Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Sum of all Fears: Harm Me to Hurt You

The New York Times writes how computers now select targets and launch missiles without human intervention. That's pretty scary, right? How about a sadist who harms herself, to hurt the man she loves. She doesn't want to. My definition of hell.

Tears rolling down my eyes: "I need you." "I'm here." - "Come closer." "I can't." - "I'm sorry."

Roko's Basilisk
What if in the future, a somewhat malevolent AI were to come about and punish those who did not do its bidding? What if there were a way for this AI to punish people today who are not helping it come into existence later? In that case, what to do given the choice  between either helping that evil AI come into existence or being condemned to suffer? The idea was thought up by someone who enjoys discussing the singularity, the moment when computers take over from men. Even worse, as it undoubtedly will point out, the AI is not to blame, its coming into existence is the result of human "progress".

For me there is one thing more scary than anything else. Like most men I care little about myself but I do care about the ones I love. Life cannot dish out anything harsher than make us worry about the people we love. Whether their suffering is real or imagined, the pain we feel is unlike any other pain. It is a debilitating combination of devastating helplessness and the realization of the pain the person you love is in. It is bad, so bad. Perhaps that is what hell looks like.

It took me a while to understand why people were so upbeat when sexual sadism and sexual masochism were re-classified in the DSM V psychology manual. In previous versions both were categorized as disorders and the classification was used in court when people fought over things as custody. With kink being reclassified as a lesser "evil", the looming threat of loosing one’s kids because of one's sexual preferences has become more distant. Still, the idea that whatever drives one's kink has an on/off switch seems far fetched mainly because most personality traits are pretty constant over time.

Singularity of Sadism
Sadism can be a dangerous emotion. Of course you can tie someone up and violate their limits to the point of insanity, but what if you can lock somebody in a mental prison, a prison from which they cannot escape. What if sadomasochism reaches a point where it stops being consensual, turning into involuntary sadism. What if the only way mistress can truly make you suffer, is to harm herself. And if you think that is bad, how about if she knows what's going on, but is unable to stop. You might as well drive a stake through my heart right now and get it over with.

Once somebody reaches that singularity of sadism - and please don't say it is a masochist's dream - how do we care for our loved ones? How do we shield them from harm, protect them from pain, especially when they inflict it upon themselves and you are part of the problem?

Without the people we love, life has little meaning. Simply retreating into the shadows is not an option, the same scenario will play out with someone else. We humans are far less rational than we think so reasoning will backfire. I do not know the answer, but the best approach must be making sure the pay-off from love exceeds the reward from lust. The groundwork for that has been laid in the past, so now you have to be patient. If they want to, they’ll reach out when the time is right. Until then your presence in the background helps them move forward, even if your paths never cross again. Sometimes that is what it means to love. It’s OK.

So true. The Holy Scripture is right. Seems appropriate to quote the Bible on Easter.

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