RE: The dangers of genuine ignorance (was: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu May 27 2004 - 21:39:27 MDT

> Conclusions: Higher level forms of qualia are
> obtained through multiple recursion of the laws of
> logic. Brains are the physical expression of the laws
> of logic undergoing multiple levels of recursion to a
> high degree.
> Got all that? Geez, this is all very basic stuff guys
> ;)


Although I find your manner and your style of linguistic expression
off-putting sometimes, I actually largely agree with your perspective on

If you're not familiar with it you should check out the work of G.
Spencer-Brown, in particular "Laws of Form" and the literature that
others such as Louis Kauffmann have built around it. Spencer-Brown
presents a novel formulation of Boolean logic in terms of a single
logical operator which he calls the "mark" or the distinction operator.
Thus the basis of Boolean logic is simply

* the distinction between figure and ground
* the possibility of relating two distinctions in two different ways

If a distinction is written (), then the two ways are basically (()) and

His basic logic rules are

(()) =

>From these come all of logic, etc. etc.

If you view the basic act of awareness as the making of a distinction --
the marking-off of void from itself -- then you arrive at, as you say,
boolean logic as a kind of logic of elementary acts of awareness. As
Spencer-Brown observed in the 70's.... Francisco Varela, the system
theorist, also picked upon on Spencer-Brown's ideas and tied them in
with Buddhist philosophy.

However, one thing this Spencer-Brownian boolean-consciousness
perspective doesn't tell you is anything about degrees of awareness --
intensities of awareness.

If we want to say that the universe is "just" patterns of arrangement of
basic distinctions -- basic acts of awareness -- then we have a very
nice model of the cosmos bridging psychological, metaphysical and
physical perspectives.

But why are some patterns more intensely aware than others?

Here we go beyond Spencer-Brown and get into my hypothesis that the
intensity of awareness associated with a form is related to the total
amount of patterns in the form. This is why humans have more intense
awareness of slugs -- we're more complexly patterned. (I expressed this
idea more rigorously in my essay on the hard problem of consciousness,
which is on the dynapsyc website).

And another thing this perspective doesn't tell you is why parts of the
universe act like probabilities are complex numbers (quantum probability
theory) whereas other parts act like probabilities are real numbers
(ordinary probability theory).

Regarding AGI, this sort of stuff tells you very little, I'm afraid. To
see that the universe is a collection of patterns recognizing patterns
in itself, and each mind is a collection of patterns recognizing
patterns in itself and the world around it, is all very well. However,
the problem then comes down to doing this pattern recognition adequately
effectively within strictly limited space and time resources. And this
problem quickly leads you into a load of cog sci issues that lack the
elegance of the foundational philosophy of patterns, structures, and
boolean forms.

-- Ben G

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