The Hard Problem of Signaling



PDF – The Hard Problem of Signaling TSC2018



The Hard Problem of Signaling is the notion that it is not only the connection between brain and mind which suffer from an Explanatory Gap, but that the very same gap exists between all physical entities and all semantic entities. Where David Chalmers’ Hard Problem of Consciousness has to contend with side issues of human neurology’s unique complexity and complex uniqueness of human subjectivity, the gap between mechanism and signal, or formation and information can be asserted using only the self-sufficiency of physics plus Occam’s Razor.The work of Gödel, Turing, and Kleene enabled us to reduce all of computation to mechanical behaviors, we overlook the fact that there is a missing ingredient which would be necessary to reverse that reduction. Philosophically, we are left with a crypto-dualism between physics and computation in which information “about” physical events somehow survives the causal closure of physics, yet are not tainted as phenomenal experience has been by being labeled supernatural or subjective.Physics and computer science both give us an a masculine absolutist universe of “effects without affects”. To correct this bias and restore the unity of the tangible and the intangible, we must begin to realize that effects can ultimately only exist as changes in some ‘medium of affect’ (sensory-aesthetic presentation). By recognizing the hard problem of signaling, we acknowledge the equal role of affect in defining and relating all phenomena to each other.
Do neural nets dream of electric fish? In the Western and Central Pacific, where 60% of the world’s tuna is caught, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices are threatening marine ecosystems, global seafood supplies and local livelihoods.In 2017, The Nature Conservancy launched a competition to track fishing boats and repurpose facial recognition algorithms to identify illegally-caught fish.² With a super-human ability to track data about what fish are being caught and to alert the appropriate wardens to take action, it may appear that such a system has an almost omniscient grasp of the fishing industry and the environment, however it would be silly to imagine that this data could give any insight into the nature of fish themselves or the human demand for them.We can think of the behavior of a machine which is designed to simulate intelligence as being like a mirror to the world of natural intelligence. While the simulation is useful to extend our understanding of the world and of simulation, it is important not to mistake the map for the territory. We should understand that between the concrete territory that physics gives us, and the abstract map that computer science discovers, there can be no bridge without consciousness. It is not a conceptual bridge or a mechanical bridge, it is a metaphorical bridge, held together with direct participation and perception.
If it eats like a duck and poops like a duck, does it know what direction to fly in the Winter? In 1739, Jacque de Vaucanson unveiled Canard Digérateur (Digesting Duck), a life-size mechanical duck which appeared to eat kernels of grain, then metabolize and defecate them.³Vaucanson describes the duck’s innards as a small “chemical laboratory.” But it was a hoax: Food was collected in one container, and pre-made breadcrumb ‘feces’ were dispensed from a second, separate container. On the surface, Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck appeared to be a compelling reconstruction of a real duck. The analogy to AGI here is not to suggest it is possible that the appearance of an intelligent machine is a mere trick, but that the issue of artifice may play a much more crucial role in defining the phenomenon of subjectivity than it will appear to in observing the biological objects associated with our consciousness in particular. Consciousness itself, as the ultimate source of authenticity, may have no substitute.
If a doll can be made to shed tears without feeling sad, there is no reason to rule out the possibility of constructing an unfeeling machine which can output enough human-like behaviors to pass an arbitrarily sophisticated Turing Test. A test itself is a method of objectifying and making tangible some question that we have.Can we really expect the most intangible and subjective aspects of consciousness to render themselves tangible using methods designed for objectivity? When we view the world through a lens — a microscope, language, the human body — the lens does not disappear, and what we see should tell us as much, if not more, about the lens and the seeing as it does about the world. If math and physics reveal to us a world in which we don’t really exist, and what does exist are skeletal simulating ephemera, it may be because it is the nature of math and physics to simulate and ephemeralize.The very act of reduction imposed intentionally by quantifying approaches may increasingly feed back on its own image the further we get from our native scope of direct perception. In creating intelligence simulation machines we are investing in the most distanced and generic surface appearances of nature that we can access and using them to replace our most intimate and proprietary depths. An impressive undertaking, to be sure, but we should be vigilant about letting our expectations and assumptions blind us.Not overlooking the looking glass means paying attention in our methods to which perceptual capacities we are extending and which we are ignoring. Creating machines that walk like a duck and quack like a duck may be enough to fool even other ducks, but that doesn’t mean that the most essential aspects of a duck are walking and quacking. It may be the case that subjective consciousness cannot be engineered from the outside-in, so that putting hardware and software together to create a person would be a bit like trying to recreate World War II with uniforms and actors. A person, like a historical event may only arise in a single, unrepeatable historical context.Our human experience caries with it a history of generations of organisms and organic events, not just as biological recapitulations, but as a continuous enrichment of sensory affect and participation. Humanity’s path diverged from the inorganic path long, long ago, and it may take just as long for any inorganic substance to be usable to host the types of experience available to us, if ever. The human qualities of consciousness may not develop in any context other than that of directly experiencing the life of a human body in a human society.



Yes. That’s a quokka. Indigenous to Western Australia, they have been called ‘The Happiest Animal on Earth’. He is here to remind you that pictures don’t have to be happy to make you feel happy. If delving into the world of weird ideas about the nature of consciousness makes you happy, you can find me, Craig Weinberg around the internet on sites like Quora and Kialo. Thanks for stopping by and reading the fine print!
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