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The Transhuman Condition


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#1 Bruce Klein

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 06:39 AM


The Transhuman Condition
Kip Werking
The University Of Texas At Austin

Homepage: http://www.ece.utexas.edu/~werking

"There is no evil I have to accept because 'there's nothing I can do about it'. There is no abused child, no oppressed peasant, no starving beggar, no crack-addicted infant, no cancer patient, literally no one that I cannot look squarely in the eye. I'm working to save everybody, heal the planet, solve all the problems of the world."
Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularitarian Principles 1.0

I. INTRODUCTION
This article is my effort to identify the next two anthropocentric beliefs to die. One would not expect Copernicus's defeat of geocentricism and Darwin's defeat of special Creation to be last comforting illusions that science will expose. There is an important difference, however, between the third and fourth anthropocentric conceits that I propose. Whereas the transhumanist community has largely abandoned, to their advantage, the third conceit, I will argue that even transhumanists have ignored the fourth.

The fourth conceit is my effort to show what transhumanism cannot do. In particular, I will show that while transhumanist technologies may remedy part of the human condition, they cannot remedy a remaining part, which I will call the transhuman condition. My article is, in this respect, similar to the critiques by Dreyfus, Searle, and Penrose, which claim to demonstrate what artificial intelligence cannot, even in principle, do. My critique of transhumanism is relevantly different from those, however, because my arguments attempt to undermine, rather than erect, distinctions between human beings and the world.

While preparing this article I considered other possible anthropocentric conceits. One notable possibility, which the transhumanist community has perhaps not abandoned, is the threat that future technologies pose to personal identity. Some have speculated about the eventual emergence of a global brain. We continue to view ourselves as distinct individuals but technology that could potentially merge our minds or bodies might very well demonstrate that this sense of personal identity is, and always was, an illusion. Although this anthropocentric conceit might have philosophical value, I consider the consequences of abandoning personal identity to be so slight that the conceit is relatively trivial. By the time we should ever merge into a global brain, I doubt that we will care whether or not we are or ever were individuals. In contrast, I expect the population to eventually discover and confront the nontrivial consequences of both the anthropocentric conceits that I do propose.

Complete Essay:
http://transhumanism...re/Haldane2004/

Award:
http://www.transhuma...p/WTA/more/258/

#2 Bruce Klein

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 05:27 AM

Guys, if you haven't had a chance to read Kip's paper above, it's really worth the mind-bending experience. I think Kip has hit upon the most essential, and scariest of future shock topics.. the final human centered ideas to fall from advanced intelligence.

#3 PaulH

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 07:36 AM

I find this article amusing on several levels, primarily becuase I agree with all of his supporting evidence, and come to the completely opposite conclusion (see my paper on Super-Free Will). Hard Determinism fell the day Quantum Mechanics was born, and his reliance on pre-quantum scientists and philosophers is most telling. Einstein fought QM until the day he died, and his famous rebuttal, the Einstien-Rosen-Podolsky Paradox, was roundly refuted by Bell's Theorem and the hundreds of experiments since, starting with Aspect's work in 1982.

Quantum Indeterminancy is scientific fact. Hard Determinism depends entirely on pre-QM Newtonian "billiard ball" physics. To me this is so obvious, that I'm actually amazed people are still arguing over it. Kind of weird actually.

As I pointed out in my paper, free will is not an either/or, black and white, 0 or 1 proposition, but instead exists on a continuum from 0 to 1. To argue that it either exists (1) or does not exist (0), is quaintly Aristotelian. If quantum mechanics has taught us anything, it's that either/or doesn't apply. Qubit based quantum computers work precisely because of this superimposition between states.

All of Kips argument are completely logical only if they remain within a non-quantum frame of reference. But since we live in a physical universe, and all physical properties are subject to Quantum indeterminancy and conscious observer-dependence, his argument of hard determinism falls completely by the wayside. Not to mention the logical fallacy of using either/or logic as a basis for his arguments, rather than more modern and useful fuzzy based logical systems.

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#4 Bruce Klein

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 08:00 AM

Beat me over the head with a stick, this concept is starting to sink in. QM does seem to throw a wrench into the seemingly black & white nature of hard determinism.

In reading Bart Kosko, as well, I'm starting to see the "fuzziness". Everything is measured not necessarily as on or off, but by degree.

#5 Mind

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 02:49 PM

I was thinking about a QM refutation of this but I also thought it could not be reconciled with Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. If the universe (including us) is a formal system then there are unprovable truths that exist. Possibly free will and/or consciousness fall into this category. They exist but cannot be proven.

Here is a website-Godel that explains some of this thinking.

Gödel's Theorem has been used to argue that a computer can never be as smart as a human being because the extent of its knowledge is limited by a fixed set of axioms, whereas people can discover unexpected truths ... It plays a part in modern linguistic theories, which emphasize the power of language to come up with new ways to express ideas. And it has been taken to imply that you'll never entirely understand yourself, since your mind, like any other closed system, can only be sure of what it knows about itself by relying on what it knows about itself.



#6 John Doe

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 06:30 PM

Hard Determinism fell the day Quantum Mechanics was born, and his reliance on pre-quantum scientists and philosophers is most telling.  Einstein fought QM until the day he died, and his famous rebuttal, the Einstien-Rosen-Podolsky Paradox, was roundly refuted by Bell's Theorem and the hundreds of experiments since, starting with Aspect's work in 1982.

Quantum Indeterminancy is scientific fact.  Hard Determinism depends entirely on pre-QM Newtonian "billiard ball" physics.   To me this is so obvious, that I'm actually amazed people are still arguing over it.  Kind of weird actually.

As I pointed out in my paper, free will is not an either/or, black and white, 0 or 1 proposition, but instead exists on a continuum from 0 to 1.  To argue that it either exists (1) or does not exist (0), is quaintly Aristotelian.  If quantum mechanics has taught us anything, it's that either/or doesn't apply.  Qubit based quantum computers work precisely because of this superimposition between states.

All of Kips argument are completely logical only if they remain within a non-quantum frame of reference.  But since we live in a physical universe, and all physical properties are subject to Quantum indeterminancy and conscious observer-dependence, his argument of hard determinism falls completely by the wayside.  Not to mention the logical fallacy of using either/or logic as a basis for his arguments, rather than more modern and useful fuzzy based logical systems.


I argue for more than hard determinism in my essay. Indeed, I think free will cannot exist whether or not determinism is true. There are several philosophers today who hold this position (Pereboom, Double). So, the question of compatibilism/incompatibilism is a bit of a red herring. So the argument is not that !fw->determinism !determinism, therefore fw. Those who assert fw exist need to show how QM would help -- and remember that meta-programming does not require QM at all.

I also argue that future technologies will undermine our sense of morality and reality -- not just our freedom. QM would seem to be irrelevant to these other points.

Edited by John Doe, 22 April 2004 - 06:55 PM.

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#7 Mind

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 11:13 PM

I have to agree on the point that QM theory (at this point in our understanding) does not automatically lead to free will. Maybe it does...but it has not been proven. However, I have to say QM (at this point in our understanding) does refute "hard" determinism.

Meta-programming is only as deterministic as the substrate we are computing with. Since every substrate we compute with is composed of quantum particles, I would say nothing is deterministic.

Of course, very precise predictions can still be made in the macro-world. A sufficiently advanced being or computer could predict most human action with great precision, just not with "absolute" precision. So my question becomes...Will the predictions be precise enough for us to let go of the 4th conceit?

#8 d_m_radetsky

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 06:51 AM

Mind:

I have to say QM (at this point in our understanding) does refute "hard" determinism.


Does it really? I'm not sure I buy this. I remember a very sharp fellow I know once told me (and I think this applies to QM as well) "If you hear someone bring up Goedel's Theorem to talk about anything besides math, you can be pretty sure they're full of shit." Indeterminacy, as I understand it, is a statement more about our ability to percieve reality (the inequality being a product of uncertainties, which are our measurments) than about reality itself.

planetp

free will is not an either/or, black and white, 0 or 1 proposition, but instead exists on a continuum from 0 to 1. To argue that it either exists (1) or does not exist (0), is quaintly Aristotelian.


Well, pardon me for being quaint, but what exactly does it mean to have 1/2 free will then? I can't quite picture it.

#9 John Doe

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:42 AM

Does it really? I'm not sure I buy this. I remember a very sharp fellow I know once told me (and I think this applies to QM as well) "If you hear someone bring up Goedel's Theorem to talk about anything besides math, you can be pretty sure they're full of shit." Indeterminacy, as I understand it, is a statement more about our ability to percieve reality (the inequality being a product of uncertainties, which are our measurments) than about reality itself.


Exactly. Comments such as those from PlanetP make me more sympathetic who Dennett, who criticizes Penrose for arguments against AI because of Godel's paradox, and also Kane for arguments that FW exists because of "chaotic systems" or quantum mechanics. Counter-intuitive ideas are being applied in inappropriate domains.

Well, pardon me for being quaint, but what exactly does it mean to have 1/2 free will then? I can't quite picture it.


;)

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#10 John Doe

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:43 AM

Of course, very precise predictions can still be made in the macro-world. A sufficiently advanced being or computer could predict most human action with great precision, just not with "absolute" precision. So my question becomes...Will the predictions be precise enough for us to let go of the 4th conceit?


Stephen Hawking thinks so:

"As Dirac remarked, Maxwell's equations of light, and the relativistic wave equation, which he was too modest to call the Dirac equation, govern most of physics, and all of chemistry and biology. So in principle, we ought to be able to predict human behavior, though I can't say I have had much success myself."

#11 Mind

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 05:55 PM

I think there is a contradiction in your statements d_m_radetsky and John Doe. You are arguing that the entire universe in deterministic. i.e. it follows the laws of physics, laws that are represented by mathematical equations. Yet you say Godel's Incompleteness Theorem does not apply in the universe. Which is it? Is the universe a formal system or something else.

Or are you saying contradictions/paradoxes can exist in the formal system of the universe...just not FW for some reason or another?

#12 John Doe

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:04 PM

I think there is a contradiction in your statements d_m_radetsky and John Doe. You are arguing that the entire universe in deterministic. i.e. it follows the laws of physics, laws that are represented by mathematical equations. Yet you say Godel's Incompleteness Theorem does not apply in the universe. Which is it? Is the universe a formal system or something else.

Or are you saying contradictions/paradoxes can exist in the formal system of the universe...just not FW for some reason or another?


I am not claiming that the universe is fully deterministic.

#13 d_m_radetsky

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 11:45 PM

And I never said that Goedel's theorem didn't apply to the universe. What I meant was that I don't trust non-mathematicians to correctly interpret the theorem, because it's much, much harder than popular accounts would lead you to believe. I don't understand the math behind it, and I sincerely doubt any of you do either. Popularizers make you think you can understand the most difficult concepts in math & science just by reading a short little book or article, and nothing could be further from the truth. I say we should all stay the hell away from Goedel, QM, and all the rest, unless we really know what we're talking about.

While I'm at it, Mind, you seem like you're confusing being math and representing math. The laws in question are not really the universe; they are abstractions of our previous experience written in an extremely general way (i.e. in math) and purported to predict what will happen next. So, the universe is not a formal system (it's a real, live thing), the universe does follow physical laws (i.e. we make predictions , which are often correct), and we represent said laws with mathematical equations. Goedel's theorem, which is sometimes reffered to as part of proof theory (I think), might say something about our mathematical representations, but these are different than the things themselves. Does that clear it up?

#14 Mind

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 02:45 PM

While I'm at it, Mind, you seem like you're confusing being math and representing math. The laws in question are not really the universe; they are abstractions of our previous experience written in an extremely general way (i.e. in math) and purported to predict what will happen next.


Looking back at what I have written I can see how you would come to the conclusion that I am confusing "being math" with "representing math". Sorry about that. However, I do know the distinction and have thought about it in depth, as have a great many mathematicians and scientists over the years.

A good paper about this is "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" from Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics by Eugene P. Wigner (Nobel Laureate in Physics), 1960.

If top physicists thought Mathematics' usefulness in the natural sciences was uncanny back then, it has certainly gotten more so in the last 40 years.

Another good essay is "What is Mathematics?" from The World Within the World by John D. Barrow. 1988

Barrow ponders the question of whether the beautiful relationships discovered in mathematics are but fabrications of the human mind, or, instead really exist in the outer world - whether, in other words, they are invented by mathematicians or discovered by them.

Then of course there is Wolfram "A New Kind of Science", who has put forth the idea that the entire universe is one big computation.

I would put myself in the group that looks at the universe and sees one big Math equation. I know, I know, this would seem to undermine my take on Kip's essay. I still have more thoughts on this......

#15 Mind

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 10:20 PM

Grant me this John_Doe: The concept of "Free Will" exists.

#16 John Doe

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 11:16 PM

Grant me this John_Doe: The concept of "Free Will" exists.


Of course.

#17 MichaelAnissimov

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 03:37 AM

Radetsky is right on target with Godel's theorem and the difficulty of interpretation. The physics of 2004's best guess is that the universe is deterministic. The wave equations are obeyed everywhere and at all times. Conscious observers are not necessary for the wave function to "collapse" - in fact no such "collapse" happens at all. There are only measurements, and measurements can be performed by any thermodynamically irreversible process.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Radetsky's comments about indeterminacy. We human beings are so complex, that the universe would be confusing whether or not the bottom level turned out to be atoms, the quantum foam, or no bottom level at all. I am no critic of fuzzy thinking - I love Bart Kosko and 'fuzzy thinking' also happens to be one of the fundamental premises of Bayes.

#18 Mind

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 02:42 PM

One of the main deficiencies of your essay is invoking a greater than human intelligence to deny the existence of free will (ala the Einstein quote and the several paragraphs that follow). By definition, no one can know what a "greater than human intelligence" will find out about humans since we only possess human level intelligence. To make your argument stronger I would use the laws of physics (as Michael stated previously) to assess a probability to the non-existence of free will. Also useful may be the work of Libet New Humanist Review

#19 bacopa

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 05:24 PM

As I pointed out in my paper, free will is not an either/or, black and white, 0 or 1 proposition, but instead exists on a continuum from 0 to 1. To argue that it either exists (1) or does not exist (0), is quaintly Aristotelian. If quantum mechanics has taught us anything, it's that either/or doesn't apply. Qubit based quantum computers work precisely because of this superimposition between states.

First of all I would argue that the term free will as got to go. It's vague and doesn't really speak to how our brains actually work. I have a hard time accepting a possible deterministic universe and that we ourselves may be guided by deterministic forces but I'm slowly learning to...

It would seem a decision is a decision, once we've made it it's done...in a sense it is binary 0 1. We can reflect later on the decision we made, we can spend time mulling over the decision to make, but I've always looked at decision making as something we can do on our own despite obstacles hindering complete rationality. For instance if we weren't hard wired to find the opposite or same sex attractive than we'd be able to focus on making clearer minded decisions perhaps, I'm sure you've thought of that. As you pointed out Kip, we may simply have a limited scope of knowledge and brains able to manipulate that knowledge.

Kip I just started reading your paper, it's a frightening notion that we are so little in control of our actions, and with the advent of terrible mind numbing drugs like SSRI's such as Prozac this puts our BRM meters on overload possibly hindering us and blissing us out even more. Perhaps happiness and strength of emotional highs really is the antithesis of free will. I'm on Lexapro for OCD and when I come into even casual contact with those not on these seretonergic uplifters I feel like my happiness or contentness meter is too strong for them...it's really troubling because it does dumb me down and even seems to speed up time for me, in that my brain seems only cognizant of wider gaps of moments through time and doesn't pick up on thoughts in between the gaps. Aside from this I feel I have limited decision capablities.

That's why I'm getting off these mind numbing drugs. Psychological drugs are obviously still in the infancy stage. I would think better drugs wouldn't disrupt our pleasure centers as much, or at least not hinder rational thought...certainly with the advent of IA we will be able to slow down our percieved time frames even more and experience VR environments much richer in thought, SUBTLER emotions and maybe get closer to achieving real happiness not in the blissed out sense, but in the zen contented and directed volitional sense, and without such binary extremes of being either really happily blissed out or depressed, angry and rageful. Certainly you may agree that we live our lives too fast right now in an attempt to hold on to high levels of hedonic bliss or just percieved contentedness. Again you've obviously cited Hed Imperative.

Your paper is brilliant because it seems to touch on these ideas as well as being a well researched, thought out academic paper.

If there was a way to slow down percieved time while maintaining optimal levels of satisfaction, than our lives might finally start to resemble sanity in its purest form, but for now the hedonic treadmill of highs and lows seems to be the barbaric manner we live our lives, to echo David Pierce's sentiments. I agree with this notion whole heartedly.

Well, pardon me for being quaint, but what exactly does it mean to have 1/2 free will then? I can't quite picture it.

I'm pretty sure he was using a binary system model as an analogy for the 'grey area' that arguably exists in between the concept of total free will, whatever that means, and hard determinism my question would be, how much room actually exists? and what the heck is total free will by human standards if we can fathom a super being billions and trillions of times smarter than us? certainly the whole concept of free will, will disappear into the anals of obsolete philosophical lexicon if and when we reach this level of complexity

Truly appreciating the inferiority of our intelligence -- the gross limits that our wetware places upon the speed and content of our thoughts -- requires an almost religious humility.

Wow what a powerful and true statement, might as well stand up to the truth, we simply have a long way to go.

Edited by dfowler, 04 May 2004 - 11:56 PM.


#20 John Doe

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:01 AM

One of the main deficiencies of your essay is invoking a greater than human intelligence to deny the existence of free will (ala the Einstein quote and the several paragraphs that follow). By definition, no one can know what a "greater than human intelligence" will find out about humans since we only possess human level intelligence. To make your argument stronger I would use the laws of physics (as Michael stated previously) to assess a probability to the non-existence of free will. Also useful may be the work of Libet New Humanist Review


This is a deficiency. The conclusion rests, however, upon the not-so-controversial premise that a sense of predictability diminishes our sense of free will. This is so because the agent now seems more vulnerable to contol and the decisions seem to be made, in a sense, prior to the agent's "choice".

#21 bacopa

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 01:34 AM

John Paul seems to think that he was ganged up on do you feel this is the case?
He feels that you guys didn't appreciate or understand his position, and he feels he was attacked by Hugh Bristic and others, I hope imminst is an open forum for people's views to be appreciated on their own terms and I would hate to think that people are being underminded or insulted in any way shape or form. Paul told me in person that he thinks the argument was just a big misunderstanding, are you ok with this? Because Paul's a smart and really good guy and I think he deserves to be taken seriously even though many might disagree with him.

#22 John Doe

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 04:31 AM

John Paul seems to think that he was ganged up on do you feel this is the case?
He feels that you guys didn't appreciate or understand his position, and he feels he was attacked by Hugh Bristic and others, I hope imminst is an open forum for people's views to be appreciated on their own terms and I would hate to think that people are being underminded or insulted in any way shape or form. Paul told me in person that he thinks the argument was just a big misunderstanding, are you ok with this? Because Paul's a smart and really good guy and I think he deserves to be taken seriously even though many might disagree with him.


I do not feel that is the case. I think Paul is being melodramatic to avoid defending or explaning his ideas.

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#23 Mind

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 12:02 AM

Related to the slight deficiency in "invoking greater than human intelligence", is assuming minds would become paralyzed after becoming post/transhuman. I will grant you that a human mind would become paralyzed if thrust suddenly into a fully transhuman world with rapidly changing realities. However, a transhuman mind may be "used to" and comfortable with such radical change, having evolved along with the changing reality. Just a hunch.

#24 Mind

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Posted 23 December 2009 - 06:37 PM

I saw this article today and it reminded me of Kip's thought experiment. The sinister powers of crowdsourcing.

Users would receive a few cents each time they contribute. Furthermore, Zittrain says that such a task might be made into an addictive game, similar to Google's image labeller....

...Crowdsourcing's power to compartmentalise and abstract away the true meaning of tasks turns human intelligence into a commodity. Zittrain's thought experiment shows how it could potentially entice people into participating in a project that they otherwise wouldn't support.


Kip's Quote:

From these examples one can generalize about certain ethical crisis that any such species must confront. Our own species has already noted the first crisis, which is the discovery of the supergoal and the realization that happiness is a subgoal. In particular, since Darwin human beings have known that happiness inducing behaviors were selected during evolution not because they promote human happiness but rather because they promote genes. Curiously enough, our species has duly noted this discovery and not felt much anxiety at all. We have yet, however, to confront the second crisis, which is the manipulation of the BRM. Although weak technologies such as illicit drugs already exist, human beings are not yet faced with the prospect of divorcing happiness from adaptive behavior. If technology continues to progress unchecked, we will soon have the ability to feel rewarded for any behavior. Which behaviors will we choose?



#25 Mind

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:27 PM

Someone else speculating about modifying internal reward signals. It just goes to show (IMO) that the LongeCity forums are usually light years (ok, maybe just a decade) ahead of most everyone else.

#26 Russ Maughan

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Posted 11 March 2015 - 03:19 AM

If I may revisit the 1/2 free will idea, has anyone seen the movie "Lucy"? 100% free will is illustrated nicely by her ability to conciously will her own hair color, length etc. And bare with me, this is a "crowd pleaser" idea but, the 1/2 free will could be illustrated as Adam in the Garden assigning meaning to plants and trees etc and a god the other 1/2 willing Adams heart to beat, hair to fall out etc.



#27 Julia36

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 07:10 PM

I agree Quantum Indeterminancy is not a scientific fact but an explanation of processes some of which are known.

"Quantum Mechanics is statistics" (tHooft).

 Bell's interpretation doen't rule out non local hidden variables.

 

2 ways of arguing this scientifically, or philosophically.

 

A great way of looking at it may just be

 

There are laws and methods of prediction

 

So the important thing is not determinism v quantum, but your model construction and results.

 

 

 

 

Quantum-cartoon.png

 

 


Edited by the hanged man, 17 July 2015 - 07:13 PM.


#28 Julia36

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 07:21 PM

If I may revisit the 1/2 free will idea, has anyone seen the movie "Lucy"? 100% free will is illustrated nicely by her ability to conciously will her own hair color, length etc. And bare with me, this is a "crowd pleaser" idea but, the 1/2 free will could be illustrated as Adam in the Garden assigning meaning to plants and trees etc and a god the other 1/2 willing Adams heart to beat, hair to fall out etc.

 

Free Will is a pre-science term.

 

Degrees of Freedom is what's used in engineeroing now eg in robotics,

and this must also be available in software philosophy.

 

A person has ab idiosyncratic number and systems of degrees of freedom.

There are things you can do which I cannot. I have fewer degrees of freedom on those.

 

Wholistically nothing except the everything , which is only a postulate, could have 10% degrees of freedom, and that would mean it was unrestricted even by laws which it was not subject to. An inverse way of considering this is stating there is randomness...stuff which doesn't follow laws. Historically that has been argued from ignorance of a system.



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#29 Julia36

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 12:25 PM

Radetsky is right on target with Godel's theorem and the difficulty of interpretation. The physics of 2004's best guess is that the universe is deterministic. The wave equations are obeyed everywhere and at all times. Conscious observers are not necessary for the wave function to "collapse" - in fact no such "collapse" happens at all. There are only measurements, and measurements can be performed by any thermodynamically irreversible process.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Radetsky's comments about indeterminacy. We human beings are so complex, that the universe would be confusing whether or not the bottom level turned out to be atoms, the quantum foam, or no bottom level at all. I am no critic of fuzzy thinking - I love Bart Kosko and 'fuzzy thinking' also happens to be one of the fundamental premises of Bayes.

 

Many World's?

 

 

Non-locality works for me in quantum theory...as it works for classical physics. There can be only one physics, & I see fields as applying because particles/energies create them and vice versa : I mean the cosmos is interactive & mutually dependant.

 

I challenge that 'thermodynamically irreversible processes' is good science ie it would negate conservation of information, now thought to hold (Susskind).

 

maxresdefault.jpg
 



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