Author Topic: Interesting news items  (Read 1300 times)

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Offline MH

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #210 on: January 14, 2019, 05:28:05 am »

Offline MH

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #211 on: February 05, 2019, 06:09:49 am »

Offline kimmy

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #212 on: February 12, 2019, 01:55:48 am »
Interesting article about consciousness.  It looks at how we can identify consciousness in creatures that can't tell us whether they are self-aware.   Primates and whales are widely believed to be self-aware... it appears some birds may have some degree of consciousness as well.

But birds have significantly different brain geography than we higher mammals do.  So if (and it's still an if) some birds have consciousness, then...

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If these behaviors add up to consciousness, it means one of two things: Either consciousness evolved twice, at least, across the long course of evolutionary history, or it evolved sometime before birds and mammals went on their separate evolutionary journeys. Both scenarios would give us reason to believe that nature can knit molecules into waking minds more easily than previously guessed. This would mean that all across the planet, animals large and small are constantly generating vivid experiences that bear some relationship to our own.

And it goes on to speculate how fish and insects might experience the world around themselves.

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The neuroscientist Björn Merker has suggested that early animal brains solved these problems by generating an internal model of the world, with an avatar of the body at its center. Merker says that consciousness is just the multisensory view from inside this model. The syncing processes and the jangle and noise from our mobile bodies are all missing from this conscious view—some invisible, algorithmic Stanley Kubrick seems to edit them out. Nor do we experience the mechanisms that convert our desires into movements. When I wished to begin hiking up the mountain again, I would simply set off, without thinking about the individual muscle contractions that each step required. When a wasp flies, it is probably not aware of its every wing beat. It may simply will itself through space.

If one of the wasp’s aquatic ancestors experienced Earth’s first embryonic consciousness, it would have been nothing like our own consciousness. It may have been colorless and barren of sharply defined objects. It may have been episodic, flickering on in some situations and off in others. It may have been a murkily sensed perimeter of binary feelings, a bubble of good and bad experienced by something central and unitary. To those of us who have seen stars shining on the far side of the cosmos, this existence would be claustrophobic to a degree that is scarcely imaginable. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t conscious.


 -k
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Offline MH

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #213 on: February 22, 2019, 05:42:38 am »
And more creatures in the news:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/21/worlds-largest-bee-missing-for-38-years-found-in-indonesia

(a giant bee to make me not sleep some night soon)

Offline kimmy

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #214 on: March 13, 2019, 01:06:42 am »
Not a news item, really, but somewhat related to my last post regarding consciousness.

http://nautil.us/blog/heres-how-well-know-an-ai-is-conscious

This is one of those things that I am interested in but don't really have the education to fully grasp.  These are slippery topics that are difficult to get a grip on.

The alt-right crowd recently came up with a meme they call "the NPC" ..."non-player character", referring to video game characters who are controlled by computer scripts rather than other human players. The premise is that liberals aren't really sentient beings, they're just simplistic scripts that can't engage in rational conversation, and are only capable of giving a few predictable responses.  "that's racist", "Trump supporters are Nazis", and so on.  It's dumb, but that's how the meme goes.  But the meme is actually a new formulation of a really old question.  How can you tell if somebody else is actually sentient?  What if they're not? What if I'm the only sentient self-aware being alive, and everybody else is a robot or a figment of my imagination, or so-on?

That puzzle leads to something called a Turing Test... proposed by famous cryptographer and early computing theorist Alan Turing, a Turing Test is the notion that a real intelligence could be discerned from an emulation by asking suitable questions... some questions may be grammatically correct but make no contextual sense, for example, and one would expect a thinking observer to respond that the question doesn't make any sense, while a non-thinking observer might attempt to answer, which should result in inane responses that reveal it didn't really understand the question.

But if an artificial intelligence is able to scan the entire internet for similar questions, parse the results of its search, and pick out popular answers, or determine that the question is nonsense by observing a lack of search results, then a Turing Test becomes more challenging. The author suggests that a Turing Test would have to be conducted with the subject disconnected from the internet.

The author discusses "qualia"-- aspects of something that can only really be understood through actual experience--  you can't describe color to a blind person, you can't describe pain to something with no physical sensations, and so on.  This is something I thought was an interesting question-- is a chess computer actually playing chess, or is it just solving a series of mathematical problems? (Are humans even playing chess, or are we also actually just solving a series of mathematical problems?) Does any understanding of what "chess" even is factor into whether chess is being played? Is it possible to be a champion chess player who has no concept of what chess is other than a series of math problems to work out?   I dunno. Anyway, the author of this article talks about qualia as a possible means of identifying sentience.

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What might we ask a potential mind born of silicon? How the AI responds to questions like “What if my red is your blue?” or “Could there be a color greener than green?” should tell us a lot about its mental experiences, or lack thereof. An AI with visual experience might entertain the possibilities suggested by these questions, perhaps replying, “Yes, and I sometimes wonder if there might also exist a color that mixes the redness of red with the coolness of blue.” On the other hand, an AI lacking any visual qualia might respond with, “That is impossible, red, green, and blue each exist as different wavelengths.” Even if the AI attempts to play along or deceive us, answers like, “Interesting, and what if my red is your hamburger?” would show that it missed the point.

But that's also problematic, because an artificial intelligence could potentially have qualia that are much different from our own, while having no concept of qualia that are meaningful to humans.  An artificial intelligence might fail to grasp color as anything other than different wavelengths, while experiencing mathematics (for example) in a way that humans are simply incapable of grasping, or perceive qualia in some other respect that we can't even conceive of.  So trying to discern sentience using qualia that are meaningful to humans would result in a very anthropocentric concept of sentience, and one that might be very incomplete.

So the author moves on to more abstract concepts, which is where I kind of lost the plot.  Anyway, I still thought it was interesting.

 -k
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Offline MH

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Re: Interesting news items
« Reply #215 on: March 13, 2019, 06:04:19 am »

But that's also problematic, because an artificial intelligence could potentially have qualia that are much different from our own, while having no concept of qualia that are meaningful to humans.  An artificial intelligence might fail to grasp color as anything other than different wavelengths, while experiencing mathematics (for example) in a way that humans are simply incapable of grasping, or perceive qualia in some other respect that we can't even conceive of.  So trying to discern sentience using qualia that are meaningful to humans would result in a very anthropocentric concept of sentience, and one that might be very incomplete.

So the author moves on to more abstract concepts, which is where I kind of lost the plot.  Anyway, I still thought it was interesting.

 -k

I think qualia by definition have to be human.  However, machines can understand things we can't and bugs cause them to behave erratically, lie humans.  What they have over us is the ability to look at huge volumes of data.