Friday, July 22, 2005

P.S. on objective/subjective reality and consciousness (and future virtual Elvises)

Well, I started writing a followup to my previous blog entry on subjective/objective reality, dealing with issues relating to consciousness and qualia, but it got way too big for a reasonable blog entry, and so I've posted it as an HTML document:

But it's still rough and informal and speculative in the manner of a blog entry, rather than being a really polished essay.

Of course, I have plenty more to say on the topic than what I wrote down there, but -- well -- the usual dilemma ... too many thoughts, too little time to write them all down... I need to prioritize. Entertaining, speculative philosophy only gets a certain fraction of my time these days!

BTW, I wrote about 1/3 of those notes while watching "Jailhouse Rock" with the kids, but I don't know if Elvis's undulating pelvis had any effect on the style or contents of the essay or not. (Wow -- the Elvis phenomenon really makes piquant the whole transhumanist dilemma of "Is humanity really worth preserving past the Singularity or not?"!! ... A decent helping of art, beauty and humor exists there in Elvis-land, sure -- but along with such a whopping dose of pure and unrefined asininity --- whoa.... )

How many of you readers out there agree that the first superhuman AI should be programmed to speak to humans through a simulation of Elvis's face??? ;-D


Bob Mottram said...

My preference would be the face of the Holly computer from the original Red Dwarf series.

Anonymous said...

An AI should be pretty good at imitating the speech patterns and appearance of anyone or anything it wants, not being limited by anatomy in that department like humans are. Let it choose its own aesthetic. Maybe it will prefer to communicate itself in dialogs, using the appearances of its principal builders or prominent AI sceptics.

Mentifex said...

It is a question of engagement between human and robot. Engaging the Robot AI Mind in Win32Forth is deceptively simple, inasmuch as all communication between human and robot occurs initially via the keyboard. The Forthmind has concepts of self and of other, so that it perceives the input word of "you" as referring to the robot and when you speak of "I" it talks to you on-screen as "you." If you ask the AI robot, "do you love me" (without punctuation), it only knows the answer if you have already told it the answer. Although an emotion module is in preparation that would let the robot feel love and hate and other emotions, right now the main effort here is in getting the robot to think logically and not make spurious associations. Mind.Forth is a kind of Seed AI but it is not meant to be a Friendly AI as such, because there is no way to guarantee friendliness on the part of an autonomous, intelligent robot. Just as human parents could give birth to a murderous Hitler or GWBush or Stalin, likewise there is no guarantee that your mind-equipped robot might not try to take over the world. It is the duty of human society as a whole, not of individual AI developers or robotics hobbyists, to decide whether we humans will permit a parallel society of robots to emerge alongside our own society in Joint Stewardship of Earth.

Doctor Logic said...

I think the most interesting thing you've described in your last two posts is the way in which subjective senses naturally perceive that there is an objective reality.

Subjective Reality:
Whatever the fate of this particular speculation about probabilities and subjectivity, it is an example of the kind of possibility that arises when one takes subjective reality seriously as a domain of being. I hope I have made a good argument that this is worth doing, at least on a provisional basis to see what comes out of it.

I'm not 100% sure I understand the meaning of the term "subjective reality" in this context.

A reality is the set of all actualities. The subset of all things that might be that actually are. This makes sense because we can speak of unicorns which do not exist in actuality, but which could exist. So a subjective reality would be the subset of all subjective things that might be that actually are. What is an example of a subjective thing that might be, but that actually isn't? Entertaining country & western music, perhaps?

Also, I can't imagine what kinds of quantities you could calculate by applying octonions to subjective thought. Do you have any examples?

In Jeff Hawkins' approach (or in my interpretation of it), qualia are precisely the outputs of certain autoassociative networks in a hierarchy. There is a "whiteness" network in or near the visual cortex that lights up when we see white things, when we or refresh memories of white things. This network is strongly wired to all of the other networks that describe white objects or categories. Running in reverse, thinking "whiteness" re-activates memories of all the things that have the whiteness property. We subjectively sense a sort of global average over all white objects in the network. Typically, the most strongly linked white objects (e.g., snow) bubble to the foreground.

This would explain why qualia are sometimes difficult to put into words. For example, does sleekness measure a thing's aerodynamic properties? A car that has a low coefficient of drag might not look "sleek" if it differs radically from other cars that have been labeled "sleek".

In this regard, the dictionary definition, "a property, such as whiteness, considered independently from things having the property," might turn out to be, well, broken. Qualia are precisely patterns extracted from and dependent on our personal memories.

One more note: a quale may be some subtle pattern perceived across hundreds or even thousands of memories. The quale has "found" a pattern, but the pattern does not correspond to a well-formulated question about the connected memories. It might then be extremely difficult to verbally describe such a quale.

So, I guess I would say that qualia are a real, emergent property of networks, but we don't fall for any jive about qualia placing limits on the AI enterprise.

Sorry about the lack of coherence in my comment. I hope some of it was intelligible.

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Anonymous said...

I think it should speak to people through a simulation of his pelvis :o)

Are you planning on blogging some more?

Anonymous said...

Your post itself reminds me of the old story:

The rabbi had mislaid his glasses, and wanted to know where they were. "Well," he reasoned, "either somebody stole them or they ran off on their own. They don't have legs so they couldn't have run off on their own, therefore somebody stole them. Either the thief needs lenses or he doesn't, but if he doesn't why should he steal someone's glasses, so the thief wears glasses. But if wears glasses, then either he already has a pair or he doesn't -- if he already has a pair of glasses, why should he steal mine? and if he doesn't already have a pair of glasses but needs them to see, how can he steal my glasses if he's blind? So if a thief didn't steal my glasses, and they didn't run off on their own, then they must be on my nose. Ah!"

I think most of your audience has a lot of daily experience with qualia, and doesn't need it proven to them that such things exist. :o)

I agree with you that qualia aren't really objectively verifiable or measurable, so when we come up with human-level machine intelligence that acts as though it had subjective existence (and, as I think Kurzweil said, demands civil rights &c.), how will we respond? Would we gladly hand over the world (assuming we had a say in the matter) to machines much more intelligent than we are if they didn't experience (or if we don't know they experience) a continuous subjective mental or perceptional life? If not, would we think it's better to have more efficient thinkers just for the sake of putting the universe in more clear order? If not, is it important to us that ultimately there's something (even if it's not us, personally) that has this kind of mental life?

Maybe I should just hope that our AI machines -- whether they experience qualia or not -- will come up with the answers ;)

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