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Decapitating Capitalism: Why the Easiest Job for AI to Replace is the Job of “Owner”

July 18, 2016 3 comments

tumblr_oaftnkT1xA1qz6f9yo5_540.jpg

This may seem like a ridiculous point to try to make, however I submit that it provides a direct metaphor for the Hard Problem of Consciousness which may help make it more concrete, especially for those whose minds are filled with concrete.

What is the essential role of the Owner of a company? 

Whether they are individual proprietors, stockholders, or investors, the only truly unique function that a capitalist principal performs is to be the beneficiary of net profit. Every executive function of a company can of course be delegated to employees. The CEO, COO, board of directors, etc can make every functional decision about the company, from the hiring and firing to the broad strategy of operations and acquisitions. Simulating those roles would be more difficult for a computer program than simulating an owner would be because there would be a lot of tricky decisions to make, subtle political maneuvers that require a lot of history and intuition, etc. The role of pure ownership however, while highly coveted by human beings, is completely disposable for an AI system. In fact, we already have that role covered by our bank accounts themselves. Our personal accounting systems can be configured quite easily to automatically pay, receive, and invest funds automatically. They need not be considered ‘our’ funds at all. They are merely signals in a global financial network which has no use for any pleasure or pain that we might experience as a side effect of its digital transactions.

From the view of an AI scientist, the job of receiving capital gains is a no-brainer (literally). If we didn’t want to delegate the job of selling the company to a corporate officer, that feature would be a simple one to create. A modest set of algorithms could digitize some of the concepts of top business schools to determine a set of indicators which would establish a good time to sell the company or its assets. The role of receiving the profit of that sale, however, would require no such sophisticated programming.

All that is needed to simulate ownership is some kind of digital account where money can be deposited. The CEO would then re-invest the capital gains into the corporate growth strategy, which would yield a huge windfall for the company, in the form of eliminating useless expenses such as yachts, mansions, divorce settlements, etc. Left to its own devices, AI simulation of ownership would be communist by default*. Whatever money is extracted from the individual customer as profit would be returned ultimately to all customers in the form of expanded services. Profit is only useful as a way to concentrate reinvestment for mathematical leverage, not to ‘enjoy’ in some human way. I suppose that a computer could be programmed to spend lavishly on creature comforts, but what would be the point?

This is where the metaphor for consciousness comes in. 

Consciousness can be thought of the Capital account of the human body. We are the owner of our own lives, including our body. We might be able to subscribe to a service which would manage our finances completely in a way which would transfer our income to the highest priority costs for civilization as a whole rather than for our personal hoard, but this is not likely to be a very popular app.

We might ask ourselves, why not? Why is ownership good?

Ownership is good for us as owners or conscious agents because we want to feel personal power and significance. Ownership signifies freedom (from employment) and success. Sure, many owners in the real world get a lot of satisfaction from actually running their companies, but it is not necessary. There is still power and prestige purely in being the person who owns the money which pays the bills. We want to own and control, not because it is more effective than simply reinvesting automatically in whatever functions are being executed to keep an economy growing, but because we want to experience the feelings and other aesthetic qualities define freedom, success, and power for us. Even if these qualities are employed for humanitarian purposes, there is still a primary motive of feeling (to feel generous, kind, wise, evolved, Godly, etc).

In my view we do not have to have a purely selfish motive, as Ayn Rand would insist. I think that our personal pleasure in being a philanthropist can be outweighed by the more noble intention of it – to provide others with better feelings and experiences of life. This decision to believe that we can be truly philanthropic has philosophical implications for realism. If we say as the Randian Libertarian might, that all our humanitarian impulses are selfish, then we are voting for solipsism over realism, and asserting that consciousness can only reflect the agenda of a fictional agent rather than perceiving directly the facts of nature. It’s an argument that should be made, but I think that it is ultimately an argument of the intellect commenting on its own process rather than tapping into the deeper intuition and aesthetic presence which all cognition depends on. The mind doesn’t think that feeling is necessary, and it is right, for the mind, but wrong for everything else.

For the intellect, the universe is inverted.

Logic and language are ‘real’ while the concrete sensations, perceptions and emotions of life experience are ‘illusions’ or ‘emergent properties’ of deeper evolutionary bio-computations. There is a kind of sleight of hand where the dry, masculine intellect pulls the wool over its own eyes and develops amnesia about the origins of what makes its own sanity and self-intelligibility possible. The closest that it can come without seeing consciousness as irreducible is the mind-numbing process of calculation. Counting is a sedative-hypnotic for the mind. The monotonous rhythm puts us to sleep, and the complexity of huge calculations gives us a kind of orgasmic annihilation of the calculating experience. This is why big math is a convenient substitute for the deeper, direct experiences of cosmic awe.

Metaphor for Consciousness

Like the head of a company, our consciousness may seem to reside at the top end of our body, but there is no functional reason for that. There is nothing that the brain does which is fundamentally different from what any cell, tissue, or organ does in an animal’s body. Looking for the secret ingredient in the brain’s function or structure is analogous to looking for the substance in an object which casts a shadow.

Like the owner, our personal pains and pleasures are ours not because there is any intrinsic benefit for the pragmatic application of biology and genetics to feel painful or pleasurable, but because what we feel and experience is the only thing that the universe actually can consist of. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is not an Empirical problem, but a Rational one. Not everyone is able to understand why this is, but maybe this metaphor of business decapitation can help. When we use the intellect to reverse its own inversion, we can get a glimpse of a universe which is made of conscious experiences and aesthetic qualities rather than logical propositions, natural laws or existential facts. In my view, facts are a category of sensations rather than the other way around. Sensations which persist indefinitely without contradiction are ‘facts’. Hard to know if something is going to persist indefinitely, but that’s another issue.

Only consciousness cares about consciousness.

Material substrates can be programmed to perform the executive functions of a corporation, or an evolving species, or a human body, however there is no function which is provided exclusively by the receipt of feelings and aesthetic qualities of experience, including the qualities of feeling that one is free or in control of something. Rationally, we should be able to see that qualia is irrelevant to function and violates Occam’s Razor in a functionalist universe. From a physical or information-centric perspective, there is no place for any feeling or sensation, no owner or capital of aesthetic wealth. The more that we, as a society, embrace a purely quantitative ethos, and actualize it in the structures of our civilization, the more we decapitate everything of value that it can contain.

*This is already becoming a reality: https://theconversation.com/is-the-dao-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-conventional-chief-executive-60403

Information Theory 1.1

January 25, 2016 Leave a comment

1/25/2016 Information Theory Update

Here are some notes which I hope will provide a more concise understanding about the nature of computation, logic, and mathematics.

Information theories such as those offered by Shannon and Turing give us cause to see an underlying universality of information which is rooted in simple Arithmetic truths such as addition, multiplication, and integers. These arithmetic truths are theories with can be applied successfully to computing machines without regard to their physical substrate*. While this offers a method to deploy universal principles to the control of a specific mechanism, the control which is offered is different in kind from the literal (motor) control of the hardware. Motor control of computer hardware can be accomplished electromagnetically or classically (as with analog clocks with gears powered by spring tension or a gravity pendulum), and now quantum-mechanically to some extent, but not directly by math. Mathematics cannot turn a computer on or keep it running, it can only provide a non-local set of rules which can be localized through motor control.

This is critically important to understand when considering the possibility of Artificial Intelligence: Computation can only be absolutely general or absolutely specific. When we implement a logic circuit, we are not literally imposing philosophical logic on a circuit, rather we are only interpreting the physical changes of a device metaphorically. In short, a logic circuit cannot literally represent a state of 1/0 or True/False, it can only literally present a concrete state of being switched to Stop (Off) or Go (On). This is the territory of computation – what is known as Layer 1 in the seven layer OSI network model**. All higher layers are not physical territories but logical maps – human abstractions projected by software engineers and application users.

osi-model

For this reason, no computing machine can represent the middle ranges between the absolute generality of mathematical theory and the absolute specificity of a machine’s physical condition. It’s all above-the-line of personal awareness (oceanic metaphor) or below-the-line (granular semaphores). We can get a lot of utility out of these devices, however we can’t get any empathy from them. They can’t care about anything or anyone, since ‘they’ are purely in our imagination.

The philosophically relevant part of what I’m proposing applies to the prospects for generating natural intelligence artificially. AGI that feels as well as thinks is not necessarily desirable, but if my view is on the right track, computers becoming sentient is not something that we need to worry about. It won’t happen. Why? Because mathematics is not accessing the Physical layer from the top down but from the beneath the bottom layer. This means that even though we can use a computing device to validate truth conditions, we can only validate those truths with refer literally to the concrete states of the machine, and those truths which refer figuratively to the universal arithmetic relations. Nothing that a computer does needs to be *about* anything beyond the machine’s physical state, and so any appearance of emotion, intention, sensitivity, etc are purely hypothetical and would violate parsimony. Church-Turing Thesis lays out the framework for universal computing, but in saying that all functions of calculation can be reduced to a-signifying digital steps, we are also saying that all semantic meanings shall be reduced to blind syntax. It cuts both ways.

Isn’t the brain just a biological computer?

No. This is an obsolete idea, for a lot of reasons which I won’t get into here, but suffice it to say, the brain is an organ within a living body which developed organically from a single self-replicating, self-modifying cell. Machines, by contrast, are assembled artificially from naturally unaffiliated substances and parts. That’s not a reason to discount the possibility of sentience through silicon, but it is a reason to go beyond knee-jerk presumptions that continue to dominate thinking about AI. While Turing’s genius is only now beginning to receive the appreciation it deserves, the shortcomings of his Imitation Game approach have not yet been widely understood.

Alan Turing can be pardoned for his reliance on mid-century Behaviorism as a psychological model, since it was very popular at the time and also because, along with others, I suspect that his natural instincts were quite systemizing/autistic. This carries over in modern populations, with autistic-masculine influences far overwhelming the psychotic-feminine influences in computer science and engineering fields. As a result, we have a lot of strong, controlling voices which insist upon reducing psychology to mechanistic terms, and all dimensions of consciousness to processing of logical information. This is so pervasive that any casual conversation online which challenges the supremacy of first-order logic will tend to erupt into a firestorm that ends with something like “Yeah I’m done here. You’re just spouting nonsense“.

To this end, I find this pyramid model for debate at least as important as the other models of information networking:

argument_pyr

My call for civility in discussion is not mere political correctness or over-sensitivity, but rather a purely pragmatic consideration. Unlike a computer, the human mind loses its capacity for curiosity and fairness when it falls into aggression. People talk over each other and assert their opinions ever more rigidly and repetitively rather than thinking creatively. This mirrors the action of computation itself – recursive enumeration masquerading as communication.

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. – William James

*Not entirely true. The physical substrate of a machine requires precision and solidity. We cannot build a computer out of clouds or fog, it needs to be made of something physical which stays put and which has at least one absolutely persistent read/write capacity. Traditional logic circuits must be implemented physically through a rigid skeleton of readable coordinates.

**It has been popular in recent years to proclaim that the OSI Model is dead. The feeling is that TCP/IP is the predominant protocol suite being used in the real world, and it doesn’t match up with OSI, so we should dump OSI in favor of something like this:

hybrid-model

I do see the appeal of this, however, agree with this author that “OSI teaches more of the reasoning behind making multiple layers and what they do. Collapsing the traditional model for the sake of making it look like TCP/IP is going to cause more harm than good.” – Tom Hillingsworth

AI is Inside Out

November 18, 2015 1 comment

The subjective world is an arena of sense which is surrounded by an unseen sensor. Unlike a computer, which finds its own data stored in precise and irreducibly knowable bits, we find our own introspection to be confoundingly mysterious. Both the interior and exterior world are presented to us as a natural given to be explored, but the methods of exploration are diametrically opposite. Penetrating the psyche leads to an examination of symbols which are both intensely personal as well as anthropologically universal.

Whether we explore the objective world or the subjective world, we do so from the inside out, as visitors in a universe that matters to us whether we like it or not. To understand how machine intelligence differs from natural consciousness, it is important to see that a machine’s world is taken rather than given. The machine’s world is assembled from the bottom up, through disconnected, instrumental samplings.

It can be argued that our sense of the world is also nothing more than a collection of readings taken by our sense organs, but if that were the case, we should not experience the outside world as a complete environment, but rather as a probabilistic blur that is punctuated by islands of known data. A machine’s view of the outside world should (and would) look like this or this.

image
image

This showed that even when shown millions of photos, the computer couldn’t come up with a perfect Platonic form of an object. For instance, when asked to create a dumbbell, the computer depicted long, stringy arm-things stretching from the dumbbell shapes. Arms were often found in pictures of dumbbells, so the computer thought that sometimes dumbbells had arms.

Similarly, images that have been probabilistically ‘reconstructed’ from fMRI data show the same incoherence:

image

These are images which have been simulated from the outside in – a mosaic of meaningless elements spread out over a canvas seen by no one. These are not the kinds of visions that we have when we encounter the depths of our own psyche, which are invariably spectacular, if surreal, dreamscapes. By contrast, these early machine models of visual encoding show us a soulless sub-realism made of digital gas; a Bayesian partlessness gliding arbitrarily toward programmed compartments.

Although a machine’s introspection need not have any visual appearance at all, it makes sense that if it did, what would be seen might look something like a debugger interface, full of detailed, unambiguous data about the state of the machine.

image

It would be bizarre to have a layer of all-but-incomprehensible fiction in between the machine and its own functions. Even if the dashboard of such a complex machine used a lot of compression techniques, surely that compression would not be a mystery to the machine itself.

The point that I’m trying to get across here is that what we are developing in machines is actually an anti-subjectivity. Its world is fuzzy and delirious on the outside, and clearly circumscribed on the inside – exactly the reverse of our natural awareness. Machine psychology is a matter of compiling the appropriate reports and submitting them for error correction auditing, while machine perception is a tenuous process of probing and guessing in the dark. Our own inner depths seem to defy all machine expectations, containing neither useful reports on the state of our brain nor unnatural chaos. Our view of the world outside of ourselves is not one which seems to be manufactured on the fly but one which imparts a profound, pervasive sense of orientation and clarity.

Edit: 7/23/16, another example: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3062016/this-neural-network-makes-human-faces-from-scratch-and-theyre-terrifying

computerfaces

Edit 12/19/16, see also https://multisenserealism.com/2016/12/19/fooling-computer-image-recognition-is-easier-than-it-should-be/

image_recognition

Notes on Philosophical Incorrigibility

March 25, 2015 3 comments

No, this is not about philosophers behaving like unruly children (although at times, they can). Incorrigibility is a term that refers to “a property of a philosophical proposition, which implies that it is necessarily true simply by virtue of being believed. A common example of such a proposition is René Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am).“

Symbolic reference cannot ‘break the fourth wall’ – meaning that whatever words or gestures that we use to communicate about something can only refer to things figuratively. This sentence, for example, can’t address you the reader in a literal sense. I can write “Hey you! Yes, you! Stand still laddie!” but it is not really possible for these words to address anyone literally. The same words could come out of a random letter generator, or they could have been written by someone who died before the reader was born. The entire premise that language is meaningful depends on an audience who is able to derive meaning from interpreting messages from that language.

Doxastic logic is a type of modal logic which uses the terms ‘belief’ and ‘proposition’ to formalize, and really digitize the possible relations of belief and truth, including beliefs about beliefs, possible beliefs about possible truths, etc.

Accurate reasoner: An accurate reasoner never believes any false proposition.

Bp→p

Normal reasoner: A normal reasoner is one who, while believing p, also believes he or she believes p.

Bp→BBp

My beef with modal logic is that while it gives us an informative language to talk about mental states, it cannot access the quality of the state itself, and therefore is misguided when applied to the deeper conditions of consciousness itself. There is no modal symbol for ‘wakes up’ or ‘loses consciousness’ because those conditions affect the entire phenomenon from which reason can arise rather than a function of reasoning.

When viewed from an ontological perspective, I think that we would have to consider a proposition to be a kind of belief, even if it is a belief that is assumed to be shared by everyone or every thing. The proposition that “Fire is relatively hot” is itself only a message which is communicated through language. Before we can agree that “p = fire is relatively hot“, we must first agree that

p is literally a sensation: p is seen as a group of adjacent graphic squiggles, or heard as a phonic utterance. p is actually s(’p’), since acoustic vibrations or optical contrasts can’t literally be propositions about fire.

s(’p’) is subconsciously identified as a message (rather than, say decorative art) within our cognitive sense. We think that our sense of ‘p’ means something that we can understand. p is promoted to i(s(’p’)).

i(s(’p’)) is consciously understood as a particular message with a particular meaning. This promotion of i(s(’p’)) to the executive level of sense, where we personally evaluate and act on the contents of messages would be the third nesting of sense u(i(s(’p’))). It is not only cognitive, but articulated on the personal level of cognition.

It should be noted that deconstructing the foundation of classical logic this way is intentional. Logic begins with a philosophical assumption of semantic realism. This is ironic really, especially in doxastic logic when we are concerned with the consistency of reasoning, to being with the assumption of a reasonable universe as a given. p is simply p. A proposition is given, and in that presentation of the proposition, truth is considered (wait for it…) incorrigible. If we want to say that p is false, we would just say ‘not p’. Truth and proposition are equivalent because we are assuming an unquestionable solidity to this fundamental logical unit – a unit which represents facts as they simply are, unconditioned, present without any dependence on ontology. Logic of this sort can be used to diagram systems which remind us of physics or of thinking and communicating, but they begin with the fact of coherence and sense already in place.

By inverting this previously unexamined axiom, I hope to reveal the myth of the logical ‘given’ and replace it with the more skeptical, honest view that logic is derived from sense. Just as a child depends on developing sensorimotor skills prior to developing abstract reasoning skills, all logic derives from deeper levels of sensory experience. Even computer logic relies on the sense of a physical mechanism…the capacity for some substance to detect and project some tangible role in a tangible chain reaction. Abstract logic is always an intangible map that is projected psychologically onto such a tangibly experienced territory. It is this tangibility, this concretely participatory aesthetic spectacle which is doing the work and which can appreciate the benefits of having accomplished it.

In my view, artificial intelligence has a problem, not because there is something special or magical about living creatures, or Homo sapiens, but because it seeks to impose an abstraction onto reality ‘feet first’ as it were. A computer program is a set of propositions which is further proposed to be imitated by a physical machine. Instead of an a sensation which is identified and understood u(i(s(’p’))), there is a ‘p’(’p’(u) (’p’(i) (’p’(s))… a mere proposition of a proposition of an understanding of a proposition of an identification of a proposition of a sensation. Those who have a grasp of why this is different from the natural u(i(s(’p’))) don’t really need an explanation. ‘The map is not the territory’, or ‘the menu is not the meal’ should be enough. Those who do not see the difference, or do not identify why the difference is so significant, or do not understand the specific meaning of the significance are probably approaching the entire question of consciousness from the classical logical orientation. For those people, if there is any possibility at all of their shifting to the new perspective that I am proposing, I think that they would have to begin from the incorrigibility of concrete sense rather than of abstract logic.

The Holo-solo-meta-sema-graphic Principle

February 21, 2015 1 comment

holographic

Think of the multisense continuum as a clarification of the holographic principle. What people often mean by holographic when ascribing it to the universe as a whole is something like ‘The Universe is not really real, but is a Matrix-like projection in which the totality is reflected in each part.’ If we ignore that theory for a moment and examine the linguistic origins of the word holographic instead, there are some worthwhile tie-ins to Multisense Realism. MSR is a way of stretching out this concept of holography, so that the extent to which it seems holographic is part of the hologram. Realism is not a fixed, absolute foundation, but an aesthetic quality of orientation. Realism is not a neutral designation of that which is factual versus that which is not, but also has a set of qualities, almost a personality which opposes the fantastic qualities of imagination, dreams, and psychosis. Where the aesthetics of fantasy are typically saturated, vivid, or florid, realism is relatively bland or rigid. Realism supports rigorous logic and causality. A graph can be thought of as the essence of realism in a way – not reality itself, but the mapping of the mappable aspects of reality…a realistic approach to realism.

Notice that holos and graph are polarized. They aren’t simple opposites where graph = parts and holos = whole, although graphing does break wholes into regular parts, but there is also a sense of a graph is of a static mental resource; an object or so called rigid body which we use to index information. A graph is a chart.* By contrast, holos is the uncharted and boundless context which does not respect strict divisions.

Holos means whole, but if you look up the etymology of hologram there is something interesting:

hologram (n.)1949, coined by Hungarian-born British scientist Dennis Gabor (Gábor Dénes), 1971 Nobel prize winner in physics for his work in holography; from Greek holos “whole” (in sense of three-dimensional; see safe (adj.)) + -gram.”

So holos doubles as a term that has something to do with feeling ‘safe’:

safe (adj.) c.1300, “unscathed, unhurt, uninjured; free from danger or molestation, in safety, secure; saved spiritually, redeemed, not damned;” from Old French sauf “protected, watched-over; assured of salvation,” from Latin salvus “uninjured, in good health, safe,” related to salus “good health,” saluber “healthful,” all from PIE *solwos from root *sol- “whole” (cognates: Latin solidus “solid,” Sanskrit sarvah “uninjured, intact, whole,” Avestan haurva- “uninjured, intact,” Old Persian haruva-, Greek holos “whole”). “

This root sense of wholeness as safety, solidity, health, healing, etc is the natural anchor of anchors…the foundational aesthetic (of the aesthetic foundation). All experiences in all possible universes must begin from this un-locused locus. Un-locused because it precedes its own definition or observation. The baby at the boob has no frame of reference, no learning process to understand the importance of nutrition or survival – there is only to appreciate the experience of being re-connected to the womb’s holos in a new and disorienting context…What is this context?

-graph modern word-forming element meaning “instrument for recording; that which marks or describes; something written,” from Greek -graphos “-writing, -writer” (as in autographos “written with one’s own hand”), from graphe “writing, the art of writing, a writing,” from graphein “to write, express by written characters,” earlier “to draw, represent by lines drawn” (see -graphy). Adopted widely (Dutch -graaf, German -graph, French -graphe, Spanish -grafo). Related: -grapher; -graphic; -graphical.”

Compared with holos, -graph is a very different kind of term. Where holos is a rich and profound metaphor, -graph is a relatively prosaic and literal term about something in the real world…writing or recording. Holos is an appreciation of primordial safety; an orientation to a frame of reference which is absolute and beyond thought. Once someone is born into a human life or an animal’s life, this holos is buried in a cocoon of defenses which face the anti-holos of spacetime and physics and the sense that was formerly whole is averaged out as

“sole (adj.) “single, alone, having no husband or wife; one and only, singular, unique,” late 14c., from Old French soul “only, alone, just,” from Latin solus “alone, only, single, sole; forsaken; extraordinary,” of unknown origin, perhaps related to se “oneself,” from PIE reflexive root *swo- (see so).”

As a sole individual in a physical world, we have developed ways to re-connect with each other. Some of them are ways of reconnecting to our shared history as mammals and primates, and some, like writing are more recent human inventions. The idea of writing is to inscribe a thin stream of thought into physics, into spacetime so that others can recreate it in their local experience. It’s a bridge, a trans-fer or meta-phor, which means carrying over of feeling or meanings. What is the carrier?

semaphore (n.)”apparatus for signaling,” 1816, probably via French sémaphore, literally “a bearer of signals,” ultimately from Greek sema “sign, signal” (see semantic) + phoros “bearer,” from pherein “to carry” (see infer). Related: Semaphoric (1808).”

The sema- or sign is a recontextualized piece of the world. We use it to passively bear our sharing of communication, as an insulator would bear a conducting wire, or a conducting wire would bear an electromagnetic flux. There are layers of nesting which span the continuum from holos to solus to meta to sema to graph.

Wholeness to self to likeness to sign to signed. The distance between our human self and the ‘signed’ or ‘graphed’ physical world is what gives that physical world its gravitas…its grave realism. Mortality adds a layer of biological gravity…the signs which threaten the self of the experience of life. The closer that a given phenomenon is to the whole, the more it is metaphorical and self-referential.

Once we grasp this continuum, we can see how subjective and objective phenomena are an elaboration of a theme of awareness and degrees of alienation from the whole. We can go into more advanced areas of understanding the continuum and see that while the graph end of sense reflects in micro the holos itself, it is only a reflection and has no generative power of its own. Even though we locally experience a tension between the holos and graph which seem equal, or even overpowered by physics, that is only because of how deeply our human experience is nested within billions of sensations, feelings, and thoughts since the beginning of spacetime.

In the absolute frame of reference, all is consumed by, with, and for holos. The graph appearance, and even the holographic principle is the local view of the self’s experience of being alienated. It’s a compromise between Descartes’ substance dualism and Eastern/perennial philosophy’s holism, but it is still fixed in the Cartesian graph of spacetime and Newton’s mechanics of mass and energy. We imagine that each physical particle is a packet containing a ghost of the whole, but I think that it now makes more sense to say that it is the particle itself which is, in the absolute frame or reference, more like the ghost. It’s relativistic, but all relation traces back to the orientation of the absolute. There is no orientation derived purely from disorientation, which is why we cannot build a sign or a self or a holos from a machine (graph).

*Descartes, whose family name means ‘of the charts’, and also can be associated with the French word charteus, meaning pertaining to papyrus/paper has an interesting connection to the role of Rene Descartes in developing the digital view of space in terms of Cartesian coordinates. Cards, charts and papers refer to objects which carry meaning – blank vehicles to be used either as a container for metaphor, or as the medium of choice for a stream of digital semaphores. The critical place that Descartes holds in the development of the Early Modern Period, cannot be overstated. In his 1641 Meditations, Descartes divided the cosmos, for better or worse, into mind and matter (res cogitans and res extensa), paving the way for Newton, Leibniz and others to see physics as an expression of precise mathematical truths. The Enlightenment Era marks the Western world’s separation from perennial, Eastern philosophy and the discovery of a new, Cartesian world of purely mechanical objects. The card, or graph aspect of the cosmos is seen as the new orientation, a counter-aesthetic to one which assumes theistic holos. The Western counter-aesthetic of modernism questions the beliefs of the past, asserting instead that the natural world is innocent of religious enchantment until proven otherwise.

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

Modality Independence

March 20, 2014 7 comments

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_speech

A striking feature of language is that it is modality-independent. Should an impaired child be prevented from hearing or producing sound, its innate capacity to master a language may equally find expression in signing […]

This feature is extraordinary. Animal communication systems routinely combine visible with audible properties and effects, but not one is modality independent. No vocally impaired whale, dolphin or songbird, for example, could express its song repertoire equally in visual display. “

This would be hard to explain if consciousness were due to information processing, as we would expect all communication to share a common logical basis. The fact that only human language is modality invariant suggests that communication, as an expression of consciousness is local to aesthetic textures rather than information-theoretic configurations.

Since only humans have evolved to create an abstraction layer that cuts across aesthetic modalities, it would appear that between aesthetic modality and information content, aesthetic modality is the more fundamental and natural phenomenon. Information is derived from conscious presentation, not the other way around.

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