BSG: Field Lab for the Friendliness Problem

But how can it not know what it is? –Blade Runner

I think it is pretty dim to be offended by percieved Iraq analogy in BattleStar. I guess these are the same people that see dhimmitude in the bend of a blade of grass these days.

BSG is so much more. BSG asks the same question that Kikaku Kidotai (GitS II: Innosensu) and Blade Runner, and countless scifi series and novels ask, can a machine be human? Which is really a paraphrase of what does it mean to be human?
The questions about torture and suicide bombing; is it ever ok to torture? what if it is a machine? is it ok to suicide bomb? what if the explodees are machines (ie, not human)? are not just about Iraq. How impoverished must be the imaginations that only see the 2-D representation.

BSG is a sort of intellectual field lab for asking those question, which need to be answered in the next thirty years, because of the advent of the Singularity.

But also, I am interested in the Friendliness Problem for Strong AI, because, if we could solve the problem for AIs, couldn’t we solve it for homosapiens? Or, does it mean that as machines become more human they become less Friendly?

In Innosensu, when the gynoids kill their masters, it turns out that they can violate the prime directive because they have become part human thru the Locus Solus process of ghost-dubbing. The Bladerunner skin-jobs can kill their makers because they have become too human, ie just like us. But perhaps in the end, the skinjobs can be come more than human, as when Roy saved Detective Deckard. Or is that truly human? Is the saving grace of humanity compassion and mercy and love? And will we see the cylons achieve it too?

In the Toxic Forest

Here is Steven Den Beste’s review of my favorite Miyazaki, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, too many words.
I disagree (a lot) about Nausicaa.

In some ways this is the most horrifying of his films, because of the general hopelessness of the overall situation. Humans are fighting a rearguard action against the advancing fungus jungle; but it’s a battle of attrition that the humans will eventually lose. It’s revealed that the fungi are purifying the planet, but part of what they’re purifying is the presence of humans, and it’s difficult to see how humans will be able to survive the overall process.
Still, there are some idiotic humans who are keen to make it happen faster, as long as they can make it happen to their enemies first. Naushika and her people, by contrast, try to get along with the fungi and everyone else, but eventually their valley, too, will be consumed. All they can hope for is to delay that reckoning as long as possible.
There’s something of an upbeat ending: the fungi are charging towards Naushika’s valley to destroy it, and are turned away at the last minute. Disaster is delayed — but not denied. It only takes one undetected spore for the valley to be spoiled and all the humans there to either die or have to flee. And the film overall has a feeling of gloom and doom because of the inevitability of this destruction.

Feh. Did we see the same anime? I found Nausicaa to be overwhelmingly hopeful. Nausicaa and Monoke are very nearly the same anime. The protagonist refuses to fear and hate, and instead shows by example. In Nausicaa’s underground laboratory she proves the seeds taken from the toxic forest (the Sea of Corruption in other translation) grow clean and non-toxic in clean water and soil. The toxic forest is purifying the poisoned ground left from the Seven Days of Burning. Nausicaa controls the ohmu by being unafraid of them, and by using scientific knowledge of their behavior response. She is safe in the toxic forest through both knowledge and refusal of prejudice and fear.

Lady Eboshi and Princess Kushana are the same character. A powerful evil woman finally persuaded to good by the examples of Ashitaka and Nausicaa.

I found Nausicaa profoudly hopeful, the triumph of science over superstition, the triumph of love and courage over hate and fear.