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How to Tell if Your p-Zombie has Blindsight, Falling in a Chinese Forest

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

In order to make the question of philosophical zombiehood more palatable, it is a good idea to first reduce the scope of the question from consciousness in general to a particular kind of awareness, such as visual awareness or sight.

consciousness (general awareness)     |    particular awareness (sight)

Building on this analogy, we can now say that an equivalent of a philosophical zombie (p-Zombie) as far as sight is concerned might be a person who is blind, but uses a seeing eye dog to ‘see’.

As with blindsight, there seeing eye dog provides a case where a person is informed about optical conditions in the world, but without the benefit of first person phenomenal experience of seeing. The blind person sees no visual qualia – no colors, no shapes, no brightness or contrast, yet from all appearances they may be indistinguishable from a sighted person who is walking their dog.

Staying with the analogy to consciousness in general:

(a p-Zombie) is to (a Blind person w/ guide dog)
as a
(Conscious subject) is to (a person walking dog)

Some might object to this analogy, saying that because a p-Zombie is defined as appearing and behaving in every way like a conscious subject, and a sighted person walking their dog might not always act the same as a blind person with a guide dog. It’s true, in the dark, the sighted person would be at a disadvantage avoiding obstacles in their path, while the blind person might not be affected.

This, however, is a red herring that arises from the hasty definition of philosophical zombie as one who appears identical in every way to a conscious subject, rather than one who can appear identical in many ways. Realistically, there may not even be a way to know whether there is any such thing as a set of ways that a conscious being behaves. A conscious being can pretend to be unconscious, so right away this is a problem that may not resolvable.

Each conscious being is different at different times, so that presuming that consciousness in general has a unique signature that can be verified is begging the question. Even if two simple things seemed to be identical for some period of time, there might be a chance that their behavior will diverge eventually, either by itself, or in response to some condition that brings out a latent difference.

So let’s forget about the strong formulation of p-Zombie and look instead at the more sensible weak formulation of w-Zombie as an unconscious object which can be reliably mistaken for a conscious subject under some set of conditions, for some audience, for some period of time.

By this w-Zombie standard, the guide dog’s owner makes a good example of how one system (blind person + sighted dog) can be functionally identical to another (sighted person + sighted dog), without any phenomenal property (blind person gaining sight) emerging. As with the Chinese Room, the resulting output of the room does not reflect an internal experience, and the separate functions which produce the output do not transfer their experience to the ‘system’ as a whole.

From the guide dog analogy, we can think about bringing the functionality of the dog ‘in house’. The dog can be a robot dog, which can then be miniaturized as a brain implant. In this way a blind person could have the functionality of a guide dog’s sight without seeing anything. It would be interesting to see how the recipient of such an implant’s brain would integrate the input from it. From neuroscientific studies that have been conducted so far, which shows that in blind people’s brains, tactile stimulation such as reading Braille, shows up in the visual cortex. I would expect that the on-board seeing-eye dog would similarly show up, at least in part, in the regions of the brain normally associated with vision, so that we have a proof of concept of a w-Zombie. If we had separate digitized animals to handle each of our senses, we could theoretically create an object which behaves enough like a human subject, even within the brain, that it would qualify as a weak p-Zombie.

As a final note, we can apply this understanding to the oft misquoted philosophical saw ‘If a tree falls in a forest…’. Instead of asking whether a sound exists without anyone to hear it, we can reverse it and ask whether someone who is awakened from a dream of a tree falling in the forest which nobody else heard, was there a sound?

The answer has to be yes. The subjective experience of a sound was still experienced even though there is no other evidence of it.  In the same way, we can dream of seeing sunlight without our eyes receiving photons from the sun. We can say that seeing light or hearing sound does not require a concurrent physical stimulation but we cannot say that physics requires any such qualia as seeing light or hearing sound. To the contrary, we have shown above that there is no empirical support for the idea that physical functions could or would automatically generate qualia.Thus, the case for materialism and functionalism is proved in the negative, and the fallacy of the systems reply to Searle is revealed.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon. – Pink Floyd

Intelligence Maximizes Entropy?

April 23, 2013 5 comments

Intelligence Maximizes Entropy?

A new idea linking intelligence to entropy that is giving me something to think about.

“[…]intelligent behavior emerges from the “physical process of trying to capture as many future histories as possible,”

This sounds familiar to me. I have been calling my cosmological model the Sole Entropy Well, or Negentropic Monopoly, in which all signals (experiences) are diffracted from a single eternal experience, the content of which is the capacity to experience. I think that this is the same principle in this paper, called “causal entropic forces”, except in reverse. I wrote recently about how intelligence is rooted in public space while wisdom is about private time.

I think that causal entropic forces are about preserving a ‘float’ of high entropy on top of time. It’s like juggling – you want to suspend as many potentials as you can at “a” time and compensate for any potential threats before they can happen “in” time. Behind the causal entropic force, it seems to me that there must always be a core which is not entropic. That which seeks to entropically harness the future is itself motivated by the countervailing force for itself – to escape the harness of entropy.

None of this, however, addresses the Hard Problem. To the contrary, if this model is correct, then it is even more difficult to justify the existence of aesthetic sense, since all of the public effects of intelligence can be explained by thermodynamics.

Article: “A single equation grounded in basic physics principles could describe intelligence and stimulate new insights in fields as diverse as finance and robotics, according to new research. 

Alexander Wissner-Gross, a physicist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cameron Freer, a mathematician at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, developed an equation that they say describes many intelligent or cognitive behaviors, such as upright walking and tool use. 
 
The researchers suggest that intelligent behavior stems from the impulse to seize control of future events in the environment. This is the exact opposite of the classic science-fiction scenario in which computers or robots become intelligent, then set their sights on taking over the world. 
 
The findings describe a mathematical relationship that can “spontaneously induce remarkably sophisticated behaviors associated with the human ‘cognitive niche,’ including tool use and social cooperation, in simple physical systems,” the researchers wrote in a paper published today in the journal Physical Review Letters.  
 
“It’s a provocative paper,” said Simon DeDeo, a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, who studies biological and social systems. “It’s not science as usual.”
 
Wissner-Gross, a physicist, said the research was “very ambitious” and cited developments in multiple fields as the major inspirations. 
 
The mathematics behind the research comes from the theory of how heat energy can do work and diffuse over time, called thermodynamics. One of the core concepts in physics is called entropy, which refers to the tendency of systems to evolve toward larger amounts of disorder. The second law of thermodynamics explains how in any isolated system, the amount of entropy tends to increase. A mirror can shatter into many pieces, but a collection of broken pieces will not reassemble into a mirror.
 
The new research proposes that entropy is directly connected to intelligent behavior.
 
“[The paper] is basically an attempt to describe intelligence as a fundamentally thermodynamic process,” said Wissner-Gross.
 
The researchers developed a software engine, called Entropica, and gave it models of a number of situations in which it could demonstrate behaviors that greatly resemble intelligence. They patterned many of these exercises after classic animal intelligence tests.  
 
In one test, the researchers presented Entropica with a situation where it could use one item as a tool to remove another item from a bin, and in another, it could move a cart to balance a rod standing straight up in the air. Governed by simple principles of thermodynamics, the software responded by displaying behavior similar to what people or animals might do, all without being given a specific goal for any scenario.
 
“It actually self-determines what its own objective is,” said Wissner-Gross. “This [artificial intelligence] does not require the explicit specification of a goal, unlike essentially any other [artificial intelligence].”
 
Entropica’s intelligent behavior emerges from the “physical process of trying to capture as many future histories as possible,” said Wissner-Gross. Future histories represent the complete set of possible future outcomes available to a system at any given moment.
 
Wissner-Gross calls the concept at the center of the research “causal entropic forces.” These forces are the motivation for intelligent behavior. They encourage a system to preserve as many future histories as possible. For example, in the cart-and-rod exercise, Entropica controls the cart to keep the rod upright. Allowing the rod to fall would drastically reduce the number of remaining future histories, or, in other words, lower the entropy of the cart-and-rod system. Keeping the rod upright maximizes the entropy. It maintains all future histories that can begin from that state, including those that require the cart to let the rod fall.
 
“The universe exists in the present state that it has right now. It can go off in lots of different directions. My proposal is that intelligence is a process that attempts to capture future histories,” said Wissner-Gross.
 
The research may have applications beyond what is typically considered artificial intelligence, including language structure and social cooperation.
 
DeDeo said it would be interesting to use this new framework to examine Wikipedia, and research whether it, as a system, exhibited the same behaviors described in the paper.
 
“To me [the research] seems like a really authentic and honest attempt to wrestle with really big questions,” said DeDeo.
 
One potential application of the research is in developing autonomous robots, which can react to changing environments and choose their own objectives.
 
“I would be very interested to learn more and better understand the mechanism by which they’re achieving some impressive results, because it could potentially help our quest for artificial intelligence,” said Jeff Clune, a computer scientist at the University of Wyoming.
 
Clune, who creates simulations of evolution and uses natural selection to evolve artificial intelligence and robots, expressed some reservations about the new research, which he suggested could be due to a difference in jargon used in different fields.
Wissner-Gross indicated that he expected to work closely with people in many fields in the future in order to help them understand how their fields informed the new research, and how the insights might be useful in those fields.
 
The new research was inspired by cutting-edge developments in many other disciplines.  Some cosmologists have suggested that certain fundamental constants in nature have the values they do because otherwise humans would not be able to observe the universe. Advanced computer software can now compete with the best human players in chess and the strategy-based game called Go. The researchers even drew from what is known as the cognitive niche theory, which explains how intelligence can become an ecological niche and thereby influence natural selection.
 
The proposal requires that a system be able to process information and predict future histories very quickly in order for it to exhibit intelligent behavior. Wissner-Gross suggested that the new findings fit well within an argument linking the origin of intelligence to natural selection and Darwinian evolution — that nothing besides the laws of nature are needed to explain intelligence.
 
Although Wissner-Gross suggested that he is confident in the results, he allowed that there is room for improvement, such as incorporating principles of quantum physics into the framework. Additionally, a company he founded is exploring commercial applications of the research in areas such as robotics, economics and defense.
 
“We basically view this as a grand unified theory of intelligence,” said Wissner-Gross. “And I know that sounds perhaps impossibly ambitious, but it really does unify so many threads across a variety of fields, ranging from cosmology to computer science, animal behavior, and ties them all together in a beautiful thermodynamic picture.”

Being No One – Thomas Metzinger

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

A very good, concise presentation. I disagree with his ultimate conclusions, not because of faulty reasoning, but because of the same overlooked assumptions which most contemporary thinkers miss. Despite the appeal to transparency of modeling to explain the existence of subjective qualities, there really is no connection offered at all. A model is a cognitive index through which one instance of experience or presentation can be encapsulated within another. This is a re-presentation. Data which moves from one table to another, which is concatenated or compressed, is not a model unless a conscious entity interprets it that way. A DVD full of laser pits is not a color and sound recording unless it is decoded to a video screen by a DVD player. The DVD player is not playing a movie unless a movie-literate audience is available to watch it.

The problem with the idea of the phenomenal self model, as I see it, is that there is no computational benefit or physical resource which could account for the extra-physical, extra-informational presentation of the ‘model’ to the unmodeled system. In Raymond Tallis’ book ‘Aping Mankind’, he talks about the obvious disadvantages to such an introduction of conscious presentation into unconscious systems, which, after all, have successfully driven the rest of the universe, from the synthesis of nucleic acids to the neutralization of countless pathogens in our immune system. For something as important as executive control of the organism as a whole, an error ridden, self-deluded agent is the last thing that you would want sitting in the cockpit. Imagine if your digestive system relied on such a volitional dreamer to assimilate your nutrients or remember to regulate the pH of your blood.

No, I’m afraid that no information-based architecture can be used to thoroughly explain subjective experience, although it can explain how the particular human quality of subjective experience can be repaired, augmented, manipulated, etc. With information, we can’t even emulate human consciousness, but we can emulate some important products of it, IMO.

I think that I have found a better way to approach phenomenal facts. Rather than assuming that the experience of seeing red is indirect and non-physical I propose instead that physics has a private and a public range (which themselves have overlapping and underlapping regions).

I suggest that experience of seeing red is not synonymous with factual knowledge, but rather all factual knowledge is a category of direct sensory-motor experience. Experience or sense is primary, beneath matter, energy, spacetime, quantum, information, and arithmetic. Not human sense, but sense as universal fundamental.

As human beings, we are staggeringly complex, multilevel organisms. Our direct experience encompasses nested sub-personal experiences and super-personal signifiers as a recapitulation or compound direct experience. The experience of seeing red is a simpler experience, not because it is an illusion or functionally expedient representation, but because it is, on the native level of a whole person, a direct and ‘pre-factual’ physically real presence. Physical reality referring specifically to that which has both privately and publicly ranged presentation.

It’s a complete reworking of physics, I admit, but I humbly say that I think that it reconciles physics, philosophy, subjectivity, and information theory.

Data and Dualism

November 19, 2012 7 comments

“Define “dualist” and “supernatural.”

Many years ago, I participated in a USENET discussion about whether data structures in computers existed.  The debate raged on.  One side argued that they did, because look, there they are in the code.  The other side argued that they did not, because at the machine level, it was just 1’s and 0’s represented by voltage levels.  No consensus emerged.

Now, we know everything about computers, and if we cannot answer such a question about them, what hope do we have about the brain and mind, about which we know almost nothing?”

Not to dredge up any bad memories from USENET, but I think my framework provides a conclusive way of understanding the issue. Unfortunately my model also predicts that many people, because of their specialized intellectual focus, may not be able to understand the model.

The question of whether data structures exist in computers can be resolved this way:

1. Since we are not the computer, we can only talk about the behavior of the device on different levels. With our own mind, we can go much further.

2. In the case of computer data, we can say that voltage levels (which are really statistical averages of electromagnetic dynamism…the extent to which matter pushes and pulls matter) exist in a geometric sense of bodies across space. This is the literal presentation of microelectronic structure. If we anchor our intellectual inertial frame in exterior geometric realism, then it is the 1’s and 0’s which are the representations – unreal except for our labeling of them. There are no literal ones or zeroes in a computer, rather they are in the story which we tell ourselves to enable our control over semiconductor arrays.

3. If we anchor our intellectual inertial frame in the algebraic-sequential presentation instead, then the logic behind the Boolean instructions are the relevant reality as they can be exported into many different mechanisms. The specific materials and geometry which are used to execute instructions are only there to serve the encoded information.

This should explain why both sides are correct and incorrect in their own way, but neither side understands the other’s point of view. The issue of our own consciousness escalates this problem to a new level, as not only is there the same antagonism between geometric-topological materialists and information-theoretic idealists, but both of them together are equally blind to a whole other axis of non-commutative qualities related to perception and participation.

For the Explanatory Gap, we really have two orthogonal dualisms, Western arithmetic-physicists who see the universe from the outside in and what I might call Eastern spiritualist-idealists who see the universe from the inside out. The same principles of reconciliation apply here, but the application of them is even more inflammatory. The solution involves a profound relativism which recontextualizes the literal and figurative, fact and fiction, in a way which challenges many (all?) established religious, philosophical, and scientific assumptions, birthing an entirely new view of cosmos and psyche. It is a hard sell, but I suspect that unfortunately it may be the only solution which can actually work.

On Computationalism and Qualia Depth

April 14, 2012 Leave a comment

On Computationalism and Qualia Depth

I conclude that Computationalism is almost correct, but because of the nature of consciousness, that means it is exactly incorrect. It is rooted in the seduction of ‘information’ as a concrete pseudosubstance. I think that arithmetic is the ‘flattest’ qualia that we can access, and therefore the most externally universal. Its universality gives us a wide capacity to mechanize objects but assembling machines from parts is the opposite of an organism, which organically divides from a whole.

Human consciousness, by comparison, is a towering accumulation of experiential ‘residues’, or perceptual inertia which I understand to be negentropy or significance; a concentration of qualitative richness. Interior phenomenology cannot ex-press its proliferation as increasing sophisticated forms nested in space, so it impresses itself as increasingly meaningful experiences, themes, and narratives. Not merely more complex or sophisticated, but seemingly more important and more real.

Computationalism leans almost exclusively on complexity (as a machina ex deus if you will) to impress itself into overlooking the impossibility of forms in space generating meaningful experience through time. What it fails to understand is that the richness of qualia is not complex, it is simple. Blue is blue. Pain is pain. There is no Fourier transform required to appreciate them. The key is to understand the symmetry:

(Sense + Motive) time = significance || (matter – energy) / space = entropy

Just as evolutionary biology grew the brain faster than the skull to cause cortical folding, the corresponding subjective capacity became exponentially more aesthetic. The will became more insistent on projecting itself externally. We became human.

Everythingness Perturbed: Function, Experience, and Context

February 19, 2012 1 comment

Since every organism produces itself from a single dividing cell, it can be said that there is a single history which unites that body back to the cellular level. Atoms do not literally reproduce by themselves so that a machine that is assembled has a no single history to unite it.

This becomes more relevant if we suppose that experience arises as a collected and collective unity of sequence, a many-to-one of integrated participation which is not literal and quantitative, but figurative, qualitative, and iconic. It is meaning and world.

A machine is an abstraction which takes physical history for granted. When executed in a material assembly, there is no literal reproduction, only separate parts brought together unintentionally (from the point of view of the parts) to imitate the function of a specialized organic form.

I think that where comp/functionalist assumptions fail is in the misunderstanding of meaning and world as discrete analytic behaviors rather than continuous synthetic wholes. We can see them as wholes because we are unified beings who can see even cartoon characters and puppets as wholes, but that does not mean that there is any continuous awareness that unifies the parts of the machine. To compensate for this, we generally have to build in a monotonously recursive device, like a clock, pump, or wheel to provide an imitation of continuous flow. This should not be confused with the continuous flow which arises organically in a living body. An organic flow is not a clock to which separate parts are mechanically attached, but a collective rhythm which is synchronized from within the shared motive of the reproduced cell. This is can be seen clearly in the behavior of heart cells as they congregate physically and experientially. Look at what it is:

See the difference?

The cells are pushing a private negentropic agenda, while the clock has no agenda at all. You can see it. It is one dimensional tension in a material like metal or winding down one tick at a time, or an electronic response from a semiconductor material. Neither materials have any native motivation or momentum, they must be wound up or plugged in, wired or bolted together. It is a back door imitation of an organism, artificially integrated to use borrowed power to generate the effect of continuous running.

Consciousness has mechanical aspects as well, and indeed the content of our minds can be said to be running as well, but the difference is that the mind runs on it’s own momentum. More importantly the mind can be quieted so that deeper, unconscious experiences can rise to conscious awareness. These experiences do not seem to arise out of the rapidity of mental syntax as functionalism assumes, but out of deep metaphorical interiority which presents spontaneously and unbidden with insight and prescience rather than deterministically or randomly.

This can be explained by understanding the continuity of psychological experience as the entirety of time being scratched or perturbed by the collective experience of a subset of time. The entity is made of time (really meanings, characters, and worlds…stories. Time is an analytical abstraction that has to do more with objects, space, and density). This may seem mystical or esoteric at first, but I think that is because profound truth about subjectivity must by definition evoke the charms of self fetish. Oriental floridity. Super-signifying Hermeticism. Pageantry. It is who we are and why we are, as distinguished from what and how we are (bodies, cells, cities, planets…Occidental austerity. A-signifying quanta. Physical engineering).

Experienced history then, under multisense realism, is crucial. We are the polar opposite of a tabula rasa. The interiority of the stem cell is not a blank coin to be struck with a cellular role, but a ‘Once upon a time’ from which a spectrum of cellular characters and capacities can be diffracted. This is meaning. This is learning, understanding, loving, and growing (also hating, killing, forgetting and half remembering, making things up, creating etc.)

If experience were mechanical, then a clone could be conditioned with the identical experiences and an identical person would be created. If since strong computationalism is does not ground identity in material at all, we would have to say that a cloned body (machine + program) with cloned experience (runtime) would actually be the same person.

If instead we see experience as a unique and idiosyncratic subset of the totality of experience, there can be no Boys from Brazil strategy – no designer identities. Besides nature, nurture, and random variation, there may be a semantic momentum which opens up a flow of identity like a pinata of experienced history being hit with a series of blows: conception, birth, childhood, etc. It is not a process through which an identity is mechanically assembled or fabricated, but one in which identity is revealed and developed from within the self and within experience.

What does ‘within experience’ mean? It means meaning. Significance. The qualitative feeling or message ‘within’ experience. The moral to the story, the lesson learned, the point to be made, etc. Unlike a sequence of instructions or registers in memory, there is no a-signifying transfer of digitally encoded histories. Instead it is a recapitulation of signifying analog wholes. They are not assembled together like a device or dataset, but live with the subject as subjects, growing, changing, and revealing themselves in endlessly new ways through experience and also from within the subject – ripening and flowering, bearing fruit, etc.

Experience is not mere decision trees. Even though the visible shape of a living tree can be modeled in simple mathematical functions, there is no tree experience there. There is no journey from acorn to oak, only from vector to vector or pixel to pixel. There is form but no content. What is so hard to communicate is that the reason for this is counter-counter-intuitive. We expect the truth of subjectivity to be in a counter-intuitive hidden form. That there is some fantastic organization of the brain which gives us human experience. The idea that human experience is literally what it seems to be – a story of human life, grounded in the totality of the cosmic story is anathema to contemporary science. We are looking for the back door, the trick to the illusion, but the trick is that tricks and illusions are the exceptions to the rule. We can only know illusion because we have the sense to know that individual channels of sense can be fooled. That is no trick and no illusion. That is sanity, awareness, and consciousness.

A machine has no such sense. To a Turing machine, all binary feeds are equal. I have no problem at all asserting that there is no meaning and no world experiencing capacity associated with a binary feed. Imitation perception makes up for it’s qualitative superficiality with high speed execution, giving us the illusion of intelligence, but intelligence without meaning or world experience is a different kind of intelligence – one of pure syntax and no semantic kernel to grow and change through experience. There is trivial learning and adaptation, but it is a shadow play through which our own powers of interpretation can fill in the blanks. A humanoid decision tree, constantly running, with no creative iconic depths of its own.

Identical twins have many similarities, but even brain conjoined twins are different individuals. Their histories fundamentally diverge after conception and further diverge with each experience. Their perspectives are different. A machine is just the opposite. An old Macintosh Plus computer could be manufactured today, using the same materials, different materials, or even by virtually emulated on another computer entirely and be exactly the same as any Mac Plus that was ever manufactured. There is no retained history and no world awareness, no difference in perspective. Unlike conjoined twins, networked computers don’t fight with each other. They don’t differentiate themselves. Why? Because there is no self there to differentiate, only a perpetual centralized spinning. This is using space and motion to create the illusion of time – animation.

What we are is neither space, nor motion, nor time, nor information, but informed, moving, waving firmament. Not the wave but that infinitely anchored silent stillness of everythingness itself which is being perturbed in a wavelike manner and making shows within shows which we call time and experience, or, if you like, energy. Energy is a concept of the experience of one show being indirectly experienced in the context of another show. It’s anomalous but sensible. Like the end of Wizard of Oz where the three super-signifying (floridly fictional) characters are re-contextualized as ordinary (naturalistic fictional) farmhand characters in the desaturated aftermath of the dream

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