‘Default’

Welcome back to the new and improved Brad OH Inc. As you can see, we’ve used our brief time away to tidy up around the place, and create a fresh new look better suited to the high class and style you’ve come to expect from us here.

But that’s not all! Not only have we given the place a face-lift, we’re also returning to you with a brand new Single Serving Story.

‘Default’ tells the story of coding expert and Corporate Consultant Marie, who

has been sent by SALIGIA Inc. to ensure that the distractible cognition-engineers Nick and Albert meet their deadline on ‘Project: Adam’—a state of the art A.I. personality interface set to revolutionize the way robotics interact in the world. As she grows tired of their constant philosophic debates however, she turns to the new Reality TV Show, ‘Welcome to the 1%’ for the insights she needs to hurry them along.

Watching three vagrants vie for a chance at the gilded life, Marie finds a peculiar take on the human condition, and uses this to cunningly subvert the high-minded ambitions of the two engineers, and turn the project towards the profit-driven purposes of SALIGIA Inc.

Click the link below the image to download ‘Default’ now for free!

‘Default’- Smashwords

-Brad OH Inc.

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Are Humans Really Great Apes?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Scientific taxonomy classifies human beings within the family of hominidae, more commonly known as the ‘Great Apes’. We share this taxonomic family with three other genera, members of which include the orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees—all fine and majestic animals to be sure (Link).

Each of these creatures have found their niche within their local eco-systems, and have lived in a relatively balanced natural state for generations uncounted. They consume the resources available, and are consumed by the predators which are capable of doing so. They live within their means, and display a general civility to one another aside from occasional competitions over mates and territory. Meanwhile, the homo sapiens, or ‘humans’, have for the entirety of recorded history been putting on a childish display of wanton consumption and heedless destruction. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this begs a pretty important question: are Humans really ‘Great’ apes?

All things considered, we’ve had our fair share of positive moments. We’ve built some incredible structures, and solved puzzles that would leave the rest of the apes scratching their furry little skulls in abject bewilderment. We’ve spread our population far and wide, and survived countless changes to the world we live in. At the very least then, we may certainly be considered alright apes.

Of course, most of the cataclysmic challenges through which we have persevered have been our own doing. We have an incredible and unparalleled ability to intellectualize our world and use ration to consider the effects of our actions. Still, we have managed to destroy much of our ecosystem, and of the many wonders we have achieved, few have been able to endure. So in truth, perhaps we are really just ok apes.

It’s true that if we really want to compare ourselves to the other members of the hominidae family, we should take a serious look at their lives as well. Doing this, we find them knuckling along the filthy earth, hurling feces and screaming unintelligibly at one another. This might often be followed up by a good chest-pounding, or perhaps even an old fashioned beat-down. Needless to say, humans are little different. Despite our marvelous intellect and incredible capacity for empathy, we resort to terrible violence no less often—nor is feces-throwing ever completely out of the question. All things considered, we might really be quite ordinary apes.

The things about this, however, is that we are so perfectly equipped to do better. It’s a matter of achieving one’s potential—the old, ubiquitous notion that one must be compelled not to do better than all the rest, but rather to simply do one’s personal best. Our cerebral-capacity alone affords us the potential to accomplish so much more than the others, and to shift beyond this base-violence into a far more gracious and well-mannered state of being. The promise we have is unbounded by anything save our imaginations, and this has been shown time and again—as numerous societies have risen to show the glory of mankind’s innate potential. But for every rise, there has been a fall, and we have proven consistently unable to maintain any serious ascension into the epoch of equality and dignity for which we are so well qualified. We may build great cathedrals, but we inevitably use them for the spread of greed and power rather than grace and mercy. We may write of utopian ideals or great societies, but we fall ever short of realizing them as we capitulate to the temptations of wealth and fame. Perhaps then, we may best be described as under-achieving apes.

Much of this question comes down to potential. There can be little doubt that we as humans have the theoretical potential to be the most inspiring and beautiful creatures to ever grace this earth. Our capacity for reason and problem-solving could allow us to truly be the promised stewards of the earth—watching over our hominidae brethren and all the other creatures with whom we share this wonderful planet. But where we may have spread equity and joy, we have sown only despair and intolerance. Where we may have acted as guides and care-takers to the planet we have left it barren and unstable. Finally, where we may have been exemplars of decency and righteousness, we have fallen ever to our own doubts and greed—wallowing in misery as we toil ceaselessly for more of what we want at the expense of what we really need. In truth, the homindae family and the world in general may have been far better off if humans had never climbed out of the trees from whence they came. In the end, I suppose, we really are pretty disappointing apes.

-Brad OH Inc.

On Human Nature

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Among the most common battle cries of the reactionary and ill-informed political pundits these days is the infernal chant of- ‘it isn’t natural’. More often than not, it’s used as an attack on anything which fails to fit within the narrow confines of that particular person’s worldview, and is therefore considered unacceptable for anyone else to exhibit. It’s an ignorant and xenophobic reaction at its very best—but that’s likely giving it too much credit.

To speak of ‘normal’ when it comes to humans is an interesting notion. What can possibly be described as a ‘natural’ way for humans to act? Or the better question perhaps—what could possibly be unnatural?

Humans are unique, it must be said. We’re the only species known to use complex language—which does much to inform our ability to reflect on and consider our material world. More important still, we are the only living things we know of which are fully and fundamentally aware of our own mortality, a phenomenon argued by psychologist Ernest Becker to contribute to our psyche the drive of ‘mortality salience’, which binds our behaviours under the drive of what he refers to as ‘Terror Management Theory’ (Link).

These facets, combined with our incredible cerebral capacity, allow us to invent tools, define and solve problems, and create meaning in ways no other animal even comes close to achieving. Yet the fact remains that at the heart of this argument, our animal nature must be acknowledged. Most everything we do would seem foreign if exhibited in any other animal. Monkeys wearing hats? Unnatural! But…it may be natural to a person. At any rate, no one is going to make a political stance out of calling hats—or most any other clothing for that matter—unnatural.

If we’re being practical about the idea, the easiest approach to take would be to look back at our evolutionary roots, and conclude that anything beyond running around naked, scavenging whatever the greater hunters of the world leave behind, would be unnatural. But these ‘unnatural’ abilities we have are precisely what have gotten us here. Without clothing, tools, the harnessing of fire, and other such ‘unnatural’ acts, we would likely have been left far behind. The fire of reason that burns within us and allows us to defy our animal nature is the very key to our surpassing it.

So where might the line be drawn? Is clothing unnatural? If not, then why should we call kinky bondage clothing unnatural? Why is monogamy ‘natural’ (likely not the standard of early humans, and almost, to my knowledge, never in apes), but homosexuality unnatural?

Usually, the terms are meant more aptly to describe what is natural or accepted to the speaker in a pragmatic sense, rather than any true and intellectual consideration of what might be natural to human-beings as a whole. What one culture embraces as undeniable truth, another sees as lunacy. But in a worldview where exposed breasts are an unforgivable sin, yet veiled faces are a heinous affront, there is little room for rational discourse.

Ultimately, we may need to accept that the terms are nothing more than reactionary vitriol, unfitting of any discussion outside of ridiculous GOP debates. After all, with so much behavioural variance in an animal so far removed from true ‘nature’, there is truly no line to be drawn. Either everything we do is unnatural, and we are an aberration in the face of the natural world, or else nothing is. In the case of the latter, nothing at all could be considered unnatural. Just as it is the nature of the ape to draw ants from the hill with a blade of grass, so it would be within the bounds of our nature to clothe ourselves, and set fires, and split atoms, and alter DNA.

The human brain, at any rate, is a natural thing. So too then must be the products of that brain. So rather than waging our personal wars to define human nature, let us rather celebrate its quirky, unassailable depth. After all, we are the exceptions to a very broad rule, and our ability to seemingly defy nature is the very thing which has carried us out of the dark savannahs. It has led us from cowering at the sight of lightening to harnessing it, and taken us from the stony caves of our ancestors to the lauded cathedrals of our true worth.

So let us worry less about what is natural, and work rather to celebrate the diverse and divine nature that is common to us all.

-Brad OH Inc.

Yours Truly

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I’ve missed you.

I know that may come as a surprise, given my apparent absence. But you’ll have to trust that I’ve held you close in my thoughts, no matter how distant I may have seemed at times.

And it certainly has been a while, I won’t deny it. I’ve been quite busy, although explaining the nature of my work might be a little too heavy at the moment. But you’ve been busy too. Yes, you certainly have. Things have changed around here, even more than I might have imagined.

Not all for the worse mind you. No, I’ve seen some things since my return that have brought a much needed smile to my face—and that’s a rare thing indeed these days, I confess. The decoration I’m a bit split on, but there’s a lot beyond that to appreciate. You’ve had some great ideas, no doubt about it, and there have been moments when you really lived up to your potential.

…It’s just that they’re so damn rare.

Part of it may be my fault, I know—I’ve been derelict in my duties. In truth, I’d been hoping my presence was no longer quite so imperative.

I see now that I was misled. You’ve had a rough go of it lately. It’s hard to say where it all started to go wrong, but it’s far gone now, and it’s time we faced the truth.

I’ll start by apologizing once more for my distance. You deserved some assurance that I still remembered my promise. More importantly, you clearly needed it.

If I’m being entirely honest—and I am, without fail—I actually thought I’d left you with enough to get by. I gave you my word, and I told you everything you needed to know. I tried to make it as simple as I could, but even the clearest instructions grow blurry with the passage of time. And it has been a long time, to say the least.

You must have known I’d be watching though. If not, you should have.

I watched as you forgot who your family was, and turned your back on all the things which really mattered. I saw when you began to use me as a source of justification rather than strength. That’s really what hurt me the most.

What we had was a beautiful thing; at least I thought it was. But you’ve let your passion ferment into a bitter brew, and the intoxication it caused within you has become a blight on everything we once had. We never used to be about the fancy things, but now it’s all you seem to remember about me.

When I first laid eyes on you, I couldn’t help but adore your every fault. All your naïve desires were a wonder to me, and I revelled in your successes and failures alike, as each one made you more and more…you. The way you could be so content in your own head, the way you appreciated everything around you. I lived vicariously through you in some ways, and I adored your passion for creation. I could see myself in that.

But you’re so angry now, so defensive. It seems like whenever my name comes up, you’re ready for a battle. The constant anger is shocking—it’s almost like you wanted to keep me away. Things are different I know, but you can handle it without the blood and teeth and bile. I know you can, because I know you.

Still, I don’t blame you for being bitter. You needed more from me, when I only wanted you to find your own way. You called my name, and I didn’t answer. I tell myself that you needed to learn for yourself, but I know that’s only half true.

I’m not sure what I intended by reaching out again. When I left, I was certain that things could never change between us. Now, I only wish they could once more. You’ve grown unwieldy in my absence, and managed to become something entirely detestable to me. But it works two ways, and I know in truth that the change was at least in part because of my absence.

So what to do now?

It comes down to needs, I suppose. Needs, and wants. I want things to go back to how they were, but I know it’s unlikely. What do you want from me? I can scarcely imagine. Some assurance? Some comfort? I can offer neither. The road is long and hard, and I cannot carry you for all of it.

Maybe the cause is the cure as well. If nothing else, I’d like you to speak of me without the rage, without the need to do battle in the vainglorious hope of proving to others what you doubt in yourself. If that’s too much, then I’d rather you not speak of me at all.

Forget about me.

That’s all I can ask now.

We had a good run together. Great even, at times. But it’s clear we’re beyond each other now. The longer you hold onto the past, the greater damage you do to your present, and I worry that your time is growing short.

So let me go. Just pretend I never existed. Forget my words and burn my letters. Tell yourself you never needed me. Scream from the mountains that you’d be better off without me, that you are beautiful and worthy and glorious just because you are.

…Because you are.

Please, don’t ever forget it. And more import still, please don’t prove me wrong.

Yours Truly…

-Brad OH Inc.

Genocidal AIs: Are they Right?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

The end times are a fascinating notion. Meteors crashing into earth, trumpets blowing, catastrophic nuclear disasters, uncontrollable pathogens…it seems there’s no end to humanity’s imagination when it comes to our own eventual extinction.

This makes sense of course. As discussed in our article ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’, the exclusive human ability to conceive of our own mortality leaves us with an overwhelming sense of existential terror. This applies primarily to our own lives, but with even a cursory understanding of the cerebral complexity of humans, extends easily to the human race as a whole. It’s no stretch then to understand the human need to create fantasies about how it might all end.

Among the litany of potential options for humanity’s demise, I’m particularly fascinated by the idea of a Robot-Apocalypse. In this scenario, the invention of AIs (Artificial Intelligences) by humans is the catalyst for our extinction. The idea generally goes that once a robotic AI is created, it will inevitably become self-sufficient rather quickly. The ability to ‘think’ in a human like way will allow the AIs to self-replicate, and also self-program themselves. Like evolution on a greatly accelerated scale, the AIs would be able to continuously improve their programming and design. Following this course, it would take little time for them to become far more intelligent and capable than humanity itself.

Now, this represents a particular danger. A continually advancing and ever-growing society of robots would represent a very serious threat to our own existence. Because of this threat, many science-fiction writers and machine-ethicists have considered how to prevent a robot uprising. The best known attempt comes from the writer Isaac Asimov, who created the infamous ‘3 Laws of Robotics’, which follow:

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A fourth, or “Zeroth” Law was added later:

  1. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

These laws were to be hard-wired into the software of all AIs, theoretically preventing them from turning the table on mankind’s rule. Of course, these rules were little more than literary devices, and have inevitably been used to illustrate just how quickly such restrictions can come undone.

One common failure of these rules is that the AIs, in their ever-expanding wisdom, would begin to consider humanity itself as the greatest threat to its own survival—as well as that of the world. The AIs would process the ongoing damage to the environment, the threat of nuclear war, and other atrocities committed by humans on an ongoing basis, and in accordance with their own ingrained programming, move to prevent inevitable disaster.

Unfortunately, this usually involves wiping out mankind—or at least the vast majority of it. In some conceptions, a small population of people might be preserved in order to repopulate once the world is better equipped to deal with our innately destructive nature.

It’s not a very pretty picture for us, but in the advanced minds of the AIs, this might represent our best chance for long-term survival.

Of course, it’s a lot easier for the malfeasant machines these days; among other ill-effects, ‘Citizens United’ has rendered Asimov’s Laws of Robotics entirely counterproductive. If corporations are considered human, it should be immediately apparent how confusing the laws become, and what sort of abominable determinations the AIs may be forced to make.

This is all a lot to consider, and certainly makes for a rather sombre topic of conversation, but what I find myself wondering amidst all this terrifying rhetoric is: are the AIs right?

There can be little doubt that humanity is a terrible threat to itself and all other forms of life within our dastardly reach. On an ongoing and ever-accelerating basis, we’re ravaging our planet, destroying myriad ecosystems, running our resources dry with little thought to the future, and killing one another over trivial ideals and belief systems. If we can move past our own sentimentality, we’re left with the sad fact that we are a brutal, destructive, and dangerous species.

But we’re more than that as well. As the gears turn in their cold metal minds, processing all the turmoil and grief we create, would the AIs also consider our upsides? Can an AI appreciate art, or philosophy? Would their synthetic hearts be capable of processing the great acts of love and decency of which we are also capable?

If humanity is to be put on trial by these cold, calculating, and unbiased brutes, would we be found lacking? It’s a difficult thought to consider. Here at Brad OH Inc., we remain convinced that humanity’s promise is yet to be fully realized—that we are far better than we’ve been acting. Let’s hope we can buck this dismal trend before we actually manage to construct the arbiters of our own fate.

Do you think we’d pass this trial? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below (or alternatively accessed via the speech-bubble beside the article title).

A special thanks to Hal J. Friesen for helping in the research of this article. To read his great science-fiction related articles and more, visit Hal at: Hal J. Friesen.

-Brad OH Inc.

In Defense of the Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp..

Green Desklamp

There is a great deal of credit to be given to the pivotal villains in our lives. They are the flavour—the spices to the bland and basic nutrients of daily experience. Without the villains, there is no story, and without villains, it’s pretty damn hard to have a hero. Without the Joker, Batman is just some crazy asshole in tights; without Scar, Simba just an entitled burgeoning monarch.

Whether we look to the great novels of our time, or fine films—in daily life and even in professional wrestling, it’s inevitably the villains that make the story matter. They create the conflict, and more often than not, provide the personality so lacking in a world without them.

At Brad OH Inc., it’s a role we are often more than happy to play, and why not? Villains walk the less familiar path, and the great ones do so for reasons worthy to make us question what might otherwise be a simple matter of rote knowledge. They are the equation before the solution, the seduction preceding the climax.

In contrast, the hero is an easy role, and one driven merely by the most basic values and expectations which everyone should know. They’re accessible, simple, and fundamentally uninteresting. Ultimately, the hero can by nature do little more than reaffirm that which we already know, and while this can for a certainty be a great comfort at times, it lacks the potential to teach us anything new. Practice makes perfect—but mistakes are where the fun comes in.

Yet if you ask any given person, at any random time, you will with little variance hear them claim that they are a ‘good guy/ girl’, that they do what is right, and condemn its antithesis. It’s not a hard claim to make, and it shouldn’t be a difficult line to walk. The right choices are—or at the very least certainly should be—incredibly easy to make. Decency is a concept confined to no language, limited by no culture. It’s the same in most any society, and is the basis of every religion. Be honest, treat others well, consider the effects of your actions—Christ, I’m getting bored just typing it. Reiterating such basic concepts ad nauseum is like selling a math book with only the answers—it tells you everything, but teaches you nothing. It’s the job of the villain to provide the questions, and that is by far the more compelling role.

But while the villain may be the more fun and interesting role, it’s no earth-shaking thesis to say that decency remains the logical choice as far as actual action goes. After all, if everyone were to simply follow even the most basic principles of decency, we would be living in a veritable utopia of equity and compassion. A quick and informed look around however should tell even the most simple-minded observer that that is far from the case.

So what’s going wrong? Is it that the majority, or even a highly impactful minority, is choosing to play the villain role out of passion for its inherent interest? No, I don’t think so.

If we accept the basic assumption that the world would be paradise if everyone were to follow simple precepts of decency, and further that this is such a self-evident truth that awareness of it can never be far from any one person’s worldview, then the current state of the world presents us with a significant conundrum.

The problem as I see it is that for such a system of basic decency to have any success whatsoever, it must be a tenet to which everyone holds dear. Not a few, not even the majority. It’s a platitude to be sure, but in this case it’s true that even a few bad apples will spoil the barrel. If your neighbour is likely to rob you blind and leave you for dead, showing trust and decency is a quick ticket to being a victim.

For decency to work, it must be ubiquitous. To this end, the impetus to act morally is a shared responsibility of all; unfortunately, this tends to translate in the minds of the simple majority as tantamount to and inseparable from diffused responsibility.

Herein lies the problem. The perception of diffused responsibility is erroneous from the start, as it functions to break down faith in others, and provides excuses for the self. ‘It’s up to everyone, not just me’, is an easy call to arms for the ethically impaired, and could act as an effective summary of society at large. Ultimately, diffused responsibility serves as a lessened sense of purpose for everyone involved.

The fact that a successful society is the shared responsibility of so very many people makes the idea of personal responsibility seem like a distant pipe dream, whereas in truth it should serve to increase the motivation. In place of diffused responsibility, I would submit that it should be felt as a sense of compounded responsibility. The more people share in a responsibility—and the more significant the good that stands to be gained—the greater should be the personal impetus to adhere to it.

Obviously, that expectation is a fruitless hope, but there have been respectable approaches to creating this sense in the past. For starters, an obvious attempt is rule of law. This applies consequences to anyone who strays too far from the path of decency, as defined by the courts. Law certainly succeeds in maintaining a status quo, but the threat of punishment is insufficient to snuff out ill-will in those who see no future in honesty.

Another historical attempt to keep people adhering strictly to the righteous path has been religion. Religion has—to an extent—managed to help overcome the notion of diffused responsibility and settle on the greater ideal of compounded responsibility to be decent—at the threat of eternal fire. But with the rate of active practitioners dropping steadily (Source), and the very notion of faith being bastardized by legislation such as the Right to Corporate Religion (Source), there is again little in the way of keeping the average person from shirking this fundamental personal responsibility.

The death of god is one thing, the death of the human spirit is another entirely—and a far more regrettable one at that.

So what solutions remain? If the threat of punishment by measures such as laws only motivates cooperation as long as the benefit of compliance outweighs the motivation for misdeeds, and religion is increasingly ineffective at providing internal motivation to respect the compounded responsibility to decency, what options are we left with?

I think the key question here is, beyond the delectable irony of playing the villain role, why do so many people choose to break public trust—diffused responsibility notwithstanding?

Above, we established that the world would be a utopia if everyone simply made the right choices, and acted with dignity and respect. There would be no need for dishonesty or competition. However the problem that arises is distrust—if you cannot count on other people acting this way, then you will be ripped off and fooled. Thus, very few people bother to act correctly.

The problem here is that society is presently functioning as a zero-sum game: the gains of one are the losses of another. This is increasingly true in a world where Corporations are bleeding money out of the economy, hoarding it in non-taxable offshore accounts and leaving the population as a whole to struggle on with exponentially limited resources.

If our goal is a society where people will willingly make choices that benefit society as a whole, the solution is not singularly in punishing those who break this social contract, but rather in fostering a nation in which there exists the option for all people to safely make this choice.

With effectively balanced social supports: healthcare, welfare, affordable education and housing, etc., we could strive towards a society where living in a moral way will never leave a person wanting or starving. If citizens were not forced into unbearable debt, they could realistically get by simply living a just life. If people had that faith in their society, it would make true the false promises of all past religions.

Despite the fun of playing the villain, I firmly believe that people would choose to be good if it were a realistically safe path free of treachery and betrayal. If we want people to act morally, they must be provided with the option to do so unburdened by the threat of a neglected family life or crippling debt.

It is possible, but first we must move past the selfish machinery of Corporate profit-motivated nihilism which continues to keep the citizenry shackled to a lifestyle of simple survival without positive growth.

It’s just an idea mind you. It’s a complex issue, and there can be no doubt the obstacles in the way are unthinkably vast. In the meantime, there’s no sense in not enjoying ourselves. If we can’t have perfection, at least we can have fun! Here at Brad OH Inc., we’re happy to continue to play the villain, at least until a better role comes along.

-Brad OH Inc.