Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Artificial Intelligence and Love

For the longest time I’ve had a collection of thoughts associated with Spielberg’s movie A.I. rolling around in the back of my mind. I thought I’d take a moment to try and sort them out in print and see if they make sense.

There are certain producers, like Spielberg, for whom motion picture creation is not just a way of making a living, earning a fortune or acquiring fame. It is my personal belief that they use their movies to explore some basic human issue, framing it in the Wild West, the distance future or occasionally in the contemporary present. When I view a movie like A.I. I ask myself: What was the producer trying to accomplish beyond the obvious entertainment goals.

In my humble opinion, in the movie A.I. Spielberg wanted to explore one of life’s most fundamental mysteries – the meaning of love? The situation where a bereaved mother finds solace in loving an artificial (robotic) but life-like child and remarkably an artificial child is somehow “programmed” to love his adopting parent, sets the scene for a multifaceted investigation into the essence of love.

Very early in the movie it is made clear that by “love” the protagonists did not mean the imitation of love but the inner feelings of attachment.
In addition to the experience of learning to love her adopted robotic child, the mother faces a dilemma when her previously catatonic son is revived and returned healed to his family. The natural child’s return sparks a struggle, the ultimate question of sibling rivalry, of two children competing for a parent’s love. Inherent in this struggle is the sense that the ‘competitor’ can possibly replace you. Of course in the movie A.I. that is what the robotic child did in essence. He replaced the natural child while he lay catatonic in some form of cybernetic suspension.

As in any fable, the “test” is where the true nature of the protagonists is discovered. In Spielberg’s movie the first ‘test’ is the mother’s decision to return her robotic child back to the factory when the sibling rivalry between him and her natural son spirals out of control. Unable to face the irrevocable destruction of the ‘child’, she instead releases him out in the wilds.

For me the question of what this woman feels for a robotic child brings into question the love of a mother for any child. Perhaps it can be said that more than the child yearns for his mother’s love, a mother has a need to love her child. In the movie, the mother, even when faced with the obvious artificialness of her ‘adopted child’ still feels a need to-be-there for him, and comfort him. In Jewish thought there is a concept that “the hearts follow the actions”. Perhaps in this case, the “love” of the mother for her “adopted child” could be explained, as the emotions fostered through the actions of “mothering”, coupled with her own innate need to have a child to love. In a similar fashion I keep thinking of Stephen Covey’s statement that the word “love” is a verb! Love is a process, an action not a state of mind, or at least a state of mind created as a result of the actions of loving another.

What truly captured my fascination was the artificial child’s struggle to cope with his beloved mother’s rejection, and his search to rectify the imperfection that keeps them apart. Spielberg shamelessly rewrites a Pinocchio of the 22nd century.

The critical aspect of the child’s sense of feeling loved was connected to his perception of himself as special or unique. When he comes face-to-face with other copies of his model in the robot factory, his sense of self is obviously threatened and the premise that he is loved because he is ‘himself’ and cannot be replaced is clearly challenged.

Another aspect of the child’s love of his mother (note the father is not an object of affection for the robotic child) is that it is transcendent. True, every child has a deep inherent need to feel loved, and perhaps also need to love in return. None-the-less there was something almost magical (something that transcends reason and experience) in the attachment the robotic child felt for his lost parent. This attachment, due to the nature of robots, also transcended the lifetime of his mother and probably all and any descendents she might have had.

What do we mean when we say we love someone? What does it mean to feel loved by someone? In some small way I felt that A.I. hinted at possible answers.
When we love someone, we revere the characteristics about him or her that make them who they are! We love those aspects of their personality that make them special. When we feel loved by another, that feeling is generally accompanied by a sense of feeling special. Our loved ones make us feel appreciated for who we are and in that sense, irreplaceable.

On a personal level I must admit that I connected to the story on a more visceral level. My entire childhood I sought a father’s love from a man who was incapable of expressing the love he obviously felt for his only male child. My entire childhood, and into much of my adulthood, I kept looking for the imperfection I needed to correct in myself in order to earn the open expression of that man’s appreciation and affection. In the end, it was only long after his death that I eventually arrived at an appreciation of the deep love he always felt, and expressed in his own unpretentious manner. In that sense, perhaps love really does transcend the material vehicles of its expression.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Breaking Point - Olmart's Duplicity

Secret talks handing West Bank to Abbas
By Aaron Klein © 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
JERUSALEM – Israel and the Palestinians have been conducting behind-the-scene negotiations regarding handing over most of the West Bank to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to top Egyptian and European diplomatic sources who told WND they were directly involved with the talks.

If there is any validity to this, and it is not just some journalist looking for sensational headlines, the Israeli "cauldron" is likely to come to a boiling point far sooner than anyone expected. Here is Mister Disengagement Convergence, who after bungling the management of the war in Lebanon was quoted as saying give-aways were not the answer.

I believe the money people who make it possible for losers like Olmert to achieve public office see the writing on the wall. All too soon the entire edifice of corrupt (read bought) politicians will come tumbling down. If they are going to divest Israel of everything that reeks of Jewishness and Jewish roots, they have to do it soon, later may be too late.

The question is, will the people rise up in sufficient force and sufficient time to stop this insane suicidal initiative?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wiki Eretz Israel Neeeds YOU!

Not a day goes by without the world media reporting some ‘incident’ that occurs here in Israel. Just what do those Hebrew or Arabic place names mean to the average reader in France, Australia or Canada? Providing that ‘background’ information is also ‘hasbara’! Describing how those places are connected to the history of the Jewish people makes it all that much clearer why we are here, why this land is worth living and struggling for!

The vision: A wiki-pedia type site with items describing the connection between all the places, people and events connecting the Jewish People to the Land of Israel since the dawn of recorded history!

The place: http://wiki.Eretz-Israel.info

The people: People like you and me! People who care and are willing to volunteer to research or write or edit. Every contribution of time and energy counts!

The Time: Now! Come visit us and signup. Together we can educate the world!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Know Your (Muslim) Neighbour

A powerful collection of video clips providing a clear understanding what Muslims in the UK's "moderate" mosques are being taught day after day after day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lessons from the Barbary Pirates (1784-1815)

This is part of a much longer analysis by David Yerushalmi as to why Appeasement (clothed as "Convergence") doesn't work when either of the parties in the conflict are (irrationally) unreasonable. What makes the argument powerful is the consistent historical proofs that he brings to support it. The eye opener for me was the realization that the episode of the Barbary Pirates of 1784 to 1815 was really a Jihadist initiative! Read on!

The second historical case involves the United States in its early nationhood, the Barbary pirates, and spanned a period from 1784 to 1815. Soon after the successful conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin were commissioned by Congress in 1784 to go and investigate the marketing potential of U.S. commercial products in Europe and the Mediterranean world. The first major impediment to American commerce in and around the Mediterranean that the congressional delegates encountered was piracy against U.S. merchant ships carried out by international outlaws under the sponsorship and protection of Muslim rulers of “statelets” along the North African coast. From his vantage point in Europe, Jefferson learned that the “pirates” were not buccaneers in the traditional sense in that they didn’t drink or chase women or simply desire the accumulation of booty, instead their motivation was “religious” in carrying out Islamic jihad. The Muslim sailors, preying on innocent non-Muslim seafarers, called themselves “mujahideen” (strugglers in the cause of Islam) and not pirates. We recall this nomenclature arising among the Afghan fighters who first struggled with the Soviet army.

The Muslim pirates looted merchant ships and used their ill-gotten gains to procure cannons, guns, ammunition, and ships to further their jihadist cause. In accordance with the religious instructions contained in the “noble” Qur’an, they also captured, ransomed, and traded in slaves from the looted merchant vessels. The American congressional delegates in Paris also learned the way in which the European powers like Britain, France, and Spain dealt with the Barbary pirates’ threat to their commerce: to pay mafia-like protection money to the Muslim rulers of the “Maghreb” (“Land of Sunset” – that is, looking west from Cairo on Islamic conquests). For context, the Maghreb takes in the modern-day states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Although opposed by Thomas Jefferson, in 1784, Congress decided to follow the lead of the Europeans and appropriated $80,000 as “tribute” to the Barbary States of the Maghreb, and it then instructed Jefferson, as Ambassador to France, and John Adams, as Ambassador to Britain, to undertake negotiations with the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain to obtain safe passage and to buy immunity from the jihadist piracy for American merchantmen in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

When these two future presidents questioned the Tripolitan ambassador why the Barbary States were attacking U.S. vessels in light of no provocative or hostile American actions, he replied that the mujahideen were acting on the instructions of the Prophet Mohammed to make war on all who did not worship Allah and acknowledge the authority of his prophet. Jefferson and Adams were further informed that every Muslim killed in these attacks went immediately to Paradise. This now rings as déjà vu to those of us now living through this reinvigorated jihad in the 21st century.

From that meeting in 1784 until 1815, when Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur won naval victories that led to treaties finally ending all U.S. tribute payments to the Barbary States, the American nation paid appeasement bribes off and on for 31 years. Additionally, during this period there had been a four-year war (1801-05) against the Barbary States during the first Jefferson term of presidency. So, once again the conclusion established by the preponderance of the evidence is upon us: the Americans’ negotiated payment of protection money cost the U.S. millions in appeasement bribes and resulted in two Mediterranean wars. Finally, we have what is far more conclusive with the historical record open before us. The U.S. Government ended the extortion payments in 1815 by winning a war against the Barbary jihadists, a course of action Thomas Jefferson had initially advised the nation to take in 1784.

Read the entire article on The Conservative Voice

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Israel: Apartheid State

A second fantasy is that Israel is an apartheid state and that peace would be at hand if only Israel ended its apartheid ways. This fantasy is exemplified by the just released scurrilous tract Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter.

Now, basic to apartheid, the legal regime in South Africa until 1994, was the denationalization of blacks because they were black and forced removal to state-created homelands. Israel has not taken away the citizenship of even one Israeli citizen on the basis that the citizen is ethnic Palestinian, then forcibly removed that person to a territory designated for ethnic Palestinians.

I saw this in a Globe & Mail editorial. It of course did little to influence the Jew-haters, if the comments attached to that online article are any indication. None-the-less it did give me a whole new perspective on what apartheid means. I was especially interested in the comment:

Palestinians are forbidden to drive on Jewish roads and blocked from travel to their farmland or family by military checkpoints and barriers

Next time I stand on the main road through Benyamin, Highway 60, on my way to Jerusalem, and wait for over an hour as an endless stream of Arab cars with Palestinian Authority plates drive by, I'll have to remember that they are forbidden to drive there. Or perhaps the next time there is some intelligence of a suicide bomber and together with hundreds of other cars we sit sweltering in the heat till we can pass the Hizma entrance to Jerusalem, I'll remember that it isn't supposed to be that way, only Palestinian Arabs suffer, not Jewish settlers.