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    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    Racism is merely a vile symptom of a far less malevolent and malicious survival instinct.
    If it is "merely" a symptom then it can be excised from the instinct of which it is a part, while the "far less malevolent and malicious" parts can be left intact.

    If it cannot be so excised then it is not "merely a symptom", but is an integral part of that instinct.

    If it is an integral part of that instinct then the instinct is not "less malevolent and malicious", but exactly as malevolent and malicious, and the whole instinct should be expunged from our collective consciousness.

    If we cannot expunge this instinct, then we humans are not sentient, having failed the fundamental requirement of sentience, the ability to overrule our instincts with our intellects. WE would then be the monsters, acting on blind instinct to harm and destroy, and in need of the appropriate wild-life management from truly sentient wardens.

    So the question thus boils down to this: are we human beings monsters, or are we men*?

    (*gender neutral usage of the term)

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Forikroder View Post
    if were talking detect evil, it will ping someone as evil regardless of how evil they are, if there even a millimeter south of neutral they come out as evil
    Millimeter measures length. But if what you were saying was true, there would be no Neutral people ever. On a % scale, only the bottom 33% of collective morality is "Evil" (But, as there are no measurable upper or lower bounds on Good and Evil, it's impossible to actually measure.) The band of Neutrality is QUITE broad. Unless someone has knowingly engaged in actions that have thoroughly destroyed at least one innocent person's life (As in killed them, or severely hurt - in a recognizable but abstract way - many) without remorse, they're evil. There are so many qualifiers and mitigating factors that it's quite hard to fall into that situation without being knowingly malicious (What we wish evil people were like), incapable of comprehending the depths of your actions (Still knowingly commiting them without remorse, and getting innocent people caught in them - see Thog), or in serious denial/self-justification (What most evil people actually are like). In the last case, it can be difficult to determine the three significant factors, making it generally better to play it safe and give them the benefit of the doubt. And the second case is nothing short of tragic.

    A Paladin who pings someone as evil and is aware of the third case would almost always better serve the cause of Good showing them the error of their way (Or inspiring them to become a better person) than smiting them where they stand - especially if that person is in a position of power, and the resulting vacuum could be plugged by someone no better. But if there is no better way to handle, say, an overly-aggressive Loan Shark that ruins the lives of those he snares in underhanded and diabolical deals without killing them, said Paladin won't fall for removing him forcibly from the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramien View Post
    This is... actually pretty close to the point I was trying to make. Are we arguing degrees of when it is appropriate/necessary versus when it isn't at this point?
    Probably.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    Also the Auditors of Reality. (With one exception).

    But there was also at least one elf that was portrayed in a neutral, if not sympathetic, light, and who in the narrative proved helpful to the protagonists.
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    Yeah, that exception was why I hadn't listed the Auditors either way.
    As for the King, he's more of an eldritch abomination whose time has not yet come. Isn't he described as being just as bad as his wife, in his own way? It has admittedly been a while since I read the book.

    Plus, he's necessary for the Midsummer Night's Dream parallel.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Goosefeather View Post
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    Yeah, that exception was why I hadn't listed the Auditors either way.
    As for the King, he's more of an eldritch abomination whose time has not yet come. Isn't he described as being just as bad as his wife, in his own way? It has admittedly been a while since I read the book.

    Plus, he's necessary for the Midsummer Night's Dream parallel.
    The Auditor in question also had to pretty much stop being an Auditor before becoming that exception, remember. There's a reason Auditors are right at the top of the Time Monks' list of very bad things. They don't stop at just one world (or universe), either... we've got good records of them attacking another very familiar world as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    False equivalence. There's a straightforward moral calculus here. The consequences of being wrong in each direction are not symmetrical.

    Dragons are, as previously mentioned, really rare. Thus the chances of this being "the" specific evil dragon are quite high. However, for the sake of being fair, let's say those chances are only 50/50.

    If I kill it, and it turns out to be innocent, an innocent person has died. That's on me, it's my crime, and I'm the one who has to deal with my guilt. If that means giving myself up to the dragon's relatives for justice, letting them take a life for a life - then I guess that's what I'll end up doing. Final casualty count: 1, or worst case, 2. (I would certainly plead for my life in those circumstances, and I would hope that a genuinely "good" dragon community would see my point of view. But worst case, I die.)

    (I'm going to ignore the "what if it's evil but just here to grab a barrel of beer before continuing on to terrorise someone else" option, because that's just too silly to live.)

    If I don't kill it, and it turns out to be guilty, then by the time I next get to roll initiative, 30 innocent people have died, and I then have to kill the dragon anyway. Final casualty count, assuming I win initiative on the second round: 31.

    If the odds are 50/50, then (Expected deaths) if I kill it: 1.5. (Expected deaths) if I don't kill it: 15.5. Even if you make a much more generous assessment of the odds - let's say there's a 75% chance it's innocent, and it could only kill 10 people with one breath - the calculus still comes down firmly against it.

    (Aside: I know there are people who think that "taking one innocent life is just as bad as taking 30". I've heard that argument several times in my life, and it's never made a lick of sense to me. Then there's the argument that I'm directly responsible for the lives I take, but only indirectly responsible for those I allow the dragon to take. I believe that line of moral reasoning is fresh out of the back end of a horse. If I could have prevented those deaths, and, fully forseeing the consequence, I didn't, then - yes, I am responsible.)
    The crux of your argument is individual--not that black dragons are bad, here's a black dragon, kill it, but that there's a high chance that you have THE dragon you want. That makes the argument irrelevant to the discussion of fantastic racism that's actually going on. Maybe you'd like to return to it?

    Also, I do remember giving an example of a symmetrically damaging error in the other direction. Perhaps you'd like to read it? Your assumption that your error in killing the wrong dragon would only result in YOUR death is entirely flawed.
    Last edited by Math_Mage; 2013-09-17 at 12:42 AM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    I would point out at this point that even dropping sentience from this discussion changes nothing.

    Making the target a "monster", something unreasoning, instinctively dangerous, without culture or civilization STILL does not give us justification for killing them indiscriminately just for being what they are.

    Because what we essentially have the unreasoning threat that runs solely on instinct and is a dangerous threat is a wildlife management problem.

    It is culture and civilization that makes an enemy, as a collective, dangerous. That which runs on instinct is much easier to deal with. You study them, learn what their instincts are, and use that knowledge to manage and neutralize the threat they pose, without requiring you to "kill-em-all".

    You kill the ones you need to to neutralize the threat that is posed, as few as possible, as many as necessary, but you are killing those individuals because they, individually, are a threat and not because of what they are.

    So in fact there is NEVER, EVER, any justification for "killing X because they are X." If they are sentient then it is genocide. If they are not sentient then it is an ecological crime.
    For the essence of non-sentience... I hope you don't work in agriculture, the food industry, or medical industry. There are a lot of things on this planet that need to be wiped out (Or at least completely removed from certain geographic areas) for the betterment of everything. Of course, they're all either Bugs, Invasive Plants, or microscopic. It's not for what they are, but what they do - the costs and damage of letting them survive and thrive is staggering, and very little short of outright extermination can get the situation under control. The problem is exterminating them in a manner that doesn't lead to excessive ecological collateral damage.

    Culture and civilization are products of sociobiology. Humans are social animals, much like several species of lesser animals. Our culture and civilizations have been built up through the way our brains are wired and how we've evolved to interact with people and the world. Species of different mentalities develop different cultures - including animals (I'm idly studying the cultures of several animals, such as lions, wild dogs, and spotted hyenas). I think we're either greatly overestimating our own sentience/sapience, or greatly underestimating the sentience and sapience of lesser animals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    If it is "merely" a symptom then it can be excised from the instinct of which it is a part, while the "far less malevolent and malicious" parts can be left intact.

    If it cannot be so excised then it is not "merely a symptom", but is an integral part of that instinct.

    If it is an integral part of that instinct then the instinct is not "less malevolent and malicious", but exactly as malevolent and malicious, and the whole instinct should be expunged from our collective consciousness.

    If we cannot expunge this instinct, then we humans are not sentient, having failed the fundamental requirement of sentience, the ability to overrule our instincts with our intellects. WE would then be the monsters, acting on blind instinct to harm and destroy, and in need of the appropriate wild-life management from truly sentient wardens.

    So the question thus boils down to this: are we human beings monsters, or are we men*?

    (*gender neutral usage of the term)
    The problem with Racism is that it has been demonstrated to be false on all counts in the real world: There is only one species of Human, and the flaws and foibles between us cannot be determined by obvious visual cues. Instead, the real differences in people and ways we need to interact with them is determined by their neurological makeup - you can't treat a... I'd probably inadvertently offend a group if I tried to use any examples in the vast, recognizable differences in thought patterns that do require people to treat each other differently (But NOT maliciously), whether it's mental 'disease' such as Schizophrenia or merely different personality types, such as analytical introverts.

    "Expunging he instinct" is likely to result in far greater, unanticipated damage to other areas of our psyche - learning ability, threat/risk-assessment, and even empathy are at greatest risk of being damaged with the removal of the possibility of racism. All we've learned is "Humans are humans". We don't know if any nonhuman of similar intelligence will be of even remotely close to us in social nature.

    Of course, as study of neurophysiology continues, it may turn out that we aren't as "sentient" as we think, and true "sentience" as you define it, like free will, is a comfortable lie we tell ourselves against proof to the contrary.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    Millimeter measures length. But if what you were saying was true, there would be no Neutral people ever. On a % scale, only the bottom 33% of collective morality is "Evil" (But, as there are no measurable upper or lower bounds on Good and Evil, it's impossible to actually measure.) The band of Neutrality is QUITE broad.
    The phrase "a millimeter south of neutral" can be interpreted to mean a millimeter south of the minimum that defines the neutral band. It does not have to mean a millimeter south of the middle between good and evil.

    It doesn't matter how broad the band of Neutrality is.

    So if it is a 0-100 scale, and 33-66 is Neutral, than the spell pings "a millimeter south of Neutral" at anything less than 33.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    The phrase "a millimeter south of neutral" can be interpreted to mean a millimeter south of the minimum that defines the neutral band. It does not have to mean a millimeter south of the middle between good and evil.

    It doesn't matter how broad the band of Neutrality is.

    So if it is a 0-100 scale, and 33-66 is Neutral, than the spell pings "a millimeter south of Neutral" at anything less than 33.
    And that point is the "Event Horizon" - the point at which you have done enough damage to someone else or society as a whole that at least someone, somewhere is fully justified in killing you for it. More than likely, multiple someones justified in doing such.
    Last edited by Scow2; 2013-09-17 at 12:45 AM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Not quite sure where to begin with this thread, since it's kind of all over the place. I don't think that DnD fantastic racism exists because of inherent racism, I think a better explanation is that DnD is very derivative of mythology, and mythology all over the world is full of "always or mostly evil" creatures. It has stuck around due to DnD being conservative with its lore and due to it being a very easy tool for creating plotlines for your saturday night beer n chips game. Of course, I am not saying that this justifies DnD's current treatment of it.

    Also @veti's posts, you're assuming a consequential form of morality which is pretty contradictory to DnD's, which seems to be more deontological in approach.

    If we cannot expunge this instinct, then we humans are not sentient, having failed the fundamental requirement of sentience, the ability to overrule our instincts with our intellects. WE would then be the monsters, acting on blind instinct to harm and destroy, and in need of the appropriate wild-life management from truly sentient wardens.
    Pretty sure the word you are thinking of is actually "rational." Sentient refers to feeling, not reason. For example, animals are sentient but they do not live their life via intellect, or at least no where near the way we do. You also seem to view rationality as being black and white, when really it's shades of gray. Just because you allow an emotional belief to have an effect on your thinking does not necessarily mean you are entirely irrational, and would not justify you having your life controlled by a warden.
    Last edited by Tetsujin-28; 2013-09-17 at 12:58 AM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    For the essence of non-sentience... I hope you don't work in agriculture, the food industry, or medical industry. There are a lot of things on this planet that need to be wiped out (Or at least completely removed from certain geographic areas) for the betterment of everything.
    I DO work in the medical industry and NO, there is NOTHING that is alive on this planet that needs to be wiped for the "betterment of everything."

    Controlled? Sure. Reduced in certain local areas (NOT geographical areas - that would be an act of pure ecological terrorism with the same unknowable chain of consequences as bad as casting Familicide was)? Maybe. Removed from certain products? Sometimes.

    Wiped out? NEVER.

    The only exceptions (maybe) are a few viruses, but viruses aren't truly alive, anyways.

    And the jury's still out on whether or not our extirpation of the smallpox virus (and perhaps in the near future the polio virus) and the like will not come around to bite our collective asses in some unforeseeable way at some point in the future. It sure looked like a good idea to us at the time, and sure still does right now, but so did Familicide to V, at the time.

    Wipe out a species of living thing, and that organism NEVER comes back (there are no mulligans, Evolution does not work that way). The chain of consequences radiate out into the ecology in infinite, incalculable, unforeseeable ways, expanding exponentially with the passage of time, FOREVER (or at least as long as things continue to live in this universe). To contemplate wiping out a species deliberately is to contemplate the irresponsible act of wanton ecological terrorism imaginable.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    -snip-
    Well, the situations I'm stuck working with are "Eliminate Invasive, highly-destructive species of insect A from the entire region" or "Entire population of native plant B will be entirely wiped out by the insect." We also have issues with invasive plants strangling the native plantlife, and poisoning the native animal life (Mega- and Microfauna alike). We have a similar problem with overly-destructive viruses and bacteria. I work in agriculture, and the situation is "There can be only one!" I'd rather choose the one that is most beneficial, and isn't trying to destroy everything else.
    Last edited by Scow2; 2013-09-17 at 01:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tetsujin-28 View Post
    You also seem to view rationality as being black and white, when really it's shades of gray.
    No, I said no such thing whatsoever.


    Just because you allow an emotional belief to have an effect on your thinking does not mean you are entirely irrational,
    This has no revelance whatsoever to the point I was making.

    and would not justify you being enslaved.
    Nor does this.

    Firstly, I was talking about INSTINCT, not emotion. Emotion enters into it only in the sense that INSTINCT sometimes creates emotion.

    That fact that you might be influenced by your instinct is not the issue here. The issue here is whether or not you HAVE to be CONTROLLED by your instinct and CANNOT CHOOSE contrary to them.

    If you CANNOT do that, if you CANNOT choose by act of will to behave contrary to what your instinct dictates, then you are not sentient. Period.

    If instinct -> emotion -> act is guaranteed and stereotyped. If the same instinct produces the same emotion produces the same act all the time. If at no point in that sequence you cannot insert your free will and say "no, I will not act this way, this time", then you are not sentient. Period.

    If instinct for self-preservation -> racist emotions -> racist acts is a predefined sequence in humans, if at no point in this sequence a human being cannot say "you know what, to hell with these instincts. I don't care how racist they are making me feel right now, I believe racism is wrong and so I will not engage in racist acts or thoughts despite these feelings my instincts are generating", then human beings are not sentient. Period.

    Not by the definition of sentience as it is being discussed in this thread.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    I would point out at this point that even dropping sentience from this discussion changes nothing.

    Making the target a "monster", something unreasoning, instinctively dangerous, without culture or civilization STILL does not give us justification for killing them indiscriminately just for being what they are.

    Because what we essentially have the unreasoning threat that runs solely on instinct and is a dangerous threat is a wildlife management problem.

    It is culture and civilization that makes an enemy, as a collective, dangerous. That which runs on instinct is much easier to deal with. You study them, learn what their instincts are, and use that knowledge to manage and neutralize the threat they pose, without requiring you to "kill-em-all".

    You kill the ones you need to to neutralize the threat that is posed, as few as possible, as many as necessary, but you are killing those individuals because they, individually, are a threat and not because of what they are.

    So in fact there is NEVER, EVER, any justification for "killing X because they are X." If they are sentient then it is genocide. If they are not sentient then it is an ecological crime.
    It's set in a quasi-middle-ages environment. We're well before the origins of the national parks system in D&D. If you're travelling through the wilderness and a hungry animal attacks you for food, you're entirely justified in killing it, no further explanation needed.

    And eradication smallpox and polio are advances that save millions of lives. Malaria kills about a million people per year - if we can eradicate it without other extreme harms to the surrounding area, there's no question that we should. Ditto for HIV/AIDS (which only emerged as a human disease recently, so you can't even go with the "it's part of a natural system we shouldn't disturb" argument for that one it - its existence is as much of a drastic change as the eradication of another disease organism would be, and is an entirely negative change at that). Not only can't I condone, I can't comprehend the idea of putting the survival of a pathogen that can't think and can't feel above the lives of human beings.

    But this is getting heavily into real-world morality and politics, so we should probably drop that topic.
    Last edited by LadyEowyn; 2013-09-17 at 01:15 AM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    If instinct for self-preservation -> racist emotions -> racist acts is a predefined sequence in humans, if at no point in this sequence a human being cannot say "you know what, to hell with these instincts. I don't care how racist they are making me feel right now, I believe racism is wrong and so I will not engage in racist acts or thoughts despite these feelings my instincts are generating", then human beings are not sentient. Period.
    What makes you think the core instinct is responsible for making us think racist thoughts (As opposed to.. what default?), instead of being the thing that allows us to empathize with things similar to ourself (With racism being the failure of that instinct to include someone or something in that sphere?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    Well, the situations I'm stuck working with are "Eliminate Invasive, highly-destructive species of insect A from the entire region" or "Entire population of native plant B will be entirely wiped out by the insect." We also have issues with invasive plants strangling the native plantlife, and poisoning the native animal life (Mega- and Microfauna alike). We have a similar problem with overly-destructive viruses and bacteria. I work in agriculture, and the situation is "There can be only one!" I'd rather choose the one that is most beneficial, and isn't trying to destroy everything else.
    Firstly, eliminating an invasive species from a territory is NOT "wiping them out", because said species is still extant and preserved in its original native habitat. Secondly, if they can be removed without killing them all in the region, that is preferable to killing them all in that region, though that at the moment is usually beyond our capabilities right now.

    Thirdly, as I already said, viruses aren't living organisms and so have no place in this discussion.

    Fourthly, no one in their right mind would want to wipe any species of bacteria entirely (notwithstanding that doing so is virtually impossible AND that the very definition of "species" in bacteria is often unclear). The earth's microbiome is so extensive and so vital to the general support of the entire biosphere that we mess with it at our peril and the peril of every other living thing on this planet. When we try to control dangerous or disease-causing bacteria we are only talking about reducing their numbers in specific locations.

    Fifthly, much of what we currently practice and call agriculture is, quite frankly, extremely ecologically irresponsible, for which future generations will surely take us to task. And our only defence to their accusations (and it is actually a fairly good defence) is "we did not know any better way, and all the other ways we knew of were even worse".
    Last edited by Amphiox; 2013-09-17 at 01:36 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    The only exceptions (maybe) are a few viruses, but viruses aren't truly alive, anyways.

    And the jury's still out on whether or not our extirpation of the smallpox virus (and perhaps in the near future the polio virus) and the like will not come around to bite our collective asses in some unforeseeable way at some point in the future. It sure looked like a good idea to us at the time, and sure still does right now, but so did Familicide to V, at the time.
    Here I will simply say I have no such equivocations. When it comes to things like smallpox, polio, and the like, I have no problems seeing them eradicated forever. When the notion was first posed to me as a philosophical question, I gave it about ten minutes thought and then said to the person posing the question to me: Nuke 'em.

    When the counter arguments were made, I gave them about another ten minutes thought and then said, once again: No, really. Nuke 'em.

    Is there some sort of theoretical "Even the wisest person cannot see all ends" situation where this is a problem for humanity for doing this? I suppose. But you know what? Deal with that bridge when we get to it.

    Viruses are one thing I will not waste a moment's time on saying they deserve to exist.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Could we stick with using the term "terrorism" for things that, y'know, relate at least vaguely to its meaning? Because people don't practice agriculture (or any other ecologically harmful industry) for the purpose of terrifying nature into conceding to our demands - we do it for food, or resources, and/or profit, or any other number of reasons that are in no conceivable way related to extracting political concessions from cows/sheep/grass/trees.
    Last edited by LadyEowyn; 2013-09-17 at 01:18 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    And that point is the "Event Horizon" - the point at which you have done enough damage to someone else or society as a whole that at least someone, somewhere is fully justified in killing you for it. More than likely, multiple someones justified in doing such.
    The Eberron Campaign Setting- at least- takes the approach that this is not in fact true- that some evil NPCs have not done enough harm to warrant execution by the PCs.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Wow... How this thread grew in a day!


    I have just one question, though (and forgive me if it's been asked, I don't have the time to read 10 long pages).

    In my nascent setting, all undead are sapient, possessing the intelligence of the body's original owner (for more than one meaning of "possess"). Including the zombies in the necromancer's hoard. Especially the zombies in the necromancer's hoard.

    But they've been warped almost beyond recognition. Self-preservation and reproduction, the two base urges, have been completely stripped away: replaced through dark magic by other, often irrational desires. Usually founded around Hatred of All Life, with a dash of Disproportionate Retribution and oftentimes Seeking Oblivion. But the point is, undead always harbor some malicious intent, otherwise they'd be nice corpses and rot six feet under like the rest of us.

    So, my question is: would undead in my setting be fair to discriminate against, and destroy on sight merely because they are undead? Would the alien mindset (or at least the inherent maliciousness thereof) be sufficient, maybe even enhancing of the experience?


    EDIT: On second thought, the first half of that question is probably too close to "morally justified" territory. How about we focus on the second half, and discuss whether the alien intelligence could enrich the roleplay experience, instead?
    Last edited by Geordnet; 2013-09-17 at 01:23 AM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    You've got it backwards. It is real racism that causes Fantastic Racism. Fantastic Racism is an expression of pre-existing racist thought patterns and tendencies that permeate our culture.

    Fantastic racism is wish fulfilment for our real racist tendencies, giving us a guilt-free, consequence-free target to indulge these impulses. And in so doing help to perpetuate them and hinder their excision from our thought patterns and habits.

    The problem with fantastic racism is not that it "leads" to real racism, but that it interferes with the removal of real racism.
    Yes. This. This is what I've been failing to express in this thread. If the goal is No Racism, then the existence of Always Evil Orcs is one of millions of obstacles on the road to that goal. It happens to be the only one I am in any position to make great strides against, so I do so. The alternative, to do nothing when I could speak out, is not acceptable to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    In the end we do rely on the horse's innate ability to feel thirsty, and we give the horse enough respect to assume that, once led to the water, if it gets thirsty, it has the power to choose to drink.

    A small bit of faith in our fellow humans is a prerequisite. Otherwise we wouldn't bother wasting our time making these kinds of arguments.
    Yes, exactly. If I believed that excising racism was neither possible nor desirable and that humans were doomed to stay racist because of brain physiology and that was As It Should Be, then I wouldn't write what I write. But obviously, I don't think that. I choose to believe that some horses will drink if led to water that may not have done so if left to their own devices. Or, to be more accurate, I choose to believe that even if not a single person changes their mind as a result of anything I ever write, it was still worth the effort to try.

    I read something a while back that said something along the lines of, "I don't say these things in the hope of convincing those who disagree; I say these things to let those who already agree know that they're not alone."

    I didn't spend the whole day in this thread for veti and Scow2 and Foikroder. I spent the whole day here for Amphiox and DaggerPen and Math_Mage, and perhaps more importantly, all the lurkers who read these words and aren't posting here. Everyone else who understands my point, but lives in a world that tells them that they're wrong, that sometimes you don't have a choice, that it's right and natural to fear and kill the Other. To those people, I say, **** THAT NOISE. We can do better. And the D&D table is as good a place to start as any.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    What makes you think the core instinct is responsible for making us think racist thoughts (As opposed to.. what default?), instead of being the thing that allows us to empathize with things similar to ourself (With racism being the failure of that instinct to include someone or something in that sphere?)
    If the core instinct is the one that allows us to empathize with things similar to ourself, then we can excise from it the part that makes racist thoughts and just keep the part that lets us empathize.

    If we cannot use our intellect to control and shape our instincts in this manner, then we are not sentient. Period.

    This is just a variation of the same scenario I was commenting on originally.

    And this is also why I am using the term "if" in describing the scenario.

    It boils down to this:

    What RULES us? What, ultimately, determines our actions? What aspect of our psyche gets veto-power when we choose to act?

    Instinct? Or thought?

    A sentient being is NOT RULED BY INSTINCT. When we use the excuse "my instinct CAUSED me to act like this" what we are really saying is that we are confessing to not being sentient. Instinct does not CAUSE a sentient being to do anything. Instinct may influence a sentient being, but a sentient being can veto instinct and say "no, I will not do what my instincts are pushing me towards doing." That is what having free will means.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    I missed this earlier until it was just quoted:



    The crime, such as it is, occurs when the people who roleplayed those actions then say, "And that character is Good." When they take those events and rather than saying, "Yeah, my character is a real piece of dog****, but I have fun playing him," they say, "My character is a hero." When they transfer the lessons of the game into their metagame analysis of it. Because that's when the fourth wall is broken and the stuff that happens in your game affects the real world.

    If you want to play a psychopath who kills orcs because they're orcs, awesome. Good for you, have fun. But don't write, "Good," on your character sheet. Or "Neutral." And don't expect me to write a 900+ page story condoning it.
    Indeed, though i think that is a separate issue than what i was addressing. Heck I'm reminded of a friend of mine who i was very frustrated with because he hated elves. All his characters hated elves, he hated elves, he half-hated half-elves and you knew you couldn't play an elf in a group with him without expecting to get some snark roleplayed your way.
    When asked 'why" he would just say "i just hate elves". I like(or dread) to think that this was due to some sort of hate of something that "elves" represented in his mind (likely, pretty holy than thou nature lovers *shrug*)

    What I took objection to is that i think i've seen some people amongst this forum who feel strongly a game they play in not having certain themes deemed as wrong.

    Such as a player thinking less of a DM because one of his NPCs (say a Captain of the City Watch) is a bit misogynistic. Or someone thinking its wrong to play a character who is racist (transferring that notion of "Racism is wrong" to "playing a character who is racist is wrong so the player is wrong" )

    Well actually based off what i quoted it was more the notion that having genocide and racism as a theme in your game is somehow condoning it. And that players have a right to play a lighthearted game in where no one (not even the GM) brings up the issue of "but what if they aren't all bad". You arent supporting it, you arent fighting it. The Theme just isnt present in the game or story.

    Kinda like that attempt to equate Tolken's races as some sort of White Supremacist propaganda. Its an interesting observation. But highly unlikely that has merit.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    And a book about killing all brunettes wouldn't be genocide, but just because something isn't real doesn't mean it's right.
    There is nothing wrong with a book like that. a book that CONDONED it might be wrong. A book that delved deep and made the main character question his own beliefs and got so close to agreeing with the murderer before he finally realized he was wrong (or even went off the depend himself) might be harsh and scary but would still serve the purpose of showing how bad that profiling would be.

    But my comment you replied was about the fact that
    YES, the stories we write reflect on real life, the readers, fans and writers and even the way the world works. But stories like that only have power in the way they effect people. For instance you could have a novel CONDONING Racism and bigotry...and a person in the modern world would take that as a USEFUL tool to understand how these people think so they can change their minds or deal with them.

    BUT, except the way in which they effect the real people involved, they dont involve real people.
    Because a lot of people act like the characters are real people, and in most stories they aren't. And its important to keep that distinction. They COULD end up as real people and that would be horrible. But you should no more look down on a writer or GM for putting certain themes in his book than you should argue that the events of a fantasy book are proof that the same thing happens to real people. You SHOULD argue that things like that happen to real people but one would research why the writer wrote those things and what events he based them on. And use THAT as your proof.

    So basically my main point is to keep things in perspective . Reality vs potential reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porthos View Post
    Here I will simply say I have no such equivications. When it comes to things like smallpox, polio, and the like, I have no problems seeing them eradicated forever. When the notion was first posed to me as a philosophical question, I gave it about ten minutes thought and then said to the person posing the question to me: Nuke 'em.
    Let's interject some real life details into this philosophical question here.

    Smallpox has been eradicated as a disease. There is no wild-type smallpox virus running around in the world today, as far as anyone knows. No one is at risk of contracting smallpox anymore now. Polio is heading that way too, assuming the antivax movement doesn't thwart the attempts to extirpate it from the last few remaining pockets of the world where it is still endemic. No one is saying that this is a bad thing.

    The smallpox virus, however, has not been wiped out. Stocks of it remain, as of 2010, kept in labs. So long as those stocks exist, the risk remains that they might escape into the wild and cause an outbreak, or be used in chemical weapons.

    Should those last stocks be destroyed?

    The smallpox virus is like a murderer, caught and convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He is fully contained and has no opportunity to harm anyone ever again. There is a risk that he might escape prison, but the prison is VERY secure. The risk of escape is VERY low. There is also risk that an unscrupulous government agency might clandestinely get in freed from prison to work in some black ops. The magnitude of this risk is uncertain.

    In light of these risks, should the prison warden go and shoot this prisoner to death in his jail cell?

    That is what destroying the last smallpox stocks in the world is equivalent to.

    We are talking about pre-empting a risk, and we have other options to deal with this risk besides wholesale destruction. The risk of biological escape is already vanishingly low and can be made even lower with advances in our technologies of containment. The risk of chemical warfare usage depends on our political systems, and we can change those as well.

    We also have a vaccine that can be deployed to minimize the harm caused by any actual outbreak if it should occur.

    Without exterminating the smallpox virus as a species, we can reduce the risk of potential future harm from smallpox to a number that is extremely, extremely low.

    By exterminating the smallpox virus, we can reduce that risk to something even lower (but not zero. The smallpox DNA sequence is fully known so it is actually possible for anyone with access to the internet and enough time and resources to reconstitute the smallpox virus from scratch if he or she or his or her government wanted to. Scientists have already done this kind of reconstitution with a species of harmless bacteria with a genome much larger than that of any virus. Doing it with a virus is just a question of tweaking the technique, challenging and expensive to be sure, but fully doable to anyone or any group sufficiently motivated).

    The difference in risk between these two options is a tiny, tiny, tiny number.

    Is that enough to justify deliberately exterminating a semi-living entity?

    Would it be enough to justify deliberately exterminating a fully living entity, if we were talking about a disease bacterium instead of a virus?

    That is the question.
    Last edited by Amphiox; 2013-09-17 at 02:15 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyEowyn View Post
    Could we stick with using the term "terrorism" for things that, y'know, relate at least vaguely to its meaning? Because people don't practice agriculture (or any other ecologically harmful industry) for the purpose of terrifying nature into conceding to our demands - we do it for food, or resources, and/or profit, or any other number of reasons that are in no conceivable way related to extracting political concessions from cows/sheep/grass/trees.
    Agreed. I changed my post and excised the term.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    We don't know if the absence of the smallpox virus will create an empty niche that will allow another virus to evolve several hundred years from now that turns out to be far worse than the smallpox virus and do ten times more damage than the smallpox virus ever did, said virus ONLY being able to evolve at all because the smallpox virus was eliminated.
    That's... not quite how ecological niches work as I understand it. Eradicating it as a disease and 'leaving it alone in nature', as you put it already eliminated the niche it was inhabiting that mattered to humanity and the animals it infected. And, for that matter the smallpox virus itself.

    The only way to keep that niche occupied was to allow it to continue to infect humans and the animals that the various strands it could infect.

    The sad fact is, there are plenty of viruses that are competing for the 'niche' that smallpox inhabited.

    As it is, smallpox is sequenced, so we could resurrect it if for some reason we needed it in the future.

    No, whatever negligible risk there is in eradicating smallpox and the like is far outweighed positives that there is for the earth's biosphere at large at getting rid of it. It's not just humans that suffered from smallpox, after all.

    So yeah, eliminating smallpox as a disease, ie killing the smallpox virus whenever and wherever it was a threat to human health, was a good idea
    As I was getting at above, when it comes to ecological niches there is no functional difference between getting rid of it as a disease and getting rid of it in nature. By getting rid of it in humanity and animals as a disease you are, by default, creating the very empty niche you fear might arise in the future. As I understand ecological niches, there is no way around that fact.

    ETA::::

    You edited your post, so let me address this bit right here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    Is that enough to justify deliberately exterminating a semi-living entity?
    For me? Me personally? I won't lose an ounce of sleep if I hear tomorrow that the last stockpiles have been eradicated off the face of the earth. In fact, I will raise a beverage of choice.

    I have zero qualms over that, by the way. I thought over this a few years ago and I am quite comfortable with that position.

    Would it be enough to justify deliberately exterminating a fully living entity, if we were talking about a disease bacterium instead of a virus?

    That is the question.
    Ah. The old, and very relevant, graduations on a spectrum argument. I've drawn a line at viruses and I'm quite happy with drawing that line there. Philosophically moving the line elsewhere? To things that are quantitatively 'alive'? Well, one might say that moving a set line just because it is comforting to one's self isn't what one should do. However that doesn't mean that one shouldn't draw a line somewhere in the first place.

    If one is ethically opposed to any eradication of anything, even something that is quasi-alive? I can respect that. However that very spectrum I mentioned goes beyond even viruses in the other direction. Prions? Proteins? Things get more and more abstract once gets off the 'not-alive' line.

    Then there is the question of what is life in the first place. Is it a scientific question or a philosophical one?

    Personally I have zero qualms with being judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to things that are scientifically not alive. That's my line where I have zero problems. Others may move the line in other directions.
    Last edited by Porthos; 2013-09-17 at 02:27 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porthos View Post
    No, whatever negligible risk there is in eradicating smallpox and the like is far outweighed positives that there is for the earth's biosphere at large at getting rid of it. It's not just humans that suffered from smallpox, after all.
    I edited my original comment and removed the part about ecological niches before I noticed this reply since that part is in fact inaccurate, just as you describe.

    However, the positives of smallpox eradication construe from eradicating the disease, not from eradicating the virus. And this has already been done.

    What then is the positive benefit of eradicating the virus in a world where the disease is already eradicated?

    That benefit is entirely in risk reduction. There is in fact NO immediate benefit, NO immediate direct difference between eradicating the disease (already done), and eradicating the last few inert remnants of the virus, trapped in high security government labs, unable to infect anyone.

    And when assessing relative risks, we have to compare alternatives. It is not merely a question of comparing a world with no smallpox with a world with smallpox in it. The alternative to eradicating the virus is keeping the existing stocks in tight security government labs. We can apply continuous technological improvement to make the labs increasingly secure.

    So we are talking about making a risk that is already extremely small just a little bit more small. That is the only benefit that we gain from eradicating the smallpox virus now.

    Also, smallpox does indeed only affect humans. It is ONLY because it infects only humans that we were actually able to eradicate it at all. If it infected anything else, eradication would have been essentially impossible. That is, among many reasons, why we will not be eliminating influenza any time soon. Smallpox has relatives that infect other species, but those are just relatives, not smallpox, and we have made no attempts to eradicate any of those (and frankly we cannot even begin to try, with our current technical capabilities).

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    (...) I didn't spend the whole day in this thread for veti and Scow2 and Foikroder. I spent the whole day here for Amphiox and DaggerPen and Math_Mage, and perhaps more importantly, all the lurkers who read these words and aren't posting here. Everyone else who understands my point, but lives in a world that tells them that they're wrong, that sometimes you don't have a choice, that it's right and natural to fear and kill the Other. To those people, I say, **** THAT NOISE. We can do better. And the D&D table is as good a place to start as any.
    Speaking as one of those lurkers: well said. Although I completely agree with your points, I wasn't able to formulate them as well as you (and others) have done in this thread. So that's another positive aspect of you trying to achieve this goal.

    I feel it is worth noting that Tolkien himself saw it as a failure that his orcs were always evil and struggled with trying to fix that for the rest of his life. He failed, and this failure was integrated by many other (aspiring) fantasy writers without an understanding that "always evil" was a bug, not a feature - myself some years ago included. "Always evil" is an easy literary device to create conflict. It also makes for a shallow story that can't really be applied to real life.

    (Fascinatingly, I couldn't find "Tolkien struggling with always evil creatures" on wikipedia, though it has an entry on tvtropes.)
    Last edited by Ceaon; 2013-09-17 at 02:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amphiox View Post
    I edited my original comment and removed the part about ecological niches before I noticed this reply since that part is in fact inaccurate, just as you describe.
    Yeah, I saw that after posting and was thinking about editing it out of my post entierly since it wasn't there anymore (thought I did edit my post to address the new points you raised. To avert double posting and all that. ). But I ultimately let it stand because I thought it was an important point to make on the overall impact of smallpox in biology.

    Also, smallpox does indeed only affect humans.
    Yeah, my bad on that one. I was misreading about what the four different orthopoxviruses could and could not infect as I was refreshing my memory.

    In my defense it's a bit late at night. But you are quite correct and thanks for the correction.
    Last edited by Porthos; 2013-09-17 at 02:35 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porthos View Post
    For me? Me personally? I won't lose an ounce of sleep if I hear tomorrow that the last stockpiles have been eradicated off the face of the earth. In fact, I will raise a beverage of choice.

    I have zero qualms over that, by the way. I thought over this a few years ago and I am quite comfortable with that position.
    I have not personally actually made a decision as to whether or not I think it is a good or right thing to eliminate the last stocks of smallpox virus.

    But, pertaining to the above, since the only actual practical difference between eradicating the disease in the wild and destroying those last stockpiles is a almost immeasurably small change in the possible risk of dangers in the future (to which the same probabilistic arguments that you dismissed when used in the other direction in an earlier post apply), such that there is in fact no immediate, demonstrable, direct difference whatsoever, to what are you raising that beverage to?

    What are you celebrating?

    Why do you take pleasure in the thought that a virus, already rendered completely harmless, inert and contained, is finally totally destroyed?

    Is that not simply an instinct for revenge against the virus, for all the deaths it caused in the past?

    Remember, the last surviving stockpiles of virus are contained, neutered, helpless, confined. No more dangerous than a murder caught, jailed, straightjacketed and dumped in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

    And the technology already exists to reconstruct the virus from its gene sequence, which is already known, so even if those stockpiles are destroyed, that doesn't mean that the virus is guaranteed to be eliminated forever.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    OK, I think I'm going to lock this thread here. It's been a good conversation, but it's drifting off-topic with talking about the ethics of vaccination and such. And let's be honest, it's been in violation of the board's Morally Justified prohibition since like the first page. I've totally been complicit in that, but it does mean that eventually it was going to need to be locked. And since I need to go to sleep and won't be monitoring the conversation anymore, now is the time to do so.

    However, I want to take a moment to commemorate the fact that, despite this extremely volatile subject matter, I thought everyone engaging in the debate kept a civil tone and avoided all the usual pitfalls. We spend so much time telling people how they failed to follow the rules around here that I think it's only fair to mention it when everyone does a good job. Well, excepting the Morally Justified rule, obviously, but that's more of a guideline anyway, and being the site owner lets me skirt a guideline now and then.

    Thread locked.
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