Adam2

AdamCreationby Jerry Richardson9/30/14
Will mankind ever be able to build a thinking-machine that is, in every way, the equal of a human-being? Google is working to develop a quantum computer-chip that has been said may one day allow thinking machines.  And Connecticut’s Westport Library has recently acquired two humanoid robots, “Vincent” and “Nancy” from Aldebaran Robotics:

[September 2, 2014] San Francisco (AFP) – Google said it is working on a super-fast ‘quantum’ computer chip as part [of] a vision to one day have machines think like humans.
Thinking Machine 

[September 29, 2014] WESTPORT, Conn.—They have blinking eyes and an unnerving way of looking quizzically in the direction of whoever is speaking. They walk, dance and can talk in 19 different languages. About the height of a toddler, they look like bigger, better-dressed cousins of Buzz Lightyear.

And soon, “Vincent” and “Nancy” will be buzzing around the Westport Library, where officials next week will announce the recent acquisition of the pair of humanoid “NAO Evolution” robots. Their primary purpose: to teach the kind of coding and computer-programming skills required to animate such machines.
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“Robotics is the next disruptive technology coming into our lives…”
Humanoid Robots

Is there an appropriate name for a thinking-machine, a machine-man?

I’m not asking about “humanoid robots”; I’m not asking about a name for such hypothetical creatures as Star Trek’s Borg (a hive of cybernetic organisms). I am asking about a useful name for a hypothetical creature that would resemble, in function and somewhat in looks, Commander Data from Star Trek.

The term android is a well-known term for an automaton that “resembles” a human. But I am not looking for a word that just indicates a resemblance; I want a word that indicates a deep inherent likeness.

A likeness that is the replication of essence and function but not a cloning—has to be an original creation; a creation: Engineered and built by humans without the use of any genetic material, human DNA or otherwise.

Since the Old Testament word for mankind (Genesis 1:27, male and female) is the transliterated Hebrew word ‘âdâm; I am going to use the name ADAM2 for the concept of a sentient machine-human creature that is a partial-facsimile of ADAM1.  ADAM2 is to be for this discussion a man-designed and man-built machine.

The primary difference from ADAM1 would be that ADAM2 would not consist of carbon-based, protoplasmic flesh and bones; some other material would be used; however, ADAM2 would possess the look and “feel” of a fleshly creature—not like Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. Since he is not composed of protoplasm, he would not “eat food” as we know it.  Some other source of energy would be necessary.  He would “live” a long time, but would not be “immortal” since he, being a machine, would eventually fall victim to the 2nd law of thermodynamics and wear-out. (Note: If we play the ‘replace his parts’ game; when, and on what basis does he cease to be who he was originally?  Let’s not go there in this discussion.)

All this elaborate specification, for our discussion, is to insure that in our minds; conceptually ADAM2 is, without question, a machine and not an artificially-grown embryo or some sort of an advanced human clone.  In other words, ADAM2 would possess real artificial life and real artificial intelligence.

Here was the result of the “building” of the first Adam, ADAM1:

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”  God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female.
Genesis 1:26-27 MSG

Will there ever be an ADAM2?

ADAM2 has to possess sentience, consciousness, and self-awareness. Can he be designed and built by mankind? Or, stated differently, how human-like can a man-built machine ever be?

With that in mind, here are my fundamental questions about the functioning of a hypothetical ADAM2:

1: Could ADAM2 be able to “think” (remember, reason, plan, decide, imagine, dream arrive at unexpected genius conclusions, etc.)?

2: Could ADAM2 be self-conscious (know that he exists and is finite)?

3: Could ADAM2 have a conscience (sense of right and wrong)?

4: Could ADAM2 exercise free-will (make non-predetermined, not programmatic) choices based only upon his own independent reasoning)?

5: Could ADAM2 be able to sin (intentionally violate moral standards)?

If philosophical naturalism, aka scientific materialism, aka material monism (the default assumption of modern science) is true, then the answer to questions 1 – 5 would have to be yes; for the simple reason that human beings are, according to scientific materialism, nothing other than meat-machines that have been assembled randomly by evolutionary processes.  And whatever a meat-machine can do, in theory, should be accomplishable by some other properly constructed machine.

Scientific materialists will perhaps resent the description of a human as a meat-machine.  But given their philosophy, what else could a human be? Materialism provides no realm outside of the natural from which to draw ingredients; accordingly there must be some sort of natural explanation for everything.

Of course, currently, there has been nothing designed or constructed by humanity that can provide a yes answer to any of the five questions.  Currently, the productive direction seems to be toward humanoid robots.  But, at this time, my 5 questions all require speculation—there are no machines that demonstrate yes answers to any of the questions; however the speculation strongly continues that some, if not all, of the answers could be, in the future, yes. This speculation has been generated and studied primarily in the research areas of AI (artificial intelligence) and brain research.

Recently some physicists who specialize in quantum physics have weighed-in with reasoning intended to challenge the ruling paradigm of naturalism that over-shadows most of AI and brain research.

Amit Goswami holds a Ph.D degree in theoretical quantum physic; in his latest book, GOD IS NOT DEAD, he argues against material monism (scientific naturalism) with his own notions of monistic idealism in which his name for “God” is quantum consciousness (in essence a type of pantheism).  I don’t favor his philosophical pantheism, but I do enjoy Goswami’s take-down of materialists:

“But behold, please. Materialists make the ontological assertion that matter is the reductionistic ground of all being: everything, even consciousness, can be reduced to material building blocks, the elementary particles and their interactions. They hold that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, a secondary phenomenon of matter that is the primary reality. What I demonstrate is the necessity of turning the materialist science upside down. Quantum physics demands that science be based on the primacy of consciousness. Consciousness is the ground of all being, a being that mystics call Godhead. Let materialists realize that it is matter that is the epiphenomenon, not consciousness.”
Goswami, Amit (2012-04-01). God Is Not Dead (p. 7).  Kindle Edition.

Most attempts at building a model for a “thinking” ADAM2 have been produced in AI research labs using some adjusted version of the paradigm, brain = computer.  This has been popular, and has resulted in some useful applications such as expert-systems.

Expert-systems function with if-then branching trees.  The user selects if and the system provides then opinions and the user choses another if, and so on.  Eventually a sensible then is filtered-out from a previous selection of multiple-related ifs.

A human expert can think this way, but he usually doesn’t. He doesn’t cross-examine himself in this fashion.  In fact a human expert often cannot explain exactly how he knows what he knows.  As Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian-British polymath explained in The Tacit Dimension, “We can know more than we can tell”. Polanyi termed this pre-logical phase of knowing, ‘tacit knowledge’. Human experts actually rely on ‘tacit knowledge’; they don’t cross-examine themselves as is done in AI expert-systems.

So what does this suggest?

This suggests that the human mind does not primarily operate in an algorithmic mode.  Computers operate with algorithms; the algorithms are encoded in the software and some in the firmware.  No one has ever proven that the human mind operates primarily with algorithms; even though this has been the implied model since computers became so available, important, and prominent.

Modern end-user computers employ operating systems such as Windows (from Microsoft) that operate in an event-driven mode.  This simply means that the user does something to create an event—press a key, click a mouse, point the cursor at an object, or touch the screen with a finger—and the operating system senses the event and responds with an action.

The computer-action is then controlled by an algorithm or multiple algorithms, and it presents the user with a choice or choices of some kind.  This process continues until the user quits: either gets what he wants, tries something else, or gives-up in frustration. We’ve all been there.

It could be argued that the human brain functions in an event-driven fashion.  Events are presented and the brain accesses algorithms that are “processed” by the collective action of brain neurons that have been “programmed” over time for just such a purpose.

That sounds good.  But there is a major problem with the scenario.

What triggers events?

If we are moving about in the external world, events happen and we respond.  No problem with that scenario.  But what about when we are sitting quietly in the solitude of our own room, no one around, and we are thinking. We think, and in the process we ask ourselves a question.

Who/what triggered that event?  Who/what asked the question?  Of course it is me; it is myself; it is the ever-present “I”.

But, what and who is the “I” who asked me a question?

No one, to my knowledge, has an answer to this question that isn’t an intellectual dodge.  The most common dodge is that the “self” the “I” is an illusion.  Here’s how Daniel C. Dennett, probably the foremost proponent of that verbal-hand-waving dodge stated it:

“In our brains there is a cobbled-together collection of specialist brain circuits, which thanks to a family of habits inculcated partly by culture and partly by individual self-exploration, conspire together to produce a more or less orderly, more or less effective, more or less well-designed virtual machine […] this virtual machine, this software of the brain, performs a sort of internal political miracle: it creates a virtual captain of the crew.”
Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (1991), p. 228, Little Brown and company, Boston

In other words, according to Dennett the “self” the “I” is just an illusion, a “virtual captain of the crew” created by our brain circuits. The “sort of…miracle”—Dennett’s terminology —is how anyone would be persuaded by Dennett’s verbal-hand-waving.

The Nobel laureate neurophysiologist John Eccles had this to say about Dennett’s (and others’) scientific materialism:

“There has been a regrettable tendency of many scientists to claim that science is so powerful and all pervasive that in the not too distant future it will provide an explanation in principle for all phenomena in the world of nature, including man, even of human consciousness in all of its manifestations. [Karl] Popper has labeled this claim as promissory materialism, which is extravagant and unfulfillable.
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“I regard this theory as being without foundation. The more we discover scientifically about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a superstition held by dogmatic materialists. It has all the features of a Messianic prophecy, with the promise of a future freed of all problems—a kind of Nirvana for our unfortunate successors.”

John Eccles, Indictment of Scientific Materialism

Thinking and consciousness are two undeniable phenomena that are conceptually inseparable in our introspective world of reality.  Scientific materialism has another major problem with this inseparable pair: Does thought require consciousness, and if so why, if not why not?

If we can trace the computer’s input-output performance to the activities of its internal circuits without any ambiguity, without losing the trail (and this, at least in principle, should always be possible for a classical computer), then what is the necessity for consciousness? It would seem to have no function. I think it is an evasion of the issue for artificial intelligence protagonists to say that consciousness is only an epiphenomenon, or an illusion. The Nobel laureate neurophysiologist John Eccles seems to agree with me. Asks Eccles: “Why do we have to be conscious at all? We can, in principle, explain all our input-output performances in terms of the activity of the neuronal circuits; and consequently consciousness seems to be absolutely unnecessary.”
Goswami, Amit (1995-03-21). The Self-Aware Universe (p. 21-22). Kindle Edition.

It certainly seems questionable whether a mankind-built ADAM2 is even possible.  But, if it ever does become possible, then the question becomes “should it be done”?

In Frank Herbert’s Dune books, humanity has long banned the creation of “thinking machines.” Ten thousand years earlier, their ancestors destroyed all such computers in a movement called the Butlerian Jihad, because they felt the machines controlled them. Human computers called Mentats serve as a substitute for the outlawed technology. The penalty for violating the Orange Catholic Bible’s commandment “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind” was immediate death.

Should humanity sanction the creation of intelligent machines? That’s the pressing issue at the heart of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s fascinating new book, Superintelligence. Bostrom cogently argues that the prospect of superintelligent machines is “the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced.” If we fail to meet this challenge, he concludes, malevolent or indifferent artificial intelligence (AI) will likely destroy us all.
Super Intelligence

There is no scientific principal that dictates that everything that can be done should be done.  Deciding that requires a value judgment.  The value-judgment principal of trying-out everything that can be done seems to have originated with modernism; and philosophically it is, today, a “sacred” value of Progressivism—anything newer is better; it’s progress.

Those of us, who have been reared with biblical principles, keep in the back of our mind the thought that just perhaps God does not intend for mankind to pursue everything that it is technologically possible for him to achieve. Perhaps some things are just too dangerous for mankind to experiment with.

The biblical story that reminds us of this is the Old Testament story of the tower of Babel:

At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down.  They said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and fire them well.” They used brick for stone and tar for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the Earth.”  GOD came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built.  GOD took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next–they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.”  Then GOD scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. 

That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there GOD turned their language into “babble.” From there GOD scattered them all over the world.
Genesis 11:1-9 MSG

The take-away from the story of the settlers of the land of Shinar (name in the Old Testament for Babylonia) for our purposes are three concepts. 1) Their efforts were a collective application of a technological advance: Bricks and tar used instead of stones and mortar.  2) Their collective motive was ego-enhancement (“Make ourselves famous”). 3) Their efforts resulted in failure and ended in exactly what they were trying to prevent, “so we won’t be scattered.”

Let’s assume that the basic two motives for anyone designing and building ADAM2 would be 1) A desire to achieve Fame, and 2) A desire to be able to sell the ADAM2 machines for profit.

There is little doubt that fame would accrue to the designer(s) and builder(s) of ADAM2. But as the number of ADAM2 people increase in society, what would be their fate?

In a society such as ours, would ADAM2 people be free citizens?  If not, why not? In what sense would their “owners” actually own them?  Would ADAM2 people be simply considered property?  Would they be legally a type of slave?

Perhaps the most important question revolves around the analogue of the outcome of the Babel experience.  Anyone who has or owns a machine intends to achieve something with that machine, or in the words of the Babel story intents to avoid or prevent something from happening “so we won’t be scattered.”

If we assume that people who would purchase and own an ADAM2 would want to preclude or prevent the necessity of having to perform some specific labor (physical or mental); and If we assume that ADAM2 people were used in such a substitute fashion; how would a society prevent them from revolting (since they have intelligence and free will) and enslaving, or simply going into competition-with, their owners thereby insuring the occurrence of exactly what the owners wished to prevent in the first place.

Now is the time to re-read the Babel story (above or in Genesis 11:1-9).

If mankind could ever develop the science and technology to build an ADAM2, should we build it?

To state this in biblical terms: Should mankind ever play God?

© 2014, Jerry Richardson • (9038 views)

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92 Responses to Adam2

  1. Anniel says:

    Jerry – my eldest son works in Berlin for an EU affiliated company on Artificial Intelligence. I’m going to ask him to read your article and find out his thoughts in light of his work in the field. He also put together a 5,000 piece picture puzzle of Breugel’s Tower of Babel. It’s one of his favorite stories and pieces of art work.

    Maybe I can talk him into an article of his own on the subject since he gave a talk at a Brussel’s university on AI and the Humanities. I read his notes and was surprised and somewhat comforted at what he actually deals with. His brainpower exceeds mine and I am somewhat of a technophobe so I had misunderstood a lot of what goes on.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Holy smokes. What a cool and difficult puzzle idea. 5000 pieces. Wow. I’m assuming it’s this image.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Brad,

        Neat picture. I’ve seen it; but had forgotten about it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Thanks for showing that. I have a volume of 1000 Masterpieces of European Painting which mentions “Tower of Babel” as one of Peter Brueghel’s major paintings, but doesn’t actually show it.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Anniel,

      Excellent idea!

    • Untermensch says:

      Well, I am said son. I don’t know about my brilliance, but I do work at an AI institute. My field of specialty is actually machine translation (MT), which is a subset of AI, but one that has proven to be particularly difficult to deal with. MT research really started in the early days of the Cold War as a way for U.S. intelligence agencies to decipher Russian intelligence intercepts without have to deal with human translators (who took too much time to do things and who could, in both principle and practice, be turned to serve enemies of the U.S. in ways both apparent and subtle).

      The very first MT systems were rule-based systems (RbMT), once that treated language as a code. Using procedural code (essentially, the expert systems and event-driven architecture described above), RbMT tried to take the surface form of a language and transform it into another language, either directly or via an abstract representation (“interlingua”). There were some nice results at first, but MT hit a brick wall in the 1950s when its output failed to meet expectations. That was the first of at least three euphoria/pit of despair cycles that MT went through.

      What was realized is that RbMT could work if you could control the source language enough to make it predictable, but the moment you started applying it to real-world, dynamic language, the rules were never complete enough to account for language, and the translations always fell short. In addition, coding the rules for language took huge effort.

      Now some of you may say, “but I have used Google Translate and they have tons of languages”. And you would be right. The reaction to the limitations of the AI paradigms Brad mentions was a shift to newer approaches that are based on large amounts of translated data. Without going into too much detail, these approaches (known as statistical MT, or SMT) take sentences and their translations, chop them into little bits, and detect patterns in them and use them to make hypotheses about translation. Those hypotheses are weighted for various criteria, and then provided. For sentences that have been seen before and have fixed translations, these approaches make it very fast to get reasonable results. But the more you drift away from what has already been seen, the worse the results get.

      What’s important to note is that SMT is at some level “parasitic” (I don’t use this with any negative intent) on human translation. It needs humans’ output to detect the patterns it emulates, but in no sense does it understand them. That is why one experimental system I was working with told me with 100% confidence that the translation of (English) “1865” in German was “deutsches-ungarisches” (‘German-Hungarian’).

      So what we find is that MT systems fall short of what even moderately competent humans.

      Other AI fields seem to show more promise, but I think that MT actually shows the limits of the field. Right now we are finding that the paradigms we have are fundamentally limited. For data-driven SMT approaches what we found was that initially doubling the amount of data or the processing power would provide large performance increases. But that result doesn’t scale. At some point you double the amount of data and you get a minuscule performance increase or, even worse, you get a performance degradation. In addition, MT performance is badly affected by the amount of “garbage data” out there. For example, Google Translate will often render German “Offensive” as English “offensive” even though it should be “campaign”, simply because the training data used has a lot of humans who got the translation wrong (because it is a so-called “false friend”). The MT systems have no way to tell if what they produce is even plausible because they in no sense of the word “understand” what they are dealing with.

      Research now is trying to inject something like understanding in through programming “semantics” and “deep linguistic knowledge” in, but this approach has yet to be proved (it is currently at the “bleeding” edge), so I can’t say what it will do.

      As may or may not be apparent, I am a skeptic concerning AI even though I work in the field. I see AI as tremendously useful, but I do not see it as approaching humanness. And I’m not sure that should even be a goal in AI. AI is useful as an aid to humans by taking over the tasks that don’t actually really require our intelligence. (And what requires our intelligence is a shifting goal post: consider that only a few years ago the idea of self-driving cars was considered pretty out there.) But what I see is that AI falls short in those areas that come closest to what makes us human. No AI yet has written anything approaching the sublimity of a Shakespeare sonnet, and for all the talk of IBM’s Watson, it was essentially a relation extraction engine that would find words associated with other words, so it is good at information retrieval, but is not something that can be tweaked to produce new knowledge and insights.

      So AI will be a useful adjunct to human knowledge and understanding, but if we think AI can replace that, we will be trying to convert AI into something it is not, and substituting an inferior product for where human insight is needed and ignoring the areas where AI actually outperforms humans (sorting through large amounts of data).

      Before wrapping up this long response, I would also note that an increasing amount of research indicates that human understanding must be embodied. That is not to say that consciousness is simply a physical phenomenon, but rather that consciousness cannot be reduced to a set of rules or even data inferences, but must be experienced in a physical form much like ours. A brain in a jar would necessarily experience consciousness much different than we do. And this raises the possibility that the only “computer” capable of experiencing human consciousness might have to be just as complex as the human body and substantially similar. If this observation is true (and it raises profound philosophical questions) it would mean that AI will never replace humans because AI would have to become human to reach that level.

      There is a lot more that could be said here, but perhaps that is enough fat to chew on for a while.

      • Untermensch says:

        To get to Jerry’s final question, I’m not convinced we can make what he calls ADAM2. What MT is producing is as different in kind from that as a panda bear is from a crayfish, perhaps even more so. Just because both can move and eat doesn’t make them equivalents.

        If we could create such things, however, before we would decide to make them, we would need to consider our moral responsibility to them, and that should give us pause. Once you “turn on” a life, you cannot just pull the plug, so it would be a fundamental step beyond anything we have ever done. Because pulling the plug would be the killing of a sentient being (although not “homicide”).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Very very interesting stuff, Untermensch. Perhaps you could recommend a couple layman books on the general subject that are particularly interesting. It sounds as if you have much experience with this topic.

        • Untermensch says:

          Not much has been written on MT, which is where I really delve into it. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the literature on embodied consciousness, so I’d have to dig to find that, but I’ll see what I can do. One possible starting point is Antonio D’Amasio’s Descartes’ Error, but it deals more with the issue of whether emotion and logic are separable and what implications that question has for mind-body dualism.

          Note that my interpretation of this issue would not be universal. Many AI people would read the same works and turn around and say that they prove that consciousness is a product of the body, but I don’t get that from it.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Note that my interpretation of this issue would not be universal. Many AI people would read the same works and turn around and say that they prove that consciousness is a product of the body, but I don’t get that from it.

            You’re reading my mind. Yes, I should have mentioned that I’m not looking for any of the typical “AI” books or various radical materialist books that try to deconstruct the mind. (I’ve read one of Dennett’s books in this regard, and it barely rises to the level of junior high school philosophy).

            Many of the best, most succinct, books on biology (for a layman) are those by Behe and Meyer. Given how “tracked” the materialist mindset is (with good reason, in many cases, I will add…on one level it does produce tremendous results), it is likely going to take a bit of a rebel to give a quick rundown on what is really going on. This is pretty much what Lee Smolin did in his book, “The Trouble with Physics.” A certain encrusted mindset developed around string theory, and in order to expose and understand this, he gives you a pretty good layman tour of string theory — just as Behe does for cellular biology in his books.

            I understand that MT would necessarily be a fairly narrow field (at present). But here’s to the rebels out there, those whose job (we have long been taught by the Left) is to “question authority.” Yeah, right.

            Regarding reproducing or creating sentience, it’s a good bet that some kind of network will be required. A good overall case (but not necessarily the focus of the book) is made in Frank Vertosick’s The Genius Within. If memory serves, he delves into the extreme adaptability of bacteria, for instance…adaptability that certainly begins to resemble some type of intelligence (among colonies or “networks,” one could say, of these bacteria). It’s an interesting book.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I would also note that an increasing amount of research indicates that human understanding must be embodied.

        So understanding is not simply intellectual, it is physical and dependent on sensory input. Which makes me wonder what would thought be without such input? Which makes me wonder what type of thought could God have being outside of nature?

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Untermensch,

        Thanks you so much for your excellent comments. I think your mother correctly sizes and appreciates your talents; and even though, with proper modesty, you do not name yourself an Übermensch; I think that Untermensch is a bit of an understatement. I know almost no German but perhaps, to coin a word, something like Begabtmensch (talented man) would be more accurate?

        “…but in no sense does it understand them.” –Untermensch

        This seems to be the major line of demarcation between “machine intelligence” and “human intelligence.”

        “The philosopher John Searle and the physicist Roger Penrose have shown that computers can process only symbols, not the meaning that the symbols may represent. For generating and processing meaning, we need the mind.”

        I think the human mind is needed for meaning; meaning can be simulated by machines—look-up tables and so forth—but the so-far-non-emulated, deep-mechanism of understanding (perhaps groking—Heinlein’s coinage) seems to be, at least currently, a capability only found in living minds.

        You spoke of “despair cycles.” I witnessed one of those in the late 80s early 90s. I was working for the Mitre corporation on a small contract they had with NASA at the Johnson Space Center. One of our three departments (approximately 30 people) was completely dedicated to experimental (proof of concept) AI—mostly robotics related stuff.

        There was great energy and excitement when it began; but it just slowly, over a period of 2-3 years ground to a halt. The department was eventually transitioned to other work. I was not working in that department so I didn’t have a bird’s-eye view; but the explanation from the department head was—I’m paraphrasing—”AI technology is just not advanced enough to do many of the things that NASA management imagined and hoped it to be capable of doing.”

        The hype and the excitement had far exceeded the existing capabilities. The picture that had been painted of AI was unfair, because it was unrealistic. It was only a relative short time later that the strong, public, touting of the possibilities of AI began to fall silent.

        Thank you for painting a realistic picture.

        I know that you are a very busy person, but please consider writing a series of articles on AI related subjects for the edification of the readers of Stubborn Things.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        One problem with translation (whether by machine or human) is that words have overlapping meanings between languages. This makes it very interesting when anything is translated from one language to another and back to the first. I’ve heard of many incidents of this, such as the American working in the Soviet Union during World War II who received the message “Harriet hanged for juvenile crimes” when the original had read “Harriet suspended for minor offenses.” A famous example involves 1984 going from English to Italian and back to English, with the first sentence then reporting that all the clocks were striking 1 p.m. (Italian uses the 1-24 system, so the translation back to English naturally translated that into the standard 1 p.m. of English). This no doubt is even harder for computers.

  2. Anniel says:

    Yes’that’s the image. He would have done the 10,000 piece version but his wife put her foot down. Can’t imagine why.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    ADAM2 has to possess sentience, consciousness, and self-awareness. Can he be designed and built by mankind? Or, stated differently, how human-like can a man-built machine ever be?

    We’re at a bit of a disadvantage because we don’t know how to explain consciousness and self-awareness — sentience, broadly speaking. We could have every intention to build it into a robot by having it somehow “emerge” from the complexity, but we have no good theory at hand to suppose when this would or would not happen, or if it could happen.

    Sentience, like so much of existence, remains completely inexplicable. Man can posit that a fertilized egg is “ensouled,” thus turning man from merely machine (which he at least is) to something more. But that is a theological guess, at best.

    But surely we do see that there is something different between a man and a rock, or even a man and a chipmunk. In many ways, the biblical account of creation captures these distinctions. Man can indeed, unlike a wolf, know good and evil. In some sense, then, he is the “image of God.” Man is burdened (whether he likes it or not, admits it or not) with the moral dimension, something that a wolf does not seem to have.

    I would expect that we will create quite complex robots (whatever we call them). Some of the great works of science fiction allude to the exiting (and terrifying) possibilities. Will we create a helpful (if clunky) Rosie as in the Jetsons or something more akin to Skynet which (as in the Terminator movies) becomes self-aware, perceives mankind as its greatest threat, and uses clever (and terrifying) robots such as the Series 800 Terminator to try to destroy him?

    We can say “Turing Test” all we like, but there is no objective test for sentience. We simply infer it as a reasonable proposition given that we all (one would think) experience it individually. So perhaps at some point an artificial life form will convince us, through the seemingly complex and rational way it interacts with its environment, that it is aware.

    As you no doubt know (I assume everyone here is a Trekkie to some degree), one of the better true sci-fi episodes of The Next Generation was “The Measure of a Man” wherein it is Commander Riker’s job to prove that Data isn’t a sentient being (and thus not due all the rights and privileges of making choices for himself) and it is Captain Picard’s job to prove that Commander Data is indeed a sentient being.

    We can sympathize with the job that Judge Louvois has in that episode. Is there some point at which your computer can sue you or restrict your ability to do with the machine what you will? Data gives every indication of being a self-aware being. But how do we know? Picard rightly rebuts Commander Riker’s critique that Data is merely a machine by noting that human beings are also machines (as we are indeed made up of molecular machines). But such a circumstance does not mean we are not self-aware.

    Because science (at the moment) is full of fundamentalist materialists, they will likely be quick to announce that some newfangled robot or computer program is self-aware or has nascent aspects of self-awareness. But their models should be given the same skepticism that is due their fudged climate models. But the question itself won’t go away just because one side or another is biased: How and why are we self-aware? If we are made of nothing but matter, cannot human ingenuity arrange the particles of matter in such a way as to recreate consciousness, if perhaps via different means?

    Like it or not, there is indeed some kind of ghost in the machine and we haven’t a clue what it is or how exactly it arises. We know only that there is some rough engagement with matter and energy. Materialists want to deny this ghost, although they will surely be quick to use supposedly self-aware robots to try to denude any kind of special place for humanity. Even so, scientists these days are proving to be the worst kind of philosophers, Stephen Hawking being a good example of the kind. We can’t expect much in the way (at least at present) in regards to a rational or consistent philosophy or epistemology coming from them. Right now they just wish to demolish a certain metaphysical point of view that they don’t share, and they don’t seem to care how they do it.

    Whether, as in Red Dwarf, we ever can come up with a “Talkie Toaster” wouldn’t get around the fact that we can make one. It’s the same point to be made about human design. Just because we can design groovy things (such as iPhones) does not mean that greater design can’t take place. Nor does it explain how design itself is capable of existing in the first place. Science takes reality as a given. That’s a big given.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Brad,

      “How and why are we self-aware? If we are made of nothing but matter, cannot human ingenuity arrange the particles of matter in such a way as to recreate consciousness, if perhaps via different means?

      Like it or not, there is indeed some kind of ghost in the machine and we haven’t a clue what it is or how exactly it arises.” –Brad

      Exactly!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        But the concept of a soul is something science can’t measure, so scientists will never acknowledge the possibility that it exists.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I can’t help it, Jerry. I’m just a snake-handling loon. I believe in the immaterial…including my own mind. I’m funny that way.

        Some ideologies tend to make you stupid. I would say that radical materialism is one of them. Steven Pinker is an intelligent fellow (but not always well informed, the two being different things). But he is intelligent and thoughtful. And upon purchasing his book a few years back, How the Mind Works, I actually had some hope that he would tell me how the mind worked.

        But he didn’t. As I recall, the book was full of all kinds of fascinating things, speculative or otherwise. But he had bloody little to say about the mind (as opposed to the brain). Materialists are as uncomfortable with the mind as Democrats are with a Republican woman such as Sarah Palin. They don’t know what to do with it. It doesn’t fit their ideology. It doesn’t fit their “world view” which might more rightly be called a religion.

        And I have some respect for Pinker’s work, although it was with great joy that I read Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt in which he does a very good dressing-down of Pinker on a couple of Pinker’s truly blinkered ideas.

        But one of Pinker’s books, at least, did take some baby-steps out of the political correct bubble of academia (and I doubt he would or could write this book today). It was The Blank Slate. And that book (finally!) is relevant to the discussion because it takes on three things:

        1) The denial of human nature (aka the idea of “the blank slate”) by the modern Left (Pinker does not deny human nature, and give a robust defense of it, but I don’t think he refers to the “Left” by name)

        2) The noble savage (again, Pinker is mostly on the correct side of this issue)

        3) The Ghost in the Machine (which, of course, as a radical materialist, he denies…the weakest part of the book, and the shortest, appearing at the end).

        It’s tempting to cite that humans are different because they have a soul, and a self-aware robot is impossible because it can’t have one. I’ll grant the immaterial aspect (something science can comment on) and leave the soul part of it to theology. This seems similar to the division that John Lennox makes in that science can give evidence for intelligent design but probably can’t say much about the designer.

        Let me share with you some thoughts I shared with a friend. They are not profound, but I think it gets to some of the essence of the question. This is in response to Ray Kurzweil’s idea that the mind is simply chemistry:

        If it’s true that “libertarianism makes you stupid” then so does materialism. Most of the books that try to explain it through material means are dull and miss the mark.

        Clearly consciousness uses chemistry in some way. But is the feeling of love because of the shape of a certain neurotransmitter? That is, are our feelings no more than the geometry of molecules?

        Clearly that is absurd. The molecules merely act as a means to transmit and organize information, at the very least. One could think of it as the hardware with perhaps the mind acting as the software. I don’t know. But what this dual relationship suggests is that matter is indeed just dead and dumb and that some other primary element exists.

        I don’t think it’s right to say that consciousness “emerges” from dead matter, as the materialists say (which they want to say because the materialist paradigm says that everything can be understood as complexity that forms and emerges from simple constituent parts). This is perhaps the big reason they have a problem with God and prefer proposing an unknowable 10500 universes. The God concept is a total repudiation of the idea that we can understand everything by looking at the smallest components (reductionism). For many things, reductionism works fine. It’s been amazingly productive, which has caused science to become fat, dumb, and arrogant — and more than a little inbred.

        The very ingredient of mind as a primary element of the universe suggests God, easily and without any fancy words or contrived arguments. If little mind can exist (as it does) then it is not much of a leap to suppose that Big Mind exists. So materialists will always try to belittle mind.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The Blank Slate, as you note, did have the great quality of actually challenging liberal orthodoxy. Pinker has his flaws, but I think he is at least honest (unlike Michael Shermer, to my disappointment). I actually first encountered him, I think, by his book on language (in particular, regular and irregular inflections).

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Pinker is a fish swimming in extremely liberal waters in Harvard. He’s to some extent a captive mind. He often says really stupid PC stuff, especially regarding language. But he did take some baby-steps when he wrote “The Blank Slate.” I’ll give him that. He stepped outside of liberal orthodoxy.

    • Rosalys says:

      “Some of the great works of science fiction allude to the exiting…”

      Did you mean exciting?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Rosallys, I’m not sure why you’re asking since I think you already know the answer.

        One of the things that makes artificial intelligence so difficult to achieve is the problem of dealing with ambiguity. The human mind is very good at it. Programming it into a machine is incredibly difficult.

        I’m sure we’ve all seen those emails that have crossed our inboxes in which the entire bottoms of words were removed and yet you could still read the sentence. Another example I like is where the letters in the words themselves are somewhat scrambled but you can still, with a little reflection, read the sentences. Amazing.

        So I’m pretty sure that one little type didn’t bog you down.

        • Rosalys says:

          True it didn’t bog me down since I am a truly sentient being capable of seeing contextual clues and seeing what was probably meant. But since we’re talking SciFi here, exiting could conjure up even more terrifying possibilities.

          Sorry to have offended.

    • Rosalys says:

      I remember another episode of Star Trek Next Gen where an away team was on a planet and they were being attacked by computer generated weapons. I don’t remember too much about the episode other than near the end, when all is almost lost, someone (I think it was the doctor) said, “Turn it off! It’s a machine!” And somehow they figured a way to turn it off.

  4. Anniel says:

    Untermensch – Thanks for your input. Give everyone a hug from me and Bear.

  5. Rosalys says:

    This article begins with a question, “Will mankind ever be able to build a thinking-machine that is, in every way, the equal of a human-being?” and ends with another, “If mankind could ever develop the science and technology to build an ADAM2, should we build it?” The second question is moot because the answer to the first is, in a nutshell, no.

    Nothing wrong with building bigger and better machines to increase productive capabilities and make life less of a struggle. But let’s not kid ourselves; what ever we build, no matter how sophisticated, will never be anything more than a machine. The self- proclaimed, narcissistic gods of the scientific laboratories will fail at creating life robotically just as they have failed chemically.

    Despite all of the superior minds out there I am seeing too much insanity for comfort.

    I watched a “science” program years ago which featured a “scientist” looking for the origins of life. They showed footage of him walking around Yellowstone Park’s hot spots collecting samples from bubbling mud puddles, which he then took back to his laboratory to “cook” – I think he was hoping that something animate would come from his many test tubes, bunsen burners, and yards of coiled, plastic tubing. Completing the picture, this unfortunate fellow wore coke bottle lensed eyeglasses. I thought I was watching a Rube Goldberg cartoon!

    If you are looking for life lift your eyes up from the bubbling mud pits and the electronic circuitry and look around; this world is teeming with life – everywhere – you can’t get away from it! It ain’t always pretty, but it’s there! If you feel a need to make more there is always the old fashioned way. Done responsibly, it’s fun and rewarding and the results are sentient and, provided you keep away from close relatives, are often quite intelligent.

    A few weeks ago my husband and I were watching a discussion between two “scientists,” one a college professor (parents, you are paying to have your kids “educated” by such people!) and the other wrote a book (probably more than one but they were talking about his latest) [I remember neither of their names, nor the name of the college, nor the name of the book. My apologies, but if I don’t write things down – and on a piece of paper that I can find readily – they leave me. But I digress.] What caught my attention was not so much the discussion of man-made global warming type of disaster which they seemed to agree could be reversed (man-made can be man-remedied though it probably wouldn’t be) but the talk about the not-man-made disasters, like volcanoes. Can’t do anything about volcanoes! They are going to kill us all and we won’t survive unless we leave! Leave? And where do these two Einsteins want to go? To the MOON! Of course we’d have to build structures for life support, blah blah, blah. But then the professor says that we may not have to because there are caves on the moon. I kid you not! I looked at my husband and said, “These guys are INSANE!”

    I am beginning to think that which really distinguishes us from the lower animals (and any kind of robot we could ever come up with) is that man is the only creature capable of self-delusion and insanity. I’m not talking about medical, physical, or mental deficiency whether by birth, disease, accident, or drugs. I mean people with perfectly functioning brains, often quite brilliant minds, with a severe lack of common sense and a tenuous grip on reality. In addition to the afore mentioned examples, Steven Hawking comes to mind.

    This is a bit off topic in that the article was specifically about artificial intelligence, but the common thread is both a lack of acknowledging God and a desire to be God.

    Although I believe it is not possible to artificially build a true man, I suppose that in a world full of insanity it is possible in the future for a group of lawsuit minded folks to become Android Advocates. Think of the all the money to be made!

    • Mitchell Robinson says:

      Ahh! A perfect capstone to an interesting thread. Leave it to a sentient woman with “good sense” to get to the heart of the matter. A stroke of brilliant simplicity, madame. Much appreciated.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Nothing wrong with building bigger and better machines to increase productive capabilities and make life less of a struggle. But let’s not kid ourselves; what ever we build, no matter how sophisticated, will never be anything more than a machine.

      Ahh, but it will be fun trying to find this out. I suspect that we will create Commander Data-like robots at least in regard to utility. Whether we can make them come alive and be aware is another question. But I have little doubt that our electronics, software, and technology will some day be complex and rich enough to achieve at least the outward utility of a Commander Data. It just seems to be to be a matter of time.

      It’s worth noting that Dr. Soong, the fictional creator of Data, used a positronic brain. That’s a fictional construct of Isaac Asimov. But the point is, perhaps there is some technology that will be invented that mimics the kind of neural net in human brains (and other animal brains) that can somehow give rise (or tap into, however one looks at it) mind.

      Frankly, I don’t see any inherent reason that a self-ware robot cannot ever be achieved, for we humans are machines as well, as cellular biology is incredibly showing us. And these are amazing machines inside the cell. Perhaps we’ll at least be able to cobble together something as crude as the Dr. Who “Dalek,” a blend of machine and organic matter.

      So, to return to one of the crucial points of that Star Trek episode, “The Measure of a Man,” Judge Advocate General Louvois says in making her final ruling in regards to whether Commander Data is a sentient being and thus deserving of inherent rights:

      It sits there looking at me, and I don’t know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I’m neither competent nor qualified to answer those. I’ve got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue. Does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.

      This is one reason I found this episode to be such a fine piece of science fiction. It showed the normally cold, pedantic legal system having to deal with extremely subjective and immaterial issues. Does Data have a soul? That question is inherently nonsensical to a religious mindset, for man is said to be created in God’s image and is given that gift that sets him above the animals. But what if things are different for more complicated than that?

      That’s why (with the option to instantly return in case a Terminator-like hell has been unleashed) I’d love to take a time machine to 500 (perhaps even less) years into the future to see the state-of-the-art of robotics.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Harry Turtledove once wrote a series of stories based on the idea that North America continued to have a Pleistocene fauna — which included Homo erectus. This leads to some interesting scientific disputes (such as a Pepys diary entry about a discussion that led to the question of what day the “sims” were created, with implications both religious and scientific) as well as a court case in Virginia banning the enslavement of the blacks since they clearly qualified as fully human (unlike the sims).

      • Rosalys says:

        But I have little doubt that our electronics, software, and technology will some day be complex and rich enough to achieve at least the outward utility of a Commander Data.
        and
        Whether we can make them come alive and be aware is another question.

        Okay, so there is another question. Are you asking it? Good! I’m answering and the answer is, “No!” Man, the creature, has so far made a real hash out of achieving creatorhood – and I am pretty sure that he will never be successful at doing so. Outward utility is still a far cry from actual sentient humanity.

        But the point is, perhaps there is some technology that will be invented that mimics the kind of neural net in human brains…

        The vital word here is mimics. There is a bird out there, I the bowerbird, (really cool bird by the way!) which is a very good mimic. He can mimic not only other bird and animal sounds, but also chain saws and lawnmowers. That doesn’t make him a chain saw or a lawnmower.

        I don’t believe Christianity allows for man to be regarded as merely a machine (other than metaphorically.) That doesn’t keep me from loving SciFi – during which I apply a willing suspension of disbelief.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Man, the creature, has so far made a real hash out of achieving creatorhood – and I am pretty sure that he will never be successful at doing so.

          One of the things we can admit is that we don’t understand consciousness. That puts quite a limit on what we can say must be or must not be.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Rosalys,

      Thank you for your excellent, thoughtful, and pertinent comments.

      This article begins with a question, “Will mankind ever be able to build a thinking-machine that is, in every way, the equal of a human-being?” and ends with another, “If mankind could ever develop the science and technology to build an ADAM2, should we build it?” The second question is moot because the answer to the first is, in a nutshell, no. — Rosalys

      I really like the above statement. That is actually what I believe; but some readers may not see things the way you and I do; and in that case, I am content for them to wrestle with the ethical and legal dilemmas that would surely follow such a human creation.

      This is a bit off topic in that the article was specifically about artificial intelligence, but the common thread is both a lack of acknowledging God and a desire to be God. –Rosalys

      Absolutely NOT off topic. This is a good expansion on my very last statement.

      Although I believe it is not possible to artificially build a true man, I suppose that in a world full of insanity it is possible in the future for a group of lawsuit minded folks to become Android Advocates. Think of the all the money to be made!

      Advocating for Androids would be rather mild-stuff for some of the ideofreaks we’ve seen recently. Take for example Obama’s former “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein. Sunstein is married to Obama’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Powers, who replaced the notorious liar (the-movie-caused-Benghazi-attack) Susan Rice. Sunstein is a “raving animal rights nut” and is a devout disciple of Peter Singer, another “raving animal rights nut.”

      Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, is a leader in the animal rights movement. He has also argued that abortion should be permissible because unborn babies as old as 18 weeks cannot feel pain or satisfaction.
      —-
      Sunstein has also supported outlawing sport hunting, giving animals the legal right to file lawsuits and using government regulations to phase out meat consumption.
      Obama Czar Pick: Raving Animal Rights Nut

      If someone wants to give animals the legal right to file lawsuits why wouldn’t they want to give Androids all sorts of rights?

      • Rosalys says:

        Advocating for Androids would be rather mild-stuff for some of the ideofreaks we’ve seen recently.

        Absolutely! I kind of had the animal rights wackos as well as tree huggers in mind while dreaming up the soon-coming-to-a-courthouse-near-you android rights crowd. Every day brings a new depth to the lunacy around us!

        That is actually what I believe;

        Being a sentient creature myself and possessing the ability to detect nuances, read between lines, and generally catch drifts, I kinda figured. 🙂

        but some readers may not see things the way you and I do; and in that case, I am content for them to wrestle…

        Sorry if I am too blunt. I do tend to be, but I don’t mean to offend – just have a discussion.

      • Rosalys says:

        Peter Singer is one evil efanbee and Cass Sunstein is a narcissistic megalomaniac!

  6. Untermensch says:

    One question that is raised in in both philosophy and AI is what consciousness is. For at least some AI researchers, it is maintained consciousness is an epiphenomenon of a self-reflexive network. I.e., with sufficient complexity, they would argue that consciousness would be emergent from the network itself as long as a portion is dedicated to self-monitoring. This position more or less agrees with Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, in that it is the realization of the self that is the basis for everything else.

    In keeping with my overall skepticism, I am far from convinced that consciousness would be emergent from the kinds of networks we can build (at least at present). One could argue, as Brad does, that the brain is a machine, and in some sense that is right. But it is a machine of an entirely different kind than what we can build. For one thing, it is orders of magnitude more complex than any neural nets we can build in silicon, but beyond that, we aren’t even sure how some aspects of it work. There is some speculation that neuronal operation may require quantum operations of the kind that computer scientists and electrical engineers are trying now, at a very crude level, to develop with quantum computing. And then there are profound, but poorly understood, differences between primate brains and those of other animals. So it’s one thing to build a mesh network that emulates the visual cortex of a fruit fly and another one entirely to try to deal with human intelligence.

    I’ll just throw out one other bit from neurolinguistics that may be interesting. A number of years back I went to a fascinating lecture by Syd Lamb (Rice University), whom I consider a good acquaintance. In his lecture, Syd pointed out that neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that concepts actually do have a physical instantiation in the brain, and the instantiation is found in how the concept connects to other concepts, not in innate properties. Any concept can connect to any other, but the strength of the connections is what really defines the concept. What this observation means is that our concepts are not neat and tidy boxes (i.e., lists of Aristotelian qualia), but rather messy and unbounded concepts with a potentially infinite range of connection.

    It also means that concepts can be given a topological mapping within the physical brain. I found this point interesting and after the lecture went up to talk to Syd about it and asked him if this topology would be more or less similar between people. He said that this question was a big issue and that, no, the topology is not the same. It may be more or less similar. But when we hit value-laden concepts (“fairness”, “equality”, “justice”, etc.), the topology would be all over the place. So when a paleoconservative, a libertarian, and a left-leaning progressive sit down and cannot agree about whether something is “fair”, it isn’t just that they don’t agree, but that in using the label they all think they are referring to the same concept, but they are in fact referring to different concepts. For the left-leaning progressive, for instance, fairness would be topologically connected to concepts of equality, while for the paleoconservative it would be linked more to justice and tradition, and for the libertarian it would link more to concepts of freedom from constraint.

    So the next time you find yourself in a political debate where you feel like you are using the same words but speaking different languages, you are on to something: you quite literally are using different concepts. But one of the beauties of dialogue is that concepts are topologically plastic and connection bundles can be strengthened dramatically in a matter of minutes, leading to “revelatory” moments when you see the world in a new way.

    For AI, the goal has been to nail down concepts and fix them in processable ways. Although there are self-learning systems, this sort of deep-seated plasticity is death to most AIs. And because it is so essential to human thought, there seems to be yet another barrier between human intelligence and algorithmic output.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      In keeping with my overall skepticism, I am far from convinced that consciousness would be emergent from the kinds of networks we can build (at least at present). One could argue, as Brad does, that the brain is a machine, and in some sense that is right. But it is a machine of an entirely different kind than what we can build. For one thing, it is orders of magnitude more complex than any neural nets we can build in silicon, but beyond that, we aren’t even sure how some aspects of it work. There is some speculation that neuronal operation may require quantum operations of the kind that computer scientists and electrical engineers are trying now, at a very crude level, to develop with quantum computing. And then there are profound, but poorly understood, differences between primate brains and those of other animals. So it’s one thing to build a mesh network that emulates the visual cortex of a fruit fly and another one entirely to try to deal with human intelligence.

      One could say the central argument is whether it is complexity or something else (including also complexity) that leads to consciousness. Given the change we’ve seen in technology in just the last hundred years, it would be a bad bet to say that mankind won’t produce at least a fairly complex artificial neural network (if smaller, and more limited than the human brain) that might become conscious if complexity is the only requirement.

      What is consciousness for? That’s another good question. There are definite Darwinian (survival) implications. I was hiking down the trail yesterday. And I’m talking about a fairly steep (in places) trail strewn with gravel, rocks, and a protruding jumble of roots. I wanted to jog back down the mountain just for the exercise. But I was already exhausted from having hiked up it (speed walking, basically).

      Given the fatigue, it took an enormous amount of conscious mental will to keep my mind on every footfall instead of going into a sort of low-power unconscious “automatic pilot” wherein a slip or a sprained ankle would then be a likely outcome. We can then, with some confidence, say that consciousness is a level of awareness (duh!) that extends beyond mere mechanics and is very useful for making our way about the world safely.

      But consciousness doesn’t seem to be necessary for many other functions. We don’t have to be in conscious control of our beating hearts, for example. It would seem to give us no benefit and might be a detriment. Who knows, although we can take control of our breathing, for example. But much of our body’s parts are on auto-pilot. But like the relatively puny rudder of a ship which can effect great changes to a massive ocean liner, our conscious control (our free will, if you will) enacts, or can enact, enormous control over how we act and who we are. Surely there is survival value to consciousness, but it also has other, more esoteric, value as well.

      So when a paleoconservative, a libertarian, and a left-leaning progressive sit down and cannot agree about whether something is “fair”, it isn’t just that they don’t agree, but that in using the label they all think they are referring to the same concept, but they are in fact referring to different concepts.

      I would say that’s very much true regarding people holding different shades of meaning about a particular word. But as to whether, inevitably, this comes down to the mere geometry of network connections in the brain, this would seem to show why materialism isn’t an ultimate explanation of mind. It is unlikely that we will ever glimpse any kind of inherent bit of the essence of “fairness” in any type of neural connection or architecture. Neither is there likely to be a neurotransmitter whose chemistry, structure, or geometry is “pleasure” incarnate. But somehow the physical and non-physical work together. There is a ghost in the machine, and the machine itself is pretty amazing as well.

      If we were to posit, for instance, that mind is an elementary substance of the universe, then one could perhaps understand the physical brain as akin to a radio receiver. That nascent, unrealized, all-pervasive “mind-substance” (perhaps analogous to the Tao) would be all around us and would be equivalent to the radio waves that surround us even now but are invisible and that require the right kind of receiver in order to be manifested. Hey, maybe that’s what that missing 96% of the universe is actually made of. Who knows? But the main point would be that rather than mind being like some toxic byproduct of matter, the relationship is quite different.

      The more complex the physical aspects of a brain are, the richer the mind. And, conversely, as the physical mind degrades (as it does with certain diseases), so does our subjective experience. And why neural cells tap into this posited amorphous “mind-substance” is a good question. But they surely do in some way. And it is surely this method of neurons and connectedness (which is, at heart, inherently a way to hold and manipulate information) that is the reason a rock is not likely conscious even though it, too, is made of matter.

      And perhaps the ancient paradigm of Universal Mind (aka “God”) is a comfortable fit inside this paradigm. It is an idea that is part of “the perennial philosophy,” as experienced by sages and saints, that as one lowers one’s ego and self-centeredness, the more one gets in touch with that universal mind. Perhaps those near-death experiences of seeing a white light and experiencing great peace are not, as the materialist say, mere random discharges of neurons in a dying brain. Perhaps it is true that we melt back into that universal mind upon death and that our experience of individual mind — for whatever purpose it might have — is dependent upon crude matter.

  7. Untermensch says:

    I would say that’s very much true regarding people holding different shades of meaning about a particular word. But as to whether, inevitably, this comes down to the mere geometry of network connections in the brain, this would seem to show why materialism isn’t an ultimate explanation of mind.

    I wouldn’t argue that topology is all there is, although some probably would. I actually think the topology is the result, not the cause, of what is going on. Neural topology can tell us what is (facts, in the etymological sense) but plasticity cannot be predicted in advance.

    I heard someone once argue that the “God in the gaps” argument left precious little room for God and God wasn’t needed. But I think of it like I do numbers: there is an infinite number of rational numbers (i.e., ones that can be declared with absolute precision), but there is an even larger infinity of irrational numbers. The strange thing is that rational numbers fill up all the space in the number line (there is no point on the number line you can point to that is not defined by a rational number), and yet there are still more irrational numbers in the number line. In my analogy, no matter how far you go in defining physical causes, there is an even greater amount you cannot explain. So I have no worry that science will solve everything and leave no room for God.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I actually think the topology is the result, not the cause, of what is going on.

      I’d certainly agree with that. And we’re inherently dealing with dimensions other than mere topology, chemistry, etc. This is saying nothing more self-evident than (as Stephen Meyer notes) that you cannot understand life merely in terms of the physical, for DNA is a storehouse of information.

      I would think, at the very least, that this “other dimension” in regards to the mind/brain is one of information — information that is manifested, stored, and manipulated via the physical brain. And still one other “other dimension” is the subjective experience of mind itself. And then one obvious other (probably higher) level is where such “other dimensions” derive from in the first place.

      This leads one to wonder how much we have left to know. It’s likely oodles of very basic and primary stuff. It’s not quite time to close the Patent Office.

      And I do believe that irrational numbers are surely behind some of the buggy software I sometimes use.

  8. Jerry Richardson says:

    To All,

    The justifiably famous Ray Kurzweil is now at Google supposedly working on modeling the neocortex—as a large, intricate hierarchal (layered) pattern recognition system. Kurzweil is well-known in the US. In the late 70s, I attended a technology-show in downtown Houston were Kurzweil was demonstrating one of his first revolutionary multi-font optical character readers (OCR). Just an early Kurzweil success; he has lead an almost charmed technological life. However, I think that Kurzweil will need all of his near-legendary talent to bring this project in.

    Presumably, at least one of his major competitors will be Henry Markram, a professor of neuroscience who will be heading the European Commission’s €1 Billion, 10 years project to model the human brain in supercomputers. ”Ultimately, it [the project] will attempt to simulate the complete human brain. The models built by the project will cover all the different levels of brain organisation – from individual neurons through to the complete cortex. The goal is to bring about a revolution in neuroscience and medicine and to derive new information technologies directly from the architecture of the brain.”” Wow! You can’t say they aren’t aiming high. I think Professor Markram will need all of the 10 years and the €1 Billion to accomplish this fantastic simulation.

    Assuming that one or both of these two high-powered individuals achieve something really worthwhile, even if perhaps neither succeeds in creating a “mind” as we know it; who would you bet-on, if you were a betting person, to produce the “best” results: Kurzweil, with his deep-pocketed Google support, or Markram with his €1 Billion award?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      No doubt there is a certain amount of hubris involved in an attempt to replicate the human neo-cortex using today’s technology, whatever one’s bankroll. I have little doubt that some aspects (pattern recognition) can be refined based on ideas gained from the human brain (or other animal brains). Isn’t there already some pretty sophisticated pattern recognition software/hardware on the market or in the lab?

      I, too, think that one billion dollars could get eaten up rather quickly.

      The brain is a tangible system and machine. It has “spooky” elements (consciousness) attached to it. But I don’t consider it hubris to try to learn from the brain and to mimic some of its processes. But as for mimicking the functions of a whole brain, I do believe that might have to wait for the 24th century and a future Dr. Noonien Soong (who looks a whole lot like Brent Spiner, but I think that’s just a coincidence).

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I must say, that’s an interesting name. I wonder if the writer who came up with it (or maybe Roddenberry) noticed the similarity of the name to Khan Noonian Singh.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          It’s possible, although Dr. Soong was a kindly man, sort of a doddering absent-minded professor, but who was a genius nonetheless. Perhaps they were planning some story arc to connect Dr. Soong with Khan or his progeny.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Brad,

        I too am a big proponent of learning. I do not believe that seeking knowledge has to be accompanied with hubris (overweening self-pride). I think that where hubris enters is when some people (example: global-warming evangelists) somehow assume that they are the possessors and protectors of indisputable knowledge on a given subject, even when all of the possible causes are clearly not know.

        I also believe that God gave man a mandate to learn:

        God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
        —Genesis 1:27-28 NASB

        How could mankind accomplish God’s mandate, to subdue the earth, unless mankind learns about themselves and their environment? My answer: They can’t.

        I do not believe that God revoked that mandate with the violated commandment of not-eating from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” I think that some people believe that learning and acquiring knowledge are perhaps tainted because of this association.

        I believe that the “knowledge of good and evil” refers to the human experience of sin. I believe that this was the only way for a human to actually know “good and evil”—they would only learn it by violating God’s express commandment. They did not have to do that. This was the one thing that humanity did not have a need to know about. This type of knowledge (of sin) is, in my view, in a completely different category from the knowledge (of God’s creation) needed to follow God mandate to “subdue” the earth.

        I am excited when people put themselves on the line in an attempt to accomplish big things. I am keenly disappointed that NASA seems to have disappeared from the scene of attempting important space-projects. Just another of the many US diminishments we can thank Obama for.

        So, I will eagerly await reports on the projects mentioned. They strike me as challenges that mankind needs. I think the following captures some of my thought on this:

        As science advances, we will know more. But we will also have more to know. New tools of exploration present us with new questions. Often, these are questions that couldn’t even have been imagined before the tools were available.
        —-
        Science needs to fail to move forward. Theories need to break down; their limits need to be exposed. As tools probe deeper into Nature, they expose the cracks of old theories and allow new ones to emerge. However, we should not be fooled into believing that this process has an end. The scientific approach to knowledge has essential limitations; some questions are beyond its reach. In fact, some key aspects of Nature will necessarily remain unknown to us. Some, I will argue, are unknowable. To expose the limits of science is far from being an obscurantist; quite the contrary, it is a much needed self-analysis in a time when scientific speculation and arrogance are rampant.
        —-
        We learn from what we can measure and should be humbled by how much we can’t. It’s what we don’t know that matters.
        —Gleiser, Marcelo (2014-06-03). The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning, Kindle Edition.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Be fruitful and multiply

          As Mark Steyn might have quipped (at risk of being fired), Was this God’s sanctification of the gay movement? (Rim shot). Can I be fired from my own site for telling a non-PC joke? Someone call Mark. I may need to good recommendation for a lawyer.

          I like that quote, especially this part (which you will never in a million evolutionary years hear come out of the mouth of Richard Dawkins):

          Science needs to fail to move forward. Theories need to break down; their limits need to be exposed. As tools probe deeper into Nature, they expose the cracks of old theories and allow new ones to emerge. However, we should not be fooled into believing that this process has an end. The scientific approach to knowledge has essential limitations; some questions are beyond its reach. In fact, some key aspects of Nature will necessarily remain unknown to us. Some, I will argue, are unknowable. To expose the limits of science is far from being an obscurantist; quite the contrary, it is a much needed self-analysis in a time when scientific speculation and arrogance are rampant.

          However, I could foresee that coming out of the mouth of Richard Feynman. As it was, it came out of the mouth of Marcelo Gleiser (I’d never heard of him before). I’ll make note of your book recommendation on the official Bookshelf when I have a moment.

          What that statement represents is a broadening of human philosophy beyond the strained, strident, and discordant shrill tones of the radical materialist world view. We can argue about the details, but it should be completely uncontroversial that “The scientific approach to knowledge has essential limitations.” But for those indoctrinated into what we may call The Religion of Atheism, those are fighting words.

          It’s a given that scientists and others will try to gain knowledge from the study of the human brain and, in synergy with the advance of robotics and micro-machinery, will attempt to mimic brain functions — for purely pursuit-of-knowledge reasons and for use in industry. I don’t think I’d be wrong to say (especially given what others have testified here) that artificial intelligence has proven much tougher than first thought. Some would say this is necessarily so, for we are trying to build something that is not buildable by man.

          Others, including myself, would say we don’t know enough about how the human brain and mind work to know where those boundaries, if any, are yet. I think most of us understand that within a large segment of science today is the gleeful pursuit to push man off his pedestal. The idea that man is a special creation of a Creator is offensive and threatening to many. It is with glee that “science” has been said to have removed man from the center of the universe (although Dennis Prager notes that man never was the center…he was nearly at the bottom, with heaven on top and hell beneath his feet at the core of the earth….but never the center).

          It could turn out that, whatever motives there are for trying to create a sentient artificial machine, man could again be surprised and find that he is able to do just that (using, of course, the ingredients supplied already by the Creator, which is true already of all that man has built).

          The horror of such an occurrence is not the threat of knocking man down another notch. I think the horror could come in what man does with these machines. He cannot control himself as it is. What happens when he is able to build thinking machines, machines that may one day be cheap to produce and that (sort of like a swarm of glorified Nancy Pelosis) begin to take over the roles of making a living like a socialist EU on steroids? We are already turning into sheep with mere human masters. Does anyone suppose we will become any more noble if cheap, thinking machines are put in place to take on all the functions we no longer wish to do because they get in the way of our “quality” time texting each other and tattooing our bodies with random comic-bookish cartoons?

          • Timothy Lane says:

            In essence, the scientific method involves learning from our mistakes. But you have to be ready to admit your mistakes to learn from them (which is a major problem for the Black God).

            Your comments make me realize that an AI could easily be created that can mimic a liberal like the Wicked Witch of the West. After all, they already tend to behave like robots.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Indeed. A simple al-gore-rhythm could be easily written to mimic the Leftist mind. This simplicity of thought is part of the appeal and the cause of its destructive power. A sort of illogic bomb.

  9. GHG says:

    I’ve always thought that consciousness is in part or whole “spirit”. It is part of our biological self but distinct and endures beyond our biological life. Obviously a Christian perspective, but I wonder how that squares with Untermensch’s belief that consciousness requires embodiment?

    • Untermensch says:

      There is a subtle nuance here, which I wouldn’t expect you to have picked up from what I wrote. Consciousness as we know it requires embodiment. But what underlies consciousness is another question. If I had the body of a jellyfish, my consciousness would be different than what it is in my human body. But saying that does not invalidate the idea that there is something greater than embodiment or support the idea that consciousness is just embodiment.

      Put another way, in classically theological terms, what is in God’s realm is beyond our comprehension, and our consciousness would, by definition, have to be different in order to comprehend that. But any given form of consciousness is influenced by the form in which it exists. The brain in the jar could be conscious, but not in the same way the brain in the body is.

      The Cartesian fallacy is to assume that the body plays no role, that identity and consciousness are entirely separable from embodiment, that one’s spirit could be pulled out of the body entirely intact with no essential change. So what I am arguing for with the statement about embodiment is that this “hard” dualism is untenable, that consciousness and embodiment are intimately connected, but still separate propositions. (And the easy test of that is that a brain dead body shows no consciousness, so a body alone is insufficient.)

      Again, to use theological terms, if the body was not important, why would God waste effort on creating it and putting people into it? If we assume that God has purpose and is not driven by mad caprice, then there must be a vital reason for embodiment that relates to spiritual needs as well. And the early Christian insistence on resurrection—on the literal permanent reanimation of the body with pneuma and body perfectly joined together—was anathema to the Greeks, who found it foolishness, not because they didn’t think that bodies could be reanimated, but because they believed the physical to be inherently corrupt. Eventually the neoplatonic view won out in Christianity, which came to see the body as evil and separable from the spiritual, but that was not what the earliest Christians believed.

      (For what it’s worth, Anniel didn’t say it, but my PhD minor was in Religious Studies with a focus on early Christianity, so I do know something—although far from enough—on this topic.)

      • GHG says:

        Your explanation makes sense, in as much as the mystery can be explained, and your position is surely based on a more scholarly approach than a gut feel based on my Christian upbringing and a little Bible study here and there. However, I don’t necessarily feel compelled to abandon my belief, nor that it is entirely incompatible with yours. I guess the crux of the matter is that while I understand my consciousness/spirit would be different when separated from my biological life it will still be me, my unique essence, complete with the history of what makes me who I am.

        I have no knowledge to support that my spirit existed prior to my biological life and therefore I don’t believe it did. It seems likely to me that my consciousness was born/created at the same time as my biological life and although functional it was not fully developed. The purpose of embodiment is perhaps to develop the consciousness through sensory experience that would otherwise be impossible or insufficient if it were a brain in a jar. Those biological experiences, be it for only a day or across 85 years, create the person, the consciousness that lives on after the body dies.

        That’s my view from 64,000 feet – details to be revealed at a later date. 🙂

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The purpose of embodiment is perhaps to develop the consciousness through sensory experience that would otherwise be impossible or insufficient if it were a brain in a jar.

          Let me speak philosophically, and not from a deep-seated belief that this is the way things must be. But surely if God shrinks himself back in order to allow room for other beings (the fancy words for this is “kenosis”), the point is to create beings and things that indeed do have an existence of their own. It’s analogous to how a parent must not cling too tightly to a child or be so overbearing and controlling that the child cannot establish his own will, character, and desires as separate entities. Physically, the child leaves the mother’s body in order to have a separate existence (despite ongoing and necessary ties). And that separation must continue and enlarge or else the child (or anyone under similar circumstances) is just a robot.

          And in order to have a separate experience that is consequential, there therefore (at least in theory) must be consequences. This is certainly the world we find ourselves in where shit happens and bad things happen to good people. But this being the case, a consequential big-R “Reality” is formed.

          To perhaps understand the role of consequentialness, consider for a moment the consequences and end goal of the society that socialists create (and not necessarily what they envision, which are two separate things). Man becomes a dependent. He becomes like a domesticated animal. All of his comforts are provided for and all modes of harm are reduced or eliminated. The price for this is his individuality and freedom. Soon his character, his morals, his ethics, and his intellect degrade…as we see every day happening to those who are in charge on the Left and in those who are extreme dependents of the Left. It’s not just that the leaders are evil and/or have a different agenda. They do. But there is a rot that sets into their brains and character via their very belief system.

          Consider the dumb cow head of the Secret Service who was just fired because of recent security breaches. Apparently this former Secret Service chief wanted the agency to be more like Disneyworld.

          That is just one possible way of understanding the world, assuming there is some overall purpose. And it is beyond our ability to understand why a separate and consequential existence requires the material. But we can imagine the sort of dumb-cow nothingness we might be if we were just floating around as disembodied spirits where nothing of consequence could ever happen to us. How would we exist as anything more than the sort of human vegetables that the welfare state tends to create? We might be that on steroids.

        • Untermensch says:

          I wasn’t trying to persuade you to change your belief, just clarifying what I meant, which doesn’t seem to conflict with what you articulated.

          And my mention of the Religious Studies bit wasn’t intended to belittle anybody else’s contribution (I hope nobody took it that way), but rather to contextualize why I would say what I did about early Christians. Inevitably I find that when I say something like that, somebody wants to argue with my statement based on what they know of Christians who were already deeply Hellenized and had embraced Middle- or Neo-Platonist assumptions about the corrupt nature of the physical. So I just mentioned my background to forestall that sort of criticism, not to brag or to make my small contribution seem any larger than it is.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Wasn’t the notion that the body was evil the reason why the Cathars were suppressed? Are you saying that the various Christian churches eventually came around to Catharism?

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Although Wiki is by no means a definitive source for anything, it’s a quick way to find aproximate info. Here’s what this entry says:

          Killing was abhorrent to the Cathars. Consequently, abstention from all animal food (sometimes exempting fish) was enjoined of the Perfecti. The Perfecti avoided eating anything considered to be a by-product of sexual reproduction.[21] War and capital punishment were also condemned – an abnormality in Medieval Europe. In a world where few could read, their rejection of oath-taking marked them as social revolutionaries.

          Cathars also rejected marriage. Their theology was based principally on the belief that the physical world, including the flesh, was irredeemably evil – as it stemmed from the evil principle or “demiurge”.[35] Therefore, reproduction was viewed by them as a moral evil to be avoided – as it continued the chain of reincarnation and suffering in the material world. It was claimed by their opponents that, given this loathing for procreation, they generally reverted to sodomy. Such was the situation that a charge of heresy leveled against a suspected Cathar was usually dismissed if the accused could show he was legally married.

          Sounds sort of like a parade that Nancy Pelosi would attend.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          As I recall, the Cathars were also seen as some off shoot of Arianism, with a little Manichaeism mixed in.

        • Untermensch says:

          Believing the body was evil was pretty straight-up Neoplatonism. The notion was that the ultimate reality was the realm of the forms, and this existence was an inferior counterfeit, so we would want to be rid of physicality since it distracted from what was truly real.

          I don’t know much about Cathar thought. What I do know says that they were pretty stark dualists, but dualism was not a problem for Hellenized Christians. But the details around that dualism are another matter. So I wouldn’t say that other Christian churches came around to Cathar thought, since that would imply that pre-Cathar Christians believed something different. The adoption of Middle- and Neo-Platonic teachings about physicality had happened almost 1000 years before the Cathars, so there is no connection there. If anything, the Cathars just inherited Platonic ideas about the body and made them more extreme.

      • Rosalys says:

        My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease. I have very little book knowledge, scientific or medical, as to why what is happening to her is happening and can only observe her over the passage of time. As her brain slowly shrinks and dies, her conscious world, what she perceives around her, appears to be shrinking, closing in around her. And yet there is a certain something, her manner, basic personality and such – could we call it her spirit? – that remains.

        Though it is sad to watch her slowly fade away both physically and mentally, I am fascinated to see that spark which makes her herself is still there. She is still Marie. She is still my mother.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Mike Resnick once wrote a story about a man and his wife who had both ended up in the same nursing home due to encroaching Alzheimer’s (or some equivalent). It was in the form of his notes, and at the end he notes that he has found this nice woman who clearly is his wife — they no longer can remember their life together, but they’re still the right match for each other.

          • Rosalys says:

            Very sweet! It shows that there is something beyond mere chemical reaction and molecular structure. Call it spirit, or if you prefer, like Brad, spookiness.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Best of luck and care to your wonderful mother, Rosalys. Something surely endures.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve always thought that consciousness is in part or whole “spirit”. It is part of our biological self but distinct and endures beyond our biological life.

      Mr. Lesser, I would say that we don’t yet know that answer to that question, but I would say that that is a legitimate way to frame the question. The battleground to a large extent is mind.

      I was reading a bit of the free Kindle sample part of a book that Glenn (the obscure) recommended: The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

      Central to the question of theism (at least one formulation) is stated by the author as:

      If we cannot rule out that consciousness with respect to human beings is something nonphysical, how can we justifiably rule out that there may be a nonphysical theistic mode of consciousness (a God who knows, acts, and so on)?

      As Untermensch said, “Consciousness as we know it requires embodiment. But what underlies consciousness is another question.” What a tangled mess this conundrum creates for us, no less than the particle/wave conundrum. What does it mean for something to have a dual nature? In fact, from a theistic standpoint, what does it mean for someone to be both man and god? To try to resolve this conundrum, all we have to go on is faith, logic, and a great deal of guesswork.

      As the author notes elsewhere, there is something primary about consciousness, for without it we could not do science. The material would not matter. Without consciousness, we would not be bothering to have this, or any, conversation in the first place. The reverse likely cannot be said of matter, especially with the heavy suggestion of a beginning of all matter as evinced by the Big Bang.

      Thus we see why Stephen Hawking does his best to belittle this universe and try to construct 10500 other universes out of thin air. And we see why radical materialists such as Dan Dennett do all they can to belittle mind and reduce it to little more than a toxic sludge or film, of little or no matter, that simply slimes across matter.

      Both mind and the Big Bang are inexplicable to materialism, naturalism, and physicalism. From a social/political standpoint, the battle lines are easy to see. And if man were the measure of all things, the resolutions of the mind/body question would forever allude us. But somehow it is resolved. Physical (and nonphysical) reality keeps turning despite man’s insistence that it can’t be this way or it can’t be that way.

      • Untermensch says:

        I like the wave/particle duality analogy. I will have to use that in the future. I find it compelling because the physical phenomena they refer to must be both: you can see them either way, but you cannot separate them.

      • Rosalys says:

        Stephen Hawking and Dan Dennett can belittle all they want. Theirs is the arrogance of the unGodly. It would seem to me that there could be no gratitude in them.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    ADAM2 has to possess sentience, consciousness, and self-awareness. Can he be designed and built by mankind?

    It’s interesting to note that in the Next Generation episode, “The Measure of a Man,” the three requirements for sentience are listed as:

    1) Intelligence
    2) Self-awareness
    3) Consciousness

    I’ve always tended to define “sentience” as my dictionary does: able to perceive or feel things. Either the writers of that episode are misuing the term or the term has various meanings. A Wiki entry states, in part:

    Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as “qualia”).

    In regards to sentience (as used in Star Trek), I don’t suppose any one formulation is definitive, for like pornography, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

    One of the typical sore points when discussing this is whether or not gorillas and chimpanzees are self-aware. Typically this is an idea rejected out-of-hand by the religious (which has, at least, been my experience).

    But it’s difficult not to ascribe some bit of self-awareness to a gorilla or chimpanzee who looks at himself in the mirror with some kind of recognition, quite in contrast to, say, a bird who will freak out and try to chase that other “rival” away…totally unself-aware, it would obviously seem.

    I fall into the monkey camp. It’s perhaps worth noting that ID proponent and guru Michael Behe affirms the idea of the common descent of life, even if he rejects Neo-Darwinism as the mechanism for macro-evolution. And Behe himself notes that it’s often a point of contention to regard chimps as a relative (let along slugs and worms, and I’m not talking about Obama or his cohorts).

    Given the compelling DNA evidence in regards to common descent, I’m fine with that. And I would certainly expect that the more complex the brain, the more chance there is for higher brain functions such as self-awareness. And chimps and gorillas have fairly large brains, and at least do exhibit many clear signs of self-awareness, at least in my opinion.

    I think we’re talking about such things in terms of degrees. Certainly a dog is often quite intelligent, seems in some respect self-aware (but perhaps not self-conscious, for I doubt I would lick myself in public as they do and in the places that they do). Should not we also ascribe some consciousness to a dog? Who can suppose they do not have some of that, having seen them apparently dreaming, their legs moving as if in some kind of pantomime chase of prey unknown.

    And we’ve all likely seen pictures of elephants showing signs of regret and loss as they fondle the bones of those elephants who have departed. Self-aware? I would think so, at least to some degree.

    It’s certainly never been my wish to “knock man off his pedestal.” That’s not the way I think. And I don’t have a problem putting man on that pedestal. But perhaps we could recognize that there are steps leading up to that pedestal…and likely states of consciousness and awareness higher than man (and there had better be if one believes in a Creator).

    Can the proposed Adam2 ever get to even a minimal level of consciousness via an algorithm? My hunch is “no.” It’s going to require a less deterministic mechanism…at the very least some kind of neural net. Neural nets are very good relative to straight algorithms in terms of fault tolerance and thus making subtle distinctions. The trade-off is that, like the human mind, you get approximations not exactness. A pocket calculator will give you “1 + 1 + 2” and nothing fuzzy in between. But surely in regards to getting out of the seemingly closed-loop deterministic algorithms and, as Jerry noted, a lot of complicated (but ultimately simplistic) if-then decisions, you need a neural net or the equivalent.

    And once you have electricity and information flowing around a sufficiently complicated network, why could not consciousness arise?

    • Rosalys says:

      Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden apparently lacked self consciousness as they didn’t realize they were naked and had no shame before the Fall. It was only with the advent of sin that they became aware.

      Individual animals can indeed have very individual personalities. I’ve had cats and a horse and been around many dogs. I’ve watched birds (and sometime I may tell you about some pigeons of my acquaintance – it’s a rather amusing story!); and even if all dogs looked the same, all cats and horses and sheep and llamas were cookie cutter likenesses of one another in appearance, after spending time with them you would be able to tell them apart because their personalities would be different.

      But dogs and cats and sheep and pigeons and llamas and badgers and guppies and whales and gorillas cannot sin. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, no moral choices to be made with an animal. Only man can choose to good and only man can sin.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        David Rohl has suggested in one of his books that the “creation” of Adam was simply the first appearance of a man capable of grasping the concept of God. (He also places the “garden in Eden” in the vicinity of modern Tabriz.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden apparently lacked self consciousness as they didn’t realize they were naked and had no shame before the Fall.

        Of, if only some of the people at Walmart who are 300 pounds and wearing spandex or have three-day beards and are wearing a dirty tank-top with armpits that need mowing could blessedly follow Adam and Eve out of the Garden (or at least out of the parking lot) and into a little self-awareness.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Amen, brother!

        • Rosalys says:

          I often see people going about in public and I ask myself, “Don’t these people look in the mirror before leaving the house?”

          And I am ashamed to admit that I have often gone out, come home, taken a look at myself in the mirror and said, “What were you thinking, girl?”

  11. Jerry Richardson says:

    All,

    I’m reading a not-recent theological-philosophical book on the monism-dualism debate. No the book doesn’t try to defend ontological (Cartesian) dualism.

    Here’s the the lead-in to introduce the concept that what will ultimately be defended in the book. It’s what the author calls holistic-dualism.

    Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting was written to remind thoughtful Christians that some sort of “dualistic” anthropology is entailed by the biblical teaching of the intermediate state, a doctrine that is affirmed by the vast majority in historic Christianity. The book makes the case that as Holy Scripture progressively discloses what happens to humans when they die, it teaches not only that each of us will undergo bodily resurrection, but that believers continue to exist “with the Lord” until the resurrection. The Old Testament notion of ghostly survival in Sheol, eventually augmented with an affirmation of bodily resurrection, is developed by the Holy Spirit into the New Testament revelation of fellowship with Christ between each believer’s death and the general resurrection at Christ’s return. Thus the Bible indicates that humans do not cease to exist between death and resurrection, a condition sometimes euphemistically termed “soul sleep;” or that final resurrection occurs immediately upon death.

    Body, Soul goes on to argue that, given this teaching of Scripture, human nature must be so constituted that we – the very individuals who live on earth – can exist at least temporarily while our physical bodies or organisms do not. In other words, there must be enough of a duality in human nature so that God can sustain Moses, Paul, and my mother in fellowship with him even though they are currently without their earthly bodies. At the same time, I follow Scripture, most traditional theology, and almost all current thought in emphasizing the unity of human nature, its essential bodiliness, and resurrection as the final Christian hope. All things considered, therefore, the biblical view of the human constitution is some kind of “holistic dualism.”

    John W. Booper, “Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting,” Kindle Edition, Locations 73-82

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      My bad typo,

      The author of the above book is John W. Cooper NOT John W. Booper.
      UGH!

      • Rosalys says:

        Funny blooper! But were you not able to edit your comment? I have been having trouble editing my comments for the past two weeks. I click on “edit” and the box comes up, but when I highlight what I want to change and begin to type, the whole thing highlights and I am unable to do anything about it.

        Anyone else having this problem?

  12. Jerry Richardson says:

    Rosalys,

    Absolutely! I kind of had the animal rights wackos as well as tree huggers in mind while dreaming up the soon-coming-to-a-courthouse-near-you android rights crowd. Every day brings a new depth to the lunacy around us! ” —Rosalys

    Someone must have been eavesdrop on our conversation and decided to really show us a new depth of lunacy. Why, in heaven’s name, would a court dignify this sort of non-sense by even taking the case?

    It’s the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

    A New York appeals court next week will consider whether chimps should have the same rights as human beings.

    The extraordinary proceeding is the result of a lengthy battle by animal-rights activists who argue that animals with human qualities — including chimps — are entitled to human protections, including freedom from captivity.

    Steven Wise, part of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is leading the effort, will have to convince a panel of Albany appellate judges that a chimp name Tommy is a “legal person” to get him moved from a cage in an upstate farm to a sanctuary in Florida.

    Courts will decide if chimps should have same rights as humans

    Note on Editing: I can’t seem to get italics to take.
    I’ve tried inclosed i /i and it doesn’t work?
    Any suggestions Brad?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      When using the “blockquote” tag, everything inside the blockquote is automatically both indented and italicized. If you then add italics to something in the blockquote, it will un-italicize it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      How long until they try to register them as Democrats?

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        A friend sent me a joke the other day. Here’s the gist:

        For 60 years my dad voted Republican. He died 10 years ago. For the last 10 years he has voted Democrat.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Unfortunately, in a lot of places that’s no joke at all, just simple truth (which is why the Democrats consistently denounce voter ID).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That will be convenient, at least at first, for zoos and pet owners, since they’ll suddenly have a lot of new legal dependents. But in the long run this could create a huge can of worms — of course, to the great benefit of trial lawyers (the Thieves’ Guild aka ATLA). But I don’t think we’re going to get there yet.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Timothy,

        If the court commits a foolish act, and of course that depends upon how many Progressives they have sitting on the court; then people down the road may be having to debate the ethical and legal issues we have been discussion regarding a possible Adam2. Unbelievable, no?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve listened to enough Dennis Prager on this subject, so let me at least go for the “clarity instead of agreement” aspect and flesh out the underlying assumptions and beliefs.

      Judeo-Christianity/Conservatism: Man is the highest form of animal we know, with a capacity for good and evil. He is encumbered with moral considerations that no other animal has to the degree he has. As Dennis Prager says, there is no other animal that builds hospitals. Man is an inherently moral creature…sometimes good morals, often bad morals. But the rest of nature is red in tooth and claw, not to be romanticized and certainly not to be emulated. Nature is to be transcended. Man thus lives in a different moral realm, the realm of the “oughts.” It is posited that God hit man with a moral-stick at some time in the past and made him qualitatively different from all other forms of life on earth. Nevertheless, man has a responsibility to use animals humanely and to appreciate them in their own right, as other remarkable creations of the unseen Creator.

      Atheism/Secularism/Leftism Man has been nothing but a despoiler of the earth. He therefore must pay penance by not only being kind to other animals but by holding those animals above himself. Man is not special. He is nothing but another animal. In fact, he has been put on a pedestal for so long, the only morally tenable position is to knock him off it. It is not care of the animals that drives this ideology. It is a way to take a backhanded slap at man. More importantly, this materialist/atheist position holds that man cannot be anything more than an animal, thus in raising up other animals and lowering himself, he is playing out this religious belief. It is a Sacrament of the environmental wacko movement. It is thus no surprise that atheistic political regimes are notoriously brutal and dismissive of human life and rights.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        But note that they often are much better to animals. Himmler, for example, regarded hunting as “sheer murder” — and he certainly knew what murder was. (He started out as a chicken famer. Who knows, maybe the reason he went into political activism was partly a desire to avoid killing chickens.) Hitler was a vegetarian.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          And didn’t Hitler and/or Goebbels have a lampshade on his desk made out of Jewish skin?

          Those who profess love for baby seals and eagle’s eggs do not waste a tear on the millions of unborn humans who are slaughtered in the name of convenience. One wonders what the real source of their professed love for animals stems from. Denial of their monstrous other half?

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I believe that story (which I’m not sure was ever proven) is generally linked to Ilse Koch, the Bitch of Buchenwald.

  13. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    And didn’t Hitler and/or Goebbels have a lampshade on his desk made out of Jewish skin?

    I think that was in one Kommandant’s quarters in a death camp.

    An ant is a rat is a dog is a chimp is a human. Therefore, killing a human being is no different from killing a rat. In fact, killing a rat or dog may be worse, because they can’t defend themselves like humans and they don’t pollute the planet. You know, they live in harmony with mother earth.

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