In my intro post Science and Rationality I stated there were three books that changed my life: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, The Robot’s Rebellion by Keith Stanovich, and most of all The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch. These books are not just one-offs, but a large portion of the life works of their authors. There is simply no way to do justice to their importance and full implications in a blog post. Again, I strongly urge you to read them. But here we are only exploring what they mean for gender.
The Selfish Gene is a gene-centric (as opposed to species-centric) formulation of evolution by natural selection. Relevant here is that our bodies are constructed by selfish replicators that care nothing for our survival or interests past our ability to reproduce, meaning replicating them to the next generation. Simply put, this is the origin of sexuality and why sex has such power over our lives. We are disposable sex bots constructed to reproduce then die. Like when a salmon’s jaw locks so it can no longer eat, and it follows its programming to swim upstream to spawn then die, its body used for nutrients. The doom is not so immediate for us homo sapiens, but doom it remains. It’s bleak.
The Robot’s Rebellion deals with two subjects: the genetic leash and tendrils of control genes have programmed into our brains (again, we’re robots). But our brains are not our minds. This is the rebellion part. Understanding how our brains work, we can use logic and self-determination to override the control of the genes and their mental counterpart, memes. We don’t have to be what our bodies and brains are constructed to be. Our existence need not be bleak.
One of the four strands of The Fabric of Reality is the Turing theorem of computation. Note this is a theorem, not a theory, meaning it is a mathematical proof not “just a theory” (don’t get me started on that!). The only way it could be wrong is if math and logic itself are wrong i.e. detractors can’t wiggle out on this one!
This part is still very bleeding edge in terms of artificial intelligence, episemological creation of knowledge, qualia, etc. But for us, the core idea of Turing computation is the proof that an abstract mathematical machine called a Universal Turing Machine (UTM) can run any computable program, including that of any other Universal Turing Machine. The universal machine essentially achieves this by reading both the description of the machine to be simulated as well as the input thereof from its own tape. By abstract, I mean a UTM need only be capable of performing certain logical operations, it is independent of its physical construction.
The human brain is at least a UTM. How do we know this? Because a human brain (Alan Turing’s and every computer scientist’s brain thereafter) formulated the Turing theorem i.e. it simulated the machine and the input thereof! QED! Duh!
So finally, gender. Let’s recap: the human body is just a robot, not “us,” the human brain is at least a UTM, and using cognitive science we can override what our brains initially programmed us to be. Therefore, can a female program run on a “male brain” and vice-versa? Clearly, logically yes via the Turing theorem! The gender debate really isn’t much of a debate.