Coffeehouse Thread

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Are computers becoming more human, or are humans becoming more like computers?

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  • eagle

    Are we becoming assimilated? I know that I think more analytically after interfacing with computers for over fifteen years. As we have plugged in the computers, the computers have plugged into us!

  • miseldine

    I guess if we become computers, we'll finally pass Turing's test.

    Me:       1001011
    Computer: 1011100
    Me:       1110110
    Computer: 101

    What a future for man Wink

  • jj5

    eagle wrote:
    As we have plugged in the computers, the computers have plugged into us!


    I could turn it off if I wanted too. Wink

    John.

  • Charles

    This is an interesting question, eagle.

    Computers, or operating systems to be exact, are lacking in the the fundamental capabilities possessed by all sentient systems: the ability to reason, to learn from observation and experience, to grow intelectually over time. As of today, computers are simply tools we use to accomplish specific tasks. In the future, however, computers will be more like our friends and less like our appliances.

    Keep on posting,

    Charles

  • spod

    Charles wrote:
    This is an interesting question, eagle.

    Computers, or operating systems to be exact, are lacking in the the fundamental capabilities possessed by all sentient systems: the ability to reason, to learn from observation and experience, to grow intelectually over time.


    Well, i'm not so sure personally, i lean more towards the strong AI pov - it is an interesting philosophical question though...

    I could certainly see a time where with a big enough database, and clever enough algorithms you could simulate the sentient system characteristics enough to fool most people...

    One thing keeps me out of the strong ai camp... i find Roger Penrose's argument in The Emporer's New Mind quite compelling ( it's a long time since i read it but as i recall it's essentially that our brains are at a very deep level quantum mechanical and non-deterministic and can never be accurately simulated by a deterministic machine in a reasonable time )....

    Quantum computers and other breakthroughs make me not so sure though...i'd probably bet on the fact that some machine would pass the turing test in the next 500 years for example...

  • Charles

    spod wrote:
    "...our brains are at a very deep level quantum mechanical and non-deterministic and can never be accurately simulated by a deterministic machine in a reasonable time"


    I'd argue against Penrose's assertion because there isn't really a need to accurately simulate the human brain in order to achieve machine thinking. Further, the human brain probably has a fail-safe mechanism "installed" that prevents achieving a state of complete self-understanding in a reasonable amount of time without a major evolutionary event. It's about identifying, understanding, and copying patterns of thinking, not necessarily building computerized human brains.

    Certainly, we are several years away from developing machines that can conceptualize and reason on their own (hopefully less than 500). For the short term, however, we are getting closer to developing computer systems that can mimic some of the features of biologic systems (not necessarily sentient). Specifically, I'm talking about the tendency to maintain a constant state of equilibrium; Systems that are self-healing, self-maintaining, able to produce positive feedback in response to negative perturbation, etc.

    Computer systems with strong homeostatic tendencies are coming.


    Charles

  • Manip

    I don't think fundamentally there is anything stopping us from achieving self-understanding.

    I doubt building more and more complex AI will be our path to making a self-aware 'mind'. I personally think the path is about building a very simple structure and let it build its self. The more complex we make it the further behind we get. 

    If you put a complex structure in and have it run at extreme speed it will be limited by its own complexity. If you put a simple structure or algorithm in it has no limits so the intelligence is formulated because of the way it evolves.

    I would certainly like to see more research done on self-building programs.. where you start off with a program able to write/read binary and understands some basic binary structures, set it off, see where it ends up. Another possibility is to have it look at the binary on the existing system and try and use that to better understand its world. Sounds a little freaky I know, but could return some interesting results. Just need to have it running at the lowest level possible (one step above the hardware).

    The big problem at the moment is hardware, we need a processor fare superior to those we use at the moment.

  • jj5

    spod wrote:
    One thing keeps me out of the strong ai camp... i find Roger Penrose's argument in The Emporer's New Mind quite compelling ( it's a long time since i read it but as i recall it's essentially that our brains are at a very deep level quantum mechanical and non-deterministic and can never be accurately simulated by a deterministic machine in a reasonable time )....


    I worry about the term 'deterministic'. I beleive everything is deterministic unless it takes state from outside itself.

    If you consider 'the universe' (i.e. everything) there is nowhere to draw state from. Thus, the universe is deterministic.

    The best argument for this is the past. You can't change the past. It has happened. The future will become the past. Sure, there are all sorts of weirdisms about frames of reference, and we have difficulty in breaking down and modelling the very small aspects of things in our universe (our crude approximations are proving useful though). But there is only one past that affects me, the past shapes me (action/reaction), so everything in the universe is 'deterministic' (this doesn't mean there can't exist 'other universes' or 'parallel universes', it just means that 'my universe' is everything that can impact me).

    So the universe is a state machine in a constant state of flux. We can never really 'prove' the rules, but we can observe what the rules 'tend to be'. I can't think of any way to 'similate' or 'pre-determine' what the universe will do, because the only stuff that I have available to work with also exists in the universe (matter, energy, etc.) and if it didn't then I wouldn't be able to use it, because as soon as it affected me it would be impacting the universe and have to be counted as a part of it. But just because I can't pre-determine the outcome (i.e. the future) it doesn't mean the furture is not deterministic.

    I think we (as humans) need to get over ourselves. We're not that sophisticated. We're "just a virus spamming the universe with rough copies of ourselves". Anyway, since that's what we're doing, I wish we'd hurry up and get off Earth. I hope an inter-planetary settlement operation takes place during my life time.. Smiley

    My big philosophical thing these days centres on language. Am I really communicating with you, such that we are actually doing something 'meaningful', or am I just using symbols that based on my experience are likely to cause you to react in a way that I suspect is likely to be favorable to my existance in the long term?

    John.

  • spod

    jj5 wrote:

    I worry about the term 'deterministic'. I beleive everything is deterministic unless it takes state from outside itself.

    If you consider 'the universe' (i.e. everything) there is nowhere to draw state from. Thus, the universe is deterministic.


    interesting. so how does stuff like radioactive decay fit in? that is a non-deterministic process right? doesn't that make the universe non-deterministic ...( can you contain non-deterministic parts, and be deterministic yourself? )

  • jj5

    spod wrote:
    jj5 wrote:
    I worry about the term 'deterministic'. I beleive everything is deterministic unless it takes state from outside itself.

    If you consider 'the universe' (i.e. everything) there is nowhere to draw state from. Thus, the universe is deterministic.
    interesting. so how does stuff like radioactive decay fit in? that is a non-deterministic process right? doesn't that make the universe non-deterministic ...( can you contain non-deterministic parts, and be deterministic yourself? )


    The point I tried to make (and thus why I don't like the term deterministic) is that there is a difference between being able to predetermine the outcome and knowing that there will be only one outcome.

    Since there will be only one outcome, and we can say the outcome will be based on the present state and a set of rules, then the outcome is deterministic.

    We don't really know what 'the rules' are, but we try to determine (or 'model') these through science. We also come up with concepts to describe state, most of them are very crude. We only use the term 'random' when we are unable to describe the rules. The irony is that I don't beleive that we can know the rules, we can only know what we beleive to be true based on observation, if the rules we observe change over time (i.e. the rules are dynamic) then we won't know until we can observe a state change that didn't conform to our understanding of the model we had created to describe the rules. Perhaps it is safe to assume that 'the rules' are hardcoded..?

    At any rate, I beleive everything is deterministic. I guess it's little more than a well-reasoned beleif in fate.

    Since I can observe only one past, and I can observe the past impacting the future and the future becoming the past it's not too hard to beleive.

    John.

  • eagle

    How about the present moment, what YOU feel, see, hear and taste.

     

    Our thinking has obviously been effected by our use of computers, they have isolated us from some human contact; yet they brought us here….   

  • Manip

    Isn't it theoretically possible to build a non-deterministic structure on a deterministic one (the hardware). Although this kind of cuts the entire binary mind concept out, it doesn't make using a computer as a mind impossible. What about 'random' number generators for instance. Although it is difficult to make truly random ones as CPU speeds increase there numbers and the technology should produce MORE random results.

  • jj5

    Manip wrote:
    Isn't it theoretically possible to build a non-deterministic structure on a deterministic one (the hardware). Although this kind of cuts the entire binary mind concept out, it doesn't make using a computer as a mind impossible. What about 'random' number generators for instance. Although it is difficult to make truly random ones as CPU speeds increase there numbers and the technology should produce MORE random results.

    Anything that your computer does that has the appearance of being non-deterministic will invariably be the result of external (or simply unknown) state being consumed. If the scope of the system you are describing is 'computer' or 'hardware' then you might consider this to be non-deterministic, because within your scope you won't have the information you need to be able to state that the outcome will be consistent regardless of the fact that all state within the scope of the system is in the same configuration (or more simply you may not know what that state is even if it is bound in the scope, classic example being the system clock). The only reason you can't make this claim is because inside your scope you can have no knowledge of the external state that will impact the system.

    Again, I want to stress my point that I don't like the word deterministic. The problem is that everyone uses it to imply 'not random' or 'we can know what the result will be', but this is not true. The definition I have for deterministic is "an inevitable consequence of antecedent sufficient causes", which does not imply anything about the need to be able to predetermine those inevitable consequences. It's not my fault that people hear big words and start using them (I too am regularly guilty as charged, and I suppose we should pride ourselves on our ability to learn from the results of engaging in experimental activity. It is after all this ability that is really at the heart of this thread (before I hijacked it to preach about determinism)).

    I have the same complaint with the word 'fate' btw, which has equally been watered down through popular romantic use such that it now carries all sorts of unwanted connotations. The definition I have for fate is "an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future".

    There are any number of things that make your computer so complex that it has the guise of being non-deterministic. But it draws on all manner of unknown internal state (timers, counters, the present value of the fifth field in row four of table A, which sector the last blob of data got dumped to the page file on the disk, etc.), external state (electrical, thermal, physical (i.e. tangible), etc.) and is of itself only the result of very crude configurations of physical stuff (like copper and silicon) performing crude manipulations of stuff also bound to physical reality (like electrons, electromagnetic interference, etc.).

    I defined the universe as everything that can impact me. This means that I exclude the possibility of a system that can have any dependency on state that is not contained by the system. I did not exclude the possibility for other systems, but deny that there is any ability to receive state from them (otherwise they would be 'in scope').

    Before someone throws keywords at me like "Heisenberg's uncertainty principle" or "Chaos theory" please do me a favour and read about them. They only comment on the ability to configure state, observe state, or predetermine resulting state. This is about sensitivity to initial conditions which, based on current (solid) theories, can not be known or recreated.

    Something that is deterministic, can not by virtue of the fact that it is deterministic, render results that are non-deterministic without constraining the scope in which you define determinism such that you can rely on unknown state. Since that is what I believe, I deny that the universe contains anything that is non-deterministic. I don't deny that I can limit my scope and claim non-determinism, knowing that if I expanded my scope I would find determinism.

    Anyway, as a result of this conversation I realised something this evening. If it was indeed possible for the universe to arrive in an exact state that it had already been in, assuming the rules were constant (and really they must be, otherwise they are themselves state) then the universe would be stuck in an infinite loop! I thought that was a cool thought.

    Anyone else feel like standing up and being counted as a believer in a deterministic universe? I've heard people argue against it, but then again the only seemingly intelligent arguments pretty much discussed the ability to predetermine state, or the possibility for loosing and gaining state. But if the universe can 'loose or gain' state then I say that the scope of the universe has been too narrowly defined, and reiterate that determinism is not pre-determinism, and does not require an understanding of the rules, simply the observation that with respect to your frame of reference there is only one past that is effecting you.

    John.

  • jj5

    eagle wrote:
    How about the present moment, what YOU feel, see, hear and taste. 

    Our thinking has obviously been effected by our use of computers, they have isolated us from some human contact; yet they brought us here….   


    I'm inclined to starting waxing philosophical about that, but instead I'll just say that my reading and comprehension skills (along with my typing skills) have gone *through the roof* over the past 4 or 5 years. I consume and filter so much information daily, that I almost find it funny that I could still by a 'book' that contains such a finite, limited and static amount of information.

    I regularly catch myself forgetting that there are actually 'real people' on the other side of this message talking back to me. I mean, I'm sitting in a dark room by myself on the other side of the world.. it's brains in vats all over again..

    Erm, "Hello, world!".

    John.

  • Manip

    I don't believe in Randomtivity (Not a word).. but I do believe that something can be non-deterministic.

    Randomness (Not a word) describes a state which is just created from thin-air.. but to determine something's state we need to measure all factors and that is clearly impossible sometimes.

    So for something to be non-deterministic it simply needs to contain a factor we can't measure. For instance it is not possible for me to determine how many people are going to reply to this thread, because I don't have all the information. But it is not 'random' just non-deterministic.

  • Akaina

    Maybe we're just in the process of de-obfuscating our selves & environment.

    We're getting more like them in the sense that we're becoming less ambiguous, but more like ourselves in the sense that we originally operated better in a more consistent environment.

    Survival depended on adaptation. Perhaps we're over that stage and we've reached our survival apex. The next step of optimization depends highly on cache-able abstractions we now deal with.

    I should be writing this on www.edge.org

    PS: I'm a big fan of determinism

  • eagle

    Akaina wrote:


    PS: I'm a big fan of determinism


    Oh, is he blogging now?

  • eagle

    jimi wrote:
    Are you experienced? Not just “stoned”,  but beautiful....





    If you want to know about life, go outside and experience the wonders of nature (discover that you are part of it all).

     We have constructed computers in our image, thought is electric. What have we learned about ourselves from our creation?

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