Is consciousness biological?

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This topic contains 75 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 1 month ago.

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  • #39142

    Unseen
    Participant

    Davis, Treating intelligent beings like intelligent beings is always a good plan, as I’m sure Hawking would agree.

    Human beings have encountered strange intelligent beings 100 Billion times since we’ve been here, every time one of us was born. 40 percent didn’t live past age 1, more didn’t live to maturity, and the overwhelming bulk were chalked up for slave labor or cannon fodder.

    In dealing with this inevitable new phenomenon of AI, I just think and hope we do a little better. Yes, we should be careful, as with newborns, but not hostile and not automatically assuming the worst.

    Your pollyanna-ish attitude is the sort of attitude that could be the end of us all. I agree with Davis, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk that AI poses a very very serious potential threat. Elon signed an open letter warning of the threat. (Of course, Elon also thinks we are in a simulation, so what does he know, right?) Also signing the letter were “…Peter Norvig, director of research at Google; Martin Rees, professor emeritus of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge; Vernor Vinge, professor emeritus of computer science at San Diego State University; Frank Wilczek, Nobel laureate and physics professor at MIT; and many others.” (source) But what do they know?

    Well, that’s the question for all of us, isn’t it? It’s probably something we don’t know or didn’t anticipate that could bring an end to the human experiment.

    One of the biggest risks is that they will do exactly what we ask it to do. When one troubleshoots a “malfunctioning” computer, very often it turns out that it wasn’t malfunctioning at all. It was doing exactly what it was told to do. This happens all the time!

    So the biggest threat AI poses may be that age old bugaboo, unintended consequences:

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    #39145

    Davis
    Moderator

    Enco, I get the feeling that your point of view here stems from your deep mistrust of government, support for industry to do nearly whatever they like and an extreme dislike of regulation. You know fully well I never said we should be hostile to AI nor did I even insinuate we should assume the worst. Your occasional gift for putting words in other users’ mouths is one that is disappointing to see.  We should legislate in such a way that we are careful to avoid potential disasters. I know a lot of libertarian types see:

    Legislation to be careful = government sticking their controlling tentacles into everything to control all

    But this is a pretty bloody ludicrous way to view regulations, especially when they protect citizens and important other factors such as the environment. A little scepticism and oversight is needed…but a “what could go wrong…we can handle the problems when they arrive” as a stupid way to deal with new technologies and policies. We need only look at a near total lack of regulation of recent new disruptive technologies to see the human consequences:

    Ride sharing and delivery services exploiting labour and unfairly upending other businesses without contributing fair share of taxes

    Social media companies assisting with the rampant dissemination of misinformation negatively effecting elections and monopolising markets while paying virtually no taxes in several countries

    Companies toxifying the shit out of environments with new petrochemical solutions (fracking and tar sands for example) and abandoning the sites when they are useless to them without cleaning them up

    Amazon obtaining a near monopoly in general online shopping seriously affecting market competition and again paying few taxes in many jurisdictions

    These are just minor technologies compared with the potential of AI. To not plan and create even bare minimum regulations to propose best practices, safety precautions and corporate responsibility is ludicrous. The United States has some of the fewest regulations regarding its environment and market and the US suffers from some of the most outrageous anti-competitive practices, labour exploitation, environmental pollution and numerous other problems. That same attitude towards extreme unknowns such as AI is foolish.

    #39147

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    “Good or bad means to uphold or violate moral norms.” That’s just one of the definitions of “good” and “bad.” “This new drink is good,” for example, makes no moral claim.

    That’s true.  But they’re related because each is an example of something fulfilling an ideal.

    Malevolence can be wrong for the harm it does to the malevolent actor, for example.

    In other words, it causes a reduction of something (personal thriving) away from a more ideal state.  That’s because we live in an environment where cooperation is socially valued.

    #39150

    Davis
    Moderator

    That’s true.  But they’re related because each is an example of something fulfilling an ideal.

    Good (morally good) as fulfilling an idea is only valid for some moral theories and not for others. In other words, your argument works only if it aligns with your arbitrarily chosen moral system. It does not with other ones such as deontological or utilitarian ones.

    In other words, it causes a reduction of something (personal thriving) away from a more ideal state.  That’s because we live in an environment where cooperation is socially valued.

    Simon, this is sort of an example of theologian axiom worship in action. You are so in love with your thriving idea that you are bending nearly everything around you to fit into it. Not all harm is related to a reduction of personal thriving. If you damage one of my twenty sport cars it is not going to remotely affect my “thriving” under your idiosyncratic definition. I have 19 other vanity vehicles which sit there collecting dust. It is the financial equivalent of stubbing my toe if someone damages it. They have still caused me harm. Just as someone stealing a penny from my pocket would be. Someone can also harm you without you even realising it and yet you still keep on thriving. Someone can harm you and yet the consequences can lead you to “thriving” even more.

    Cruelty and harm can also have unintended benefits. For example if your life goals and the potential you wish to realise are actually terrible ones and someone is cruel to you and yet that unintentionally sets you on a path towards far more laudable or praiseworthy life goals…that cruelty actually hasn’t diminished your “thriving”.

    Oversimplifying things gets in the way of nuanced knowledge. Be extremely weary of jamming so much shit into an overarching theory until you have THOROUGHLY explored it and can conclude that things honestly fit well into it. If they don’t, instead of insisting on maintaining that argument, modify it or come up with a new one. The best intellectual minds normally spend endless years doing this which including abandoning or seriously modifying ideas they held dearly and ensuring their ideas could withstand rigorous scrutiny. If your impulse is to ignore multiple criticisms and simply insist that you are right…there is something wrong with your approach.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    #39156

    Unseen
    Participant

    @simon

    You’re a closet reductionist. “Reductionism” in the  philosophical sense. There seem to be no instances of evidence that don’t prove or align with your theory.

    When both A and -A prove or are explained by your theory, you are unfairly and anti-intellectually hamstringing your interlocutors. You’re arguing in bad faith.

    If this is not the case, okay, what would disconfirming evidence look like to you? If you can even imagine it.

    #39157

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    There seem to be no instances of evidence that don’t prove or align with your theory.

    It’s a very powerful and wide-ranging theory.  So, it explains a lot.

    #39158

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Good (morally good) as fulfilling an idea is only valid for some moral theories and not for others. In other words, your argument works only if it aligns with your arbitrarily chosen moral system. It does not with other ones such as deontological or utilitarian ones.

    Yes, but they’re only partial theories.  They leave out the idea of moral norms.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    #39164

    Davis
    Moderator

    If this is not the case, okay, what would disconfirming evidence look like to you? If you can even imagine it.

    I would really like to know this Simon. Could you please give us a few examples of this?

    #39166

    Davis
    Moderator

    Yes, but they’re only partial theories.  They leave out the idea of moral norms.

    Wow. That is an extremely strange claim, that a full moral theory must include moral norms. That is the first time I have ever heard that. How exactly did you draw this conclusion?

    #39168

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Could you please give us a few examples of this?

    I can’t think of any right now.  Can you?

    How exactly did you draw this conclusion?

    Here is the theory of moral norms:

    – through observation, we find that morality arises in the context of cooperation.  E.g., anyone whom we are not cooperating with is outside of our sphere of moral concern.

    – cooperation involves playing roles.

    – roles have associated standards of behaviour needed for success, or “role ideals”.

    – some role ideals belong to any collaboration alike, such as respect and fairness.

    – these special kind of role ideals are called moral norms.

    A social norm is defined by Michael Tomasello as “a way to be cooperative in otherwise competitive situations.”  For example, the practice of queuing in the UK: or sexual norms are the cooperativisation of otherwise competitive reproductive impulses.  We have patriarchy so that men don’t need to fight each other to gain control of women.

    I think it’s very strange not to include moral norms like helping, fairness, reciprocity, sexual norms, etc. in a theory of morality.  This is basically my point: that existing moral philosophy has its head up its own arse.

    #39186

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, moral norms are arbitrary, developed out of culture, in many cases unable to be bent despite clear reasons (and even cultural advantage) to get rid of it. You hand pick praiseworthy traits that have developed in some cultures and ignore the many cultural norms which are harmful and morally repugnant. Mass rape is a moral norm of human warfare, treating women as property is a moral norm in half of the worlds societies at the moment. Taking little to no serious care of people starving to death while protecting the outrageously rich is a norm in the far majority of countries and has been a common throughout most of civilization with little meaningful impetus to stop it and only occasional rebellion (always temporary) over it.

    Every moral system has advantages and disadvantages (including the prominence of moral norms in that theory) and if you do not get that you shouldn’t be writing a book about it.  The advantage of having a critical mind is the ability to develop either overarching theories or principles that help dictate rules, some of them more flexible than others (utilitarian for that matter). You have such an extremely unsophisticated understanding of moral theories, I simply do not understand what ground you stand on to discredit them let alone come up with a phrase like “they have their heads up their arses”. My understanding of psychology is probably as sophisticated as your understanding of philosophy and moral theories. That is I have a rudimentary understanding of important concepts and I am ignorant many branches of psychology with very slightly more in depth understanding of others. The elements I do know are superficial. I wouldn’t possibly claim to know enough about psychology to dismiss the field let alone attack parts of it which I know almost nothing of. This is how you appear to us when you give pseudo philosophical explanations of things which are hard for us to make sense of, betray how little you know of a subject and then disparage it despite having a merely skin deep knowledge of it and a general refusal to learn more about it.

    I know I keep trying out shit like this again and again, but I only do it in the hope that you might actually take some of it seriously and learn about stuff before considering it all flawed.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    #39187

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, if you cannot even conceive of evidence or arguments that would make you question your theory, then I don’t know why anyone would ever take it seriously. I can fairly easily come up with multiple kinds of evidence for any argument I think is important. You have a major argument which you think is a comprehensive explanation of so many things which you dedicate a significant amount of time to and are even writing a book which I assume heavily deals with that argument, and you cannot even think of an example of evidence or arguments that would disprove it? That is shocking.

    #39198

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    In morality, a norm is something that people think is good, rather than something which is normal.  I can think of some norms that are hard to account for, like the norm against homosexuality.  I think this has to do with two things: 1) the sacredness of the male-female pair bond for the purpose of reproduction (“no sex outside marriage”); and 2) the devaluing of women and promotion of masculinity.  Gay men are treated as bad, because they act like females.  However, this is quite a weak link or reason, which is why in (say) ancient Greece, male homosexuality was normal.

    learn about stuff before considering it all flawed.

    I don’t consider it all flawed – but much of it goes nowhere except up its own arse.  Traditional moral philosophy is largely a giant waste of anybody’s time, except that it primes people to be ready for the real stuff (evolutionary ethics).

    #39199

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    The advantage of having a critical mind is the ability to develop either overarching theories or principles that help dictate rules, some of them more flexible than others (utilitarian for that matter).

    It’s interesting you should mention utilitarianism.  The pressure to thrive + a prosocial attitude leads to a version of utilitarianism.  This is both a socially just distribution of benefit and harm, and a version of fairness (fairness as respect).  But benefit and harm, and a limited form of fairness, are only two out of perhaps seven moral foundations that coexist.  However, for most people, including moderate conservatives, benefit and harm and fairness are at least as important as any other foundation.  For extreme conservatives, they don’t care about benefit and harm and fairness quite so much as they care about respecting order and authority, for example.

    #39201

    Unseen
    Participant

    @simon

    Unless I detect that you have thought of some disconfirming data for your propositions, I will be pretending you don’t exist and will not be engaging in a conversation you’ve stacked against us.

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