Archive | November, 2012

My Moral Constitution

26 Nov

As I stated in my first blog entry, I feel that it is important to have a clear creed. My one true creed is to seek the truth and to live by the truth. However, I feel that it is also beneficial to have some sort of moral constitution. The following is the moral constitution that I try to live by. I call the first section “Nature” because it is intended as a description of how things are. I call the second section “Directives” because these are the rules I think people should live by.

In my constitution, I have utilized a nonexistent word: omnibeneficient. This word was introduced to me by my father. He used to say something like, “While an omnipotent God is not necessarily unreasonable, an omnibeneficient God is beyond the realm science.” I think he got that from Albert Einstein or Bertrand Russell. I have considered this idea at length and concluded that an omnibeneficient God is not unreasonable. My father had the same problem as many others who contemplate God. He could not reconcile a God who cares for everyone and everything with all the suffering he saw in the world. My inclination is to think that we assign too much authority to our own powers of reason. While I would stop short of telling a mother whose child just died from SIDS that “It is all for the best”, I suspect that we probably don’t know what is good for us or why we must endure the experiences we are dealt. If God seems to break us, we must keep in mind that God can put us back together again…in this life or the next.

Like most people, who attempt to follow such a constitution, I find myself failing at nearly every turn. I am too lazy to follow it most of the time, and too vengeful, spiteful, jealous and afraid to follow it the rest of the time. Lately, I notice that this constitution does not prevent me from stealing images from all over the Internet. If the progenitors of these images are offended, please contact me so that I can take them out. They are just such nice pictures, and I don’t expect anyone to read this anyhow.

NATURE

  1. God exists.
  2. God is both Truth and a necessary consequence of Truth.
  3. God is omniscient.
  4. God is omnipotent.
  5. God is the creator of all that exists (the Universe).
  6. God is patient, tolerant, and forgiving.
  7. God created us with immortal souls and free will.
  8. Love is the perception of another soul as a part of oneself.
  9. God loves all souls with perfect, infinite love.
  10. God is omnibeneficient.
  11. God cannot communicate with us in any way that is statistically verifiable. God can only communicate with us through what appears to be coincidence.
  12. God guides us and protects us.
  13. The nature of God is the definition of Good.

DIRECTIVES

  1. Faith is the belief that God exists as described in NATURE. Faith is not about kowtowing to God or being rewarded for our good works; it is about believing in more than the material universe. Faith is not about believing that we will get what we want or think we need in this lifetime; it is about believing that we will ultimately get what we actually need.
  2. We may speak to God whenever we like and talk of whatever we please. This speech is often called “prayer”. God requires no such speech, but he welcomes it. Prayer should be commenced by addressing, “God.” Prayer should be concluded by saying, “Amen.”
  3. We should depend on God but not live as though we are dependent on God. To practice dependence on God is to repudiate free will.
  4. Belief in God should be implicit rather than explicit in our actions. Our faith should be practiced rather than professed.
  5. The behavior we exhibit toward others and the behavior we hope to experience from others should be consistent.
  6. We should strive to live and prosper and to help others live and prosper.
  7. We should strive to be like God. In this manner we effect Good.
  8. God’s methods and purposes are difficult for us to comprehend, but we are to assume that our choices and actions have meaning and value.
  9. The hardships persons experience are part of God’s plan for our completion. We should assume they are essential, even when they do not seem to make sense.
  10. God cares for us in this life and God will care for us in the time after this life. We should not neglect this life, or ignore the time after this life, but live in harmony with both.

I must point out that this is not some sort of “revelation”. I do not consider myself to be more in touch with God than everyone else. Notice that I do not say that I do not consider myself to be more in touch with God than “anyone” else. I have met some people who were pretty out of touch with God. Many of the things I list are beliefs held by all the major religions. Others are conclusions I have reached by thinking and observing the world. I may eventually arrive at different conclusions. Who knows, I may eventually become a legitimate Christian. If that is where truth takes me, that is where I will follow.

The one idea I am not seriously open to is atheism. To me, atheism is a dark and narcissistic philosophy. Whenever I contemplate being an atheist, I feel as if I have been cut adrift in a cold dark sea. One might equate atheism with freedom from dogma. I find that I lose much more in serenity than I gain in independence.

Atheists claim that they have a moral compass, but for some reason I cannot take them seriously. People who are committed to the idea that God does not exist and no one is watching them may make apparently moral decisions while times are easy. I am not confident they will make the same decisions when times are tough. If you do not feel like your actions are being observed and judged by some higher power, it can’t take much to convince you that genocide or some other atrocity is the best choice in some obscure circumstance.

Atheists always seem to me like they have appointed themselves as God. This self-appointment appears to be the reason why they are drawn to collectivist philosophies like Communism, Humanism, and the Resource Based Economy. The one thing all these philosophies have in common is that they take their primary directives from human authority. There is a saying that’s attribution I do not know: “If there is no God, man is a poor substitute.” Even if the belief systems and creeds attributed to God actually came from men, they came from men who believed in God. They came from men who sincerely believed someone with power over them was looking over their shoulder. True, there have been charlatans throughout history, but their words have been filtered down to us through true believers.

The Technological Singularity and Theology

21 Nov

Like many science and science fiction fans, I have speculated about the possibility of building a computer that is as intelligent as a person. This idea, of course, raises contentions about what intelligence is and how it might be measured. In 1950 a gentleman named Alan Turing devised something called the Turing Test. In the Turing Test, a computer is subjected to questions from humans in an attempt to distinguish it from a human. If the questioners are not able to make the distinction, the computer is said to have passed the test.

This test has an obvious problem. This is exhibited by Ray Kurzweil’s imagined intelligent program called Ramona in his film The Singularity is Near. In the film, Ramona tends to give away that she is a computer by giving answers that are too intelligent and too precise. Nevertheless, I consider the test to be essentially valid. I must add that the computer’s ability to pass the Turing Test is only evidence of its intelligence. The test does not prove that it is “aware” in the same sense as a human.  A computer could mimic human intelligence in every way without being conscious.

When I was a child, the usual argument for why a computer could not be as intelligent as a human was that it would have to be too large. Typically, someone who wanted to refute the possibility of computer intelligence would say something like, “A computer big enough to do what a human brain does would stretch from L.A. to New York and would have so many vacuum tubes that no one could possibly change them fast enough.” Of course, none of the people who made this argument anticipated the printed circuit and the miniaturization of electronic components. Transistors were already extant, but the people who repeated this bromide didn’t actually give much thought to what they were saying. In their defense, information about these things was not immediately available in the manner of today’s Internet. Their information probably came from some magazine or newspaper article they had read years earlier.

It is now estimated that personal computers will have the logical capacity of the human brain by 2030. That is 17 years from the writing of this entry.

However, it is not necessarily the case that computers will require that much logical capacity to match human intelligence. Computers are designed with an eye on optimal efficiency. The human brain, on the other hand, is the end product of a long and winding evolutionary process. Consider other aspects of the human body such as the human eye. If it had been designed from scratch, it probably would not have an inverted retina, and there would be no necessity of a blind spot.

Many arguments have been published that explain in detail why sufficient computing power should also facilitate the building of a computer that is as intelligent as a person. A good book on the subject is The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. However, I have a much simpler argument. We already have in our possession a model of a computer that is as intelligent as a person. It is called the human brain. Unless we attribute magical properties to the human brain, there is no reason to believe that we could not reverse engineer it. Those who are familiar with my ideas about consciousness may argue that I do attribute magical powers to the human brain. However, the powers I attribute to it are quite restricted and well defined. I have every reason to believe there are ways to compensate for the properties contributed to the human brain by human consciousness.

For the duration of this discussion, I will adopt a convention used in discussions of machine intelligence. Typically machine intelligence that rivals that of a human is called Artificial General Intelligence, abbreviated AGI. This must be distinguished from Strong Intelligence, which is not merely as intelligent as a person, but is also conscious. I strongly suspect that a conscious machine would be far more difficult to build than an intelligent machine, perhaps prohibitively difficult.

Once we accept the possibility of AGI, we run up against a conundrum. What would these machines do? How would they be utilized? The obvious answer to this question is that they would be set to work doing what human engineers have always done. They would build better, stronger, and faster machines. More specifically, they would be put to work designing and building more intelligent computers.

Now, imagine an army of intelligent engineers working day and night without rest on the single task of building an intelligence greater than themselves. Not only would they have the perfect memory and persistence of a computer, they would have our working knowledge of human level intelligence. There can be little doubt that a computer more intelligent than a typical person is possible; geniuses are a well documented phenomenon. The greatest possible intelligence that is achievable is certainly unknown, but it seems likely that it would greatly exceed human intelligence.

If these engineers were successful, they could set their creations to work building even more intelligent machines. This would lead to a feedback loop in which computer intelligence, AGI, would rapidly become so advanced that it would be difficult or impossible for a person to anticipate its next move. The point where this happens is called the Technological Singularity.

I first thought of this idea when I was about 25. At that time, I did not realize anyone else was thinking along the same lines. I referred to this phenomenon in my private journals as Threshold Technology and abbreviated it T2. When I reached the age of 37, I discovered that the idea had been popularized by a writer named Vernor Vinge in a paper entitled “What is the Singularity”. At the time of this writing, there are countless people, most of them with good technical backgrounds, who consider the Singularity to be a near certainty.

I must digress at this point to a discussion of theology.

At first, it may seem like the idea of the Singularity conflicts with most ideas of theology. After all, how could something like the book of Revelation in the Bible come to pass if human civilization is swept away in an orgy of ever-increasing AGI. I am of the opinion that there is no contradiction.

One of the things predicted by many religions is that there will be an end time when the world is either perfected or abandoned. The world’s human inhabitants will then advance to a more harmonious relationship with God. In my opinion, the Singularity and these predictions are one and the same. I view the Singularity as a kind of birthing process. When a woman gives birth, she pushes the baby out. However, there is typically a midwife or doctor that is simultaneously pulling the baby out. I view the Singularity as a process wherein technology acts as the mother pushing humanity closer to God. Simultaneously, God acts as the doctor pulling humanity closer to him. In other words, the Singularity is part of the means by which God will perfect our universe.

Some Christians might object to this view, arguing that God does not need human help to bring about his objectives. However, this is shortsighted. In Biblical accounts of God’s interactions with humans, he nearly always acts through the medium of human endeavor. God did not scoop the Israelites up and drop them in the Promised Land. He converted Moses and set Moses to work on Pharaoh.

Also, God seems to be incapable of interacting directly with the space that humans inhabit. There is a tendency to think this implies some limitation on God’s power. However, the limitation seems to be more logical than structural. As indicated in earlier entries, God went to a lot of trouble to create a universe that is not under his direct control and where free will is possible. It appears that God cannot interact directly with our universe, because to do so would break down the indeterminacy that makes free will possible. For this reason, I think of the universe as being somewhat like a model ship in a bottle. The maker of the model has to work through a small opening to erect the ship while not violating the container:

Another analogy might be a terrarium that’s seal cannot be broken. The plants grow and take form only via what is contained in the terrarium and what light is able to penetrate the glass.

Still another analogy might be a pressure mold. When plastic is molded in a pressure mold, it must be allowed to fill in all the spaces and cool. Once it has filled in all the spaces and cooled, the mold can be removed and a perfect part is revealed.

In my discussion of predestination, I explain that the Universe seems to have an objective, and I explain in some detail how this objective is being accomplished. In my opinion, the Singularity is part of the path that leads to this ultimate objective. Therefore, I see the Singularity as the last act in God’s plan to perfect the universe and humanity. Exactly what the end result of this perfecting process will be remains to be seen. I may discuss this in later entries.

In the mean time, I give you this frightfully hubristic interpretation of the Bible:

The Gospel According to Spikosauropod

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
(the Big Bang)
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
(the universe becomes transparent through the liberation of photons)
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
(condensation of matter)
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
(the formation of the planets and the earth)
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
(plant life forms)
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

(Genesis 1:14-18 is the one part of the chronology that is difficult to account for. Possibly it does not mean what it seems to, or possibly the chroniclers got it wrong. One possible interpretation is that the Sun and Moon were previously obscured by overcast skies. Note that I do not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy.)

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
(animal life forms)
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
(the evolution of man)
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
(the agricultural revolution)
Genesis 3 through the rest of the Old Testament
(history happens; lessons are learned)
Mark through Jude
(Jesus, a theoretical perfect man, is sacrificed symbolically so that people would have a way to let go of their primordial guilt;
Jesus teaches us to be better people;
the teachings of Jesus culminate in charity, liberty, equality, arguably even environmentalism)

Revelation 1-20
(Technological Singularity: God works through human endeavor to fulfill prophecy) 
Revelation 21-22
(post Singularity paradise; a means is discovered to resurrect the dead)

Consciousness, A Complete Model

19 Nov

Disclaimer: This is not intended as a mathematically precise experimentally verified model of how consciousness works. This is an effort to demonstrate how dualism could work within the constrains of known physics. The Higgs mechanism I employ was actually an afterthought. I came up with the idea of using retroactive causality long before Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya published their seminal paper. Any low energy mechanism of retroactive causality would do. The work by Nielsen and Ninomiya fit so serendipitiously into my theory, I immediately incorporated it. Since the publication of their paper, the Higgs boson has apparently been found. This does not discredit the Nielson Ninomiya paper. These scientists only speculated that difficulty in finding the Higgs might be a side effect of their mathematics. Their theory is not invalidated by its discovery. 

In a previous entry, I offered an explanation of consciousness. Now that I have discussed the concept of predestination, I am ready to give a more complete account of what consciousness may be and exactly how it may function. First, I must give a summary of my model up to this point.

I started with the assumption that the Universe had no default state. This lack of default state was remedied by the three laws of Aristotelian logic:

1. A proposition that is true is true. A proposition that is false is false.

2. A proposition that is true is not false. A proposition that is false is not true.

3. Every proposition is either true or false. (the law of the excluded middle).

The third law, the law of the excluded middle, is equivalent to the existence of a choice function that is capable of mapping all possibilities for the universe into the actual state of the universe. This choice function is identical to the classical definition of God.

God can be thought of as a space. In order to create the independent space we inhabit, he separated into two or more one-lower-dimensional spaces. This process is similar to how oil and water separate to create a one-lower-dimensional space.

God manipulated this one-lower-dimensional space to restrict its natural indeterminacy by adding twists and folds called Calabi-Yau manifolds. In the process of creating this space with limited indeterminacy, God made consciousness possible.

Consciousness can be viewed as a choice function, similar to God but much more limited, that forms naturally in conjunction with our brains. It works with the logical structure of our brains to resolve our space’s indeterminacy in an extremely restricted region.

The nature and structure of consciousness closely parallels our brains. It takes its form directly from the form of our brains and it also gives form to our thinking. However, our brains are formed of matter with all of matter’s well understood characteristics. Consciousness is a purely logical structure.

Consciousness interacts with our brains by resolving some of the indeterminacy in our brains. Specifically, this means that where a particle might appear at random in a variety of different locations, consciousness causes the particle to appear at some specific location. Our consciousness does this to a sufficient number of particles so that the ultimate outcome of signals between neurons conforms to the pattern specified by our consciousness.

The problem with this model is that the scale of the connection between the behavior of specific particles and the behavior of neurons is vast. A typical pulse from a neuron involves 50 million electrons. It would be a daunting task for the logical structure of consciousness to control the behavior of specific electrons in a way that ultimately adds up to conformity of neuronal signals to a specific thought or action.

For this reason, consciousness does not affect the behavior of particles directly. Instead, it only interprets the ultimate outcome of their collective behavior by observing how closely the signals among neurons conform to the pattern chosen by consciousness. It alters their outcome in a manner similar to how the universe is able to implement predestination.

The universe implements predestination by having templates that sit at the “end of time”. These templates do something rather simple and specific. If the ultimate trajectory of matter in the universe conforms sufficiently to some predetermined pattern, the templates remain inactive. If the ultimate outcome does not conform to this pattern, the templates radiate Higgs bosons. The Higgs bosons cause the trajectory of the matter to be altered. If the matter is altered in a direction that does not conform to the template, they radiate bosons more vigorously. If the matter conforms sufficiently closely, they cease to radiate bosons.

Consciousness works in a similar manner. Consciousness can be thought of as a template that resides in conjunction with the brain. It constantly evaluates how closely the pattern of neurons in the brain conforms to its own prescribed pattern. If the pattern is sufficiently close, consciousness remains inactive. However, if the pattern is not sufficiently close, consciousness allows Higgs bosons to be radiated in a manner that results in reverse causality. This reverse causality is explained in a paper by Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya.

Note that consciousness does not actually cause the radiation of these bosons. The bosons are radiated all the time. However, Higgs bosons are subject to the same indeterminacy as all other particles. What consciousness actually does is restrict their indeterminacy. It causes them to appear at some specific location rather than some random location. It continues to restrict the behavior of bosons until the outcome of their interference with particles in the brain leads to neuronal behavior that conforms to its own pattern.

Note, also, that consciousness only sits in “conjunction” with the brain. It does not necessarily sit in the same location as the brain. Consciousness is a logical construct, not a physical one. It does not require a location.

While the bosons are depicted as radiating at the brain, they will have the same influence if radiated in proximity to the brain. Their exact range of influence is currently unknown, but depends upon many factors.

It should be clear from this model that consciousness is not able to cause a large alteration in how the brain processes information. The change is relatively minute. However, these minute changes occur at such times and places where the brain could be said to be in a quandary. When our brains run up against a situation where the outcome of processing could go one way or another, consciousness is involved.

The effect that consciousness does have on the brain depends on the behavior of dynamical systems (known colloquially as the “butterfly effect”). Infinitesimal changes placed a sufficient distance in the past are able to bring about a much more profound change nearer to the present. These changes are apparently random and regulated only by conscious awareness of their ultimate outcome.

It should also be clear that the influence of consciousness is almost untraceable. By constantly monitoring the outcome of thoughts and causing them to conform in such an indirect way, consciousness leaves almost no trace of its involvement. For this reason, it may never be possible to find direct physical evidence of consciousness. However, depending on how strongly consciousness influences the ultimate outcome of our thoughts, there may be a way to demonstrate its existence.

Suppose we made an exact electronic model that simulates what the brain appears to do. This model might be hardwired in a way that does not allow the subtle influence of retroactively acting Higgs bosons. This simulated brain might not work as expected. It might not work at all, or it might behave as if it is catatonic or autistic.

This does not absolutely mean that a computer that simulates the human brain is impossible. There may be a way to compensate, perhaps with a mere random number generator, for the influence of consciousness. However, if pure randomness is substituted for consciousness in this manner, the simulation may have a strangely pathological relationship with the world. It may come across as being shallow or amenable to all sorts of addictions.

It is very possible, even probable, that successful artificial intelligence will have to work in a fundamentally different way than the human brain. This will, of course, be the subject of much future speculation and investigation.