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Old 05-28-2010, 04:29 PM   #1
MrCode
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Science and technology scare the ever-loving crap outta me these days...


Here's just one major example of how.

According to that article, this "memristor" technology could be used to "build more brain-like computing machines". What if someone wrote a piece of AI software for a machine like this?? What does that say about us? About human nature? About free will!?

If I ever see an article on any news site (or even a non-news site, for that matter) that claims that someone has written the first "perfect" AI, I may just consider ending it all. Seriously. I'm really that disturbed by the idea.

It would suggest to me that none of my* choices are really mine*, and that everything was predestined to happen from the beginning, and that nobody has any real control over what happens in their lives, and that we're nothing more than deterministic machines, just like computers are. It would suggest that the "control" that we think we have is nothing more than an illusion. *I* would like to belive that living beings are a bit more than that*.

And before you people go saying that "of course we're not free, we have governments and other oppressors that control us", that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about assumes that there is no government to speak of, and that everyone is "free to do as they choose".

Don't get me wrong, I love the progression of technology, and most of the time it's pretty cool. It's just that sometimes it makes me have seriously deep doubts about my philosophies on life and existence. This whole free will/determinism thing has been digging its ugly claws into me for months now, almost non-stop, and this article only makes it worse...

I guess what I'm really asking for is some reassurance that this doesn't suggest that the concept of free will just got bitch-slapped...

(* = When I say "my" and "mine", I mean the "me" that doesn't have anything to do with my physical body. I don't think of myself as being aligned with any particular religion, but I do believe that living beings (not just humans, but all living beings) have something metaphysical which allows them to *be* them, i.e. to experience life through their own bodies, as opposed to someone else's. It's actually very hard to explain what I'm getting at, but hopefully you'll at least get the gist of what I'm talking about...)

EDIT: On a lighter note, here's one technical disadvantage to having the memory and CPU in the same unit: you wouldn't be able to upgrade them separately!

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 04:46 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 05:10 PM   #2
Robhogg
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Firstly, if someone claimed to have done this, that would by no means settle the matter. Any such claims would be challenged, and hotly debated, and the AI would be required to satisfy some form of Turing test on more than one occasion, before many people would have faith in the claim.

Beyond that, would it be conceivable that the responses of such a system would be perfectly predictable, for any imaginable set of inputs? I believe that a convincing AI would need to be sufficiently complex that there would be reasonable grounds to argue that it showed free will.

And, is it possible to resolve the question of free will and determinism, anyway? I remember studying this at Uni, and finally coming to the conclusion that there was no way to really know. However, either I really do have free will, or I am determined to feel that I have free will, so I may as well act as if I do.

I am most comforted, though, by a passage in the middle of David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. After spending a couple of hundred pages establishing that one cannot be sure about anything beyond immediate sense perception, he says:

Quote:
I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself
in the most deplorable condition imaginable, invironed with the
deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of
dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose,
and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by
relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression
of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game
of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after
three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations,
they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in
my heart to enter into them any farther.

Last edited by Robhogg; 05-28-2010 at 05:17 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 05:30 PM   #3
MrCode
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Quote:
I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after
three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations,
they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in
my heart to enter into them any farther.
And this is exactly what kills me so much inside.

I'm so desperately afraid that if I stop thinking about it, that I'll be lapsing back on predetermined behavior. But then again, is the fact that I'm focusing on all this just another predetermined behavior in itself? I feel like either a) I'm just making myself miserable over nothing, or b) there really is no escaping the pretedermined nature of existence.

The problem is recursive...

I really hope it's (a), but because there's no real way to tell for sure, I'll probably be forever debating this with myself, on the notion that no matter what I do, option (b) is the only real answer. I don't know what else to do.

Quote:
would it be conceivable that the responses of such a system would be perfectly predictable, for any imaginable set of inputs?
Would it be conceivable that the responses of a human being would be perfectly predictable, for any imaginable set of inputs?

Here's the other thing: If you're presented with a set of choices, and you make a choice, did you ever really have a choice, or were the other "choices" just a factor in the deterministic equation that your brain executed in making the decision?

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 05:36 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 05:35 PM   #4
brianL
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You really do worry too much, MrCode.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 05:44 PM   #5
MrCode
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Quote:
You really do worry too much, MrCode.
Okay, so maybe this got to me a little too much...this too, but I'm pretty sure I had this problem before I ever saw either of those.

(I know the second one is meant to be a joke, but with me and my pessimistic nature, I took it far too seriously... )

EDIT: Plus, I would tend to think that I'm not the only one who thinks about these kinds of things and finds them disturbing...

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 05:53 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 05:57 PM   #6
brianL
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If you have free will, then you can change how you react to those things that bother you, so stop worrying and get on with life.
If everything is predetermined, then there's no point in worrying about things you can't change, so get on with life.
Personally, I don't think it's an either/or situation, some things in life are predetermined, and some we have choice in. I'm an atheist, but this is relevant:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer
 
Old 05-28-2010, 06:38 PM   #7
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@brianL: +1
 
Old 05-28-2010, 06:39 PM   #8
Dogs
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I, too, am terrified by the idea of AI. I am especially terrified because I know that if anyone could do it, it would be me, because few people are as self-centered as I am.

I see the way ideas build, and I remember the history of the idea. I also am quite positive that the mind, as I know it, is synonymous with the terminal we (humans) came up with. I witness this when I'm mulling over a potential crisis that I don't know for certain whether or not it will manifest, and then all of a sudden I recall key details that confirm that manifestation will take place.

Ex - "Did I remember to deposit the money? ---- recall of EVERYTHING I can -----"

and then that cold chill sets in, wherein my process failed and I am stuck with the consequences.

The question went from nagging curiosity to crisis in direct relation with the progress of the thought itself.

IE - As the idea developed, the emotional response also developed in correlation with the idea.

So, this is pretty similar to everything else we know, and you'll be equally unsurprised to learn that most of the rest of the mind works just like everything else, too.

I mean to say that the mind, no matter how atrophied, still is mathematically predictable. What is missing is the spark, and the spark is the ability to generate its own code.

The mechanism of life will periodically recall events as well as new events and synthesize the information in a manner that would honor the good George Boole.


With it, we can master space.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 06:56 PM   #9
damgar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianL View Post
You really do worry too much, MrCode.
+1.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 08:25 PM   #10
MrCode
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogs
I mean to say that the mind, no matter how atrophied, still is mathematically predictable. What is missing is the spark, and the spark is the ability to generate its own code.
This is much like the way I think of it. I think that the mind (i.e. our ability to reason, think, perform actions, etc.) is predictable. What isn't is the driving force behind the mind.

That "driving force" is that which allows us to *be*; allows us to experience life through *our* point of view. That which makes us unique and individual.

(The "spirit" or "soul" if you will )

EDIT: I think I should also mention that I think I trust Wikipedia waaay too much for the philosophical stuff. Quite a bit of the paranoia that's arisen due to these questions/concepts comes from reading the Wikipedia articles on those sensitive topics.

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 08:48 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 09:12 PM   #11
Dogs
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Furthermore, I suspect strongly that the initiation of the entirety of space, the one that is paradoxical to consider (which came first, something or nothing?), is analogous to the creation of a thought.

If this proved to be true, then a more correct perspective may be to consider our universe as being something else entirely. Perhaps more accurate than thinking of the individual as a sum of all of the cells in the body, we could begin to think of the individual as the sum of the energy that is the body.

Perhaps moreso than the world around us, including empty space and the atmosphere of planet <x>, being as we see it, it might be better thought of as source code.

I think each individual could be considered to be something similar to protons, neutrons, and electrons. The interactions we have can be seen as analogous to chemical, electrical, and mathematical phenomena. One person drives another, then another, etc.

And within each individual, the thoughts the individual has can be considered in a similar manner. One thought drives another thought then another, sometimes the reaction poops out, sometimes it goes nuts, etc etc.


So, if it proved evident that you could combine

chemical X and chemical Y and yield chemical Z

then if you could have two conductors submersed in chemicals, one in an ion rich substance, and one in an ion deficient substance, and be able to pass energy through it..

then it would seem highly probable that by doing the first in order to do the second, in order to do ..., is pretty much the definition of life.


The mind most likely started off as something entirely basic, much as hardware programming was in its origins, mathematics as well, and sciences of all sorts. They started at something basic as hell. Something barely even recognizable as something.

Over time, it became something more complex. This complexity most assuredly came from the reproductive methods exhibited by life forms. In some way, members of the parent class are shared with the derivative class.

It should seem entirely possible that if this were the case, then copious amounts of the original parent class may still exist within the most recent derivative. I suspect the firmware that runs the mind is probably such an archaic contraption.

I find it hard to believe that anything else was even attempted.

It is possible that though we perceive reality as being a variable phenomenon, that it is indeed something constant.

As a function in some source code might be constant, but the code within the function changes the state of everything..

Perhaps it would be possible to overclock the mechanism that runs reality.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 09:19 PM   #12
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I think I had this conversation with myself once after an *accidental* chemical exposure.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 09:20 PM   #13
MrCode
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Okay, at first I thought you were starting to reassure me, but that little speech just ruined my day...

The way I see it, what you're suggesting is that there really isn't a such thing as (ultimate) freedom, and that the only reason we perceive freedom is because we're so complex that we might as well believe in it, since we might be predictable, but we're just very, very hard to predict.

Quote:
One thought drives another thought then another, sometimes the reaction poops out, sometimes it goes nuts, etc etc.
Do we have a choice as to what thought comes after the other, though? Can we change our thought process in real-time? If so, then free will exists. If not, well...

THAT is what I'm getting at. Tell me if I'm wrong about what your post is trying to say...

Quote:
Originally Posted by damgar
I think I had this conversation with myself once after an *accidental* chemical exposure.
That was so uncalled for.

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 09:27 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 09:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrCode View Post
Okay, at first I thought you were starting to reassure me, but that little speech just ruined my day...

The way I see it, what you're suggesting is that there really isn't a such thing as (ultimate) freedom, and that the only reason we perceive freedom is because we're so complex that we might as well believe in it, since we might be predictable, but we're just very, very hard to predict.



Do we have a choice as to what thought comes after the other, though? Can we change our thought process in real-time? If so, then free will exists. If not, well...

THAT is what I'm getting at. Tell me if I'm wrong about what your post is trying to say...



That was so uncalled for.

I don't think arguing for or against free will is relevant. If one were searching for God, one need only look to himself to find it.

Your senses submit information that can be synthesized.

Think about how much further technology on many subjects progressed when people were able to "see" non-visible light.

Someone wanted that to happen. Someone sat there, thinking, "This radiation stuff sure is neat.. It'll go through pretty much whatever, except that lead over there. It must move something like the wind, or light. I wonder how I could see it?"

Countless hours, and $$s later, the X-ray machine was a reality. The X-ray didn't pop out of thin air, nor was the idea for the X-ray something people were thinking about back then..

No, some dude just got the itch and went with it.

Is that free will? Something where there previously was none?


You can step back in the chain and review the scenario with the person who discovered radiation. Indeed, a very similar process may have taken place. Were it not for the work of that gentleman, then further work may not have taken place.

Or, in some cases, multiple people will come up with the same idea, or almost identical idea, or fundamentally different idea that achieves the same result.

This heavily indicates that what forces the individual is exposed to shape his being, though the combination of forces is certainly different for every single person, because we do not share the same space.

You have unique bits, but the majority of bits that describe you are identical to the ones that describe everyone else, and somewhat more towards the MSB, would come other relatable phenomena.


Maybe we could call it hacking, instead of free will.

Bend your mind around the world you're in, and you can come up with some weird shit.

Last edited by Dogs; 05-28-2010 at 09:53 PM.
 
Old 05-28-2010, 09:44 PM   #15
MrCode
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Quote:
Think about how much further technology on many subjects progressed when people were able to "see" non-visible light.

Someone wanted that to happen. Someone sat there, thinking, "This radiation stuff sure is neat.. It'll go through pretty much whatever, except that lead over there. It must move something like the wind, or light. I wonder how I could see it?"

Countless hours, and $$s later, the X-ray machine was a reality. The X-ray didn't pop out of thin air, nor was the idea for the X-ray something people were thinking about back then..

No, some dude just got the itch and went with it.

Is that free will? Something where there previously was none?
Well, I suppose, since the "dude" had the choice not to "go with it", but I dunno...without knowing the thoughts he had beforehand, I couldn't really tell you whether that decision was "spontaneous" or not.

I suppose you can't really escape choices, considering you're presented with them wherever/whenever you are, it's just that you don't always see them.

Maybe there is a such thing as free will, but we just don't know how to exercise it to its fullest extent...?



EDIT: That brings me to the topic of randomness...

Try either one of these commands:

Code:
cat /dev/urandom > /dev/dsp
Or if you don't want to have to turn your speakers down (and you have SoX installed):

Code:
play -q -t raw -s -b 16 -r 48000 -c 2 -v 0.0625 /dev/urandom
Guess what? The white noise that both of those commands produce might be convincing, but it's not "real" randomness.

It comes from various things like hardware events, software activity, etc. It's not "truly" random. It's damn convincing, though, and that creeps me out.

Last edited by MrCode; 05-28-2010 at 09:59 PM.
 
  


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