My Sad State of Emotions and Moral Speed Bumps

Returning from MongoDB days in sf… Was rather curiously surprised by my ex-coworker friend’s message regarding office gossip from 5-yrs ago. Kinda worried that she doesn’t get my message congratulating her on her engagement until 5 years later…

I had expressed to this female coworker my jealousy regarding another female coworker dating and showing some intimacy to a male coworker sitting near me. In my younger youth I had some pathetic times…. This stirs memories of my encounter with a fellow intern at a startup where he bragged to me about “eating a Chinese girl’s tofu”. I look Chinese, but I am sadly less informed about Chinese culture than that white dude… “Eat girl’s tofu, sounds yucky and unmanly” thought I, obviously thinking of the expression “to eat her out“. The punch of course came later when I learned that eating a girl’s tofu in Chinese means to take advantage of a girl. So… he was bragging about having taken advantage of a Chinese girl to me. Hmmm.

oh well. ahhh, now I remember, the reason why I started typing this on a lethargic friday post-work commute home is that I feel no sympathy for pretty the Chinese girl who died in the Boston marathon bombing.

Sure, her parents wished for a boy, and sure they did their parental duties despite having a girl and taught her to study and work hard, and pursue higher dreams. They supported her through school and then supported her decision to come to a foreign land to study among those foreign devils with hairy legs and arms, and hairier intentions.

And then she got blown up, and it probably hurt a whole lot, and her parents are probably very very very sad.

But I must admit, honestly, I cannot find a single drop of tear in me for her. I could cheer her death. (in the interest of full disclosure to mechanical and human agents reading this, I have a daughter who is a Chinese American and wife who is a recently immigrated Chinese national.)

She(the dead girl) would have eventually found a job. and work, and have kids with one of those foreign devils, or with a smart recently immigrated Chinese man, or even perhaps with another immigrant, or perhaps with a Japanese man. If we worked together, she will never hesitate to tease me or to make advancement at my expense. If she exceeds me in ability, than nothing has changed. She is still only a threat to my comfort and my survival.

I hate this total numbness I feel about other people. I hate the fact that that other person happens to be a pretty chinese girl, whom for all reasons of culture, evolution and convenience I should feel sympathy for or empathize with. But the only thought that came to mind about the matter during those weeks is that I don’t care–well, that and the imagery of athletic arms and legs wrapped in spandex flying around that the media put in our heads. Ohh, and the other two dead were catholic.

Man, my feelings and thoughts are so politically incorrect. It feels wrong to feel this way.


Okay, on to more interesting matters. How do we curb perceived “unfair competition” from use of computers when competing with humans?


On the one hand, flying, in air now and later in space, requires computers. To some inevitable extent our society has grown inseparable from computers and our continued improvement of quality of life depends on computers doing a lot of thinking for us.


We should not use machines to destroy or damage other humans. The gun is one such machine, knife is another, a pair of cisors is a third such thing. Clearly, we use these tools to survive, but it is generally accepted that using these on humans is not acceptable. Should it not be the case that a computer trading stocks, taking money away from another human is like a knife cutting into a human’s skin? Our brain and our skin stands no chance against the machines of our construction. The fact that a person operating a gun targeting a person is illegal means we should not allow a person to point an automated trader at a stock market full of people traders.


Note, this is a different story than a car having to make an ethical decision on which crazy human to kill and which to save when it has the choice. In this case, a human operator operated a machine with the intent of improving his life at cost of another (equal) person’s life. The obvious argument for technology in this case is that the car does not have a moral responsibility when two crazy person jumps in front of it on both sides because the crazy people immoral burdens the car with the decision–stupid people should die. This same argument would also justify automated traders because if you do not have the brains or the FLOPS to compete, it is irrational (aka crazy) to trade and should lose money just like the crazy people who jump in front of the car should die. The car and the automated trader is not at fault.


A second heuristic to address moral impasse is randomization. Casino owners can put on a happy face and entertain every single person who enters their establishment as if they have the warmest and best intentions for that patron. They can do this without the moral conflict that he will take that person’s money as a thief will steal that person’s money because he is not surely to do so. There is a small chance that he will give that person money and that chance is what his optimism rely on. He is not immoral, he is optimistic. irregardless of the morality of the original goal, in cases where there must be some a loser party, it would appear, that we think it is just and fair and the will of god to choose that party at random to sacrifice when no other principles or reasoning suffice to aid this selection.

Automated traders also get away with the zero-sum aspects of the market through randomization. Certainly if within its algorithms randomness is injected in timing and target pricing, that the person from whom it takes money from is randomized

So! Random appropriation of property, privacy and effects of sub-intelligent humans being is justifiable !!


But is this not clearly wrong?

Think of a bank robber taking money from the bank. Why is it wrong for him to kill a person while taking the money? For it is surely stupid for that person to be in the way of the robber because he has a gun–and yet we try bank robber for murder, felony murder in fact.


And solution by randomness is also irrelevant. The marathon bombers put bombs down to explode but didn’t know who will be killed. The process selecting the deceased is likely to be stochastic. But we think they did a bad thing, right? even though the dead was selected randomly. Murder as during terrorism act, yet another class of crime more severe than just murder.(A flood of funny  media sound-bites come to mind: the media wonders out-loud if the boston marathon bombing would be classified as Terrorism under the Obama administration. Obama eventually responded, in passing, “well, any time a bomb is set off in a crowd of people, that is terrorism”. Which makes one wonder, why did they ask that question to start with? Seems like a definitive example of terrorism to me too)


The things we value: life, happiness, money, are protected properties, nay, not as much properties as in attributes, measurable or immeasurable qualities, of the being of a human. The exchange or alteration of these qualities of the being of a human are judged to be just, fair, and moral by human.


and finally the machinery used by man to affect these qualities of beingness of human must include all machinery that affact these qualities be it a gun or a x86 laptop.


In my childhood, I actually propose a different solution, which is that we force-integrate computers and humans to live in an evolutionarily peaceful and stable situation. However, today, I find it urgent that we address it having thought through both ethical and practical concerns because machines cannot yet think and act morally by our standards.


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