Monday, April 21, 2008

Human nature

I came across this quote from Professor Stephen Hawking.
I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.
That's pretty dramatic of Steve, and far be it from me to disagree with one of the world's smartest humans, but Im not that negative about the forms of life we humans have created. If computer viruses count as life, then other less destructive software also should count as life. Packet sniffers, for instance, perform pretty complex things and yet they arent usually destructive unless purposely designed to be so. One might argue that packet sniffers arent self-replicating, but I have argued that a living thing doesnt have to be self-replicating in order to be considered alive. To be considered alive, one needs only to be able to process information, both internally and those coming from the outside, that is, information coming from the environment. Ive played with that idea here.

Professor Hawking has reason of course to be negative about human nature, scientist that he is. He is aware that his profession has given mankind the tools with which to destroy itself. In fact another of mankind's inventions, aided by science, has been responsible for more slaughter than any other institution invented by man, and that invention is Government, that institution which demands that we bow to it, give up our freedoms for it, give it our children to fight its wars. Science and government can be a lethal one-two punch as it has proven numerous times in the past.


cvj said...

On your last paragraph, hvrds agrees with you on the dangers of science but his take is different in that he emphasizes the tools of science as wielded by religous fanatics (his 'eschatological idiots'). He placed this comment in Manolo's blog:

"The scientific and industrial applications of warfare in the hands of eschatological idiots or followers of the end of days (Neo-Malthusians)is the greatest threat the planet faces."

Jego said...

That's probably because religious extremists are very much 'in' these days (the West's contention that Al Qaeda is trying to acquire nukes for instance, which could be true -- who knows?)

But history has shown that governments, even though sometimes they mouth the language of religion, has caused the deaths of millions, far more than religion has. It can also be argued that governments, aided and abetted science, that has destroyed our environment. Big business couldnt have done that without their partnership with governments.

Jego said...

By the way, for some reason I can't access wordpress blogs from here in Nanjing. Theyre blocked.

Blogspot's ok though.