X-Message-Number: 27591
Date: Mon,  6 Feb 2006 14:49:11 -0500
Subject: Elusive Clarity
From: <>

>> Your "concrete" definition admits this ambiguity. <<

You are muddling concepts here. There are two distinctly different 
issues: one is the question of the identity of X; the other is 
whether or not people who use the term 'X' to describe something 
mean the same thing by it (i.e. have in mind the same property 
set). These are completely separate issues and have no relation to 
one another.

>> Every atom of my body has been replaced through the normal 
function of metabolism. By your definition and aesthetics, you and 
my guinean client must admit I have ceased to be the sculptor of 
the vanished nordic beauty. <<

Again, I redirect you to my actual definition (to contrast it with 
the strawman one you seem intent on portraying me as holding onto), 
which mandates you ARE the sculptor, even if every single atom in 
your body has been changed (through normal function and metabolism).

>> We have no adequate definition of general intelligence, so we do 
not know that general intelligence requires all those quatillions 
of flibbertygibbets more than a jumbo requires bird-feathers. <<

Nor do you know that Mars isn't home to an axe-wielding pomeranian 
that has it in for you. But you have no evidence of either, and 
lacking evidence, it would be irrational for you to believe either 
that (a) neurons can be simulated accurately enough for producing 
human-level intelligence using fewer atoms than are contained in 
neurons; or (b) there is an oxygen-rich den of opposable-thumbed, 
barbarous pomeranians on Mars.

The evidence that we do have suggests that (a) mathematical 
attempts to model neurons are capable of producing only mildly 
amusing toys, and (b) Mars has no life. The burden of proof lies 
with the one making the contrarian claim.

>> In a sentence you failed to quote I said the little buggers do 
other things. As for connectionism I refer you to 
http://www.cryonet.org/ cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=25557. Until someone 
bests my butterfly, I'm a 
diehard skeptic. <<

Then why are you arguing with me?

>> Since you seem to be backsliding on that point, let's agree not 
worry about it. <<

I am not backsliding. Rather, you are confusing two separate 
scenarios. In one, we get a biological brain running as a 
simulation on a computer. In the other, we create an artificial 
brain, using artificial neurons. 

In the first scenario, the 'brain' does not exist, but is a matter 
of interpretation; ergo, it doesn't share the properties of a real 
brain, and in particular doesn't share the property of being able 
to subjectively experience something (anything).

In the second case, I am open to the possibility that alternate 
substrates may be capable of subjective experience. I see no reason 
why not, but then again, I don't know what it is about our 
biological brain that makes it capable of subjectivity.

>> To solve it would require a new paradigm of computation. The 
seems quite obliging in this regard; quantum computers will crunch 
the snot out of the most explosive Turing combinatorics. Many 
things come to pass. <<

Quantum computers, if indeed they are feasible, may be able to 
factor numbers really fast. But no one has shown they can solve NP 
Hard problems in polynomial time (and the simulation of a 
biological brain is quite a bit harder than most NP hard problems). 
Postulating otherwise is pure speculation.

>> Or I could refer myself to Barnsley's work on Iterated Function 
Systems and observe that a feather, fernlike, can be generated by 
an IFS represented by less information than this sentence. <<

Oh great. I can produce a pretty picture of something that looks 
like a tree using an L grammar. 

And what exactly is the relationship of fractal images to the 
uncomputability of the physical world?

>> No. I don't know that. I've only suggested you don't know the 
contrary. That said, yes, one of my pet projects is a dram o' math 
that might enable AI. Or it might not. I don't claim a thing 
without some kind of proof. Do you? <<

I take what I perceive to be the only rational position: while we 
don't know for certain the neuron is incomputable, there is no 
evidence against it, and quite a lot of evidence for it. That's my 

Richard B. R.

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