Monday, January 15, 2007

For the Pseudo-Intellectuals & the Wannabees

I came across an excellent list called "Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual: Redux" formulated by George P. Dvorsky, a blogger I came to know about through Desh's (an intent blogger) blog. The thing that drew me to this list is the fact that I've always played the devil's advocate when it came to being the Generalist(Jack of all trades) Vs. the Specialist. How much ever I tried to be a specialist, it never came to be, for I had been and rather will always be a Generalist.
And Dvorsky, with his comment below, made me even more biased towards being a Generalist. He says
"First, I am trying to come up with a list of the most fundamental and crucial terms that are coming to define and will soon re-define the human condition, and that subsequently should be known by anyone who thinks of themselves as an intellectual. I admit that there's an elitist and even pompous aspect to this exercise, but the fact of the matter is that the zeitgeist is quickly changing. It's not enough anymore to be able to quote Dostoevsky, Freud and Darwin. This said, while my list of terms is 'required' knowledge, I am not suggesting that it is sufficient.
My definition of an 'intellectual' also requires explanation. To me an intellectual in this context is an expert generalist -- a polymath or jack-of-all-trades who sees and understands the Big Picture both past, present and future. While I value and respect the work of specialists, they can be frustratingly out of touch with other disciplines and some of the more broader applications of science, technology and philosophy. Given the obvious truism that nobody can know everything, there is still great value in having individuals understand a diverse set of key principles."
Don't get me wrong, this list is for anyone and everyone, not just the true intellectuals and the pseudo-intellectuals, but even for the wannabees. Chances are, if you are a true intellectual, you are probably gonna know this all.I have listed just a few of the terms but if you are really curious, go check out the full list here.
  • Anthropic Principle: Once considered a philosophical lark, the anthropic principle has become an integral methodological tool with which to best analyze the extreme unarbitrariness of the Universe's parameters. The AP, which suggests that our Universe's qualities are unavoidable in consideration of the presence of observers, has helped cosmologists, astrobiologists and quantum physicists as they work with such related concepts as the fine-tuning hypothesis, string theory, and various multiverse theories.

  • Artificial General Intelligence: This ain't your daddy's AI. Rather, AGI describes the kind of intelligence that you and I have -- the commonsense knowhow we have when we're put into unfamiliar situations. Once developed, artificial agents endowed with AGI will be non-specialized intelligent entities that will come to represent the bona fide synthetic equivalent to human intelligence, and then move beyond.
  • Cosmological Eschatology (aka physical eschatology): CE is the study of how the Universe develops, ages, and ultimately comes to an end. While hardly a new concept, what is new is the suggestion that advanced intelligence may play a role in the universe's life cycle. Given the radical potential for postbiological superintelligence, a number of thinkers have suggested that universe engineering is a likely activity for advanced civilizations. This has given rise to a number of theories, including the developmental singularity hypothesis and the selfish biocosm hypothesis.

  • Existential Risks: The development of nuclear weapons marked a disturbing turning point for the human species: we are increasingly coming into the possession of apocalyptic technologies. Soon to join the list are such problems as a malevolent superintelligence, deliberate or accidental misuse of nanotech, runaway global warming, a killer artificial virus, an antimatter holocaust, or a particle accelerator disaster. Read more here and here. Adding insult to injury is the Doomsday Argument.

  • Human Exceptionalism (aka human racism): Not everyone is in favour of human enhancement and the prospect of greater-than-human intelligence. Nor is everyone in favour of extending personhood outside the human sphere. These 'human exceptionalists', a group that includes anti-transhumanist Wesley Smith, argue that being human is what matters, and that to give equal moral currency to non-humans is a violation of human dignity and worth. The opposing viewpoint to this is that of Non-Anthropocentric Personhood -- the notion that nonhumans, be they animals, robots, or uploaded minds, have the potential for personhood status, and by consequence, are worthy of moral consideration.

  • Post-Scarcity Economy: A post-scarcity economy is a hypothetical form of economy or society in which things such as goods, services and information are free, or practically free. Such a future could come about due to abundance of fundamental resources (think nano, AI, alternative energy, etc.), in conjunction with sophisticated automated systems capable of converting raw materials into finished goods (namely by molecular assemblers). In such a world, manufacturing would be as easy as duplicating software.

    earthling said...

    Of course I do strongly agree that being Jack-of-all-trades is the best way to be!
    There is no doubt about it in this universe with endless possibilities. You cannot alienate yourself from the rest of the knowledge in this world by just specializing in one. That is what has happened to the world and the people right now. In the process of specializing and learning just about everything (or so they think) in one field, the whole perspective is lost and the humans fail to touch topics which are of actual importance in this universe and in that process lose the knowledge that could be offered.
    This is also like ignorance in some way. There is a small story in Indian mythology which goes on like this.
    A few men are crossing a river in a boat. As the boatman rows the boat, he asks the people what they do for a living. There is one particular man who says he is a big scholar and he has studied the Vedas, Upanishads, poetry etc etc The others in the boat have not studied so much and so they look up to this learned guy and he too feels proud about it. After a while there is a turbulence in the river and the boatman asks everyone if they can manage to swim across because the boat may sink any moment.
    For that the learned man says he does not know to swim and that someone had to help him.
    The rest of the people laugh at him and say what is the use of all that knowledge if he did not swim across and save his life!
    The point here is to learn as much as we can about literally anything in this Universe and for that, one lifetime is not enough.
    There is also a famous line by Thiruvalluvar a famous Philosopher and poet from Tamilnadu.
    it says "Kalavum Katru Mara", it means, "learn even to steal and then forget it".
    This does not mean we have to learn to do a lot of bad things but it simply means that never discard the knowledge that is offered by something in this world. There is a lesson and an experience in every single thing in this Universe and it is up to us to make use of it.

    earthling said...

    there is so much to address in this post and i will get back to yu!eeee