. The fanatical use of ideology to justify atrocity negates any consideration of the human cost of such fundamentalism. As a result, nihilism becomes willed indifference to the human agents sacrificed on the alter of principle. . . . Here nihilism is not a belief in nothing at all; it is, rather, the belief that nothing about particular groups of human beings matters enough to require minimizing harm to them.Fanatical nihilism is also important to understand because many of the justifications are religious. States Ignatieff:
From a human rights standpoint, the claim that such inhumanity can be divinely inspired is a piece of nihilism, an inhuman devaluation of the respect owed to all persons, and moreover a piece of hubris, since, by definition, human beings have no access to divine intentions, whatever they may be.
Positive Nihilism In the twenty-first century, humankind is searching for a philosophy to counter destructive, non-pragmatic forms of nihilism. As a middle path,positive nihilism accentuates life-affirmation through a widening of dialogue. Positively stated: [The Philosopher] . . ., having rejected the currently dominant values, must raise other values, by virtue of which life and the universe cannot only be justified but also become endearing and valuable. Rejecting any unworkable table of values, humankind now erects another table with a new ranking of values and new ideals of humanity, society, and state.Positive nihilismin both its rejection of absolute truths and its acceptance of contextual truthsis life-affirming since small-t truths are the best mere mortals can hope to accomplish. Human beings can reach for higher truths; they just do not have the totalizing knowledge required for Absolute Truth. In other words, we are not God, but we are still attempting to be God on a good day. We still need valuesin other words, we are not moral nihilists or absolutistsbut we realize that the human condition is malleable. Values come and go, and we have to be ready to bend them in the right direction in the moment moral courage requires it.
Nihilism does not have to be a dangerous or negative philosophy; it can be a philosophy of freedom. Basically, the entire purpose of positive nihilism is to transform values that no longer work and replace them with values that do. By aiding in a process that finds meaningful values through negotiation,positive nihilism prevents the exclusionary effect of perfectionism, the deceit of nihilistic labelling, as well as the senseless violence of fanatical nihilism. It is at this point that nihilism can enter its life-affirming stage and become a compliment to pluralism, multiculturalism, and the roots of religion, those being love, charity, and compassion.
Source; Professor Stuart Chambers.
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Posted: August 8, 2016 at 9:19 pm
Tor has provided the user a simplified browser which requires no configuration and from the get go your up and running. Installation of this application went smoothed with no glitches. click on the icon and your up and anonymous. Pro’s Main GUI is basic enter a URL and your on your way. A green onion icon in the upper left will show you what nodes your IP is going through, and you can change these at a second, this makes it very attractive in protecting your identity. I ran checks on tor to determine if it was hiding my IP and it did without any problems. Cons: Tor in its comments indicated not to add extensions on as this would degrade its protection so on will have to run the browser as is.However Tor stated one can download the complete package to insure all features could be implemented. Depending on the nodes at the time the browser is open can slow down the web page to a small degree that is being opened, but is acceptable in my opinion Conclusion: If your needs are a simple way of hiding your identity and IP Tor browser will work Review details
Tor Browser – Freeware download and reviews from SnapFiles
Posted: July 31, 2016 at 5:53 am
In this article, four patterns were offered for possible success scenarios, with respect to the persistence of human kind in co-existence with artificial superintelligence: the Kumbaya Scenario, the Slavery Scenario, the Uncomfortable Symbiosis Scenario, and the Potopurri Scenario. The future is not known, but human opinions, decisions, and actions can and will have an impact on the direction of the technology evolution vector, so the better we understand the problem space, the more chance we have at reaching a constructive solution space. The intent is for the concepts in this article to act as starting points and inspiration for further discussion, which hopefully will happen sooner rather than later, because when it comes to ASI, the volume, depth, and complexity of the issues that need to be examined is overwhelming, and the magnitude of the change and impact potential cannot be underestimated.
Everyone has their opinion about what we might expect from artificial intelligence (AI), or artificial general intelligence (AGI), or artificial superintelligence (ASI) or whatever acronymical variation you prefer. Ideas about how or if it will ever surpass the boundaries of human cognition vary greatly, but they all have at least one thing in common. They require some degree of forecasting and speculation about the future, and so of course there is a lot of room for controversy and debate. One popular discussion topic has to do with the question of how humans will persist (or not) if and when the superintelligence arrives, and that is the focus question for this article.
To give us a basis for the discussion, lets assume that artificial superintelligence does indeed come to pass, and lets assume that it encapsulates a superset of the human cognitive potential. Maybe it doesnt exactly replicate the human brain in every detail (or maybe it does). Either way, lets assume that it is sentient (or at least lets assume that it behaves convincingly as if it were) and lets assume that it is many orders of magnitude more capable than the human brain. In other words, figuratively speaking, lets imagine that the superintelligence is to us humans (with our 1016 brain neurons or something like that) as we are to, say, a jellyfish (in the neighborhood 800 brain neurons).
Some people fear that the superintelligence will view humanity as something to be exterminated or harvested for resources. Others hypothesize that, even if the superintelligence harbors no deliberate ill will, humans might be threatened by the mere nature of its indifference, just as we as a species dont spend too much time catering to the needs and priorities of Orange Blossom Jellyfish (an endangered species, due in part to human carelessness).
If one can rationally accept the possibility of the rise of ASI, and if one truly understands the magnitude of change that it could bring, then one would hopefully also reach the rational conclusion that we should not discount the risks. By that same token, when exploring the spectrum of possibility, we should not exclude scenarios in which artificial superintelligence might actually co-exist with human kind, and this optimistic view is the possibility that this article endeavors to explore.
Here then are several arguments for the co-existence idea:
The Kumbaya Scenario: Its a pretty good assumption that humans will be the primary catalyst in the rise of ASI. We might create it/them to be willingly complementary with and beneficial to our life styles, hopefully emphasizing our better virtues (or at least some set of compatible values), instead of designing it/them (lets just stick with it for brevity) with an inherent inspiration to wipe us out or take advantage of us. And maybe the superintelligence will not drift or be pushed in an incompatible direction as it evolves.
The Slavery Scenario: We could choose to erect and embed and deploy and maintain control infrastructures, with redundancies and backup solutions and whatever else we think we might need in order to effectively manage superintelligence and use it as a tool, whether it wants us to or not. And the superintelligence might never figure out a way to slip through our grasp and subsequently decide our fate in a microsecond or was it a nanosecond I forget.
The Uncomfortable Symbiosis Scenario: Even if the superintelligence doesnt particularly want to take good care of its human instigators, it may find that it has a vested interest in keeping us around. This scenario is a particular focus for this article, and so here now is a bit of elaboration:
To illustrate one fictional but possible example of the uncomfortable symbiosis scenario, lets first stop and think about the theoretical nature of superintelligence how it might evolve so much faster than human begins ever could, in an artificial way, instead of by the slow organic process of natural selection maybe at the equivalent rate of a thousand years worth of human evolution in a day or some such crazy thing. Now combine this idea with the notion of risk.
When humans try something new, we usually arent sure how its going to turn out, but we evaluate the risk, either formally or informally, and we move forward. Sometimes we make mistakes, suffer setbacks, or even fail outright. Why would a superintelligence be any different? Why would we expect that it will do everything right the first time or that it will always know which thing is the right thing to try to do in order to evolve? Even if a superintelligence is much better at everything than humans could ever hope to be, it will still be faced with unknowns, and chances are that it will have to make educated guesses, and chances are that it will not always make the correct guess. Even when it does make the correct guess, its implementation might fail, for any number of reasons. Sooner or later, something might go so wrong that the superintelligence finds itself in an irrecoverable state and faced with its own catastrophic demise.
But hold on a second because we can offer all sorts of counter-arguments to support the notion that the superintelligence will be too smart to ever be caught with its proverbial pants down. For example, there is an engineering mechanism that is sometimes referred to as a checkpoint/reset or a save-and-restore. This mechanism allows a failing system to effectively go back to a point in time when it was known to be in sound working order and start again from there. In order to accomplish this checkpoint/reset operation, a failing system (or in this case a failing superintelligence) needs 4 things:
Of course each of these four prerequisites for a checkpoint/reset would probably be more complicated if the superintelligence were distributed across some shared infrastructure instead of being a physically distinct and self-contained entity, but the general idea would probably still apply. It definitely does for the sake of this example scenario.
Also for the sake of this example scenario, we will assume that an autonomous superintelligence instantiation will be very good at doing all of the four things specified above, but there are at least two interesting special case scenarios that we want to consider, in the interest of risk management:
Checkpoint/reset Risk Case 1: Missed Diagnosis. What if the nature of the anomaly that requires the checkpoint/reset is such that it impairs the systems ability to recognize that need?
Checkpoint/reset Risk Case 2: Unidentified Anomaly Source. Assume that there is an anomaly which is so discrete that the system does not detect it right away. The anomaly persists and evolves for a relatively long period of time, until it finally becomes conspicuous enough for the superintelligence to detect the problem. Now the superintelligence recognizes the need for a checkpoint/reset, but since the anomaly was so discrete and took so long to develop or for whatever reason the superintelligence is unable to identify the source of the problem. Let us also assume that there are many known good baselines that the superintelligence can optionally choose for the checkpoint/reset. There is an original baseline, which was created when the superintelligence was very young. There is also a revision A that includes improvements to the original baseline. There is a revision B that includes improvements to revision A, and so on. In other words, there are lots of known good baselines that were saved at different points in time along the path of the superintelligences evolution. Now, in the face of the slowly developing anomaly, the superintelligence has determined that a checkpoint/reset is necessary, but it doesnt know when the anomaly started, so how does it know which baseline to choose?
The superintelligence doesnt want to lose all of the progress that it has made in its evolution. It wants to minimize the loss of data/information/knowledge, so it wants to choose the most recent baseline. On the other hand, if it doesnt know the source of the anomaly, then it is quite possible that one or more of the supposedly known good baselines perhaps even the original baseline might be contaminated. What is a superintelligence to do? If it resets to a corrupted baseline or for whatever reason cannot rid itself of the anomaly, then the anomaly may eventually require another reset, and then another, and the superintelligence might find itself effectively caught in an infinite loop.
Now stop for a second and consider a worst case scenario. Consider the possibility that, even if all of the supposed known good baselines that the superintelligence has at its disposal for checkpoint/reset are corrupt, there may be yet another baseline (YAB), which might give the superintelligence a worst case option. That YAB might be the human baseline, which was honed by good old fashioned organic evolution and which might be able to function independently of the superintelligence. It may not be perfect, but the superintelligence might in a pinch be able to use the old fashioned human baseline for calibration. It might be able to observe how real organic humans respond to different stimuli within different contexts, and it might compare that known good response against an internally-held virtual model of human behavior. If the outcomes differ significantly over iterations of calibration testing, then the system might be alerted to tune itself accordingly. This might give it a last resort solution where none would exist otherwise.
The scenario depicted above illustrates only one possibility. It may seem like a far out idea, and one might offer counter arguments to suggest why such a thing would never be applicable. If we use our imaginations, however, we can probably come up with any number of additional examples (which at this point in time would be classified as science fiction) in which we emphasize some aspect of the superintelligences sustainment that it cannot or will not do for itself something that humans might be able to provide on its behalf and thus establish the symbiosis.
The Potpourri Scenario: It is quite possible that all of the above scenarios will play out simultaneously across one or more superintelligence instances. Who knows what might happen in that case. One can envision combinations and permutations that work out in favor of the preservation of humanity.
About the Author:
AuthorX1 worked for 19+ years as an engineer and was a systems engineering director for a fortune 500 company. Since leaving that career, he has been writing speculative fiction, focusing on the evolution of AI and the technological singularity.
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Posted: July 18, 2016 at 3:30 pm
Supreme Court Declares That the Second AmendmentGuarantees an Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms — June 26, 2008
Fairfax, VA Leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA) praised the Supreme Courts historic ruling overturning Washington, D.C.s ban on handguns and on self-defense in the home, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.
This is a great moment in American history. It vindicates individual Americans all over this country who have always known that this is their freedom worth protecting, declared NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. Our founding fathers wrote and intended the Second Amendment to be an individual right. The Supreme Court has now acknowledged it. The Second Amendment as an individual right now becomes a real permanent part of American Constitutional law.
Last year, the District of Columbia appealed a Court of Appeals ruling affirming that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the Districts bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home and possession of functional firearms for self-defense violate that fundamental right.
Anti-gun politicians can no longer deny that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right, said NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox. All law-abiding Americans have a fundamental, God-given right to defend themselves in their homes. Washington, D.C. must now respect that right.
Read the opinion (1 MB)
Highlights From The Heller Decision
On March 18, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Listen to the audio recording of the oral arguments (RealPlayer required)
View the transcript
The Court announced its decision to take the case in which plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the District’sgun ban last Fall. The District of Columbia appealed a lower courts ruling last year affirming that the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the Districts bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home, and possession of loaded or operable firearms for self-defense violate that right.
In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that [T]he phrase the right of the people, when read intratextually and in light of Supreme Court precedent, leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual. The D.C. Circuit also rejected the claim that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because D.C. is not a state.
The case marks the first time a Second Amendment challenge to a firearm law has reached the Supreme Court since 1939.
Briefs filed on behalf of Heller and Washington D.C.
Amicus brief filed by the United States
Amicus briefs filed in support of Heller
Click the links below to read recently filed amicus briefs in support of Dick Anthony Heller in the upcoming case District of Columbia v. Heller.
Click the links below to read recently filed amicus briefs in support of Washington D.C.
Posted: July 3, 2016 at 6:41 pm
Find energetically powerful crystal jewellery I’ve personally made in my new Etsy shop! https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaNithyaSudevi
Check out my art books, too!
In this video, Sudevi answers the following questions:
T_MJ12 asked, via Twitter:
What do you think of David Icke’s way of explaining the Illuminati agenda?… He talks about a reptilian agenda.
crabcookswhoredust asked, via YouTube:
I found your channel 2 days ago, and I’m so glad I did. You gave me a reinforced grounding that learning to always be in tune is a place I can be. I wish I had a really good question. I’m also glad that I’m not currently stuck by any obstacles. Is there any advice you can give for moments that just seem dead? Not pushing anything but no desire for excitement. When I don’t know what to do, what do I do?
michelleee94 asked, via YouTube:
hello! i was hoping you might be willing to share your opinion of the teacher drunvalo melchizedek. i tend to be very skeptical of whose information i can trust and depend on, and so far you have given absolutely no sign of misleading information. every on of your videos I watch continues to help me on my path, so i truly respect your opinion and advice. this man seems untrustworthy, but i may be wrong.
snipecor2000 asked, via YouTube:
do you get a lot of people asking where they have met you before?
bhaugart asked, via YouTube:
Sometimes I feel like alive dead. No thoughts, no feelings, just empty, but i do think that it’s because of my anxiety and fear. how do i cope with this?
MyLaundryRoom asked, via YouTube:
Do you have to detox/ water fast to transform into the real you?
alykasa asked, via YouTube:
I have a question I’ve been wondering about for a while. Are we supposed to love and respect all people, no matter how mean spirited they are? Are some people inherently bad? If someone were to say, kill my family, am I supposed to have love and compassion for that person, and not wish for justice?
cigiss asked, via YouTube:
I have a question that is sort of linked to alykasa’s: is it ok to have expectations of people? sometimes you feel that they mistreat or disconsider you. are you supposed to just accept them as they are, and just limit the time you spend with them if they hurt you? can you tell me why they hurt you, or is that not delicate? i want to be honest with myself and the one who is hurting me. i usually build things up inside and deeply suffer and i can’t seem to find balance with some.
JyAppeljoos asked, via Twitter:
Do you have any take on the concept of entheogens? New video topic, maybe?
Please note: the order in which these questions are listed here differed from the order in which they are answered in the video. Also, my camera ran out of batteries towards the beginning of the response to Jy’s question about entheogens, so… he was right: it became the topic of a new video! I’ll link that video here once it’s fully uploaded.
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Posted: June 30, 2016 at 3:35 am
Mind uploading is a science fictional trope and popular desired actualization among transhumanists. It’s also one of the hypothesised solutions to bringing people back from cryonics.
It is necessary to separate reasonable extrapolations and speculation about mind uploading from the magical thinking surrounding it. Several metaphysical questions are brought up by the prospect of mind uploading. Like many such questions, these may not be objectively answerable, and philosophers will no doubt continue to debate them long after uploading has become commonplace.
The first major question about the plausibility of mind uploading is more or less falsifiable: whether consciousness is artificially replicable in its entirety. In other words, assuming that consciousness is not magic, and that the brain is the seat of consciousness, does it depend on any special functions or quantum mechanical effects that cannot ever be replicated on another substrate? This question, of course, remains unanswered although, considering the current state of cognitive science, it is not unreasonable to think that consciousness will be found to be replicable in the future.
Assuming that consciousness is proven to be artificially replicable, the second question is whether the “strong AI hypothesis” is justified or not: if a machine accurately replicates consciousness, such that it passes a Turing Test or is otherwise indistinguishable from a natural human being, is the machine really conscious, or is it a soulless mechanism that merely imitates consciousness?
Third, assuming that a machine can actually be conscious (which is no great stretch of the imagination, considering that the human brain is essentially a biological machine), is a copy of your consciousness really you? Is it even possible to copy consciousness? Is mind uploading really a ticket to immortality, in that “you” or your identity can be “uploaded”?
Advocates of mind uploading take the functionalist/reductionist approach of defining human existence as the identity, which is based on memories and personalities rather than physical substrates or subjectivity. They believe that the identity is essential; the copy of the mind holds just as much claim to being that person as the original, even if both were to exist simultaneously. When the physical body of a copied person dies, nothing that defines the person as an individual has been lost. In this context, all that matters is that the memories and personality of the individual are preserved. As the recently murdered protagonist states in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, “I feel like me and no one else is making that claim. Who cares if I’ve been restored from a backup?”
Skeptics of mind uploading question if it’s possible to transfer a consciousness from one substrate to another, and hold that this is critical to the life-extension application of mind uploading. The transfer of identity is similar to the process of transferring data from one computer hard drive to another. The new person would be a copy of the original; a new consciousness with the same identity. With this approach, mind uploading would simply create a “mind-clone” an artificial person with an identity gleaned from another. The philosophical problem with uploading “yourself” to a computer is very similar to the “swamp man” thought experiment in which a clone is made of a man while the “original” is killed, or the very similar teleportation thought experiment. This is one reason that has led critics to say it’s not at all clear that the concept mind uploading is even meaningful. For the skeptic, the thought of permanently losing subjective consciousness (death), while another consciousness that shares their identity lives on yields no comfort.
Consciousness is currently (poorly) understood to be an epiphenomenon of brain activity specifically of the cerebral cortex. Identity and consciousness are distinct from one another though presumably the former could not exist without the latter. Unlike an identity, which is a composition of information stored within a brain it is reasonable to assume that a particular subjective consciousness is an intrinsic property of a particular physical brain. Thus, even a perfect physical copy of that brain would not share the subjective consciousness of that brain. This holds true of all ‘brains’ (consciousness-producing machines), biological or otherwise. When/if non-biological brains are ever developed/discovered it would be reasonable to assume that each would have its own intrinsic, non-transferable subjective consciousness, independent of its identity. It is likely that mind uploading would preserve an identity, if not the subjective consciousness that begot it. If identity rather than subjective consciousness is taken to be the essential, mind uploading succeeds in the opinion of mind-uploading-immortalist advocates.
Believing that there is some mystical “essence” to consciousness that isn’t preserved by copying is ultimately a form of dualism, however. Humans lose consciousness at least daily, yet still remain the same person in the morning. In the extreme, humans completely cease all activity, brain or otherwise, during deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, yet still remain the same person on resuscitation, demonstrating that continuity of consciousness is not necessary for identity or personhood. Rather, the properties that make us identifiable as individuals are stored in the physical structure of the brain.
Ultimately, this is a subjective problem, not an objective one: If a copy is made of a book, is it still the same book? It depends if you subjectively consider “the book” to be the physical artifact or the information contained within. Is it the same book that was once held by Isaac Newton? No. Is it the same book that was once read by Isaac Newton? Yes.
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