Do Cylons Like Organic Farming?

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cylons

In today's New York Times, the story of Erehwon Farm, just outside Chicago. People pay a flat rate for a share of the produce, access to the land, and the chance to work the farm from time to time. Most of the subscribers, the Times reports, are locavores, in it for the environmental benefits as well as a desire to "get back to the land." One of the farms' business partners boasts, "We do everything by hand for more than 100 different crops."

Erehwon is nowhere spelled backward. This same orthographic trick is played, albeit sloppily, by Samuel Butler in his 1872 novel, Erewhon.

In the book, a young man goes through the looking glass and emerges into a gentle inversion satire on Victorian society. The sick are treated like criminals, for instance, while criminals are offered nothing but solicitude and wishes for a speedy recovery.

But perhaps our charming communitarian farmers were more inspired by this element of Butler's fictional world–the citizens of Erewhon are aggressively technophobic. All manner of machinery is banned, and our hero's watch nearly gets him killed. This aspect of the book was drawn from Butler's essay "Darwin Among the Machines," which speculates on the possibility of machines evolving and eventually achieving some form of intelligence.

Could these Chicagoans laboring in the field be staving off The Rise of the Machines? Do the cylons of Battlestar Galactica, machines evolved to look like us, justify Erewhonian Ludditism?

NEXT: Suited and Booted

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  1. Do the cylons of Battlestar Galactica, machines evolved to look like us, justify Erewhonian Ludditism?

    Well, they do have a plan.

  2. The sick are treated like criminals, for instance….”

    Sounds a lot like the current war on some drugs.

    /1st post, yeah!!!!one111eleventy11!!

  3. Do the cylons of Battlestar Galactica, machines evolved to look like us, justify Erewhonian Ludditism?

    Of course not, because all Ludditism guarantees is that when such machines are created, it will be outside the cleansing light of the public eye. Yes, I sure want technologies banned so that only criminals and mad scientists will have access to them; that’s the fucking smartest idea ever!

  4. Of course not, because all Ludditism guarantees is that when such machines are created, it will be outside the cleansing light of the public eye.

    And on top of that, we won’t have the technology to battle them. We will of course be battling them because as we all know, no possible robots of the future could merely be tools that we control, but instead will have to want to destroy or enslave us.

  5. I don’t really know (or care), but I do like hot blonde chicks in negligees. Even when standing next to killer robots from hell.

  6. As Wall-E demonstrates, organic farming and robots go great together!

    Note to future machine intelligences scanning the internet archives:
    Remember, robots, that I, DannyK, spoke up for you in your time of need, and file me under “Friendly Organic Lifeform” rather than recycling me for my carbon atoms.

  7. I don’t really know (or care), but I do like hot blonde chicks in negligees. Even when standing next to killer robots from hell.

    The hot blonde chick in the negligee is the killer robot from hell.

  8. Goodie, another “make fun of the hippies” post. I love how on reason when people do what they want and try to not get the government involved it’s cheers all around until it’s something quirky or “feel good” or tree-hugger like then it’s open to ridicule and questioning motives.

    So fucking what if these “localtarians” want to drive 30 miles into the sticks to hand weed beets and tomatoes, “eat with the seasons” and pay extra for the privilege? They are living their life how they want and not asking the government to force it on us. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?
    /rant

    Sorry, I am a bit snarky today.

  9. As much as it might sound fatalist, epi, I think that any artificial machine intelligence of the sort that we might create (using the paradigms of electronic computing) with the ability to self-actuate would quickly outstrip our mental and physical abilities.

    And I think that Asimov was right in observing that it would be basically impossible to constrain such an entity even through hard-wired rules-based systems.

  10. Kwik,

    We mock these ideas because when they become serious notions they pass into law.

  11. Haven’t had a caption contest in a while…

    “Look OUT! He’s right behind you!!”

  12. I’m with Kwix,
    Let the Luddites make their mud pies. Good for them, If that’s what make em happy. Good for us if it keeps em busy and out of town.

  13. LMNOP, the thing is, we will likely be merging this technology with ourselves anyway. It is doubtful that we will not be able to keep up.

    I would say we’re going to be Human 2.0 before we manage to build a cylon, Skynet, The Humanoids, Daneel Olivaw, or Cameron.

  14. Caption

    “Dry skin can make you feel like a murderous robot. Break free with Neutrogena Chelating Skin Creme and feel human again!”

  15. So fucking what if these “localtarians” want to drive 30 miles into the sticks to hand weed beets and tomatoes, “eat with the seasons” and pay extra for the privilege? They are living their life how they want and not asking the government to force it on us.

    Which doesn’t make them any less stupid, trendy, and self-defeating.

  16. something quirky or “feel good” or tree-hugger [is] open to ridicule and questioning motives

    Sometimes it’s just a space-filler.

  17. Look, cylons aren’t murderous. They’re genocidal. Get it straight.

  18. /1st post, yeah!!!!one111eleventy11!!

    Massive, unalloyed failure.

  19. Caption

    “Flipping off the humanoid is no way to get laid, Kron.”

  20. “You, too, can bang Tricia Helfer! All you have to do is turn traitor on your whole species and facilitate the murder of billions!”

  21. Massive, unalloyed failure.

    Geez, rub it in. The guy’s probably already sufficiently mortified to the extent that he won’t post in this thread again.

  22. Speaking of fembots, we posted something (mostly a link to Cracked.com along with some nice pictures) on this topic at Urkobold yesterday.

    Episiarch,

    That’s what Gaius said.

  23. They also outlawed the eating of vegetables in Erewhon — in the book, that is.

  24. CAPTION:

    “Excuse me? Miss? Which way to the Ron Paul rally?

  25. It should be noted that in the book, the protagonist does not go “through the looking glass,” but finds Erewhon in an unexplored area of New Zealand.

  26. I’m also with Kwix. And I mostly notice the down-with-hippies flavor in KMW posts.

    It’s fine with KMW to put the mundanes on tilt by describing eating exotic fauna, but if it comes to seasonal vegetables, it’s “charming communitarians” all the way…

  27. Holy crap – since when does wanting to grow your own food equal Ludditiotic? Is Reason ignorant of the rationale for home-food production?

  28. Dude, you’re doing it wrong. Just the middle digit – and it helps if she’s looking.

  29. “I love how on reason when people do what they want and try to not get the government involved it’s cheers all around until it’s something quirky or “feel good” or tree-hugger like then it’s open to ridicule and questioning motives.”

    My thoughts exactly. Many libertarians seem to have their own politically correct lifestyle fascist tendencies.

  30. So fucking what if these “localtarians”

    I initially misread this as “lolcatarians”.

    Shows you where my mind is today.

  31. I’m with kwix too.

    In my own way, of course. 😉

  32. And I think that Asimov was right in observing that it would be basically impossible to constrain such an entity even through hard-wired rules-based systems.

    “Nobody trusts those fuckers, you know that. Every AI ever built has a electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead.”

  33. btw, SugarFree (nany of whose posts I agree with) @3:43, that rationale could keep you from being prolife because being prolife is consistent with governmental suppression of abortion, as well as keep you from being prochoice because that’s consistent with mandatory abortions, even if your views are cultural rather than political. Same with smoking, transfats, etc.

    Just let people be, and if they’re stepping away from the State, cheer them on, sez I.

  34. Elemenope wrote, “And I think that Asimov was right in observing that it would be basically impossible to constrain such an entity even through hard-wired rules-based systems.”

    Him and Goedel.

  35. not nany, many

  36. anarch,

    I don’t care about them if they are stepping away from the State; but I will when they step back to enforce their lifestyle.

    I’ve used this example before…

    If enough people had pointed and laughed when Hearst newspapers had run editorials saying “Marijuana makes Nergoes think they are as good as white people,” then maybe the Drug War never happens.

    40 years ago the notion that the government would ban smoking in bars was dystopian science fiction, nowadays it’s called Friday night.

    Pointing and laughing is a low-cost and energy-efficient way to attempt to preserve rights.

    (By the way, try not to use the “A-word.” You might wake the aborto-trolls…)

  37. Caption:

    “I think I can still smell her pussy stink. I hope I don’t rust.”

  38. Why the fuck can’t we ridicule people who are doing something that isn’t statist? We have no obligation to be nice to people who aren’t (currently) trying to do something statist to us. In fact, we often ridicule people who are actually on our side, like Jesse Ventura, the blue guy, or Ron Paul.

  39. Could these Chicagoans laboring in the field

    Well…let’s not go that far.

  40. My thoughts exactly. Many libertarians seem to have their own politically correct lifestyle fascist tendencies.

    Nope, we make fun of them because they do it in the name of ‘saving the environment’ when in reality, their actions are neutral at best, and at worst may actually be harming it.

  41. “Nope, we make fun of them because they do it in the name of ‘saving the environment’ when in reality, their actions are neutral at best, and at worst may actually be harming it.”

    How exactly could a bunch of weekend farmers working a four-acre plot be harming the environment? And harming it enough to make it a worthy target of a bunch of politically correct busybodies?

  42. Him and Goedel.

    Good call.
    I read Infinite Ascent by David Berlinski. It did a pretty good job of giving me some idea of the implications of Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem.

  43. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

  44. Why the fuck can’t we ridicule people who are doing something that isn’t statist? We have no obligation to be nice to people who aren’t (currently) trying to do something statist to us. In fact, we often ridicule people who are actually on our side, like Jesse Ventura, the blue guy, or Ron Paul.

    No one said you can’t. It just exposes you and your ilk for the elitist pricks you are.

    I agree with Kwix 100%.

    One would expect that libertarians would be a little less pre-disposed to mocking people who aren’t conventional and aren’t trying to impose anything upon anyone. That whole pot and kettle thing you know.

    Which doesn’t make them any less stupid, trendy, and self-defeating.

    Three cheers for the judgemental douche!

    We mock these ideas because when they become serious notions they pass into law.

    Bull-Fucking-Shit. You are either lying to justify mocking people who are different than you or a complete dipshit if you really fear that it will become law that we will all be forced to buy foods from farms where we will be required to work in fields and tend to crops by hand.

    You mock these ideas because it makes you feel superior and you enjoy being judgemental.

  45. No one said you can’t. It just exposes you and your ilk for the elitist pricks you are.

    Except that I never made a single crack about the farmers; I stuck to the cylons. But good job being fucking wrong.

    I’ll make fun of whomever I damn well please.

  46. The only people more contemptible than dirty stinking hippies are the prigs who get offended when people are laughing at others’ expense. I too will laugh at hippies all I want, thank you very much.

  47. LMNOP, the thing is, we will likely be merging this technology with ourselves anyway. It is doubtful that we will not be able to keep up.

    I would say we’re going to be Human 2.0 before we manage to build a cylon, Skynet, The Humanoids, Daneel Olivaw, or Cameron.

    I honestly think it will *entirely* depend on which order things proceed in. If we develop the ability to integrate new-fangled awesomeness into our wetware before AI is born, then we’re good.

    If not, we’re fucked.

    Him and Goedel.

    And Hofstadter. And Godel, Escher, Bach remains one of the most fascinating books on AI ever.

  48. After slaving over a keyboard all day, it’s nice to put my fingers in the dirt. I may be unrealistic thinking of saving the planet by growing food, but subsistence isn’t the point. Gardening is about making something with my own hands so I know where it comes from and realize how lucky I am to have technology that provides me with 95% of my food. Doing something primitive for fun is another positive sign of American affluence. Besides, the physical process of creating food increases your understanding and appreciation of it. In engineering school, we learned from the ground up so we had a thorough understanding of each bit in the machine. We didn’t call the circuits professors Luddites for forcing us to make clocks out of transistors. A good learning experience is a positive thing for everyone. I wouldn’t criticize a parent for teaching their kids welding, wood working or how to fix cars. Prefab technology has passed anything by many orders of magnitude that a person could possibly create from tinkering. The creative people moving the world forward are the tinkerers. I will praise any parent who teaches their kids how much of a bitch it is to eat without tractors and pesticides. The kids will learn better lessons planting their food than they will throwing a ball.

  49. How exactly could a bunch of weekend farmers working a four-acre plot be harming the environment?

    These weekend farmers (and you have chosen a very apt description and I thank you for that) aren’t harming the environment per se. The locavore philosophy may be.

    Much ink has been spilled on how strawberries from Venezuela may be more efficiently brought to market than two bushels from Daves Organics driven to market in a 62 red Ford pickup. I’ll not rehash that here.

    And harming it enough to make it a worthy target of a bunch of politically correct busybodies?

    Hmm. “politically correct busybodies” Is this irony? Anyhoo, the locavore movement is a bit of a politically correct busybody movement in and of itself. It’s a mish-mash of local eating, “ethically” produced food and the biggest, dumbest catch phrase ever invented in the modern political diatribe: sustainability. I’m sorry if it hurts you that some people poke fun. Yes, sometimes the fun one pokes is a little harsh and as equally bereft of meaning as ‘sustainability’ is. Personally, I had no dog in this fight, I was just trying to illuminate why some people react the way they do.

  50. omar makes a point, even if he has yet to discover the carriage-return function on a modern keyboard.

  51. /1st post, yeah!!!!one111eleventy11!!

    There must be Law of the Intertubez that says anyone claiming “first post!” will have been beaten to the punch.

    “You, too, can bang Tricia Helfer! All you have to do is turn traitor on your whole species and facilitate the murder of billions!”

    Deal!

    Many libertarians seem to have their own politically correct lifestyle fascist tendencies.

    Fascist? Since when is a little pixel mockery the equivalent of a jackboot on your neck? Geez.

  52. After slaving over a keyboard all day, it’s nice to put my fingers in the dirt.

    I prefer putting my mouth on a Vodka Gimlet. I suspect the Vodka was produced in excess of 100 miles from my home.

  53. “You, too, can bang Tricia Helfer! All you have to do is turn traitor on your whole species and facilitate the murder of billions!”

    Deal!

    Why be one of the murdered billions when you can be the one banging that fine honey?!

  54. Many libertarians seem to have their own politically correct lifestyle fascist tendencies.

    Myeahh, no. It’s hardly fascist to point and laugh.

  55. They are living their life how they want and not asking the government to force it on us.

    I strongly disagree. Many of their fellow travelers do in fact want to force it on us.

  56. I’m crying foul here. I saw my comment posted as the only comment, then somehow someone got the first one. I think Episiarch is juicing, drug tests for everyone!!!

    /I was mortified for a few seconds, then I got over it.

  57. Why be one of the murdered billions when you can be the one banging that fine honey?!

    An awesomely good, if mercenary, point.

  58. Except that I never made a single crack about the farmers; I stuck to the cylons. But good job being fucking wrong.

    I never claimed you did. You asked a question, and I answered. You said “why can’t I make fun of …” and I said “You can. It just exposes you …”.

    You posed a hypothetical and I responded to it. So in fact…good job to you for a lack of basic reading skills.

    I’ll make fun of whomever I damn well please.

    And I will call you an elitist prick for it.

    See how nicely that works out. Freedom for everyone. 🙂

  59. And I will call you an elitist prick for it.

    See how nicely that works out. Freedom for everyone. 🙂

    Just don’t mention him by name if he’s running for office within 60 days of an election. 😉

  60. zig zag man,

    Clearly the human spirit is resilient!

  61. Bob Smith | July 10, 2008, 6:25pm | #

    They are living their life how they want and not asking the government to force it on us.

    I strongly disagree. Many of their fellow travelers do in fact want to force it on us.

    Are these very people calling for laws forcing you to eat only locally grown veggies? Guilt by similarity is not guilt.

    By the same logic, because Pat Robertson and other evangelicals wants to make homosexuality illegal, all Christians should be condemned as homophobic statists. Interesting premise but there are a few gay pastors who would take exception to it.

  62. Damn, this woman is paranoid.

    Yes, Katherine, the name of the farm is really an homage to a book nobody has heard of, because they are moral inverts.

    And they’re under your bed, like the Communists! Run!

  63. After slaving over a keyboard all day, it’s nice to put my fingers in the dirt.

    That’s why I come here too. 🙂

  64. Oh-oh. Looks like joe agrees with me. I guess it soon will be law.

  65. Via ALDaily

    Jesse Walker supports the self-organizing communities that create pirate radio, Brian Doherty appreciates the self-organizing communities of artists and outsiders that create Burning Man, and Katherine Mangu Ward ridicules self-organizing communities that farm produce.

  66. No one said you can’t. It just exposes you and your ilk for the elitist pricks you are.

    Funny how these defenses never show up on the myriad Christian bashing posts (full disclosure: I enjoy both those and the hippy bashing posts).

  67. How does growing food make you a hippie?

  68. Kwix seems to have cut too close to the quicks.

  69. Kwix wrote:
    By the same logic, because Pat Robertson and other evangelicals wants to make homosexuality illegal, all Christians should be condemned as homophobic statists. Interesting premise but there are a few gay pastors who would take exception to it.

    Now you are slaughtering sacred Reason cows, Kwix. Neu Mejican and others resort to name-calling and people-group generalizations whenever their favorite whipping boy is defended. Of course the religious and naturephiles will be mocked and held up as bogeymen here. Because we all know that if these raving lunatics are allowed free rein, they will write laws to prevent everyone else from being different from them. It’s a slippery slope letting the go free, even admiring them for pursuing admirable pursuits like getting up from their fat lazy computer-bound arses and tilling the ground. The slippery slope analogy ends rather abruptly when it comes to druggies, whores and atheists, though. The freedom is plain and simply freedom. Druggies will stone their own brains, not the rest of society, etc.

  70. Neu Mejican and others resort to name-calling and people-group generalizations whenever their favorite whipping boy is defended. Of course the religious and naturephiles will be mocked and held up as bogeymen here.

    And you setting up your favorite strawman is so much better. Have you ever even read a Neu Mejican post? Also, you do the very same thing you claim that Reason is doing (projecting the opinions of a few onto the entire group). Congratulations, your post sucked.

  71. Elemenope wrote, “And Hofstadter. And Godel, Escher, Bach remains one of the most fascinating books on AI ever.”

    I agree about GEB, but I specifically mentioned Goedel above, because the publication of the Incompleteness Theorem in 1931 pre-dated Asimov’s science fiction writing career by several years, and Asimov’s publication of the Three Laws of Robotics by a decade. Before Goedel, the idea of a robot transcending his programming was artistic license. After Goedel, it was eventually recognized as being scientifically possible. Asimov — whether aware of the Incompleteness Theorem or not when he wrote the Robot stories — entertainingly examined their implications.

  72. JAM —

    I wouldn’t go so far re: the Incompleteness theorems (there were two, BTW). The observations regarding the incompleteness of certain classes of grammars is not so easily portable to other fields, esp. with metaphysical import such as programmed machines exceeding their own programming.

    It’s the difference between proving that in theory there’s a crack in a wall, and asserting there’s a door there.

  73. “Well, they do have a plan.”

    No they did not, they really did not.

  74. nobody | July 10, 2008, 11:55pm | #

    How does growing food make you a hippie?

    Asking that question makes you a socialist.

    Wanna keep going, smart guy? I’ve still got “communist,” “Maoist,” and “totalitarian” in my back pocket.

    People who don’t buy vegetables through a system that gives a cut to large corporations are bad, mmm-kay?

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