Monday, July 11, 2016

Another Response to Weekend Fisher, on the Physical Mind

This is my response to WF’s post in our discussion progression.

Today I’ll take the concepts serially as they are written by WF.

First up:
” If a flea hops, there's nothing in the four forces that made it hop, so there's something more going on than the four forces -- but there may not be anything more going on than instinct. (Another working definition: let 'instinct' be the motives and reactions that are hardwired into a living thing.)”
Instinct is not a force. If you are to prove that mind is a physical entity, then you must use the knowledge of physics. Claiming “biology” is not a valid claim for evading the principles of physics. Your attempt to maneuver that sort of evasion into an all new definition of an old word is the standard fallacy of Equivocation.

Full Definition of instinct
1. 1 : a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity
2. 2 a : a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason b : behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level
If you actually believe that this is the definition of a force, then how is it measured in pounds? What is the acting agent causal for the force? What is the entity which is acted upon by the force? How much energy is expended? What sort of parasitic entropic counter forces exist?

Instinct is not a physical force. It is a programmed inclination (logic decision) which implements actual physical forces when certain circumstances are encountered as inputs to the system. Here are the actual workings of a flea’s hopping muscles: A flea hops because of the stimulation of muscles by electromagnetic (electrochemical) neural signals which a) contract the femur to the coxa using the trochanter levator muscle, and b) simultaneously store energy in the tightened trochanteral depressor muscle. The trochanter depressor muscle is stretched “like the bow string on a crossbow”, and is set in place by a trigger mechanism on the femur extension, the lever which is called the trochanter. When a neural signal is received by the lateral trochanter depressor muscle, the trigger is released and the energy in the trochanter depressor muscle is released in less than 1mS, causing the trochanter lever to be raised and the femur to be extended with rapidity and much energy. The flea has hopped.

There is no reason to define a force outside of those identified by the discipline of physics for the operation of biological functions. In fact, that seems to go directly against your posit that “mind is purely physical”, presumably meaning that it obeys the laws of physics.

What I have observed in the literature on cells and molecular biology is the existence of forces which are physical, but are privileged in a fashion that makes them unidirectional or creative outside their normal boundaries and expectations. I think of this privileging as “directed” forces, in the sense that in living biological entities there exist a privileging function that acts to cause forces to perform only in directions and methods beneficial for the living biological entity. That privilege ends when the biological entity dies. At death, the forces are allowed to become unprivileged which includes destructive action under the rules of entropy.

Privileging is a function which exists “outside the four forces of physics”, and occurs only in living entities.

This seems to me to be more parsimonious than redefining the meaning of a normal term to include mysterious forcing functions which are not recognized by physics.

So the issue remains, how are the neural signals generated in order that they have meaning within the biological entity, and act to the benefit of the biological entity?

Next: You say this:
” 'Reason' tells us the reasons why the thing we want is right.”
This statement is difficult to decipher, just based on the face of it. Reason, in general, can be faulty if it is not voluntarily and objectively tested against the Aristotelian standards for principled deduction. Most of what passes for human “reasoning” is not logic-based. And reasoning can lead to pogroms and atrocities such as those of the “rational” French Revolution’s Committee of Public Safety and the resulting Reign of Terror (the logic model admired by Lenin).
” In general, I think people often attach themselves to a conclusion (or a goal, or a side) first, and then set the mind to work to justify what was already desired.”
Are you sure that this does not describe your quest to prove the mind to be material? You have set that specific objective out in the first session, and are trying to fill the premise voids in order to justify it.
” I would never expect computers to duplicate an animal need for dominance or territory. Neither do I see our animal need for dominance or territory as some sort of proof that we are 'more than physical' in our minds; I'd say it's proof that we are less than rational. Dominance and claiming territory are expressions of animal instincts.”
Yet your definition of instinct as a force does not work; not all people want to conquer Europe or to assert dominance; and some do. Here you seem to claim that the mind, the human mind, does not necessarily conform to rational precepts, being less than rational. Computers, on the other hand, are completely rational since they perform only logic functions which are built-in. But in order to be a complete simulation of the human mind, then the non-rational functions must be simulated also. And in fact, your next statement appears to concede that point to biology:
” On the contrary, I'd think it shows that humans are so physical that our instincts hijack our better judgment, and it can interfere with our minds' trustworthiness. There's definitely something more going on than the forces of physics, but it seems to be something animal / biological.”
So is the objective changing to “non-interference with mind’s trustworthiness”, instead of replication of the full range of human mind? If that is the case, then the new objective, trustworthy mind, should be fully defined. I personally don’t think that pure alogorithmic logic is a trustworthy source for decision making. The societies which purported to be based on such have turned out to be the most oppressive and bloody ever seen on the planet.

The comment about “something animal / biological” is interesting. Unless that “something” can be defined algorithmically, it is unlikely to be simulated in an immutably logic based machine. On the other hand, if it is a set of completely predictable responses, then it should be easily simulated.

And here you double down on this human “defect”:
” You were saying:

if the human mind is to be shown reducible to software, thereby demonstrating that the human mind is likely to be merely physical in nature, then the software must demonstrate the ability to produce all (sum total) of the processes which are available to the human mind ... (Stan)

I'd disagree because of the animal / biological features of our mind. That is to say: The human mind also includes things I'd attribute to biology (e.g. animal instinct). So I'd say that a software system as analogy for the mind would need to account only for those items not accounted for by biology.”

So it is your intent or claim that the computer simulation would include only the non-biological, logic-based, rational functions of the human mind, and not include functions which are not rational because those are defined as “accounted for by biology”.

This has become quite circular. It amounts to the following tautology:
A computer can be programmed to perform the logic functions of the human mind which are logic functions that are capable of simulation by computer programming. The other actions, thoughts and processes of the human mind are “accounted for by biology” and therefore are not addressed by this simulation.
This alone is sufficient to falsify the original concept. Not all of the human mind’s functions are included in the machine software simulation, and much human mental acuity is specifically avoided, since it is obviously non-rational in terms of being syllogistically analyzable. Only the subset of the human mind: “rational thinking”, is included in the proposed machine software simulation of the human mind. This involves arbitrary truncation of the human ability to adhere to irrational ideologies, and also then to change one’s mind – a common feature of human thinking. This is not rational thinking, it is emotion-based (“I am here to save the world”… “or maybe not”). It is probably the most common form of ideology that exists today.

I think that I will stop here, without reading further. I don’t think that there is any way that I can agree with the conclusion that the “human mind is reproducible” in deterministic software. It appears to me that the arguments for that are without sufficient merit to justify the claim, unless significant restrictions to the definition of human mind are made and accepted. I can’t accept the proposed restrictions, and the remaining claim is circular.

Further, the claim being made here that the human mind is purely a physical entity depends entirely upon the truth of the premise that computer/software is capable of simulating the human mind. Again, that is self-refuted by the need to truncate the definition of human mind in order to accommodate the deterministic logic functions of the computer/software.

Thank you for the civil give and take; it has been interesting.


Phoenix said...

” On the contrary, I'd think it shows that humans are so physical that our instincts hijack our better judgment, and it can interfere with our minds'trustworthiness.

And here better judgement seem to indicate something non-physical which can easily be overridden by the physical, as you imply.

There's definitely something more going on than the forces of physics, but it seems to be something animal / biological.”

Then you should identify and share this unknown and fifth physical force with us. You will most certainly win a Nobel prize.

Robert Coble said...

I was just reading on Dr. Edward Feser's blog, and ran across this little gem embedded in a different topic:

"Consider instead the critique of the symbolic processing approach in artificial intelligence developed by philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus and John Searle. The approach in question presupposes that intelligence can be embodied entirely in explicit representations and rules, such as the symbols processed by a Turing machine and the algorithms by which they are processed. And the problem with this is that the interpretation of representations and rules presupposes an intellect which does the interpreting, so that such representations and rules cannot coherently be taken to explain the existence and operation of the intellect."

Fulford on sola scriptura, Part II

Perhaps an idea to be explored. . .

I've written before about the impossibility of discovering "software" per se in the hardware of a computer using physical means. No matter what means is employed (the naked eye, instrumentation based on physical measurements such as voltage, instrumentation based on interpretation such as logic analyzers, or whatever instrumentation you choose that is based on physical measurement), the functional intent and purpose (the final cause) of "software" CANNOT be determined from any physical measurement. I have given the very simple example of a single 8-bit byte of memory. The contents can be measured as voltages or as logical bits (1s and 0s). However, you CANNOT (even in principle) have any idea of how to INTERPRET that byte of data as information on the basis of the physical information alone. I give an example.

Given the following 8-bit string representation (in 1s and 0s; I already have to supply an interpretation of the visible level), tell me what information is stored in that string:


(1) Is it the decimal number 61 used as a count?

(2) Is it the ASCII representation of the character "="?

(3) Is it part or the entirety of a machine instruction?

(4) Does it stand alone or is it part of something else?

NONE of these questions can be determined to be "correct" (or incorrect) strictly from any examination of this putative physical value in the absence of contextual information assigned and interpreted by the intellect that created the string with a particular meaning.

For those of us old enough (and I AM old enough, at 68 years old) to have programmed using machine language on very primitive computers, it is painfully obvious what mischief can be created by inadvertently jumping from the program code into a section of data. The computer merrily continues on its way, totally oblivious to the fact that it is now "interpreting" the data as instructions to be executed. One of the "amusements" in earlier days was to intentionally overwrite the running code with new code (self-modifying code). Often it was done to shoehorn a big program into a very limited space. If a "core" dump was performed after the program began running, even the original programmer could not tell (interpret) what memory contents contained.

Interpret the following sentence:

"There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't."

Have fun interpreting THAT!

Robert Coble said...

Oh snap! I left out another possibility that should be considered seriously (because it is REAL).

(5) What if the memory address (from which I extracted the byte) is actually a mapping to an I/O device? Imagine an 8-bit bidirectional device that contains Discrete Inputs/Discrete Outputs. Now the individual bits are mapped to (perhaps) a switch. (Did you do that, Stan?!?) So, none of the previous possibilities apply.

And you still want to insist that "software" is a PHYSICAL entity, and therefore by analogy, the "mind" is a PHYSICAL entity?!?

If you can't make a convincing case for "software," then it becomes many orders of magnitude more difficult (as close to IMPOSSIBLE as you can ever get while climbing Mt. Improbable) to do the same thing with "mind."

Strain at a gnat; swallow a camel.

Stan said...

Yeah, my mouth is always enabled, and my ears are frequently set at a very high threshold for noise rejection. So I don't necessarily hear what I'm saying, and I find this to be very convenient at times.

It's similar to the narcissist mode, where mouth is always ON and at full volume and ears set to hear only praise (anti-dissent threshold set to max).