From: Richard Loosemore (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Aug 15 2005 - 11:08:59 MDT
[See end of message for biographical introduction].
Marc Geddes wrote:
> I shall conclude my time at SL4 with a brief summary
> of my theory,
On the day of your departure [sic], may I step in with my first post and
give what I believe to be a cogent response to your many arguments.
1) You would like morality (and cognition and volition, etc.) to be as
tight a system of ideas as physics - where the concepts and laws and
equations fit together with such elegant mutual consistency that we can
say with some confidence that *this* (physics) is *the* correct account
of how the universe is (modulo some fine details that we are still
working on). You would like there to be an extension of physics to
cover morality, cognition, volition, etc., and you would like the
extension to inherit the universality that we believe we can see in physics.
2) You go beyond just wanting this, of course: you say you know it is
true and claim to be able to "prove" it.
3) There are two main problems with your proofs and arguments:
(a) You make wild assertions about things like the structure of
cognition, the structure of cognitive science, consciousness and the
philosophical and methodological foundations of physics, but most of the
time those assertions are simply wrong. I cite as evidence:
> The 'Relational Theory' (that consciousness arises
> from the interaction of current experience with past
> memories) is not my theory, it's a very well respected
> theory accepted by many cognitive scientists the world
> over. You need to do some reading my friend. Start
I am a cognitive scientist (and, coincidentally, a former student of
John Taylor). This theory is *not* widely accepted. Au contraire, your
discussion of "consciousness" (like Taylor's) is riddled with the kind
of confusion that sends philosophers and cognitive scientists tearing up
the wall with frustration.
In a similiar vein, you make assertions about the mechanisms of
cognition (e.g., the role played by induction and deduction) and about
the extent and truthhood of the knowledge that an AI would have about
the world, but your assertions are wildly out of touch with what real
cognitive scientists and real philosophers would say they know. The
real picture is much more complex than you imply, and some of your
assertions are just plain wrong.
(b) The second problem with your proofs and arguments is a special
case of this last point: you have some serious misunderstandings of
what constitutes "proof" in sciences like physics. You recently
confessed that you had been using the word proof rather loosely, but in
spite of that confession you continue to behave as if your proofs have
the kind force that is only to be found in mathematics.
Archimedes could produce a proof of the volume of the sphere that can be
set out in just a couple of pages of devastatingly beautiful argument,
and after reading those two pages I am convinced beyond all doubt that
his proof is perfectly true.
But at the other end of the edifice that is science and mathematics, in
the field of complex systems, I know that if I experiment with computer
simulations in which large numbers of interacting agents try to trade
with one another, try to optimise their local utility functions, and try
to develop strategies for improving their behavior, these systems almost
always exhibit a cyclical behavior pattern that starts with
revolutionary chaos, improves itself rapidly through free-market
innovation, then starts to stagnate in an era of monopolistic corruption
and finally becomes rigidly authoritarian and sensitive to the slightest
little disturbance from the outside, after which they collapse back into
revolutionary chaos and start the whole cycle again. I can *see* these
phases, I can observe a number of repeating patterns and nuances within
the phases, and give names to them, but these phases and patterns are
*emergent properties* of these systems and they *cannot* be derived
using analytic mathematics. I repeat: they will almost certainly never
be derivable from analytic mathematics, and only when you understand the
depth of that last truth will you begin to comprehend the foolishness of
assuming that physics will soon be extending outward to embrace
cognitive science, morality and the nature of consciousness.
For a deeper survey of this last point, start with M Mitchell Waldrop's
book "Complexity," then follow up with Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of
4) Will there turn out to be something like a "Universal Morality" that
all sufficiently advanced intelligences subscribe to?
Actually, I believe that under the right set of circumstances a form of
UM might emerge and be an interesting and profound fact about the
universe. But that is a far cry from saying that we can prove the
existence of such a UM. I would love to say more about this topic, but
I'll wait for another opportunity to return to it.
SUMMARY: Can we please refrain from fruitless talk of whether morality
is provable, and discuss the details of how it might be implemented, or
how it might emerge. Fewer ASSERTIONS, more INVESTIGATION.
Biographical Summary for Richard Loosemore.
British-born, but resident in U.S. since 1995, after marriage. Located
in the vicinity of Ithaca, NY.
Physics degree (University College London). M.Sc. in Cognition,
Computing and Psychology (University of Warwick). Unfinished Ph.D. in
cognitive science (still in progress, when I can build or procure the
tools that will make it possible). Specialisation: the mechanisms of
concept learning and deployment in massively parallel systems.
Extensive work as software engineer (part of my brain is in CorelDraw,
Dreamweaver and that HP All-in-One printer-scanner-fax machine on your
desk). Mostly Macintosh.
One time Director of Research at Star Bridge Systems, a dysfunctional
supercomputer company out of Salt Lake City.
Writing a book about the Singularity. Working on software tools that
will enable advanced AI systems to be built and studied.
I consider myself equal parts cognitive scientist / software engineer /
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