Sunday, January 10, 2016

Taste and Appreciation in More Detail

The previous post on taste and appreciation wasted most of the space in it getting to understand why the cultivation of individual taste and appreciation would be an important way alien citizens, living in a civilization between the robotics and genetic grand transition would be able to use their surplus time, time made surplus by robotics taking over much formerly mechanical, service and professional tasks. The basic idea is that automation, including robots, could take over much production functions in the civilization because a specialized robot would be less expensive that a non-specialized alien citizen. Perhaps the automation would also have other qualities, such as precision, that are not achievable by the citizens. This is an unknown. Some aliens could be as slipshod as one could imagine, and others could be fanatically precise. Depends on the evolutionary details that formed them, of course. But either way, the efficiency aspect alone should push the civilization into adopting robotics. And this means surplus time for the citizens. The civilization has the same production, but needs less citizen hours to get there. So, they have to figure out what to do.

As noted in that previous post, the civilization has to figure out how to avoid several ways to crash and burn, and to stay on the straight road leading to the next grand transition. It might take some citizen involvement to solve these problems, but they are largely problems of governance decisions, so not too much citizen time might be devoted to their solution. Governance at this point in the pathway of an alien civilization could be of a wide variety, involving much or little citizen involvement. Either way, there will still be much spare time. As an example, suppose half the population is involved half their time in production activities prior to the robotics revolution. That totals to a quarter of the citizen’s time, as a whole. If this is reduced by half, the surplus is an eight of the total time available.

If the alien civilization is divided into ten or a hundred or a thousand governance factions, each with some decision-making power, and there are a thousand aliens involved in each, and they all spend half their time on it, the total here is under a half-million full-time equivalents of alien citizen time. If the planetary population is a billion or ten billion, the minimum surplus time, using the smaller population figure, is 125 million full-time equivalents. No involvement in governance can take up much of the surplus time.

So, this means avoiding the four principal impediments to forward progress involves governance, and there is simply not enough effort involved in that to use up much time. Thus, the four principal areas would have to be used, instead.

The one which was introduced in that last post was taste and appreciation. Like most words in English and other languages, words can have many meanings and shades of them. That doesn’t work very well when you are trying to figure out something. Words need to be sharpened in meaning before they can be used to deduce things. Regrettably, the world has lost some of its potential progress because of slippery definitions. We avoid slipperiness here by trying to define words when they need to have a more exact meaning. So here, in this blog, at least until I forget about it, taste means developing the knowledge about consumer goods and services, or almost anything at all, to rate one of them, grade it, compare it, measure it, prioritize it, or otherwise figure out if it is the best available or the worst. It may mean putting a number on it. It may mean collecting identified attributes. It may mean determining if it passes some well-defined operational test.

As an example, taste for vehicle fuel might mean knowing the octane, which is just one number. For another example, taste for a vehicle class might mean knowing if it had vertical take-off, auto-stabilization, multi-band communication, stealth, and rear doors, which are five attributes. For a third example, taste for a hand-held communications device might include knowing if it could be dropped ten times to a rigid surface from the height of a meter, starting in random orientations. This is a pretend-well-defined operational test. Real ones would be a lot more specific.

Thus, taste is the collection of knowledge. Appreciation on the other hand, is the collection of skills needed to act upon taste. You appreciate vehicle fuel by determining the octane, to some level of accuracy. Perhaps you simply light some off in a calorimetric bomb and measure the energy. You appreciate a vehicle by taking it for a test run. This could be inconsequential, or you might know how to put it through its paces and get a real understanding of its attributes. To appreciate a hand-held communications device, you might watch a video of the described test being performed.

Some of the skills for appreciation have direct involvement, such as trying a beverage to see if its flavor reminds you of an outdoor pasture or a rotted turnip. These very basic skills have to be learned, if they are going to be performed by the individual, and they can be refined. For the beverage example, there could be fifty distinct elementary tastes, each corresponding to some chemical sensor on the alien, that he/she/it could identify, if he/she/it took the time to learn how to precisely discern that they were present. Perhaps the alien’s brain couldn’t handle fifty, only five. Either way, appreciation in its most basic sense is the development of physical or mental skills to implement whatever taste is involved in a particular consumer product or service.

The way we have defined it does not have to be the only one. An alien civilization could make up their own criteria for taste and appreciation, and the citizens could get deeply involved in those criteria following the robotics revolution. But the basic concept should remain: a set of criteria expressed in some way, and a way to see if the product or service matched the test. Alternately taste would be quantitative, and instead of a binary result from a test, a numerical result comes out. Either way, aliens do not have to get bored following the robotics grand transition. They do not have to get depressed and too despondent to care about something like star travel. They just have to switch their attention.

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