Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.


A Point Related to Reductionism and Mind

Say that the mind were non-physical, metaphysical, or whatever. Still, we know that physical brains give rise to minds, so mass-producing physical brains would still allow us to mass-produce non-physical minds. So, pure reductionism is not even necessary to carry the point I was making in the previous post.

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  1. People who claim brain does not equal mind agree that the brain is important. In essence, they recognize a damaged brain means, sometimes, a damaged mind.

    They sometimes claim the brain isn’t the source of the mind. If brain is not the mind, your arguement about metaphysics is wrong because one cannot reverse engineer something that doesn’t exist. Ie, they think the brain is the wrong target!

    I am not saying this is the case, I am saying you don’t understand the other side.

    In other words, non-physical doesn’t have to mean mystical but instead far beyond current human understanding. I know this is inconvenient to the camp around here, but that is the position the other side takes that is the strongest claim they have against the whole singularity crowd.

  2. So they think you can build a brain exactly like an existing human brain and it wouldn’t have a mind? Come on, I don’t think anyone is claiming this.

  3. I am not saying that at all. You are thinking of a different class of people than I am, perhaps professional philosophers. I am only referring to the non-physical crowd, but maybe I am thinking of a different subset of people.

    Like Stu Hammeroff. For example:

    I am saying you have a hard time approaching this because there is evidence you cannot admit because its very poor evidence, but people with a different prior belief (eg, different wants/goals) will have no problem seeing the admittedly weak evidence.

    What I would emphasize is not that reductionism is bad or wrong but that your side doesn’t have a strong a case as you may think.

  4. *correction*

    I mis-interpreted what you said (I wish there was an edit comment feature).

    They DO NOT believe you can build a brain exactly like an existing human brain. They think the distinction between simulation and emulation is hand waving. And at this point, it sort of is. They simply volley a lot of contrary evidence (often of poor quality)against the idea that the brain is the mind, and then don’t make any new predictions.

  5. One thing that people do a lot is to confuse intelligence with consciousness. Knowing that something is conscious is hard. It used to be a cultural commonplace that non-human animals are mindless robots, now not many people seem to think this.

    I think that machine consciousness is likely to be possible but not relevant in the short term. Machine intelligence is highly relevant, however, because before there is a conscious machine there may be machines that act intelligently enough to do many peoples’ jobs. If you can’t get anybody to pay for your work because a machine can do it cheaper there’s a real problem. Some say this won’t happen, that automation will result in the creation of better, less routine, jobs but this is not certain.

  6. I agree with the conclusion, that intelligence will saturate. But I don’t think a materialist world view is necessary to get there.

    (btw, thanks for the edit option)

  7. Glad you added this addendum to your last post, which I totally agreed with except for the proposal that minds are fully reducible to physical structure. A more nuanced and palatable metaphysical view is a functional dualism where minds are supervenient on brain function but not identical to it (for various reasons its too complicated to get into here.) Still, why in a universe with the (apparent) causal closure of the physical there would arise minds (potentially epiphenomenal minds in this view) at all is a vexing question. This is why I’m a panpsychist….but that’s a whole different story.

  8. Thanks for the editing option!

    Hey Matt (sigl).

    Right, I am also a pansychist.

    As for not being fully reducible to physical structure, this seems like an odd claim to make. It makes no more sense to claim this than for 18th century scientists to claim that quantum mechanics is “non-physical” (if they could have only known…).

    • Matthew –

      Just to make clear, because the point is nuanced, I believe that mind cannot be reduced to physical structure but only in so far as one usually conceives of “physical structure” aka, non-mental entities taking up space and time. However, since I am a panpsychist, I further believe that, in the limit, mind CAN be reduced to physical structure but only in virtue of the fact that the actual ontology of the physical includes mental properties at a fundamental level. Most reductionist materialists adopt their view to avoid just this sort of ontological speculation. I however find it unavoidable. The existence of these mental properties can only be proven “conceptually,” so a lot of empirical scientific types are loathe to adopt it. I think we have good a priori reasons to accept this radical conclusion.

      • Well, I am always on the look out for a good experiment. Scream really loud through-out the internet if you come up with one — or if someone does, I am sure we will all know about this marvelous new knowledge.

        I would instead say its just a guess but you take the belief a bit further than its currently warranted. But what is one to do? Having a self in an age when most of mainstream science doesn’t even think its real.

  9. Quite plainly put, we don’t know that “brains give rise to minds”; really, there are only a very few examples that we know of where this is true. Assuming of course that we’re using the same definition of the word “mind”, which may or may not be the case. There are more facets to this argument then you appear willing or wanting to take on, just at first glance.

    I’d like to hear a brief explanation of why you (seem to) think that someone who says that building a human brain won’t lead to a human mind is not thinking reasonably. This again hinges on our definition of mind, and maybe this question has been adressed elswhere on this blog, but it seems like a pertinent criticism to discuss here.

  10. Not so fast.

    One dualist theory holds that the mind and brain are separate entities but that they have a means of communicating. Without this communication with the mind, the brain is the lesser for it, and the properties ascribed to a mind do not emerge. Since in this theory, so far in history, all brains have been connected to minds, the question has not yet been tested.

    Individuals who live in a place that floods every century sometimes do not buy flood insurance, because their limited span of observation causes them to believe such insurance is a waste of money. This dualist philosophy argues that we have similarly failed to notice the need for a mind, because we have failed to make a brain without one.

    Let me quote Mr Anissimov: “So they think you can build a brain exactly like an existing human brain and it wouldn’t have a mind?”

    This is a straw man argument. No dualist is quibbling over a brain built /exactly/ like an existing human brain. For such a brain would surely have a mind. If a brain is built /exactly/ like a human brain, then that means it is “built exactly” as it always has been in history–through sexual reproduction.

    Mr Anissimov is not talking about a brain built exactly the same as it always has been. He is talking about brains built in a different way–only he has failed to explain what he means. If we were talking about minds built /exactly/ the same, there would be nothing to discuss.

    I am not a dualist, so I will end my discussion here. Suffice it to say that there are dualist philosophies that ably contend Mr Anissimov’s points.

  11. Michael, perhaps this might be lifted to a posting?

    Check out the 1949 book (7 years in the making) with chapters such as:

    THE FUTURE: Machines That Think, and What They Might Do For Men

    SOCIAL CONTROL: Machines That Think, and How Society May Control Them

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