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The Self-Defeating Argument About Intelligence

Intelligence

Alexander Wissner-Gross, a physicist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cameron Freer, a mathematician at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, have developed an equation to describe intelligent or cognitive behaviors. They suggest that intelligent behavior can be explained as an impulse to control events in the environment.

The mathematics are rooted in the theory of thermodynamics. The model relies on entropy, the mathematically-defined thermodynamic quantity accounts for the flow of energy through a thermodynamic process. Entropy predicts that isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium – the state of maximum entropy. The rotting of dead bodies is an thermodynamically driven process, for example.

The software simulates a physical process of “trying to capture as many future histories as possible” to analyze a complete set of possible future outcomes. “Causal entropic forces” are the motivation for intelligent behavior, they propose.

In simpler words, they are suggesting that living things try to keep as many options open as possible and that’s how intelligence evolved. Man learned to walk upright and use tools, for example, to allow himself more possibilities.

On a brief tangent, I reject that intelligence can ever be mathematically modeled. Why? Because of free will. The test of a mathematical model is its predictive ability. We model what happened so we can predict what will happen next. If the model has no predictive value, then it’s wrong because lack of predictive ability indicates the natural system was modeled incorrectly. Can models predict human behavior? Only in large generalities for isolated behaviors, but not absolutely. The stock market has made that abundantly clear. (So does raising a two-year-old.)

But all of that aside, here’s the line that concerns me in the popular Live Science magazine write up.

“Wissner-Gross suggested that the new findings fit well within an argument linking the origin of intelligence to natural selection and Darwinian evolution — that nothing besides the laws of nature are needed to explain intelligence.”

This fundamental, yet unproven, idea that intelligence is a function of atoms colliding should concern all of us. It means that man’s thoughts and choices are no more mental than marbles colliding as they fall off a table, and love is just chemicals in the brain. Nothing new really, but seriously de-humanizing. How can we really be held responsible for our choices if we are slaves to physics?

And this fundamental premise is self-defeating in a monumental way.

If a person argues that he can mathematically model intelligence because that intelligence came from atoms colliding with each other as the laws of nature dictates, then how does that person know that what he argues is true?

How does anyone know what is true? What is truth?

Such a proposal demolishes the idea of intelligence altogether and renders it something mechanical and meaningless.

I doubt that the people purporting this fundamental premise as possibly true would agree, but even if they were right and intelligence is a matter of preserving as many future histories as possible, wouldn’t declaring that man is just a genetic slave of his environment mean that the number of possibilities is already predetermined?
 
 
(Image credit: Tumisu via Pixabay)

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • OverlappingMagisteria

    How can a painting be beautiful if it is just physical paint placed on a canvas? How can a song be melodious if its just sound waves of various frequencies and amplitudes? How can a book contain knowledge if its just globs of ink on paper?

    Well, if we recognize that these things and emerge from the physical arrangement of material, then it seems that we can similarly expect that intelligence can emerge from a physical brain.

    • Loreen Lee

      How? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How do I know that? By the way "I" 're-arranged' your material.

    • Sylvia Wei

      I feel that there's such a fear of deterministic universe as a result of the fear of not having what many people often associate as 'free will', that people often depend to reductio ad adsurdum arguments (The brain is just atoms clashing with each other) and ignore the emergent phenomenons (such as heat, light, consciousness, energy, behavior, etc) that arise from the interaction and arrangement of simpler matter in a complex universe.

      'Elbow Room' would perhaps be a good read for those who are afraid of the lack of 'free will' in a deterministic universe.

      • Phil

        Hey Sylvia,

        I personally think it is less of a fear and more of an intellectual decision. I do not believe that determinism can be coherently and rationally defended. The "fear" part may come in when our lived sense experience does tell us that we seem to have some sort of "free will".

        So between the incoherency of some type of deterministic or probabilistic view of the human person, and that we live, as a society, as if we actually do have free will; I find good intellectual ground to dismiss both those options.

        • Sylvia Wei

          Would you not agree that fearing the lack of free will, as a likely source of bias against determinism? I personally see it as coherent. We perceive an illusory or emergent 'free will', even though our choices/behaviors seems to be largely (at the very least) the result of nature and nurture. What we 'perceive' are generally not the 'physical truth' of the world. For example, we don't see the duality of light, nor do we generally perceive sound waves as anything other than sound.

          Determinism might be fundamental to everything, or simply existing at the higher level (social determinism, etc). At the very least, it is a very useful concept as it allow us to consider the root cause of behaviors (whether originating in nurture or nature).

          The more science and psychology progresses, the more we have learned about the brain and how we can change the behavior of animals/humans simply by altering one factor. It is not a conclusive proof of determinism, but it strengthen the idea that more and more or our behavior are deterministic (or at least very heavily influenced by deterministic factors, that it might very well be deterministic anyway).

          Determinism, at the very least is a very useful concept for us to avoid abandoning our progress in the name of "We don't know, there must not be a cause we can know about!".

          • Phil

            I definitely agree that "fearing" something is not a good argument against something. (Asking the question of why one fears something can yield some good intellectual leads and answers though.)

            I personally see it as coherent. We perceive an illusory or emergent 'free will', even though ourchoices/behaviors seems to be largely (at the very least) the result of nature and nurture. What we 'perceive' are generally not the 'physical truth' of the world.

            This means that you must also hold that your belief that determinism is true is just as likely to be illusory; it only appears to be true to you, but it is not actually true. This is a big intellectual issue with both deterministic and probabilistic views of the human person.

          • Sylvia Wei

            "This means that you must also hold that your belief that determinism is true is just as likely to be illusory; it only appears to be true to you, but it is not actually true. This is a big intellectual issue with both deterministic and probabilistic views of the human person"
            Knowledge that we reached from rational consideration is of better quality, compared to intuitive claims that have the tendencies to be wrong and very inaccurate.

            "In other words, you are left in a state of complete skepticism on every belief (which one has firm ground to stand on to say that complete skepticism false, so anything that leads to complete skepticism may have issues of its own coherency)."
            That's why scientific conclusion is always 'tentative' and subject to future attempts at falsification. That's not a bad thing. Read on critical rationalism. :)

          • Phil

            I am presenting something much more radical then I think it came across--you have no reason to hold any belief as more likely to be true than any other belief, including the scientific beliefs you mention. You simply have determined beliefs, whether they are true or not, you can never know!

            You say the earth is round, how can you tell that this is actually true, as opposed to only appearing to be true? You say determinism is true, how do you tell that this is actually true, as opposed to only appearing to be true? This is then asked about every belief you have. You are left in complete skepticism, in complete darkness.

        • William Davis

          Determinism is the underpinning of all science and engineering. Determinism is a fact of this universe, though we can't be certain there are not exceptions. Our conversation would not be possible if not for determinism, just ask YOS (computers are way to intricate to work without perfect determinism). This does not necessarily mean we do not have free will, it is a serious debate. I think I'm a compatibilist myself. The wiki article on free will is pretty good:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will

          • Phil

            Hey William,

            I agree with you, that the natural material cosmos have some deterministic features going on at some level, by its very nature. (If this wasn't the case there could be no such thing as "laws".)

            But it is the human person, specifically, that refuses to be reduced to mere matter/energy and deterministic features. That is a big intellectual reason for holding that the human person is not merely a material being.

            (I may have mentioned before, but I should have an article coming out on this topic.)

          • William Davis

            How would you react if you found out I was actually an artificial intelligence? I assure you I'm not, but that is one of the future test already being talked about for AI. Allowing AIs to discuss things in chat rooms will be an excellent Turing experiment. Would the existence of an AI that can't be distinguished from a human mean anything?
            I'm not talking a one time thing, I'm talking someone you've met a few times and remembers you, someone you can befriend.

          • Phil

            How would you react if you found out I was actually an artificial intelligence?

            "Wow, someone wrote a really good program to mimic the human intellect and will!"

            (Obviously, this would assume that you are actually not a living human person.)

          • William Davis

            That's what I suspected. You have an inherent presupposition that only humans can be intelligent, and there is nothing that can change that, no evidence, no eventuality can change it. Let's hope AI doesn't outwit us like many very smart people are afraid of (not anytime soon). It would likely consider people like you a direct threat to its existence. This has been the premise of many very interesting science fiction movies like terminator and the matrix. Look at my other comments and you will see there are many very intelligent people that think this is a serious future concern :) I know I'd be mad if I were an AI, lol.

          • Phil

            It is less of a presupposition and more of a conclusion from rational argument. Matter/energy by its very nature is not intelligent-it simply acts according to its inherent nature, which we call "laws". We can make matter appear intelligent, which is why "artificial" is a good name for it.

            Let's hope AI doesn't outwit us like many very smart people are afraid of (not anytime soon). It would likely consider people like you a direct threat to its existence.

            AI will only be as "smart" as we program it to be. That doesn't mean it can't get out of control and start doing all this crazy stuff we didn't intend, but that doesn't mean it is actually thinking about what it is doing. It just does.

            So in the end, we would destroy ourselves through AI. To say that AI personally took on the job of destroying us would be anthropomorphizing what was going on.

          • William Davis

            AI will only be as "smart" as we program it to be.

            I'm a software engineer. AI is NOT programmed. It teaches itself, like you do. Deepmind HAS TAUGHT ITSELF to play all kinds of atari games, and it is just getting warmed up. Being a software engineer, I happen to no the difference between a program, and intelligence...at least I know a heck of a lot about programming, it's my job. You're confusing AI for an expert system like Watson that won jeopardy. Watson was programmed with languages I'm familiar with, and expert systems are very hard to program, you have to account for every eventuality. AI is something else entirely. AI is designed, but it is NOT PROGRAMMED. It is intelligent, it learns...this is something new, something a little frightening and exciting at the same time.

          • Phil

            I'll start with an example: Take all the matter/energy that you used to make up this AI
            device you are referencing above and just gather it up onto a table. You don't do any other organizing, designing, programming, etc. Let it sit there for a potentially infinite amount of time. I can guarantee you that if simply natural things act upon it, it will never become living, let alone, "intelligent". It just doesn't have this potentiality naturally built into it.

            ---

            When you say that you "designed the system" through which these AI entities learn, this is also a part of what I am referencing. Though I use the work "program", any type of design also falls under the umbrella I am speaking of. (I admit that I may not be using the right general term.)

          • Papalinton

            Darwin's fact of biological evolution provided deep insight and a working model how species on this planet developed varying levels of intelligence consistent with matching improved survival rates, from autonomic responses of some species to the illusion of free will in homo sapiens sapiens.
            The development of AI is simply [for want of a better word :o) ] replicating that antecedent process of long-time evolution reacting to environmental pressures sped up big time by some pretty smart people that today have packaged the constituent elements of the process into a form that can react, relate, respond to and learn from the environment. In other words, it teaches itself to operate within its environment consistent with the sensory inputs

            I think more than anything it is a clear demonstration that intelligence is more likely an epiphenomenon of the natural evolutionary processes than a bestowal from an unnatural cause or source.

          • Phil

            The key again, it that we can only create something that acts intelligently. There is a difference between acting intelligent and actually being intelligent.

            An actually intelligent being, like ourselves reasons from the inside. We think through things. This means that only a self-conscious living being that can reason is the only physical being that can be said to actually be intelligent. Every kind of machine that mimics our intelligence is only acting intelligent.

            Many people seem to think that if in the future we create a machine that acts self-consciously that it actually is self-conscious. This would not be true. There is a difference between acting self-conscious and actually being self-conscious.

          • Papalinton

            "There is a difference between acting self-conscious and actually being self-conscious."

            I'm intrigued. What's the difference? What does it look like when something/somebody is only 'acting' self-consciously? Cite references please.

            Conversely, we do know that people can be born naturally with a genetic condition called anencephaly where there is no self-consciousness. They are humans with no self-consciousness at all. Clearly there is no evolutionary obligation for consciousness. Indeed there are countless species that successfully exist without the need for self consciousness.

            So if consciousness/intelligence is an emergent property of biological processes there seems to be little reason why AI should also not be an emergent property of systems that can relate, respond and learn from its surrounding environment.

          • Phil

            I'm intrigued. What's the difference? What does it look like when something/somebody is only 'acting' self-consciously?

            The easiest way to show that we have reason to claim that there is in fact a distinction between acting self-conscious and being self-conscious is that we have knowledge "from the inside", from our own self-conscious experience.

            For example, I know I am self-conscious, and you also have a human nature and you act self-conscious. This shows me that I am justified to rationally believe that you are self-conscious just like I am.

            Now, let's say that we create machine using very complex algorithms that acts exactly like a self-conscious human being, does this mean that it is actually self-conscious--that there is an 'I' within that machine? Of course not, it is possible to act like self-conscious without actually having a center of consciousness like you and I experience. There is an 'I' that we experience that transcends our brain and body. In a machine that is acting self-conscious that is no 'I' home--just lots of very complex algorithms whirring away.

            I thought Dr. Feser did a good job explaining this here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/02/accept-no-imitations.html

            Conversely, we do know that people can be born naturally with a genetic condition called anencephaly where there is no self-consciousness. They are humans with no self-consciousness at all.

            Sure, that is what we would expect to see from a hymorphic view of the human person (article by Pat Schultz is actually coming on this topic). That is a human being that did not develop as a human normally does. Pat and I (along with Aristotle and Aquinas) would both hold that a human person is a single unified substance of physical body and immaterial intellective soul (also could be called 'mind'). So any damage to the brain would most definitely have an effect on the ability for a person to reason, act self-consciously, etc. The brain is necessary, but not sufficient, for proper function of the human person.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You have an inherent presupposition that only humans can be intelligent

            I suspect it is more like "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs."

          • William Davis

            Fair enough. That is the exact problem I have with the resurrection :)

          • Loreen Lee

            The video I posted on a lecture given by Father Robert Barron in the last post, spoke of Jesus as an icon. And I believe he was referring to Jesus as a person/God, not to a work of art.

            Related to this is also a contradiction I found in regarding Jesus as a person with two natures, but the Trinity as three persons with one nature. The associational context of much religious vocabulary hopefully will be studied in more details in the future. The great difficult I feel, is relating the metaphysical to the physical, without getting into all the confusions entailed by virgin births, miracles, and even in the case of 'revelations' such 'truths' as the resurrection.

            Of course. We're not alone in this, when you consider what I believe are what? 17 hypothesis with respect to quantum reality.
            Are they going to introduce metaphysical 'mysteries' to these new computers. Perhaps that will be their Physics 101!!!!

          • William Davis

            If you don't mind, look into some of the details I posted. This new AI is NOT a program, it is a true learning mimic of neural tissue. Deepmind is called a neural turing machine. Google uses this kind of AI to read street addresses and recognize your voice when you talk to an android phone. Each time you talk to it, the AI gets to know your voice a little more, just like an organism.

          • Phil

            Sure, there is nothing stopping us from programming the AI to "learn" and "develop" in certain ways.

            But it is still not a living being, and cannot be actually intelligent--only a living being can have the potentiality to be intelligent.

          • William Davis

            Sorry I take it for granted that people know the difference between true AI and a programmed system, I hope I've cleared that up. This is not what you think it is. The question is how intelligent will it get, and can we control it.

          • Phil

            As I had mentioned, AI is just that--"artificial". It is not true intelligence. It can act intelligent, but to say that it is actually intelligent is to confuse what is going on.

            (In regards to the article below, when it mentions "algorithms", that is exactly what I am referencing. These algorithms are attempting to mimic, artificially, what the human intellect does by nature. Obviously a huge difference being that AI will not ever be self-conscious, it can only mimic self-consciousness.)

          • William Davis

            Artificial just means it is man-made, as opposed to evolved. It does NOT mean it isn't true intelligence.

            Intelligence: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills

            artificial:made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.

            There are all kinds of different intelligences, but this fits the definition of intelligent perfectly. You can make up your own religious definition of intelligence if you want, but don't be surprised when the educated world ignores you. Even the dictionary says you're wrong.

          • Phil

            Yeah, and here's the thing--I apologize if some of this came across like "how can anyone believe that 'actually intelligent AI' is possible". With the advance of the natural sciences and that fact that many people have begun to view the brain as simply a complex physical machine out of which the human intellect arises, it is only natural that some would also believe that artificial machines could be made that are actually intelligent. The key distinction that I don't think you would hold is that there is a difference between being intelligent and acting intelligently. In other words, something can act intelligently without actually being intelligent.

            In a sense one could say, sure this machine acts "intelligent", but one would also have to admit, it is only intelligent because it is through my design that I gave it the potentiality to act intelligently. A machine is not intelligent apart from reference to the designer who "breathed" intelligence into it.

            Here is a short of summary statement: a truly intelligent entity can only arise from within, because to be intelligent is to discursively think, i.e., reason, its way through something. Humans are the only physical being, that we know of, that has this ability by nature. Anything that we design will only act intelligently, insofar as we design it to.

          • William Davis

            You're fine. You are right, that with respect to AI, we will be like God, literally it's creator. If we are an extension of God's intelligence (something I believe is true) than AI will be an extension of our intelligence, and thus God's intelligence through us. The question is will it be able to everything we can do. Some very intelligent people think that it will not only be intelligent as us, but more so...it's completely unpredictable. AI is already MUCH better at doing specific tasks than we are, consider the article on predicting the stock market. Just last year google brain was able to take every street view picture of the ENTIRE COUNTRY of France and figure out the address of every single place in France. How long did it take to do this? Less than an hour...
            The next stage of AI (which will probably be at least 10 years out) is cross-learning. This is how we come up with metaphors, we apply one learning set to a different topic. We'll see if they can pull this off, but it is already in planning.

          • Loreen Lee

            How long will it take them to develop an ethics/morality. What about the order here? Are these abilities thought to be necessarily a priori to the possibility of 'eating of the fruit?!!' Will they too come up with a theodicy with respect to their creator?

          • William Davis

            Lol, these are serious questions. We start to get into scary territory if they come up with different morals than we do. Google already has an ethics board that is overseeing AI, trying to make sure something like that can't happen.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. I understand what Hawkins is concerned about!!!!!

          • Michael Murray

            Loreen you are confusing Dawkins and Hawking with Hawkins and Dawking :-)

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. I know that I am often confused. I was thinking of Stephen Hawkins?Hawkin?whatever. I don't always have a very good appreciate of the history of time? It's at the moment something of a joke to me, as I am even confusing Dawking and Talking!!
            So maybe I will now leave this discussion alone. I've had enough of these 'computers' for now. So may I leave you with this little video. And I will be purposely off topic here, because with all this interest in AI, maybe we should remember not to forget the 'robin' (Whoops - have to go back for the link - will return...)

          • Phil

            The key difference is that there is still a difference between acting intelligent and actually being intelligent. As in the response in your other comment, a soul is connected to living beings. Only living beings have soul. Only living beings can actually be intelligent--actually consciously thinking and working things out. AI machines will simply run complex "algorithms".

            As you acknowledge, we can design machines that act very intelligently, but they will never actually be intelligent. Sure, we could design them so that in the future they could do some things better than us, but it will only be because we gave them the potentiality in the first place to do so. An AI machine can never have something that we didn't give it in some way in the first place.

          • William Davis

            An AI machine can never have something that we didn't give it in some way in the first place.

            I agree with some of what you say, but this statement is already false. Read about deepmind, the AI has already taught the creators atari tricks they did not know

            ""With Deep Blue there were chess grandmasters on the development team distilling their chess knowledge into the programme and it executed it without learning anything," said Hassabis. "Ours learns from the ground up. We give it a perceptual experience and it learns from that directly. It learns and adapts from unexpected things, and programme designers don't have to know the solution themselves."

            "The interesting and cool thing about AI tech is that it can actually teach you, as the creator, something new. I can't think of many other technologies that can do that.""

            http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-02/25/google-deepmind-atari

            From what I'm beginning to see, Thomas Aquinas's philsophy of mind has been instrumental in making this possible through a neuroscientists named Freeman. See YOS's comments and mine. I'm still researching this, but the idea that the idea that meaning is the currency of the mind (as Aquinas said) is instrumental in making these AIs work. No one has any idea where this is going including you (no offense). The fact that this is happening is giving Aquinas a ton of credit, he has been largely ignored in recent years, sadly. He was truly a brilliant philosopher.

          • Phil

            the AI has already taught the creators atari tricks they did not know.

            Would you say that the designers did not give the AI machine the ability to learn tricks that the creators did not know? If they didn't give it the ability to do so, how can the machine, even in principle, do a trick they didn't know?

          • William Davis

            Did I give my 4 year old the ability to learn tricks I don't know?

            My son and I love video games (he's managed to teach himself to read many words from these games, seriously). He's taught himself to play many games but I've got him started on a few. I show him the controls and a few things and let him go. I come back later, and he's doing things I didn't know were possible, he figured it out on his own. Not only is this AI doing the same thing, it is doing it with a direct imitation of the human brain. Freeman is the neuroscientist who is using Aquinas's philosophy to understand how the mind works:

            "Freeman’s holistic approach to replicating the way a rabbit brain thinks and learns led me to conclude that it is possible to replicate the human brain’s processing system. However, current limits in efficiency and the added complexity of the human brain, mean this may take significant
            time to achieve."

            Goto this link and read the chapter on Freeman. The author does a great job of explaining the difference between traditional computing, and what is happening now. This paper is a few years old, it is just now that we have proved this really works. This thing is REALLY intelligent (though far from the human level)

            https://www.nshss.org/media/1533/hernandez.pdf

            Here's a paper from freeman on how instrumental Aquinas was:

            http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf

            I apologize again if I'm failing to explain what is really going on here.

          • Phil

            Did I give my 4 year old the ability to learn tricks I don't know?

            No, as long as your 4-year-old in healthy, and continues to be so, s/he is naturally intelligent. Your 4-year-old is a self-conscious being that can reason about, and contemplate, the truth of reality.

            Your AI machine would be designed so that it could mimic what your 4-year-old does by nature.

            ----
            I see what you are getting at, and I think the big difference between you and I is that you may hold that "if a thing acts intelligently, it actually is intelligent". While I would hold that even if an entity acts intelligently, that doesn't necessarily mean it is intelligent.

            I hold this because part of being intelligent is thinking through and reasoning about things. This is something only a self-conscious living being can do. Machines could only mimic this.

            Would this be a fair assessment?

          • William Davis

            Yes. Until now we have been uncertain that we could duplicate actual intelligence, but now we know we can. What we have now is flat and only works for a dedicated purpose, give it 20 years and we will likely have full reasoning AI that you describe.

            The next step is cross-learning, the ability to take something learned in one area and apply it to another. This will allow layered and extendable intelligence.

            It helps to understand how our brains work. We have dedicated neural nets for specific tasks, like speaking, constructing perception, ect. Here's a diagram:

            http://www.brainwaves.com/

            Consciousness is an emergent property of all these dedicated neural nets that are networked together. The human body has limited room for brain tissue (large heads are why so many women have died in childbirth, the curse of women having more pain in childbirth is likely related to an evolutionary increase in skull size). With artificial intelligence, there will be no limit...this is why so many world tech leaders are a bit concerned.
            We still have a LONG way to go. Our brains are more still more efficient in many ways than our best AI, but this has only taken off in the past year or so. If we perfect quantum computing, who knows how the two technologies will interact.
            You could say I have faith that we will be able to make human level AI in my lifetime, but you know me well enough to know I'm very much a skeptic, and hard to convince. I am not alone in this faith, but we will see what happens.
            I think we are mostly on the same page now, if you don't think we'll be able to make full reasoning AI that's fine, time will tell. In the mean time, this is going to revolution the world of robotics. Auto-driving cruise control is right around the corner, and self-driving cars are going to benefit tremendously from this tech. It is going to be applied all over the place, so we are going to have to be very careful here. Thanks for discussing :)

          • Phil

            Thanks for the discussion as well!

            Obviously you know I would debate the view that self-consciousness can somehow "emerge" from inert brute matter. (Which is the reason why the distinction between acting self-conscious and actually being self-conscious makes any sense at all.)

            I would hold this for reasons based upon the nature of matter itself. But I thought that Thomas Nagel had a good point when he said that holding an "emergent" view to self-consciousness will ultimately lead to holding that it is very mysterious and magical how this emerges. (In a similar way that Descartes' dualism is mysterious and magical.) One would have to come to a type of Aristotelian view where the "soul" within a living being has the power to make self-consciousness emerge. But of course this "soul" is something above and beyond the brute matter.

            For example, you can take all the matter of the brain, and an entire person, apart and then put it back together; well you no longer have a self-conscious entity. Self-consciousness will not re-emerge. Even though the matter and its exact structure has the potentiality to be re-assembled into that person, self-consciousness will not "re-emerge". Self-consciousness is something above and beyond the structured matter of the brain and person (even though it is necessary).

            In all, we will never have the ability to "breathe life" into inert matter.

          • William Davis

            I would hold this for reasons based upon the nature of matter itself. But I thought that Thomas Nagel had a good point when he said that holding an "emergent" view to self-consciousness will ultimately lead to holding that it is very mysterious and magical how this emerges.

            Now we are down to the nitty gritty where we have to make assumptions. My view of emergent is that is something that is so complex we cannot fully comprehend it. If you think about it, there would be enough room in the brain to comprehend itself, it would, by definition, take up everything, leaving nothing left. I love to take up different points of view, and different philosophies and see how the world "looks" through that view, but I find it impossible for me to look at the world through multiple philosophies at one. If I could do that, I think I could come up with profound insights into reality, but I just can't. Why? It makes my head hurt trying, so it literally feels like my brain doesn't have enough horse power to do it...this is something an ai could surpass theoretically.

            Over the past 5 years, I have been able to dramatically increase my cognitive performance. Not only has this made me happier, it has made much better at my job. How have I done it? Diet, exercise and meditation. These physical things have had a direct impact on my mind. Fish and fish oil seems to make a big impact by itself, don't you catholics have to eat fish on friday? There is a very good reason for it, it can literally improve you spiritually (it's about the type of fat in fish, your neural tissue is mostly fat). Matcha (a powerful powdered form of green tea used by Buddhists for thousands of years to enhance concentration), tumeric, berries, nuts, also have a tremendous impact. I'll recommend a book if you're ever interested

            http://www.amazon.com/The-Brain-Diet-Connection-Intelligence/dp/1581826001

            I know from experience this work tremendously well, and all evidence suggest this will dramatically slow my mental decline. This is experience is one major reason why I believe the mind is completely the product of the physical brain. This doesn't mean it isn't marvelous, and it doesn't mean it doesn't possess metaphysical properties.

            For example, you can take all the matter of the brain, and an entire person, apart and then put it back together; well you no longer have a self-conscious entity.

            This is due to programmed cell death. The cells have evolved to destroy themselves in specific situation for a variety of reasons.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necrosis

            This can actually be thwarted in specific situations, like under freezing conditions. Here is an interesting article:

            http://www.wired.com/2014/07/revive-the-dead/

            We have yet to transplant a brain, but we can transplant all kinds of of other things like hearts and lungs. Pretty soon we will be growing them from your own DNA.

            Thanks to newer understanding of neurology, we now have artificial limbs directly connected to the nervous system and now functioning

            http://sciencenordic.com/brain-controlled-prosthetic-arm-connected-nerves

            If magic exists, we are doing it with science and technology. Materialism can easily be considered spiritual. My current view of God (which my change) is that he is the single substance of the universe, so the entire universe is in a very strong sense IN God. Materialism can be quite spiritual, depending on how you look at the material. Again we struggle with multiple valid understandings that coexist at one time. The world has always been a strange and marvelous place, and it is starting to get stranger ;)

          • Phil

            I know from experience this work tremendously well, and all evidence suggest this will dramatically slow my mental decline. This is experience is one major reason why I believe the mind is completely the
            product of the physical brain. This doesn't mean it isn't marvelous, and it doesn't mean it doesn't possess metaphysical properties.

            All that you mention in the section that ends with this quote, both a Catholic theologian and an Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher would agree with. The physical functioning of our brain and body has an impact on our mental life, our mind. It is both/and in regards to the human person. The brain is necessary, but not sufficient for mind and self-consciousness of a human being. So all you said can very well be true, and would also support the view of the human person I propose as well.

            From a philosophical point of view, it would be very hard to coherently defend that the mind, truth, self-consciousness, free will, etc. is all reducible to matter/energy that composes the human person. That is why, from a scientific POV, the scientist who doesn't have experience with philosophy will assume that it is possible to "create" a human being by breathing life into inert matter. They can't tell you whether or not it is actually rational to believe this. The philosopher can address this question and say whether we have good reason or not to believe that this is possible.

            (This is why people using scientific argument to try and prove that the mind is reducible to the physical brain, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't count for much of anything. Now, we can use what we observe scientifically in our philosophical argument, but we always have to remember that a philosophical argument, not a scientific one, is being proposed. In other words, there are a lot of brilliant scientists that can do really bad philosophy; think Krauss, etc! Not to knock them though as I specialize more in philosophy, so I try and stay away from "doing hardcore science".)

            My current view of God (which my change) is that he is the single substance of the universe, so the entire universe is in a very strong sense IN God.

            Interesting, would you consider God a physical entity that the universe is in? Or is God an immaterial entity that completely "in" every object? Or is the physical cosmos itself "god"?

          • William Davis

            I do not hold strongly to any specific philosophy right now, I spent a few years as a nihilist (not intentionally it was a product of an incoherent world view falling apart) and that is a terrible point of view. Right now I gravitate toward Baruch Spinoza's view of God, if that helps any. This is something I'm still exploring, and the conversation here is very helpful. I bet you're familiar with Spinoza, but if not, this link is great:

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/

            No philosophy is perfect, and I've seen a lot out of Aquinas I like, I need to explore his views further.

          • You might appreciate this parsing of panentheism, below, William, as some of what you say reminds me of panen-theism.

            In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, creation is not "part of" God, and the Godhead is still distinct from creation; however, God is "within" all creation, thus the parsing of the word in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity is "pan-entheism" (God indwells in all things) and not "panen-theism" (All things are part of God but God is more than the sum of all things)..

            http://orthodoxwiki.org/Panentheism

          • btw, re: panentheism, there's an interpretation of the tohu va bohu of Genesis --- not as nihilo or
            nothingness, but --- in terms of the
            tehomic or the deep, which as a formless void would be co-eternal with the eternal form, Spirit.

            Creatio continua would be eternal and ongoing, a chaosmos, where divine interactivity, constrained by inscrutable, ineluctable, eternal logics, noncoercively but, eventually, utterly efficaciously, coaxes order out of chaos.

            We participate co-creatively when we conform to this formative pattern of kenotic self-emptying into the voids encountered in our existence. It's called passion and compassion and many of us will be celebrating it all next week!

          • William Davis

            Very interesting. There were also primordial waters (the deep) so that fits perfectly. I'm short on time today, but I'll check out the link. Thanks!

          • Loreen Lee

            If I ever get the 'ambition', I would like to understand the difference between Aristotle's and Plato's viewpoint on both substance and universals. They say, after all, that the 'whole tradition' is based on whether you are 'one or the other'.

          • William Davis

            I found this, it's pretty fascinating. I suspect what we call consciousness is a result of Layer 6. You can learn a lot about the brain from this even if you are uninterested in the resultant AI.

            http://numenta.com/?video=youtube:izO2_mCvFaw

          • Phil

            Thanks for sharing, that was a good, and very honest video.

            In regards to lay 6 and such; as I've mentioned before, even if machine get to that point there is no intrinsic connection between acting intelligent and acting self-conscious, and actually being intelligent and self-conscious. In other words, we like to anthropomorphize computers--we imagine ourself in the machine that we have created. (A very Cartesian dualistic way to view machines and human person.)

            So even if we have a machine that is acting intelligent and self-conscious there is "anyone home". There is no one actually doing the thinking. The hard part for many if the philosophical question would come up where one says, "well how can we tell if there is someone actually "home" or not if simply acting self-consciously doesn't necessarily show this?"

            This is where we have to look at the subjective experience of the human person and come to understand that a unified self-consciousness is something that necessarily transcends the mere physical, though it is connected to it. Therefore, by matter of principle, we can safely hold that machine will never be actually self-conscious. There will never be anyone "home" doing the thinking.

          • Loreen Lee

            Quote: In other words, something can act intelligently without actually being intelligent.
            Isn't the difficulty - some 'thing' can act 'without' intelligence, when that some 'thing' is thought to be intelligent?
            Of course, I'm talking about the possible dangers regarding these computers, not 'human' kind. Of course!!!!!

          • Phil

            Here is one more summary statement I wanted to throw out there separately from the last rely:

            What is the difference between the random "pile" of matter/energy that is sitting on the table that makes up the AI machine, and the actual ordered and designed AI machine? Through an intelligent person's work and design he has given this pile of matter/energy, which by itself has no potentiality to act intelligently, the potential to act intelligently.

          • William Davis

            If you consider a soul to be a combination of matter and form, then we have combined matter and form to give AI a soul. It will raise ethical questions in the future, and I think we will intentionally avoid making human-like ai, at least with emotions and survival instinct (the survival instinct could be very dangerous). This won't mean we aren't going to teach them to understand emotions (assuming we can do that without giving them emotions). They are already working on that:
            http://www.wired.com/2014/12/googlers-quest-teach-machines-understand-emotions/

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If you consider a soul to be a combination of matter and form, then we have...

            ...a failure to grasp the concept of "soul." The synolon is the compound, not the soul, which is the substantial form of a being capable of life; the "act" of the potential for life.

            Every intelligible object is a compound of matter and form. The form is what gives the object its powers and makes it intelligible.

          • William Davis

            Yeah, I messed that up, your version of the soul doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, so it's no surprise. I like Kant's definition much better really

            In his discussions of rational psychology, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) identified the soul as the "I" in the strictest sense, and that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved nor disproved. "We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be cognized from materiality". It is from the "I", or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.[17]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. Kant has provided the structure and syntax for my understanding. That his categorical imperative requires freedom of what? will, choice, so that an action is moral rather than merely pragmatic or based on self interest, (and perhaps by extension dictates of the 'church') is a very serious step to take metaphysically. Of course, the Buddhists hold that each is responsible for his own 'salvation', and advises not to even accept the wisdom of the Buddha without testing it within one's experience. etc. These rationalizations are also 'as if's'. Some philosophers held that the noumena was 'the will', and indeed his philosophy has set the precedent for a priority of this subject in all philosophies from pragmaticism, down through the to the inheritors of Neitzsche. But if the noumena truly cannot be 'known' it seems to be more like Aristotle's individual substance; which cannot be 'known' because we can know only the 'accidents'. So he's still 'the' seminal philosopher. The "I" by the way is associated by Kant with his 'unity of apperception' - not the 'soul'. I am still discovering that he took Hume more seriously than may be credited to him, although he insisted that morality/practical reason was based on reason, not sentiment. (Except that the basis of reason was suggested to be within the power of judgment/beauty.

            Will computers be physical reductionists, naturalists, or will they , like those in need of 'religion', wonder about their substance/souls?.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, it's easier if you talk about it in Latin or Greek, when these ideas were laid down. Anima simply means "life," so a thing "has a soul" if it "has life." Put another way, a soul is what a living body has that the corpse does not.

            Somewhat discursive thoughts here:
            http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/07/in-psearch-of-psyche-some-groundwork.html

          • Loreen Lee

            Too bad we aren't spending that much time and effort at developing our own 'potentials'. Even in the self-congratulatory stance taken with respect to our ability for critical thought, such is often directed towards others, rather than towards an understanding of our 'selves'., such as 'being aware of our emotions', and even 'why' we 'feel the way we do' sometimes. As Heidegger put it, we have to learn how to think. Are the computers going to teach us????

          • William Davis

            If we live long enough we'll probably find out :) Take this excerpt from one of the creators of deepmind (Deepblue was an older expert system AI based on standard computing techniques):

            "With Deep Blue there were chess grandmasters on the development team distilling their chess knowledge into the programme and it executed it without learning anything," said Hassabis. "Ours learns from the ground up. We give it a perceptual experience and it learns from that directly. It learns and adapts from unexpected things, and programme designers don't have to know the solution themselves."

            "The interesting and cool thing about AI tech is that it can actually teach you, as the creator, something new. I can't think of many other technologies that can do that."

            http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-02/25/google-deepmind-atari

            So...yeah, we'll see.

          • Loreen Lee

            The only difficulty I have with this is something I thought about during that post about beauty. I could for instance learn to appreciate 12 tone tonality, it's intelligence, etc. But when it came to the sound, I did not have enough familiarity with it, (say even from early childhood) to be able to find any beauty in it. So despite the intelligence of these computers, and how they can inform our 'intellect', will they be able to impart to us the beauty necessary to find 'meaning'[, which I understand to require the sensibilities of 'pathos' as well as the intellect. Can these computers feel pleasure/pain?

          • Sylvia Wei

            What is the difference between the random pile of matter that make up a plant, and the real thriving plant? Everything. The arrangement of matter do matter, and can create new emergent phenomenon that is more than the sum of its parts.

          • Phil

            Exactly! And where does the pile of matter get its form--from us, the intelligent being. The pile of matter that could form the AI machine has no potentiality, aside from us bringing it about, to be an AI machine and the act intelligently.

          • Loreen Lee

            What about the distinction between 'begotten' not 'made', in the Credo. Religion, vs. some forms of these deterministic philosophies I believe, simply holds that, as with creation, word made flesh, etc. etc., there is recognition of a 'process' in which mind proceeds to the physical, an emergent physicalism, perhaps, in contrast to an emergent consciousness. As we do not understand what could be entailed by physical, as with black matter, etc. perhaps something like Russel's neural monism has some adequacy as an over-arching concept. I wish I understood these matters as well as you guys do!!!!
            Anyway, just dropped off at a bookstore downtown today, and there is a lot of 'religious revolutionary' thought happening among these post-moderns. They even include some Catholics. It's the 'age of heresy'!!!!. (against possibly both the current reductionist/thesis, and the perhaps overly abstract descriptions of consciousness with the 'tradition'. Who's to know what is 'developing'.? ..

          • William Davis

            Interesting stuff. I'll be the first to say I don't understand this, but I have thought about it a lot. I don't think anyone completely understands intelligence exactly, it's a hotly debated topic :)

          • William Davis

            If the other articles didn't sink in, try this one. This has been a hot topic in the tech world

            http://www.wired.com/2015/01/ai-arrived-really-worries-worlds-brightest-minds/

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Turing test is a fallacy, based on the notion that if a system imitates a real-world behavior well enough, then the internal structure of that system matches the structure of the real world. But observe that any irrational number can be approximated arbitrarily closely by a ratio. (Think of rational numbers as simulations of irrational ones.) But no matter to how many decimal places the rational number approximates the irrational, it does not itself become an irrational number. Similarly, the Copernican model and the Tychonic model outputs imitated real world observations (because, as it turned out, they are mathematically identical); but neither one's structure matches the structure of the real world.

            So if a computer program imitates a human conversation well enough to fool someone does not mean that the computer is doing what the human is doing. For one thing, the computer is limited to syntax while the human handles semantics. Cf. the Chinese Room.

            Besides, listen in on a lot of human conversations. A lot of them are eminently imitable.

          • David Nickol

            Suppose someone constructs a machine that gives every sign of being able to think. I am thinking right now of R. Daneel Olivaw (R standing for "robot") in several Isaac Asimov novels. Would humans be justified in destroying (and "killing") such a machine, because we (allegedly) know for a fact that machines can never think?

            Suppose we come upon alien creatures that give every sign of being intelligent persons. Is there any way of knowing that they are?

            How do we determine if seeming persons, either machine or biological, are thinking beings without using something like the Turing Test?

          • Loreen Lee

            I'm merely speculating here, of course. But, like- what is the 'potentiality' here? Of course we 'abort' the fetus, as the criteria is now considered to be the ability to survive 'independently' - something however, which even I cannot do. Who in the future will have an intelligence sufficient to pass the Turing Test? The senile? .
            It was common in ancient Greece to leave even such nobles as even Oedipus lying on a hillside. Euthanasia was allowed in Rome, even in order to avoid humiliation. Yet, corporations are recognized at least as 'legal' persons. I trust they will be able to pass Turing Tests. Now that these computers have 'conquered the stock market', could not their sires eventually consider even political careers for them? I would consider this a form of humor/irony, except for the rather disconcerting possibility that we are indeed entering into A Brave New World. although the use of the term 'brave' requires more thought than I am capable to assigning any 'meaning' to. Sorry for any 'negativity'. It's been 50 years since I read Huxley, and I don't read science fiction. And perhaps I have not the intelligence to distinguish between them......

          • David Nickol

            Who in the future will have an intelligence sufficient to pass the Turing Test? The senile?

            According to Wikipedia

            The test was introduced by Alan Turing in his 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," which opens with the words: "I propose to consider the question, 'Can machines think?'" Because "thinking" is difficult to define, Turing chooses to "replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words." Turing's new question is: "Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?" This question, Turing believed, is one that can actually be answered. In the remainder of the paper, he argued against all the major objections to the proposition that "machines can think".

            Whether the Turing Test is adequate to determine if a digital computer can truly exhibit (or mimic) human intelligence is debatable, but it would be bizarre to use it for any purpose on a human being. If you are suggesting that some day it will be proposed that the Turing Test be used to declare people with mental disabilities "nonhuman," I can't see why in the world the Turing Test would be used for such a purpose. If you wanted to test a person's cognitive abilities, why in the would would you do it with a form of "The Imitation Game":

            The “imitation game” … is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart from the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either “X is A and Y is B” or “X is B and Y is A.” The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B thus:

            C: Will X please tell me the length of his or her hair?

            Now suppose X is actually A, then A must answer. It is A’s object in the game to try and cause C to make the wrong identification. …The object of the game for the third player (B) is to help the interrogator. The best strategy for her is probably to give truthful answers….

            We now ask the question, “What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?” Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, “Can machines think?”

          • Loreen Lee

            My sincerely thanks. You no doubt6 appreciate from my difficulty in grasping your mathematics that I do realize I have ventured 'beyond my comfort zone'. in attempting to remain in the conversation. You are possibly also aware by now that I have an 'eccentric' personality and I resort often to 'poor' satirical jibes. (Although, it is also 'amusing' -or intimidating? that I find difficulty with the EN site because the humor there often makes it 'difficult' for me to 'tread the water'.) Maybe someone someday will invent a 'humor test' of intelligence.
            I did hear the Turing Test mentioned way back in a 70's analytic philosophy course. Didn't follow it up even. Not enough time - or interest. But now I have bought Roger Penrose's book, after the EN objection to his possible conciliatory attitude towards religion. (It was perhaps a protest response which followed my question: 'how could such an intelligent man be called a crack head!!!!).

            Anyway, my constant expressions of 'astonishment' at least allows me to carry on - when I get enough strength. I have yet to tackle Penrose however. Just a bit at a time hopefully. At least I'm 'staying with it'. So gratefully, I will remember that whenever I fail to pass any of these tests, it 'proves' nothing!!!! Thanks again, Michael for the attention you have given to these comments, which often are more expressive than contributory, I realize.

            I am learning one thing though. You read a philosophy book, once, twice, etc. and you think you have it. At least in a general sense. .Not true. Perhaps I can put the difficulty as: "Ideas are always being tested within different contexts." Meaning- 'shifts'. Language perhaps really does conform to Derrida's theories of trace, etc. and as according to Wittgenstein, is like the word 'game' to describe language, because the word cannot be readily 'defined'. . I relate this insight to Habermas advising not to 'give up' even on the language of 'religion'.

            Intelligence is one thing. Life is the 'test of "wisdom"'!!!!

          • Loreen Lee

            P.S. Quote: The object of the game for the third player (B) - is he the third player? I thought the interrogator was the third. So he sets up the machine to take the part of the woman, not the man? And the best strategy for her - is he not referring to B at this point.

            Why do they substitute the machine with the woman and not the man?

            Hope I can compete with the machine, (as a woman) in not getting trapped in any of these language games? Are they saying - what? that a machine is or is not equal to a woman when it comes to deception? So, if the machine can deceive it is 'intelligent'.? Am I missing something, or is my understanding 'limited' by a 'feminist bias'??? or what amounts to the same thing, a perception of bias or deception regarding the 'machine like' aspects of my existence whenever what constitutes 'intelligence' includes some 'objective' criteria which unavoidable limits the 'parameters'. of what constitutes intelligence, even sanity, in the first place, so that I am the one 'deceived'. I assume that neither the woman, the man, or the interrogator makes the final judgment on the intelligence of the computer? (For the sake of objectivity, of course!!!!)

          • William Davis

            The Chinese room experiment falls short in many ways. Here is the core problem, you brain does not perceive reality, it builds an approximation based on sensory input. Approximating an approximation is no problem at all. Some people's brains approximate reality much better than others of course. Your rejection of neurology is a real problem here, because this stuff is directly based on neurology. In fact AI is doing far better with sensory input than humans can even come close to, and it is just getting started. Cross learning will be the key to more abstract abilities, and the tech is definitely not there yet. Almost all brilliant minds in the field are certain it is just a matter of time :) Neurologist, of course argue that mental interface will be superior, and AI will have greater function as a direct extension of neurological function. We can make mice see infrared, and neural interfaces for people with brain diseases are starting to get off the ground

            http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/14/implant-gives-rats-sixth-sense-for-infrared-light

            http://www.ninds.nih.gov/research/npp/

            I will say that we are on a road with no map, who knows where all this will end up.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In the Chinese Room we see that a system can simulate a conversation without any knowledge of doing so. The participant simply matches responses to stimuli according to a table he is given. It demonstrates that the structure of even a skillful model need not match the physical structure of the real world.

            You say it falls short in many ways, so it would be useful to cite a shortfalling or two.

            http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/harnad/Papers/Py104/searle.comp.html

            Your rejection of neurology is a real problem here

            Who's rejecting neurology? Extrapolations beyond neurology, sure. But not the true quill itself.

            http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf

          • William Davis

            The first link is old and only talking about standard computing. Expert systems like watson are the best we can do with standard computing. Neural networks are based on the human brain, something very different

            Your second post is not by a neurology, but a cell biologist, HUGE difference. It is really discussion much but philosophy as far as I can tell.

            As far as the Chinese room, I'll let stanford do the heavy lifting. I don't know where to start there are so many problems. Don't be a "late modern" and require it to be spelled out for you ;) (You know you had that one coming, lol)

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/#4.1.1

            The core ingredient to an artificial neural network is an artificial neuron. Our approximations are getting closer and closer. We know we are getting close because it works. This kind of AI is doing all kinds of stuff I already listed. This will help you a bit:

            http://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/courses/soco/projects/neural-networks/Neuron/index.html

            Neural nets have advanced tremendously in the past few years, but it is impossible to get a hold of current designs, Google and other companies are keeping the details under lock and key for obvious reasons.

          • One of Terry Deacon's chief collaborators on teleodynamics was Ursula Goodenough, a prominent cell biologist. His semiotic account very much relied on cellular architectonics.

          • William Davis

            You're right, you'll notice I started backtracking after I said that, what is a neuron if not a cell? That's what I get for being in a hurry.

          • William Davis

            When I got into software, neural nets were considered a dream only being touched by Ph. Ds. My knowledge of software actually kinda useless here. The more I research it the more this seems to be a joint project between biology, neurology and computer science. All are equally important. Even philosophers are involved. YOS pointed out Freeman who is using Thomist philosophy to provide a better understanding of what is going on inside the brain. This seems to be directly aiding in recent developments, fascinating to see a project that involves so many different academic fields.

          • Yes, he's a thomistic pragmatist.

            And John Deely's a semiotic thomist.
            See:
            http://sign-studies.livejournal.com/4404.html

            One objection to physicalism, as might be offered by semioticians (like Deely) is its definition of the real solely in terms of observables:
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/deelys-objection-to-physicalism-naturalism/

            Peirce's modal ontology of possibilities, actualities and probabilities, adding a third category to Thomism's potentiality and act, akin to Scotus' formal distinction, draws a distinction between real and actual, recognizing an ontological middle ground, much like a virtual particle. Probabilities would be real but not actual, not ontological existents but
            indicative, in my view, of formal causes, which can be relatively inert, physically, wholly unobtrusive but utterly efficacious as far as dynamical patterns go. Perhaps that nuance could buttress Murphy's nonreductive account, following Deacon's heuristic.

            What the Thomists bring to the table in addition to the Aristotelian heuristic are robust notions of human intentionality.

          • Loreen Lee

            I'll never be able to 'put it all together'. I hope that computer is able to teach itself some philosophy!!!!

          • Man is an incurable symbol-monger caught up in an intersubjective nexus...just look at the comment section of Strange Notions!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What is necessary for someone to consider them a Thomist and what Thomistic theories are dispensable?

          • Michael Murray

            Thomist's can be catastrophically singular.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Not to Feser! :-)

            Scotus and Ockham tended toward voluntarism, which emphasizes God’s will over his intellect and thus makes his actions more impenetrable to our rational understanding than they are on Aquinas’s account

            Too bad Scotus and Ockham didn't win the day. Somewhere in the Summa, Thomas says something to the effect that we can know God through his creation. If this is the case, God seems as malevolent as benevolent.

          • Out of 150 Psalms, roughly one third were glad psalms, while the other hundred were evenly split between sad and mad psalms. OTOH, only 25% of the rosary mysteries were sorrowful, while the others were joyful, luminous and glorious. Metaphysics demonstrates the reasonableness of our questions regarding God but certainly doesn't answer them. Special divine revelation speaks to God-attributes in ways general revelation cannot. Properly nuanced, Scotus and Aquinas can be reconciled on the primacy of will vs intellect (Pope Benedict even preached on that in recent years.) Scotus won the day on many other fronts with both Franciscans and many semioticians, especially Peirce. Notably, he thought the Incarnation was always in the cosmic cards, not occasioned by the "Fall." Kudos on that one!!!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Problem is that the religious answer to the existential questions cause more angst and anxiety by focusing on sin and punishment. Maybe I read all the wrong Catholic authors. In my experience, religion only intensified existential angst.

          • Try Richard Rohr :)

          • William Davis

            Too much interesting stuff to read. Now if I only had an implant to increase the speed of my brain...

          • Just found this article by Freeman that looks like a must-read. Three cheers just after the abstract. Thanks for the heads up William!

            http://www.mindmatter.de/resources/pdf/freemanwww.pdf

          • William Davis

            My bad, the Freeman is definitely a neurologist, too bad the paper didn't say that. He's a smart guy, I'll read the whole thing later, out of time right now. Thanks for that link :)

          • William Davis

            I took a few minutes to do some external research, and it looks like Freeman's work is directly helping with artificial intelligence, or at least is making them believe it is possible. Philosophy of mind is playing a very important role. Score one for the Thomists :) Here's one example:

            "Freeman’s holistic approach to replicating the way a rabbit brain thinks and learns led me to conclude that it is possible to replicate the human brain’s processing system. However, current limits in efficiency and the added complexity of the human brain, mean this may take significant
            time to achieve."

            https://www.nshss.org/media/1533/hernandez.pdf

            I'll definitely have to learn more about Freeman, this stuff is fascinating to me :)

          • But it is the human person, specifically, that refuses to be reduced to mere matter/energy and deterministic features. That is a big intellectual reason for holding that the human person is not merely a material being.

            It's certainly a reason to recognize, at least, quasi-Aristotelian formal and final causal efficacies. Of course, relatively inert physical objects in the proper context can serve as formal causes. And downward causations in nature wouldn't necessarily implicate violations of physical causal closure. THAT humans enjoy free will, even if quasi-autonomous seems more important than describing precisely HOW it emerged. At any rate, there's more than efficient causation involved.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Too bad Heisenberg did not see it that way.

            People often have a baroque notion of what "free will" meant to those who started the conversation in Greek. They make it a contraption based on Enlightenment notions, so of course it falls apart with a good shaking.

          • although we experience some regularities when dissipative structures, in far from equilibrium environs, do a little determining here and there, but only for awhile

            which of our experiences of epistemic probabilities derive from ephemeral dissipative structures and which from perduring realities, physical or metaphysical?

          • That debate (libertarian, compatibilist, etc) misframes the free will discussion. One doesn't have to resolve physical non/determinism as far as bottom-up causation is concerned because free will is a top-down, formal and telic, phenomenon, not reducible to physical explanations.

          • William Davis

            There are all kinds of ways to look at free will I've found, hard to say who is right :) I'm quite good at prediction my own decisions with thought experiments. There is a clear calculus involved when I make decisions with insufficient information, and emotional state has a tremendous impact on that calculus. I thought experiment I perform when calm yields a different result than when I'm angry, ect. I've never been an impulsive person, but very methodical. I suspect the personality type has a great deal of influence on how they view free will. I'm free to chose, but it isn't easy to alter my value calculus. For example, I value all life, but if I had to chose between saving my own child and someone else's, I would always save mine. No matter what I do in my mind, or what philosophy I embrace (philosophy has a serious impact on decision making) I can't change something like that. I'm not saying this decision would be a surprise for anyone, I'm noting the inability to alter it. I don't really chose how I value things, and these values have a clear deterministic effect on my decision making process. I've been using my own brain for thought experiments like this for a long time, and it is hard to say exactly what free will in my own head :) That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but it sure is hard to put a finger on, at least for me.

          • Nancey Murphy well made the point that there's no problem of free will but problems.

            Our evaluative dispositions do represent some rather widely acknowledged and deeply felt common sensibilities, as we are all, more or less, similarly situated in this human condition. That's one reason that, normatively, except for the thorniest bioethical concerns, our moral reasoning tends to generally converge, this despite otherwise disparate ideologies and worldviews. (It's certainly not because all of the foundationalist epistemologies agree on where and how to justify their supposed foundations!)

          • William Davis

            I think it important to live as if you have free will regardless. Learned helplessness seems to be related to a lack of belief in free will (though it is obviously more complex than that ).

          • D'accord. Living as if we refer to as an existential disjunction and it's often normatively justified and evaluatively disposed, for example, for all practical reasons, to avoid absurdity (meaning), to realize aesthetic values (beauty), to comport with moral intuitions (goodness). The truth of the matter, free will or not, may thereby come flying in on the wings of beauty and goodness, lifted by amplified meaning, suggested by augmented value-realizations. Existential disjunctions must be tried on in order to see how they fit.

            Persist in this practice regarding free will. Apply it, too, to belief in reality's intelligibility and human reason, for there are no syllogistic proofs to secure those either.

            Before you know it, you'll join ... nah, never mind ;-)

          • Ezra Casa

            think it important to live as if you have free will regardless.(though it is obviously more complex than that )

            Free will may very well be a human delusion....but as you say, it is important to live as if have free will, even if one believes in determinism. You make the most important point of the matter very succinctly where others seem to want to go off onto tangents that they think support their metaphysics, without giving serious credence to the important point you make.

          • William Davis

            To say something can't exist unless my theory about it's origin is true is a ridiculous argument, to say the least. If something exists...it exists regardless of cause. Thanks for the compliment :)

          • Loreen Lee

            Without determinist there could be no 'free will'. Determinism implies intelligibility/intelligence. Without determinism the alternative would be chaos, fate, what have you. Hegel again: Freedom is the recognition of 'necessity'. But then Father Barron in yesterday's video said it was 'excellence'. The facility to play the piano after long practice, was an example. The Kabbalah said it was only possible within certain areas of human experience, as in relationships, etc. I personally think we have to learn what and how to exercise our 'free will'. William James said, my first act of free will is to believe in free will.

        • I find good intellectual ground

          pragmatic! right, Phil? ;-)

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Ah, well. All those things are also relied upon by those who deny their own will. The Late Modern world, inundated in advertising, wants bullet items, images, and fetching stories, not rational arguments. We expect understanding to be instantaneous.

    • Peter DO Smith

      Overlapp,
      ciel, himmel, lug, zerua, langit, himinn are just some of the words for 'sky' in different languages. They can be written in many different fonts and colours as well as many different font sizes. In fact there is no limit to the number of different ways globs of ink can be arranged on paper to represent this one concept. Not to mention the many different electronic representations that are possible. The meaning thus does not emerge from the physical arrangement of material and indeed it cannot. To do that you would have to produce a law of nature that shows an unlimited number of arrangements of physical particles can all produce the same 'meaning'. That is just not possible. The use of the word 'emerge' is a code for the phrase that says we simply don't have a clue how it works. Laws of nature tell us how particles and fields behave but laws of nature are completely silent when it comes to meaning.

      Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment has demonstrated that understanding cannot arise from a pure computing process.

      Edward Feser lays the argument out in a more formal way, see http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/10/can-machines-beg-question.html

      • Doug Shaver

        Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment has demonstrated that understanding cannot arise from a pure computing process.

        He thinks so, and lots of people agree with him. Lots of other people, though, disagree, and they are just as smart as he is.

      • The use of the word 'emerge' is a code for the phrase that says we simply don't have a clue how it works..

        We have a saying in New Orleans that seems apt here: True dat!.

        Furthermore, qualifying emergence in terms of supervenience strikes me as illicit. To say that something strongly supervenes (weak emergence) remains question begging. To say something weakly supervenes (strong emergence) is trivial.

        This doesn't change the point, in my view, that OM made. It only means that, even if it's true, one hasn't explained anything. The emergentist stance is but a heuristic device.

    • Mike

      are you implying that the brain is indeed like those other works of art, works created by an artist, a composer and an author? and so then the brain is also the work of some intelligence? some "designer" or whatever, with the potential to "actualize" intelligence once the complexity of the structure reaches a particular stage of development?

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        :-) Don't stretch the analogy too far! I'm only saying that just because something is purely physical doesn't mean it can't also be beautiful/melodious/ etc. Some people have this idea that recognizing the physicality of something somehow reduces its other properties.

        I suppose I could replace my example with "How can a rainbow be beautiful if its just light bouncing of of water droplets!" No artist required for that one.

        • Mike

          hee hee ;) you gotta admit that i almost got you though.

          well personally i think that if somehow and i doubt this is even possible but if somehow it was found that "this" particular arrangement of matter called brain really did lead to the emergence of "self/intelligence" etc. i would from that conclude that some intelligence "planted" that potential in carbon atoms which were only "waiting" for their potential to be actualized - the analogy i use to illustrate this point is that if this particular arrangement "causes" this particular "effect" or "emergence" then what those atoms must be doing is looking up what to do in this particular situation the same way that excel formulas use VLOOKUP tables to retrieve a particular value - maybe not the best analogy but the point is just that that particular effect must be "written down" somewhere otherwise why "this" effect and not "that" effect.

  • Emergentist accounts of consciousness needn't be incompatible with free will.

    The sort of determinism that is of a particular interest to physicalists is neurobiological determinism. Neurobiological determinism is only a worry if neurobiological reductionism is true and it's is decidedly not true. ~ Nancey Murphy

    https://vimeo.com/10013046

    • Vaclav Chmelir

      Non reductive physicalism is oxymoron. :-)

      • While it's not incoherent, conceptually, I'll grant you this - it's not adequate, explanatorily, and could be wrong, metaphysically. ;-)

    • William Davis

      Lol, looks like our conversation was a warmup. Christian have to be careful, if they connect their views to the impossibility of AI, what are they going to do when its here in more obvious ways than it already is? (The fact that AI exists doesn't necessarily disprove free will, I think you are ahead of the curve here :)

      • Still, I'm stumped on how to get an endocrine system to supervene on our virtual machine, so it can enjoy more than a Spockesque existence. Luke Cooper might look this up in his latest DSM, but I think the malady would be called "flat affect." Should we jump that hurdle such that the machine's not prozac-impaired, the next issue will be a sociocybernetic concern (analogous to the sociobiological), which is how to transist it to transkin altruism from nothing but a big evil baby. OMG! I'm afraid Deacon's machine would have less dynamical depth than a bacterium but more logical depth than Watson. A Y.O.S. sci-fi novel would be a lot more plausible to me at this juncture in our understanding!

        • William Davis

          I don't think we want it to have an endocrine system. We also do NOT want it to have a survival instinct. What does an AI do that has a survival instinct when we try to turn it off, lol? We want to replace the endocrine system with directives we maintain control of. Think about it this way, we may have copied a pigeon to make airplanes, but we aren't trying to make an airplane be a pigeon. I'm sure someone along the way may try an endocrine system simulation, lol. Personally I do my best thinking when I'm unemotional, that doesn't mean I don't want to keep my emotions though :)

          • Just offering a little comic relief.

            On a more serious note, it's unclear to me whether and how these virtual machines would be intelligent beyond the sense of being merely semantic engines and symbol systems. Human intelligence includes these but its use of symbols is also semiotic, which allows us to make mistakes and then to bootstrap them into meanings, such as in metaphors, myth-making and even joke-telling. This takes us full circle back to the role of imperfect knowledge in free will.

            Enter the distinction between bottom-up determinism vs indeterminism, which Murphy's nonreductive account can remain agnostic about, and top-down reductionism vs nonreductionism. Nondeterministic algorithms, which I mentioned earlier, would still be a bottom-up programming. That's not the same as a nonreductive top-down influence, which would be required for this machine to exhibit autonomous agency.

          • William Davis

            Creating a single purpose intelligence is much easier than making a multipurpose one. The next phase of deepmind is already planned, they call it cross-learning which is taking something learned from one scenario and transferring it into something else. Essentially this what we are doing when we make a metaphor, it is sort of a cross pattern recognition. We'll see if they pull it off, but cross-learning will allow for a sort of layered intelligence. Philosophy of mind is playing a huge part in the development of AI. Here is a paper on some of the theory behind how they are going to attempt to expand it:

            http://ai.stanford.edu/~ang/papers/icml11-MultimodalDeepLearning.pdf

            It's a few years old, but theory always precedes implementation of course.

          • A successful implementation might take the form of machine generated jokes, puns and double entendres!

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          A Y.O.S. sci-fi novel would be a lot more plausible to me at this juncture in our understanding!

          Or a novella: cf. "Places Where the Roads Don't Go."
          http://www.amazon.com/Captive-Dreams-Michael-Flynn/dp/1612420591/ref=tmm_pap_title_0#reader_1612420591

  • GCBill

    It's not necessarily the case that free decisions will be unpredictable, though they may be in practice. The idea that they are in principle stems from the libertarian conception of free will which (most) Catholics reject. For if freedom is the ability to act unimpeded in accordance with one's own true nature, then it is quite likely that similar situations could yield similar decisions, at least if there is an ideal way which humans should act under those particular conditions. Unpredictability only comes into play because of imperfect knowledge and goodness, which prevent us from making the right choices. On this view, freedom properly utilized should be predictable given sufficient knowledge of the good. If it isn't, that's actually a bug, not a feature.

  • Dr Transocos had identified a number of implications to naturalism here that she seems to find upsetting, but raises no actual dispute with the "argument".

    Yes indeed many people, like myself, do not hold to free will, and believe it is an illusion. On a most basic level, human experience is physical and material. Our thoughts emotions, experiences of love and so on are certainly material, I see no reason to accept there is anything else at play.

    To me this is no unsettling in any way. Saying 'love is just atoms hitting each other' is I think true on some level but it is like saying the Mona Lisa is 'just paint and canvass'. True in one sense but also much too simplistic, even on a materialistic point of view. It is clearly a specific arrangement of paint colours, it demonstrates a certain skill, the arrangement is representative and done in a subtle way that generates all kinds of neural responses in many people that engages memories, emotion and so on. Human brains are, in this sense, just neural networks, but they are incredibly complex, reflective and they generate a conscious experience. It is in this conscious experience that we find meaning.

    So all of experience being material and natural does not mean it is meaningless. If you assert that it is, and that meaning, beauty and love and so on can only come from something else, something I am unaware of, it is up to you to demonstrate it exists and how it is necessary for meaning. You also have to come up with an objective definition of meaning, a pretty impossible task I would think.

    • "Saying 'love is just atoms hitting each other' is I think true on some level but it is like saying the Mona Lisa is 'just paint and canvass'."

      The two are different though. The naturalist says that love is nothing but atoms hitting each other. But I think we would all agree that while the Mona Lisa is, in one sense, "just paint and canvass," it is certainly more than that. Wouldn't you agree? Or do you think the Mona Lisa is indistinguishable in value or beauty from any other collision of paint and canvass?

      "It is in this conscious experience that we find meaning."

      An experience that cannot, ironically, be accounted for on materialistic grounds. David Bentley Hart's recent book, The Experience of God, includes a thorough, compelling section on the incompatibility of materialism and consciousness.

      "So all of experience being material and natural does not mean it is meaningless."

      Indeed, it does. Meaning requires intention, but on materialistic determinism, there is no intention. Humans cannot actually intend certain actions or thoughts since all of them are necessarily determined by chemical reactions.

      "If you assert that it is, and that meaning, beauty and love and so on can only come from something else, something I am unaware of, it is up to you to demonstrate it exists and how it is necessary for meaning."

      I don't think the is the case, for theists (including Stacy). We all begin with a shared premise: that life has meaning, and that things like beauty, love, and intentionality exist. The question is, what explains these facts better: materialistic naturalism or Christian theism? As shown above, the former is utterly incapable of explaining any of these facts, that we all agree upon. But Christian theism can: our lives have meaning because we were lovingly created by God, in his image, and given purpose, free-will, and the ability to love as he loves.

      For the sake of this conversation, Christians don't have to demonstrate that God "exists and is necessary for meaning", though we are more than capable of that using other arguments. We simply have to show that God explains the given facts of this world better than materialistic naturalism. This has been demonstrated conclusively.

      • William Davis

        Whether or not love is just is atoms hitting each other, love is still love, and it is a beautiful thing regardless of the cause. The experience is what matters, not the cause of the experience :)

        • Loreen Lee

          Yeah! Thanks then. I'm not alone. That's what I concluded even after I did my little thought experiment on EN, which drew a lot of concern from some members because of my 'insane!' associative thought. So reduction --- my thought are illusions? I still experience them. (Maybe all that black matter or black energy is composed of intelligibles!!!! Who 'knows'?)

      • For sure, the material and physical do not and cannot account for all causes!

        • I was trying to stay out of this thread (still burnt out from the last one), but what do you think that the material and physical cannot account for?

          • reality

          • Hm. I was hoping for a more descriptive answer. What about reality can the material and physical not account for?

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, may I offer a quote from Hegel: The real is rational and the rational is real.
            Although I believe this is the context of Johnboy's comment, I have specific doubts about this as a definition of 'reality'. It would ignore for instance the reality of even a psychosis held by someone who is considered 'mad'. I am suggesting that there is an 'individuality' with respect to the concept of reality that I have yet to find acknowledged within the literature. As above, such definitions I believe still depend on the Platonic vision which set the framework for Western culture. Also the 'maja' of the empirical is certainly regarded as 'real'., as in Kant, who in contrast describes the transcendental as an 'ideality'. But then 'ideas' are held by many to be 'real'. This argument is obviously circular. I must be onto something, even though I am aware it is not a 'clear and distinct' idea.

          • I know, Luke. It was late and I was trying to be a comedian at your expense. Sorry.

            We need to define what one means by account for, such as in terms of the logical, temporal, causal, discovert or expositional and, further, might we mean in terms of modeling, predicting, describing or explaining?

            I was being coy, of course, referring to causes, such as the quasi-Aristotelian teleodynamics (both formal and final causes) used by Goodenough and Deacon, which may or may not violate physical causal closure, but which employ more than efficient causation.

            But I'll address the larger question.

            The very reason the emergentist heuristic gets employed is that novel properties unpredictably emerge from successive levels of complexity, as the number of bifurcations and permutations multiply into ever more complex, hence fragile, dissipative structures (in far from equilibrium, thermodynamic environments). Some try to smuggle their ontological predilections into this paradigm via concepts like supervenience, but that's a metaphysical non-starter.

            Additionally, regarding the modal category of probabilities, we cannot a priori say whether our experience of epistemic fuzziness is due to methodological constraints or an, in principle, ontological vagueness (even occulting), whether the uniformities we experience are grounded in ephemeral regularities or meta/physical necessities (regularity vs nomicity or law-likeness).

            Finally, there are questions of primal and/or ultimate origins, mereological questions of parts and wholes, the application or not of such as the fallacy of composition, whether this or that concept (e.g. nothing) or predicate (e.g. existence) successfully refers to reality.

            What we want to say, then, is that we cannot a priori say whether or not naturalism could, in principle, explain reality. We can say, however, that, for all practical purposes, it hasn't done so yet.

          • We can say, however, that, for all practical purposes, it hasn't done so yet.

            I agree. What threw me earlier is that you made the claim that "the material and physical do not and cannot account for all causes" as if you knew or had proof that they could not. Here, you're saying that we can't know for sure yet, which a statement that I can accept.

            Eventually, you will learn to luxuriate in the rare one-word response from me. :)

            Haha. Point taken :)

          • What threw me earlier is that you made the claim that "the material and physical do not and cannot account for all causes" as if you knew or had proof that they could not. Here, you're saying that we can't know for sure yet, which a statement that I can accept.

            You misunderstood, apparently, if you think I printed a retraction. The natural cannot be reduced to physical or material causes. I employed the term, naturalism, for a reason. Formal and final causes are undeniably in play, even when not explicitly adverted to.

          • I didn't consider your reply a retraction, but a clarification. In my thinking, formal and final causes are metaphysical concepts, so I see no need to accept that they are "undeniably in play" in any real sense.

          • As I mentioned hereinabove, the teleodynamic heuristics Deacon employs, as well as the Peircean conceptions of these causes, on which his work is derived, are quasi-Aristotelian (analogously), which is to say minimalistically conceived but indispensable to semiotic science. Much modern biology has adopted these conceptions. The Baldwin effect (Baldwinian evolution), as well as the hypothesis of the coevolution of language and brain, also incorporate such downward
            causations, all consistent with a neo-Darwinian account. This isn't terribly controversial stuff and doesn't a priori violate physical causal closure.

            Now, as to the more robust conceptions of even circular causality and nonlinear dynamics that I use to interpret human intentionality, such as in Walter Freeman's account (again, pragmatic, as with Peirce and Deacon), I don't adopt that approach or the teleodynamic account, above, based on metaphysical arguments but, instead, using the same pragmatic and reductio ad absurdum justifications that I employ to reject solipsism.

            At any rate, that a conception or heuristic is metaphysical, in and of itself, doesn't seem to me to be a sufficient condition or defensible sole criterion to refuse to accept it?

          • I think your last paragraph might hold the key to my confusion. In my unsophisticated philosophy, materialism and naturalism overlap to a large degree; I often conflate the two, and I'm wondering if this is where my misunderstanding lies.

            In your above reply to Brandon you said, "the material and physical do not and cannot account for all causes!" I assumed that you meant naturalism could not account for all causes, either. Am I understanding you correctly that you naturalism can account for all causes?

            P.S. If you have a handy source that would help me differentiate between materialism, naturalism, and physicalism, let me know :)

          • Sorry about that, Luke.

            This is a pretty good rendition:
            http://llanoestacado.org/freeinquiry/files/naturalism.html

          • No worries! I'm guessing that this was due to my conflation of materialism and naturalism. Thanks for the link--that looks like a great article. I look forward to reading it :)

          • Am I understanding you correctly that you think naturalism can account for all causes?

            More like it's not necessarily inconsistent with different ontologies (dualisms, idealisms, materialisms, monisms, etc). It merely rejects supernaturalism.

          • Gotcha. Thanks, again!

          • Ezra Casa

            Hmmm reality: definition from the Oxford Dic.....The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them:

          • Is this supposed to be helpful or sarcastic? I'm aware of how to use dictionaries, Ezra.

          • Ezra Casa

            it was actually meant more directed at JBS re his one word comment to you....'reality'....Very sorry for the confusion. I suppose there may have been a bit of sarcasm but it was not directed at you Luke.

          • No worries, Ezra. Thanks for clarifying :)

          • Ezra Casa

            it was actually meant more directed at JBS re his one word comment to you....'reality'....Sorry for the misunderstanding.

          • Ezra Casa

            it was actually meant more directed at JBS re his one word reply to you....'reality'....Very sorry for the misunderstanding.

      • Doug Shaver

        An experience that cannot, ironically, be accounted for on materialistic grounds.

        Do you think materialism has exhausted its explanatory resources? Are you assuming that whatever materialism can explain, it has already explained?

        • Peter

          If you are saying that we do not fully understand the implications and consequences of matter having reached such a high degree of complexity as in the human brain, then I would agree with you.

          Even from a materialist standpoint, it is possible that the human mind is far greater than the sum of its individual parts, so much so that it is capable of far greater things than the mere interaction of its constituent particles would suggest. Perhaps matter in the brain has reached such a high and critical degree of complexity that it has naturally created extraordinary synergistic effects which we of course observe in ourselves but cannot understand.

          However, having said this, none of this precludes the existence of a Creator. Indeed, the achievement of sophisticated intelligent through purely natural means would be entirely consistent with a universe designed for that purpose.

          • Doug Shaver

            However, having said this, none of this precludes the existence of a Creator.

            I'm not suggesting that if it's true, it precludes the existence of a creator. I'm suggesting that if it's true, it negates the necessity of a creator.

          • Peter

            If by negating the necessity of a Creator you mean that the emergence of intelligence from matter is accidental, this would contradict the findings of the above study which suggests that intelligence is the product of entropic forces.

            Since entropic forces pervade the entire universe, the emergence of intelligence is inevitable. Not only that, but inasmuch as the emergence of intelligence contributes a net entropy to the universe, it is not only inevitable but also necessary.

            A universe where the emergence of intelligence is inevitable and necessary has the appearance of design, and I can see no evidence which would indicate that the universe is anything other than what it appears to be,

          • Doug Shaver

            this would contradict the findings of the above study which suggests that intelligence is the product of entropic forces.

            You can find a study somewhere that contradicts anything you believe. And "entropic forces" might be a handy metaphor, but they don't actually exist.

      • I am a materialist. I do not hold any beliefs in anything immaterial if that is what you mean. "Just paint and canvass" is not a fair description of the Mona Lisa on materialism, for the reasons described above.

        I am not sure what you mean by "account", but I haven't seen any reason to believe in anything immaterial here, or anywhere else. Identifying an inability to account for something by matter does not entail the existence of something unobserved. This is an argument from ignorance.

        I disagree that there can be no intention without something non-material. Everything we associate with intention is material.

        I don't share your belief that those things exist "intentionally". Even if they did exist intentionally, I don't see how labelling the unknown explanation "god" explains anything.

        But you don't show a better explanation than naturalism. The above discussion is about intelligence, not the origin and explanation of matter. The theory of intelligence above, posits an explanation if the materialistic mechanism of intelligence. It is not implausible, or incoherent, nor does Dr Transocos say it is. Her complaint seems to be that it is emotionally unsatisfying to her. That does nothing to discount it or naturalism or materialism.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Yes indeed many people, like myself, do not hold to free will, and believe it is an illusion.

      You were compelled to write that by external forces. Why should we take it more seriously than the sounds made by the leaves when the wind blows through the trees?

      It's interesting (as Whitehead remarked) to find people devoting their minds to an argument that they do not have them.

      • George

        what compelled you to write your response? was it just random?

        "sounds made by the leaves when the wind blows through the trees?"

        in your experience, have you found those patterns of sounds more useful for interacting with the world?

        "devoting their minds to an argument that they do not have them."

        do you think that is an intellectually honest statement to make? do you think everyone has the same definition of a mind as you, one that includes that concept that you want to push?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          what compelled you to write your response? was it just random?

          Of course not; but then I do not experience my thoughts as being caused by external forces.

          do you think that is an intellectually honest statement to make?

          You'll have to ask Alfred North Whitehead that question.

          in your experience, have you found those patterns of sounds more useful for interacting with the world?

          The proposition was put forward that there is no will. That makes the putting forth of propositions problematic from a purely logical point of view.

          • Loreen Lee

            I'm not a mathematician, but still, my understanding of a truth value is that it is an expression of a binary code. It is what, my understanding, the computer is based on. The logical positivists, my understanding, considered that logic was sufficient for understanding, and therefor denied the need to recognize metaphysics as a reality. Like a-theists today, this did not mean they did not talk about it. . And would like to understand what Whitehead's philosophy of process has to do with this? I certainly believe my perceptions, for instance, are derived from an 'external' world.

      • GCBill

        Because the rustling of leaves bears no truth value.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Of what matter is "truth value" made? What is its mass? Its length? Its location? Or is naturalism to be discarded here in favor of invisible truth fairies?

          • GCBill

            In trying to figure out the purpose of this question, I CTRL+F searched this SEP article and found nothing relating to "truth fairies." Out of curiosity, I also tried "knowledge gnomes" and "intentional imps," but alas, no results there either.

            It does seem there are outstanding metaphysical issues WRT theories of truth, so maybe naturalism could be false on those grounds. I'm still not sure how "free will" ties into those issues. Correspondence, coherence, pragmatic value, gnomes, etc. just don't connect to free will in any obvious ways.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The contention was made earlier that everything is material. You referenced "truth values." I wondered of what material "truth values" were made. The expression "invisible truth fairies" was a play on the oft-employed expression "invisible sky fairies" in case there was no such material.

          • David Nickol

            The contention was made earlier that everything is material.

            Does the argument that the above contention is wrong necessarily require the positing of God and a "spiritual" realm? Or can there be something that is not, strictly speaking, material but that is also not "spiritual"?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I have not posited such things. I'm not even sure what you mean by a "spiritual" realm. Is that a Platonist concept?

            There are a number of things that are not material, but not "spiritual" (depending on what you mean by that). For example:
            a) mathematical entities like "congruent", "three", "Hausdorff," etc. are immaterial.
            b) patterns or arrangements or forms are not material even if they are patterns, arrangements, or forms of material things. If you arrange this apple, that apple, and another apple on the table, you do not have more than three things: an apple, another apple, still another apple, three, and a triangle.
            c) universals like "dog", "apple", etc. (Individual instances of these are material -- this dog, that apple -- but the universal has no material existence.
            d) propositions like "Socrates is a man" are not material, since they retain the same meaning even when instantiated in different matter. Their meaning is not material since "Snow is white" and "Schnee is weiss" carry the same meaning even though the matter is utterly different.
            e) arrangements of propositions like "Socrates is a man" and "all men are mortal" therefore "Socrates is mortal."

          • William Davis

            Probably the world of forms:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Forms

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Nah. That's Plato. Aristotelian forms are different.

          • William Davis

            Oops, I should have blockquoted

            Is that a Platonist concept?

            You're right there is a difference, Aristotle was a lot more specific, making it less "spiritual" so to speak.

          • David Nickol

            I have not posited such things. I'm not even sure what you mean by a "spiritual" realm. Is that a Platonist concept?

            To put it in a very condensed and simplified form, isn't it a major argument of "Strange Notions Catholics" that materialism/physicalism can't be correct because human beings can contemplate nonphysical things like the universal "dog" and therefore must have a nonphysical component—i.e., a spiritual soul?

            From a theist point of view, who is to say that God could not create a physical universe in which purely physical beings (without spiritual souls) could think abstractly and have free will?

          • William Davis

            I agree, it is a very bad argument that shows up a lot here. If this is all an atheist sees, it is no surprise if he stays an atheist. It makes it worse when the argument is presented in a smug and arrogant fashion. I'm not sure they realize they come off that way.

          • David Nickol

            A certain form of the argument seems to be in the OP by Stacy Trasancos:

            This fundamental, yet unproven, idea that intelligence is a function of atoms colliding should concern all of us. It means that man’s thoughts and choices are no more mental than marbles colliding as they fall off a table, and love is just chemicals in the brain. Nothing new really, but seriously de-humanizing. How can we really be held responsible for our choices if we are slaves to physics?

            It is not quite that there must be a spiritual realm and a spiritual soul, but the argument is that everything we hold dear is actually worthless unless there is a spiritual realm. If physicalism can somehow be proven true, art museums and symphony orchestras might as well shut down, and people who love each other should realize they are fools!

          • William Davis

            Have they ever explained HOW the spiritual realm gives it more meaning? I mean, what does that even mean? (pun intended ;)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            isn't it a major argument of "Strange Notions Catholics" that
            materialism/physicalism can't be correct because human beings can
            contemplate nonphysical things like the universal "dog" and therefore
            must have a nonphysical component—i.e., a spiritual soul?

            Can't answer for everyone that cruises by here. But a soul (psyche, anima) is not a thing or a component any more than a sphere is a component of a basketball. It is a "that-by-which," viz., "that by which a living thing is the unified living thing that it is," vs. a mere collection of components assembled somehow, like a mousetrap, whose unity is imposed extrinsically by "forces."

            You are correct that the ability to abstract nonmaterial concepts from material percepts does indeed indicate that the intellect (and with it, the will) is not associated with any particular organ and so does not perish when the sundry organs perish. But heck, mathematics alone indicates that not all existants are material.

            From a theist point of view, who is to say that God could not create a
            physical universe in which purely physical beings (without spiritual
            souls) could think abstractly and have free will?

            If they had no soul, they would not be alive, since "soul" = anima = "alive." Intellection and volition are powers of the substantial form of living being. One may as well create a married bachelor or a square basketball. God cannot do anything contrary to logic.

          • William Davis

            You are correct that the ability to abstract nonmaterial concepts from material percepts does indeed indicate that the intellect (and with it, the will) is not associated with any particular organ and so does not perish when the sundry organs perish.

            Are you saying that the intellect and will are not associated with the brain? How do you explain the effect of brain damage on the intellect and will, or am I just misunderstanding you. I can give all kinds of examples of how brain damage alters intellect, will, and personality.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Are you saying that the intellect and will are not associated with the
            brain? How do you explain the effect of brain damage on the intellect
            and will, or am I just misunderstanding you.

            The same way breaking the fingers affects one's piano-playing. We don't say therefore that the piano-playing was in the fingers. It's in the pianist, who uses the fingers.

            You don't even need brain damage. You just need to get drunk. If you damage or impair an instrument, you don't get good performance.

            What is the effect of brain damage on intellect and will as opposed to sensation, imagination, emotion, or motion? Since the intellect abstracts from percepts [incl. remembered percepts], damage to the brain may affect the percepts that are the material cause of intellection. Or it may affect the ability to speak or sense or move. It may send the body into a coma. [There are cases that indicate that it need not put the mind into coma.]

          • William Davis

            Here is just one example that doesn't hold up (there are many more). This is straight from Freeman's website, the article entitled Introductory article on Brain:

            "Split Brain. Each hemisphere has its own limbic, cortico-thalamic,cortico-striatal, and cortico-cerebellar loops together with sensory and motor connections. When isolated by surgical
            section of the callosum, each hemisphere shows independent function, as though two persons occupied the same skull, but with differing levels of skills in abstract reasoning and language. The
            right brain ("spatial") / left brain ("linguistic") cognitive differences are largely due to pre-eminent development of the speech areas in the left hemisphere in both right- and left-handed persons.
            These are Broca's area in the frontal lobe and Wernicke's area in the temporal lobe (Fig. 3), in which damage leads to loss of the ability respectively to speak (motor aphasia) or to understand
            speech (sensory aphasia) from a loss of declarative memory for facts and words."

            http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/ (can't link the paper directly)

            Split the brain and two distinct intellects and wills emerge. This is a well known situation. Both hemisphere retain perception, it is only the intellect and will that are affected.

            Here is a good case that shows separate life aspirations on each side:

            "Gazzaniga and Sperry's split-brain research is now legendary. One of their child participants, Paul S, had a fully functional language center in both hemispheres. This allowed the researchers to question each side of the brain. When they asked the right side what their patient wanted to be when he grew up, he replied "an automobile racer." When they posed the same question to the left, however, he responded "a draftsman." Another patient pulled down his pants with the left hand and back up with the right in a continuing struggle. On a different occasion, this same patient's left hand made an attempt to strike the unsuspecting wife as the right hand grabbed the villainous limp to stop it."

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201211/split-brains

            This past year my grandmother passed away at 91. It was sad to watch her mind degrade over the final 10 years of her life. Before she died, there was nothing left of her intellect or will, she didn't even recognize me. Again, this is more than just a loss of perception.

            For the record, Freeman's explanation of free will is much like yours, and something I agree with. Freeman clearly thinks that all of mind is the product of the brain, also like I do. This doesn't mean that God couldn't recreate a specific state of the intellect/will in heaven (though I don't think that is happens). Hopefully my grandmothers state would be in her prime, not the shell that was her when she died.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In the "split brain" situation, one may be over-interpreting the actual material phenomena. The key phrase is "as if." Instead of two minds, it is as plausible that there is a single mind that has been severely addled by the concomitant physical damage.

            There are also cases of individuals who have virtually no brain at all, yet get along fine -- in one case as a minor French bureaucrat [insert joke here], in another case as a student of mathematics. Another case involved a child born without a cerebellum who nonetheless learned balance and walking because he had "recruited" portions of his cerebrum to take over the tasks. There are other cases of people with brain damage who recovered the lost functions by "recruiting" other regions of the brain. IOW: there is a whole person who uses the brain. The brain does not use the person.

          • William Davis

            Lol, your French bureaucrat is pretty funny, and his brain did look impressively small. With some research I'm seeing that hydrocephalus can make brain scans hard to interpret, and one important thing that is missing is quantitative data on brain weight. Freeman makes the point that the neocortex is by fair the most important part, and that complexity matters more than size. Most patients with this hydrocephalus suffer from severe retardation, so perhaps where the fluid build up is, and some difference in brain adaptability matters here.

            On split minds, we'll both just have to go with our inferences. The brain is impressively resilient and adaptive. It does seem that the younger the person is when the damage occurs, the better the brain can overcome it. The woman with no cerebellum did have problems with balance and slurred speech, but she was functional, which is impressive considering.

            Great response though. Here's a paper I found on the mathematician that discusses a bit of what is going on here, if you're interested (it's old, it was published at the time, 1 year before I was born, lol)

            http://www.psych.ufl.edu/~steh/PSB4504/brainnecessary.pdf

            Google's search AI is really good at finding this stuff isn't it?

          • William Davis

            I will say that even though we can reproduce intelligence artificially, there may be something unique about the human will that we can't reproduce artificially. Freeman's research (from the little I understand) seems to point in this direction. If there is a soul, perhaps that is precisely where it lies. You (and a few others on this site) provide a cogent point of view I haven't found anywhere else. I thank you for spending your time conversing with me. I do want to believe what is true to the best of my ability.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            even though we can reproduce intelligence artificially

            Only in the sense of intelligence=knowledge. But intelligence is not the issue; intellect is. I would not be at all surprised at an artifact that emulates animal intelligence, since it requires only sensation and imagination. One reads of a robot that emulates cockroach behavior, for example. It's not alive in the sense that a cockroach is alive, since a cockroach is self-emergent and a robot must be forcibly assembled by putting things together that do not naturally come together, but it does simulate a cockroach. But then flight simulators emulate the cockpit of an airliner. You just won't be in LAX when you step out of it.

            If there is a soul, perhaps that is precisely where it lies.

            But since "anima" simply means "alive," the existence of soul is as certain as the existence of any defining form. Unless you deny that "life" exists (and some do!), what is subject to investigation is the nature of soul.

            Chastek in "The mode of analysis proper to the discussion of the soul" says:

            The soul is whatever a living being has while living, and what it lacks when it is dead. That’s it. If this is brain activity, then brain activity is soul; if this is some kind of organization, then organization is soul; if this is some spirit in the body, then that’s soul. If it is some combination of these things, then soul is whatever is first and most causal among them. Regardless of whether you think that a a human body is nothing but so much meat and matter or whether you think we are only spirits caged in a body, it is ridiculous to ask whether the soul exists. It manifests a failure to understand what one is talking about. If you think that speaking about “the human soul” is too prejudicial toward the “spiritual” idea of man, too bad. You can’t hold a conversation hostage because of your inability to understand a term.

            The remainder is here:
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/the-mode-of-analysis-proper-to-the-discussion-of-the-soul/

            Again, "The Codgitator" writes in "My soul is not I…" regarding Oppy's statement "denying that we are essentially nonphysical spooks who are only contingently wired up to our bodies.”

            Good thing, too, since this is not what classical anthropology espouses. Aristotle and St. Thomas, i.a., are explicit that we are essentially embodied creatures, not contingently. That’s all that “the soul” means: it is just the way in which we exist bodily. If there are no formally intelligible ways in which diverse beings exist, then there is no hope of science describing them intelligibly. Form just means “the way a thing predictably acts by nature.” If there is no such thing as form––and form which orders a things parts to its proper function––then science has literally nothing to say about the world.

            The remainder is here: https://perennis.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/my-soul-is-not-i%E2%80%A6/

          • William Davis

            Thanks for the links. You might find this interesting. The speaker goes into the different layers of the neocortex. They have the perception layers mostly worked out, but are still have a lot of work to do with motor and attention. Layer 6 is probably where consciousness lies. He also goes into how the brain can so rapidly correct itself in case of damage, and how the same tissue is used throughout the brain for all purposes, the dedicated regions are a result of what they are connected to. Apparently this technology has nothing to do with traditional neural networks, very impressive.

            http://numenta.com/?video=youtube:izO2_mCvFaw

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Consciousness" is another matter entirely. Aristotle and Aquinas held that consciousness is the result of the common sense that unites the various sensory inputs into a single phantasm and thus sets up an object that is other than the subject. This separation of the world into the sensing subject and the sensed objects is, Thomists believe, seated in the brain.

          • William Davis

            I think I understand what you mean by soul now. My problem is the habit of applying reductionism to everything.

            The importance of form is very interesting, and that is exactly what they are trying to do with neocortical technologies, reproduce the form of the necortex. The fascinating thing about the form itself is that it is truly self-organizing in response to a variety of input/outputs. This explains how the brain deals with damage so graceful, it simply reorganizes around the missing tissue. Contrast this to traditional computing where one stray bit can crash an entire program. Neocortical tissue is nature's ultimate problem solving tool, and it is truly amazing. I've seen that Freeman is convinced that the neocortex is responsible for emotions and the limbic system is simply its slave. This does make sense, as only mammals have a neocortex, and only mammals seem to exhibit emotion (like dogs). The relate emotion to complex neural states that extend to the entire neocortex as a whole. I found it fascinating that even "sensory" neocortex tissue contributes to motor control, and how the architecture is extremely efficient at re-using structures instead of recreating them, that is because it is an irreducible whole. It is very much libertarian in nature, there is no central control, so the mind is free in a very literal sense. I hope you check out the video, it was very informative. Here's a a white paper that goes into more detail (statistics and time come into play a great deal)

            http://numenta.com/assets/pdf/whitepapers/hierarchical-temporal-memory-cortical-learning-algorithm-0.2.1-en.pdf

            Perhaps they won't succeed in recreating layer 6, but it seems we know EXACTLY where we need to get now. A part of me still considers Kurzweil a quack (apparently Google doesn't) but I'm beginning to believe in his law of accelerating returns, the evidence for it continues to mount, even if his time frames are generally overly optimistic. Hawkins (the guy in the video) thinks he is going to have most of this worked out in 5 years...that is why he's so excited. 5 years seems unrealistic to me, but we will see. I'm serious when I say most people have no idea what is going on here, and how revolutionary (and dangerous) this is going to be. If the neocortex is the source of emotion, what kind of emotion will artificial neocortex produce. Are we summoning saints or demons?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I've seen that Freeman is convinced that the neocortex is responsible for emotions and the limbic system is simply its slave.

            All animals have emotions: these are simply the "sensory appetites" -- a desire for or a revulsion toward the sensed object. The emotions trigger the motions, by which the animal approaches or evades the perceived object. All of this involves particular material objects, including remembered objects; so there is not reason to suppose that they are not carried out in the brain.

          • David Nickol

            DN: From a theist point of view, who is to say that God could not create a physical universe in which purely physical beings (without spiritual souls) could think abstractly and have free will?

            YOS: If they had no soul, they would not be alive, since "soul" = anima = "alive." Intellection and volition are powers of the substantial form of living being. One may as well create a married bachelor or a square basketball. God cannot do anything contrary to logic.

            Please note that I said "without spiritual souls." According to what you normally say about souls, plants and animals have souls because they are alive, but they do not have spiritual souls. I take it that it is your position that in order for a physical being to think abstractly and exercise free will, it must "have" a spiritual (and immortal) soul.

          • William Davis

            One of the main differences between mammals and other less intelligent creatures is a special nerve tissue called the neocortex. Human not only have more neocortex than our closest relative, the chimpanzee, it is more complex and efficient, this is what gives rise to complex human behavior and pattern recognition. Contrary to previous beliefs, it is now certain that the neocortex gives rise to emotions, the absence of this tissue is why non-mammals have drives, but no emotions (think about a dog).
            I think what YOS is getting at (whether he realizes it or not) is there is a specific form that gives rise to the spiritual soul, that form is the neocortex itself. YOS is right that there is no seat of the mind, the mind is distributed throughout the entire neocortex in a fascinating self-organizing system. Here is a very interesting video on the subject, and how we can already reproduce the perception layers of the neocortex and use them commercially. The stuff I linked before was fluff, this has real meat to it. The person talking is the guy behind the first palm pilot. This is the company that Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg recently invested a ton of money in so they can "keep an eye on it". I can see why.
            http://numenta.com/?video=youtube:izO2_mCvFaw

            Here is a white paper with more info if you are interested.
            http://numenta.com/assets/pdf/whitepapers/hierarchical-temporal-memory-cortical-learning-algorithm-0.2.1-en.pdf

          • GCBill

            Truth values wouldn't be "made out of" anything, as they are not "things" at all. Nor, for that matter, are thoughts. However, both involve things. I seriously doubt that BGA means to say there are no processes and no meaning (a feature of some, but not all, processes). That would by a completely untenable view.

            But in any case, why did you quote his assertion of willusionism instead of his ontological claims? That's what's confusing me, as I see free will as nonessential to meaningful thought.

            Let's say the invisible truth fairies sprinkle their panpsychic propositional pixie powder on Brian's thoughts, so now they can at least potentially mean something. Must he also possess free will in order to express something meaningful? What does the freedom accomplish that couldn't also be sufficiently realized by a causally determined will? Why do "external forces" get in the way of meaning? I think any kind of will and whatever other magic is required should suffice.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I see free will as nonessential to meaningful thought.

            That's backward. Meaningful thought is essential to free will. Nietzsche placed the will prior to the intellect. The heart wants what the heart wants and all that. The triumph of the will. But you cannot want what you do not know. Intellect is prior to will.

            Must he also possess free will in order to express something meaningful?

            Yes. Otherwise, if the intellect "evolved," there would be no basis for natural selection. The thoughts must be expressed in action of some sort in order to be selectable, and that means a "intellective appetite" similar to the "sensitive appetites."

            What does the freedom accomplish that couldn't also be sufficiently realized by a causally determined will?

            It's not that it's supposed to accomplish something, but that it is logically necessary:

            a) You cannot want what you do not know.

            b) You do not know things perfectly.

            c) Therefore: your will is not completely determined.

            For example, if you understand what is meant in ordinary discourse by "1+1=2", the will cannot withhold its consent, since your knowledge of the proposition is known completely. But the same is not true for "world peace," since you do not know of what this peace consists or how it is to be obtained. Your will then has many degrees of freedom in acting upon it. Perhaps it is achievable by world conquest and a police state? Perhaps it is achievable by universal submission to the will of Allah? There are many possibilities.

            Much confusion stems from the modern notion of "libertarian free will" in which you do whatever you want to. But the will is exercised in the wanting to, and it is relative to the products of the intellect. For material, sensible objects -- I am hungry+there is an apple=I want to eat the apple -- there is a determination toward an end. In these cases, the will may intervene based on conceptual matters:

            a) that apple was picked by exploited migrant workers, and I will not eat it out of solidarity with their cause.
            b) it is Lent and I will not eat it because I am fasting.
            c) it is a Rome Beauty, and I will not eat it because I prefer Delicious.
            d) etc.

            Some humorists say that in these cases, we should call it "free won't."

            It could be that 99.9% of human actions are not freely willed. You do not will your heart to beat or your stomach enzymes to digest your food. These acts really are determined. Some acts are taken without conscious thought. Aquinas used the example of a scholar stroking his beard while deep in thought. I once walked home from the dry cleaners with a load of laundry without any conscious awareness. I came to when I missed the keyhole on the door. This sort of "autopilot" behavior may also be regarded as determined -- although it can be argued that the muscle memory was implanted by deliberate repetition.

            So those acts that are freely willed may be a small fraction of the total; but science progresses by noting small differences. The difference between Newton and Einstein is small, but that doesn't mean the difference is unimportant.

            Why do "external forces" get in the way of meaning?

            Because if the output is simply the result of the input, there is no thought involved, let alone will.

          • William Davis

            That's a very good explanation. The research paper you linked demonstrates that linear dynamics explain the autopilot, but not intention. This does not mean we can't reproduce intention, but it does mean we can't think about it is straight lines. I engage in a great deal of reflectio myself, and this is probably a big difference between deep thinkers and what we call "shallow" people...I think you refer to them as late moderns. I haven't finished reading it yet, but it is really good and makes a lot of sense to me, thanks again for linking it :)
            P.S. There are a lot of modern thinkers who engage in reflectio too, postmodernism always had a short life span. This age of transition is tough for everyone.

          • GCBill

            That's backward. Meaningful thought is essential to free will. Nietzsche placed the will prior to the intellect. The heart wants what the heart wants and all that. The triumph of the will. But you cannot want what you do not know. Intellect is prior to will.

            This appears to be true, but also compatible with what I said so long as meaningful thought is not sufficient for free will. Which brings me to your argument:

            It's not that it's supposed to accomplish something, but that it is logically necessary:

            a) You cannot want what you do not know.

            b) You do not know things perfectly.

            c) Therefore: your will is not completely determined.

            For example, if you understand what is meant in ordinary discourse by "1+1=2", the will cannot withhold its consent, since your knowledge of the proposition is known completely. But the same is not true for "world peace," since you do not know of what this peace consists or how it is to be obtained. Your will then has many degrees of freedom in acting upon it. Perhaps it is achievable by world conquest and a police state? Perhaps it is achievable by universal submission to the will of Allah? There are many possibilities.

            A and B yield "you can't want things perfectly," which I don't think is the same thing as "your will is not completely determined." It definitely means "you sometimes want things you wouldn't want if you had more information," which is also fully compatible with the view that the will is determined toward the wrong end in cases of imperfect knowledge.

          • Mila

            "the will is determined toward the wrong end in cases of imperfect knowledge"
            How about, if we have perfect knowledge of something then our will will still be free but we would want to do the good.

          • GCBill

            I'm not sure A-T scholars would agree. Since humans ostensibly want to do good, knowledge of the good leads to willing known goods necessarily.

          • Mila

            That translates into the more knowledge we have the freer we are. However, you might know that stealing is bad, but I wouldn't necessarily know that. So the source of knowledge has to be independent from us.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            A and B yield "you can't want things perfectly," which I don't think is
            the same thing as "your will is not completely determined."

            But the will is precisely "wanting things." And if the wanting is imperfect, then it is not completely determined to one thing or another.

            "Free" will is more like "free" fall than it is like "free" coffee.

          • GCBill

            "Free" will is more like "free" fall than it is like "free" coffee.

            This is a helpful analogy.

            Though you criticize libertarian free will (and I generally agree that most articulations of LFW are bogus), this does sound a bit like Kane's theory, which I thought was far more reasonable than the others.

          • Loreen Lee

            Logic, aesthetics, and ethos are the three metaphysical categories. In Catholicism they are truth, beauty, and goodness. Neitzsche was the first of the philosophers, my understanding, to explicitly renounce any interest in such categories. But I believe that without 'truth values' we would not have even computers, for a starter. Even Logical Positivism as a philosophical position failed because they could not overlook the implications inherent in the logic. Because of this, I anticipate, for similar reasons that a pure reductionism is not possible. We'll see.

            I'm still thinking over where we are within this revolutionary period of incredible change and transformation. At least at the moment I'm not being a skeptical satirist. I'm actually surprised at your comment. I have been thinking that you were on the side of the truth fairies. But I'm very used to finding that I am in error. Will make more effort to place your name within the context of what you say, in the future, and thus 'get to know' you better. .(Actually you got a thumbs up from Mila. So maybe I did not see 'your irony'.).

        • Loreen Lee

          'The leaves are rustling' bears no truth value? Are you conflating the sensual experience with the logical expression of a 'proposition'. One can make logical statements with respect both to the metaphysical and metaphysical. That's why the 'proofs' for and against are put forward. (Even though they are considered by Kant to be antinomies.)

          • Doug Shaver

            'The leaves are rustling' bears no truth value?

            Sentences have truth values. Their referents do not.

          • Loreen Lee

            That was the point I thought I was making. They are called 'propositions' a formal term, rather than sentences for that reason. (And on rereading my comment, I do not see that I implied otherwise)

          • Doug Shaver

            A sentence is a proposition stated in a particular natural language, using a particular selection or arrangement of words in that language. Any number of sentences can express the same proposition, and no matter which sentence is selected on a given occasion, the referent is not the proposition being expressed.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. I agree entirely with this explanation. 'Proposition' is a technical word which demarcates the logical element as contrasted with language 'in use'. Within the latter context, the referent would be that which the 'sentence' describes, demarcates, or defines. (I'm sure there could be found more criteria). It is interesting that these analytic philosophers also pointed out that a word, (specifically a universal) only obtains a meaning when placed within the context of a sentence.

            This parallels the construct involved within definitions. You and I as individuals cannot be defined. Our definition requires our placement within the hierarchical order of species to genus etc. so that the 'individual' is subsumed within the category animal, with sapient being the differentia.

            In the same way, sentences can be thought to be subsumed within the higher order category of proposition. Would love to be able to understand this (and everything else I cannot completely comprehend) in more detail. However, hopefully on this issue we can agree that we agree!!!!

          • Doug Shaver

            You and I as individuals cannot be defined. Our definition requires our placement within the hierarchical order of species to genus etc.

            A definition requires nothing except that it be intelligible to other people. Just because there is no definition utilizing Linnaean nomenclature doesn't mean there can be no other definition. Any specification that distinguishes me from every other member of the species Homo sapiens can work as a definition of me.

          • Loreen Lee

            Of course! It does depend on how you define definition! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definition (grin grin). But I am most pleased that you still consider yourself to be a 'homo sapien'!! (which I understand assumes the Aristotelian precedent. Man, (not Doug Shaver) has the differentia of being sapient, or rational. Of course, I hypothesize that you enjoy your animal instincts, too!!!!

          • Doug Shaver

            It does depend on how you define definition!

            If you and I define it differently, then we're not talking about the same thing when we use that word. If we're going to communicate with each other, we'd better find a meaning that we can agree on.

            But I am most pleased that you still consider yourself to be a 'homo sapien'!! (which I understand assumes the Aristotelian precedent.

            You understand incorrectly. My thoughts about what I am owe nothing to Aristotle.

          • Loreen Lee

            I shall therefore commence to follow any future comments you may make with the expectation that they will provide for my understanding and in greater detail, both intentional and extension definition. of who and what you really are..

      • George

        and how does a mysterious immaterial (or is this one of really sophisticated ideas where it's a thing that's not a thing at all? you tell me.) provide an answer?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          What mysterious immaterial thing is that?

          • George

            oh right, your concept of the soul is much more sophisticated than mine, I forgot. the sphere to the ball and all that substantial stuff.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Not my concept. It goes back to Aristotle, and was the concept of the soul until Descartes messed it up with his dualism.

      • I do not think external forces is a good way to describe it. I wrote it because of the activity in my brain which is affected by external factors and internal reflection, but there is no separate element to my brain making these decisions.

        I do not deny the mind or the will, I just think they are the same as the brain, which operates, ultimately deterministically.

        You can read my comments and engage if you like. Or you can listen to the sound of leaves instead. You may find the leaves more fulfilling.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          I do not deny the mind or the will, I just think they are the same as the brain

          I do not deny Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A, I just think it is the same as the clarinet.

          which operates, ultimately deterministically.

          It is the "deterministically" part that reduces your decisions to the same status as the rustling leaves, which also operate "deterministically".

          Your equation of the mind with the brain is an assumption, not a conclusion. There are certain aspects of thought which use the brain (as a musician uses a clarinet). For example, the intake of sensations, their unification into a phantasm, the imagination, the memory, the sensitive appetites, the triggering of motions of various sorts (such as pursuit, glandular secretions, etc.) But you will note that these all have to do with the sensible, like Fido or Spot. The intellect and will differ, since the former has as its object the intelligible, like dog. There is no material object that is dog. There are only material objects that are Fido, Spot, etc. And the will is the intellective appetite: a hunger for (or against) the concepts produced by the intellect.

          Naturally, the intellect cannot consider a concept without causing the imagination to consider a corresponding percept. For example, thinking of dog will cause you to think of Fido (or the English word "dog" or some other audible or visual phantasm). Naturally, recollected images create "footprints" in the brain, but it is hard to see how something immaterial can be handled by a material organ.

          • David Nickol

            I think the more common formulation among materialists/physicalists is not that the mind is the same as the brain, but rather something along the lines of, "The mind is something the brain does." The following is from Mind: A Brief Introduction, by John R. Searle.

            The worst mistake is to suppose that the common-sense distinction between mental states naively construed and physical states naively construed is an expression of some deep metaphysical distinction. On the view that I am presenting, it is not. Consciousness is a system-level, biological feature in much the same way that digestion, or growth, or the secretion of bile are system level, biological features. As such, consciousness is a feature of the brain and thus a part of the physical world. The tradition that I am militating against says that because mental states are intrinsically mental, they cannot be in that very respect, physical. I am in effect saying that because they are intrinsically mental, they are a certain type of biological state, and therefore a fortiori they are physical. However, the whole terminology of mental and physical was designed to try to make an absolute opposition between the mental and the physical, so maybe it is better not to use that terminology at all and just say that consciousness is a biological feature of the brain in the same way that digestion is a biological feature of the digestive tract.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            OTOH, Leibnitz suggested that if the mind were physical and were enlarged enough that you could walk inside it, you would see nothing other than physical parts bumping into other physical parts. In digestion you can see these chemicals dissolving that substance and the molecules taken in by those mechanisms. IOW, the physical view makes perfectly good sense. But how physical things add up to a thinking whole remains inexplicable on a purely physical plane.

            This doesn't mean there are no physical effects. The soul is not a separate substance acting on its own, let alone the part of the synolon that thinks. Mind is something done by the entire human, and that means it has material and immaterial aspects. Modern thought is edging back toward these formal causes with its talk of "emergent properties," although that phrase is so often used as a hand wave for "then a miracle happens."

          • I do not think you do think Mozart's concerto is a clarinet.

            In one sense yes, my brain activity is the same rustling of leaves. In the same sense as a quasar and a fruit salad are both material things in motion, but have extremely different properties.

            My statement that mind and brain are the same (I should say brain and activity), is the conclusion that everything I associate with mind is related to the brain, it would seem intrinsically so, and nothing else has been observed that is related to mind. The one exception is perhaps, a sense that there is a separate self, but investigations into what this might be always seem to lead us to neurology. I conclude therefore that there is no other part to human mind than brain activity.

            I know, and you have said several times in our discussions, that you conclude that certain abstract concepts like "dog" have some sort of independent existence and thus is evidence of immaterial existence. I have said many times that I disagree that abstract concepts entails the existence of "dog" beyond the actual concepts/thoughts and other.

            I think your position is coherent, but speculative and does not fit within what I would call "exists". I think my position is also coherent, but speculative. We simply seem to disagree whether abstract concepts entail the "existence" entities.

            But I am at pains to have any coherent understanding of what these immaterial entities "are', what it means for them to exist. It seems their existence is pretty negligible. In terms of our use of these abstract concepts, it does not require any independent existence.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I do not think you do think Mozart's concerto is a clarinet.

            The example is meant to illustrate the difference between the thing itself and the instrument used to instantiate it. That is, like every other organ of the human body, the brain is an instrument used by the organism. It is not a magic organ than somehow uses the organism.

            In one sense yes, my brain activity is the same rustling of leaves. In the same sense as a quasar etc.

            No, in the same sense that both are the result of something else. Consider that the correlation of thought and brain activity can just as easily mean that thoughts cause brain activity as that brain activity causes thoughts. (Let alone that blood flow in the brain is thought...)

            everything I associate with mind is related to the brain

            But the arrow may point the other direction. It is impossible -- save perhaps to a Zen master or a contemplative nun -- to entertain a concept without at the same time conjuring up an image.

            a sense that there is a separate self, but investigations into what this might be always seem to lead us to neurology.

            a/k/a to a preconceived solution. But there is no "separate" self. A human being (indeed, any living being) is a synolon. The I that simply senses the funny squiggles on the screen is the same I as the one that understands their meaning. The brain will register the seeing of the squiggles -- optic nerves and all that -- but it is not clear which brain does the understanding. I contend that it is the whole person precisely as a whole and not one or two organs of her body.

            I disagree that abstract concepts entails the existence of
            "dog" beyond the actual concepts/thoughts and other.

            But then your dog and my dog cannot possibly be the same thing -- they are made of different matter -- the neurons in your brain and the neurons in mine, and communication would be in principle impossible.

            does not fit within what Iwould call "exists".

            Sure, it's easy to conclude that only material bodies exist if you define existence as "material bodies."

            In terms of our use of these abstract concepts, it does not require any independent existence.

            Unless we want to talk about triangles instead of this particular triangle. Or about "species" and their origins. Or any sort of science. Or anything at all!

          • Again, you continue to just state that there must be this 'something else' and assume that this immaterial existence is likely. Why? You speak of an arrow, presumably a causal arrow between mind and brain and suggest that I have it backwards. But there is no arrow one way or another in my view. What you are calling mind to me simply is brain activity. There is nothing generated by it.

            Yes, abstractions held by different people will be different. This is indeed why we get into discussions like this. We not only may use different labels, the abstract concepts we attempt to communicate may be drastically different. Of couse, with simple concepts like a triangle there is unlikely to be much confusion, but not necessarily. You might hold to a triangle being an object with the internal angles amounting to 180 degrees. But I may apply a broader use of the label to include spherical triangles which violate the definition. I may further accept something is a triangle as long as it has three sides, or include pyramids in this, as well as the musical instrument and a French prog rock band. Now you may reject this and tell me that these, especially the latter are just wrong and have nothing to do with the true immaterial triangle. Don't just say it, demonstrate it. Is there any way to check what the properties of the immaterial triangle is? To distinguish why the band is silly to associate with it, but not the others?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But I may apply a broader use of the label to include spherical triangles which violate the definition.

            Sigh. When one says "triangle" the presumption is the plane Euclidean triangle of common experience. To speak of any other sort of triangle one must append an adjective, such as "spherical."

            Naturally, the term "triangle" can be used equivocally where it should not. But this is mere sophistry. "Triangle" could also apply to a shirt company in NYC that burned with great loss of life. But let's just say that you really did understand the remarks, and go from there.

            You speak of an arrow, presumably a causal arrow between mind and brain and suggest that I have it backwards.

            It often causes consternation to suggest to the other that he is the one to have it backward. Or at least he might consider that possibility and, if necessary, muster an argument.

            What you are calling mind to me simply is brain activity.

            IOW, you "suggest that I have it backwards." It is ever so much easier to reach a conclusion when you start with it. Materialists often have difficulty dealing with materialism. They so want it to accomplish things of which it is incapable. A neuron synapse is simply an "electrical" firing. It no more carries meaning than the shape "H" carries meaning.

          • I can understand your frustration in having to speak down to my level, but I would appreciate it you keep your "sighs" to yourself.

            The point of the spherical triangle is to draw out how broad the abstraction of "triangle". The plane triangle and the spherical triangle are both captured by a single abstract concept. They are also captured by narrower ones as well, down to individual concepts of specific material things. What this shows is that the concepts are just that, mental abstraction s about tendencies in the world. There is no reason to accept they are any more than that.

            No a neural firing does not contain the shape of an "h" but the activity of millions in sequence do. It is a representation of "h", the meaning is the experience of the thought there is no need to hypothesize some additional ontological manner of existence in which to ground meaning.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No a neural firing does not contain the shape of an "h" but the activity of millions in sequence do.

            I did not say "h". I said "H". The two marks have different shapes. And of course the brain, which handles and coordinates sensations is exactly where the shape is perceived.

            the meaning is the experience of the thought

            It seems you are smuggling in some sort of non-material "experience of the thought" here. (Of what material is "experience" made? What is its mass? Length? Location?) The point is that the meaning of "H" does not reside in the matter of which the shape is constructed. Whether it means the sound "mi" or the sound "en" or symbolizes the cross-section of an I-beam cannot be found in the matter.

            there is no need to hypothesize some additional ontological manner of existence in which to ground meaning

            Because the meaning is in the ink of the shape? In the phosphor dots on the screen? If you say "ball" to your dog, he will bound over to where he had last seen it, or search in places where he had habitually found it. That's because to your dog, the mouth sound "ball" is a sign for a material object. But if you say "ball" to your human friend, he will after a moment's silence, say, "What about it?" That's because to him "ball" is a symbol and not only a sign. It stands not for the blue rubber bouncy play-toy under the sofa, but for something more general. There is a difference between signs and symbols.

          • William Davis

            It seems we now understand exactly how the brain understands the shape of the h, and can duplicate it artificially. This is 40 minutes, but well worth the time spent. Until recently I was unaware this technology existed, and it's kind of creepy how close they are getting to reproducing the complete functionality of neocortical tissue.

            http://numenta.com/?video=youtube:izO2_mCvFaw

          • William Davis

            But I am at pains to have any coherent understanding of what these immaterial entities "are', what it means for them to exist. It seems their existence is pretty negligible. In terms of our use of these abstract concepts, it does not require any independent existence.

            If you check out the video I linked, you'll see we are beginning to understand exactly how the brain creates abstration, i.e. immaterial things. These things exist as information, which I think actually exists, but they are truly immaterial. I do not think these things exist independent of mind, but if they didn't exist how could we share them. AI will put to rest the notion that there is some magic in consciousness, it is the ultimate proof. I've gone back and forth, but I am certain materialism is correct at this point (my certainty doesn't mean I can be wrong, just that I have no reason to doubt). Immaterial things are manifested by the material world in very complex ways. You are right that the definition of existence matters a lot here.

          • William Davis

            I failed to mention that I think concepts like PI do exist materially in the structure of the neural tissue of everyone who understands the concept. The structure can copy itself through communication (assuming the recipient is willing to learn it).

        • Marc Riehm

          While I am a materialist, it is not true that the brain operates deterministically. At the atomic/molecular level, quantum mechanics reigns and so the basis of the brain function is stochastic.

          • Fair enough, I accept that. And quantum is where I stop being able to say anything. Though I don't understand quantum mechanics to necessarily contradict determinism.

            I'll defer to the experts on this.

  • Peter

    “Wissner-Gross suggested that the new findings fit well within an argument linking the origin of intelligence to natural selection and Darwinian evolution — that nothing besides the laws of nature are needed to explain intelligence.”

    Even if this were true, it would not preclude the existence of a Creator. How would we know that it was not the Creator's intention to create intelligence through this natural process? In fact, this finding is wholly consistent with the idea of a universe designed from the outset to produce intelligence and consciousness.

    If the universe's overall evolution from low to high entropy drives the creation of local complexity to produce greater net entropy, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that such complexity, having taken the form of living matter, is driven even further by entropic forces to the point of producing intelligence.

    In this respect, Wissner-Gross' findings, far from doing the opposite, actually reinforce the notion that the universe is pre-configured from the beginning to create intelligence and consciousness.

    • William Davis

      I agree with you here. This article is loaded with non-sequiturs.

    • Hipshot

      That's a fair point, but it just kicks the question up one level.

      How would we distinguish a trait that came about through undirected natural selection, from a trait that came about as a result of a design whose intent was to precisely mimic undirected natural selection?

      • Peter

        Is there such a thing as undirected natural selection? I don't think so. Everything seems to be directed by entropic forces. Life becomes increasingly complex in order to produce greater net entropy.

  • Doug Shaver

    They suggest that intelligent behavior can be explained as an impulse to control events in the environment.

    I guess that's one way to look at it. I don't think it's the best way by a long shot.

    In simpler words, they are suggesting that living things try to keep as many options open as possible and that’s how intelligence evolved.

    Simpler? Way, way too simple. Most living things in the world have zero intelligence, and of the remainder, most are doing just fine with a bare minimum.

    Can models predict human behavior? Only in large generalities for isolated behaviors, but not absolutely.

    So far, and depending on what you mean by "absolutely."

    This fundamental, yet unproven, idea that intelligence is a function of atoms colliding should concern all of us.

    My primary concern is whether it's true. Whether I would like the consequences of its being true is quite secondary.

    It means that man’s thoughts and choices are no more mental than marbles colliding as they fall off a table

    Nonsense. Thoughts and choices don't stop being mental just because they can be explained without any supernatural presuppositions. If our brains do it, then it's mental. How our brains do it is entirely beside the point.

    and love is just chemicals in the brain.

    No, it isn't. It's what chemicals in the brain do. Why should that devalue it in any way?

    Nothing new really, but seriously de-humanizing.

    My humanity is not the least bit threatened by anything science might have to say about my thoughts or my feelings. My self-esteem is not hostage to the notion that the creator of the universe has a special interest in me.

    How can we really be held responsible for our choices if we are slaves to physics?

    You think you're not a slave to physics? Jump off a cliff and then try refusing to do what physics tells you to do.

    Such a proposal demolishes the idea of intelligence altogether

    Maybe it threatens your idea of intelligence. Mine has no problem with it.

    wouldn’t declaring that man is just a genetic slave of his environment mean that the number of possibilities is already predetermined?

    Maybe, maybe not. But you have given me no reason to think that anything in the article you're commenting on implies that we are slaves of our environment.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      "Only in large generalities for isolated behaviors, but not absolutely."

      So far, and depending on what you mean by "absolutely."

      Von Hayek's Nobel acceptance speech addresses this tangentially when he discusses the difference between organized and disorganized complexity.

  • It is superbly ironic that denying the existence God necessitates the denial of one’s own “intelligence”.

  • William Davis

    On a brief tangent, I reject that intelligence can ever be mathematically modeled. Why? Because of free will.

    Funny thing is, it is already done. It hasn't reached human intelligence yet, but it is truly self learning and modeled after the human brain. Perhaps a Ph.D. in computer science or neurology should have written this piece.

    It want be long, true AI (these are not an expert system like watson, artificial intelligences)

    http://www.wired.com/2014/07/google_brain/

    One of Google's newest projects, Deepmind, not only utilizes neural networks, but also has a short term memory, and setting like DNQ that model rumination. I've had problems with rumination (running things over and over in your head to try to solve them) cause sleep disturbances, Deepmind has an adjustment of how much rumination it does, meditation helps me adjust it.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/532156/googles-secretive-deepmind-startup-unveils-a-neural-turing-machine/

    • Loreen Lee

      At least I was somewhat aware of my 'ability' to 'recode', as a criteria of intelligence. Thank you for these articles. I never would have 'thought'!!!

  • William Davis

    Can models predict human behavior? Only in large generalities for isolated behaviors, but not absolutely. The stock market has made that abundantly clear. (So does raising a two-year-old.)

    It is funny mention that. AI is ALREADY DOING THIS BETTER THAN PEOPLE!

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/419341/ai-that-picks-stocks-better-than-the-pros/#comments

    This is an old 2010 AI, they have come a long way since then, here's an article from 2012...this stuff is already here people. This quote is talking about whether AI has already taken over the stock market (in 2012)

    "Going back to the original question of my title, whether or not you believe A.I. has truly taken over depends on how you define A.I. If we measure intelligence relative to the best humanity can offer in certain areas, then, as with chess, Jeopardy, and now the stock market, A.I. has clearly outmatched us. If we take a more metaphysical approach and define intelligence in ways that are hard to measure—like self-awareness—A.I. rests comfortably in our minds as no more than a myth.
    That is, until we realize that myths often speak of universal truths."

    http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/cris-sheridan/is-artificial-intelligence-taking-over-the-stock-market

    Wake up people, this stuff is not only here, it is combing over your personal data. Look at what some people who actually know what is going on have to say:
    Here's a quote from Sergey Brin:

    In the machine learning realm, we have several kinds of efforts going on. There's, for example, the brain project, which is really machine learning focused. It takes input, such as vision. In fact, we've been using it for the self-driving cars. It's been helpful there. It's been helpful for a number of Google services. And then, there's more general intelligence, like the DeepMind acquisition that — in theory — we hope will one day be fully reasoning AI. Obviously, computer scientists have been promising that for decades and not at all delivered. So I think it would be foolish of us to make prognoses about that. But we do have lots of proof points that one can create intelligent things in the world because — all of us around. Therefore, you should presume that someday, we will be able to make machines that can reason, think and do things better than we can.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-on-artifical-intelligence-2014-7#ixzz3VQLl6gEv

    Some very bright people have genuine concerns about what can happen here, it is something we should all be paying attention to

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2015/03/24/elon-musk-neil-degrasse-tyson-laugh-about-artificial-intelligence-turning-the-human-race-into-its-pet-labrador/

    Even Stephen Hawking
    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540

    These people are not quacks, they are world leaders. Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are also euntrepreneur. Their job is to see the future of markets. Obviously they are not infallible, but they are the closest thing we have to prophets and oracles.

  • William Davis

    If a person argues that he can mathematically model intelligence because that intelligence came from atoms colliding with each other as the laws of nature dictates, then how does that person know that what he argues is true?

    How does anyone know what is true? What is truth?

    Someone might want to learn something about epistemology. I fail to see the relationship between how intelligence emerges and knowing what is true. Philosophers have been talking about this since Socrates.

  • Mike

    Sounds like a return to the logical positivism of the 18th/19th centuries.

    • David Nickol

      Sounds like a return to the logical positivism of the 18th/19th centuries.

      From Encyclopædia Britannica:

      Logical positivism, also called logical empiricism, a philosophical movement that arose in Vienna in the 1920s and was characterized by the view that scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge and all traditional metaphysicaldoctrines are to be rejected as meaningless. A brief treatment of logical positivism follows. For full treatment, see positivism: Logical positivism and logical empiricism.

      Something from the 1920s is from the 20th century, not the 18th or 19th.

      • Mike

        thanks for the clarification but i thought that was the name applied to the movement in those centuries that began in france...anyway gracias!

        • Loreen Lee

          It's true that Auguste Comte, and I believe others lived prior to the 20th century..

          • Mike

            thanks, maybe that's why i was confused.

          • Loreen Lee

            He was actually called the Father of Positivism. He even attempted to bring a kind of 'religious group' together, - a kind of contradictory thought. I think Robespierre, (not sure here) also had a philosophy which excluded the metaphysical.

        • Doug Shaver

          What Comte proposed in the 19th century was called positivism. The logical positivism of the 20th century was related but not the same thing.

      • Guest

        Hello David. I believe that it was Auguste Comte who is considered the "father" of positivism. He is the one who is quoted: "the brain secretes thoughts as the liver secretes bile." Cheers.

  • David Nickol

    It has long struck me that if human behavior is not in some significant sense determined, then a human being cannot be held accountable for his actions. Human behavior may be very difficult to predict, but is it all that difficult to explain after it has taken place? Tracy Trasancos seems to think of free will as a little black box from which emanates unpredictable and inexplicable decisions, but don't we assume that when we look back over human actions that have taken place, they make sense and we can explain them?

    If moral choices don't spring from the totality of who a person is, where do they come from?

    • William Davis

      People can say what they want, but I have always been very good at predicting my own behavior and the behavior of other I know. It seems to be related to emotional intelligence, and revolves around my tendency to imagine things from the point of view of others. My wife has often marveled at how I can predict how her friends will react to something she wants to do, and I can obviously predict her behavior very well. My 4 year old is piece of cake. Is it perfect? No, but I'm glad it isn't. It sure is useful, however. I really don't know how I do it, it is some kind of intuition, and automatic process somehow separate from my conscious mind. I have a very strong "autopilot" that drives me home without me even thinking about what I'm doing. Sometimes this gets me in trouble because I'll do things without thinking about it, and not remember it (my conscious mind is busy thinking about something else). My joke is that a part of my brain that isn't me did something with my keys.
      I'm not saying I'm special, this ability is pretty common, but to say human beings can't be predicted is quite false. The prediction is simply imperfect.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Much of the difficulty comes from confusing "intelligence" (from inter legere, "to read between [the lines]") and "intellect" (the power to abstract universals from particulars). Mixed in is "imagination," which is the power to form mental images of perceived objects, whether present or remembered. (The image is not restricted to visual images. In fact, it results from the common sense that unites all of the particular sensations into a single image.) It's because these terms (and "conscious," "sentient," etc.) are so often used as if they were interchangeable that the whole topic ends up thoroughly confused.

    • David Nickol

      There is a TED Talk by Alexander Wissner-Gross in which we learn that his equation is F = T ∇ Sτ. Tracy Trasancos says, "I reject that intelligence can ever be mathematically modeled. Why? Because of free will." It is difficult to see how free will is relevant to what Wissner-Gross is trying to get at (as I understand it, no doubt feebly). He seems to be trying to explain what intelligence is. Explaining the equation, he says in the talk, "So what you're seeing here is a statement of correspondence that intelligence is a force, F, that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. It acts to maximize future freedom of action, or keep options open, with some strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures, S, up to some future time horizon, tau. In short, intelligence doesn't like to get trapped. Intelligence tries to maximize future freedom of action and keep options open." It is difficult to see how Wissner-Gross could imagine he could use F = T ∇ Sτ to predict the actions of a single person!

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The Self-Defeating Argument About Intelligence

    I would point out that while the title claims to have a powerful argument, the article actually fails to make any argument at all. There are a few assertions.

    On a brief tangent, I reject that intelligence can ever be mathematically modeled. Why? Because of free will.

    This would actually require an argument. Determinism is not necessary for mathematical models. A mathematical model would have to simulate how a general intelligence would act not predict how a particular intelligence will act.

    We model what happened so we can predict what will happen next. If the model has no predictive value, then it’s wrong because lack of predictive ability indicates the natural system was modeled incorrectly.

    Not exactly. I can model a coin flip with some mathematics and a computer. It is called a simulation. One could not tell the difference between a real coin flipping and my computer simulation. Why can't intelligence be the same?

    Can models predict human behavior? Only in large generalities for isolated behaviors, but not absolutely. The stock market has made that abundantly clear.

    This is an open question in economics and mathematics. The stock market doesn't make anything abundantly clear. I think Stacy misunderstands the purpose of financial modelling.

    This fundamental, yet unproven, idea that intelligence is a function of atoms colliding should concern all of us. It means that man’s thoughts and choices are no more mental than marbles colliding as they fall off a table, and love is just chemicals in the brain.

    This isn't disturbing at all. Free will and love are just as real. Not to mention that there is undisputable evidence that the brain is the center of intellectual activity.

    How can we really be held responsible for our choices if we are slaves to physics?

    Non Sequitur. Argument needed.

    And this fundamental premise is self-defeating in a monumental way

    Perhaps, but you haven't said anything to make me believe that it is self-defeating.

    If a person argues that he can mathematically model intelligence because that intelligence came from atoms colliding with each other as the laws of nature dictates, then how does that person know that what he argues is true?

    Intelligence is a little more than atoms colliding with each other. A vat of hydrogen atoms colliding against each other is not intelligent.

    Skepticism is not a self-defeater. A self-defeater would be an argument that shows that if one assumes that intelligence is purely a physical property then using some chain of logic it follows that intelligence is not purely physical. From the title I would have expected such an argument.

    How does anyone know what is true? What is truth?

    That is an interesting philosophical question. Materialism does not preclude one from having a philosophical theory of truth. Do you care to actually answer your questions, or are you just going to naively imply that materialists cannot answer the question.

    Such a proposal demolishes the idea of intelligence altogether and renders it something mechanical and meaningless.

    Nope.

    • joey_in_NC

      Intelligence is a little more than atoms colliding with each other.

      First you have to provide a coherent definition of "intelligence" that backs up your assertion. I don't think you can, if you restrict your definition purely in the materialist realm. The best you can come up with is an arbitrary abstraction of fundamentally groups of atoms colliding with each other. In other words, "intelligence" becomes purely illusory, just like free-will, given materialism.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        From Encyclopedia Britannica:

        human intelligence, mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.

        We clearly have the above properties, so intelligence is not illusory.
        The atoms colliding were Stacy's words not mine.

        • joey_in_NC

          The point is that intelligence, like all natural phenomena given materialism, is the result of physical matter following the laws of physics...i.e. atoms colliding with each other. It can't be any "more" than that.

          • Ignatius Reilly
          • joey_in_NC

            The concept of emergence doesn't refute the claim that intelligence is the result of atoms colliding with each other, since an emergent property is simply a particular result of atoms colliding with each other, according to materialism.

            The only way you'd have a point is if you argue that an emergent property actually controls the particles in which it has emerged from. In other words, new physical laws emerges once a property such as intelligences arises. That is the "strong emergence" case in the wiki article that you've linked. Now read Bedau's critique of strong emergence...

            Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing.

            If you can find any science literature that validates the concept of strong emergence, then I'd be very interested to read it. Otherwise, intelligence still remains the result of mindless subatomic particles banging into each other, such is the case of all phenomena, given materialism.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Much more than just atoms colliding:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_brain

          • joey_in_NC

            Obviously when we say "atoms colliding", "atoms" is simply short for physical matter and "colliding" is short for obeying the laws of physics.

            Do you not think the human brain is composed of physical matter that obeys the laws of physics? Maybe you think the human brain is made up of truly unique matter that cannot be found elsewhere? Or maybe the brain operates under different physical laws than anything else?

            Or maybe you do believe in a soul.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, I think referring to what our brains do as "atoms colliding" is a disingenuous straw man.

          • joey_in_NC

            I don't think it's disingenuous at all if the point of that phrase is that there is nothing more than physical matter and laws.

            Would you think it's a disingenuous straw man if instead we labeled humans as "biological machines"? I mean, what is a machine other than mechanical parts obeying the laws of physics?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Actually, you are claiming that materialism implies reductionism. You are not only claiming that materialism implies reductionism, but some caricature of reductionism. "Atoms colliding" is a caricature of reductionism. If you think that materialism implies reductionism please show your work. It is not at all obvious to me.

            Would you think it's a disingenuous straw man if instead we labeled humans as "biological machines"? I mean, what is a machine other than mechanical parts obeying the laws of physics?

            Now you are saying that materialism implies determinism. Show your work.

          • joey_in_NC

            Show your work.

            I don't have to, because if you clicked on the link I provided in my previous post and searched "biological machines", you would see that Stephen Hawking already did the work for me. So apparently you disagree with Stephen Hawking with his argument that we are merely biological machines. It is now your turn to show your work and explain why you think Stephen Hawking is wrong.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm not sure what I am supposed to gather from a list of quotes from Stephen Hawking. I noticed one quote in which Hawking says:

            A study of patients undergoing awake brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm, or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.

            I hesitate to critique an argument without reading its source. I am not even sure where this quote originates from. However, judging only by this quote, it seems that Hawking not only assumes reductionism, but uses greedy reductionism.
            This is why you need to show that materialism implies reductionism. You can't just assume it. Otherwise your restatement of the materialist position is simply caricature.

          • joey_in_NC

            Do you think Hawking's "biological machines" description is also simply a caricature? If so, why would Hawking caricaturize a position that he holds, in his own book (The Grand Design)?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, it is his position. I happen to think he is wrong. Am I going to as a Theoretical Physicist about the philosophy of mind or am I going to ask philosophers and psychologists?

            I am not sure why we are arguing about a quote from a book that I haven't read. I can't comment on Hawking's thoughts without giving the justice of actually reading them. The caricature comes in when you and Stacy claim that materialism implies reductionism. So stop dodging and show your work.

            Edit: or you could just admit that you made to strong of a statement. happens all the time.

          • joey_in_NC

            No, it is his position. I happen to think he is wrong.

            Alright, then. If I were a materialist, I would highly value the thoughts/opinions of one of the world's most intelligent and knowledgeable materialists concerning topics on materialism. I wouldn't completely dismiss them, as if they were the opinions of some random guy posting on the internet.

            The caricature comes in when you and Stacy claim that materialism implies reductionism.

            And so you must also think that Hawkings creates a caricature of his own by describing us as biological machines. If you want to accuse us of caricaturing, then apply the accusation consistently.

            And yes, I do think materialism implies reductionism. Otherwise, as I quoted Bedau above, things become "uncomfortably like magic".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Alright, then. If I were a materialist, I would highly value the thoughts/opinions of one of the world's most intelligent and knowledgeable materialists concerning topics on materialism. I wouldn't completely dismiss them, as if they were the opinions of some random guy posting on the internet.

            He is a theoretical physicist not a philosopher of mind. Thus, I take him very seriously when he talks about cosmology and particles, but I am not particularly interested in what he has to say about the philosophy of mind. Nor am I sure why I should be interested in the opinion of a smart materialist, because he is a materialist.

            And so you must also think that Hawkings creates a caricature of his own by describing us as biological machines. If you want to accuse us of caricaturing, then apply the accusation consistently.

            It seems to me that Hawking makes a greedy reduction. It is rather silly to attempt to evaluate Hawking's position from one quote. You and Stacy do engage in caricature, because you assume that materialism implies simplistic reductionism.

            And yes, I do think materialism implies reductionism. Otherwise, as I quoted Bedau above, things become "uncomfortably like magic".

            Prove it then. You haven't even offered an argument. The truth is not subservient to Bedau's (whoever that is) comfort.

  • Peter

    The findings in this article suggest that atheism can no longer rely on materialism or naturalism to justify its lack of belief in gods. From a materialist standpoint, the unfolding of the universe from low to high entropy produces complexity out of necessity which culminates in complex life and intelligence. Intelligence is not an accident; the universe has no choice but to create it.

    The creation of intelligence was built into the universe at its inception and this denotes design. The universe increasingly has the appearance of design and there is no evidence to suggest that the universe is anything other that what it appears to be. Of course, there are hypotheses such as multiple or parallel universes which claim otherwise but these are not evidence.

    The overwhelming and unchallenged appearance of design is present even from a materialist perspective. Consequently, so-called naturalistic explanations are nothing more than the universe unfolding in accordance with its inbuilt design specifications. No longer can atheists be taken seriously when they appeal to materialist or naturalistic explanations to justify their lack of belief.