Inside looking out?

Barry has a post up at UD that is on the same topic as one that I’ve had half written for a while now, but I thought I’d jump the gun and comment on Barry’s here, as it raises an important point, nicely and simply made: that, as Barry’s post-title puts it:

 

 

 

“If my eyes are a window, is there anyone looking out?”

 

 

 

Barry writes:

As we were winding our way through Custer State Park I became aware of myself looking through my eyes as if they were a window. I had a keenly felt sensation of what theorists of mind call the “subject-object” phenomenon. I perceived myself as a “subject” contemplating and having a reaction to an “object” (the beautiful scenery of the park).

Given their premises, materialists must believe the brain is a sort of organic computer, in principle very much like the computer on which I am writing this post. The subject-object problem is a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to this theory. Closely related to this issue is the idea of “qualia,” the subjective perception of experience (the cool blueness of the sky, the sadness of depression, the warmth of a fine sunset, the tangy-ness of a dill pickle).

Consider a computer to which someone has attached a camera and a spectrometer (an instrument that measures the properties of light). They point the camera at the western horizon and write a program that instructs the computer as follows: “when light conditions are X print out this statement: ‘Oh, what a beautiful sunset.’” Suppose I say “Oh, what a beautiful sunset” at the precise moment the computer is printing out the same statement according to the program. Have the computer and I had the same experience of the sunset? Obviously not. The computer has had no “experience” of the sunset at all. It has no concept of beauty. It cannot experience qualia. It is precisely this subjective experience of the sunset that cannot be accounted for on materialist principles. It follows that if materialist premises exclude an obviously true conclusion – i.e., that there is someone “in there” looking out of the window of my eyes – then materialist premises must be false.

The question in the title of this post is: “If my eyes are a window, is there anyone looking out?” The materialist must answer this question “no.” That the materialist must give an obviously false answer to this question is a devastating rebuke to materialism.

 

So, first of all:

Given their premises, materialists must believe the brain is a sort of organic computer, in principle very much like the computer on which I am writing this post. The subject-object problem is a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to this theory.

It is true, in a sense, that I think (“believe” is not a word I find very useful – “posit” would be better) that “the brain is a sort of organic computer”.  It is certainly organic, and it certainly computes things (in my case, not very well, which is why I use a computer!)  But I do not posit that my brain is “in principle very much like the computer on which I am writing this post”.  If it were, then the “subject-object problem” would indeed be “a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to this theory”.

For a start, the computer on which I am writing this post receives all its input from human sources.  My brain, in contrast, receives its inputs from all manner of external sources, and, what is more, depending on those inputs, “computes” a motor response which it sends to my body (my eyes, my neck, my torso, my legs) that changes the input. In other words, my brain is not (or not simply) a tool of some other intelligent agent, my brain is the “tool” of the organism that I call “me”, and which incorporates (literally incorporates) not only my brain, but my entire body, motor and sensory apparatus, digestive, circulatory and endocrine system and all.  So the brain is not simply an information-processor, like the computer on my desk, but part of an information-gathering system – moreover, one in which the information to-be-gathered is itself an output of the system.

Secondly, as implied above, this makes brains a subsystem of a whole system that is most strongly characteristics by re-entrant feedback loops, in which not only is information processed, but in which the output of that processing is re-entered as input into the decision-making process as to what further information to seek. So if we want a materialist analog to the brain, we need to look at robots, not computers – i.e. things that can move their sensory apparatus as a function what information they need.

Ah, need.  That’s another thing – organisms have needs (at its most simplest, to survive, but with all kinds of sub-needs, and epiphenomenal needs supporting that basic need – we should probably leave the origin of those needs to one side for now…)  Organisms have needs, therefore they potentially have goals – outcomes that they seek, which we can also express as “desire, and take action to fulfill”.  And those goals themselves are part of what the brain sets, and changes, in the light of new information.

So no, Barry.  I, as a materialist (and, it should be said, a cognitive neuroscientist!) do not “believe” that the brain is merely an “organic computer” that is “similar in principle”, to the one on your desk.  I think it is radically different to the computer on your desk, not least because it does a heck of a lot more than “compute”.  It is part of the system of tools that enables me, as organism, to survive, by not only computing what I have to do to reach those goals, but to compute those goals themselves, in the light of current information, to seek further information in that may result in further adjustment of those goals, and to select actions that will enable me to fulfill them.

So….

Closely related to this issue is the idea of “qualia,” the subjective perception of experience (the cool blueness of the sky, the sadness of depression, the warmth of a fine sunset, the tangy-ness of a dill pickle).Consider a computer to which someone has attached a camera and a spectrometer (an instrument that measures the properties of light). They point the camera at the western horizon and write a program that instructs the computer as follows: “when light conditions are X print out this statement: ‘Oh, what a beautiful sunset.’” Suppose I say “Oh, what a beautiful sunset” at the precise moment the computer is printing out the same statement according to the program. Have the computer and I had the same experience of the sunset? Obviously not. The computer has had no “experience” of the sunset at all. It has no concept of beauty. It cannot experience qualia.

 

Indeed, your computer cannot.  That is because your computer is not an autonomous interacter with its environment, in which it controls and adapts its own goals according to its needs – indeed, it has no needs.  We may need computers; the computer does not need itself – it does not need to survive.

It is precisely this subjective experience of the sunset that cannot be accounted for on materialist principles.

And so we have the non-sequitur:

  • P1 Materialists think brains are computers
  • P2 Computers cannot have experience
  • C: Materialist principles cannot account for experience.

Not only is the first premise wrong (see above), but C doesn’t follow anyway, because experience is not simply a function of brains but of entire organisms.

So this is wrong:

The question in the title of this post is: “If my eyes are a window, is there anyone looking out?” The materialist must answer this question “no.” That the materialist must give an obviously false answer to this question is a devastating rebuke to materialism.

My answer is no, not because I think there is no-one “looking out” but because I don’t accept the premise that “my eyes are a window”.  My eyes are not a window, they are simply the things I (qua organism) use for looking with, and I don’t “look out” of my eyes – I just look.

So there’s certainly someone looking.

Who it is will (probably) be the subject of my next post 🙂

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183 thoughts on “Inside looking out?

  1. Damn it, I had work to do this weekend!

    I suspected that our eventual software overlords would be programmed in Lisp.

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  2. It gets better. Since the system was automated and made freely available online, thousands of people have used Eureqa for all kinds of things from particle physics to Australian football statistics. What is particularly interesting, though, is Eureqa’s help in understanding the behavior of ‘Bacillus Subtilis’. When exposed to harsh conditions, this bacterium can transform into a spore with a relatively tough shell. Gurol Surel, a biologist at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, has been scrutinizing the network of genes governing this transformation in order to find out what drives the cell’s decision to differentiate and transform the bacteria into a spore. Using fluorescent markers attached to proteins, Surel was able to study which genes are active at any one time, and he ultimately built up a database showing which factors switch different genes on and off. He then devised a mathematical formula that described the data.

    Surel’s equation had about 16 variables, making it pretty complex. Could Eureqa do any better? Indeed it could: It evolved an equation that described the data using only 7 variables. But, more importantly, Eureqa came up with a biological law of invariance that is equivalent to a conservation law in physics. As Justin Mullins said, “it’s one thing to find an equation that seems to describe your data but quite another to find a natural law that has much broader predictive power”. What Surel’s work with Eureqa suggests is that something as complex as biology can be reduced to laws—something that many philosophers of science have doubted is possible. But, there is a problem. And it might be a sign of the Singularity.

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  3. Patrick:

    Damn it, I had work to do this weekend!

    I suspected that our eventual software overlords would be programmed in Lisp.

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  4. If anyone want’s to see our application (no not you, Joe G) – ping me and I’ll set up a visit.

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  5. I understand your reasoning behind limiting it to a discussion of jobs, Petrushka, and I think there is some value in doing so. Unfortunately, Blas is already making arguments like “but that was programmed by humans.”

    Even if machines take over their own design, since they were originally built by humans they will have their own version of original sin, according to those who make that argument.

    I’d like to know what would convince Blas that a machine was exhibiting human behaviors.

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  6. Let me start out by saying at the very onset that I do NOT believe in intelligent design, and the people at UD know that. I am not, however, a pure materialist either. My posting at UD as a Devil’s Advocate was a way of calming down the rhetoric which I anticipated would result from my arguments. It did not. It did, however, start a conversation, which is what I wanted. I don’t have the time to respond to all the arguments against what I said, but I am glad eigenstate did it for me on this blog.

    Regarding starting with the same data points and ending up somewhere else, apparently nobody here has taken chaos theory to heart. Chaos theory states that even minute changes in initial or subsequent conditions will ultimately result in huge changes down the line (the butterfly effect). You cannot duplicate the same result by starting out with the same computer with the same initial data points, unless no other data points ever enter into the computer. Then you simply repeat 1+1=2 forever. But if even one single piece of data enters the computer anywhere along the line of computation, it will change the outcome in a significant way, depending on how far down the line you look. One of the most significant discoveries in genomics is that the genome (1,2) as well as the cytoplasm (3) have chaotic fractal properties.

    The important thing missing both in the ID literature and in the mainstream scientific literature, however, is quantum mechanics. Biological science seems to be the one holdout in science that hasn’t taken into account quantum physics, until recently. As I mentioned in my blog (http://blog.billmaz.com) everything seems to come down to consciousness. And consciousness is very interesting, in that it now holds a prominent position, in fact THE pivotal position, in quantum physics. Here are some quotes:

    “The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.” (Physicist Bernard d’Espagnat, Scientific American, 1979)

    Johns Hopkins physics professor Dr. R.C. Henry says that “the universe is immaterial – mental and spiritual.” In the same article, he quotes Cambridge physicist Sir James Jeans as saying, “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter . . . we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (Henry, R. C. Nature 436, 29, 2005)

    British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington said that “physics is the study of the structure of consciousness. The ‘stuff’ of the world is mindstuff.” In the same article Max Planck, the “father” of quantum physics, is quoted as having stated, “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as the result of my research about the atoms, this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together … We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.” (AtlanteanConspiracy.com, Sept. 14, 2012)

    And so on. Pretty much every quantum physicist today regards consciousness, Mind, as a force independent of the material universe we observe. In fact, Anton Zeilinger in Vienna has proven that consciousness, in quantum physics, can change “reality” in the past. (4)

    Which has brought up the question of whether man’s consciousness actually had a hand in “creating” the universe we see today. The argument is circular—the universe created man so that man may create the universe—but that is the stuff of quantum physics.

    Andrei Linde, Professor of Physics at Stanford University and one of the main authors of the inflationary universe theory, eternal inflation and the inflationary multiverse, is one of many physicists invoking consciousness in the cosmic scheme. He has proposed a new paradigm of reality made up of three different fundamental constituents: physical space-time, matter, and consciousness. In the “brane” view (the furtherance of string theory) consciousness is conceived of as occupying a distinct “brane” of its own, separate from the brane on which our physical bodies exist. Consciousness exists in the absence of matter, just like gravitational waves, and has force and dimensions of its own.

    So the reason I say that I am not a pure materialist is that we don’t know how consciousness works in our universe, and whose consciousness. I know that this is heady stuff, and you may think it has nothing to do with evolution, but you would be mistaken, I think. We have to get our heads around a larger picture and not just tinker with the bricks and mortar of biological life. I believe evolution works, but are there larger forces behind it?

    I hope to have more to say at another time.

    1. Lieberman, et al. Comprehensive mapping of long range interactions reveals folding principles of the human genome, Science. 2009 October 9; 326(5950): 289-293
    2. Moreno et al. BMC Genomics 2011, 12:506
    3. Aon MA, Cortassa S. (1994) On the fractal nature of cytoplasm. FEBS Lett. May 9; 344, 1-4
    4. Xiao-song Ma, Stefan Zotter, Johannes Kofler, Rupert Ursin, Thomas Jennewein, Časlav Brukner, Anton Zeilinger. Experimental delayed-choice entanglement swapping. Nature Physics, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS2294)

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  7. ID/creationists are centuries out of date; both philosophically and scientifically.

    Quoting the thoughts of anyone more than 50 years ago is not going to come close to accounting for the changes that have occurred in physics, chemistry, and biology since at least the 1930s.

    “Emergence” is a word that is terribly misunderstood by ID/creationists; they seem to loathe the word. But emergence occurs at every level of condensed matter. Water molecules are nothing like their constituents; a glass of water is nothing like a water molecule. Frozen water is nothing like liquid water.

    Salt is nothing like its constituents. Salt dissolved in water is nothing like solid salt. Liquid salt is nothing like solid salt. And so it continues on up the scale of complexity. Temperature and interactions with the surrounding environment have a lot to do with the emergence of phenomena.

    Another subfield of physics that has emerged very rapidly since the 1960s is mesoscopic physics; a subfield of condensed matter physics. Mesocopic physics is where classical indeterminacy meets quantum indeterminacy.

    Quantum mechanics has been important in biology at least since Erwin Schrödinger’s talk and subsequent book What is Life? The entire fields of biophysics and biochemistry must include not only classical, soft-matter systems at finite temperature – along with the statistical distributions of states – they also must include the quantum mechanics in how molecules change states. You can find this stuff in textbooks.

    The analogies of junkyard parts, battleship parts, or Scrabble letters to atoms and molecules are so far off the mark that it is difficult sometimes to tell if ID/creationists are simply being deliberately outrageous or if they really are that ignorant.

    However, kairosfocus and Granville Sewell appear to really believe such analogies because Sewell has spent over 11 years rejecting the warnings of experts, and kairosfocus devotes much of his time on repetitive calculations of the arrangements of alphabets. Who knows what they really believe? What they calculate has nothing to do with reality; especially with complex, condensed matter systems.

    While quantum mechanics is very likely important to understanding consciousness, there is an important clue that the classical indeterminacy of complex systems is also important. That clue is the phenomena of hypothermia and hyperthermia. Our neural networks are extremely temperature dependent, and that is not just at the quantum level. The chirp rates of crickets and other insects are temperature dependent; not strictly a quantum phenomenon. This is clearly the area of mesoscopic physics and chemistry.

    So the physics and chemistry of consciousness will have to take into account not only the hierarchical nature of memory, it will have to take in the entire networks as a whole. Emergence is not the trivial concept ID/creationists seem to want to portray it.

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  8. davehooke:
    Who needs modern classical music when you have Brian Wilson?

    Actually, I personally think Gershwin and Ravel wrotegreat pieces of modern classical music. Charles Ives I like too. I suppose technically they are not post-Stravinsky. The work of Bernard Hermann, John Williams, Michael Nyman and other film composers is none the worse for being commercial, imo.

    Howard Shore’s score for “Lord of the Rings” stands out there with any of them. But this whole thing about composing really misses the point about what is “intelligent” and what isn’t. Music and other forms of art aren’t necessarily intelligent at all — they’re emotional. And emotion being a subjective thing, there’s no reason a computer could not produce a creative work that some would find astounding and profound, and others would find horrible and obscene.

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  9. Mike Elzinga,

    (I seem always to quibble with you). Scrabble letters and other such sequences of symbols may fail to capture the physics and chemistry of 3d structure, function, metabolism, and cell structure.

    Nevertheless a lot of insight can be had from models of sequences of symbols, such as spaces of DNA sequences and spaces of protein sequences. In the field of molecular evolution there has been quite of lot of work using such models. Most of that is ignored by the ID types too, but there is no reason to reject the usefulness of such models.

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  10. davehooke:
    Byers, so we could remove the brain and the subject would still be able to think?

    What about people with massive brain tumours? Is their thinking unaffected by what is wrong with their bodies? And Alzheimer’s disease – how do you explain that, Robert? Being tired doesn’t affect our thinking? Being drunk, we can still think perfectly well?

    Look up Phineas Gage and tell me your thoughts on the subject. I am fascinated to know what you think.

    Being knoocked out stops one thinking only because connections are interfered with. Yet our soul keeps on nthinking and everyone must agree the person thinks but simplys is on hold.
    Any disease can only affect the memory. Being drunk is a mere interference wuth the memory but has no effect on the soul or surely on the brain .
    Being passed out is not the same thing as a disease of the “mind”.

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  11. Lizzie,

    Lizzie
    There can’t be artificial intelligence. We are made in God’s image and so think like a God.
    A machine can’t think or rather take in new information without a purpose to do so.
    A machine would never understand to take in new info without being given a purpose and so it is never able to act on its own.
    Humans do not have intelligence but rather are mere thinking beings. All things we know come from outside our thinking. We bring no intelligence with us at birth or conception.
    We are just thinking beings with motivations. Intelligence comes from wisdom, understanding, and knowledge we get by paying attention to God’s creation and man within in it.
    No AL is coming.

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  12. Hmmm; I would think by now that you would know that I know that. 🙂 So let me repeat.

    Modeling in the presence of natural selection already implies physics and chemistry as well as exchanges of matter and energy and interactions with a surrounding environment at a finite temperature.

    Molecular structures don’t assemble in the way ID/creationists imply with their calculations. It’s not Scrabble pieces, battleship parts, or junkyard parts coming together to form a specified structure out of a whirlwind.

    Scrabble pieces or battleship and junkyard parts don’t have charge-to-mass ratios of 10^8 coulombs per kilogram. They don’t obey quantum mechanical rules. If they did, kilogram masses separated by a meter would have interaction energies on the order of 10^26 joules, or 10^10 megatons of TNT per pair. And they wouldn’t form battleships or 747s; however they might very well form completely unexpected structures.

    But for them to exhibit any complex behaviors, they would have to be immersed in a bath of “photons” or “particles” that kept them in a “soft matter” state, analogous to soft matter assemblies of atoms and molecules. In other words, the constituents of these assemblies would have to have their kinetic energies maintained and comparable to, but slightly less than, their binding energies. Imagine what that would be like with several “moles” of junkyard parts, with all parts having masses on the order of kilograms.

    It is inappropriate to imply that molecular assemblies of living organisms are impossible on the basis of calculations about what battleship and junkyard parts or Scrabble pieces would do when thrown together randomly. There are no Scrabble pieces, battleship or junkyard parts that would snap together to form something like “water molecules” which, in turn, would condense into bodies of “water” large enough to float a battleship.

    The way the ID/creationists “predict” or model molecular structures has no relationship whatsoever to how the science community predicts and models molecular structures. Magic or supernatural “forces” are not needed in science. Physical processes are perfectly capable of getting the job done; even with “improbable” assemblies.

    Not knowing at the moment the specific recipe(s) for these assemblies does not therefore rule out chemistry and physics and natural processes from producing complex molecular assemblies. There is no reason for these assemblies to look like battleships or 747s in order for them to have exceedingly complex behaviors at finite temperature.

    I have no illusions that ID/creationists will ever stop using such analogies. Their analogies make no sense. They don’t do it for reasons of “science;” it has always been for socio/political exploitation of ignorance and kids who are too young to have learned any science yet.

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  13. Robert Byers Being drunk is a mere interference wuth the memory but has no effect on the soul or surely on the brain .

    So people tend to be more amorous because they can’t remember how to be chaste? And more aggressive because they can’t remember how not to fight?

    What are the connections that alcohol interferes with?

    How do alcohol and disease have an effect on memory if it has no physical basis?

    Also, you haven’t looked up Phineas Gage. Look him up on wikipedia and tell me how you explain his case.

    And you still haven’t explained what the brain is for. Scaring polar bears white?

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  14. Robert Byers: Humans do not have intelligence but rather are mere thinking beings.

    We can’t carry things either. We are mere arm using beings.

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  15. There’s a wonderful parody of this in Terry Gilliam’s Baron Munchausen. Robin Williams plays a man who can separate his mind from his body.

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  16. Late to the party.

    Barry said: ““If my eyes are a window, is there anyone looking out?” The materialist must answer this question “no.”

    No, Barry. The answer is, “your eyes aren’t a window.” Your eyes are nothing like a window. Your premise is false, so nothing follows from it.

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  17. Patrick:

    How would I know whether or not a software system exhibited “will”?

    This is easy, an exhibition of will would be a bot starting tasks outside the scope of the programmer.

    Patrick:
    How would I know that the output of a software system was an “abstraction”?

    This is harder, because a massive capacity of memory, search and compare would simulate the capacity of having an abstract “idea”, then I think the proof of capacity of abstraction would be the definition of a new concept.

    Patrick:
    “Can anyone help me how keep the answers in the same box.”

    You have to use the small grey “Reply” button underneath the blue “(Quote in reply)” and “(Reply)” links.

    Thanks, but my programmer didn´t do a good job, I need more instructions.

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  18. They moved Cornell to Texas?

    ETA: Never mind. I had another cup of coffee and my brain started working again.

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  19. billmaz: Regarding starting with the same data points and ending up somewhere else, apparently nobody here has taken chaos theory to heart. Chaos theory states that even minute changes in initial or subsequent conditions will ultimately result in huge changes down the line (the butterfly effect). You cannot duplicate the same result by starting out with the same computer with the same initial data points, unless no other data points ever enter into the computer. Then you simply repeat 1+1=2 forever. But if even one single piece of data enters the computer anywhere along the line of computation, it will change the outcome in a significant way, depending on how far down the line you look. One of the most significant discoveries in genomics is that the genome (1,2) as well as the cytoplasm (3) have chaotic fractal properties.

    A quick comment on your interesting post:

    I absolutely agree. The brain is a profoundly “chaotic” system, which is why I think the “if materialism is true there is no free will” founders. As Hofstadter meant to say: “I” is a Strange Loop.

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  20. I’ve not followed all the thread, so I don’t know if you were making a joke or not. On the basis that I didn’t notice that little grey bugger myself, I’ll presume you seriously don’t understand.

    It is there, but subtly hiding. Not the blue links. Under them, with a down arrow next to it. The very last element. Click that to reply.

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  21. How would I know whether or not a software system exhibited “will”?

    This is easy, an exhibition of will would be a bot starting tasks outside the scope of the programmer.

    How far outside of the scope? One of my favorite examples is Thomas Ray’s Tierra. Starting from a simple replicator and using only a subset of known evolutionary mechanisms, Tierra evolves parasitism and hyper-parasitism, among other behaviors. None of these were programmed in by a human.

    Goal based agents are also an active area of research, where software comes up with unique solutions (“tasks” if you will) based on their interaction with real or virtual environments.

    How would I know that the output of a software system was an “abstraction”?

    This is harder, because a massive capacity of memory, search and compare would simulate the capacity of having an abstract “idea”, then I think the proof of capacity of abstraction would be the definition of a new concept.

    Would a proof of a new mathematical theorem or identity qualify? We have those already.

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  22. Liz, thank you for agreeing on the chaos subject. How about the consciousness subject? It seems to me that this is where science and religion could actually meet one day. If Andrei Linde is right, and Mind could actually exist as a force on a “brane” independent of matter, what do we call it? Eternal Mind? God? What?

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  23. billmaz:
    Liz, thank you for agreeing on the chaos subject. How about the consciousness subject? It seems to me that this is where science and religion could actually meet one day. If Andrei Linde is right, and Mind could actually exist as a force on a “brane” independent of matter, what do we call it? Eternal Mind? God? What?

    We could call it God – that would be fine by me. But I think it is an unnecessary concept myself, and ultimately incoherent, although perfectly comprehensible. I’ve posted some of my thoughts on the subject here.

    But there’s a sense in which I still have a sort-of-God concept which is that of a hypothetical Universal Mind that was not limited to the single PoV possible to a material human being limited to a single space-time trajectory, and thus capable of infinite empathy – and thus infinite compassion.

    That notion seems to me as good a yardstick for “absolute” morality as any – “what would an unbiased judge do?” – one that was not prejudiced by having a privileged PoV, which is why I regard altruism and morality as inextricably linked.

    I like to quote Einstein on this:

    A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

    I don’t mind whether or not a non-limited experiencer “exists” in some literal sense or not, just as I don’t mind whether “justice” “exists” or not – but as an reification of good, it’s as good a God as I need, and bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the better monotheistic gods – a god of love and compassion, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, if only omnipotent in the sense that compassion remains, it seems to me, one of the most potent tools we have, if underused.

    If push came to shove, I’d say I was a theist who believes that God evolved 🙂

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  24. How far outside of the scope?One of my favorite examples is Thomas Ray’s Tierra.Starting from a simple replicator and using only a subset of known evolutionary mechanisms, Tierra evolves parasitism and hyper-parasitism, among other behaviors.None of these were programmed in by a human.

    Goal based agents are also an active area of research, where software comes up with unique solutions (“tasks” if you will) based on their interaction with real or virtual environments.

    Both that “new” tasks are derived from the initial program, one of the possibilities for a replicator is become a parasit, and one of the possibilities of programs that search iscome up with unique solutions. I mean different scope something like a replicator according with the number of the day replicate or start to write the prime number series.

    Would a proof of a new mathematical theorem or identity qualify?We have those already.

    I thought that possibility. It depends on how the bot reach the result. Is because it tried all the possibilities to reach the conclusion? When I mean abstrction is when a human understand what is a chair, no matter do not saw all the model and the kinds of chairs he will recognize any chair. You can fill the memory of the bot all the knows immagine of chairs and then when you show it a chair it will recognize the chair, that would seem that the bot has the capcity of abstraction but it is not the same thing.

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  25. Blas:

    How far outside of the scope?One of my favorite examples is Thomas Ray’s Tierra. Starting from a simple replicator and using only a subset of known evolutionary mechanisms, Tierra evolves parasitism and hyper-parasitism, among other behaviors.None of these were programmed in by a human.

    Goal based agents are also an active area of research, where software comes up with unique solutions (“tasks” if you will) based on their interaction with real or virtual environments.

    Both that “new” tasks are derived from the initial program, one of the possibilities for a replicator is become a parasit, and one of the possibilities of programs that search is come up with unique solutions. I mean different scope something like a replicator according with the number of the day replicate or start to write the prime number series.

    How is this different from the fact that brains are one of the possibilities in an environment such as we observe in which evolutionary mechanisms operate?

    If an agent system developed a task for computing the day of the week or a prime number as a means of achieving a goal, would that meet your criteria? If not, can you conceive of any result from a software system that would meet your criteria of a “new task” or does the fact that humans are somehow involved in its creation confer original sin upon it?

    Would a proof of a new mathematical theorem or identity qualify? We have those already.

    I thought that possibility. It depends on how the bot reach the result. Is because it tried all the possibilities to reach the conclusion? When I mean abstrction is when a human understand what is a chair, no matter do not saw all the model and the kinds of chairs he will recognize any chair. You can fill the memory of the bot all the knows immagine of chairs and then when you show it a chair it will recognize the chair, that would seem that the bot has the capcity of abstraction but it is not the same thing.

    I think you are moving the goalposts a bit by talking about how the software reaches the result. That’s fine, I think it’s part of clarifying your thoughts, not simply avoiding an answer you don’t like, but it’s worth pointing out. I also suspect it’s a sign of progress in our discussion.

    Why does it matter whether or not the software uses an exhaustive search if the result is something you agree is an “abstraction” by your definition? If a human used exhaustive search, would the result be somehow different than if she did not?

    There are automated theorem provers that use human-like techniques of pattern matching and heuristics rather than exhaustive search. Do the results of those systems qualify as “abstractions” by your definition?

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  26. Patrick:

    How is this different from the fact that brains are one of the possibilities in an environment such as we observe in which evolutionary mechanisms operate?

    Sorry, I´m no following you here.

    Patrick:

    If an agent system developed a task for computing the day of the week or a prime number as a means of achieving a goal, would that meet your criteria?If not, can you conceive of any result from a software system that would meet your criteria of a “new task” or does the fact that humans are somehow involved in its creation confer original sin upon it?

    If the task is developed by the bot without human intervention, yes it will meet the criteria. If there is a human intervention the task will be performed by the will of the human not the will of the machine. I do not understand why you are talking about original sin.

    Patrick:

    I think you are moving the goalposts a bit by talking about how the software reaches the result.That’s fine, I think it’s part of clarifying your thoughts, not simply avoiding an answer you don’t like, but it’s worth pointing out.I also suspect it’s a sign of progress in our discussion.

    Why does it matter whether or not the software uses an exhaustive search if the result is something you agree is an “abstraction” by your definition?If a human used exhaustive search, would the result be somehow different than if she did not?

    I tried to explain that with the example of the chair. I (Human) understands what is a chair. It means a get the Idea of chair, from them on when I see an object and I can match Idea of chair with the object and if they macth I will call that object chair. More, I can immgine chairs that I never saw.
    If you in a bot charge all the knowns immagine of chairs in the file “chairs”, every time you show a chair to the bot, it will compare the object with all his saved immagines and will find the most similar under the file “chairs” and his answer will be chair. This last process seems to be abstraction, but to me is not the same. That is why the first time I said proof of abstractio would the definition of a “new” concept.

    Patrick:

    There are automated theorem provers that use human-like techniques of pattern matching and heuristics rather than exhaustive search.Do the results of those systems qualify as “abstractions” by your definition?

    Pattern matching to me is eaxhaustive search, and heuristic to qualify as abstraction it depends of the programming. The heuristic search if what the programmer intended that the program should do? If yes the machine is doing faster an broader what the programmer has immaginned?

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  27. Blas: Pattern matching to me is eaxhaustive search, and heuristic to qualify as abstraction it depends of the programming. The heuristic search if what the programmer intended that the program should do? If yes the machine is doing faster an broader what the programmer has immaginned?

    Most pattern matching algorithms (all?) are not exhaustive searches. If they were, trying to realign fMRI brain image volumes would take vastly longer than it actually does, and as it is, it takes long enough!

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  28. Lizzie,

    I do not know precisely what matching algorithms is, but sounds like the machine have a set of algorithms in his memory and would look up for similar algorithms in his target. No matter how an algorithm is expressed and compared to me seems very similar to an exhaustive search not an intelligent solution of a problem.

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  29. I guess l have to wait for your post about who you think is looking in order to read something interesting regarding this debate. Barry’s entire point is that everyday experience clearly suggests the existence of a “self”, and it is the materialist’s job to explain away the obviousness of this due to the requirements of their worldview (similar to a Young Earth Creationist having to explain away carbon dating of rocks, spectra of stars, etc.). Instead of addressing this, you decided to attack the limitations of his analogy of a brain vs. a desktop computer. The point there was not that they are indistinguishable, it’s that one doesn’t need to be told what is beautiful while the other does. So even if he’d said the materialist posits that the brain is like a robot, his point would have stood.

    Personally, as someone who follows the evidence where it leads without worldview limitation (i.e. I believe in the obvious existence of a “self”), I don’t like the wording of Barry’s post. I’m not a materialist, but I believe the brain really is just a “biological computer. I just don’t believe it is all there is to us 😉

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  30. Dualism – going back to at least Descartes – is an old problem that hasn’t been explained by anyone. It has become passé.

    Is there another homunculus inside the “mind” of the homunculus? How do you avoid an infinite regress?

    Can you explain the mechanisms by which your homunculus interacts with the physical world? Seriously, give it a try; let’s see what you can come up with.

    Science is currently doing a better job than dualists. Don’t look to “philosophy” to discover what is known about brain research; learn the real science.

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