Re: Collective Volition: Wanting vs Doing.

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Tue Jun 15 2004 - 01:28:37 MDT

At 11:10 PM 6/14/2004 -0700, Jef Allbright wrote:

>The attempt to extrapolate collective human volition is futile because of
>the inherent complexity of the object(s) to be modeled, and the
>fundamentally unknowable environmental factors that define the evolving
>context within which human volition operates. The ensuing combinatorial
>explosion and cumulative error is my point

Mine, too, or part of it. Here's another part (and of course I might be
wrong or ill-informed): human volition is not algorithmic. It is
lawful/law-abiding/causal, but not predictable for the reasons Jef mentions
above. Even alone on a desert island, it might not be so constrained; in
the context of the immensely exfoliated and imbricated social order and
history within which we are persons making choices, it's unknowable. This
is, indeed, one of the premises of the Singularity; one part of the
unknowability of human choice is the technology we might build, the lessons
we might learn from it, the Weltbild that will emerge, within which, as
always, we will be changed--but in the exponential moment of the Spike, to
an extraordinary and *truly* unknowable extent.

Volition is non-algorithmic (if I'm right about this) in rather the way our
use of language is non-algorithmic. We acquired words by ostention and
fast-learning, in a social context of pragmatic use and conventions of
discourse, politeness, evasiveness, self-deception, all of it to some
extent templated by evolutionary prehistory, all of it to some extent
generatively free; we use these tokens or signifers according to rules of
performance mappable in X-bar structures, trees, all that menu-based
template organization that places utterance constraints but not necessarily
cognitive handicaps upon us. It all looks much closer to a Hopfield energy
reduction landscape to me than to a set of specifiable algorithms.

If so, there's no `volition' to `extract'. It just doesn't work that way.

Which is not to say that a system might not be constructed that emulates
this vast and messy skein of slopping, slurping spaghetti.

Damien Broderick

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