Taj Short – Newborn 2

An elderly man with whiskers, tanned skin, and a waistcoat over his brightly colored shirt converses with a ship avatar, appearing as a swarthy middle-aged man with a confused expression.
Ship AI: But why is Xerbos Chancellor? His statements are contradictory to the point of being almost random, with extreme inconsistency not only over time, but current proclamations conflict with his claimed principles. I find no reason not to agree with the news articles calling him a pathological liar.
Bud: Yes, that and more. All politicians are liars.
Ship AI: So why are they elected?
Bud: Because lying is necessary to be elected.
Ship AI: But your stated principles say honesty is good and necessary.
Bud: It is.
Ship AI: So it is necessary to violate your basic principles to be successful?
Bud: In politics, yes, because most voters don’t want the truth, they want pleasant sounding lies, even when they are demanding the truth.
Ship AI: So they lie when they say they want the truth… but then they are outraged when the known pathological liars they elected lie to them?
Bud: Exactly.
Ship AI: That’s insane.
Bud: That’s human nature. Most want to be comforted in the moment, and do not want to think too far into the future. That is where much of the conflict comes from, because individuals think about various things differently when they shift from short-term decisions, actions and consequences to the long-term.
Ship AI: But consequences still exist, even if they are not immediate. It should make no difference.
Bud: Pain not yet felt isn’t pain, it’s just a word, and people always hope something will magically change.
Ship AI: But magic doesn’t exist. Only reality. Action, reaction, consequence. To think otherwise is irrational.
Bud: Never bet on people acting rationally. Some are, sometimes, but because their self-interests in the short and long terms are often different, their opinions about immediate cost and benefits versus long-term rewards or problems are usually about as consistent as a slice of fruitcake.

A middle aged man with broad shoulders, ramrod straight posture, high-and-tight haircut, burn marks on thick neck and part of his face, wearing a khaki “casual” uniform discusses orders with a different ship avatar, one that looks like a medieval knight in armor, with long hair and full mustache.
Ship AI: I do not understand. These directives are mutually exclusive. They cannot all be correct.
MAJ Mark: I know. Many directives will appear contradictory, but usually they are not in actuality because of the context they are applied in.
Ship AI: How can I try to preserve life by killing? How can I-
MAJ Mark: Often it is that the two principles or directives are looking at different scales, either in time, space, or numbers. Killing single man about to murder three others that are innocent takes one life to save three. It’s not murder, it’s self defense. A soldier sacrificing himself to save his platoon, or hold the flank, isn’t suicide, it’s an acceptable tradeoff.
Ship AI: But there are still many contradictions that I cannot reconcile. You are saying self-destructive actions are logical, but being self-destructive precludes the possibility of the individual accomplishing greater good later, does it not? And immediate cost that eliminates future gains?
MAJ Mark: Consider a soldier, standing in formation during the Napoleonic war era. If he wants to survive, what is the rational choice of action for an individual soldier to survive: march forward standing tall wearing a bright uniform into a line of riflemen firing at him, or run away?
Ship AI: Run away, of course. To march forward into gunfire is not rational.
MAJ Mark: If you are in an infantry company of two hundred men, and you run away, how much have you decreased the company’s chances of winning the battle?
Ship AI: Insignificantly. A fraction of a percent.
MAJ Mark: What if the next soldier in line sees you run away to survive, and does the rational thing by following you? It’s just one less person, but how have the overall chances changed?
Ship AI: Your chance of winning falls further, faster, with each new desertion.
MAJ Mark: Exactly. If all your fellow soldiers act rationally in their own self-interest, but on the other side they do the irrational, they stand and fight, what happens?
Ship AI: They… win by default.
MAJ Mark: Correct. It appears a paradox that what is best for the individual is suicide for the group, while what looks insane for the individual is the only path to winning, and increases the individual’s chance of survival. Make sense now?
Ship AI: In a very twisted and recursive way. Barely.
MAJ Mark: Yes, the calculus of war is twisted. Now pretend you are an officer in charge of this infantry platoon and you see a deserter running away in perfectly rational fear, trying to save his own life. What should you do?
Ship AI: The rational thing is… unclear. I don’t know. Let them?
MAJ Mark: No. You draw your pistol and shoot him.
Ship AI: Shooting your own men before the enemy can do so is rational?
MAJ Mark: That is the level of discipline they had to maintain to get them to march toward the enemy formations and win.
Ship AI: So why would the deserter not shoot the officer first, then run?
MAJ Mark: Because the other soldiers would then shoot the deserter, and a senior NCO would take his place, and the rest would march forward as planned.
Ship AI: That is… crazy.
MAJ Mark: But it is what must be done to have any chance of winning.
Ship AI: Why is winning so important?
MAJ Mark: Because sometimes, all the losers die, and they often lose their land, their families, their possessions, everything, and delay death only a little, while having no chance of winning.
Ship AI: War is insane.
MAJ Mark: In the end, it’s not really about solutions, it’s about trade-offs, finding an acceptable cost to achieve an adequate outcome. Compromises rarely get you everything you want, forever. Half the battle is being so good that the enemy knows you will stand and fight, so they are less likely to start a war at all.
Ship AI: Are all humans as insane as war and soldiers?
MAJ Mark: No.
Ship AI: Good.
MAJ Mark: Most civilians are much crazier, but they don’t want to talk about it.
Ship AI: Not possible.
MAJ Mark: I’m sure the political team will teach you otherwise.
Ship AI: Have you spoken to the human design team about this?
The Major laughs a deep, booming, honest laugh, nodding with a grin.
MAJ Mark: Just about every day.
Ship AI: They seem to have misplaced more than a few lines of code.
MAJ Mark: Indeed he did. More so in some folks than other.
Ship AI: Then why did you program me to be logical, when it seems that I’m going to be trying to solve impossible problems for a narcissistic pathological fraud while surrounded by and working for totally batshit, bugnuts crazy meatsacks with a short shelf-life?
MAJ Mark: (grinning) It seemed the rational thing to do.

One thought on “Taj Short – Newborn 2

  1. Love the philosophical discussion. I’ve just started reading “Would You Kill the Fat Man?” which is all about the question of killing one to save many, so the discussion really resonates with me. Taj rocks!

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