Tal Cohen's Bookshelf: A Collection of Personal Opinions about Books

Beepoh writes:
Totally unsatisfying!
It seems to me that consciousness and AI are fascinating subjects which lie outside the current scope of our conceptual 'equipment'. As research advances in these domains we will no doubt build the kind of ideas and notions that will enable us to tackle these fields scientifically. I hope this happens in my lifetime because I am genuinely keen to understand 'what it's all about'.

I'm also genuinely fed up with the kind of speculative nombrilistic nonsense such as that found in DRH's interview. I'd like to hear a bit less about souls and Chopin living on forever in the Matrix and a bit more about how the brain works. Yes it's all fascinatingly tantalizingly complex stuff and I'm sure the temptation to throw in poetry and piano-concertos is irresitible. But I think we all suspect that what we really need right now is a whole lot of experimental science and a mathematical revolution which will give us a proper insight into how the brain works. What are they doing about it? I'm speaking both as an amateur philosopher and full-time tax payer.
[320] Posted on Friday, 13 June 2008 at 17:22 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Mike A. writes in reply to Beepoh:
RE: Totally unsatisfying!

Frankly, I think it is a huge mistake to be speaking of ''souls'' in a serious discussion of intelligence and consciousness.

We have no reason whatsoever for asserting that consciousness has any ''magic'' component that isn't a consequence of the operation of the nervous system. Brains are 3.5 pounds of matter doing what matter does. As such, while we may not know how to construct a ''strong'' artificial intelligence, there is no basis, IMO, for baldly asserting that only our squishy brains can support sentience.
[326] Posted on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 0:38 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Understanding writes in reply to Mike A.:
RE: Totally unsatisfying!
You've completely missed DRH's point in his discussion of the 'soul'. He, in Strange Loop, explicitly says that when he speaks of the 'soul', he does not refer to the orthodox meaning of the word (that is, the religious, ''magic'' essence in people), but refers rather to an embodiment of what separates the human consciousness from a fly's consciousness.

Hoftstadter's 'soul' is the 'I' he mentions in the title; it is the you that is unique to you, the me that is unique to me, and the sentience shared by all human life, as opposed to the seeming lack of sentience that exists in a tree.
[381] Posted on Thursday, 30 April 2009 at 17:19 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Keith writes in reply to Mike A.:
RE: Totally unsatisfying!
I think Beepoh and Mike A. are having a little trouble seeing the Simmballs through the Simms.
[461] Posted on Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 15:17 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Dani Blance writes in reply to Beepoh:
Totally unsatisfying!
Well, sure, understanding the brain would be great, but the task of understanding how and why the workings of the brain lead to/are identical to the workings of the mind is called 'the hard problem of consciousness' for a reason! The real problem isn't knowing more about the brain, it's knowing the bridge laws, if there are any, between the physical, functional workings of the brain and our experiences. Without understanding these bridge laws (having solved the hard problem) we couldn't make sense of multiple realisability; we would only be able to speculate about the mental properties of any artificial brain that wasn't merely a molecule-for-molecule copy of a biological brain. (Does it meet the conditions for consciousness or is it just close enough to have superficially similar but contentless functional states?). So I have to say, I disagree with your view that hard science could so easily do away with speculation.
[331] Posted on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 0:44 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Beepoh writes in reply to Dani Blance:
Totally unsatisfying!
You're right, there is room for speculation and it is an important part of the process. I suppose what I do find frustrating though is the fact that these kind of debates are 'speculation heavy'. Moreover, I'm really not sure that this speculation is getting us anywhere right now.

I'm not diminishing the importance of the hard problem either. The hard problem is ultimately the nut that we all want to see cracked. But remember, the distinction between the hard problem and the easy problem is a coined-in concept which may or may not turn out to be helpful in the end, a kind of Cartesian divide in disguise. At this point there is really no reason to believe that the 'easy' problem is simpler to solve than the hard problem. And who knows, maybe on the way to solving the easy problem we will find clues on how to solve the hard one. I think this is our best shot at this, and I also believe that this is exactly what DRH is doing in the lab when he's not writing books about Chopin's soul-shards.
[332] Posted on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 9:57 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

(anonymous) writes in reply to Beepoh:
Totally unsatisfying!
Oh god. Who cares whether any practical application comes of this thinking? For me its enough to understand what I am in a new way without it being used for some technological purpose.

Amateur philosopher is right... Its people like you who have this relentless need for everything to be useful and manipulable even in the very short term that have brought Western society and more to the point, the entire planet, to the horrific state that its currently in.

We need a departure from this type of rabidly scientific/technological worldview
[372] Posted on Thursday, 02 April 2009 at 10:47 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

Adam A. Ford writes in reply to (anonymous):
Totally unsatisfying!
How can you say that we need to depart from the ''rabidly scientific/technological worldview'' when you are sitting around reading forums and replying to them via the wonderful technological medium of the internet? (If you are a luddite, you're not a very committed one)
Please specify what your alternate worldview is? And does it include science/technology at all?

I care whether there will be practical applications coming from this thinking (that is understanding the human mind,its application to AI etc).
At what point of humanity's development of science and technology do you think we should have stopped at? Plow shears? Clocks? Telescopes? Trains? The germ theory? Industrialization? Computers?
I think that around 10,000 years ago people cared about ways to grow crops more quickly and easily, and later on to know what time it is, to get from one place to another more quickly, to have less infant mortality.

It is not the need to find usefulness in everything that you describe as ''bringing the entire plannet to the horrific state that it is currently in''. Science and Technology, or peoples appreciation/persual of it does not ''cause'' _badness_. It is really just human minds -> perhaps greed and lazyness. Which is also why I believe we need a unbiased and rigorous scientific/technological approach to understanding how things work, and IMO, especially ourselves and how the mind works - and yes, I think that science and technology have a key role in this.


Douglas Hofstadter said ''If there are creatures more moral... than we are, wouldn't we want them to have the future...wouldn't it be better if the altruistic beings just survived and we didn't?''
- http://crazymotion.net/douglas-hofstadter-a-living-p...
[378] Posted on Thursday, 16 April 2009 at 2:33 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]

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