Re: Destruction of All Humanity

From: micah glasser (
Date: Thu Dec 15 2005 - 12:29:57 MST

I suppose when dealing with issues of causality and efficacy we begin
dealing with issues of metaphysics in which more than one perspective can be
rationally taken. That said I guess the difference between what I am calling
a rational agent and a simple computational device like a thermostat lies in
the complexity of the modeling and desicion making faculty. The thermostat's
'model of reality' consists merely of a measurement of temperature and it's
action is restricted to the simple goal of maintaining a certain
temperature. So I suppose that this could be considered some form of
rational agency but what I meant was the ability to model the whole system
of physical reality with all of its complexity to the degree that the
environment could be manipulated in more sophisticated ways. So come to
think of it I guess you were right. Let me rephrase what I was calling a
rational agent as a rational agent with modelling powers equal to or greater
than that of a human.
As for the talk about emergent properties and 'top-down' causation I realize
that this claim is contentious and that evidence for this kind of causation
is mostly theoretical but I think that there is something to the claim that
causation can move in more than one direction so to speak. We tend to think
only in terms of linear causation and reductionism but there are many
reasons to believe that this way of thinking, while normally helpful, can
hinder a more in depth understanding of non-linear systems - such as the
human brain.
On 12/15/05, David Picon Alvarez <> wrote:
> From: "micah glasser" <>
> Let me clarify what I mean by 'rational agent' because I certainly am not
> talking about a thermostat. What I mean is any entity that acts on or
> through the environment using tools of any kind, by predicting a possible
> future state of affairs and acting to realize the possible state of fairs
> which most closly aproximates the nearest goal at hand. That nearest goal
> should also be in service to a highest goal. The more rational the agent
> the
> further into the future that super-goal is projected. I stipulate that
> greater freedom must be part of that super-goal for any rational agent
> This looks to me like a thermostat. It acts on the environment through
> tools
> (electric output) in order to achieve goals (maintain the temperature in
> balance) and it has a model of the environment (if it activates certain
> outputs heat will occur and temperature will rise, if it deactivates them
> heat will stop occurring and temperature will lower). It can predict that
> whence it turns on the heating it will become hotter. True, it may be
> wrong
> (heat might be disipating faster than it is produced) but agents aren't
> perfect.
> Please explain what makes a thermostat not an agent.
> You also said:
> has power becasue it is able to lacate its powers of causality from a
> higher
> state of emergent properties which function as 'top down' locust of
> causation. This is in distinction to the only other form of agency which
> is
> the 'bottom-up' causality which opereates according to the lowest level of
> complexity in the cosmological systtem and determines the outcome of that
> system. I hope I have made myself clear on this but I realize I am
> probably
> just confusing your simple picture.
> Please clarify. I'm tempted to call that statement content-free but maybe
> you do mean something.
> --David.

I swear upon the alter of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny
over the mind of man. - Thomas Jefferson

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