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Interview

Here's an interview with me in From Bar to Bar:

Blue flames and sparks exploded loudly. I shrank back, frightened and not understanding what was happening. I should be at home, resting after the interview with Ekaterina Sedia, but I found myself surrounded by smoke, fire, sirens and cries of alarm ...
I knew I shouldn't have drunk that final absinthe last night ...

18 Comments

1:

Wow. I'm guessing you two were drinking Absinthe? Cool interview!

2:

Being able to read this in your voice makes it so much better. So whens the next time you're going to make it to Chicago or the USA?

3:

Ah... I went straight to the interview. Must have registered Charlie's absinthe remark w/o realizing it.

4:

I'll be in Boston and NYC in February, Minneapolis in April, and various places in July/August -- definitely Seattle, San Francisco and Reno, and possibly more besides.

5:

No, no puns!!! What, did I say that out loud? Sorry.

Well, that was the most exciting interview I've ever read.

6:

Very, VERY, VERY silly!

I'd recommend keeping the drinking up, but switch to Belgian beers, if that's what Artemesia absinthum does to your interviewers....

7:

Hahaha, cliches as weapons. That's fantastic fun.

8:

wtf did I just read?

9:

I dunno. But what I just read was as close to a normal interview as 4'33" is to a Bach chamber work.

(I'll assume that the opinions attributed are authentic, judging by the lack of spluttering from OGH.)

10:

was that a Throwing Bodice you took in the face? nasty kit that. 8 and a half turns at ten paces. you could put someone's eye out.

11:

that reminds me of the time we were in the service, and some spies, decided to enhance the drinks we were drinking, that night, of course after we passed out
they did there spy work, too bad they didn't know anything about our remote viewing training, wich we could access anyways thearmy pretty lame at rmv, in fact there a bunch of amateurs..

12:

The interview has you saying:
“For about the past four hundred years a debate has been raging between two factions, philosophically opposed: the proponents of mind/body dualism (the idea that our consciousness is separate from our physical existence, inhering in some sort of immaterial “soul”) and the materialists who think that consciousness is an emergent property of matter. Over the past sixty years, the current has been running towards the materialists. Two big developments in the sciences have helped them: the development of the theory of computation, which provides for the existence of a large class of computing structures that can emulate one another perfectly given enough storage and time, and the development of neurobiology, which has sketched in the mechanisms by which nerves work — showing that they are, in some sense, computational structures. Other scientific research has failed to support the dualist hypothesis; MRI scans of living brains leave precious little space for a soul to hide in.”

Well, of course an MRI doesn't see anything but radio waves from hydrogen nuclei arranged in sufficiently large structures to be resolved by the machine. Souls wouldn't necessarily show up, any more than dendrites or action potentials. The idea that minds are information and hence theoretically independent of their substrates is explicitly dualist, but not necessarily materialist. Further, the theoretical impossibility of destroying information even in a black hole makes the informationalist view imply a form of immortality.

Later you say:
"Consciousness is indisputably an interesting phenomenon, as Richard Dawkins demonstrated in “The Extended Phenotype” — it gives us the ability to develop via horizontal transfer of desirable traits between individuals, short-circuiting the slow incremental filtering process of classical evolution."

Then the interviewer asks, (insghtfully, I think):
“Therefore, if we’re living on a Post-singularity universe, won’t the Post-Human stage (longevity, etc) – if it comes about – become an obstacle, since one of the main evolution drives of thought comes from short individual lives and the constant supply of blank slates (fresh baby brains)?” I asked.

You reply: “You’re mistaking the current high rate of change for “progress”. Progress implies teleology and a goal — but evolution is not goal-oriented; it’s a random drunkard’s walk through the phase-space of adaptation, with a phase barrier to one side (extinction)."

This seems incompatible with your paraphrase of Dawkins a couple paragraphs earlier. If consciousness allows the "horizontal transfer of desirable traits" and "short-circuiting the slow incremental filtering process of classical evolution" then human development is no longer a random walk, but directed by many intelligences. (Not that "random" is a generally definable term to begin with - in the Bayesian (correct) view randomness is relative to the state of knowledge of the intelligence estimating the odds. Absolute randomness is therefore relative to an omniscient intelligence, and thus is an essentially religious concept.) Even so, your reply does not seem to the point - greater longevity seems likely to reduce the rate of change whether it is directed or random.

13:

The style of the "interview" reminds me oddly of Sam Lundwall's writing.

14:

Charlie- not that you care, but perhaps you may want to see Robert Charles Wilson's recent blog where he salutes your keen observation that history is the trade secret for riding good science fiction. The interview was hard to follow at times, but was a fun and original way to construct one. Was the cross-over style of the interview a nod to your own proclivity for combining genres?

15:

Great Newton's ghost! You've got someone writing fan-fic about you...

16:

That crack about history being the trade secret of SF isn't mine -- it's Ken MacLeod's. (As is the tag "the rapture of the nerds" for the Singularity.)

I had no idea the interview was going to come out that way; it should be obvious from context which questions I really answered in the email ...!

17:

Didn't Asimov say that first, eons ago?

18:

LOL!

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 16, 2010 1:35 PM.

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