March 30, 2011

Mental Juggling


I was going to post about, the plastic formation the size of Texas in the Pacific known as 'The Great Pacific Garbage Patch," but that will have wait until my next post. This delay happened because I've been reading a fair bit of Steven Pinker and was looking through new comments and found something peculiar, yet it strangely matched up with what I've been reading.

AhmTaGoji was writing about what it would mean for a computer to pass the Turing Test and said that,

"What I was trying to say was that no matter how convincing or uncanny of a performance a computer does during a Turing test is only evidence of the what the test attempts to prove: that a human can be fooled about conscious identity via a computer screen. The computer would have to go much further than to fool one human about his identity, he would have to, for a lack of better words, fool himself. Long after the Turing exercise, if the computer learns from his experiences and starts asking itself questions like 'What am I doing here? How did I get here? I'm human aren't I? Or what am I?', and begins to autonomously prepare himself in the anticipation of future experiences, then he isn't yet conscious."

That's a funny, yet prefect way of putting it, 'The computer would have to go much further than to fool one human about his identity, he would have to, for a lack of better words fool himself.'

Besides the assumption that the computer is a man, I think that's a great understanding, because the more I read about consciousness, the more that fooling ourselves seems to be what we do as well. That act of the mind fooling itself and giving itself a coherent reason for doing the things is a large part of what it is to be 'human' and would also be a large part of what it would take for a lot of people to consider a computer program sentient.

 The Blank Slate, when talking about how the self is just another network of brain systems, on pages 42-44, gets into talking about how the brain tricks itself to give it a reason for doing certain things. This trickery can most dramatically be shown in people who have their corpus callosum cut (the thin layer that connects the two hemispheres of the brain). It can literally be described as cutting the self in two, and each part acts independently while the other half juggles to make sense of what is going on.

The example is given where an experimenter shows the word walk to the right hemisphere (by keeping it in the part of the visual field that only the right hemisphere can see and the person will comply and begin to walk. Admittedly not that interesting yet, but a strange thing happens when the person is asked why he got up and started walking (language is in the persons left hemisphere). The person doesn't say that, "I just got a feeling to" or that "Since my surgery where my corpus callosum was cut I do things without knowing exactly why."

Instead they say, in complete sincerity, that they were going to get a coke. They manufacture a logical reason for what they were doing, where it can be objectively shown that the reason was different.

That's the trickery coming in and Pinker concludes that, "The spooky part is that we have no reason to think that the baloney-generator in the patient's left hemisphere is behaving any differently from outs as we make sense of he inclinations emanating from the rest of our brains. The conscious mind- the self or soul-is a spin doctor, not the commander in chief."

While AhmTaGoji's point may be that for someone to consider a machine to be 'a person' the machine would have to do more than talk, it would have to claim adamantly for itself that it was a person, it also connects very well with the fool inside all of us.

Happy Spinning,
-the moral skeptic

8 comments:

  1. If we truly understood our day to day motivations and the "rationales" behind everything we think, say, and do, we probably would not respect ourselves as higher beings any longer. Your analysis furthers that assumption. We are more a part of nature and more subject to our natural design than we think we are, and our free-will is probably mostly an illusion.

    It is a bit daunting to even define free-will when we consider the deterministic argument that everyone is bound to do the things they ultimately most want to do and that we do not control what we want, but respond to it instead.

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  2. I guess the fact that we can experience the illusion is something. I am not yet convinced that a computer would ever be able to experience things. In order for that to happen, we would have to understand the source of experience, and as an atheist, I cannot locate that source.

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  3. Hrrrmmm...Wouldn't the source of experience be the balance of our genetic lineage combined with the environment around us, or more simply nature + nurture?

    But if you are looking for what is actually 'experiencing' I guess that is a different question altogether. Some people posit a homunculi to do the experiencing, but I think that to look for some specific part of the brain to do 'the experiencing' you'd be making a category error and be saying that there is no forest because there are only a group of individual trees.

    The brain does the experiencing, and it does so through numerous different individual processes.

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  4. I believe the source of experience is unknown, as we cannot conceive of how one would produce experience in a laboratory, or what it is actually made of. I do not believe in God. I am a devout non believer and I satirize those who do on occasion. However, I also acknowledge that "experience" is something quite baffling. I also agree that without certain mechanical processes, humans cannot experience. However, the mechanical processes are dumb. They are not the experience itself. If I am mistaken about that, the mistake would be unknowable.

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  5. And by the way, nobody could ever juggle that many balls. I don't believe it for a minute. I am very skilled at juggling three, but four is infinitely more difficult. Imagine more than four!

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  6. This will sound like a flippant remark, but it's not intended to be. John, are you saying that the concept of The Matrix or virtual reality is only a sci-fi creation?

    You're challenging my thinking because I realize now that I've come to assume it's possible to convince the brain that the body is physically experiencing something simply through electronic signals.

    To me, it's similar to dreaming. Just the other night, I woke up my wife because I actually saw something sitting on her, but it was just my mind mixing my dreams and reality. This tells me that my mind is able to manufacture experiences that aren't "real."

    Before hitting the button, I reread your comments that I'm trying to respond to, and I think I may have gone off the reservation. But I'll let it stand to see what you two might think.

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  7. Heathen,

    Welcome to this site. I think you will like it. This guy rarely discusses politics, but he reasons much like you in many ways.

    The notion that the human brain can be convinced that it is experiencing when experience is absent is one that I axiomatically accept as false. To be convinced is itself an experience. I assume this truth with only the slightest sensation of proof.

    I think we can one day emulate the human experience so that a machine acts as if it is feeling and acts as if it is reasoning. I question whether we can programmatically create feeling itself. To do that, we would have to understand something that we do not yet understand. We would have to know how humans have experience. We know some of the things that must be present for humans to experience, and we know how to shut the experience off. We cannot, however, conceive of a way to turn experience on the first time.

    Your mind is able to manufacture experiences that are not real, thus creating illusions; but it experiences the illusion. The dream analogy is off point. It is not a specific mechanical experience that I challenge. We can create those at will with certain drugs. It is the act of mechanical comprehension or the act of mechanical experiencing that I question. A better man than I expressed it thus: cogito ergo sum.

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  8. Heathen,

    Welcome to this site. I think you will like it. This guy rarely discusses politics, but he reasons much like you in many ways.

    The notion that the human brain can be convinced that it is experiencing when experience is absent is one that I axiomatically accept as false. To be convinced is itself an experience. I assume this truth with only the slightest sensation of proof.

    I think we can one day emulate the human experience so that a machine acts as if it is feeling and acts as if it is reasoning. I question whether we can programmatically create feeling itself. To do that, we would have to understand something that we do not yet understand. We would have to know how humans have experience. We know some of the things that must be present for humans to experience, and we know how to shut the experience off. We cannot, however, conceive of a way to turn experience on the first time.

    Your mind is able to manufacture experiences that are not real, thus creating illusions; but it experiences the illusion. The dream analogy is off point. It is not a specific mechanical experience that I challenge. We can create those at will with certain drugs. It is the act of mechanical comprehension or the act of mechanical experiencing that I question. A better man than I expressed it thus: cogito ergo sum.

    ReplyDelete