Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weekend Fisher Replies

Weekend Fisher continues the argument for "natural" mind:
The purpose and goal of the mind
And I respond here.

WF says,
”I'd say that the mind is the natural function of the brain (and associated nervous system e.g. input from the eyes), and that the mind uses natural processes for operation.
From this and the previous statement originally made, I am beginning to understand that the statement does not say that the mind is a physical entity, recoverable for physical examination. This statement merely says that the purpose of the brain is to be host to the mind. The mind uses the brain.

Or does it really mean that?

The terminology, “natural function” is easily equivocated on the one hand and easily misdirected on the other. This is because if something exists, then it can be said to be natural. For example, as I’ll repeat below, if God exists, then God is natural even though God is not physical.

But that leaves the status of the mind itself somewhat in limbo. This is particularly the case if one attributes to the mind (and not to the brain) functions such as qualia, comprehension (in the sense of full understanding and realization of the reasons a concept is correct), in-the-moment awareness (full consciousness), conscience (which activates in grey areas of moral issues), ability to hypothesize deductively from inductive data, assess the self-evidence and necessity of First Principles and grounding, etc., etc.

So first we must assume a meaning: that the term “natural” actually means “to exist physically”. The hypothesis is then that both the brain AND the mind are purely physical, given that understanding of “natural”.

Next, the progression is made starting with fundamental awareness. Sensors are said to be aware of the parameter which is being sensed. So a thermostat is aware of temperature, when awareness is used in this manner. A 3D wide angle camera might be said to be fully aware of its immediate environment immediately in front of it. This seems to push the boundaries of the intent of the word, aware. But let’s move on.

The next step in the progression is to the creation of a world model based on sensory input, and presumably memory of consistency and non-consistency in occurrences. This is said to get us closer to the human mind, but not there yet.

The final step to the human mind includes the drive to complete, extend or enhance the world model.

It is not clear at this point how the progression leads to the concept that mind is purely physical, other than to invoke evolution, a subject we should address elsewhere and in full as necessary. The invocation of evolution as proof of a physical mind will not meet with success, because evolution is purely extrapolated inference: i.e., opinion which is given Appeal to Expert Opinion as its sole authority.

Now we get to this:
”Here are some ways we humans have come up with to empirically analyze our own comprehension, thoughts, and concepts, and we have come up with a good variety of ways.”
And the list of processes contains just these attempts to “see” a thought (the first seven are just tests for the contents of a thought):

1. “Tools like Rorshach tests”, et. al. These tools are tests not for the physical capture of a thought, but for analyzing the contents of thoughts. This applies to the first six items listed as well.

2. Brain scans. These scans do not show thoughts or mind; they show increased blood flow. The increased blood flow to actively functioning parts of the brain does not show thoughts. It shows additional nutrients being shuttled to actively functioning parts of the brain, and nothing more. What the neurons are doing is entirely and completely unknown, even though they are reacting to a question or issue. And how that neuronic activity translates into a mind is a layer beyond the neuronal unknown, and which is completely untouched by any scan of any blood flow OR even of bioelectric discharge monitoring.

3. Taking visual signals being transmitted to the brain and reconstituting them outside the skull into visual images is not the observation of a brain function, and is not a mental image. It is more akin to stealing cable signal from your neighbor, not stealing his actual pixels. Visual imaging signals are not thoughts.

Whether this technique actually is extensible to the monitoring of thoughts is a moot issue in the question of whether the mind that has the thought also comprehended the thought, forced the thought onto the brain, used the brain to coordinate motion in the hand for writing a thought, or used the brain to create music previously unheard. In other words, it would monitor the thought, not the mind which drives the brain to have the thought.

It should be obvious that the source of the thought is not addressed by monitoring the thought. Only if the thought is first presupposed to be caused by the brain could it ever be said to be caused by the brain (circular). That is false logic and false scientific process. And that still has no bearing on the existence of qualia, creativity, agency, etc. which are in the mind, not in the thought.

The author says this:
”I'm a professional coder with an interest in AI) that I haven't yet heard someone propose a mental function that I couldn't imagine a way of coding into a computer.”
While I’m sure you could code curiosity into a deterministic serial machine, can you code in creativity followed by realization? Do you really think that you can code in every human relationship, desire, lust, passion, intellectual neediness, intellectual fallacy due to improper axioms acquired by voluntary ideological bias, or need for belonging, or fear of rejection? Is there nothing about your own job which an algorithm cannot perform just as well?

You have to presume mental behaviors to be either (a) algorithmic or (b) huge full featured non-algorithmic programs with nearly infinite branching or (c) self-modifying on the fly, all the while not self-destructing (too often, anyway). Or maybe there is some sort of parallel programming you know about that I don’t. If so, please explain.
”There are perfectly natural ways to code awareness, evaluative framework, even the ability for a computer to add new abilities into its own design/framework and exceed its original instruction base.”
Please give an example of the ability to create new processor instructions. Unless that means that the new instruction for the processor is actually a combination of instructions the processor is already designed to handle at the level from machine code to internal electron flow, I am skeptical. I can see that a machine could be induced to create new subroutines or macros out of combinations of existing instructions, but to create new machine code instructions for which the processor has no designed ability to handle as valid input needs explanation.

Which is very interesting so please explain. But this in no manner leads with necessity or sufficiency to the conclusion that a mind/thought is a physical entity.

At this point I’m still not sure what you’re trying to say: is a mind/thought a completely physical thing, with the universal attributes of mass/energy existing in space/time?

Or are you saying that the mind/thought merely uses the brain as a physical platform for operating in the physical realm?

Those are two different interpretations of your statements. But they are not the same thing, at all. Saying that the mind is “natural” is indefinite in meaning. Either it is physical or it is not physical, but either of those might be termed natural. For example, if God exists, then God is natural although not physical. For that reason I don’t refer to Philosophical Naturalism, I refer to Philosophical Materialism, which is a purely physicalist view of existence (only mass/energy and space/time exist and nothing else).

Fighting off Philosophical Materialism, if that’s your intent, and I’m not sure that it is, is simple: it is internally non-coherent, because it makes a fundamental truth claim about existence which it cannot prove using its fundamental truth claim. It is also a Category Error.

I’ll leave it at that, and wait for your next response.

This is an interesting and engaging subject.


Steven Satak said...

”I'm a professional coder with an interest in AI) that I haven't yet heard someone propose a mental function that I couldn't imagine a way of coding into a computer.”

I can *imagine* doing all sorts of wonderful things. *Doing* them is another matter entirely. I've been privy to some discussions of absolutely fantastic things while a guest of various Star Trek fan clubs, back in the day.

Only two people ever made any of those wonderful things: myself and Dave Pinney. The rest? Well, they apparently were the 'idea people'.

There is no shortage of people in the world, either, who think that if they can imagine a solution, the solution is real. We live in a very strange society at the moment. Minds discussing minds is like taking your eyes out to study them. And as Lewis noted many decades ago, anyone approaching the problem from below will always be able to find nothing in mind but electrochemical signals.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Stan

It's really tempting to launch into replies immediately -- but there are a few places where I suspect we're talking past each other. I think that our conversation would gain greatly by some working definitions of terms. Can we start here in the comment box, not with the definitions themselves, but the list of things we might want to define? (Yes, I'm aware words can have multiple definitions; still it would be good to make sure we're understanding each other.)

For starters:

That's a half-dozen there ... I don't want to make the list so long that it will drag us down. I just think we'd benefit from making sure we're understanding each other. Let me know if there's a (reasonable-sized) list of things where we should put together working definitions for purposes of our conversation.

If you have any investment in specific definitions for those words, feel free to let me know. Or if you'd prefer that I do "draft #1" of our working definitions, that's ok too. I'm sure that would be entertaining all around. I might incorporate 'working definitions' into my response.

Btw -- since we're just meeting on-the-fly during this conversation: Nice to meet you, & I appreciate the civility here.

Take care & God bless

JBsptfn said...

WF, when you compared people that believe in a non-physical mind to ID believers 10 years before Darwin's Origin of Species, I don't know if that's really valid. Stan has some good writings against Evolution, and it's possible that Darwin was an intellectual fraud who stole someone else's material. Also, you should check this site out:

Science Against Evolution

Stan said...

Hello, and I too appreciate the civility.
Since the subject was yours, I suggest that you start with the definitions as you understand each term you listed, and used it in your argument. It's possible that I might understand your argument differently, given the definitions as you understand them. I do suggest that if by "natural" you mean "physical", that the second be used. Of course, if not, then not.

Weekend Fisher said...

JB & Stan -

1) JB - I don't have a commitment to naturalistic evolution. The point of that analogy was in how many Christians (esp YEC's, not sure about ID'ers) have been picked off by atheists over it, once the naturalistic view had enough underpinning to be credible. In the same way here ... well, you get analogies. That was my point. Btw the point I made was about YEC's, not sure where ID came into the picture.

2) Sure, sounds good. It'll be after church before I can start typing but I'll start the "mulling it over" part before then.

Take care & God bless

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Stan

I've got my response posted:

Thanks for the good conversation.

Take care & God bless

Phoenix said...

Imagine an AI system that could read source code libraries, and could add new functions to itself that it found there. Or if it had the ability to redefine one of its existing functions, if it wanted to be able to make a minor mod. E.g. picture a chess app that could read other chess apps and search them for features it didn't have. Of course it would have to be told that it should try to do that: a non-living thing has no reason to care about chess.

You have only pushed the problem back a few steps. Whence the source code library? Is it not also programmed from an external source? The features come either embedded with the encoded instructions or they are downloaded from an external file/source. Either way, they can be traced back to a rational agent.

I'm saying that mind/thought uses the brain as a physical platform, and that as far as I can tell, mind and thought occur in ways consistent with them being natural.

I'm confused. Do you mean "physical" when you mention "natural"? It's important you define natural clearly as to avoid equivocation.

Stan said...

[I posted this comment at WF's site also]

Hi WF,
More questions and clarifications for you as we narrow our understandings into a single channel:

WF said,
” I'm saying that mind/thought uses the brain as a physical platform, and that as far as I can tell, mind and thought occur in ways consistent with them being natural. ”

As I now understand your position you seem to say that the mind operates the brain in a fashion which is purely mass/energy, in space/time relationships, or in your terminology, a “natural” fashion. Implied but not stated is that the mind is independent of the brain, superior to the brain, and causal for brain function.

What you do not seem to be saying is that the mind is caused by (emergent from) the brain, nor that the mind is resident in the brain, nor that the mind is a physical thing in itself. You also conclude that many human features are restricted to living organisms, maybe some are solely human, but at a minimum require “life” (which if the case, the term “life” will need to be defined). These would include motivation, passion (as in passion for learning in general or overwhelming desire for learning every last detail of a specific subject), needs/fears such as belonging and rejection, and presumably other variations in social protocols, hierarchies and tribal discrimination, etc.

So, if I understand, the brain is the physical interface between the mind and the physical universe. The mind, then, uses the physical brain to gather sensory inputs, and to store data, and to form responses in the physical world in the form of movement of body parts; speech and writing to transmit ideas in physical form; and manual manipulation of physical things. And the mind is not defined as physical, but the manipulation of the brain is, in fact, physical because the brain is physical.

Perhaps some items are performed in the mind, without the brain (?) such as creating new things which do not exist in nature; considering the “meaning” of “meaning”; postulating multiverses and eleven dimensions outside the restrictions of the mass/energy universe; using the mind to examine itself; and other non-physical ruminations and qualia which have no mass/energy correlate. Or perhaps you do not mean that.

Because it is not clear to me whether your position is that the mind can do nothing without the brain and is fully dependent upon the brain (part of the brain?), or whether the mind is independent of the brain and merely uses the brain as a tool for interfacing to the mass/energy universe by using natural forces and structures.

Since it is entirely possible that I still misunderstand your meaning, I’ll stop here to allow you to redirect me as might be necessary.

I understand fully your time constraints; there is absolutely no rush at all.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Stan

I've got my next reply posted.
Thanks for the engaging conversation.

Take care & God bless

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Phoenix

No doubt that any existing source code can be traced back to a rational agent. I'm not planning on arguing that computers arise independently.

You were saying: I'm confused. Do you mean "physical" when you mention "natural"? It's important you define natural clearly as to avoid equivocation.

>>> I did some basic definitions in a recent post:

So 'natural' includes 'physical' but also anything else governed by the laws of nature.

Take care & God bless