Politically Incorrect

The PC community and I go way back. I’ve simply never understood how changing the name of something could possibly make it anything other than what it already is. It’s almost like they’re saying the Committee for Pallid Ascendancy is somehow better than the Klu Klux Klan. Or being Housing Challenged is in some way less horrible than being homeless.

True, these terms do fall gentler on the ear, but is that really a good thing. The PC terms are supposed to strip away all of the prior inferences of the older, uglier terms. Unfortunately whitewashing a broken fence doesn’t repair the damage done. Especially if the old color will do.

Don’t get me wrong. Back in its younger days PC had a valid point – people should be aware of the subtext of the words they’re using. Probably one of the easiest and most obvious examples is blacks.

(Oh, wait. That’s technically not the PC term anymore. It’s Afro-American. But do yourself a favor, go ask a black guy what he thinks about that term. I imagine they’ll tell you the same thing a lot of black people have told me… which really isn’t repeatable here. Suffice it to say generally they’re not real impressed with the term.)

And just for the record I’m not Italian American, or Dutch American. Or any variation thereof. I’m American, born on American soil, no other country having a claim on my genes, mental state or property. You could even say I’m a native American, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

I’ll admit I grew up using a variation on the term negro. I thought it was a slang term for black people. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized it was an insult. And promptly quit using the term, along with a bunch of other words for various nationalities. That’s PC at its best.

But where PC gets carried away is assigning terms that aren’t acceptable to their assignees. Or asking people to change things when, at the time of their origins, the people involved dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s.

I personally hope teams like the Fighting Chiefs and Red Sox never change their names. At the time those teams were created the people sponsoring them went to the appropriate sources and asked them What do you guys think? And those sources gave them a thumbs up, and agreed one hundred percent. We may not like what our forefathers did, but we should have the courage to live with it. After all, we’re not going to ask Toys For Tots to change their logo when tots is no long a PC term.

Another good example is Native American. Do you know who the biggest detractor of the term is? The one it’s being applied to. American Indians don’t like the term… kind of the way blacks didn’t like the variation on negro. But we’re going to give it to them anyway? Whether they like it or not? Doesn’t that seem a little… thoughtless?

As for me, I guess I’ll have to remain politically incorrect.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is the hot topic in a lot of circles. Many people believe it will be the next big technological breakthrough. And movies like Transcendence (starring Johnny Depp) and Her (starring Joaquin Phoenix) suggests this breakthrough is right around the corner. One of the things I like about the topic is the range of emotions it elicits.

There are some who feels that AI will be the beginning of the end. Those people believe that the AI, upon realizing that humans exist, will immediately set out to destroy them. Why? Because humanity is the greatest threat to its survival. Of course, this assumes some instinct for self-preservation… something that may be required for intelligence to form.

Others feel like AI will be the greatest boon to humanity since the invention of the car. It could represent a cheap workforce capable of doing the mundane tasks that are currently assigned to people. The results would be a vast number of people who are freed up to pursue higher callings. Then again, these more inspired jobs may have to wait a bit while these newly unemployed figure out how to put food on the table.

Still others are of the opinion that AI is simply impossible. It was put best by this guy I know: God created man. Man does not have the power to create. He can fold, staple, manipulate but not create. It was an interesting reaction, and does bring up a thought-provoking question – what are the ramifications of AI to our self-esteem? If we can create artificial intelligence doesn’t that mean that our own intelligence could be a naturally occurring event, an accident of nature? But what about man’s Divine Right, his being the fulcrum point of nature? Perhaps he isn’t special after all.

And yet others have considered the problem more deeply. I once found a quote online, and liked it some much that I remember it to this day. I went back later to try to find it again, but couldn’t. (I’m not sure if that says something about me or online content.) But the quote went something like: Whether or not man can create artificial intelligence is not the question. But whether he would recognize intelligence when he saw it. And there is, perhaps, the crux of the matter. Anything we accept as intelligence must resemble our way of thinking at the beginning. Thereafter it is free to evolve in directions mankind would never, and possibly could never, evolve in. After all, man has certain inbound limits – biological necessities like sleep, food, death. This new intelligence would have none of these. Then again, since man created it, its sole goal may be to become as close to being human as possible. For all of the good and ill that might mean.