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Thread: Is philosophy relevant anymore?

  1. #61
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    YesNo,

    The difficulty I see with "Philosophy" taking place "where it should", academia&communal places, is that "the objective" has become "the subjective". Now that morality is done away with in the public arena and has become "subjective" , "The objective" mathematics is "the subjective" when mathematics is really nothing more than a model or "the objective" that allows "the subjective" to communicate, understand, and be cognitive. Mathematics(political as well) is neither the definitive objective or subjective, but it has become so.

    Alvin Peplar aka Mike
    Last edited by Alvin Pepler; 08-25-2017 at 01:11 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #62
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    I think I agree with you about mathematics.

    Mathematics is way to construct a model that allows us to make predictions. This means that our models will be deterministic. When the predictions more or less come true this makes people think that reality IS the model, that is, reality is some mixture of determinism or unconscious randomness. When that happens subjectivity becomes unreal in spite of the fact that subjectivity is the only thing we can know. Unconscious objective reality, like a text or a computer running a program, knows nothing. This leads to a belief that we do not make any kind of choice because that would imply something new enters the model or "system" coming from an agent that is not the result of either determinism or randomness.

    Anyway that is how I see the relationship of mathematics to our subjectivity.

  3. #63
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    YesNo,

    Well phrased. This is why I think all the A.I. debates are a bunch of mularkey. Your post speaks the same goes for "values"(now Ideology")...

    Mike

  4. #64
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    I don't think artificial intelligence will ever generate consciousness. It is mularkey, as you mention, however, these machines are useful for performing a lot of tasks we shouldn't be doing ourselves such as going to Mars or the Moon or exploring space.

    The reason I don't think they will become conscious is based on a definition of what consciousness is. I think consciousness requires the ability to make a "choice" that is not based on a deterministic/random optimization and it is not totally individualistic. It is more likely that an electron is conscious in some way than a table or a computer, as a table or computer, is. Also we can't objectify our subjectivity. That was tried with Principia Mathematica in the earth 20th century and Godel showed it would not work for arithmetic. Also Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment raises doubts that functional mimicking equals subjective awareness.

    I do like discussing these topics. What are you reading related to philosophical issues? Another book I am in the middle of is David Sloan Wilson's "Does Altruism Exist?" He is a biologist, but the questions he raises are philosophical. He would say that altruism does exist in contrast to selfish gene individualism if I understand him correctly. His perspective is similar to Haidt's.

  5. #65
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    YesNo,

    Consciousness is something humans can hardly understand, so there can no way possible for it to be recreated. Like the old Hermit simply puts it in "Blood Meridian": "A man's at odds to know his mind cause is aught he has to know it with".

    I don't read too much on the topic of "consciousness", primarily I read Metaphysics. Recently, I've been reading Donald Philip Verene's titles. Wow. He has me reading some Whitehead, a little, not much; then Ernst Cassirer of late. However, this past weekend I was reading last few published stories by Tolstoy. "Hadji Murad" still has me contemplating. What an amazing piece, it is on par with Conrad's "HOD". The last few Tolstoy publications contemplate "death": you can't be that for tackling main issues of philosophy. Alot of Phaedo directly inspiring later Tolstoy. Phaedo was the first piece by Plato to grab me. So, Tolstoy's writing on death are pretty awesome.

    Alvin Peplar aka Mike

  6. #66
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    I see Verene's "The History of Philosophy" in a local library. I'll check it out today. I agree with the Phaedo that the soul is immortal.

    Some of the problems with consciousness comes from confusing it with our individual awareness which is filtered through our bodies and can be modified by doing things to the body, like opening our eyes in the morning or drinking coffee, which makes one suspect that consciousness is nothing but this awareness.

    I finished reading as much as I want at the moment of David Sloan Wilson's "Does Altruism Exist?" I also read Peter Singer's "The Most Good You Can Do". I plan to reread Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". These three books are all about morality.

    I learnt from Wilson that the word "altruism" goes back to August Comte's efforts to create an atheistic moral community. Altruism is not a traditional religious idea. A religious idea of benevolence involves a win-win situation if one breaks it down into an individual and the group the individual is part of. Altruism implies a potential loss for the individual but a win for the group. This view of a group implies a reductionist ability to view the group as a collection of individuals. The group, in this view, is nothing more than the sum of its individual parts, like a line is the sum of its individual points. I think that can be rejected philosophically, but I wonder if it can be rejected through scientific measurements as well. These people have rejected selfishness (win-lose) for the (individual-group) as the only selection mechanism in Darwinian evolution. I wonder if one can reject their multi-level selection process which includes altruism (lose-win) as well and move toward a pure group centered (win-win) selection process. I suspect this would bring goal-oriented or teleological causes back into science, something I think Thomas Nagel wanted to do with his panpsychism.

  7. #67
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    Since no one can satisfactorily define consciousness, no one could presently create it. The definition may come which allows us to strain it through something artificial. But I do not want to slog that ground again. I know where people stand.

    My belief employs abstract consciousness as the original potential, when nothing else may have existed. It is pure and does not need to be broken down into further constituents, like such contrivances as meta-things would have to be. Consciousness generates properties, which are not themselves constituents that make it up, but add-ons.

    Another property of at least two forms of consciousness is imagination. We have it, and the original consciousness had to have it, also, to make everything else. The original consciousness holds the universe (everything might be a better description) fully in its imagination, like a light bulb that is turned on, and that we can conceive of being suddenly turned off, whether that is actually possible.

    I can continue writing the long word consciousness, or I can write the short one God most of the time, with the understanding that my definition differs from the traditional meaning somewhat, without getting into those exact details immediately. I will do neither. I will write Orc instead, to designate Original Consciousness.

    We have all heard the statement The characters came alive. In our case the characters came alive enough to believe they were alive and real. We are only as real as characters in Orc's work of fiction, perhaps not its only opus, either. Orc would require a large playground as I see it, making it difficult to envision myself as the first or the most advanced of his characters, given that Orc has been at it for an eternity already.

    Our own fiction mimics Orc's. Though our results are puny, it is our assignment.

    I also assume that all of us at one time or another have been so enthralled by a piece of fiction, a movie, a television series, a novel, a play... that we wished we could become part of it for real--like happened with the painting in the Twilight Zone episode.

    For an afterlife we may get what we have created, or someone else has, or perhaps what Orc has imagined again. The reality of afterlife would have to be held poised in Orc's imagination, as well, just like our so called physical universe. Orc did all we see and feel and think, before us, so I suspect Orc was up to the job of imagining an afterlife for us, if that is not strictly our own task to complete.

    Consciousness cannot be killed, but its house can be burned to the ground. Our brains did not create consciousness but allowed some through. The brain's form matters. We allow through more than mosquitoes do.

    Therefore the question of artificial intelligence has been formed wrong for the purposes of philosophy. You cannot create what is already there. But you might just be able to construct a form which allows some consciousness through. Forms are not sacred. Orc found millions of forms that work right here on earth, and we might too. If anything is sacred, then consciousness is, not the form which allows it through, which is just a tool.

    Consciousness as an add-on to a programmed machine is reverse engineering, and may be a scientific dead end. The form which finally allows some of Orc through may be organic in nature, though fully constructed by man. An organic brain constructed by us which is not human and sits in its case obviously conscious because it can communicate with us, is not so far fetched. Perhaps we only need to learn the rules for letting a proper brain assemble itself.

  8. #68
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    I agree with this: "Our brains did not create consciousness but allowed some through. The brain's form matters. We allow through more than mosquitoes do." We can already create forms that allow Orc through. They are called children.

    I also agree with this: "Therefore the question of artificial intelligence has been formed wrong for the purposes of philosophy. You cannot create what is already there. But you might just be able to construct a form which allows some consciousness through." Again we already do this through children.

    I also agree with this: "Since no one can satisfactorily define consciousness, no one could presently create it." If we were able to define consciousness completely, that definition would be both the form AND consciousness. Then consciousness would be reduced to a form. One could then say that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the supposedly unconscious form. The subjective would have been objectified in a definition, a text. Subjectivity would not just be described by the text as a story might so that some other subjectivity can experience it, but that text would experience itself even though it is unconscious and cannot experience anything. That contradiction of an unconscious text being conscious of itself is why, I think, AI is impossible. The best AI will attain is a functional simulation of behaviors observed by conscious reality. And that is all we need to use these AI machines to explore reality about us.

    One can also ask if the forms are themselves unconscious? Are neurons unconscious as neurons? Are atoms unconscious as atoms? I don't think any of these are unconscious in themselves, however, the things that we make using them such as a desk is unconscious as a desk; a computer is unconscious as a computer. The atoms making up the desk or computer may be conscious as atoms. This flips things around: any unconsciousness we run into in reality is an epiphenomenon of underlying consciousness.

  9. #69
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    Babies do not count in the race for artificial intelligence. Our involvement is too minute. We pull one lever at the start.

    It could easily happen that we first find another's artificial creation during our galactic explorations, before we figure consciousness out for ourselves.

    The hard-to-accept concept is that we ourselves are artificial, unless our existence is the product of random forces. Creation implies will. The volcano created havoc, is language at work increasing its expressive range, not evidence for a willful volcano. Even though we are artificial, we and our babies do not count.

    Though we might never learn an independent magic trick for creating intelligence, the ability to enhance and increase it without limit in already sentient beings might be much easier and within our grasp. Of course we already have such a trick called education. We would need new modes of education, once our creation was smarter than us. It is hard not to envision it at some point taking over our education and becoming the educator.

    Starting with a machine and reverse engineering through add-ons might only get asymptotically close to consciousness without achieving it. At a certain point we would have no more valid tests to determine if it was conscious. Our machines could edge so close to consciousness that we could no longer tell the difference between their consciousness or unconsciousness. We can get closer and closer to pi by adding new decimal places and filling them in. Not that many places are required for accuracy in most types of computations. We may never reach pi, but we can get infinitesimally close by filling in enough decimal places. At a certain point we are no longer able to tell the difference.

  10. #70
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    Computers are already better at reasoning than we are, but they aren't conscious. They can also do things we can't do, but they aren't conscious. The main test of consciousness, for me, is the ability to make a real choice. Machines can't do this because they are programmed. We know they have programming because we put it there. Some people try to solve the AI problem by saying that we don't make choices either. They claim that everything we do is determined by something prior or is the result of a uniformly random, that is, unconscious, process. But proving that is difficult because "everything" is not easy to control in a proof or experiment and those promoting free will need only show that we can make one, even a tiny, choice to defeat the argument.

    Perhaps one way to make progress is to find a way to describe unconsciousness. Again, I would go back to the idea of making a choice and claim--that is, define--unconsciousness as what can completely be explained through deterministic or uniformly random processes. A computer would fit this definition of unconsciousness. So would a table as a table. An electron, however, would not be unconscious by this definition given quantum indeterminism. This is why quantum physics provides a justification for idealism rather than materialism and it is why materialists are pushed into a corner forcing them to look to non-empirical solutions such as "many worlds" as a way to preserve their philosophic position.

    I do think we can use unconscious technology to enhance our conscious living experiences. For example, listening to binaural beats (a form of unconsciousness since bits on a computer are not conscious as bits) may improve our minds if we listen to them long enough perhaps like meditation or hypnosis or even sleeping does. You can find some of this by searching for it on YouTube.

  11. #71
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    I can't edit posts, so I will add this. When you write, desiresjab, "The volcano created havoc, is language at work increasing its expressive range, not evidence for a willful volcano." I think you are saying something similar to what I am saying. The volcano needs to make a choice, needs to be "willful", as a volcano for it to be conscious. I agree. Being able to make a choice, being willful, is the criteria for consciousness and the inability to be willful is the criteria for unconsciousness.

  12. #72
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    Yes, willfulness is one more property of consciousness. Whether these properties came one at a time and later, is not known, or whether they existed forever right along with consciousness. If they did come along, that means consciousness had already existed forever without its properties, which seems rather unlikely. In that case, all the properties of consciousness were always with it, whether things themselves had a beginning or not. I have most success with the scenario where at least consciousness always existed. Everything else existing forever creates problems for the thinking.

  13. #73
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    I think willfulness is a way to show that some reality is actually conscious. That reality is then an "agent" in some more or less limited sense. I think specific forms of "awareness" such as our human awareness is what gets added onto agents and that limits consciousness. So rather than the Turing Test to show evidence of consciousness, one needs to show willfulness that cannot be reduced to a determinisitc/random process.

    On a separate topic, I started reading Luc Ferry's "A Brief History of Thought". This is a survey of philosophy from an atheistic perspective. What I find interesting is how he uses the concept of "rational". I think it could be argued that we were in an Age of the Rational from say the mid 17th century to the late 20th century (and perhaps up to the present in some contexts such as the US stock market). What we are in now is a correction to that which might last an additional 30 to 70 years. If that is the case then Ferry would be an old school thinker still in this Age of the Rational social mood. At least that is how I am reading the book.

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