The original mechanization paradigm developed during early modern philosophy, hoping to justify Protestantism, revolution, slavery, colonialism, and industrialism. Initially, this marks an externalization of the permanent schism inherent in Christianity; stoicism toward the world and its bodies, ascetic investment in the realm of the spirit. However, the separation of the pure mind-soul from the impure matter-body creates an Oedipalization of moral valuation-signification. By placing the system of values permanently out of reach, away from any human objectivity, the death of Platonic idealism results in a mechanization increasingly toward nihilism.
Rene Descartes begins the modern era of philosophy with the justification of systems of machines and their intrinsic moral inequalities built in:
“[Witness] the variety of movements performed by the different automata, or moving machines fabricated by human industry, and that with help of but few pieces compared with the great multitude of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and other parts that are found in the body of each animal.”
These machines fabricated by human industry are twofold. On the one hand, the mechanization of economic production and on the other, its machination into specialists capable of secular innovation, including dissection and live vivisection, both animal and human. After this we see an increasing prevalence of philosophers who redefine the mind/body dualism in subtle ways based on the discoveries of science and the advances of technology, until today quantum mechanics, general relativity, super-intelligent computers, and network theory all become incorporated. To say that the materialism of Democritus, or the Idealism of Orphic Plato, represents receives vindication and victory in contemporary science, from the holographic to the simulation hypothesis, this belies a nonsensical attribution to past thought.
The inherent praise of complexity and intention throughout all systems of inequality, which may have some pragmatic merit when desperate for human species population growth, loses much of its objectivity once we feel we risk over-population. Religious systems have frequently dogmatized the best advice for health, sanitation, and political stability available to them, but their dedication to outdated information constantly puts them at odds with the needs of the time. In either case, we will find very few philosophers admitting that their system of inequalities is strategic rather than evident.
However, we find a hard delineation rather than admission of a continuous gradation in philosophers like Descartes and Kant. Saying that a human is an organized system makes it a machine designed with a soul. If soul, from the Greek psyche, were simply “the virtualization of speculative reality by the brain” we might return to a more gradual spectrum between the highly intelligent and the lowest intelligence. Instead, this frequently becomes combined with mysticism, bigotry, and religious violence. In resistance to the religious implications, others described this self-determination as nature, privileging the “natural” superiority of civilized man over the machines, animals, brutes, savages, etc. Again, if nature meant “the genetic code inherited to build the minimum viable reproduction of an organism” we might treat dogs, cats, and pigs very differently, as their stewards; the long-running prevalence of claims that God or Nature justify rape, castration, vivisection, enslavement, imprisonment, colonialism, and murder shows how the Cartesian invasive ideology brings us to disgrace.
Soul is the favored word of weakness and bureaucracy, always losing itself in dogmatic foolishness, while Nature is the confused word that implies fatalist destiny. In either case, the words conceal moral uncertainty and every utopian sentiment results in unintended consequences.
“Such persons will look upon this body as a machine made by the hands of God, which is incomparably better arranged, and adequate to movements more admirable than is any machine of human invention”
– Rene DeCartes
Descartes is content to ascribe the superiority of the European man to his Cristian God, blessing these inequalities with divine designation. After centuries of anti-Semitism and crusades against Islamic territories, which left Western civilization in a dull superstitious stupor, it took many more centuries for philosophy to recover fully from Christianity’s influence. The machines as they rose certainly help this progression.
Thomas Hobbes, for his part, believed that the State needed the same level of stability as the human body, but his belief in centralization reflected premature notions of the mind’s physiological control of the body. In our own era of democratic nationalism, we might draw a better analogy by saying that consciousness presides over the execution of some elements of the body’s political economy, but we frequently change this president without changing the character of the role. Since Hobbes was afraid of democratic overthrow of his monarchy, he wrote against this systemization. The history of democracy was not promising for political stability, in his defense. More importantly, Hobbes was searching for a moral refutation of the capacity for moral indictment of monarchical injustice. This is a crucial step in the separation of justice, morality, and religious ideology in philosophy.
Hobbes argues a nation-state could only maintain its order against the chaos of natural anarchy with the agency of a monarch. Without a state we will suffer through continuous civil war, a war of all against all. This conception of egoism will arise repeatedly. The body politic, to end this continuous civil war, establishes the social machine. Individuals give away their power to the social machine and enclose themselves within its protection. The body politic is the product of the social machine in Leviathan, analogous to an organism. Hobbes treats all men as equal in their natural state, because death equalizes the danger represented by others:
Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; […] as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himselfe.
The secret machination justifies the mechanization of any armed force necessary to protect the stability of the State. Rather than any emphasis on machines, Hobbes concerns himself only with imagination, and the inventions of men. While these arguments come after the enlightenment, the industrial revolution has not begun the slow evolution of conceptualization we will see in reaction to the rise of machines.
Rousseau, in defense of his theory of democracy and individualism, allows the lines of traditional society to blur, giving us the literary archetype of the “noble savage” and a more optimistic view of the state of nature, but he again privileges the freedom of intelligent human dominion over others:
“I see nothing in any animal but an ingenious machine, to which nature hath given senses to wind itself up, and to guard itself, to a certain degree, against anything that might tend to disorder or destroy it. I perceive exactly the same things in the human machine, with this difference, that in the operations of the brute, nature is the sole agent, whereas man has some share in his own operations, in his character as a free agent.”
– Jean Jacque Rousseau, On the origin of inequality
With Rousseau, the justification of differences of rights lies in the capacity of the machine to resist its rules. Again, we see there is an immense gulf between the concept of a designed machine and a free will; only centuries of technological progress provide us with evidence that order can arise from chaos and chaos can arise from local rule-based order. It is an important theme throughout morality however, and Rousseau give it succinct expression for the first time. Morality is the capacity to ignore the rules of short-run patterns of behavior in favor of long-run accomplishment. Extrinsic payoff does not drive this exclusively, like objectivism’s rational self-interest, because compassion and holistic sentiment belies our self-narrative.
In contemporary retrospective, when we built more complex machines, especially computers, we finally saw how overly simplistic we were in the supposition of simple determinism by nature versus free will of consciousness to directly override nature. To anyone knowledgeable of contemporary science, the last century has continued to remove fatalism from nature, destroying the grounds for materialism and racism simultaneously. Education, environment, motivation, nutrition, and some genetic traits all contribute to the superior virtuosity of a charismatic leader, cello player, or physicist. Language, expectation, and privilege play a vital role. Complexity of ideas and the security felt toward uncertainty are issues of nurture, not nature. Stability, language, complexity, and specialization in political economy allow these “higher” elements to arise today. Wealth was the only sign of security in early modern political philosophy.
Consider for instance what an “invention” it was in Hobbes’ conception of the political body, and the recognition that specialization allows the nation-state to divide labor, increase efficiency, and manage trade. The invention of machines is central to the progress of division of labor, which becomes later articulated by Adam Smith at the beginning of the industrial revolution:
“The invention of all those machines by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged, seems to have been originally owing to the division of labour.”
– The Wealth of Nations
The social contract philosophers lay the groundwork for a comprehensive mechanization paradigm. Rousseau held a superficial view of intelligence, but criticizes Hobbes for holding the strict egoist view of human motivation. It is in the elucidation of compassion as a moral virtue, that we find it in more than one species, that begins our look outward to children, foreigners, and other mammals for guidance on the injustice of tyrannical government. It is striking that he took the steps of equalizing all mammals in death, mourning, anxiety, and empathy, but leaves this mammalian morality secondary to the self-conscious intelligence that allows humans the machination against their own short-run interests.
“There is another principle which has escaped Hobbes; which, […] tempers the ardour with which he pursues his own welfare, by an innate repugnance at seeing a fellow-creature suffer. […] One animal never passes by the dead body of another of its species: there are even some which give their fellows a sort of burial; while the mournful lowings of the cattle when they enter the slaughter-house show the impressions made on them by the horrible spectacle which meets them.”
– On the origin of inequality…
However, Rousseau’s analysis never extends beyond equality among European men, because he only wants moral justification of democratic revolution and the legitimacy of warfare and murder to secure equality. We should note that the text has inspired two lines of thought that remains in contemporary political criticism. On the one hand, Rousseau’s arguments for the capacity of citizens to apply rational morality in judgement against the state’s system of justice gave inspiration to the evolution of classical liberalism that followed. On the other hand, his sentiments combine with Marxism in France in a more anarchist manner that we will find significant in post-structuralism.
“All the inequality which now prevails owes its strength and growth to the development of our faculties and the advance of the human mind, and becomes at last permanent and legitimate by the establishment of property and laws. […] it is plainly contrary to the law of nature, however defined, that children should command old men, fools wise men, and that the privileged few should gorge themselves with superfluities, while the starving multitude are in want of the bare necessities of life.” Ibid
We see a continuation of support for inequality of aliens, animals, and slaves in John Locke. Women likewise, while receiving natural rights, do so secondary to the rights of men. The treatment or moral inequalities in Second Treatise of Government remains in contemporary governance, as the 15th amendment leaves involuntary servitude permissible in our current system of incarceration. This is a triumph over the rampant hereditary servitude perpetuated in Western history for more than 10,000 years.
However, in the context of a rampant African slave trade and colonialism, Locke’s arguments aided the arguments for enslavement based on race for centuries to come. He later expresses in Some Thoughts Concerning Education that animals possess emotional awareness but he makes certain that avoidance of cruelty on behalf of animals, but only indirectly. Harming property harms the owner’s pursuit of happiness.
It is in the works of Hume that we finally see the machine taking hold of philosophical conceptualization. Hume possesses an extreme skepticism, but between the lines we find his honesty toward uncertainty and pragmatism for what to do about uncertainty itself. Likewise, the ramifications of methodological naturalism, early modern science, and the predominance of the machine in industrialized society come to fruition. Unfortunately, Hume was too polarizing for most to embrace then and gained notoriety primarily through Kant.
The ramifications of a machine that behaves according the rules of deterministic physical reality at one “level” but somehow produces self-conscious reflection and free choice at another remains difficult to grasp. To do so, we end up in the qubit code in which space-time has no bearing. However, each escape we allow, any denial and simplification, prevents understanding machinic virtualization and agency. This in turn produces a morally repugnant allowance of inequalities under false pretenses. The dogmatic separation of animal, machine, and human intelligence in science and philosophy is meaningless sophistry to Hume.
Hume attempts to give us as the highest good the libertarian stoic, who is a creative scientist, free thinker, and system builder. Rational citizens democratically and rightfully follow the critical leadership of the System Builder, becoming machines for the mechanization of the system. So long as the followers complete their subjection to a leader base on the merit and vision of the person and the system, Hume feels satisfied that the inequality of conduct has justification. Virtuosity should be the justification of inequalities, rather than money, religion, or lineage:
“Like many subordinate artists, employed to form the several wheels and springs of a machine: Such are those who excel in all the particular arts of life. He is the master workman who puts those several parts together; moves them according to just harmony and proportion; and produces true felicity as the result of their conspiring order.”
– The Stoic 6, Mil 149
This leaves open the larger problem of how far a system builder ought to feel privileged in mechanizing, though he handles this elsewhere. The functional harmony of specialized, divided, organized machines has its own beauty to Hume. In this conceptualization of leadership, Hume becomes the perfect model of arborescence in every topic he touches. Describing the ability of the emotions to distort the clarity of understanding in the mind:
“The least exterior hindrance to such small springs, or the least internal disorder, disturbs their motion, and confounds the operation of the whole machine.”
– Of the Standard of Taste
Order is beauty, while disorder is disruptive. Freedom of representational democracy must have in its means and ends a level of social stability, or else society has no justification. Skepticism toward metaphysical ideals of injustice, combined with scientific approach to a logically ordered system, lead him to speak frequently of the “political machine” that receives orderly conduct through continuous self-maintenance against mysticism, corruption, and despotism:
“Rust may grow to the springs of the most accurate political machine, and disorder its motions.”
– Idea of a perfect commonwealth
Hume makes a clear distinction between the systems of representation and the machines that display order. This is both materially and politically self-similar for him. In general, he considers anything behaving in accordance with apparent causality and physicality, a machine. He considers any disorder a breakdown of the machine. Loss of functionalism becomes thereby our criterion for judgement of patterns of behavior.
The perpetual flux of perception contains objects that we sense in an uninterrupted succession. Why this virtualization feels so complete remains unknowable; “the power or force, which actuates the whole machine” is one we will never perceive, because lies outside the boundaries of perception. Hume’s statement expresses hard agnosticism that does not fit with the rest of his optimistic methodological naturalism.
When tackling this metaphysical element of cosmology, Hume again returns to probability and emergence, as the cosmos is a machine of machines of machines behaving according to rules:
“You will find [the cosmos] to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain.”
– Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
In general, Hume’s employment of the machine as a metaphor gives it a glorified status, whereby events that interrelate predictably and with high probability are mechanical, and therefore beautiful. We may paraphrase and elaborate his expression. The cosmic machine emerges from galaxy machines, which emerge from astronomical machines, which emerge from molecular machines, which emerge from atomic machines, which emerge from quantum machines. This is the contemporary suspension of disbelief we maintain in methodological naturalism. Humanity is a complex biological machine at both individual and species level, witnessing the perpetual flux between the molar and molecular. The axiomatization of machinic theory is therefore essential to the sciences. Through purposeful uncertainty of conclusions, we have in the past two centuries taken immense steps forward in predictions of probability, at levels of observation Hume might barely have imagined.
As a system of inequalities, Hume best summarizes the ethics of moral machines unintentionally, in a footnote: “That the lighter machine yield to the heavier, and, in machines of the same kind, that the empty yield to the loaded; this rule is founded on convenience.” Convenience of machinic size and weight, rules that produce yielding to superior gravity, energy, and complexity to produce flow, this becomes the first honest analysis of hierarchy; because, “societies of men are absolutely requisite for the subsistence of the species; and the public convenience, which regulates morals, is inviolably established in the nature of man and of the world, in which he lives.”
Found in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, these statements provide a groundwork for a morality of acceleration, expansion, and growth. This is the height of Mechanization paradigm an idealistic statement, but the logic underlying it was too far-fetched without the scientific discoveries that have since vindicated it. Combined with scientific advances, capitalism, and the digital age, this prioritization of flow feels comfortable to a contemporary technologist. The question that remains, if we accept the preservation of the human species through the ordering of Earth, we must develop the ethics by which we judge the unintended consequences of mechanization. A true science of ethical ideal is necessary, not based on consensus, but based on vision for a better future for all life. When technology alienates, and production destroys, we must analyze the boundary at which short-run mechanization re-territorializes into long-run machination. Miraculating the symbolic, capital, is not the answer.
For now, we may continue the philosophical evolution of the moral machines produced by the social machines. Based on our distinction, consciousness recognizing itself as causal agent results in the moral creativity of the System Builder. The System Builder is feel the system of representations leave consciousness liberated to machinic agency in the development of new systems of representation. In contrast, consciousness recognizing itself as machinic effect of another system of representation entraps itself. The System Builder employs the symbolic order to gain Quantum Liberty, even without proof of freedom. Those who are subjected, even when free of dominated objectification, are machines who self-enslave without proof of power over them. The system that liberates itself to build new systems of values places the power of purpose intrinsic to its own system, the machine enslaves itself through belief in its enslavement to other machines producing it; social, ideological, biological, and metaphysical.
This distinction provides a new addition to the definition of morality; the essence of morality is the will to adhere to a symbolic rule that prioritize long-run realization of the system of values over the short-run desires of the machines. We will find that the problem remains discursive. When John Locke and Adam Smith combine the System Builder with utilitarianism, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of economic liberalism and constitutional democracy. When Nietzsche combines the System Builder with aristocratic egoism and evolutionary racism, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of fascism and nationalistic socialism. When Marx combines the System Builder with the virtuosity of fraternal craftsmanship, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of dictatorial communism. In a Theocracy, God is the only System Builder, nominally. From Xenofeminism, we find prophecy of total upheaval by an artificial superintelligence aligned the feminine mystique. In each of these cases, we see that, while political economic, ethics, and science are part of a feedback loop with personal morality, the moral systems of individuals anchor new feedback loops for the evolution of the social machine.