Paul's Here

Imagination vs. Reality

77 posts in this topic

What makes human creation of a conscious, volitional entity so different from every other achievement that was supposed to be impossible and turned out not to be? Given the explosion and ever-increasing pace of scientific and technological progress over the past 200 years, can we really say with any certainty that it cannot happen?

As a Hypothetical Ned might have said over the years:

"Men fly? No way..."

"Oo, nifty! What do you call that thingie? Ah, a 'balloon.'"

"Well, if it's heavier than air it'll never get off the ground..."

"Hmm, look at them thar Wright brothers."

"Go faster than sound? Not a chance..."

"Huh? Chuck who?"

"Well, t'ain't no air in space. We ain't never goin' there..."

"Whaddaya know? Check out that Yuri feller."

"Walk on the moon? Don't make me laugh..."

"Eh? The what of Tranquility?"

But all the above are examples of a volitional consciousness (man) changing the material of existence to suit himself; they are in no degree an example of a volitional consciousness creating a volitional consciousness to please ITself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But all the above are examples of a volitional consciousness (man) changing the material of existence to suit himself; they are in no degree an example of a volitional consciousness creating a volitional consciousness to please ITself.

The point of those examples is: the fact that we haven't yet created anything possessing consciousness doesn't mean we never will, and thinking something is impossible doesn't by itself mean that it is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But all the above are examples of a volitional consciousness (man) changing the material of existence to suit himself; they are in no degree an example of a volitional consciousness creating a volitional consciousness to please ITself.

The point of those examples is: the fact that we haven't yet created anything possessing consciousness doesn't mean we never will, and thinking something is impossible doesn't by itself mean that it is.

Nor does it mean by itself that it is possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But all the above are examples of a volitional consciousness (man) changing the material of existence to suit himself; they are in no degree an example of a volitional consciousness creating a volitional consciousness to please ITself.

The point of those examples is: the fact that we haven't yet created anything possessing consciousness doesn't mean we never will, and thinking something is impossible doesn't by itself mean that it is.

Nor does it mean by itself that it is possible.

True, but look at the tremendous value created so far in the attempt and everything that's derived from it. As I asked before, why not work on it? Even if it turns out that we can't create full-blown consciousness, the possibilities of what we can create make it well worth the effort.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But all the above are examples of a volitional consciousness (man) changing the material of existence to suit himself; they are in no degree an example of a volitional consciousness creating a volitional consciousness to please ITself.

The point of those examples is: the fact that we haven't yet created anything possessing consciousness doesn't mean we never will, and thinking something is impossible doesn't by itself mean that it is.

Nor does it mean by itself that it is possible.

True, but look at the tremendous value created so far in the attempt and everything that's derived from it. As I asked before, why not work on it? Even if it turns out that we can't create full-blown consciousness, the possibilities of what we can create make it well worth the effort.

By whom and to whom?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Artificial simply means "man-made". Children are both "man-made" and "metaphysical", in a philosophic sense, an idea which, if understood, is probably the answer to the questions in this thread.

Can you expand on that, please? It seems that there is a significant difference of opinion about whether artificial consciousness can be created.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
True, but look at the tremendous value created so far in the attempt and everything that's derived from it. As I asked before, why not work on it? Even if it turns out that we can't create full-blown consciousness, the possibilities of what we can create make it well worth the effort.

By whom and to whom?

Really? blink.gif AI and robotics aren't exactly new fields.

OK, there are already people working on it and people finding value from the (thus far relatively rudimentary) technology in various ways, from toys to housework to medical advances. I'm not going to try to predict the future, but surely it's obvious that as the science and technology advance more and better will follow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Artificial simply means "man-made". Children are both "man-made" and "metaphysical", in a philosophic sense, an idea which, if understood, is probably the answer to the questions in this thread.

Can you expand on that, please? It seems that there is a significant difference of opinion about whether artificial consciousness can be created.

I mean that for a child to exist, his parents have to choose to reproduce, and then they have to choose to raise him, and the child himself has to choose to focus his mind and improve himself. All of those are "man-made" in the philosophic sense. But one's body, one's biology, the capacity for man-made action itself, is the metaphysically given.

As has already been noted, there is nothing mystical about the physical composition of our bodies. It's exactly the same type of atoms that exist across the entire observable universe. If a fertilized egg could be constructed using nanotechnology techniques literally one atom at a time, someday, would you consider the end result to be an "artificial construct"? If humans can think of a way to use, say, silicon instead of carbon to create life, and ultimately conscious life, would that be somehow "unreal"? Consciousness is *not* just the physical substrate, something you yourself already agree with. That being the case, and given that consciousness is a perfectly natural aspect of a certain arrangement of certain atoms, it doesn't seem fantastic to me, at all, to imagine that the human mind can think of another way to arrange different atoms to produce a similar result. Airplanes do not flap their wings like birds and their material composition is totally different, atomically, but they both still fly.

That said, I am in no way agreeing with the idea that such an artificial consciousness is happening anytime soon. I do think that it's pure fantasy to imagine that it will happen anytime in the lifetimes of anybody alive today, at least with current human lifespans, and I think that current efforts in that direction are hopelessly naive anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I mean that for a child to exist, his parents have to choose to reproduce, and then they have to choose to raise him, and the child himself has to choose to focus his mind and improve himself. All of those are "man-made" in the philosophic sense. But one's body, one's biology, the capacity for man-made action itself, is the metaphysically given.

As has already been noted, there is nothing mystical about the physical composition of our bodies. It's exactly the same type of atoms that exist across the entire observable universe. If a fertilized egg could be constructed using nanotechnology techniques literally one atom at a time, someday, would you consider the end result to be an "artificial construct"? If humans can think of a way to use, say, silicon instead of carbon to create life, and ultimately conscious life, would that be somehow "unreal"? Consciousness is *not* just the physical substrate, something you yourself already agree with. That being the case, and given that consciousness is a perfectly natural aspect of a certain arrangement of certain atoms, it doesn't seem fantastic to me, at all, to imagine that the human mind can think of another way to arrange different atoms to produce a similar result. Airplanes do not flap their wings like birds and their material composition is totally different, atomically, but they both still fly.

That said, I am in no way agreeing with the idea that such an artificial consciousness is happening anytime soon. I do think that it's pure fantasy to imagine that it will happen anytime in the lifetimes of anybody alive today, at least with current human lifespans, and I think that current efforts in that direction are hopelessly naive anyway.

I agree with all this except the very last. This field is essentially at the very beginning. Beginnings are rudimentary and often mistaken, but that doesn't automatically make them naïve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How about an artificial organism with a conceptual consciousness? I think that's doable, too.

I agree. To regard the creation of a man-made, conceptual consciousness as impossible would mean that there is something physically unique about humans and/or the human brain which cannot be replicated--meaning something supernatural.

Should we? Maybe, but it must be done with the understanding that this artificial conceptual entity would have to be a volitional entity. That has all kinds of consequences. As I have mentioned before, it would need to be motivated, but force would not work nor would it be proper. The conceptual entity would have rights for exactly the same reason that human beings do.

Betsy, I have a question for you (or anyone). I've been interested in the possibilities of AI (I use the term "AI" loosely because it can refer to so many different things) for years. I have no doubt that making an "artificial man", which is as you describe and is volitional, is possible. I also have no doubt that the processes of the human mind--that is, a volitional, conceptual consciousness--cannot be reduced to a deterministic process, like a computer program.

My question: Is it the case that any entity capable of concept-formation and concept-processing, must necessarily be volitional? And, if the answer to this question is known, is it a philosophical question (meaning not a scientific question that hinges on perhaps undiscovered facts about the human brain or human psychology, or other detailed scientific study)?

This question is the only significant unresolved issue for me in my philosophic thinking about "AI". I have not yet arrived at a fully-solid chain on reasoning for the answer to this question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree. To regard the creation of a man-made, conceptual consciousness as impossible would mean that there is something physically unique about humans and/or the human brain which cannot be replicated--meaning something supernatural.

Anything that happens in the world is of the natural order of things. The fact that we might not understand it or be able to duplicate it, is another question entirely. All things that happen happen according to natural physical laws.

The naturalness of things do not require our understanding.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[My question: Is it the case that any entity capable of concept-formation and concept-processing, must necessarily be volitional?

As I've reasoned through that question in the past, it's a resounding "yes", for a straightforward reason. (Probably not the only reason, but it's a good reason all by itself.) The reason is that there are an essentially infinite number of things to think about in the world, because both logical inductions and logical deductions - generally, logical *integration* - is mathematically permutative given both known facts, and facts combined with prior reasoning. Permutations imply factorials of numbers, which grow far more quickly even than exponentials. *Something* has to constrain the limits of that integration; there is only so much time in a day and a lifetime. Constrain means choice, and choice means volition, and the choice will be based on the current values of the organism.

To take a random example, some people might choose to learn Spanish, and others may not care at all. Most likely those who take the time, do so because it would be a value to their life, because they live in a Spanish speaking country or otherwise have valuable associations with Spanish speakers. Such learning takes significant time.

Similarly, some choose to learn calculus and differential equations and other higher math, because it will be required in the kind of work and thought they wish to pursue; others may not care at all (or simply be incapable of it.)

And so forth for every other conceptual thought. It is one's *values* that guide what will be considered/learned/integrated conceptually, which is the fundamental connection to *life*.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
True, but look at the tremendous value created so far in the attempt and everything that's derived from it. As I asked before, why not work on it? Even if it turns out that we can't create full-blown consciousness, the possibilities of what we can create make it well worth the effort.

By whom and to whom?

Really? blink.gif AI and robotics aren't exactly new fields.

OK, there are already people working on it and people finding value from the (thus far relatively rudimentary) technology in various ways, from toys to housework to medical advances. I'm not going to try to predict the future, but surely it's obvious that as the science and technology advance more and better will follow.

When you say "working on it" do you mean that consciousness is already being developed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When you say "working on it" do you mean that consciousness is already being developed?

It depends what you mean by that. One of the goals of AI is to create consciousness at some point. The steps in that direction have been rudimentary at best, little better than exploration of hypotheses and developing the technology. So is an actual consciousness under development at present, as in some Project C currently in the works will end in the creation of a consciousness in some relatively known time frame? I would be stunned to learn that one is. Is what's been developed to date the beginning of the journey toward that goal, such that we can compare the state of the art vs. an actual created consciousness to, perhaps, a single stride vs. a walk from Portugal to Kamchatka? Definitely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Artificial simply means "man-made". Children are both "man-made" and "metaphysical", in a philosophic sense, an idea which, if understood, is probably the answer to the questions in this thread.

Can you expand on that, please? It seems that there is a significant difference of opinion about whether artificial consciousness can be created.

I mean that for a child to exist, his parents have to choose to reproduce, and then they have to choose to raise him, and the child himself has to choose to focus his mind and improve himself. All of those are "man-made" in the philosophic sense. But one's body, one's biology, the capacity for man-made action itself, is the metaphysically given.

As has already been noted, there is nothing mystical about the physical composition of our bodies. It's exactly the same type of atoms that exist across the entire observable universe. If a fertilized egg could be constructed using nanotechnology techniques literally one atom at a time, someday, would you consider the end result to be an "artificial construct"?

No, I would consider that feasible. Constructing a being exactly like the one that humans are today is not the issue that AI focusses on. At least the way that I grasp it. AI promises to create consciousness in a machine or computer by knowing the physiological structures of the brain and then reconstructing those structures in a manner appropriate to a machine.

If humans can think of a way to use, say, silicon instead of carbon to create life, and ultimately conscious life, would that be somehow "unreal"? Consciousness is *not* just the physical substrate, something you yourself already agree with. That being the case, and given that consciousness is a perfectly natural aspect of a certain arrangement of certain atoms, it doesn't seem fantastic to me, at all, to imagine that the human mind can think of another way to arrange different atoms to produce a similar result. Airplanes do not flap their wings like birds and their material composition is totally different, atomically, but they both still fly.

But both birds and airplanes fly using the same aerodynamic principles. Man can think of many ways to fly, he cannot think of ways to fly without producing lift and thrust.

Given the entire history of the earth, perhaps it is not just a coincidence that all living beings are based on carbon in certain chemical forms. Given that nature of carbon, perhaps it is the only element that will support a functioning nervous system and a brain capable of generating consciousness. If one takes that as a metaphysical fact, then it will be indeed impossible to build a silicon based computer or a machine with consciousness.

If AI is to have a realistic possibility in creating life and consciousness (in my opinion), then scientists and engineers should be looking into creating computers and machines that are carbon-based, organic structures.

That said, I am in no way agreeing with the idea that such an artificial consciousness is happening anytime soon. I do think that it's pure fantasy to imagine that it will happen anytime in the lifetimes of anybody alive today, at least with current human lifespans, and I think that current efforts in that direction are hopelessly naive anyway.

Let's just look at the most rudimentary form of consciousness: an organism's sensory awareness of the environment such as a single cell amoeba. The organisms sensory awareness provides the information necessary for it to find and consume food from its environment for its survival. Is there any AI that can even do this rudimentary function? There are optical sensors and pressure transducers that are used in machines to detect things in their environment. But does such apparatus work for the survival of the machine, even a nanomachine? Does the nanomachine differentiate among objects and ingest what it needs to continue to exist? Clearly not. They work only based upon what a programmer has input into the programming, or designed the machine to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But both birds and airplanes fly using the same aerodynamic principles. Man can think of many ways to fly, he cannot think of ways to fly without producing lift and thrust.

Given the entire history of the earth, perhaps it is not just a coincidence that all living beings are based on carbon in certain chemical forms. Given that nature of carbon, perhaps it is the only element that will support a functioning nervous system and a brain capable of generating consciousness. If one takes that as a metaphysical fact, then it will be indeed impossible to build a silicon based computer or a machine with consciousness.

If AI is to have a realistic possibility in creating life and consciousness (in my opinion), then scientists and engineers should be looking into creating computers and machines that are carbon-based, organic structures.

The mind is not reducible to the brain (nor its basic structures, such as carbon-based organic material), and similarly, the fact that all life is based on carbon in certain chemical forms is weak evidence, at best, that no other forms would support life. I think what it primarily demonstrates is that life cannot naturally evolve outside of such forms, and only such forms could arise from the primordial soup that gave rise to the very first instances of life.

To use your flight example: All beings capable of flight are based on carbon in certain chemical forms, yet man-made flying machines are not based on those forms even though they are based on the principles of lift and thrust.

Similarly, man-made conscious entities would likely be built on the same principles as natural living things, but could be made of vastly different materials.

The non-progress in the AI field is not because researchers are using computers instead of carbon-based components--it's because they hold the wrong ideas. Dispensing with the idea that the mind is reducible to computation, or that mimicking certain "abilities" of man like recognizing faces or playing chess is a significant achievement on the direct road to creating a conceptual intelligence (even though computer programs to do these things work nothing like the human mind does such things), would be a start.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The mind is not reducible to the brain (nor its basic structures, such as carbon-based organic material),

Similarly, man-made conscious entities would likely be built on the same principles as natural living things, but could be made of vastly different materials.

.......... snippage.....................

The non-progress in the AI field is not because researchers are using computers instead of carbon-based components--it's because they hold the wrong ideas. Dispensing with the idea that the mind is reducible to computation,

............ more snippage...............................

I need a bit of clarification (if you would be so kind to provide it). Are you saying that the mind is not causally/physically based on the brain?

It seems that you are making two distinct assertions here (please correct me if I am mistaken).

1. The mind is not the effect of physical causes taking place in the brain.

2. The mind is not properly understood in computational terms.

These are not equivalent. It may very well be the case that we are chasing a will of the wisp in trying to comprehend minds in terms of computation. This is a view put forth by Roger Penrose, for example. On the other hand, if our minds are not physical manifestations of the interaction of particles and fields (ultimately) subject to physical laws, then what is the mind? Does it exist in the same space time manifold as matter and energy?

Please clarify, if you would.

Thank you.

ruveyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But both birds and airplanes fly using the same aerodynamic principles. Man can think of many ways to fly, he cannot think of ways to fly without producing lift and thrust.

Given the entire history of the earth, perhaps it is not just a coincidence that all living beings are based on carbon in certain chemical forms. Given that nature of carbon, perhaps it is the only element that will support a functioning nervous system and a brain capable of generating consciousness. If one takes that as a metaphysical fact, then it will be indeed impossible to build a silicon based computer or a machine with consciousness.

If AI is to have a realistic possibility in creating life and consciousness (in my opinion), then scientists and engineers should be looking into creating computers and machines that are carbon-based, organic structures.

The mind is not reducible to the brain (nor its basic structures, such as carbon-based organic material), and similarly, the fact that all life is based on carbon in certain chemical forms is weak evidence, at best, that no other forms would support life. I think what it primarily demonstrates is that life cannot naturally evolve outside of such forms, and only such forms could arise from the primordial soup that gave rise to the very first instances of life.

No matter how weak the evidence may be, it is the only evidence there is.

To use your flight example: All beings capable of flight are based on carbon in certain chemical forms, yet man-made flying machines are not based on those forms even though they are based on the principles of lift and thrust.

But organic chemicals are not the basis for flight whereas it is the basis for life as we know it. You are equating actions of entities (flight) with the entities themselves. There is evidence that non-carbon-based entities can fly, walk, make sounds, etc. There is none that they can be alive.

Similarly, man-made conscious entities would likely be built on the same principles as natural living things, but could be made of vastly different materials.

What principles of life are not ultimately based upon carbon-based molecules? Respiration, reproduction, digestion are all processes that aim at preserving, maintaining or continuing the existence of living organisms.

The non-progress in the AI field is not because researchers are using computers instead of carbon-based components--it's because they hold the wrong ideas. Dispensing with the idea that the mind is reducible to computation, or that mimicking certain "abilities" of man like recognizing faces or playing chess is a significant achievement on the direct road to creating a conceptual intelligence (even though computer programs to do these things work nothing like the human mind does such things), would be a start.

That may be the case. It is one of the things I was hoping to learn about in this thread. Could you expand upon these wrong ideas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you were lonely and bought a conceptual entity to keep you company and be your friend, it might not like you.

I just noticed that if you pick 3 letters from conceptual entity, you get CAT.rotflmao.gif What if it didn't like anybody? What would you do with it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How about an artificial organism with a conceptual consciousness? I think that's doable, too.

I agree. To regard the creation of a man-made, conceptual consciousness as impossible would mean that there is something physically unique about humans and/or the human brain which cannot be replicated--meaning something supernatural.

Should we? Maybe, but it must be done with the understanding that this artificial conceptual entity would have to be a volitional entity. That has all kinds of consequences. As I have mentioned before, it would need to be motivated, but force would not work nor would it be proper. The conceptual entity would have rights for exactly the same reason that human beings do.

Betsy, I have a question for you (or anyone). I've been interested in the possibilities of AI (I use the term "AI" loosely because it can refer to so many different things) for years. I have no doubt that making an "artificial man", which is as you describe and is volitional, is possible. I also have no doubt that the processes of the human mind--that is, a volitional, conceptual consciousness--cannot be reduced to a deterministic process, like a computer program.

My question: Is it the case that any entity capable of concept-formation and concept-processing, must necessarily be volitional? And, if the answer to this question is known, is it a philosophical question (meaning not a scientific question that hinges on perhaps undiscovered facts about the human brain or human psychology, or other detailed scientific study)?

This question is the only significant unresolved issue for me in my philosophic thinking about "AI". I have not yet arrived at a fully-solid chain on reasoning for the answer to this question.

The idea of making an artificial man raises the question with which Paul started this thread: namely, what is the fascination for wanting to do so? If, today, I could make a volitionally conscious man, why would I do so? Having volition, he would not necessarily be a good man. Having no childhood, he would have no interesting memories or experiences (learning or otherwise). Being an independent man, he would have to go out and support himself (as long as he accepted his independence and didn't want to sit around being a moocher). He might develope totally different interests than mine, go off into the world and never comunicate with me again. Or, he might become pessimistic about the world around him and take up drinking vodka. Creating an artificial man does not mean creating a friend, a morally good man or an artistically creative man, or even a half decent baritone. I might give it Atlas Shrugged to read and it might say "Ho hum!" It does not mean creating an intelligent slave whom I will control. It does not mean making this world a better place.

So, if I might narrow the question, What is the moral/psychological fascination with creating an artificial, volitionally conscious man?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
---------------

The idea of making an artificial man raises the question with which Paul started this thread: namely, what is the fascination for wanting to do so? If, today, I could make a volitionally conscious man, why would I do so? Having volition, he would not necessarily be a good man. Having no childhood, he would have no interesting memories or experiences (learning or otherwise). Being an independent man, he would have to go out and support himself (as long as he accepted his independence and didn't want to sit around being a moocher). He might develope totally different interests than mine, go off into the world and never comunicate with me again. Or, he might become pessimistic about the world around him and take up drinking vodka. Creating an artificial man does not mean creating a friend, a morally good man or an artistically creative man, or even a half decent baritone. I might give it Atlas Shrugged to read and it might say "Ho hum!" It does not mean creating an intelligent slave whom I will control. It does not mean making this world a better place.

So, if I might narrow the question, What is the moral/psychological fascination with creating an artificial, volitionally conscious man?

That is an interesting question, to which I don't have a full answer. But it can be related to the issue of having children. The same comments can be made about children after becoming adults, yet the joy of having children outweighs the risks of what might ultimately happen to them when they become adults. Raising children and influencing their choices and decisions, watching them grow and make decisions are part of the process that brings enjoyment to the parents. But as they get older, whether they turn out to be intelligent or drug addicts has profound affects on parents. What would be the attitude of an engineer who created a living, volitional being who didn't like life and escaped into drugs? Probably disappointment, but he'd most likely go back to the lab and create another one with some electronic modifications, with the implications that values and choices can be determined by such modifications, perhaps this time turning out someone who could find a cure for cancer. It doesn't seem very appealing to me to be involved in such activity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That is an interesting question, to which I don't have a full answer. But it can be related to the issue of having children. [..]

Humans have already created machines that are much better than humans themselves for physical activities and some mental-like activities, such as computers. If every human being on earth had a manual calculator to multiply numbers, my own computer could easily beat the sum total of their efforts. Think about that for a moment.

The remaining human characteristic that has not been created (outside of babies) is our conceptual consciousness. Nobody really knows what that final frontier will produce, but if other efforts are an indication, the result can ultimately be a mind that is far more powerful than any human's can ever be, because it will not have the limits imposed by the nature of our current brains, but much larger limits: on memory, intelligence, speed of thought.

Science fiction has been considering this scenario for many decades. One question is whether anybody will ultimately like the result. A supergenius that can never be matched by a human brain might convey extremely useful information such as a genuine integrated theory of physics that encompasses the existence of volition, how to build cheap fusion reactors (or probably better), how to bypass that silly speed of light limit (hopefully), and so forth. But there won't be just one such consciousness. As they proliferate, would it discourage humans from doing their own deep thinking? That would not be good. Would they conclude that humans are more pesky than interesting, more likely to kill them out of fear rather than co-exist, and proactively do something about that? That would really be bad. Beware of giving physical effectors to these beings. (e.g. Colossus: The Forbin Project, Battlestar Galactica, and a host of other such stories.)

I tend to take a more optimistic view of the possibilities. A super-consciousness would be far more likely to figure out a way to either augment human consciousness up to its own level, or to transfer human consciousness (necessarily including relevant brain characteristics such as memories) into a better machine than our evolved brains. At least, for those who wanted it. It should be smart enough to figure out a way to gradually transition a human brain to something better as well, so that a person could gradually adapt. And it would certainly know how to build bigger and better consciousnesses than itself (which would in turn, do an even better job.)

Ultimately this is really a new form of evolution, one driven by the power of conceptual consciousness rather than the slow processes of reproductive-driven natural selection, becoming something we literally can't imagine.

All interesting to consider, but still not going to happen within the normal lifetime of anybody alive today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My question: Is it the case that any entity capable of concept-formation and concept-processing, must necessarily be volitional? And, if the answer to this question is known, is it a philosophical question (meaning not a scientific question that hinges on perhaps undiscovered facts about the human brain or human psychology, or other detailed scientific study)?

It is a philosophical question and I would like to give my answer.

A conceptual consciousness has to be volitional because the process of abstraction, necessary to concept formation, has to be volitional. I gave an indication of the reason why in this post :

(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus?

The answer to this question is contained in the nature of the conceptual capacity and how it operates. We can see this most clearly by comparing the way our minds work with the way a perceptual animal is conscious of the world.

A dog or cat can be aware of what is immediately before him and any memories that are associated with his immediate sensory input, but nothing else. He cannot ignore his awareness, but he cannot go beyond it either. He cannot abstract from the immediately present. While he can associate his current perceptions with similar perceptions in his experience, he cannot integrate by essentials. He cannot evaluate, project into the future, nor imagine what does not yet exist. A perceptual creature cannot turn away from immediate awareness to abstract, integrate, evaluate, or project which are mental operations a conceptual consciousness is capable of and what gives man such an evolutionary advantage.

It is man's ability to step away from immediate awareness and choose to perform the mental operations his life requires that also makes it possible for him to ignore reality and not focus on what his life requires.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anything that happens in the world is of the natural order of things. The fact that we might not understand it or be able to duplicate it, is another question entirely. All things that happen happen according to natural physical laws.

The naturalness of things do not require our understanding.

Yes, but I made a slightly different claim: Not that mankind would be able to do it or would do it, but that it is not impossible to do so.

I need a bit of clarification (if you would be so kind to provide it). Are you saying that the mind is not causally/physically based on the brain?

...

On the other hand, if our minds are not physical manifestations of the interaction of particles and fields (ultimately) subject to physical laws, then what is the mind? Does it exist in the same space time manifold as matter and energy?

I'm saying that actions of the mind cannot be reduced to actions of the parts of the brain. For example, a mental integration cannot be reduced to neurons firing, even though neurons firing may be a part of that mental action.

The simplest example of this is that the mind is volitional, whereas the behavior of the chemical and physical parts of the brain is determinstic. Volition cannot be reduced to anything further, but is an emergent property of the brain.

To use your flight example: All beings capable of flight are based on carbon in certain chemical forms, yet man-made flying machines are not based on those forms even though they are based on the principles of lift and thrust.

But organic chemicals are not the basis for flight whereas it is the basis for life as we know it. You are equating actions of entities (flight) with the entities themselves.

Not quite. The actions of consciousness are the actions I refer to.

There is evidence that non-carbon-based entities can fly, walk, make sounds, etc. There is none that they can be alive.

But, there is evidence that man-made entities can be alive. Using the definition of "life" as "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action", then to build a man-made living thing, requires implementing certain things, such as, as you state, respiration and digestion. These are mechanical processes which could be implemented using other means than lungs or a stomach. Man-made devices have replicated some of the functions of biological organs, such as artificial hearts, using non-organic material, which is strong evidence that any of the body's functions could be replicated with sufficient technology with a wide array of materials.

Where is the evidence that certain functions of living things rely on certain chemical elements and that there is no possible replacement? I don't consider the results of evolution to be such evidence, because the processes of evolution are far more limited than the processes of the development of technology using man's conceptual faculty. That evolution did not produce a certain result is not evidence that man cannot do it. It's the only evidence there is, and it doesn't support the claim!

The non-progress in the AI field is not because researchers are using computers instead of carbon-based components--it's because they hold the wrong ideas. Dispensing with the idea that the mind is reducible to computation, or that mimicking certain "abilities" of man like recognizing faces or playing chess is a significant achievement on the direct road to creating a conceptual intelligence (even though computer programs to do these things work nothing like the human mind does such things), would be a start.

That may be the case. It is one of the things I was hoping to learn about in this thread. Could you expand upon these wrong ideas?

If "AI" (man-made intelligent entities) is to be developed, it must imitate the way the human mind actually works: that is, re-create the ability to form and process concepts.

Many specific tasks that computer programs have been created to perform that seem "intelligent" can actually be reduced to mathematical algorithms.

For example, computers play chess not by reasoning and intuition, but by numerically analyzing billions of possible sequences of moves. Some computer systems recognize faces without reference to facial body parts at all (though some do), but merely by calculating mathematical properties of the entire image being recognized and that of a database of faces (Eigenface). Although, on further consideration, this isn't as good of an example, as face recognition in humans is primarily based on perception, an automatic (deterministic) process.

Other such tasks, such as robotic navigation of an obstacle course (or real environments like buildings), natural language processing, or control of characters in video games, while imitating human actions which are based on intelligence, are not components of conceptual processing. For a machine to acquire general intelligence in the form of conceptual processing, the fundamentals of concept formation must be implemented.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

JeffT, you say above that "Volition...is an emergent property of the brain." How do you define "emergent"? One common meaning which I have found is---that which arises unexpectedly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites