Re[2]: How hard a Singularity?

From: Cliff Stabbert (
Date: Thu Jul 04 2002 - 13:28:13 MDT

Thursday, July 4, 2002, 2:31:55 PM, you wrote:

JR> Gordon is correct. IF you assume the mind can be run on finite state
JR> machinery (something one generally assumes in AI research), you can't have
JR> free will. Furthermore, in such a case it is mathematically impossible for
JR> you to even perceive that you don't have free will (kind of like Godel's
JR> theorem applied to computational machinery), though it is possible to
JR> perceive the lack of "free will" in simpler machinery. This last sentence
JR> catches most people as a surprise.

Actually, your first one catches me. I wasn't aware that "free will"
or even "consciousness" were concepts amenable to any sort of formal
analysis...seeing as anybody would have a damned hard time defining
what they mean by these terms in the first place.

>From my perspective, it seems to me that I decide what to do. Seen
from a pure physics perspective, obviously -- it would seem -- I
don't. The laws of physics "decide". But this gets us into the whole
question of what the heck is really meant by deciding, by
consciousness, by terms such as free will, which can all get very
sticky. Pragmatically though, I can decide (or, ehm, have the
illusion of deciding) to act /as if/ I have free will -- if it looks
like a duck, etc.

There's some interesting (to me) analysis of the language around these
concepts in Smullyan's "Is God a Taoist?", collected in Dennett and
Hofstadter's "The Mind's I", and etext copies of which can be readily

JR> A lot of people have a hard time with this concept because it isn't
JR> intuitive, but it is relatively simple to show why it must necessarily be
JR> true. An SI may be able to observe that we do not have free will but we as
JR> roughly equivalent individuals never can, so we've operated under the
JR> assumption that we do have free will as a functional heuristic. The
JR> emergence of large intelligence differentials in observer entities will
JR> shatter this illusion, which is really just a narrow boundary case when
JR> applied to humans.

JR> I've seen quite a bit of very irrational backlash against this idea because
JR> it invalidates a core axiom of human interaction. I've never seen anyone
JR> actually refute it, they just get a "deer in the headlights" look and refuse
JR> to accept it. But this is SL4. :-)

Well, you can't blame them as they obviously have no choice in the
matter (because, ehm, they don't have free will). Wait...I take that
back. Maybe you can and do blame them, in which case you cannot not
do so, lacking, as you do as well, free will.

OK, I'm being facetious...where I'm going with this is that this whole
"do or don't we have free will?" question seems to me mostly a
semantic game.

To wit: similarly, there can as a matter of principle never be, as far
as I can figure, a way to prove that consciousness exists, but I'm
perfectly happy pretending I'm conscious.

In any case, to get this down to brass tacks -- let's say someone
gives you a One Free Answer From God coupon, and you get to settle,
once and for all, Whether Or Not we have free will.

Say the answer is Yes. What does that prove? To what conclusions
does that lead?

Same thing for No.

In short, practically I'm not sure why or how it's any more an
important rather than semantical question over the old saw about the
tree falling in the forest.

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