Core Logic: Body, Mind, and Gender

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.

11 Comments

  1. mastersmusings

    First, love that you brought a more brainy topic to this prompt! While I am not as optimistic on whether we can overcome our genetic and environmental programming, it is definitely true that our brains are a universal Turing machine, and potentially can emulate any other Turing machine, given enough memory and time. If one thinks of the mind as being a program that runs on the brain wetware, then it is reasonable to expect that potentially any mind can be run on any brain. Since some minds can be categorized along the gender lines, that means that it is possible to run a “female mind” software on a “male brain” hardware. And the experience shows us that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

    What I am not at all sure about is whether “we can override what our brains initially programmed us to be”. We cannot change our sexual orientation at will, as has been proven many times. We cannot stop having certain kinky urges even when we want to due to internal or external pressures. We cannot change our internal feeling of gender, for those of us who have one (not everyone does!). There are some things we can change about our programming, but we cannot easily replace one core programming with another. At least not yet. Maybe some day, when our minds get to run on different hardware than a messy collection of neurons, there will be more flexibility in self-modification. Until then, there are some things we are stuck with, the gender identity being one of them.

    Actually, there are unintended experimental results related to changing the gender identity programming module when the brain is still malleable enough, in-utero and during early childhood, with certain chemicals like phthalates.

    Anyway, for “disposable sex bots constructed to reproduce then die”, we have kind of broke the mold, haven’t we? Also, if you are interested to read more about the unintended side effects of optimization for a specific goal, consider reading more about the Goodhart’s Curse 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nopantsendurance

      Good stuff, I’ll look into Goodhart’s Curse. I’m trained as a physicist so deal mostly with big picture and boundary conditions in this. I personally think that brains are biased for a gender, but we really don’t need to follow that bias. That doesn’t mean the gender is bad or immoral, etc, or that one should or shouldn’t follow it, but I think ultimately it can be overridden. The line is that which is not prevented by a law of physics is merely a technological hurdle. That is an optimistic view, not to be a slave to the programming. As long as we’re stuck in the gene constructed bodies, those biases and urges will be there, though.

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    2. nopantsendurance

      This is a mess I just wrote out as a vimeo reply, but I’ll paste it here too:
      TMI incoming: I am actually a virgin in all sexual aspects, though not an incel. Most people seem to think the most extreme take on gender is trans, I honestly think I’m about the most extreme in that my preferred gender would be none. I also think none is the inevitable future of intelligent life. The constructed human body is obsolete to our self-determination and the inevitable need for space travel (Earth will eventually be destroyed whether by us or a natural disaster, deep comet impact, etc). The human body is horrible and as NASA long term exposure experiments have shown, probably inadequate for space travel.

      A post-human future is probably near in any case according to the Carter-Bostrom Doomsday Argument whether AI, cybernetic, or biological via widespread genetic engineering like CRISPR. I think the very idea of gender only has meaning under a sexual directive (the sex bot of the evolved human body again) whether you think gender is binary or a spectrum, it’s irrelevant with no sexual imperative. The post-human future will have no intrinsic sexual imperative, there being no need for sexual reproduction except as maybe a retro throwback choice (working on a short film on that).

      Essentially post-humans will either be essentially immortal having transferred to AI or have an immortal body whether biological (look up the Turritopsis dohrnii which avoids the disposable sex bot status by reverting to a pre-mature sexual reproductive state, which is telling for the selfish gene theory) or cybernetic (like in Altered Carbon).

      Gender is just how one divvies up human roles and personality traits into boxes be it two boxes or many under a sexual goal. Remove the goal and one is simply left with personality traits, gentleness, aggressiveness, etc and no boxes. Take the closest post-human to present and go biological engineering.

      When people are walking (or slithering, etc) around with scales, tails, four arms, wings, beaks, fangs, etc as personal self-determination takes them, what relevance can be placed FULLY on having a penis or vagina when having either is an obsolete option? It’s just as ridiculous now except that it is necessary for the continued survival of intelligent life.

      So I would prefer not to have gender and not be bothered with the perpetual nagging of my sex-driven brain, though much less than I’d prefer not to be imprisoned within a ticking time bomb disposable body doomed to death, for sure!

      So why do I have this channel and blog? Well my particular brain happens to be hard-wire biased for male cisgender (though this is ultimately a choice as I’ve explained). I could swear there is a quote from Spok where somebody questions his having emotions and not being fully logical (I can’t seem to find it now) and he responds that denying he has emotions would BE illogical!

      So like Spok would prefer to be fully logical, he is not and knows it and strives to understand it so that he can be in control of this emotions when the only other option is emotions being in control of him. So this is how it is with me and my sexuality: I don’t want it controlling me so I go with my bias of cisgender male because it is the path of least resistance so I don’t have to spend as much time and effort fighting it, I’ve realized it is reasonable to explore it to understand it, I also like to share it with others in hopes that it brings them joy and understanding (though being cis-gender male is the worst kind for that, the demand for females is obviously orders of magnitude more) but I do the best I can.

      Yeah I’m a geek. And thank you, it does mean a lot to me that you like it! I certainly don’t intend to preach anything, just explain my philosophy. You are free to agree or disagree as the thinking person you are. And I’m not really unhappy. I have a Navy buddy of mine who went trans and went through years of needless suffering in her life before doing so, I experience none of that. This first year of blog and video has put me in a better place sexually than I’ve ever been, having a creative outlet for it. Also, I’m open to sex, but I don’t actively seek it out because I don’t care enough for it to be worth the effort. I’m not a physical pleasure seeker, mental I am and spiritual I don’t believe in. An “incel” is involuntarily celibate, I’ve been celibate but not involuntarily as such. No women have been beating down my door, and I’d be open to other genders, but the problem is I’d feel disingenuous and I think (could be wrong) people seek a relationship that I wouldn’t honestly be able to reciprocate which I’m not morally comfortable with. It would have to be a “friends with benefits” type arrangement, which is pretty rare and I’m not overly social to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. mastersmusings

        That comment is worth its own post 🙂 And we agree on more than we disagree about. I agree that we are all automatons, which to me, implies that there is no such thing as free will, only an illusion of one, compelling us to believe it and behave as if we had it.

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  2. May

    Wow NPE so many points worth discussing here- thoroughly interesting read – particularly the back and forth between you and master musings. I think I’d like you to take one of the ideas and open it up a post to explore the issue in depth and at a slower pace so to speak – and so on

    Liked by 1 person

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