May 31, 2016

Millennial Bros

The rise of Donald Trump is tremendously interesting to me. All year I've been thinking about how crazy it is that an outsider comes into the race, breaks all of the rules, says some things that would have completely ruined anybody else, and somehow maintains the front-runner position from practically the start.

And perhaps even more interesting to me is the enormous following he has among people my age. I'm in high school. Throughout the school year, I've been fascinated with my peers that have been die-hard Trump supporters from the beginning. It's interesting to me. The ones that are most vocal about their support for Trump are the ones that are the "bros," the ones that speak excitedly of joining frats next year in college, the ones that would be the classic high school jocks, if that was still a thing. I call them millennial bros. I love that term.

So what's the deal with this? Why is this happening?

Earlier this month, Politico Magazine actually ran an awesome story about this very demographic that is flocking to Trump, even using the term "millennial bro" in the subtitle. I like this article because it does provide some answers as to why these males support Trump so fanatically. This line in particular really stood out to me:

The deeper one ventures into the strange world of [a Trump-centric Internet forum], the more the country’s problems become laced with an array of white-male-themed anxieties—men are apologizing for their maleness, the users say; policies are lifting up the weak and punishing the strong; and culture at large is becoming more feminized.

And really, I think that this is what it is. Bros are feeling emasculated. They look up to Trump, who some of them describe as an "alpha male" type, as some sort of masculine superhero. And it kind of makes sense; Trump is a rugged individualism type of guy, he's got a dominate personality, and he's incredibly assertive: this is the ideal male, I guess? Many think it is. And that's why bros are following their alpha male leader.

So is that the reason Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee? Men feel like they can't be "men" anymore and are looking for the alpha male himself to save them from this atrocity?

Maybe.

Last week I read an excellent piece by Tyler Cowen, who hypothesizes that one reason for the rise of populism around the world is in part fueled by a feeling among men that the world is no longer theirs. He states that "the contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males," citing a feminized culture, and the fact that there is a higher likelihood of American men aged 18-34 living with their parents, rather than with a romantic partner. So a lot of men are feeling less masculine.

Could this be the reason for the rise of populism, in not just the US but also around the world? What about economics? Cowen points out that the American labor market isn't that bad right now. And when it was bad back in the 70s, we didn't see this populist response. Something is different now. It seems as though men are leading this populist movement. Look at Austria: 60% of Austrian men voted for the far-right (yikes), populist candidate in the presidential election last week. That's crazy. Cowen also references the infamous "Bernie Bros," some very vocal male supporters of populist Bernie Sanders.

For me, reading all of this was very enlightening. It's in line with what I have observed around me. Did anyone else notice that the same millennial bros that now worship Trump were the same guys proclaiming themselves as "meninists" like, a year ago? The same ones that deny the existence of a wage gap? The ones that take any opportunity to try to tarnish feminism? These are the millennial bros, and they want to live in a world where they are in charge. They despise political correctness and oppose a more feminist culture, a culture that threatens their hegemony.

It's interesting to think about. But millennial bros are totally a demographic to watch, dude. 

May 29, 2016

The Rights of Robots

In my junior year of high school I took AP Lang, a class in which you learn about writing and analyzing things like rhetoric and tone, etc. In all honesty, I learned very little in the class as the result of having three different teachers throughout the course of the year, all seeming to have a different idea of how the class should be taught. When I talk to friends about that class, my diction is usually dripping in disdain.

But there was one assignment in that class I will never forget: we were to write an essay about our thoughts on artificial intelligence. Something about this assignment lit a spark in my mind, and I was determined to go all out on this paper. This was the prompt I was waiting for, and I took advantage of it. My paper received a perfect score, and I really wish that I could find it because it was just so, so good.

Basically I said that artificial intelligence is something that will happen one day, and it is nothing that we should be afraid of; in fact, we should embrace it! Many good things could come with artificial intelligence. For example, robots may be able to take over the economy, allowing people to live a life of leisure. The government could begin distributing a basic income to those put out of work by the robots, and things could just generally be better (the basic income sentiment got the greatest teacher comment I have ever received: "you trust the government THAT much?? Hmmmm...").

But about halfway through the paper, I realized that we as humans are being selfish in our concerns regarding artificial intelligence. We aren't looking past our own interests when we fear world domination by computers and warring robots. These things just won't happen. But what could happen is the denial of rights to robots, and that could be a problem.

For a moment, let's consider the very real possibility of a robot becoming artificially intelligent. The robot will be able to think for itself. That's a pretty significant accomplishment in science, an achievement for the human race. But let's also think about the thing that now has the ability to make decisions on its own. The robot would be in possession of a living mind.

Quickly, I would like to point out that in much of Western philosophy, a "person" is defined as
any human (or non-human) agent which: (1) possesses continuous consciousness over time; and (2) who is therefore capable of framing representations about the world, formulating plans and acting on them.
A couple things stand out to me about that definition. First off, a person could be either a human or a non-human. That means that robots and computers are eligible to be persons!!! Secondly, a computer or robot with artificial intelligence would also meet the requirements to be considered conscious. And finally, an artificially intelligent computer would by definition have the ability to think for itself. Therefore, a robot with artificial intelligence would qualify for personhood.

This leads me to the topic in which much of my amazing essay was about: the rights of robots with artificial intelligence. Robots that can think for themselves deserve rights. And it's quite inevitable; once a robot can think for itself, it will begin to demand rights. As soon as a robot speaks up for itself to demand rights, we must give it those rights, as it is exhibiting the qualities of a person.

All persons have rights. The rights of all persons must be protected, always, no matter what.

What happens when a robot demands shorter work hours?  We listen, we shorten the robot work day. What happens when a robot, inevitably able to fall in love, wants to marry? We listen, and allow it to marry. Again, all persons have rights. The rights of all persons must be protected, always, no matter what.

Artificial intelligence is still far away. It will happen one day though, and we should be ready. But now let's focus on what is at hand currently. The rights of many marginalized groups are being denied. We need to remember that the rights of all persons must always be protected no matter what, now and forever. It's fun to think about the future, but don't forget the world as it is today.