Friday, December 19, 2008

More on Journalists Suck; Thoughts About Consciousness

This, however, isn't the journalist's fault. Their sources are equally wrong. On consciousness, basically everyone sucks. But again, I like New Scientist. Despite the terrible reasoning, the actual data they display kicks ass all over the place.

"Specifically, what is it that makes the human mind so special? Like many people, I have always believed that the answer lies in our capacity for conscious thought."

"In fact, far from playing second fiddle to the conscious mind, subconscious thought processes may play a crucial role in many of the mental facilities we prize as uniquely human, including creativity, memory, learning and language."

None of these things - not one - are unique to humans. I formed each as a hypothesis, sequentially, and falsified them all. Cetaeceans use language. Apes can be taught symbols. Creativity can be found in elephants. Memory? Are you even serious? Consciousness, in every non-magic theory, cannot be confined to humans.

Mentioned somewhere else entirely, humour is also not unique.

(There is a small chance that specialized neurons which are only found in humans are required for the mind node. However, even house flies sport recognizable emotions, chiefly panic, making this doubtful. Similarly, fruit flies can pay attention.)

Humans do, however, clearly have a drastically higher degree of consciousness than any other organism on the planet. For consciousness to exist it must interact; it must do something. Whatever this is, humans are much better (also probably more versatile) in doing it.

(Or, I reject epiphenomenalism as magic.)

Our technological superiority (also not unique, see caledonian crows) is the same kind of thing as our cultural and linguistic superiority; a difference in degree, not in kind. Quantitative, not qualitative.
"Our subconscious is not an unthinking autopilot that needs to be subjugated by rationality, but a purposeful, active and independent guide to behaviour."
Which you can interrogate through your emotional problem-solving system.
"Some scientists go so far as to believe that it is responsible for the vast majority of our day-to-day activity and that we are nothing more than "zombies" guided by our subconscious."
Note the second part of the sentence contradicts the first. You aren't a zombie if anything less than all of your activity is non-conscious. Second, the fact that I experience anything is disproof that I'm a zombie, and so the second part is simply wrong. To say that humans are zombies, you must misuse the concept 'consciousness.' (Or be solipsist.)
"But as yet you cannot simply look at an image of the brain and say what kind of thought process is being used."
Since consciousness isn't physical this will be a long time in coming. Of course if it were, you would be able to simply measure the interactions of the property or particle of consciousness, but such a thing requires strong emergence to be not magic.

"What this suggests is that our brains constantly monitor our internal and external environment such that when the input becomes important enough, the subconscious decides to engage the conscious and we become aware of what is there. This is certainly what neurobiologist Michael Shadlen from the University of Washington in Seattle believes. "We suspect that the normal unconscious brain monitors the environment for cues that prompt it to decide whether to awaken and engage... The decision to engage at all is, in effect, an unconscious decision to be conscious.""

So if consciousness is illusory or doesn't do anything, why on earth would it spend all this time and effort deciding to be conscious or not?

Note that this parallels the situation with free will. At some point it would have to have been determined that the next event was subject to choice. (Again, I think both concepts are invalid.)

"Dayan says that our behaviour is often driven by more than one of the four controllers - the various types of explicit and implicit thought process may be actively integrated, and this is especially true when we are learning something new where the balance between ignorance and experience changes. Importantly, the subconscious isn't the dumb cousin of the conscious, but rather a cousin with different skills."

This integration is why it's called 'subconscious' not simply unconscious. The one shades into the other.

"Dijksterhuis is convinced that subconscious thought processes are superior in many situations - including most social interactions - because they allow us to integrate complex information in a more holistic way than can be managed by rational thought processes."

As I recently detailed in the piece on emotional logic, this is what I have found as well.

"Studies on rats and monkeys indicate that they too consign skills to subconscious control once they become expert. "Still, we may have a greater capacity for this," says Dayan, "since we have the huge advantage of being able to use language to boost our goal-directed control and so provide a much richer substrate for acquiring habitual skills.""

Dayan is not a philosopher, obviously. Like the dilettante historian previously, Dayan has no better idea than you do if or how humans are better at...consigning skills to the subconscious? It isn't even clear what, exactly, we're supposed to have a better capacity for.

Note again the contradiction with the earlier idea that consciousness is in some way unique to humans, seeing that apparently rats have a subconscious to which to consign skills. (This of course falls under the other-minds problem. Do rats have a subconscious, or just something analogous?)

Anyway, new article, same stupidity.
"It can store information for more than a century if you live that long"
Not likely. Recall that every time you remember a memory, it's opened for editing, in a sense creating it anew. A future version of hard drive may be able to hold a magnetic imprint readably for a century, in isolation. The brain doesn't need to; it can remember your remembering, rather than the original occurance itself.
"INTELLIGENCE is a slippery concept to define,"
Intelligence is the ability to adapt without evolution. For a biological entity, this means you can change with your environment without having to go through a genetic reshuffling. For a machine, it means being able to change with your environment without human intervention; it does not have to be rebuilt or reprogrammed.

This definition rules out machines that simply descriminate between various objects, such as 'smart' bombs, because they do not remain smart in novel situations; they are simply a complicated linkage of dumb components. Similarly robotic arms; even if they can physically make other products than the one they are currently making, they need to be reprogrammed to take advantage of that capability. However, by this definition, we have already achieved artificial intelligence with other machines.
"so not surprisingly it has been tricky to pin it down in the brain."

"It is sometimes possible to train working memory with practice, and doing so may benefit IQ, especially fluid intelligence - the ability to solve new problems. However, this may just be a short cut to better IQ test scores rather than an indication of brain structures that confer intelligence."

Impossible. It's just as dangerous as saying that some branch of math is useless. There is, somewhere, a situation that mimics the conditions of this working-memory test, and if you practise you will deal with it better. Of course whether the training is more expensive than the reward cannot be known in advance. This is what price signals are for.
"Some can remember entire books and some can rattle off a piano concerto after a single hearing. Yet others can draw perfect circles. What leads to such islands of intelligence?"
They are also analyzing Einsteins' brain and make some statistical errors combined with focusing on the more. They should also look at how his brain might be less as in less inhibited like these savants.

First, the statistical errors. Einsteins' brain is 15% more round than the average. But of course this is meaningless; perhaps brains of ~100 IQ normally vary by 15%. Or, perhaps not. All of the examples are like this; Einsteins brain is more integrated or more tightly packed, but aside from the merging of two particular folds, none of this is meaningful without statistical perspective. But Einstein might also have been less. He was less verbally skilled, anecdotally, which may point to some mild savantism.

The mystery of savantism is not mysterious at all, especially considering you can temporarily activate savantism in normal subjects with trans-cranial magnetic fields. (This is actually in the article as well, immediately below.) The subconscious brain is chock-full of powerful mathematical and statistical modules, not the least of which is the fact that stereoscopic vision requires trigonometric calculations. (Also, dogs can do differential calculus to find the shortest routes over combinations of land and water.) If some wires get crossed and it starts passing this detailed information to the consciousness, you get savantism. Also this explains why usually it isn't passed; savants are, aside from their abilities, impaired versus their pre-injury state. Similarly, the woman with perfect episodic memory is more tormented than served by her gift.

Perhaps if civilization persists, in suitable millenia we will find mutants that can turn their savantism on and off at will, so as to quickly calculate some dates before returning to a more generally functional state.
"A good memory requires effort and attention not special grey matter."
They are wrong. Certainly it helps, but the situation is the same as in savantism. If you cross the right wires you can get extraordinary abilities, and most people don't have it because it comes at extraordinary cost.

I've had a ridiculous memory all my life. In certain fields I do not have to take notes, and actually study and repetition degrades my performance, because I get bored and resentful. Unless someone taught me the proper efforts to make and attention to pay before I was old enough to remember them doing it, I have special grey matter.

Now there is a bit of technique to it, but I do it all instinctually as far as I can tell. That is, I can with conscious effort stop myself, but otherwise I just naturally memorize things swiftly, easily, and accurately, while simultaneously filtering out everything that's irrelevant.

The only problem is that this system considers all social information like birthdays and names to be irrelevant details...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Arbitrary" Is Arbitrary; Conscious Math Is Arbitrary

The definition of arbitrary is very screwed up.


Consider half of a sliced bagel. Also consider a bread crust of the same bread, of roughly the same thickness. I assume the purposes of either is to be consumed for enjoyment and nourishment; bagels and bread should have nutrition and a pleasant flavour. (And their, say, aerodynamics, are irrelevant for all intents and purposes.)

There is no real difference between the two; there is no purpose-significant action which is served better by one or the other. They have the same nutrients because they're the same bread, they can both hold spreads at roughly the same ratio, and they can both be properly toasted in a toaster with a 'bagel' setting, which only toasts one side. No matter what you intend for that chunk of dough, your purpose will be served. The only possible difference is if you just have a raw preference for having a hole in your bread, or simply prefer 'b' noises.

(While Anglophone society considers these subjective purposes to be non-practical, the union of subjective and objective makes clear that a subjective, non-rational preference is an intent or purpose. Nevertheless, it is true that this is the only purpose against which the bagel and bread crust differ.)

In sum, the distinction between a bread crust and a bagel is an arbitrary distinction. There is no functional difference marked by this distinction. No matter how you define the difference, it makes no difference; the properties of the bread crust and the bagel remain identical. (If we were to try to systematize the difference, to strictly define it, we would find we needed a different name for every chunk of dough ever, because none of them are exactly the same shape, and even still this is an 'irrelevant' and 'irrational' difference, with regard to the purposes of food, assuming we drop blatantly repellent forms like swastika-bread.)

And now I can break the concept for you. Consider instead half a positive parabola. You can, if you want, define an upper portion where the slope is very large and a lower portion where the slope is smaller. Again, however, the choice is arbitrary; as you slide the definition up and down, there is no quality that suddenly changes for it to catch onto. However, this kind of arbitrary is completely the opposite of the previous kind of arbitrary. Instead of the difference making no difference, every tiny change makes a difference. Every time you move the difference between steep and gentle, the functions of both change.

In fact, I can say that the first example is arbitrary because it makes no difference where you put the distinction, and the second is arbitrary because it's never arbitrary where you put the distinction. It makes me giggle so I'm typing it again; it's arbitrary because it's never arbitrary.

Consciousness vs. Math
And thus part of my problem trying to explain why if one equation is conscious, every equation is conscious. Yes, it makes a difference on where you put it; but it is never arbitrary in the first sense, which means it is arbitrary in the second sense. No matter where on the parabola you define 'steep,' to properly define it, every part of the parabola is steep, to a degree, even at the base where that degree is zero at one and exactly one point.

So I guess if one equation is conscious, the situation is even worse than every equation is conscious. Rather, almost every equation is conscious except a few which completely change depending on which equation you define as conscious first. Even if you found something in nature described by a zero-consciousness equation, it would be more like sleeping than dead, and you'd be able to awaken it with a single poke. It would be very unstable. On top of all this, consciousness would still be either acausal or an epiphenomenon. It would have to either change the behavior of the equations that were highly conscious, that is, away from their purely mathematical behavior, or it would be unnecessary for calculating dynamics.

This is because adding consciousness in as a fifth force in nature forms an infinite regression. The existing equations of motion would all be assigned a consciousness number, which would determine their interactions to the consciousness field. But this field would also be described by an equation, which would have such a number, but the interaction of the field with itself would change the equation, changing the number. Which would cause an interaction of the field with itself, changing the number. And so on. Attempting to make consciousness mathematical either annihilates consciousness into epiphenomena, or leads to the equation tying itself into knots until it disappears.

A further problem is where to divvy up nature into equations, so that we can assign them numbers.

So my inner critic is bugging me, but it a good point. I need to make this explicit. Let us assume that we have a fully mathematical formula for consciousness. First, determinism is strictly true. The equation cannot deviate from itself; your 'choices' in each moment are a function of the state the moment before. Choices do not truly exist, just a sensation we call 'choice' erroneously.

Second, 'happy' = '3.' Perhaps '90=theory of relativity.' (Of course single numbers would be much more fundamental units of thought, but this isn't material to my argument.)

Okay. Why? Why is 'happy' 3 and not 4? Or 70? These things are first, arbitrary in the first sense, and second, you do not need these labels to fully describe the physics.

This is important, so let's do a second example. What about operators? You have the Schrodinger wave function of consciousness, and you use the 'happiness' operator on it to find the degree of happiness. This number then feeds into interactions with other parts of consciousness. But, again, this label is arbitrary. It may empirically be that 'happiness' corresponds to this operator, but there is no reason to use this label. We don't need to know what sensation it corresponds to; we just need the operator and the mathematics to describe its interactions. Consciousness becomes merely epiphenomenon.

Consider the opposite situation, the momentum operator, p=ħ/i d/dx. We also don't need to know that it is momentum for it to work, but this is fine because it is a number that only references other numbers. Its essence of momentum-ness isn't critical to its definition, the way the essence of happiness is critical to its definition. The defintion is, relatively, completely backwards; momentum is defined as the thing (ħ/i)(d/dx) picks out, while what picks out happiness would have to be empirically tested. If we've made a mistake with (ħ/i)(d/dx) and find that what it picks out doesn't have the properties of momentum we want, we don't need to change it at all; we just pick a new name, use it for exactly the same things as we did before, and find the operator that we do want to call momentum. If we find that the happiness operator doesn't pick out the properties of happiness, we immediately realize all our data indicate that it does and we're just screwed. And, as expected from epiphenomenal consciousness, it doesn't matter; oh, this happiness indicator that corresponds to resported happiness isn't happiness, but all our predictions come out true anyway. This property truly is a frivolous extra property.

Consciousness cannot be mathematical. Therefore, it cannot be physical.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Notes From My Daily Reading

Reading Dalrymple again.


Are the proponents and providers of vaccines responsible for the adverse side-effects? This is the exact case an examination of my anti-Christ(special) is supposed to make clear. We have, for the sake of the preservation of the lives of many, damage to the lives of few, and a different few. It's the hard choice; how do you feel when the child you just administered a 'life-saving' rubella vaccine to goes into convulsions and dies?* How much worse is it when you realize that child may never have gotten sick with rubella at all?

*(I have no idea how long they actually take to die.)

I think vaccines are really amazing. They're low-tech, extremely effective, and such side-effects would be vanishingly rare except that death doesn't exactly vanish for quite some time.

So it's rather important; are they responsible? Obviously, even if they are, we cannot let them be sued for murder or even malpractise.

Reading New Scientist.

"It's giving neuroscientists something of a headache. Most of what we know about the brain comes from studies of male animals and male human volunteers. If even a small proportion of what has been inferred from these studies does not apply to females, it means a huge body of research has been built on shaky foundations."

No. In addition, no! We had to do that research anyway. Now we've just realized that it's half the research, not the whole.

Also, this sits poorly with the idea that men and women's mental aptitudes are identical or close enough. There are going to be some very uncomfortable scientists in the near future.

"Give a man a sheet of paper printed with tangled streets and he can tell you where you need to go. But don't be afraid to ask a woman for directions. Chances are she'll get you there, too, but using a different technique. Drawing on her hippocampus, she'll offer you physical cues like the bakery, the post office and the Chinese restaurant."

One of those techniques is better than the other. But you can count on scientists and journalists swearing up and down that they're the same.

Journalists suck.
"To do that, he would have to venture into the nascent field of social neuroscience, a discipline that has been described as the next big thing by the founder of cognitive neuroscience, Mike Gazzaniga at the University of California, Santa Barbara."
We are completely bombarded with predictions by all these dilettante historians. Apparently by putting 39 almost meaningless letters after Gazzaniga's name, it turns this groundless prediction into not a waste of time. Are you going to UofC soon? Going to track him down? No? Then you're nearly everyone who will read this article, and all you need to know is that this guy has no more idea of future trends than you do.

And I like New Scientist.

Scientists suck.

I've already covered how journalists suck, so I won't go over how the title is retardedly sensationalist.

"Haynes also raises the prospect of "neural marketing", where advertisers might one day be able to read the thoughts of passers by and use the results to target adverts. "This [new research] specifically doesn't lead to this - but the whole spirit in which this is done is in line with brain reading and the applications that come with that," he says."

No. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooo. No.

To see why, re-read this bit.

"Kamitani starts by getting someone to look at a selection of images made up of black and white squares on a 10 by 10 square grid, while having their brain scanned. Software then finds patterns in brain activity that correspond to certain pixels being blacked out. It uses this to record a signature pattern of brain activity for each pixel."

Add this;
"Subjects were shown 400 random 10 x 10 pixel black-and-white images for a period of 12 seconds each."
So, to get shitty pictures of 'neuron' in black and white, it took 4800 seconds of individual training, or 80 minutes each. (The images were shown one letter at a time, if you didn't notice.) To get high-resolution images of abstract colours would require the individual to sit in a machine and train the advertiser's computer for thousands of hours.

Even without all this, the technique is fMRI, which requires enormous magnetic fields. Like, don't-bring-your-keys-into-the-room-with-the-machine magnetic fields, let alone your cellphone. You going to set up these fields so that random passers-by are going to walk through them?

Next, look how bad it is. The encoding is all over the board because it's basically ad-hoc. Brains are the opposite of standardized.

Even beyond all this, it isn't actually detecting their thoughts. It's just detecting their ocular impulses. To detect me thinking about the image of the word 'neuron' would be a different beast entirely. If for some reason someone tries to make you sit in a room for a month so they can train their lie detector on you, just think contrary thoughts, and you'll defeat it. To make a lie detector out of this requires you to have a lie detector so you can calibrate it...

Oh God. Haynes is so wrong. It hurts. Make it stop.

How wrong is Haynes? And, by extension, New Scientist?
"But it shouldn't be possible to do this for commercial purposes."
Frankly, fuck you Haynes. Science is not somehow the opposite of commercial activity. I read elsewhere that someone didn't like a shopping cart icon because it sent the wrong metaphor for 'shopping' for classes, that these classes were somehow above that. All bullshit. Do the classes cost money? Then they're commercial. Even if they're free they have monetary opportunity costs; every moment you're in a class you're not flipping burgers for minimum wage, and thus sacrificing money. It shows Haynes incredible lack of thought; there are simply too many ways that science and education are commercial for me to even conveniently list them all, and yet he hasn't stumbled upon even one of them.

What Haynes means is that you shouldn't read someone's mind against their will. Well, duh. You also shouldn't read someone's diary or even talk to them against their will. Immoral act is immoral. And hence, fuck you Haynes. And second, 'it shouldn't be possible.' Oh, you want God to come down and make it impossible? Oh, you mean the State should stop it. That's not impossible. That's just illegal. (And then people get confused when someone realizes progressivism is a religion.)

There's another one from the same set, but since I go into it in depth I'm going to make a new post out of it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Loop Quantum Gravity and Infinities

First, let me clear something up. My 'proofs' of the No Infinities Principle aren't proofs. They're more like suggestions; the NIP is an empirical principle. We find regularities in nature. In particular, I find that every time a physicist's equation shows up an infinity, it doesn't mean there's an singularity in nature; it just means one of their assumptions, usually a simplifying assumption, was wrong. There is no black hole singularity and there is no Big Bang singularity.

As I said originally, physicists already use this principle, and they're doing so again, they're just not consistent about it. In this piece, Loop Quantum Cosmology replaces the singularity of the Big Bang with a Planck density, exactly as the NIP predicts. This Planck density will also apply to black holes, though since the ball of matter at this density can form an event horizon larger than its radius, we should still expect regular black holes.

(Note that this is also a serious problem for any possible beginning of our universe. It would be behind its own event horizon. This is partly why you can a priori validate inflation; something must be there to stop the Big Bang from immediately forming a universe-sized black hole. No, you don't get out of this by presuming this is what the inside of a black hole looks like; it simply repeats the problem. We would be starting with a point of infinite density inside a point of infinite density, forming a black hole inside a black hole, and ad nauseum.

(I think this is also the beginning of my proof that infinite regression is a fallacy. If it isn't a fallacy, you have to be able to resolve infinite series like these.

(Anyway, I suspect I know where the antimatter went. There is a centre of the universe, and though it's still not a preferred reference frame, there's a half-universe-sized antimatter black hole there; the inflation either doesn't work properly on antimatter, or it wasn't strong enough to pull all matter out of the Big Bang's initial configuration, and it just so happened that what we now call antimatter mostly remained behind. [Do note that the article, while it has good data, also has multiple errors in reasoning.])

The problem with LQC is that they don't realize eternal time is physically impossible.

Set t=(0) to be now. As this drifts into the past, [tick, t=(1), tick, t=(2)] set this moment t=(m). But time is relative, so let's make a coordinate transformation.

Lim m->(-∞) (m). What time is it now, specifically?

This operation is legal. This is what eternal, non-beginning time means. (Non-ending doesn't make any sense; the end is the present moment, though you'll notice the present is moving forward, and will continue to do so infinitely.) It means that time is meaningful no matter how far you go into the past, and since time is relative, you can set your temporal origin to any of those points.

What I immediately find is that for eternal time to be meaningful it cannot be relative. There must be a preferred origin. But we have empirically shown that time cannot be absolute, and we have a contradiction. So I can categorically predict that the 'bounce' will be found to erase all information. Our universe will be indistinguishable from one which began at that moment.

But let me be explicit. Once I've sent the origin infinitely far into the past, there is no transformation that can get it back to the present. Lim m->∞ (m) sends it infinitely far into the future, not to the present. We go from, relative to the origin, [t=(∞)] to [t=(-∞)] and time remains meaningless. (However, with an absolute origin, the present time will never actually be infinite.)

Hopefully when, as they discuss, they stop using general relativity as the jumping-off point for LQC, they will find something that prevents time from being infinite, because otherwise they're simply replacing one singularity with another of a different kind.

Zagnets and Communication

"I asked them if it mattered to them what kind of computer their software selves would run on. No, they replied, it doesn't matter. All computers are considered to be equivalent by virtue of the Church-Turing Hypothesis. If they and their classmates were implemented on a vacuum tube computer, or on a computer made of mechanically-linked Lego blocks, they would still feel the occasional rush of adrenaline as a desired mate strolled by, and the agony of a parental visit."

"If computers are to definitely exist we should know that we could someday build an instrument to find them. Scientific instruments can lack accuracy, but they must be able to distinguish between phenomena. If there was no conceivable device that could distinguish heat from other phenomena like gravity, for example, heat would not be a useful concept, and science would pursue a parameter that could be measured."

I re-read this, and I thought, "Oh, I get it now! This is much better than the way I said it."

And then I thought, "I had this discussion with Marcus! I'm going to go use this on him."

For some moments, I was content. Then I realized what I'd thought - I agreed, and I still didnt' get it, yet I was going to use it on people who strongly disagree! Then I started laughing helplessly. In fact, I just laughed again. Oh my, that's a fine joke!

Once you realize what language is, exactly - communication by a system of shared symbols - it shows up how difficult communication really is. Especially nowadays, which as Orwell predicted, uses language in interchangeable blocks of phrases instead of individual words. Communicating new ideas to someone who has only used these set phrases is basically impossible. (Another reason to declare 'public education' a literal atrocity, as it schools the opposite of good thinking; though you should always expect as much perversity from tax-funded institutions.)

So, when a Ph.D thinks my writing is rambling, (again)? They just don't get it. Most likely, they haven't overcome the liability that is a tax-funded Ph.D.


Information Integration Theory neatly answers many of the questions Lanier raises, aside from this one; "Hypothesizing an infinite cloud of slightly different consciousnesses floating around each person seems like an ultimately severe violation of Occam's razor."

There are an awful lot of arguments that parents are forgivable, that they 'did the best they could' etcetera, such as on Liberating Minds. All of this is belied in one phrase;
"the agony of a parental visit"
This is just accepted; yes, of course parental visits are agonizing. As in, it's common and understandable that your parents willingly, knowingly, and avoidably cause you agony for no purpose but their whim. Their 'best?' Misses the point. The point is that if your parents are causing you agony, make them stop, no matter what means you have to use. They're supposed to love you; they should support your goal of lessening your pain. Supposedly.

"Even if it interprets the meteor shower as having the functionality of a brain, that could only be true for a limited period of time. Certainly after a very short while Newton and Einstein would take over again and the brain would dissipate."
I am amused at how we speak as if Newton and Einstein ascended into godhood upon their deaths. (And then we wonder why Christians who read the Bible don't like science.) This image of Newton's spirit forcing particles to obey F=ma by sheer force of will just gets me. (And then people are baffled when I declare that everyone is dualist, even if they have concluded otherwise.)

"Zombies probably think that I am a mystical dualist of some stripe. I can accept that, but I don't act like a mystical dualist. I am enthused by progress in neuroscience. [...] In fact, I'm thrilled to think about brains. I must appear to be a monstrous anti-zombie to the zombies; someone who claims to have ineffable subjective experience and yet acts just like them."
This mildly edited quote describes me well, too.

"Let's imagine a society in the future in which neuroscience has gotten as good as, say, quantum electrodynamics is today, that is to say essentially complete within its framework. Would every educated person be a zombie? Would the consciousness debate still exist? Would it have any practical consequences?

This is an entertaining future to imagine. [... ] And of course that means that inside every zagnet's brain would be seen some little gizmo comprising the thoughts of self-experience."
Yes, I imagine so.

"So, if the consciousness problem has little consequence and will not yield to further physical study, why do zagnets like me care about it? I might ask the same question of some of the zombies."
And here we see the essence of the things I've edited out. Lanier is so very close to right, but not quite. His qualia dial section may be worth reading, but it makes the exact mistake he accuses others of making, and ends up being incoherent. The basic problem is the same as in any physical system; of the many possibilities, how does it decide on this one? Lanier's dial requires a second layer to do this; he is dualist, even if he thinks he isn't.

Dennet's Consciousness Explained simply misuses the word 'consciousness' to describe something that isn't the concept 'consciousness' and thus Dennet fools himself into thinking he's solved the problem. I think it's the Ph.D again.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Bias Versus A Good Idea; Censorship by Glut

This is enormously good for my ego.

Which sadly means I have to be extremely skeptical of it.

It would be nice to hear any comments you might have on the relationship between this idea and this blog, though.

I have a couple comments that I hope are orthogonal to the issue.
"The authors summed it up: "In general, the 'best' songs never do very badly, and the 'worst' songs never do extremely well, but almost any other result is possible.""
Multiple possible effects here. One is that there is a principled threshold below which certain people will never download a song, no matter how popular. A second is that it's all probabilistic, where the goodness of a song is simply one factor among many.

"Since the definition is circular, the premise could never be disproved by any amount of counter-evidence -- even if an act that used to be popular, suddenly falls under the radar, that could be seen as "proof" that they lost whatever magic touch they used to have, not as evidence of the arbitrariness of the market!"

This stinks of anti-market bias. He clearly doesn't realize that any mechanism to improve the situation would simply become part of the market, like the stock market. And I agree; such a service would greatly improve efficiency.

There is one counterfactual, and that is using pure violence; penalties for not sitting on some independent media-judging panel, for example. This would not be part of the market, but simply a distortion.

Personally, for the purpose of essay-like information, I still want Uberfact, but it doesn't look like people actually have the motivation for it. Perhaps I should just write out a full spec just to give it the best chance possible...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Anti-Christ(special) versus Responsibility. Are You?

I think the regular idea of the anti-Christ is pretty boring. I have a special version.

Also includes a short discussion about Anglophone anti-crime measures, including a second question, and references a study on framing.

My anti-Christ has exactly the same message as the original version; don't kill, don't steal, be nice, and so on. However, unlike the original, he not somewhat convincing, or very convincing, he is absolutely 100% convincing. It is physically impossible to argue with him and not to be convinced to be 100% moral for the rest of your life, in such a way that you absolutely never give into temptation.

He uses these magical persuasive skills to convince people to spread his message and let him convince everyone on Earth, dropping crime rates in every metropolis and every god-forsaken hole to zero. All wars cease. Trade flourishes, and everyone is just generally super-nice to everybody else.

The first downside is that he IS the anti-Christ. He tortures, he kills, he steals. In fact sometimes in the middle of (successfully) convincing a crowd not to kill, he whips out an uzi and starts gunning people down. "Furthermore killing hurts." B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-BANG BANG BANG "See? It's not just terrible in the ways I've said before. Also..." He provides for himself entirely through theft. If he has to buy something, it's always with stolen money. If you offer him a donation he'll rip your arm off, beat you to death with it, then steal the money from your children. He is not just evil, he is infinitely hypocritical, and therefore infinitely evil. No matter how repugnant an act you imagine, he will one-down you and do something worse.

The second downside is that as soon as he dies, nobody will be 100% successful at convincing everyone to be moral. A new crop of brutal barbarians and criminals will grow up and go back at it as usual.

At first I used this to prove that hypocrisy cannot be evil per se. Evil, in my view, was evil, regardless of what you told others about it, and if you advocated not-evil, then that was inherently a good thing to do. Now that I have proved the opposite, it remains a proof that ad hominem is a fallacy.

Now I have a different question. A question of responsibility, of choosing who lives and who dies.

Assume you have the opportunity to kill the anti-Christ. He has injured himself, and as a surgeon, you could refuse to operate and he would simply bleed out and die.

If you don't, are you responsible for the death of the people he murders? If you do, are you responsible for the deaths that would not have otherwise occurred?

It sucks to be faced with that choice, even on a small scale. If you can kill (or, I suppose, let die) one fairly healthy but socially disrespected person to save Stephen Hawking, the littlest cancer patient, and Mother Theresa* with their organs, are you responsible?

*(Her perception, not her reality, which was grotesque.)

Certainly, in all cases, you're responsible in the sense that you are part of the causal chain of those deaths. Absent a surgeon, his murders cannot take place. Absent a surgeon who refuses to operate, all those war-deaths cannot occur.

Now, in the real world the answer is a lot easier, because you cannot fully predict the actions of human beings. For instance, if you leave your bike unlocked somewhere, absent a thief it cannot be stolen. This is the proof that rape victims cannot have been 'asking for it' because absent a rapist they could not have been raped. Leaving a bike, or even a million bucks, on a pedestal on a busy road, no matter how little security you put on it, doesn't make it not theft to take it. You did not agree to have it taken.* It is impossible to give license for evil. If you as surgeon operate on a real world criminal, it doesn't make you responsible for his future crimes, even though they would have been impossible without you. He could have repented, but didn't, a fact which is not your fault.

*(On the other hand, there are non-moral considerations. If you do this, yes it's theft to have it stolen, but expecting to keep it is just dumb. The cops should spend no effort tracking it down. I am uneasy about what this might mean regarding rape, but the upshot is that you should always provide yourself with security, to whatever degree is necessary to reasonably ensure security. Going to the cops after a rape is much much worse than being able to stop it yourself. Which I guess means cops a very last resort, as security goes, and should never be relied upon.)

This option is not available for the anti-Christ. He is by definition infinite evil, and will never repent. He is more like a natural disaster than a person. But the question still applies, and without all these real-world distractions, I can actually analyze moral theory to see if its consistent.

From various places, most recently this;

"Framing effects were first explored by Tversky and Kahneman (1981). In a famous experiment, they asked some subjects this question:

Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for an outbreak of an unusual Asian disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to fight the disease, A and B, have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows: If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved. If program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and a 2/3 probability that no people will be saved. Which program would you choose?

The same story was told to a second group of subjects, but these subjects had to choose between these programs:

If program C is adopted, 400 people will die. If program D is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die and a 2/3 probability that 600 will die.

It should be obvious that programs A and C are equivalent, as are programs B and D. However, 72% of the subjects who chose between A and B favored A, but only 22% of the subjects who chose between C and D favored C. More generally, subjects were risk-averse when results were described in positive terms (such as “lives saved”) but risk-seeking when results were described in negative terms (such as “lives lost” or “deaths”)."
They have completely neglected this idea. In the first, option B (possibly)* makes you responsible for 200 deaths, where option A has no possibility of this. In the second, C makes you (possibly) reponsible for 400 deaths, whereas D isn't really clear.

*(Depends directly on the answer to this question.)

To see this, take no option. All 600 people die. Option A definitly saves 200, whereas B possibly doesn't. Taking no option in the second scenario is not possible; the framing is such that you might save everyone, but option C makes you directly responsible (possibly) for 400 deaths. It suggests that your treatment is somehow killing people, and that others are just fortunately immune, though if you think about it this can't be the case.

Shockingly, people answer these questions differently! While there is other research to back up the idea that people are risk-averse, including my own personal experience, this particular experiment is at best neutral on the question.

(Incidentally, this illustrates why philosophy is so important. In real life, responsibility is far from clear in many similar situations. Ambiguity begets uncertainty which allows the unscrupulous to steer the application of responsibility to their own ends. Any examples you can think of would be welcome.)

But originally I bring this up to illustrate the hideous choice. I'm going to slightly modify it; in no scenario do you save everyone. You choice is definitely saving 200, or killing everyone or saving 500. (To make it perfect, I would also have to modify the probabilities.) You know in advance which 200 will be saved, and it's different than the 500 who will be saved; half of the 200 will die. It is not statistical as is the assumption in epidemiology; you know for certain. Along with this you can find out any other information you want about the 600 people in question.

So, do you risk the lives of those 200 people for a chance at saving half of them plus another 400 people? Or do you sacrifice the possible lives of 400 people for the sake of definite lives of 200?

How do you decide who lives, and who dies?

Hopefully your answer also solves this apparent inconsistency; my intuition is that you're still not responsible for the anti-Christ, either way. (Of course you should let him live, regardless.)

However, in all situations where it's not who lives versus who dies, you are responsible. Going back to my comment about how cops should be last-line defense against crime, nobody in our society is doing the medical analogy of first line; preventing criminals from forming the first place, analogous to not eating carcinogens or avoiding mosquitoes in malaria areas. (The second line being vaccines, which prevent disease even after exposure, the third being early-stage treatment, like chemo on a tumour, and the fourth and final, analogous to cops, is full-blown surgery.)

I think that we are resopnsible for the crimes that are committed because nobody is doing first-line defence. I think that makes us, as Anglophone society, evil, and the longer we don't the more crimes were are responsible for. It's difficult to pin down responsibility to the exact individuals, because life is messy, but the fact remains that somebody is responsible. I think that we are responsible for crimes that occur because very few people are doing second-line defence, making crime difficult to pull off at all. And finally, we are responsible for the crimes that occur because our third-line defences tend to either empower or victimize our young criminals, rather than doing much of anything that might result in them being less criminal.

But actually, the reason I bring this up is that despite the lack of these defences, I have never personally witnessed a crime, nor has anyone I know personally been a victim. (Wait! That's not strictly true. My bike's back wheel was stolen once. This was, however, as the bikes above, mostly my fault. It's a bike and I totally don't think it counts.) I have heard of a couple of burglaries third-hand, but those were parts of a series of burglaries that just increase the likelihood of being caught.

is doing first-line defence, but it's not being done intentionally by anybody; the expertise doesn't exist, so it's impossible. I want to know what it is, because it's like we already had such an anti-Christ, who did convince lots of people not to commit crimes. If so, then it would be highly advantageous to expand this first-line defence. With just this, it may even be possible to entirely replace the State.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Deception, a Few Notes

As I just mentioned on Enigman's blog, it's trivially easy to deceive without lying, especially if you really commit to not lying. (Except, as per usual, in self-defence.)

For personal growth; if you really insist on not lying, your brain eventually learns and adapts. The urge to lie disappears, but is replaced by self-deception; it activates your hypocrisy circuits and simply prevents you from thinking what you actually believe. Hence, I sometimes say some very stupid but very self-serving things.

Deception is wrong because it's hypocritical. Unless you want to be deceived, you cannot morally deceive others. Moreover, since you want your values respected, if they value not being deceived, you cannot deceive them, even if you personally do value being deceived.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hedonism: The Essential Problem, Emotional Logic

Includes a full discussion of emotional logic versus rational logic, and a cultural critique.

I suddenly realized that I never mentioned that I want editing. I want people to tell me what's not clear, catch bad grammar and formatting, and in general do things that would normally make you a dick. Yes, please be a grammar nazi. Get up on my case for putting things in the wrong order. Nitpick the crap out of this piece, and every piece I write. Call me out on every single time I'm being vague. Because I want to write better.

If nothing else, it means I don't have to do all of this myself.

The point of the emotions is not to feel good. The emotions are a sense, a tool, or an instrument through which you determine that you are good.

Hedonism completely misses this distinction. Yes, casual sex might feel good, as do drugs. But do are they good for you? They are not, and if you don't stop at the shallowest possible view of your emotions, they will tell you just the same.

So, to say that should feel good? Very true. But that's simply because we assume that when your emotions are working properly, when you feel good, you are good. Again, you must ensure that it's a wholesome pleasure, not a guilty pleasure or otherwise mixed.

As I've mentioned before, the emotions are one of two logical systems that a human being can access to solve problems and make decision, the second being rationality. Both are valuable, but different, tools.

Now, it is controversial to say the emotions are logical. Aren't they just a sense? Don't they arise basically straight from hormones? Are you telling me that a man in an uncontrollable raging temper is being rational?

Emotional Reasoning
Yes, I'm aware that this is far from obvious. This is how it works.

The emotions are caused by something. This something is, with a few caveats, consistent. If you're insulted, you get angry. If, another day and another time, you're insulted again, you get angry. So the emotions are self-consistent, a statement I can make with no caveats; the previous one being necessary precisely because the world is messy and the emotions are consistent.

Being both consistent and evolved, the emotions have been selected to give useful information about the world. The only useful information about the world, again with a few caveats, is true information. As such, the emotions are, and in fact must be, logical.

Further, the emotions can take into account abstract concepts, like money, betrayal, imaginary humans, and so on. (The 'irrational' basic emotions, like that temper, come from the amygdala. More complex ones likes these come from the insula, a structure which I believe is just above your ear on both sides.)

Basically, if you give your emotions abstract concepts like money, sex, or really anything, they will give you a response. This response is consistent, and has been selected to be useful. As such, the emotions are logical, and this is exactly how you access your emotional system for the purpose of solving problems. (I don't have to examine how you make decisions based on emotional responses, do I?)

Note the counterfactual; if the answer to the question* "Are my emotions logical?" is 'no,' then it would be useless for solving problems; it would either be inconsistent, being no more advantageous than flipping a coin, or it would be not like truth, and cause more problems than it solves. In either case they would have quickly been selected out.

*(I'm going to use excluded middle again.)

Just from this I can see that the emotions are logical, but do clearly work differently than the rational system. Nevertheless, I will now show it explicitly, hopefully for good reasons.

The primary way to input information into the emotional system is also the primary problem with not recognizing the existence of two separate systems. To input information into both is the same; use language.

Because your consciousness uses information, it cannot use the thing itself, it must use abstractions, and thus symbolizations. Shared symbols for communication is the definition of language, and thus to direct your problem-solving systems toward anything necessarily requires that you give it language. English is an example, but you can also use pictures, pure emotions, and so on.

The difference is that the emotional system, shockingly, will use the emotional content of the sentence, while the rational system will use the rational content. But, sentences in English always have both, which means that if you analyze a sentence for logical structure that was meant for the emotional system, you get nonsense, and vice-versa. Can you figure out who you know that primarily prefers their emotional system? I certainly can. Having come up with the distinction, I immediately knew who was what.

Having given your emotional system an emotion to process, it will give an emotion back out. Hopefully an example will illustrate this.

The education system's infamous 'everyone is special' is supposed to be a purely emotional sentence. It's immediately obvious that, factually, it's just not true. If everyone is special, everyone is identical in this regard, a contradiction. Rather, you're supposed to take the feeling 'I am special' and, when you run into difficulty, ask your emotional system what 'I am special' means you should do. Note how silly this looks, rationally speaking...but, try it. Giving your emotions this 'I am special' does boost self-esteem, helps counter the urge to quit, increases energy, and so on.

The problem here is that even the tiniest hint of rationality getting into the mix fouls it up, because it is so silly, rationally speaking.

Rational Reasoning
The rational system is one I hope you're familiar with, since it's the one our culture respects more. (Ultimately, though, it does not truly respect it - more on this further down.)

As a practical matter, the rational system and emotional system can supply an overall solution to any problem you give them, but their competencies in details lie in different areas. You cannot do math emotionally - or at least nobody has figured out how to give the emotions a math question, since it needs to be in the form of an emotion. (Giving the emotions a math problem gets the solution, "You don't need math to solve your real problem.") However, since the emotions don't need to be fed information serially, it can synthesize a much wider array of facts into any given solution, often facts you're not even aware you know.

Actually, if someone could figure out how to decode emotional responses properly, it would be strictly better, as it's faster and more powerful, while being just as accurate when trained. (Untrained rational systems are just as useless as untrained emotional systems.) This difficulty is the primary reason the rational problem solving system exists.

Cultural Disrespect
The simple reason our culture hates on the rational system is because it does not respect the full power and ability of it. Yes, we have biases. Yes, for the non-expert thinker, using the scientific method, an extra-rational algorithm* is one of the only ways to reach any kind of actual truth. However, this misses the fact that our biases have also been selected, along with a second fact. They are the caveat to the fact that truth is the only useful thing. Our biases causes us to create effective ideas, not necessarily true ones. This is a kind of truth; while we should not expect these ideas to truly match a fully rational system, it is rational to use them. Especially considering that even once we give our ideas to someone else, they will still have bias, and this will affect how they use the ideas.

*(The scientific method, like all sets of instructions, cannot be called rational or irrational. It simply prescribes action. If you have a purpose, you can match the properties of the algorithm to the purpose, which is rational, but alone algorithms simply exist.)

This is how bias works; even with the truth, you get biased when you're interpreting it, causing your conclusions about how to act to diverge from the truth. But with ideas created in bias in the first place, the errors match and work out; we're taking the same shortcut. It also often takes an idea too big in its full truthness to really get your head around and distills it to an essential series of instructions. Yes, this method is not foolproof and makes mistakes. This does not mean it's a power we should castigate and neglect entirely. If absolutely nothing else, it is faster. Truth, unless you're a truth-seeker like me, is technology; the purpose of it is to improve our lives, not to be known per se. Any technique which achieves the same goal is exactly as valuable as truth is.

Of course it is critical to note that truth has some properties, that improve our lives, that are unique, which is why the original enlightenment philosophers preferred it. For one, given some truth, you can work out other truths. Given a biased, bogus 'theory' that nevertheless works in practise, you cannot. The bogus theory may have many advantages, but it will never have this one. If the purposes you're going for are related to these unique properties, only truth will do.

In connection, biased theories are often much better for matching the rational system with the emotional system; you can talk and use both at once. While this is possible with truth, it is excessively difficult, and most people don't even try. This is what I was getting at with the 'I am special' example. The feeling this sentence evokes could have been matched to the actual reason you should feel this way. It should be so matched, so that people can feel that 'I am special' feeling legitimately. Note that it will most definitely not be because you're special.

The second fact I mentioned previously is that a fully trained rational system is simply superior. It's superior to the scientific method, it's superior to a computer, it's superior to received wisdom. The human mind is, absent all the crap the education system and bad upbringings put in there, an incredibly powerful tool.

And here is the proof; look at the machine you're reading this on. This machine was made, from dirt, sticks, and stones, ultimately. A human mind turned those things into this thing. Your mind can do this too. There are only two differences between a 'genius' and a dumbass, the first being processing speed and the second simply being hard training. You can't understand? Bullshit. You're just lazy.

(Do note that it's not always worthwhile to understand a thing, but this is very different than 'can't.')

Thinking of things the human mind can't do is harder than things it can...when properly trained.

But, the ultimate point of this section is that our culture hates human beings. It hates our minds and, even more, it hates our feelings.

Now, before today I could not see how badly it hates feelings, because I was falling under the broken window fallacy; I didn't quite realize how it should be.

But it finally hit me. I watched a video to music. Now, the situation in the video is one where usually a bunch of people would be talking. Not only during, but before and after. I compared how the situation with talking felt to how it felt

With the music, it felt right. It felt full, complete. When I'm in the talking situation, it feels stilted, one-sided, missing something. What, I asked myself, was the difference?

Music is all about emotion. It is completely non-rational. And I immediately realized that this situation wasn't unique. You can find it everywhere; when people in our culture talk, it is incredibly biased toward rational discussion, even if people get emotional or start mentioning their feelings explicitly, it's all supposed to be dealt with rationally and only rationally.

In fact, having a discussion on the emotional side is completely impossible. It may as well not exist, socially speaking. I want to explore what my emotional logic is saying about situations all the time, but I cannot. Ever. Instead I have to talk about the 'practical' if I want to talk about anything. Mechanics, not flavour.

I haven't completely explained how it can be complete if instead of being rationlly imbalanced, it's emotionally imbalanced. That's simply because I'm very heavily tilted to the rational side, and I bring it with me everywhere I go. I watched the video with the express intent of analyzing it and learning something. This, combined with the music, balances the situation.

The opposite situation can be found really easily. There's a kind, which our culture denigrates an order of magnitude more than it denigrates true rationality. It's one where people only talk emotionally, my stereotypical example being the knitting circle; it's not about thinking or discussing, it's about venting and communicating emotionally. This is, naturally, just as imbalanced, which is why I feel disgust when I see it. The bad thing here is I get cultural feedback telling me I'm right, and so it seems that emotional imbalance is much worse than intellectual imbalance, when in fact both are seriously crippling.

While the point of emotions are not to feel good, serving them is still the highest purpose of every person. No matter what value you serve most highly, that value is subjective. While serving them without intellect is a very poor service, as indeed your emotions will let you know by trying to get you to think more, trying to serve the intellect purely is impossible. You cannot serve yourself this way, only other people. And if everyone in the entire culture is only serving others? There is nobody you can actually serve with integrity. If everyone sacrifices themselves, then everyone is dead, no matter how much we may seem alive.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is This What 'Education" Does to You?

Dear Richard Brown,

"Insults are not arguments. If you don't want to argue, it's fine. You're allowed! It's okay! But you do have to say so."
"This is rather poor reasoning."
Bald statements are not reasoning. They are not arguments either, and can't be subject to fallacies of argument.
"Now it may seem to us that our access is special, but that is easily explainable as an artifact of the way in which we become conscious of our first-order mental states."
Since it's easy, I asked him to explain it. He ignored this request. I take this as evidence that he never wanted to argue.

Alternatively it was a lie. At least, if it's so easy, why haven't I simply shown it to myself?
"Hi Alrenous, It is rather hard to make sense of this rambling response, but I’ll try. "
Pointless insult.
"Wow, long incoherent response!"
Pointless insult.
"The rest is to absurd to even take seriously."
Pointless insult.

Apparently 'incoherent' means that I discover one thing - the directness of consciousness - and find it matches what we know of other things - the other minds problem. Hey, I thought that was the exact opposite of incoherency, but I'm not certified; what do I know?

So obviously Brown doesn't understand my ideas. The problem is that he can't accept this.

So why am I putting the effort to post this? Petty revenge?

Disappointment. I was hoping there was a mind behind his hypocritical insults. I was hoping he knew something I don't. He doesn't.

I recently, as you can find in a link at the very bottom, had an argument with one Danny Shahar, who did know something I didn't. Brown comes off badly in comparison.

I used the exact same technique in both cases. I matched tone - respectful or not - started with a brief post, expanded to a longer post, and got a response. Shahar understood my theory well enough to prove me wrong with it. Brown could only sputter.
"This was a brief post, which is why I didn’t even glance at this, but I thought it was well-known.

Well, that’s the problem. Begging the same question that a lot of other people beg as well is not an excuse."

Brown can argue only by misinterpreting. What he's trying to say is that I'm assuming physicalists share my assumptions. What I'm actually saying is that I thought it was well known that we only know the external world indirectly through our senses.

He could have just told me I was mistaken, and I needed to explain myself. Didn't.

Once I clarified this, Brown did not deign to pretend to argue any longer.

I could go on. But, if he doesn't delete my comments, you can go see it all there

Exactly one useful thing came out of this discussion. I was unaware that the proposition that infinite regress is a fallacy is controversial. This just means I get to prove it, which is nice because I was at a loss for what to seek next.

So what I want to know is this. Brown is clearly lying. But, is he lying to himself as well as to me? Further, is he using some kind of profiling, and if I'd fit another profile (not an autodidact), he would have treated me very differently?

Was there, in fact, no way short of pure dishonesty to get a sensible response out of him?

I suspect so in all cases, but of course I'm heavily biased by now. But, to clarify, I didn't kow-tow to his expensive education by giving myself lower social rank, and thus he refused to deal with me. Hopefully I can get some independent corroboration here.


So I re-read my original remarks. I mentioned that directness may be epistemologically irrelevant, but that it seemed to me that it wasn't. Really, I should have used the fact Brown completely ignored this paragraph to tip me off right away. I did not present an argument. I certianly didn't present an argument against physicalism, a fact which he reiterated. Nevertheless he felt the need to accuse me of begging the question against physicalism. How am I supposed to do that by expressing a personal opinion?


Yes, he deleted my comments. But it's okay, because I kept copies, which I can give you if you're curious.

Incidentally, this is partially why I tend to reproduce large sections of my references, because this is the internet and nothing except scandal is forever.

Apparently 'Hope' is the opposite of 'Capitalism'

It could have been interesting. It would have been helpful if David Graeber knew was capitalism actually is.
"Is it normal for human beings to be unable to imagine what a better world would even be like?"
Yes. It's a form of the broken window fallacy; confusing what is with what's possible.

'Who will pay for roads if the government doesn't!'

This isn't an unsolvable problem. Graeber is just looking at it in the reverse; why can't people imagine a better system than his "free market" 'capitalism.'
"Hopelessness isn’t natural. It needs to be produced."
Naturally if he says something actually interesting, he fails to even try to support it. He will most likely do this again.
"that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win."
Actually, this is a good idea in general. The perception helps cut down on people trying to win, which saves a lot of resources smacking them down. Why is this good? Consider one challenge; a murderer challenges the court system. He wins. What does that mean? He gets away with murder.

Russia challenges the U.S. government. And wins. The new gulag is right this way... Or, USG doesn't foster the perception of unchallengeable power, and Russia tries, but fails. Was the cold war expensive? Would you like to have a few more?

But lets look at this in context.

"At root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, to flourish, to propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win."

Again, he claims something very interesting; social movements are uniformly lawful good. (Well, chaotic good, actually.) But, er, wasn't National Socialism also a social movement? Wasn't the incredibly murderous Soviet 'communism' a social movement? Isn't even the pro-life crowd a social movement?* I don't know; Graeber declines to support his little thesis.

*(Note that since I already know that Graeber is pro-choice means he isn't a real person with his own preferences. He has just imported a standard suite of options. Don't be like this. This prediction is falsifiable, though just one mistake is probably a fluke.)

"Maintaining this apparatus seems even more important, to exponents of the “free market,” even than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain, for instance, what happened in the former Soviet Union, where one would have imagined the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around?"

And there's Graeber's bugbear "free market," as opposed to any kind of actual freedom.

The solution is easy; ending the cold war didn't suddenly annihilate socialism. To the extend the army exists instead of factories,* the government exists instead of the free market.

*(I have no idea if his claims are factually true.)

"Economically, this apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras, and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and as a result, it’s dragging the entire capitalist system down with it, and possibly, the earth itself."

Indeed, the free market doesn't produce that many 'guns' by which he means heavy military hardware, not firearms, for precisely the reason he states; it is not a good investment.

So yeah, learn what capitalism is.
"The spirals of financialization and endless string of economic bubbles we’ve been experience are a direct result of this apparatus."
Last I checked, even the "exponents of the “free market”" say this. Rather than blame a poorly defined and misunderstood term, though, we blame, specifically, inflation, and blame inflation on increasing the supply side of the supply-demand equation for currency.

"It’s no coincidence that the United States has become both the world’s major military (”security”) power and the major promoter of bogus securities. This apparatus exists to shred and pulverize the human imagination, to destroy any possibility of envisioning alternative futures."

I think Graeber is allergic to substantiating his assertions. Perhaps I have a partial cure; "Graeber, one of the reasons for doing so is to clarify your point. There are many possible interpretations, only one of which you mean."

Also, the logical leap from the first sentence to the second is more of a space flight.
"What is debt, after all, but imaginary money whose value can only be realized in the future: future profits, the proceeds of the exploitation of workers not yet born."
That's only failed debt, like pathological gambling. The proper use of credit is to increase your cashflow far beyond the extra cost of the debt. You have a business proposition that can make $100,000, but you need $20,000 to start it up. Net, $80,000 minus fees. Healthy loan activity like this feeds actual wealth creation, and gives banks a legitimate income source.

The bank 'crisis' was not caused by this. Now I'm not substantiating things, but that's because I would just point you elsewhere.

"Finance capital in turn is the buying and selling of these imaginary future profits; and once one assumes that capitalism itself will be around for all eternity, the only kind of economic democracy left to imagine is one everyone is equally free to invest in the market—to grab their own piece in the game of buying and selling imaginary future profits, even if these profits are to be extracted from themselves. Freedom has become the right to share in the proceeds of one’s own permanent enslavement."

So now you can see why 'profits extracted from themselves' aren't bad. Again, the rest of the paragraph is just wild-eyed assertions.

I guess from his crack about 'permanent enslavement' he doesn't know how to pay down his debts. Probably has a lot on plastic with no assets to back it up.

Regardless, the rest of the article is like this, except:

"Rarely has a term come to be so utterly reviled. The standard line, which we accept more or less unthinkingly, is that communism means state control of the economy"
It's the 'standard line' because that's the actual definition. If that's not what you want to talk about, you need to use a different word so you can have a different meaning.

Incidentally, communism is the very opposite of freedom, for the simple reason that if you leave people alone, you get a free market. (Go on, just try it! Science to the rescue!) You have to impose communism. This would be fine if Graeber just accepted that he doesn't value freedom, but rather control.
"But in fact communism really just means any situation where people act according to the principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”"
Graeber is confused. He just said, "Communism isn't pie. Really, in fact, it's pie!" Yes, that's exactly the part that "doesn't work," because if you leave people alone, you get a free market. To get communism, you have to impose it, which means you need a State. And once you have a State, you have taxation, which is theft, which means corruption, and then you don't have real communism OR capitalism! You just have a bunch of corruption.

('Social assistance.' Has nothing to do with the social network and is the opposite of assistance, the epitome of which is the term 'welfare dependence.' Throwing money at people, especially people who are bad at managing money, is not assistance.)

"“from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”—which is the way pretty much everyone always act if they are working together to get something done. If two people are fixing a pipe and one says “hand me the wrench,” the other doesn’t say, “and what do I get for it?”(That is, if they actually want it to be fixed.)"

This is Graeber humour. At least, I'm laughing, out loud no less, not just inside. 'What one gets' is a fixed pipe, so they don't need to ask.
"They apply principles of communism because it’s the only thing that really works."
"Actually you just proved the opposite. Good job!"
"But the fact is that even private companies are, internally, organized communistically."
And here Graeber shows his hand. Companies are organized as absolute dictatorships. Thus, when Graeber thinks of communism, he thinks of an absolute dictatorship. (Or possibly a joint-stock ownership structure? I hope he's not that dense...)
"Communism then is already here. The question is how to further democratize it."
Graeber really needs to learn some definitions. While we're not very good at it, 'democracy' essentially means 'the country is owned by the people.' Of course the people are not technically proficient at running a country, so it sucks. However, democracy is certainly very different than communism. Graeber seems to just be using cult words for the emotional impact; really I'm being a dick by pretending he's going for any kind of logical consistency at all.

And note, this is a perfectly valid value system. You don't have to value cold rationality if you don't want to, and people can communicate on an emotional level in preference to a logical one. Of course Graeber should stop pretending to have enlightenment values if he doesn't actually, but there you go.
"Capitalism, in turn, is just one possible way of managing communism—and, it has become increasingly clear, rather a disastrous one."
The People do not know how to run a country any more than they can do other technically difficult things like collectively design a computer or pilot a spacecraft.* The banking 'crises' has nothing to do with capitalism. "Deregulation" never happened - it was a total farce. Banks always had to comply with a stack of regulations higher than a person, and as a result can only be called 'capitalist' in the loosest possible sense. They still were supported by the central bank as the lender of last resort. (LLR)

*(I just imagined having 'the people' proscribe solutions for the astronauts to implement. Sounds like fun times, doesn't it? Great spectacle. Lots of dead astronauts, though. We'll call it the "EARAK" space plan, to better democratize space. To better approximate our system, remember that many companies supply NASA, and they all have a financial incentive to run ads... and don't forget that certain effective measures will be unpopular, and that testing astronauts for intelligence is 'discrimination.' Everyone should have the opportunity to be an astronaut!)

What happened is that some missteps caused a bank run, which is a vulnerability all the banks in the world share, as they all share the LLR. Shockingly, if you have a stack of regulations a person high and try to remove one in the middle, the stack falls over.

"This is why, as the Great Depression showed, the existence of any plausible-seeming alternative—even one so dubious as the Soviet Union in the 1930s—can turn a downswing into an apparently insoluble political crisis."

Be helpful if Graeber knew any economics at all.

"Those wishing to subvert the system have learned by now, from bitter experience, that we cannot place our faith in states."
Unless they do exactly what Graeber says.

Incidentally, 'civil disobedience' is just a euphemism for lawbreaking. The only distinction is that the disobedient think it shouldn't be a law. I may agree, but contravening is not an argument. In a democracy you can get laws changed by entirely legal means.

Physical Forces: I Got Suckered

I really thought the four kinds of charge and the four forces needed unifying. How silly of me!

Nature does not recognize multiple kinds of forces. Nature recognizes one kind of force; the kind that produces acceleration. (Actually Nature just recognizes acceleration, and their equal-but-opposite counterparts, scaled by relative mass.)

In other words, we could have predicted a priori that the forces would unify under some condition, which turns out to be high energies.

While yes there are certainly sub-types of force which interact differently with the various charges, ultimately it could be described with just a list of particles and the forces between them, without reference to charge or the 'kind' of force at all. There are not four forces. There is one force.

Having realized this, I discovered the thing I want to share with you, dear reader. There's a very good reason that Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, and it is not just the problem of what time is. The above analysis is not complete.

The accelerations described by GR are, in fact, not accelerations at all. To the best of our knowledge, when you are in free fall, you aren't actually falling. You're moving in a straight line, according to your relative spatial geometry. Instead the Earth is accelerating up to meet you, under the continual force applied by the deeper layers.

In other words, you're going straight when you're falling, and you're accelerating when you're standing still. The reason for this is a simple recognition; neglecting gravity, when you're falling your forces are balanced. When you're standing still, you have to have an upward force constantly or you would continue going downward.

This upward force continually curves your straight line, technically called a geodesic.

The reason you can transform gravity to be a deformation of space and not the other forces is simply because everything has the gravity-type charge, mass, but not everything has electric charge or colour charge. This also solves the problem of why momentum uses the gravity charge, not the electric charge or colour charge, or its own charge; electric forces must push against mass, but gravity just bends straight lines. (A full explanation is unfortunately very long.) This is also why mass cancels out during acceleration calculations for gravity.

This is why photons bend noticeably around heavy things. They're going in a straight line, relative to them, but the space they're going through is bent. Photons have no mass; applying forces to them doesn't make any sense; F=ma=0a=0. All forces on photons are zero. (This is complicated by relativistic mass and E=mc2.)

To sum that, it isn't that there's not four forces, but rather one. There aren't three, but rather one. The forces of Quantum Field Theory are all forces which cause accelerations. GR describes the bending of the background upon which QFT operates. Gravity doesn't have a charge and thus probably is not the result of some symmetry. It's just...different.

But yes, figuring out what time is would help a lot too.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mind Node: Component Confirmed in the Brain

So it is definite that the brain uses DNA during computations. This is actually independent corroboration, because I've read about this idea before. Also, the brain is immune-privileged* by the blood-brain barrier in the same way the testes and uterus are, and if the immune system gets into the testes or uterus, it finds foreign DNA and destroys it. So, come to your own conclusion.

*(In this case 'privileged' to not get the full complement.)

Methylation also affects the rate and location of mutations during copying.

So, copying a DNA strand in the brain is a pentagon with a very large set of possible states. Also, while the new strand represents the new thought, the old strand is now a memory that can be repeated. Third, note that you could change the mutation rate and distribution by using different variations on the transcription factor. (A mind node has no need for faithful re-creation.)

So, DNA is used in computation. Because the firing of individual neurons affects other neurons, which change the network, we have f_r. Feedback is not found only in the most primitive brain. Conclusion; a mind node exists in the brain. Now I just need some people to comb over my little proof for mistakes.

Score one for armchair philosophy.

""The cool idea here is that the brain could be borrowing a form of cellular memory from developmental biology to use for what we think of as memory,""

Mine's cooler.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mind Nodes: A Loophole

Or possibly just a caveat.

Also Planck probabilities, Restricted Boltzmann Networks, a technique for the indecisive, and a tentative solution to the mind-body problem.

It may be impossible in practise to build a mind node because exceeding the wake-up threshold is not possible. (The machine remains a non-determinism simulator.) I'm going to backtrack to considering the universe but first I'm going to refine the terms for the threshold.

Because probability is conserved, there must be a minimum probability, by the NIP. Because there's also a minimum meaningful time and displacement, I'm going to name it after them; the Planck Minimum Probability or PMP. (Someone who is actually well versed in the conservation of probably could give it a better name.) The number of possible states, which is 1/PMP, I shall call the Planck entropy, in that the Planck entropy is the maximum number of possible next states a particle can have without running out of probably to assign to them. (It corresponds to a possible theoretical maxima for entropy; there may also be stricter constraints.)

Notice I said "a particle;" now consider the universe. The entropy of the entire universe considered as a whole is easily many orders of magnitude above the Planck entropy. However, we're talking about conservation of probability; given two electrons, the probability of finding an electron is greater than one. As a result, I have to divide the entropy of the whole by the number of fundamental particles, and this number is doubtless orders of magnitude under the Planck entropy.

I realized this because the idea of the universe as a whole being physically impossible struck me as ridiculous. (Basically my options were: solve this problem; discard the NIP.)

So unfortunately I've learned that mind nodes may need many more possible states than I thought. Also, I've realized that the pentagon must have enough states to outpace the growth in fundamental elements as the interpreter grows to accommodate more possible outputs.

The relevant factor here are the number of degrees of freedom of the output, and not necessarily the number of particles. This means the critical number is the ratio between the dimensionality, or the degrees of freedom, of the output and the number of possible states of the pentagon. If the ratio is too high, the rate of increase of elements will outpace the rate of increase of possible states.

It doesn't actually matter what's going on inside the mind node because, given an effect with two possible causes, there is no way to distinguish which caused it without measuring the cause directly. I don't have to consider subatomic particles directly because the mind node isn't truly physical and the proof of non-determinism is entirely abstract.

Of course I may have missed something again.

Practical Considerations
There are further problems. Actually implementing f_r may be technically unfeasible or impossible. Creating a function that can meaningfully change itself repeatedly as a result of random input, without crashing, nor failing to halt, is not easy. A similar problem exists in making the pentagon accept arbitrary inputs and turn them into meaningful probabilities. In this second case, I can see that this problem is compounded by the fact that it is easy to accidentally create a trivial solution; such that many inputs lead to identical outputs. If not all inputs lead to identical outputs, it becomes very difficult to tell that some of them do. (Similarly, non-debugged halting problems may exist long after a working f_r is found. However, this is not a problem with neuron-based computing; the computations tend to damp down naturally.)

However, if my hypothesis of consciousness is true, then any inputs with identical outputs effectively blind the consciousness, resulting in a partially insane mind node. (It means there at least two stimuli that it cannot distinguish. Perhaps this will be familiar from people in your own life... Chalk up another point for 'things suddenly explained if the mind node hypothesis is true.')

Now, the mind node in its simplest form is not a very useful form of consciousness. It has no memory nor is it affected by the outside world. Making an f_r that could handle not only the pentagon's output, but the world's input as well, is something at least as hard as the Easy Problem of Consciousness.

Instead, use Restricted Boltzmann Networks. The RBN will, because of its logical nature, encode an abstract model of the world it is in contact with. Also use a memory, that records outputs the mind node has generated, that the mind node can feel out and, say, some outputs of the pentagon will replace the interpreter's output with a memory call. So, the mind node can repeat itself if it can learn how, plus it has this automatically-abstracted world that it can actually interact with. (Also, the RBN can output anything it has found as an input, which means the mind node can now imagine things if it wants, by getting it to output to the pentagon.)

(Incidentally, in the brain the hippocampus repeats new memories over and over again...exactly as is needed to get an RBN to learn nicely. Also, earworms are most likely leakage; the musical nature resonates in a way with neurons outside your hippocampus, and so instead of the usual silent repetition you get noticeable repetition.)

Here's a pretty picture:

Memory usually just records the output and sends it through, but can also repeat previous output. The RBN links the system to the senses. If you watched the video you can see why I've drawn the RBN as two circles. Also, I wanted to represent that this is like a broken-open mind node. It's not a closed system anymore; it has grown a pair of arms and embraced the world.

I've numbered the steps for clarity. The time these steps take will set the clock speed of the mind node, generating a conscious temporal scale. The ghostly grey lines are a representation of a memory call, where the output is a repeat of a previous output instead of a new one. They're ghostly because the pentagon cannot actually call memory directly; it must figure out how to get the interpreter to call memory for it.

You can also see why I called it the 'interpreter.' It is the tool the mind node uses to interpret the world, and the tool the world uses to interpret the mind node.

There's some arbitrariness to the connections. As long as something feeds the output of the interpreter to itself - altered or not - then the mind node should still work. Also, it may be handy to have two RBNs - one to encode the mind node's behaviour, and the other to encode the world. These would be questions for experimental research.

Other Objections
Consider a particular electron in the universe. The probability of its exact history is far below the PMP.

The first pin for this balloon is that it doesn't have an infinite canvas.
The second pin, which is really the same pin from another angle, is that the past doesn't exist.

It doesn't matter that this electron's exact history is hugely improbable, because its history doesn't exist. There are actually numerous ways that electron could have gotten to that same state. (This is related to entropy, though I'm tired at the moment and can't say exactly how.) Enough, in fact, that since we can't pin down a particular history for it, the probability of it being here, now, and with this energy, is more than the PMP. Because it doesn't have an infinite canvas, the probability of it getting to any present moment will always be more than the PMP. (Also, its mathematics don't match those of spontaneity.) I don't even need to prove this; breaking physics is not something that physics does, only consciousness.

Having addressed that, I now propose a solution to the mind-body problem that the mind node has suggested to me.

Preferences are a quale. They are not irrational, they are arational. And further, if I compare any two things, I can find that I prefer one over the other, though indeed often it is not worth doing any work to achieve one over the other. For instance, I mildly prefer 'i' over 'm.' But if I were in a marathon denominated by letter instead of number, I would not do very much to get 'i' instead of 'm.' Nevertheless, I can basically rank all the letters in order of preference. How's that for irrelevant!

I suspect everyone can preference everything like this.

(Situation; "I honestly don't care which restaurant we go to." Most likely you mildly anti-prefer both of them, but don't want to go to the work of finding out which one you dislike the least. [You're going anyway because of some ancillary benefit.] Sometimes, though, someone will insist that you choose one.

(If someone's on your case like this, [or indeed anytime you find yourself indecisive] try just starting a pro vs con list, but only compare the first comparable pair of features that pop into your head. "I prefer the sign Papa Mori's has over Nelther's. Let's go to Mori's."

(Note that in this situation, the problem isn't anymore which restaurant to go to, but rather someone is being an ignorant ass and you want them off your back quickly and easily.

(Similar; you can't decide which car you want, despite making an extensive pro/con list, you found each pro got checked of against a parrallel pro, and each con had a partner. "Well, from this angle, I prefer the green one's wing mirrors. Let's go." Whatever jumps into your head first.)

It appears that preferences are universal to consciousnesses. As such, a mind node in contact with a sensory arena (VR or regular R) will creatively order it.

As such, I propose a test of consciousness; consciousnesses creatively order their surroundings.

Because all consciousnesses have a system of (physically arbitrary) preferences, they will naturally gravitate to those things they prefer, and order the world, to the best of their ability, to create more of those things, and of course the opposite for the opposite.

Because these preferences cannot be predicted in advance, this order will be unique, and thus creative. No one will program these preferences, nor give them some kind of list to choose among,* instead each creates a new order, or at least attempts to.

*(Would just invoke preferences of preferences anyway.)

Technically because consciousness is direct, this doesn't fully solve the mind-body problem, as to truly measure another mind you have to know it directly, which basically means you didn't measure it, you became it. Although if the mind node hypothesis is true, you can just jack into someone else's output to see what their input is, while this doesn't stop you from just being them, and as such not solving the problem philosophsically, you're allowed to stop and at least solve the problem empirically.

Preferences; The Problem
I could not find a single example of preferences being truly arbitrary. For example, the preference for bilateral symmetry. Your legs have to be the same height, which eliminates the other options.

So it seems that aside from a bit of noise, human preferences are entirely formed by evolution. As such, building a mind node in a lab may be completely pointless, because it will lack any kind of preference-forming mechanism, and will output hypothesis-neutral noise and only such noise.

Incidentally, this is why I like to write my conclusion down in a public forum. I take them much more seriously once I've done so.