Re: [sl4] Re: More silly but friendly ideas

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Fri Jul 04 2008 - 15:24:34 MDT

John Clark writes

>> You so very often leave your correspondent with
>> so little context that he, as me right here,
>> can make nothing whatsoever of what you are trying to say.
> Well hell, I think I left you with enough context for you to figure out
> what I was responding to, you did after all write the damn thing.

Okay. Then it's just a request from me, who doesn't remember
exactly what he wrote or what I was thinking when I wrote it,
to you, who probably excels me on that task:

Pretty please, with sugar on it, supply more context. :-) Thanks.

>>> but formal logic can show that any mind that
>>> is good enough to do arithmetic is susceptible
>>> to getting into infinite loops regardless of
>>> the details of its operation.
>> Can you expand on that? How would formal logic
>> do that? And why do we need formal logic anyway.
> An internal combustion engine consumes gasoline not the laws of
> thermodynamics, certainly it does not understand them; and yet a mind
> can use those laws to determine the limits of what ANY heat engine can
> do regardless of the precise details of its construction.


> A mind might not use formal logic and not even know the first
> thing about it,

Right, and very good. An *extremely* capable mind, to boot.

> nevertheless we can use that discipline to know there are some tasks a
> mind can never accomplish even with infinite time; and what's more there
> is no way to know beforehand what all those tasks are.

Right. Remember the classic and totally idiotic Star Trek example
"please calculate the last digit of pi". Grrrr. And that device, supposedly
intelligent, could not see the problem (as you suggest here):

> You can't know for certain if you are in a infinite loop or not, you must use
> your judgment, and if you judge you probably are in such a loop then jump out.
> And I'm not just talking about a limit in tasks of formal logic! There
> are some things in arithmetic you can never prove or disprove, and if
> that's the case with something as simple and fundamental as arithmetic
> imagine the contradictions and ignorance in more abstract and less
> precise arts like physics or economics or politics or philosophy. If you
> can get into an infinite loop over arithmetic it must be childishly easy
> to get into one when contemplating art. Fortunately real minds (but not
> fictional fixed goal minds) have a defense against this, real minds get
> bored. I believe that is why evolution invented boredom.

I definitely would *not* say that boredom is the main defense, because:

Should I, for example, live through this century somehow,
I intend to never be bored. In fact, I have many good days
right now when I am never bored. Yet I can see I'm getting
nowhere with a certain approach, say, or can recall that I
read through this part of a book just a day or two ago and
have no expectation of further enlightenment. And I can do
all that without being bored.

>> Well, *you* like to keep mentally considering conjectures
>> and often trying to refute them. Are you stuck in a loop?
> It's interesting you should say that, I do indeed sometimes suspect I am
> stuck in an infinite loop, however I have hope. I like to think that
> eventually I'll prove my conjectures to be true, or show them to be
> false, or just get tired of the whole damn thing and forget it and go to
> the beach.

Me, I don't mind being caught in that kind of what you call "infinite
loop". Me conjecturing away, thinking, delighting in understanding,
even putting myself in the same state as on a previous occasion
by listening to certain music---why, that's just fine.

So when you say "I do indeed sometimes suspect I am stuck in an
infinite loop, however I have hope" what exactly is the problem?
That you keep banging your head on some problem that won't give?
Yes, after a while your "futility circuit" (not, I claim, your "boredom
circuit") will kick in. Maybe you'll just sleep on the problem Maybe
months or years will go by and you'll learn some ancillary things that
suddenly make it possible for you to go back and succeed.

Alas, I am afraid that our ideas of being "in an infinite loop" don't
quite overlap completely. And what about these examples

A: Certain priests continually ask themselves almost as often
      as possible if they are doing enough to serve God; are
      they stuck in a loop?
B: A self-actualizer enthusiast may ask himself every day: "Am
      I doing the best I can to be the greatest human being I can
C: An AI who has got marvelously smarter than people, but
      is as devoted to them as some people are to their stamp
      collections (please don't get diverted here by thinking this
      impossible---it might be, but that's not the point) and who
      says to itself very often "What more can I do for those
      wonderful, dear, cute, simple little evolutionary devices that
      brought me into being? Am I really devoting enough time to them?
      Is my 0.0001% focus on them enough, or should I be doing

Are A, B, and C examples (to you) of being "stuck in an infinite loop"?


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