Saturday, September 12, 2015

Asymptotic Philosophy

As has been noted before, asymptotic technology is all-encompassing. Everything eventually falls under the domain of technology. Science just keeps eating away at all the specialties of knowledge that exist, and it doesn’t care if we on Earth call them science or something else, like philosophy. When asymptotic technology is complete, philosophy will be revised into a scientific topic, researched until its boundaries shake, and brought to a final resolution, where all questions that have answers will have been answered.

Asymptotic technology does not care very much, or at all, about history. If, on some alien planet that was climbing to the heights of knowledge, there were a bunch of famous citizens who figured out some aspect of philosophy, all those aspects that were correct would be gathered together in the theories of philosophy, without regard to who was first and what was figured out last. The theory is what coalesces. On a different planet, where nobody early in their history and development bothered to do philosophy, and it was all done at the tail end of asymptotic technology, asymptotic philosophy would be the same. The history, especially a thousand years after the theory is completed, will hardly be remembered. Asymptotic technology is history-free. So are the parts of it, including asymptotic philosophy.

The advance of scientific knowledge will transform philosophy on all alien planets where it was a topic for discussion and debate early in the history of the society. Where it was not dabbled with, there will be no need to create a clean slate upon which to write the answers to the questions that troubled us on Earth. Technology comes at new areas from many directions. As knowledge is collected and theories formulated in one area, there is often a spill-over into other areas. Methodology might be picked up from one branch and set down in another, where it might never have been used. Insights into related branches can inform another branch by explaining some hidden details. And perhaps most importantly for philosophy, understandings in other fields can help clear up the definitions of terms used vaguely or ambiguously in early philosophy. Perhaps refining definitions will be the most important contribution of other fields to asymptotic philosophy on those alien worlds where it was a subject discussed in the earliest days of technology, even before the Baconian transition.

Philosophy is a word that is used in many places, and has many definitions. For this discussion, we will include three of the main divisions of philosophy, morality, the study of the existence of principles by which behavior can be governed, empiricism, the study of knowledge and its verification, and metaphysics, the study of reality. Many Earth philosophers have tried to find a source of behavioral rules or precepts, but none have achieved widespread acceptance, as compared to those religious leaders, like Buddha, who instead jumped directly to memes. Buddha wrote the ‘Eight-fold Way’ so that his believers and followers could have some generic rules to try and derive specific decisions and ordinary habits from. Morality arising from non-meme sources suffers from the problem found in empiricism. There is no way to verify original precepts, not by a circle of logic or any other way. Logic, often referred to as another form of philosophy, is a collection of mathematical procedures for deducing conclusions from postulates. Logic is the bridge from memes to morality. Memes establish the highest order of goals, and subgoals may be deduced from them. The futility of trying to find original concepts without simply asserting them will be long past in asymptotic philosophy.

Empiricism falls prey to information theory, and some of its neighbors, such as the theory of computation. The verification of some statements based on observation or deductions from observations has become more understandable here on Earth, and there is no reason to think it will not be done to perfection in more advanced alien civilizations. The invention of computers on Earth has led to a deepening and a move toward simplification of the idea of what knowledge is. Information is independent of the form in which it is stored, so alien brains of a wide variety of types would have the same information concerning technology. Brain type does not affect empiricism, and this implies that the non-verification portions of empiricism will succumb to the verification portions plus some clarification of how knowledge and information are similar or even identical.

Metaphysics is already being impacted on Earth by neurology. Once aliens master an understanding of how their own brains operate, and all the sensory organs they might have, down to the equivalent of neurons, they will be able to address what is reality, as measured by what an individual alien sees, hears or otherwise senses.

It takes a larger leap of understanding to consider what asymptotic philosophy would be like on alien worlds that what asymptotic robotics would be. Here on Earth we have had only a short period, decades really, in which robotics was developed. It was developed wholly as an engineering exercise, and did not have a history of people writing text debating what it is and what it is not. No one working on building a new robot tries to go back to the early science fiction writers who conceived some things about robotics to make advances in their construction work. Instead, practical expertise is used.

Robotics split into disciplines based on the traditional division of engineering, mechanical, electrical, electronics, power, and these morphed into functionally based divisions, such as optical sensors and image recognition, balance algorithms and sensors, grasping appendages, and others. It was embedded in the tradition of engineering: design it, build it, and see if it works.

Philosophy, on the other hand, has not yet gone through a transition into engineering specialties. Instead, it had centuries of intelligent and erudite people attempting to answer what they deemed the most fundamental questions, without the necessary scientific knowledge necessary to even formulate the questions much less derive their answers. Their work has not been bypassed in any formal sense, and people who begin the study of philosophy are required to learn the history of these attempts, rather than push hard to turn philosophy into an actual field of science and engineering. Alien civilizations will not be bothered by such fundamental questions, as understandings of how the world works in practical ways will supplant them. Asymptotic philosophy will be studied on advanced alien worlds just as power engineering is: fundamental science first and applications afterwards.

This field of asymptotic technology is just one more example of why aliens would not visit Earth for the purpose of learning from us. Our exaltation of ancient philosophers would be not understandable by aliens. They would have left all of that so far behind them that perhaps their master computer will have forgotten the names of those citizens from pre-asymptotic technology times who tried to delve into philosophy before the time for it had arrived. It would be a mark of how primitive we are compared to them, and how uninteresting communicating with us would be.

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