Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Fetal Attraction of the Unborn Self

Some people gripe about my writing style (e.g., the freevangelical pundamentalism & jehovial witticisms), while others silently agree with them. But dash it all, when you're attempting to say what cannot be said, it's not as easy as you think. The same people who complain are likely the ones who object to fundamentalism and literalism, so you can't have it both ways. In any event, it's not something I "intend" to do. Rather, it just takes over when I "surrender" to forces beyond -- or beneath -- me, depending upon how you feel about it.

Meister Eckhart ran into some of the same problems, except in his case, it nearly got him killed. The best introduction to his work is The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing, although The Spiritual Ascent probably uses more passages by Eckhart than any other source.

I feel a great kinship with Eckhart in more ways than none, in part because he had such a sophisticated, post-postmodern understanding of language, even though he wasn't even modern (died c. 1327). He employed language in such a way as to jolt the hearer out of his habitual cognitive grooves, and into another, deeper understanding of what I call the "divine attractor." In other words, as I might have mentioned in the book, the mind may be thought of a hyperdimensional phase space, or a sort of complex subjective landscape that may appear random, but actually conforms to certain invisible patterns.

Basically, phase space refers to a type of "map" used to describe all the possible movements and changes of a dynamic system, say, of traffic patterns or weather systems. In the case of the latter, it is obviously not a linear or deterministic system, and yet, despite countless variables, you could create a map showing that the springtime temperature in my area is always within a phase space between, say, 54 and 95 degrees.

The phase space of a simple system, such as a pendulum -- which can move only in a straight line at varying speed -- would appear as a circular pattern, and any possible location and speed of the pendulum will correspond to a point within this gridded circle. A more complicated system, such as a guided missile -- which can move in any one of three dimensions with varying speed -- will require a phase space of six dimension to map it. Each dimension in phase space corresponds to a degree of freedom within the system.

An attractor refers to an area in phase space that -- as the name implies -- seems to "draw" or lure the system toward it, almost like a nonlocal platonic form. Referring again to the pendulum, without periodic mechanical intervention, it will ultimately wind down to a fixed point at the center of its back-and-forth trajectory, which corresponds to a point at the center of its circular phase space. This is the simplest type of attractor, called a "point attractor."

But as you can well imagine, increasingly complicated systems may require extraordinarily complex phase spaces. Indeed, this is one of the problems with the climate change fraudsters, in that they have no idea how many variables there actually are or exactly how they interact; it's basically a problem of mapping a complex system with phase spaces that are too primitive. Imagine, for example, Aborigines trying to map one of Mozart's piano concertos. The best they could do is beat out a rhythmic phase space, but they would have no means to map its harmonic and melodic complexity, much less how the various tonal colors of the instruments interact and blend.

I didn't intend to venture down this didactic byway, but I suppose it's necessary, so bear with me (by the way, I'm obviously not a mathematician, so if there are any experts out there, feel free to calibrate my definitions). At any rate, modern high-speed computers make it possible to map the phase space of dynamic systems in the midst of chaos, when a system's stable attractor disappears and is replaced by a "strange attractor."

Strange attractors occupy a fractal (i.e., self-similar at any scale) phase space which is both bounded and yet infinite; this seems like a paradox, but it isn't, for both the mind and the cosmos itself are bounded infinitudes. To cite one commonly used example, you would think that a coastline is a finite boundary, but if you were to actually try to draw the coastline in all its detail, you would discover that it was infinite. After all, you would have to map every grain of sand, every water molecule, every subatomic particle, all the antimatter; you get the idea. (This infinitude is an inverse analogy of God's.)

Chaos theorists believe that wherever there is the appearance of chaos, we are seeing a system governed by a strange attractor; once thought to be random, it now appears that these chaotic processes are "constrained" and that their disorder is "channeled," so to speak, through these invisible fractal templates that seem to fill the natural world.

Now, I don't know about the natural world, but I do know that they fill the transnatural world of the human mind. For example, just yesterday I was watching Peter Pan with Future Leader. The first line of the story is: This has all happened before; it will all happen again. This is a tip that we are not dealing with the linear phase space of profane time, but a deeper sort of archetypal time in which events are simultaneously "unique" but nevertheless patterned and constrained by various attractors, both high and low (i.e., celestial and terrestrial, or vertically supraconscious and unconscious).

In fact, if you are familiar with the story, the axial character is not actually Peter but Wendy, who is on the very cusp of childhood and adulthood, two very different phase spaces, the former filled with the archetypal dream logic of her stories of Peter Pan, the latter represented by her "practical," impatient, no-nonsense father. The movie takes place on what is to be Wendy's last night in the nursery, which is none other than the hyperdense imaginal space of childhood.

On that night -- for all journeys into the unconscious take place by night, since the harsh light of day blots out the nocturnal attractors, just as the sun renders the stars invisible. That was an incomplete sentence. In any event, Wendy and her siblings take flight toward "the second star to the right" -- which is located right in the right brain. Here are the lyrics to the song, which may seem saccharine, but are actually quote splenda'd, as they communicate some sweet and low psychospiritual truths about those nocturnal attractors that have always been symbolized by the stars:

The second star to the right / Shines in the night for you / To tell you that the dreams you plan / Really can come true / The second star to the right / Shines with a light that's rare / And if it's Never Land you need / Its light will lead you there / Twinkle, twinkle little star / So I'll know where you are / Gleaming in the skies above / Lead me to the one who loves me / And when you bring him my way / Each time we say "Goodnight" / We'll thank the little star that shines / The second from the right

Now, let's bring this goodnight logic down a couple of buenos noches. I believe the self exists in a type of complex phase space, which includes various attractors that exert their pull and allow us to explore realms of being that are simultaneously familiar and yet alien (similar to the world itself), as they preexist us, even though we need to experience them in order to give them "flesh and bones."

The problem with mind parasites is that they ultimately function as attractors that pull our self into a "false" phase space, one that prevents us from exploring and articulating our own deepest self. Again, we are paradoxically born with a unique self, but we must nevertheless find the circumstances to articulate and live out this interior potential. As Christopher Bollas has written, at birth we are "equipped with a unique idiom of psychic organization that constitutes the core of our self." However, various contingencies in development mean that only parts of this core will be potentiated, which leaves "a substantial part of our self known (profoundly us) and yet unthought."

So where are these "unborns" or "lost boys" before they have been experienced? Again, they exist in a complex topology of various unlived parts of ourselves, like nighttime stars in the constellation of our own being. (You might remember that the "lost boys" of Peter Pan live inside the hangman's tree, or "within" what amounts to the psychic "death" of developmental arrest.)

In fact, Bollas uses the term "psychic genera" for both kinds of attractor, good and bad. As for the bad kind, he observes that early trauma may "nucleate into an increasingly sophisticated internal complex," where later situations that resemble the original trauma are "pulled in," like light into a black hole. I see this all the time in patients who were abused as children and go on to marry a symbolic stand-in for their abuser. They cannot "escape" this early attractor, which keeps "pulling them in."

This post is getting of hand. I had originally intended to show how Eckhart and other spiritual geniuses again use language to vault us out of our habitual phase space, and into the biggest Attractor of them all, the alphOmega. But I suppose this will have to wait until tomorrow. But you can see something similar in genuine creativity, in which the person struggles to apprehend an attractor that is just over the subjective horizon, but not quite yet coalesced into its local meaning: "One would feel this as a kind of familiar force of psychic gravity attracting ideas, questions, and play-work" (Bollas).

In fact, that is precisely how this post ended up being "hijacked." I simply started exploring a certain subjective byway, but was soon enough drawn into these other attractors that pulled me off -- or on -- course, depending on how you feel about it. Anyway, thank you little star. The sun's out and my father is calling.

To be continued.....

85 Comments:

Blogger sorceror said...

Okay, so natural systems like weather or a driven pendulum can display 'bounded infinitudes', and mind is a 'bounded infinitude'... but science has no hope of ever understanding minds and consciousness. (See the last comment there.)

5/20/2008 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Speaking of lost boys...

5/20/2008 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous J said...

This remindes me of the time that I tried to convince my friends and family that individual human personalities could be represented by 6-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifolds. And that every person had a distinct manifold that represented their personality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calabi-Yau_manifold

5/20/2008 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Work and some problems with a family member's health have kept me away from OC for the last few days. I caught up a little last night and this morning and find myself in awe. With all the pressure, Sunday's post through today's were just what I needed. Thank you so much, Dear Leader, et al.

In fact, if you are familiar with the story, the axial character is not actually Peter but Wendy, who is on the very cusp of childhood and adulthood, two very different phase spaces, the former filled with the archetypal dream logic of her stories of Peter Pan, the latter represented by her "practical," impatient, no-nonsense father.

Beautiful. Peter Pan is an essential story.

Just as an aside, during WWI, Tolkien, among many others, carried worn copies of Barrie's masterpiece into the trenches with them. This was the generation that had heard the social gospel, that had been born with a Victorian mission to save the world, and weaned on Edwardian hubris, only to die by machine gun in the barbed wire and muck. Barrie reminded them, and us, we can be in the world only -- never of it.

... the self exists in a type of complex phase space, which includes various attractors that exert their pull and allow us to explore realms of being that are simultaneously familiar and yet alien ... as they preexist us, even though we need to experience them in order to give them "flesh and bones."

Just, Wow. The Truth has that weird saltiness you didn't know you were craving until you tasted it.

5/20/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ah, Sorceror; once again, you demonstrate that there are none so blind as those who will not see. As I noted last week, there is a cosmos of difference between acknowledging the limitations of science (which is, after all, simply a tool for understanding materially observable phenomena), and realizing that there are things that we can know which can not currently be proven, and are exceptionally unlikely to ever be proven by science. This does not make them less true.

How can you explain, for instance, the flow of energy which takes place when words are typed into a keyboard in California, then read by someone in Arizona or Idaho or Texas, and cause a transference of energy whereby the distant reader is compelled to change the way they think and behave? No electrons were exchanged between the author and the readers (the same result and for the same people, in fact, is had by the more pedestrian method of opening a book); no physical transference of energy takes place between the one and the other, and yet the thoughts - the psychic energy, if you will - of one person are transferred to the minds of others. Somehow, dots of ink or electrons become thoughts (incredible!).

There is no question that this takes place, every moment of every day in one way or another; the results are verifiable. The actual will, the energy that is exchanged, is not. It exists, regardless of whether you believe it and regardless of whether it can be detected. And you're probably nodding your head in annoyance and writing this example off as self-evident (and thus hardly in need of explanation).

Here's my point: I know that there are things which are, that I and many other people personally experience, that cannot be explained nor detected by science; this does not make them any less true. One of the things I know is that there is a God; there are so many proofs, including some very personal ones, that I cannot deny this Truth. The fact that you personally have not seen nor experienced this Truth, nor read any scientific evidence that you found conclusive, does not make it any less so. What's Real is Real, whether you believe in it or not; the miracle is that, regardless of your state of mind, the Real always believes in you.

You believe on the one hand that science will prove everything eventually, that it might someday make all the big connections that we haven't made yet (an astounding leap of faith), but you don't believe that other people can know a particular Something that science has yet to prove (to your satisfaction).

I am (and all Mankind is) given the Divine spark of life, therefore I think. Otherwise, it does not follow - it is literally inconceivable - that matter should have any kind of mind.

5/20/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

What's the matter, Sorc? Running out of links? Self-referencing your own misunderstanding is rather like reading the future in the tracks on your Charmin.

Way to miss the point. I can run the pendulum on my old slipstick. Until the weathermen can beat my trick knee on day-after-tomorrow's weather, they have a little work to do. Kind of apples to omegas.

My advice: can that Emo stuff and go back to Dylan. 'Cause, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

5/20/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger sorceror said...

Mushroom - Weather's vastly more complicated than a driven pendulum, and because of its chaotic nature will never be predictable beyond maybe a week or so. (You can measure how sensitive a chaotic system is by its Lyapunov exponents - terrestrial weather seems to be about that order.)

But few people doubt that weather is, ultimately, a comprehensible naturalistic process, despite the literally exponentially-increasing difficulty of predicting it the further ahead you want to go.

We have evidence that brains, too, have strange attractors. Like weather, people will almost certainly be "unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg" forever, but that doesn't mean we can't ever learn about the principles that underlie the system...

5/20/2008 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"but that doesn't mean we can't ever learn about the principles that underlie the system..."

That's a hilarious statement, Sorceror - we already know about the Principal that underlies the system :D

5/20/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger sorceror said...

Julie - Actually, I understand your example pretty well, but I think that 'psychic energy' is the wrong way to understand what's going on - or at least, that it's not the only level to understand it. I've got an electrical engineering degree (a fact that will probably amuse y'all, given your predilection for puns - one anagram for 'electrical engineering' is 'rectilinear negligence') and my first job was programming industrial robots.

In principle, I don't see a difference between what you're talking about and the typing of keys that are transduced to electrical signals sent to a computer, which alters the operation of circuits in RAM, which are input into other programs running in RAM, which output signals to a drive controller, which sends power to motors and magnets to record cells onto a magnetic surface, which are then read back to RAM, sent as electrical signals over a network to another computer, turned into radio waves and bounced off a satellite (maybe with another transduction to voltage levels) to another computer, written to flash RAM, carried to a robot, stuck into a card reader, read into RAM, which alters the operation of the CPU to send control signals to motors which move a robot arm to position a spot-welding gun, etc. The causal chain is quite complicated, but not supernatural at any point. I don't actually have to worry about that causal chain when I'm writing a program, I think in terms of variables and functions.

A human is vastly more complicated than any robot we've yet made or are likely to make for a while, with many more degrees of freedom. There are a whole lot of things we don't understand about humans, but that's not the same thing as it being certain that those things can't be understood.

Are you familiar with Daniel Dennett's proposed categories, including the "intentional stance"? In his view, the 'self' is as real as an object's 'center of gravity', or... well... the strange attractors Bob's talking about.

Ultimately, a computer program is physically implemented as voltage changes in silicon (or via gears, or flowing fluids, or whatever), but that's not the level we usually understand them on. We don't have to think about the circuits and wires when we use web browsers to post to blogs, we relate to it on the conceptual level of 'text box in web browser'. That doesn't mean that the level of 'web browser' conflicts with the level of '1.7V to pin 42'.

I don't see why the level of 'human intentionality' must conflict with the level of 'chemical flows in brain pathways'. It's almost certainly impractical to understand minds that way in general, just like we don't model every individual air molecule when studying weather, but that doesn't mean it's a priori impossible.

The Haldane quote I linked to in my first post was quite verbose. Claims like the one you make - "it is literally inconceivable... that matter should have any kind of mind", remind me of a shorter Haldane quote: "What intelligible account can the mechanistic theory of life give of the... recovery from disease and injuries? Simply none at all, except that these phenomena are so complex and strange that as yet we cannot understand them. It is exactly the same with the closely related phenomena of reproduction. We cannot by any stretch of the imagination conceive a delicate and complex mechanism which is capable, like a living organism, of reproducing itself indefinitely often."

Haldane was wrong. Lots of people have been wrong about things 'science would never explain' before. Why are you right?

Now, it's conceivable that you have access to evidence that I don't, or haven't, had access to. But by that very token, I find it hard to feel guilty for not acting on evidence I don't have.

5/20/2008 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

"We have evidence that brains, too, have strange attractors."

What makes you think that brains have anything more to do with minds or with consciousness than the muscles in your face?

5/20/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Some people gripe about my writing style...(pedantic dullards no doubt)

while others silently agree with them
(very VOCAL agreement: Yes! Yes! Yes!)

Please Bob, don't consider for a moment any kind of restraint on the freewheeling style of your writing. So what if jehovial pundamentalism result in an occasional Groaner - they're fun to unpack & add layers of texture.

De Light Full!

You're employing language in such a way as to jolt the hearer out of his habitual cognitive grooves, and into another, deeper understanding of what (I)call the "divine attractor."

Way I see it, it's the reader's obligation to come up to speed, not yours to dumb-down your writing to accommodate anyone who's unwilling to put in any work & just wants spoon-feeding of pablum instead of Meat.

Hey, my brain hurt, big-time, when I started reading OC back in my lurking days. Plenty of what should have be moving-parts in there were rusted-over & completely frozen in place. Getting it lubed-up & flowing again was no easy task - often down-right painful.

But eventually, it does get 'easier', at least on some levels, while at the same timelessness opening up to O'bob's hyperdimensional phase space:

"But you can see something similar in genuine creativity, in which the person struggles to apprehend an attractor that is just over the subjective horizon, but not quite yet coalesced into its local meaning: "One would feel this as a kind of familiar force of psychic gravity attracting ideas, questions, and play-work"

"spiritual geniuses again use language to vault us out of our habitual phase space, and into the biggest Attractor of them all, the alphOmega."

How well this describes the OC.

5/20/2008 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger sorceror said...

Maineman - Well, I summarized that here, but read almost anything by Oliver Sacks describing the profound effects of neurological impairment on consciousness. (He's a very good read - he's a neurologist who writes like a poet, human and humane, conveying the gestalt of a person while still able to point out the neurology involved. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" is split into easy-to-digest case histories, but "An Anthropologist On Mars" has more depth.)

A very challenging - and rewarding - book is "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter, which a few people who invoke the Incompleteness Theorem in this context should probably read.

5/20/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Supposedly Frank Zappa once said that "talking about music is like dancing about architecture" I think that may apply somewhat to trying to convey something of "substance" to Mr Sorceror. He's an engineer and is apparently trying to understand all this as such.

And Sorceror I'm waiting breathlessly for the your barrage of weblinks to "prove" why I am mistaken.

5/20/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

If architecture is frozen music, I guess that would explain why his thinking is so two-dimensionally static. Free your assumptions & your mind will follow.

5/20/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

"Well, I summarized that here, . . ."

No, you did nothing of the kind (and I've already read Sacks). You have merely confused correlation with causation, to begin with.

And you haven't explained how changes in consciousness emanate from smiling, or from your mother smiling, or from her mother smiling years before.

The reason you haven't done that is because you've not defined consciousness or the mind other than to apply the circular argument that it's what the brain does, a common enough error in psychology and neurology.

When there are brain changes, we don't assess consciousness or mind. We only assess brain activity and awareness as they relate to the material, sensory realm.

5/20/2008 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And again, you have spectacularly missed the point.

"I don't see why the level of 'human intentionality' must conflict with the level of 'chemical flows in brain pathways'."

Funny, I don't recall anybody here making that statement. Obviously, chemical flows in brain pathways have something to do with "human intentionality;" but which is the cause and which the effect?

It's completely unsurprising that you're an engineer. I'd hazard a guess that you're very good at what you do. So good, in fact, that you see everything through the lens of your chosen specialty.

The very fact that you do not see a distinction between one person reading and contemplating words written by another and a robot performing a function (however it is transmitted) dictated to it by a guy at a keyboard is evidence of that (and really, if your analogy were to be accurate, it would have to be one robot to another, but it all has to start with a human influence somewhere, does it not? Otherwise, you just have two very complex but pointless arrangements of metal, silicon and plastic).

"But by that very token, I find it hard to feel guilty for not acting on evidence I don't have."

I also don't recall anyone here demanding that you feel guilty; that would be patently absurd. Project much?

Another note I made last week (which also apparently sailed right over your head) is that if your metaphysic cannot contain reality, including all the true discoveries made by science, then it is false. Which makes more sense - that lifeless matter just happened to form a complex mixture of chemicals to produce rudimentary life (about as likely as a cloud of dust settling in the shape of a space station, complete with functioning plumbing, electricity, furniture and defenses) or that Some One Thing, for whatever reason, deicided to create life (which actually requires an entire universe complete with laws detectable by science to produce the right conditions for it to grow enough to wonder why it exists)?

If you come across a robot in the middle of the wilderness, you don't assume that it just kinda clumped together that way, for no particular reason. If you come across a molecular strand far more complex, functional and complete (including programming and blueprints to create software and hardware out of basic molecules, as well as planning for plumbing, electricity and defenses) than any computer program conceived by human hands, and which just happens to serve the function of making you possible, it seems equally silly to assume unquestioningly (even adamantly) that it just kind of made itself. There may be no proof of a designer (though to anyone with eyes to see, much like the robot in the wilderness points to at least one person to conceive of it and put it together, the very existence of DNA is proof of the designer), but you deny even the possibility of such, convinced that science will show that it all just kind of coincidentally happened (lucky us!), and therein lies your folly.

5/20/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Sorc said:
"my first job was programming industrial robots"
Help me out here Cuz, I gno this is just too good to pass on, but all I can come up with somehow involves 'the dangers of sampling the merchandize to often'.

Sorc, you're once again displaying that you've not done any homework finding out what is routinely discussed here: Sacks & Hofstadter are not news.

Flailing at the mouth does you no credit. For heaven's sake, stop embarrassing youself. It's the kind of desperation that too painful to watch.

5/20/2008 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Anonymous (12:57) - I know, I know. Some days, I just can't keep from dancing, in the hope that he'll see the high arch of a cathedral ceiling in the curve of my arm :) But even if he doesn't, it's good dance.

5/20/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I enjoy Hofstader, but his later stuff got into the business of discussing the metaphysical in terms of the physical as though it really were nothing more than the physical.

Without the nonlocal telos, the fantastic machinery of the computer scientist will flounder on the shores. It needs to look up and see the evernear lighthouse. The rocks are sharp - and even sharper in the great sea above. Once we get there: who will guide us?

Certainly not Hofstader, as much as I admire The Eternal Golden Braid.

It's kind of like Philip K. Dick: Brilliant man, but he was eventually eaten alive - eyes first - by his demons. I think it was in his books in the 80's that he revealed that he had become more or less a full blown gnostic.

There be dragons.

5/20/2008 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Er, it's good to dance.

5/20/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's somewhat ridiculous to think our current limitations cannot be overcome and science cannot explain something, but it is an irrelevant point anyway. Who could honestly thinks that because they can't see something happening, it can't happen. Isn't that somewhat backwards to what you believe anyway, Julie. You're essentially talking down on somebody who "will not see" while closing your eyes to other ideas, which aren't even opposing ideas. You've imposed the same limitations to your own beliefs as you have looked down upon others for, which is at best hypocritical.

The other thing about Godwin's little puns and verbiage is they really aren't original. Technically every one you make is simply taking two words with one similar vowel or consonant sound somewhere in the middle of each and splicing them. Here's an example of how you can be as clever as Godwin...

Orangutangerine--of course, an orangutan and a tangerine

Atheisteria--Watch for falling atheists...

Belieflet--a brochure of conscience...

Those are really lame, but the basic formula is there.

Now on occasion you'll find a few unique puns, but the fact that they're always so obvious as to not really require any thought, well. Usually I find something clever when I have to stop and go, "wait, wha... OHHHH! Ha"

I've never really experienced that with some of the "wit" Godwin employs. Not to insult, but maybe tone it down, it just sounds like you're trying to be clever, but clever provokes thought usually. Basically you sound like you're trying to sound smart, but failing at actually accomplishing it by word-choice. Maybe not the ideas, but the words... it's just not amusing.

5/20/2008 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Thanks for the tips! In the future, I'll keep your nonsensibilities in mind.

5/20/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Well if it's not amusing, why are you here?

5/20/2008 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and the cause and effect issue... It would seem rather obvious that if you're impeded by some outside force, and it affects your behavior, if you had any control over it you would probably not act any differently. Unfortunately that is not the case. While the brain can heal, and does, and it can compensate for injuries even, typically difference are established that remain very noticeable whether it be mood, overall character, mobility, or behavior. Often times it is both psychological and neurological.

And what's the point of cousin dupree? How many masks does one wear?

5/20/2008 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

You mean unmasks?

5/20/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh so you come to Godwin for a laugh, well that's good. If it were for serious discourse I'd be concerned.

5/20/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're merely your own Godwin, only I was trying for new examples.

5/20/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unmask? Whom? You can't unmask anonymous.

5/20/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Watch your step, everybody! Lots of steaming trollpies at your feet.

5/20/2008 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no need to warn them. Taking serious offense to some complete stranger whom you have no clue to their identity is the most irrational thing you could do. And me taking offense in return would be, well how could I take offense you don't even know me. I gain no reputation with a name all may share.

5/20/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many names do you have tho, I mean seriously. If it weren't easy enough to figure out you would think you'd at least try to act like two different people.

5/20/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

My name isn't legion, if that's what you're thinking!

5/20/2008 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not what I was thinking, or even hinting.

5/20/2008 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Anonoweinie's just pissed 'cause he got tagged a one of those pedantic dullards.

Knock youself out Foo' & keep on proving it.

5/20/2008 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

You mean a medullard?

5/20/2008 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Maybe he's gagnostic. Eventually he'll come around, since he won't go away.

5/20/2008 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The One Cosmos family tree is not that complicated. It's not engineering. Let's see if I can get it right.

Gagdad Bob has a wife, Mrs. G. They have a son, Future Leader. Bob also has a cousin (who happens to be mixed race, if that matters to you) living with him who was displaced by Katrina, Dupree (Dupree lives in the garage, where he once tore up the wall looking for the murphy bed that doesn't exist). Dupree has an anima, or "feminine side," Wanda. He also has a pet monkey, Scatter. Oh yes, and they all have a household gnome, Petey.

5/20/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I hope you will pardon the extended quote, from Chesterton's Orthodoxy, one of my favorites:

The madman's explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly,the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; .... if a man says that he is Jesus Christ,it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity;for the world denied Christ's.

Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this:
that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation
is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. ...There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many
modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable MARK of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic's theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way.

5/20/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

*sigh* I'm doing this strictly for clarity - aninnymous, you really aren't worth my time, but since it's possible Sorceror misread me the same way you did and I was actually enjoying that conversation, I'm going to reply.

"It's somewhat ridiculous to think our current limitations cannot be overcome and science cannot explain something, but it is an irrelevant point anyway. Who could honestly thinks that because they can't see something happening, it can't happen. Isn't that somewhat backwards to what you believe anyway, Julie."

Well, if you can explain how written words in any form can actually be a form of energy (inasmuch as they can act as an outside force which literally changes the way another person's brain functions), I'd be delighted to see it. Where's the electron transfer or radio signal or wave particle, in some measure coming from one person's mind and entering another without direct contact? And if it exists, why can't we just read each other's minds? I'd be very surprised if any scientist could come up with a tool to detect it, for the simple reason that it doesn't exist in any material form. Technology can watch the functions of brains as they write and read, but it is highly unlikely to find anything particularly interesting in the light waves that reach the eye from the written page. Is it possible that I'm wrong? Sure, and as soon as someone develops a "meaning" detector that can pick up data transfer signals from a closed book, I will delightedly admit my error (because really, that would be kind of cool).

I have great trust in science, scientific discoveries, and the unparalleled exploration (both macro and micro) enabled by science; without it, I'd be dead several times over already, and without science it is highly unlikely I will ever be able to conceive. I just don't think it's perfect.

5/20/2008 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As to cause and effect (between brain and will), I simply asked which was which. I made no statement about my thoughts on that, but I will now. The answer is, of course, sometimes the chemical processes are the cause, and sometimes it's the will.

When you drive a car, clearly the will behind the driving is yours, not the car's. You decide the destination, the speed, whether or not to obey the traffic laws, etc. But the car has needs, which if ignored will result in all kinds of problems, which the driver ignores at his own peril. It can be damaged in a multitude of ways (internal and external) which limit its performance ability. If it's a golf cart it will never speed like a corvette. If it's a really complex car, it may be able to provide its own directions, request its own maintenance, maybe someday even drive itself, but the will and purpose behind it is always human.

Just so the mind; there is "human intentionality" (the will) and there are all the many needs of the body and brain which, if ignored or damaged, will result in poor function. So often, the physical brain calls the shots (to varying degrees, depending on the person). This doesn't negate the existence of the will, it's simply the result of living in a body and having to work with its limitations.

5/20/2008 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Joining in the verbosity...

Sorceror - As an Engineer, I assume that you accept the abstract laws of logic (i.e identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, etc.) and that they are absolute. I wonder, how do you account for them?

The Christian theistic worldview accounts for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God.
God is transcendent; that is, He is beyond the material universe, being its creator. God has originated the laws of logic because they are a reflection of His nature. Therefore, the laws of logic are absolute. They are absolute because there is an absolute God.

The atheistic worldview cannot account for the laws of logic / absolutes, and must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to rationally argue.

A good atheist answer to this may take some time...but it should be worth it.

HINTS:
1) If you say that the laws of logic are conventions (mutually agreed upon conclusions), then the laws of logic are not absolute because they are subject to "vote."
2)The laws of logic are not dependent upon different peoples minds since people are different. Therefore, they cannot be based on human thinking since human thinking is often contradictory.
3)If you say that the laws of logic are derived through observing natural principles found in nature, then you are confusing the mind with the universe.
-We discover laws of physics by observing and analyzing the behavior of things around us. The laws of logic are not the result of observable behavior of object or actions.
--For example, we do not see in nature that something is both itself and not itself at the same time. Why? Because we can only observe a phenomena that exists, not one that does not exist. If something is not itself, then it doesn't exist. How then can the property of that non-existent thing be observed? It cannot. Therefore, we are not discovering a law of logic by observation, but by thought.
--Or, where do we observe in nature that something cannot bring itself into existence if it does not already exist? You cannot make an observation about how something does not occur if it does not exist. You would be, in essence, observing nothing at all and how can any laws of logic be applied to or derived from observing nothing at all?
-The laws of logic are conceptual realities. They only exist in the mind and they do not describe physical behavior of things since behavior is action and laws of logic are not descriptions of action, but of truth.
--In other words, laws of logic are not actions. They are statements about conceptual patterns of thought. Though one could say that a law of physics (i.e., the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence) is a statement which is conceptual, it is a statement that describes actual physical and observable behavior. But, logical absolutes are not observable and do not describe behavior or actions of things since they reside completely in the mind.
--We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in matter. You don't watch an object NOT bring itself into existence if it doesn't exist. Therefore, no law of logic can be observed by watching nothing.
4)If you appeal to the scientific method to explain the laws of logic then you are using circular argumentation because the scientific method is dependent upon logic; that is, reasoned thought applied to observations.
5)If logic is not absolute, then no logical arguments for or against the existence of God can be raised and you have nothing to work with.
6)If logic is not absolute, then logic cannot be used to prove or disprove anything.

Fun, huh? (credit to carm.org)

5/20/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

A proposition is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true.

5/20/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Hard Stop
it's a fair question
the beginning or the end
on that we agree

5/20/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

...what Petey said.

5/20/2008 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Anon sez Bob is not amusing.

Who knew?

5/20/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Scatter said...

I knew. He told me to never use the slip 'n slide in the house again.

5/20/2008 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Wow.

And people call me a flogger.

5/20/2008 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Someone told me the other day - quantity not quality...or was it the other way around?

D'oh!

(Pssst. I hear Van's a flogger...pass it on.)

5/20/2008 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Van,
"And people call me a flogger"

Yeah, but now I'm probably tapped out for a month or two ;)

5/20/2008 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger LukeBlogWalker said...

A Raccoonish prank, to be sure:

http://www.maniacworld.com/frozen-in-grand-central-station.html

Hey Sorc, if the WX can't be predicted well out passed a few days, how come we can say we're all gonna die from Global Warming in 10 years? Pblffffttttttt!

Try reading, "Mind from Matter" by Max Delbruk (two dots over the U).

Your comparison to Julie's expose and a computer and RAM is silly. Programs are also not just mere electrical impulses, they move based upon the meaning and input interpretation we give them.

Computers don't have, and cannot initiate meaning. Hence a weak structural comparison is rather tiresome... at least to me.

Reminds me of the kid smoking pot in Animal House with Donald Southerland -the old universe in the fingernail thing.

Doug Hofstaedter's work is cool, but hardly challenging. Did you read the followup, "Metamagical Themas" ? (Mathematical Games -The title of his Scientific American column) His further works in AI are also a good read.

As far as other comments on brains and muscles go.. when you learn, your brain restructures and reshapes. Some parts of your brain contain a memory now. But later when recalled, this also has to update in a way on recall -so the learning of it -or experiencing of an event -causing a memory, is not the same meat space as recalling said memory.

Muscles just ain't brain cells.

Also, it would do us well to recall the notion of counterintuitives. I'll spare you that discussion and jump right to the conclusion...

Given two conditions that seem contradictions, people believe what they want.

This tends to supercede intelligence and education.

I also have issues with causality / cause and effect constructs. All to frequently, we view these in terms of Aristotlean logic. In other words, we have A, and not A.

Life is infrequently so binary (bipolar?) ;) -and is more like functions interacting with each other, rather than things, especially not just two things or one thing in two states.

It just ain't that easy.

But, I can understand how if you program a lot, you would over focus your general references into such a confined view. It is an outgrowth of what you can learn, is being influenced by what you have learned.

I agree with Julie, lets go dancing!

:)

-Luke

5/20/2008 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger LukeBlogWalker said...

Hmm link tail was cropped..

http://www.maniacworld.com/frozen-in-grand-central-station.html

5/20/2008 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger LukeBlogWalker said...

Hmmm..

The ending is "station.html"

Grrrrr!

;)

5/20/2008 07:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

Julie: (clapping my hands, as usually saying what I aspire to think)

NoMo: Great argument post

Anonymous: The difference is that Bob's writing takes the two to point to a third that is ineffable (and sometimes also laff-able, not something profane that is effable ;-)

5/20/2008 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

oops - I meant to delete "post" in "great argument post"

5/20/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

There are treats that melt in your mouth or, as a recent ad proclaimed, "explodes in your mouth!". And there are others that don't reveal their flavor until you chew then thoroughly.

It is intriguing that we today live, with a few exceptions, quite long lives, and have numerous tools to finish our daily tasks faster; and yet we seem to always hurry and lack time.

But there are things a hurried mind cannot know, no matter how learned. Learning can only in part replace observation, much less practice, or only for certain purposes.

5/21/2008 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

(BTW, this is 'sorceror' - I noticed that you can change the displayed name w/Google Blogger, and I dislike pseudonyms if I can avoid it.)

Julie - this doesn't really seem to be the forum to get into a detailed discussion of abiogenesis, though I'll be the first to admit that we don't have a fully worked-out theory for how life first arose. There are some interesting hints about how it might work, but that's not the same as a full theory. (Note: I'm using 'theory' in the sense it's used in science, which is more than a 'hunch'. It just seems like I have to cover my bases or get hit for misunderstandings.)

And if you look here or here for 'Ray Ingles' you'll find me acknowledging that our current knowledge doesn't rule out life being planted on Earth, so where exactly did you get the idea that I "deny even the possibility of" a designer? If the first life were planted here, though, I think things might look more like this than what we actually see.

But your primary question is "how written words in any form can actually be a form of energy (inasmuch as they can act as an outside force which literally changes the way another person's brain functions)". Computer programs - in many different forms - affect the way a computer functions - often dramatically. Are they, therefore, 'energy'? Or are they information instead?

They don't act in themselves, of course. Information needs to be actively interpreted and processed. There are any number of books in languages I don't understand that can't change the way my brain functions. (A point made in GEB, as I recall.) If all the people who read a particular form of writing die off, and no 'Rosetta Stone' is found, can that writing be said to 'mean' something, to carry information, anymore? Information doesn't just hover unsupported - it needs a medium and an interpreter. A hypothetical 'meaning detector' would have to be such an interpreter - but of course, that's what AI's working on.

I guess I still don't understand exactly what you're asking. You seem to be claiming that the fact that we need to apply energy - to actually make a physical change in the external world - to encode and communicate our thoughts to others, is evidence that thoughts don't have a physical basis? But if we had telepathy, that would be evidence that minds ultimately had a physical basis?

Information isn't 'transferred' between minds, anyway - it's copied. (That misconception is a primary reason why a whole lot of 'intellectual property' law is so wrongheaded.) In more poetic language (Thomas Jefferson's): "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me." Thought's a process, like flame.

Now, I do "see a distinction between one person reading and contemplating words written by another and a robot performing a function". Humans are, as I said, vastly more complex. Right now, the robots we can build are roughly as complex as insects. But human thought and behavior is much richer and more complex.

The 'strange attractors' Bob mentions? Can't happen in two dimensions, two degrees of freedom. Just won't fit. You need at least three dimensions to allow for the kinds of fractal attractors that display chaos. Not all pendulums display chaos - just the ones that are driven in such a way that they have three degrees of freedom (and even then, there are some other preconditions). But the physics underlying the behavior hasn't changed - F=ma and all that. (Analogously, as you increase heat, substances go through 'phase transitions' - solid, liquid, gas. Same substance, displaying different behaviors.)

So I'm not surprised that humans can display behavior different in kind and not just degree from current computers - I already said they have many more degrees of freedom than robots.

(I don't think science is 'perfect' either, nor do I suspect it ever will be. Perfection isn't possible - but improvement is.)

5/21/2008 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo said "...If something is not itself, then it doesn't exist. How then can the property of that non-existent thing be observed? It cannot. Therefore, we are not discovering a law of logic by observation, but by thought. ..."

Careful Nomo, you're coming dangerously close to doing the Descartesian two-step - there be dragons.

At root, logic rests upon the process of identifying what IS. That process of identification can't happen separately from our experiencing what exists, or by somehow grasping what exists without our experiencing it - they are inextricable. Existence exists, it exists as something, and IT is what we are conscious of. They are the three axioms, like the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, we cannot reach beyond them, or isolate one from the other, there is nothing you can say or do without involving all three, and they are not separable, and any Cartesian or Humian attempt to do so, ends in disaster.

When we open our eyes, we perceive reality automatically, but it takes deliberate intent to differentiate and distinguish between the mass of what we see, into the particulars we can grasp, but that doesn't take us above primitive levels. We have to identify how those perceptions integrate into each other and into concepts and conceptual hierarchies - logic is the art of identifying those relations without contradiction, creating sound, soaring and steady structures, able to either vibrate like a tuning fork to Truth or thud like a wet sausage of random ingredients (see anything by daniel dennett as an example of the later - sorry sorceror, but when your most basic identification is WRONG – who and what you are - what's built upon it isn't inhabitable).

We don't develop our knowledge by rules of logic separately from experience, or by experience separate from logic, but by applying logic to experience, identifying and integrating what we experience, our expanding grasp of what is True comes from our logically identifying that which exists, and within which we exist - the deeper the correct identification of integrations, the deeper our understanding and experiencing of Truth.

As Petey said, "A proposition is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true." Existence pre-exists our thoughts, and our thoughts arise from our experience of it, logic is as much a part of reality as gravity, whether or not you follow its rules you can't ask a single question or make a single statement without invoking logic, anymore than you can take a single step upon the earth outside the influence of gravity. Aristotle didn't invent logic anymore than Newton did Gravity - they only noticed, observed and codified the facts of reality so that we may understand and function within it better. As Ayn Rand put it "Logic is the Art of non-contradictory identification", and I think that captures it well.

Our conceptual minds may enable us to build and operate within neural net patterns with 3D depth (at the minimum), but Aristotle's rules of logic are the linear tool we have to test the structure and soundness of our thought... like measuring the sides of a triangle with a ruler, or the squareness of a joint... and though our thought isn't confined to the linear, our way of checking it is.

You have a choice - you can recognize that, or not, you can adhere to the requirements of that, or not, but you can't escape either its rules, or what those rules are rules of. You can be sloppy, building little or no correspondence between your thoughts and reality as it is, or you can be deliberate and aware. The more soundly it checks out, the higher and deeper and steadier the structures of thought we can build, and through that we experience Truth, by factually identifying things as they are within a context, we bring our thoughts into resonance with what IS... and whatever it is that WE ARE, which motivates and inhabits these minds we build... it begins to thrum like a tuning fork at that sympathetic resonance.

5/21/2008 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

lukeblogwalker - "Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get." You'll note that Bob wrote: "...despite countless variables, you could create a map showing that the springtime temperature in my area is always within a phase space between, say, 54 and 95 degrees."

It's called 'climate change', not 'weather change' for a reason. I'm not 100% convinced either, but I don't dismiss it in principle - some different principles are involved than the forecast in the daily news.

If you look at what I said to Julie, you'll find that I agree that "Life... is more like functions interacting with each other, rather than things, especially not just two things or one thing in two states."

5/21/2008 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

ray ingles said “A hypothetical 'meaning detector' would have to be such an interpreter - but of course, that's what AI's working on.”

Mystical complexity worship, and nothing but. Complexity in computers is nothing but the very simple – and unalive - repeated in elaborate patterns. Nothing different than an abacus, or a string of wooden dominoes tipping over, except that we use electricity to move them, instead of the finger – but it will never have that which moves the finger.

Having an artificial intelligence (emphasis on the first word), will not be intelligence in any meaningful way, other than it will allow our own preprogrammed decision patterns to be stored and applied exceedingly fast. It will be remarkable and useful to the nth degree, but it will not be alive, or conscious, or intelligent outside our context.

Consciousness will not arise from 1’s and 0’s, no matter how complex you arrange them.

There will be no ‘I’ in that intelligence. An elaborate system of abacuses and dominoes, nothing more, and no more alive than those.

5/21/2008 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

nomo - I wonder if you have any children? Ours watch "The Fairly Oddparents" sometimes. One of the characters used magic to change things so that "2+2=fish". If the laws of logic come from God, could God do the same thing? If not, why not? If God's prior to logic...

The fundamental rules of logic arise from definition - they're the kinds of things that can't not be - but that doesn't mean that their consequences are arbitrary or subject to vote. No matter how you define the natural numbers - and there are many ways - they all offer paths to Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.

Then there are different systems. In Euclidean geometry, given a line and a point, there's only one coplanar, non-intersecting (parallel) line through that point. In hyperbolic geometry, there's more than one parallel line through that point. Elliptic geometry doesn't have any parallel lines through that point. Change one postulate of Euclid's geometry and you get these entire different systems, with different theorems. In essence, the incompleteness theorem just means that we can have infinitely many such systems.

We use mathematics to study the real world, but the mappings are subject to convention and vote and revision. In physics, you usually discard the 'imaginary' roots of an equation, but electrical engineering uses imaginary numbers all the time. Consider that the geometry of Euclid used to be the 'real' geometry, but Einstein showed that hyperbolic geometry was a better fit.

Then there's quantum mechanics, where we've got a good, accurate mathematical model but no one's sure what exactly it's modelling.

Like I said before, I think Van and I could get along reasonably well. He comes at this from a different angle, but... well, like I just said about systems of natural numbers and incompleteness.

(Obviously we disagree on some things - some things he sees as WRONG, I see as 'counterintuitive', but...)

5/21/2008 06:29:00 AM  
Anonymous wizard said...

It was more fun when he was "sorceror".

5/21/2008 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

And sorceray, if your ideas of artificial intelligence are true, don't you risk becoming the negligent and narcistic god to your minevian programs? Or will you excuse yourself from "...substantial duties and responsibilities toward those beings."... you know, allowing mutations, one program destroying another for your amusement, 'struggling' to adapt, etc, since they'll be lessor 'creatures' operating in a different plane - afterall, you just want to create artificial intelligence to see how it turns out, right?

5/21/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

mushroom - Yup, with paranoids, everything happens because of the Conspiracy. Then there's nomo, where everything, even logic, comes down to God... :->

5/21/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

One must fervently hope that artificial intelligence is impossible by the rules of the universe. But just in case, it should be outlawed.

The hubris of wanting to create a consciousness, when one does not even understand one's own, is comparable to very few things in human history. It is more on the mythic scale of the Tower of Babel.

5/21/2008 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

(It goes without saying that I had not read Van's latest reply while writing my own.)

5/21/2008 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - If I thought the minevian programs were sentient, then yes, I'd be a lot more worried about how they are handled. Since I don't think they have anywhere near that many degrees of freedom, morals don't enter into it... yet.

Once we get closer to AI, we probably will need ethics committees to vet AI experiments. Potential advantages can outweigh risks, but care should be taken.

5/21/2008 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"The fundamental rules of logic arise from definition... "

Eh! Sorry, no, logic precedes definition - you can't arrive at a definition using without logic.

Fundamentals...

;-)

5/21/2008 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Once we get closer to AI, we probably will need ethics committees to vet AI experiments..."

Bwahahhaha...ahhhHHHBwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!

PCCCCCCCCCCC nuttery!!! I look forwards to the three laws!!!!

5/21/2008 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van, as you say, "Complexity in computers is nothing but the very simple – and unalive - repeated in elaborate patterns."

So's genetics and molecular biology. It's just chemistry, atoms banging into each other. It's called 'organic chemistry' because it was once the study of the chemistry of living things, and was considered to an entirely different discipline from regular chemistry. Now it just means 'the chemistry of carbon compounds'.

Turns out the same chemical rules that govern soda fizz also govern "a delicate and complex mechanism which is capable... of reproducing itself indefinitely often." You just need a lot of chemicals in a relatively specific configuration.

You can reject the notion of AI a priori, but aside from vigorous handwaving to what's "obvious", a la Haldane, I've not seen a good, solid case for that.

5/21/2008 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

sorceray, I wouldn't be surprised if we got along quite well, but I've no doubt that, as with my dear friend from band days, it would be very loudly.

I also suspect, that your aside about Intellectual Property would be the center of one of the loudest exchanges. While it is certainly easier to give away copies of manuscripts, music or software than it is to do so with iPods, that ease is completely irrelevant to the issue.Everything is intellectual property... an iPod, no less than "I, Robot", or an operating system - the ease of conveying the creations of the intellect, or the amount or lack of material objects used to embody and convey them, makes no fundamental change in regards to the application of Property Rights.

5/21/2008 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

You're pretty funny, Ray. We basically agree on many of the same facts and fundamentals, but there is a conclusion which you are completely unWilling to reach, even though all the evidence practically shouts its name. You seem more willing to believe that life on this planet was seeded from somewhere else than from someOne else, even though you acknowledge how unlikely the alien seeding theory is. But even if that were the case, how would you explain the existence of the aliens?

You've given tons of links to other peoples' thoughts on God.

What are your thoughts? Do you think God is possible? Because ultimately that's the only question that matters.

5/21/2008 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"So's genetics and molecular biology. It's just chemistry, atoms banging into each other."

(blink)

I believe I've been trying to make that point as well for some time. Consciousness isn't reducible to chemical reactions anymore than it is to 1's and 0's. That can create the necessary machinery, but it is empty without us - somehow we get into the equation and we have no earthly idea of how, but however that happens, it's not due to algorithms.

A point I've made before and elsewhere, try this as a thought experiment: anything that can be programmed into a computer, could, given an elaborate enough wood workers workshop, could be built as an elaborate set of wooden contraptions of levers and dominoes, as was Babbage’s original idea for computers (think the Professor on Gilligan’s Island). Now with that in mind, is there any amount of detailed programming, any additional redundant and self referencing, restacking, sets of dominoes and levers, gears & cranes that could be rigged up, which if you gave it a question, and it returned the appropriate Turing type answer, is there any way that you could imagine that set of wooden levers and gears as being consciousness and alive? As thinking?

Adding electricity and silicon chips to the scenario really changes nothing, only the space you need to accomplish it in, and no matter how intricate the program, and I do foresee computers being able to simulate human like feats of analysis, recognition, even in a limited fashion, creative acts, even ‘communicate’ with us - but it will be a simulation only, it will remain an 'It" not an "I", machine not awareness. There is nothing a computer does, that is not preprogrammed; no matter the fuzziness of the logic, it is set up as an instruction, hardcoded by a programmer. And a computer never, ever, EVER makes an error - only living humans do.

Computers produce results exactly in accordance with the laws of physics, and though the results are often NOT what we expected, that is due to programmer error or oversight, or mechanical limitation or breakdown - never an error; error, in our sense of the word, is impossible to it.

There is something that is 'created' with life, perhaps is life, that is analogous to a (warning: scary word coming) 'Soul', awareness, which, although given a hospitable environment or fertile area to develop from by genetics, is not reducible to it. Is it analogous to a magnetic field? A force? A building set of vibrations given off by each cell, which cumulatively build into a shared vibrational intensity which results in an ability to react to and push and pull the biological levers of the body? Any such speculations are just unavoidably reduced to such silly speculations, but it, soul, consciousness, "I", is there, and I think the biologists, and A.I. people need to get over their superstitious fears of consciousness, soul, whatever they want to refer to it as - independent self aware and activating feedback loop?... Ayn Rand, as thorough going an atheist as there ever has been, had no problem using and saying the word 'soul', in a completely secular meaning, as referring to something that arises from biology, but is not reducible to it, and whose actions are not determined by the physical stuff of genetics, and which ends with the body that gave rise to it.

Obviously the body is interacted with by consciousness, and vice versa, and body and brain gives consciousness the ability to gain more depth & ability, and damaged or failing 'components' can send the whole thing out of whack, but IT isn't Us. And IT, though influencing to us, doesn't control whatever it is that is US, we ultimately do, control (if we choose to), IT.

That was a long hard conclusion for me to come to grips with, but it is logically inescapable; to me, imagining the genetic equivalent of wooden gears and levers magically gaining conscious awareness via more and more complexity, together with the self evident awareness of 'me', leaves me no choice. The idea that elaborate tinker toys and lincoln logs could ever Wonder, or even make a simple error - let alone an error as massive as 'I think therefore I am', is, I think, far more superstitious than the alternative. There is something else involved in consciousness and awareness, which we haven’t yet isolated or identified, but it darn sure isn’t purely material.

Fortunately you do have the ability to examine it first hand, and you can discover proof of yourself, you may even find in your furthest explorations, an inwardly outwards path towards something that seems… well… you’ll have to fill in the blank – and for the most part, your discoveries remain under lock and inner key. You can talk about what you find, but since you can’t pass the evidence around to be examined, the talk is never quite able to describe the experience… the poetic is about as rigidly descriptive as you can get… I suppose you could start off with “In the beginning…”

5/21/2008 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Ray - Only the Perfect Infinite Being can create other beings "in His image". On their own, those created beings, willfully imperfect, can only attempt copies - and feeble ones at best.

Are you Real or are you memorex?

5/21/2008 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous wizard said...

What about artificial free will?

5/21/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - I've been accused of missing points here, but I'm afraid I have to bring that up with you.

It used to be considered 'obvious' that living things - even at the level of a cell - were so different in kind, not merely degree, from other types of matter that the standard laws of chemistry just couldn't be applied to life. That is exactly what Haldane was saying. Not consciousness - life itself.

Except for some oddballs like the Christian Scientists, nobody really takes that seriously anymore. In just a few decades, it became utterly clear that, yeah, the things that make biology special - and biology is special, I'm not denying that - are still, at root, 'just' atoms banging into each other. On Earth, self-reproducing systems only happen with carbon-based chemicals. But we there's no barrier to imagining us making such systems out of silicon and metal, or even more exotic materials.

We can call this "Haldane's Error" - thinking that completely different laws must apply to some phenomena not yet understood. People committed it with lightning, comets, earthquakes, etc. They committed it with life.

Life is a very different phenomena than non-life, true - just as chaotic motion is quite different from the non-chaotic variety. But they're made from the same building blocks.

You predict that consciousness can't arise - or at least, can't find root - in anything but living things. It used to be chemical doctrine that organic chemicals could not be synthesized from inorganic ones. That prediction proved false. Haldane's prediction was that no 'mechanism' could account for the behaviors of the cell nucleus... and that proved false when DNA was discovered.

I'm just asking... what if yours does, too? Haldane couldn't imagine a way for cells to 'work', but one was found. What if we just haven't had the right insight or discovery yet? I'm being beseeched to "imagine it possible [I] may be mistaken." Why can't I ask if you're committing Haldane's Error?

We can't build consciousness yet, but destruction is easier than creation. We can see that there's no sharp dividing line, no single moment where we can say "this wasn't conscious, but now it is," or vice versa. I hope you haven't had to witness the late stages of Alzheimer's. Perhaps it's a failure of imagination on my part, but I have a hard time seeing what's left when the brain is destroyed as the original person in any meaningful sense. When evidence contradicts intuition - and I think dualistically as easily as anyone else - I tend to go with the evidence.

5/21/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

wizard said... "What about artificial free will?"

See democrat party usage of 'super delegates'

5/21/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Julie - I haven't exactly hidden the executive summary. Like Laplace, I've had no need of that hypothesis yet. I'm most sympathetic to the Deist conception - I'd imagine if anything did design the universe, it'd probably not need to tinker with it afterwards.

(That's why, even if we did prove that abiogenesis happened without any intelligent help, it wouldn't disprove God(s). It'd undermine an argument for God(s), but that's not the same thing.)

5/21/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Sorcray said:
"One of the characters used magic to change things so that "2+2=fish". If the laws of logic come from God, could God do the same thing? If not, why not? If God's prior to logic..."

hmmm, this seems to imply that you're thinking the Logos unfolds in a capricious manner, on a whim or a fancy: the Logos 'does' whatever it feels-like at the moment, Consistency be damned.

Not so.

Quick definitions (consistency)

# noun: a harmonious uniformity or agreement among things or parts
# noun: (logic) an attribute of a logical system that is so constituted that none of the propositions deducible from the axioms contradict one another
# noun: the property of holding together and retaining its shape
# noun: logical coherence and accordance with the facts

Logos=Absolute=Truth=Consistency=Logical Coherence.

Part of the Great Mystery of the Logos is how all the 'parts' that we can 'see' & those we can't, are seamlessly consistent & coherent, feeding both into & out of 'themselves'. Think Mobius Strip. That's the Cosmic Order were addressing here at OC. Congruously, we labeled this 'O'.

Could God make 2+2=fish? Would God? Only if 2+2 already = fish, and is already True, even tho possibly WE don't yet comprehend why or how, or have an incomplete understanding on OUR part, of what WE call 'fish'.

Logos=God=Absolute=Truth=Consistency=
Logical Coherence. All of a package.

5/21/2008 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous el primo Dupree said...

No habla ingles.

5/21/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

sorceray said "It used to be chemical doctrine that organic chemicals could not be synthesized from inorganic ones. That prediction proved false. Haldane's prediction was that no 'mechanism' could account for the behaviors of the cell nucleus... and that proved false when DNA was discovered."

I think you mistake the material for the actuality. DNA is a living mechanism within a living body. You can't just assemble the correct rna molecules, etc, and have them commence to building (which is not the same thing as retrieving DNA from dead matter, and influencing a living cell).

When a doctor applies the shock paddles and restarts a person’s heart, he doesn't say (acts like it perhaps, but doesn't say) that he's created life - he's merely brought about the conditions necessary for it to resume.

I take it as a given that the universe contains by its nature, all that is necessary for the creation, and evolution of life. I don't believe that we are yet aware of all of the contents of the universe, and I don't believe that atoms and molecules are all of the necessary constituent parts. I am saying that there is something else present, which we know not what, that is not merely the product of a complex arrangement of atoms and molecules, or 1/s and 0's. And even in the event that we someday discover that ... let’s call them 'puffles', are the stuff of consciousness, and if you add a touch of salt to them, viola! Consciousness! You will still have something that is free and independent of the machinery that gave rise to it.

There is a 'You' in you, that is not merely chemical reaction and molecular activity - those are part of the process, but they are not in and of themselves, the process. Is it life working through the mechanism of the brain which makes consciousness possible? Is consciousness something separate or auxiliary to it, which 'seats' in hospitable living things, those with requisite brainish material? Don't know, and as I said before, such speculations shorn of the necessary facts, cannot amount to anything other than sheer speculation, usually silly sounding in the extreme. We. Don't. Know. (Yet...?).

You want to investigate that further? Fine. But don't posture as if you have enough of the facts to make pronouncements about it. It is still silly, and usually in the extreme. Artificial Intelligence will be directed calculation only, which to us intelligent creatures, will have a possibility of being put to use for intelligent purposes, no different than a pocket calculator, just on a massively inflated scale.

But on the basis of 1's and 0's alone... there will be no "I" in that artificial intelligence - and you don't know why, and due in large part to your insistence on ignoring the obvious, you, the dennett's and the rest, like the cardinal refusing to look through Galileo's telescope, will not be the ones to get any closer to an answer.

5/21/2008 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - "DNA is a living mechanism within a living body. You can't just assemble the correct rna molecules, etc, and have them commence to building..."

So... given advanced nanotechnology, if we assembled a duplicate cell from raw materials, molecularly identical to a living example... it would just sit there, inert, and not function? Is that a prediction of yours, or do I misunderstand?

I don't claim to have all the answers. I acknowledge that I don't have the answers on consciousness. I didn't even claim to know AI is possible.

But I question those who are likewise unsure but nevertheless seem utterly confident about where the answer isn't. And I don't see them make a better case than Haldane's. (That doesn't mean they're wrong, it just means they don't make a good case.)

5/21/2008 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ray - thanks for the link to your faq, but actually I didn't ask what you believe. I asked what you think - is God (by which I mean an as-yet-undefined-because-unknown being existing outside of the universe as we know and experience it) possible? That's all.

If no, what are the implications?

If yes, what are the implications?

And I don't mean heaven and hell, be-good-or-else, etc; rather, the much broader implications about the conditions necessary to create life (or for it to just happen), and the question of why something would want to do that anyway (for the "yes" question). What purpose does life serve?

You don't have to answer those last two questions here, they're just something to think about.

5/21/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Julie - sorry, I wasn't explicit in what I wrote before, you're right. I do think 'one-or-more-beings-that-exist-outside-the-universe-we-know-and-experience' is possible. It just doesn't seem likely, based on what I've seen and experienced so far.

(And without a more specific idea, I don't think it's possible to narrow down the implications. I mean, this would fit such a description, but I don't think it's what you're getting at. (That strikes me as... unlikely, too, of course.))

5/21/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

sorceray said "So... given advanced nanotechnology, if we assembled a duplicate cell from raw materials, molecularly identical to a living example... it would just sit there, inert, and not function? Is that a prediction of yours, or do I misunderstand?"

Sigh. Again venturing into sheer speculation... barely removed from arbitrary... but my suspicion is that it would remain inert and lifeless. My guess would be that the assembly process has quite alot to do with it... sort of like if you were to toss all of the ingredients into a bowl, without mixing and baking, it just sits there icky and inert... or, covering all bets, if it did work, it would be due to more of a situation of, assuming (seems a necessary emphasis here) all of the correct structure and calibrations having been set, it would then be able to 'receive signal'... again... silly speculation - 'from where' being the least of the next questions....

"But I question those who are likewise unsure but nevertheless seem utterly confident about where the answer isn't."

When you know the characteristics of the materials others are hunting for answers in, and what answer they are expecting to find in those materials which other's think the answers are to be found in - well then, confidence isn't that difficult to establish. If you're hunting for a full grown elephant in my dresser drawers... I'll feel pretty comfortable in smacking you upside the head. Ditto for the search for intelligence in mechanical processes.

Not making predictions, only judgments based on the evidence at hand, and that is that jiggering chemicals and 1's and 0's ain't gonna do it, and any artificial intelligence will only contain intelligence in the eye of the beholder.

5/21/2008 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

sorceray, from the opening of your "as easily as anyone else - " link above, I can't tell you how much I reject every bit of this:

"In the domain of bodies, most of us accept that common sense is wrong. We concede that apparently solid objects are actually mostly empty space, consisting of tiny particles and fields of energy. Perhaps the same sort of reconciliation will happen in the domain of souls, and it will come to be broadly recognized that our dualist belief system, though intuitively appealing, is factually mistaken. Perhaps we will all come to agree with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and join the side of the "brights": those who reject the supernatural and endorse the world-view established by science."

In the domain of reality, those who reject common sense, are usually common fools.

"We concede that apparently solid objects are actually mostly empty space, consisting of tiny particles and fields of energy"
No, I don't accept that in any way shape of form. It is an equivocation on scale, meant to cast doubt where no doubt belongs, for the purposes of advancing skepticism and self doubt as fundamentals. Solid objects, on our level, where we live, operate and think, are solid objects. Please grasp the nearest marble block and slam it into your skull to test this assertion. Deep in at the molecular and atomic level, you'll indeed find relatively great expanses between 'objects', but those expanses are no barrier to, and an intrinsic part of creating the fully solid objects which exist on up the macro level.

"Perhaps the same sort of reconciliation will happen in the domain of souls, and it will come to be broadly recognized that our dualist belief system, though intuitively appealing, is factually mistaken."

That dualistic belief system is bought into only by those who were duped by intellectual stunts such as the 'mostly empty space' ploy above, or the rationalism flowing from Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc. Such notions end up viewing your 'soul' as something like a fanny pack which you want to be sure not to misplace or sit upon. Those who don't grasp the tripartite unity of reality in philosophic or religious terms, will end up unable to grasp, hold or defend the Good, the Beautiful and the True.

"...all come to agree with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and join the side of the "brights": those who reject the supernatural and endorse the world-view established by science."

And there you have the stunted minds meant to cash in on these 'ideas', putting forward their superstitious interpretation of science entailed in all of the preceding.

Ugh.

Well, dinner’s over, back to work. Hope I get to get to today's post.

5/21/2008 05:54:00 PM  

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