Monday, September 16, 2013

Ourselves as Experience Machines II

Ourselves as Experience Machines I

Sexual perversion, according to Nagel's 1969 essay, must be defined by what it is not. And non-perverse sexual relations, according to Nagel, involve a kind of infinite recursion: each person is at once aroused by the other (experiencer), and aroused by the other's arousal about him (Experience Machine), and also aroused by the other's arousal about his arousal about him, and so on indefinitely.

While Nagel sees the recursion as the essence of non-perverse sexual relation, it seems that another factor that is present is the balance between perspectives of experiencer and Experience Machine. Two mirrors, to display an infinite hallway, must be turned toward each other just so; similarly, the perspectives of experiencer and Experience Machine must be balanced in order to give the erotic experience of infinite mutual reference.

Non-erotic relations might also be described in this way. An ideal (even by Kant's standards?) interaction would presumably involve a balanced perspective between that of an experiencing being and that of someone who is creating experiences for others, an awareness of the inside and outside perspectives - including the other's awareness of one's own inside and outside perspectives and our awareness of the other's balanced perspectives, infinitely or thereabouts.

What I suggest is that there is an imbalance - not pure or perfect, but easily detectable - between male and female perspectives, such that males seek to be (and are) more experiencers, and females seek to be (and are) more Experience Machines. More males than females are willing to have sex with an unconscious partner - but most of those who are willing would not choose unconscious sex over sex with a conscious partner. To prefer an unconscious partner is an aberration, but for a male to be willing to have sex with an unconscious person if no other sex is available is not so unusual. Similarly, the vast majority of patrons of both male and female sex workers are men. This is the case even though few men prefer sex with prostitutes to sex with an unpaid partner - sex that thereby validates their pride as a valuable Experience Machine. Both men and women desire both experiences, but there is a measurable imbalance in the orientations of men and women.

21 comments:

  1. I would love to see you do a post on feminism. I'm sure you would have a very unique take on the subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Floob Boober Bab Boober BubsSeptember 24, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      I would love to see you do a post on the unusually high prevalence of censorship in the feminist blogging community. I'm sure you would have a very unique take on the subject.

      Delete
    2. I don't frequent feminist blogs. Are you saying that the blogs censor people with a dissenting view? That would not surprise me at all, like all dogmatic movements feminism doesn't like to be questioned.

      Delete
  2. In this definition of perversion, perversion is actually a completely ok and useful thing to embrace. How much misery is caused by a darwinian relationship market that will never create "infinite mirror hallways" for most people, let alone everyone?

    The best thing that can happen to human sex is its detachment from the availability, attractiveness and willingness of real conscious others!

    The only possibility even more desirable is to do away with all the idiosyncrasies of sex and manage both reproduction and worthwhile stimulation independently, with deliberate high efficiency.

    Not very romantic, of couse.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One of the criticisms made to Antinatalists is their bad use of analogies. And I think you fell into that, Sister Y, with this Experience Machine analogy. It's gone too far. You also make reference to Memetics, which is dubious science, also based on an analogy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There are some great criticisms of "memetics" (cultural evolution) as a science, and scholars in that area are well aware of them; the criticisms have done as much as enthusiasm to open up the field and make interesting science happen (such as Tehrani & Collard's demonstration that the patterns found in nineteenth century rugs made by Turkmen women exhibit highly "treelike" evolution, like biological organisms).

    I would love to hear criticisms of cultural evolution from someone who has read for instance Alex Mesoudi's Cultural Evolution, Christopher Alexander's Notes on the Synthesis of Form, folklore studies materials by e.g. Linda Degh and Bill Ellis, and for that matter the materials on chain letter evolution by Dan VanArsdale (a personal friend).

    I do find myself calling things "cultural items" rather than memes, because "meme" implies particulate transmission, whereas real cultural evolution is non-particulate; but the word is handy, if somewhat contaminated.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "real cultural evolution is non-particulate"

    I'd suspect that's impossible. I understand that it may not be particularly useful -- or even possible -- to talk about cultural evolution as a biochemical or strictly physical process, but at bottom how can it be otherwise? Perhaps I don't understand.

    Have you read Hayek's The Sensory Order?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are several ways cultural evolution is distinct from biological evolution and "non-particulate"-ness is only one - it's just the one most associated with the term "meme." Biological information is inherted in discrete units in an all-or-nothing fashion - but cultural transmission is weirder. It still exhibits variation, competition, and inheritance - so it's not strange to call it evolution - but this evolution is non-blind, non-particulate, and Lamarckian.

      Delete
    2. (And no but I like the other Hayek I've read - will look at it!)

      Delete
    3. "Biological information is inherted in discrete units in an all-or-nothing fashion"

      I am trying to figure out why you would say such a thing. I can't think of any sense in which this is true

      Delete
    4. ANY sense? We're so contrarian we don't believe in DNA any more? :-P

      Delete
    5. Since the discrete units can be pretty small - DNA sequences can be recombined quite a bit - "all-or-nothing" may be a bit misleading.

      Of course, many forms of memes also have discrete units; all texts are composed of letters and words, rituals can have concrete steps, recipes can have concrete ingredient lists, and so on.

      Delete
    6. -concrete +discrete, you know what I meant :)

      Delete
  6. I agree with all of those distinguishing factors, except I think the mode of memetic (I like the term, even if it's loaded) transmission is physically reducible, just not practicably so. Memes are synaptic nets, flickering from brain to brain. Would you also say that electricity isn't particulate because it's only meaningful as a force? (I think that's a hard question, and I don't mean to derail the conversation -- just to understand what I might be missing.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just want to mention that it seems like there's been a hyperfocus on sex in this analysis. While it's probably true that men are experiencers in this very narrow content of having sex, outside of those 30 seconds (or however long it takes people; your mileage may vary here), I have long had the general impression that women are much more experiencers than men, and they see men primarily as a gateway to provide them with the experiences they seek. Can you comment on the experiencer/experience-provider dichotomy outside of the bedroom?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is especially true of e.g. humor - men are expected to produce, and do produce, more humor than women. I think that's true of insight too, though women are less insight connoisseurs than men. Sex is very important, but you're right that other modes of life take up more time - they revolve around and reflect sex, I think. Experience machine in bed == experiencer out of bed?

      Delete
  8. If a male is giving cunnilingus to a female and does not expect or want reciprocation, who is the Experience Machine?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello, I'm back. I had a brief interaction with you a while ago when I was in the middle of a major episode of neuroimmunological instability brought on by total social rejection and existential horror. My nervous and immune systems have stabilized a lot since then and despite what appeared to be my rejection from this blog community, I have no choice but to come back because all roads seem to lead here (or, more specifically, to Yudkowsky's site and connected bloggers).

    Ironically, the experiencer/Experience Machine dichotomy you present here is one interpretation of the dilemma I have experienced (haha) for most of my life. Only I'm on the wrong side, according to my gender: My life has been characterized by a profound inability to create content for others, leading to extreme frustration, coupled with a heightened susceptibility to others' ideas. I'm trying to correct this problem now, and hoping that I can become more of an "experience machine."

    Playing one role only, it would seem, is bound to lead to pain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can't really reject anybody because we are not a community.

      Anyway yeah, the self exists as multiple roles, and in the space between the roles http://books.google.com/books?id=1GyC-K9WJMkC&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Delete
  10. Thanks for the link :) looks interesting

    As far as you not being a community, who is meant by "we?" Since I dont communicate with "you" very often, I may use terms in a different way than "you" do. To get a more precise approximation of what I meant to say, replace "community" with whatever you meant by "we."

    ReplyDelete
  11. In fact, I believe you posted a few years ago on "who we are" under the heading of "a unified theory of nerddom" or some similar topic. If whatever configuration of people (whether static or dynamic, virtual or actual, temporary or fixed, community or abstract category) is not capable of rejecting me, that is a good thing to know :)

    ReplyDelete

Tweets by @TheViewFromHell