Inoculum 2007
Minds, Technology, Humans, and God

Wayne Iba

updated 8/23/2007

Final Paper Assignment
Draft due Friday Sept 14
Final paper due Friday Sept 28

9/17/2007:  Your drafts are graded and will be available for pickup this afternoon after 2pm-ish.  I will be happy to sit with you and go over my comments (in fact, I encourage you to do so in order to get the most out of my comments).  Overall, the drafts were fine but I noticed a common theme that I wanted to mention here.

Many of you made unsupported claims in your paper and used them as the core of your argument.  For example, if you want to claim that humans cannot create a conscious agent, you need to identify the characteristics of conscious agents that are beyond us and give a plausible explanation of why those characteristics are necessary and why they are beyond human creativity.  Basically, you need to be cautious of relying on an assumption that you find to be obvious or self-evident.  When in doubt, explain and support your claim.

I trust you will address this concern in your revisions over the next two weeks.

We made it! We're back from that reality of mountains, lakes, streams and stars to our present reality of classes, papers, peers and teachers. Each tends to make the other seem unreal or "artificial" in a sense. Let us strive to maintain the perspective and balance afforded by our corporate time in the wilderness. I thank God for each one of you and the time we spent together.

For your final paper, I want you to focus on the reading, "The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Perfection Led to No Good" by Stanislaw Lem. You may recall that the story describes the creation of a "simulated" kingdom which is given to a tyrant to "rule." But the piece asks the question Is the experience of the simulated subjects real? The notion of simulation has come up in several contexts. In our discussions, I think we talked about artificial flowers and artificial (cultured) diamonds; certainly, some readings (e.g., "The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation," and "Minds, Brains and Programs") addressed the problem of simulations in general and especially as pertaining to intelligence. Furthermore, I expect that all of you are at least aware of "The Sims" even if you have never "played" with it. In Hofstadter and Dennett's reflection on The Seventh Sally, they ask about the role of "stylistic touches and narrative tricks" with respect to leading us to buy into the "genuineness of the tiny souls." Of course this connects to the question of souls on which we spent considerable time. In your paper, I want you to answer the question they pose at the end -- "Which way do you tilt?"

Think about your answer, and then write your paper to support your position. If you think the Microminians in Lem's story really were genuinely experiencing the oppression of Excelsius, explain why. If not, identify what features are missing that would make their experiences genuine. In both cases, I want you to extrapolate your position to both The Sims and to a possible future artificial intelligence. Should we "play" The Sims? Should we attempt to build artificial intelligence capable of genuine experience. (Note, this last might not necessarily require human-level intelligence.  We probably would not countenance arbitrary treatment of dogs even if they were cloned.) Generally, I will be looking at the strength of your argument; if you do not respond to the obvious objections to your position (whichever one you take), your paper will be marked down.

You are limited to a maximum of four (4) pages of 11pt Times-Roman or New Times-Roman double-spaced text. Margins should be 1.25" left and right and 1" top and bottom. (If you include a header or footer, adjust accordingly so that you have 9 inches of text.) You are not required to fill all four pages.  However, as I think about the paper I would write for this assignment, I see that a sizable fraction of my time would be spent figuring out what to leave out and how to say things more concisely.  I'm not sure you'll be able to adequately address the question in less. Again, you may not go over four pages. Any actual references that you use will not count against your maximum of 4 pages.  Please start a new page for references and single-space them in 10pt font.  The citations that would appear in your text can be numerically bracketed.  For example, you might have something like: "... contrary to so and so's claims that such and such, ... [3]."
On the general question of quotations, I definitely do not want to see extensive quotations. You should even be cautious about using short quotations. They will tend to only fit in sentences that are summarizing rather than analyzing. But these are general rules.

You must have a draft by Friday Sept. 14 (2pm in my office).  Here's the deal on the whole thing.  Your draft has to be mainly complete, but you don't get penalized for typos, sentence structure, transitions, organization, or even argument coherence.  The only things I'm grading the draft is (a) completeness -- i.e., no sections like "need to think about this and fill in here" -- and (b) reviewed by a Westmont Writers' Corner consultant (have them sign and date your draft).  The draft counts for half of your total paper score.  So if you take a complete draft to the Writers' Corner and have it reviewed, you would have to have a really weak argument and not correct any of your typos to get a really low final score. Your drafts with my comments added will be available on Mon. Sept. 17 by 5pm.

Your final paper is due Friday Sept. 28 (2pm in my office).  Be sure to attach your draft that you submitted on Sept 17 and on which I wrote comments.  

Remember, the object is to have fun.  Writing might not be fun for all of you, but try to have fun with it anyway.  You might surprise yourself.  (Also, remember that the final paper only counts for 50% of your total grade -- the first half is already in the bag.  How bad can it possibly be?  You already wrote good initial written responses and contributed to discussions in the backcountry.  Right?)