Monday, May 25, 2015

Confusion as "knowing" confusion

Below is an article by Mr. B. Kastrup in which he, as far as I can see, attempts to debunk the notion of artificial intelligence/consciousness, without having a clue about who he is and why he is so damn intelligent. This is no different from the AI-designers Mr. Kastrup is arguing with. They have no idea either, with the possible exception of Mr. Haikonen and a few others.
From an objective perspective, this is all good fun and entertaining, watching subjective opinions battling in the Game of Truth. No oponion will win, but confusion has yet again gained momentum.

My comments in italics.

The new sci-fi film
Ex_Machina has been teasing back into the cultural dialogue dreams of artificial consciousness: the idea that we humans, through the Faustian power of technology, can birth into being mechanisms capable of inner life, subjectivity and affection. Since these dreams are entirely based on implicit assumptions about the nature of consciousness and reality at large, I thought a few observations would be opportune.

The first thing to notice is the difference between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. The former entails the ability to process information in ways that we consider intelligent. In particular, an intelligent machine should be capable of constructing an internal, symbolic representation of its environment so to interact coherently with it. We can test whether a machine is intelligent or not purely by observing its behavior in the environment. Alan Turing's famous test aims precisely at that. However, none of the symbolic information processing in an intelligent machine needs to be accompanied by inner experience. It can all happen totally 'in the dark.' As such, an intelligent machine is, for all intents and purposes, simply a glorified calculator. There isn't anything it is like to be the machine.
ME: The processing of symbolic representations IS experience. The processing is generally "in the dark", but some of it is within the quality of "experience". That is what we call momentary awareness. Intelligence is not what most people suggest - to calculate "correctly" and "fast". Intelligence is to add a relative perspective to the objective perspective. That is done by "thought", and it makes all information relative to what is already known. That is why human intelligence, or any other relation-based computer, can never grasp absolute reality as objective truth. As long as we do not understand what intelligence is, this discussion goes nowhere.

In conscious machines, on the other hand, the idea is that those internal calculations are accompanied by subjective inner experience, or inner life. In other words, there must be something it feels like, from the point of view of the machine itself, to perform the calculations. This is a whole different ballgame than mere artificial intelligence. Moreover, there is absolutely no way to definitively test whether a machine is conscious or not, since all we can ever hope to access is its architecture and behavior. Short of becoming the machine at least for a brief moment, we cannot know whether there is anything it is like to be it.

ME: This point of view is the subjective perspective a.k.a. Ego or Illusion. Not "seeing" consciousness in machines is not different from not "seeing" consciousness in humans. We’re staring right at it when we look at brain scans and such, but the illusion of a separate "owner" of this processing will have you looking forever or, which is the common solution, to imagine something "higher" or more profound than these dull neurons firing in cascades.
You are this organic "machine" as well as IT. Your Ego-perspective will reject the truth. This owner of experience can never ever be Awake or realized as a symptom of the Universe.

What makes so many computer engineers believe in the possibility of artificial consciousness? Let us deconstruct and make explicit their chain of reasoning.
They start by making – whether they are aware of it or not – certain key assumptions about the nature of consciousness and reality. To speak of creating consciousness in a machine one must assume consciousness to be, well, 'creatable.' Something can only be created if it wasn't there in the first place. In other words, engineers assume that consciousness isn't the primary aspect of reality, but a secondary effect generated by particular arrangements of matter. Matter itself is assumed to exist outside and independent of consciousness.

ME: Consciousness IS of matter. It is not separate from physical reality. Separation is the source of Ego and thus suffering. We are not different from the world we experience. We are That which experience. It is so vast and absolute that this subjective ownership becomes a joke. That’s why awakening oftentimes comes with a belly laugh. My gosh, all the time I thought "I" was a separate "experiencer" of "experience" when, all the time, it’s been the Universe making sense of itself through my body.
It is the Ego that assumes consciousness to be outside and independent of matter. It is the Ego that rejects being an equal dancer in the universal dance of force as energy generating all wonderful forms in existence.

Next, they imagine that if they can mimic, in a machine, the particular flow of information characteristic of our own brains, then the machine will be conscious like us. This is best exemplified by the work of Pentti Haikonen, who devised what is probably the cleverest machine architecture so far aimed at artificial consciousness [Haikonen, P. O. (2003). The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic]. In my book
Rationalist Spirituality I summarized Haikonen's work as follows:
His greatest insight has been that the human brain is but a correlation-finding and association-performing engine. All the brain does is to try and find correlations between mental symbols of perception and capture these correlations in symbol associations performed by neurons. In his artificial "brain", these associations are performed by artificial associative neurons. All symbols in Haikonen’s artificial brain architecture are ultimately linked, perhaps through a long series of associations, to perceptual signals from sensory mechanisms. This grounds all symbol associations to perceived things and events of the external world, which gives those associations their semantic value. In this framework, the explanations derived by the brain are just a series of symbol associations linking two past events. The predictions derived by the brain are just extrapolated symbol association chains. (Page 48.)
ME: Thanks for the tip! I believe Haikonen to be on the right track (which is a rare case in AI research). I assume Haikonen is basically wrong about absolute reality, but this looks like being relatively close to truth.
There are, however, many problems and internal contradictions in the engineers' reasoning. For instance, for Haikonen's machine to be conscious there must already be, from the start, a basic form of consciousness inherent in the basic components of the machine.
ME: If you are not suggesting everything in existence has always been there as it is today, then "from the start" there was everything present to evolve exactly as it has, becoming everything there is and ever will be. Otherwise, properties of reality must have been shipped in from "outside" reality. But nothing within reality is ever subtracted or added, it just contracts, expands and create generations of new evolving forms of complexity.

Although he talks of 'creating' consciousness, what he proposes is actually a system for accruing and complexifying consciousness: by linking bits of matter in complex ways, the 'bits of consciousness' supposedly inherent in them are associated together so to build up a complex subjective inner life comparable to yours or mine.

ME: That is why he is on track. This is to the point how consciousness works and functions. The above is a pretty accurate description of the creating of Ego as a subjective perspective.
Naturally, for this to work it must be the case that there are these 'bits of consciousness' already inherent in every bit of matter, otherwise nothing accrues: you can associate zeros with zeros all you like, at the end you will still be left with precisely zero. So unless consciousness is a property of every bit of matter – a highly problematic philosophical position called panpsychism – all those symbol associations in Haikonen's architecture won't be accompanied by experience, no matter how complex the machine. Haikonen will perhaps have built an intelligent machine, but not a conscious one.

ME: Not at all, because it is all about language and cognition, not some inherent "conscious" property of matter. The addition of thought adds "meaning" to objective reality. that is why you will never, from your subjective perspective, realize the "suchness" of form. You will always relate every perceived object to what you already know, and by that it will become "similar to" this and that, but never be left standing as it is. Seeing your true self is only possible when all symbolic re-presentations of reality i.e. thoughts/concepts are momentarily gone.
Notice that panpsychism – the notion that all matter is conscious – entails, for instance, that your home thermostat is conscious. Allegedly it has a very simple form of consciousness incomparable to mine or yours, but nonetheless there is still something it is like to be your home thermostat. The same applies to your vacuum cleaner, your ballpoint pen, the chair you're sitting on, a rock, etc. Literally everything is supposedly conscious under panpsychism, having its own private, subjective inner life. As I wrote in my book
Why Materialism Is Baloney,
The problem with panpsychism is, of course, that there is precisely zero evidence that any inanimate object is conscious
. To resolve an abstract, theoretical problem of the materialist metaphysics one is forced to project onto the whole of nature a property – namely, consciousness – which observation only allows to be inferred for a tiny subset of it – namely, living beings. This is, in a way, an attempt to make nature conform to theory, as opposed to making theory conform to nature. (Page 19)

ME: Agree on the above
. Panpsychism seems like an easy way out for Ego to stay in charge. "I am generous enough to share this consciousness with everything". I reality, that means a wish for everything to be separate from the whole, not knowing itself. If that were true, we would have confused, depressed, aggressive and debating stuff all around us. The rest of nature would be as lost as we are. Thankfully, it is not.
Insofar as we have no empirical reason to believe that a rock is conscious to any degree whatsoever, we have no reason to believe that Haikonen's machine is conscious. You see, the mere mimicking, in a computer, of the type of information processing that unfolds in the human brain is no reason whatsoever to believe that the computer is conscious. Here is a rather dramatic analogy to make my point clear: I can simulate in a computer all the chemical reactions that take place in human kidneys. Yet, this is no reason to believe that the computer will start peeing on my desk. A simulation of the phenomenon isn't the phenomenon.

ME: If your simulation is done right, the computer will simulate peeing on your desk if it, by its subjective reasoning, computes that peeing on your desk is the right thing to do. You are confusing "simulation" with "action" so the example is of no use.
Some argue that panpsychism isn't necessary to validate the possibility of artificial consciousness. They argue that consciousness is a property only of the brain as a whole, somehow created by its complex network of information associations, not of individual bits of matter. Indeed, as discussed in my book
Brief Peeks Beyond,
Some neuroscientists and philosophers speculate that consciousness is an ‘emergent’ property of the brain. ‘Emergence’ happens when a higher-level property arises from complex interactions of lower-level entities. For instance, the fractal patterns of snowflakes are emergent properties of complex interactions of water molecules. But to merely state that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain is rather a cop-out than an explanation. In all known cases of emergence, we can deduce the emergent property from the characteristics of the lower-level entities that give rise to it. For instance, we can deduce the fractal shape of snowflakes from the characteristics of water molecules. We can even accurately simulate the formation of snowflakes in a computer. However, we cannot – not even in principle – deduce what it feels to see red, to be disappointed or to love someone from the mass, charge or momentum of material particles making up the brain. As such, to consider consciousness an emergent property of brains is either an appeal to magic or the mere labeling of an unknown. In both cases, precisely nothing is actually explained. (Page 59)
ME: Again, if you don’t know that language/thought is the "Con"-part added to "sciousness", you will not progress. Sensory information is always objective and "true", but relating it to memories/knowledge of past information gives it a relative quality that is not a property of what is actually presented here and now. Language/thought is a learned ability that, of course, requires the physical/organic potential to respond to this conditioning, but it is nothing besides that.
Again, we have no reason to believe that computers can give rise to consciousness; only to intelligence.
ME: As most AI-researcher, Haikonen being a potential outlier, have no idea about what intelligence is, they will create neither. They are stuck in designing speedy and correct stupidity, mere tools for actual, human, intelligence.


The biggest problem with the notion of artificial consciousness is the assumption that, in nature, consciousness is somehow subordinate to matter.

ME: There you go, relating consciousness to matter and vice versa. You have already acquired the basic premise of subjectivity, that everything can only be understood relatively. As consciousness is a particular form of matter, while essentially being same, you will forever be in arguments of more-less, higher-lower, cause-effect, primary-secondary etc etc. That is how intelligence works, that is the basis for all of science. It is to make sense of something that has to be understood by a separate "Knower". You are basically suggesting that "Water" is more than just "molecules of H2O", that there is something "like" water that is different from water. The water-ness of water perhaps. When you have figured that of, whatever this water-ness is, there will be more questions about what it is made of, in which way it is related to "wet" and so on ad infinitum.
Separating self from the physical world is how all reductionism begins. If the Ego is conditioned to assume this primary division, it will keep dividing everything into nothing. It never stops, and it never should. That is the inherent halting problem with intelligence. It never accepts anything as definite truth, it questions everything. Only thing it avoids questioning is its own status and position. Ego will forever point to something not physical and exceptional. As long as it does, it will be hidden. When exposed, as in awakening or samadhi, it is just not there anymore. There is just Experience/Awareness by and of reality itself.
Matter does not rule consciousness the way you/subject thinks. Nor does consciousness rule matter. Water does not rule its molecules, because it IS "molecules". It does not "have" molecules. Nor does your brain "have" a consciousness any more that you consciousness "has" a brain or the brain "has" a body. In reality, the two (million) separated parts are not separate parts at all. They are IT, just as you are IT.
Therefore, our feeble attempts to engineer an entity with a private, subjective inner life similar to our own aren't really attempts to create consciousness. Instead, they are attempts to induce dissociation in mind-at-large, so to create alters analogous to ourselves.

ME: Your Ego’s feeble attempts to defend itself as an entity with a private, subjective inner life similar to others are indeed attempts to create consciousness. It is an attempt to induce dissociation in Reality-at-large, so to create alter-Egos analogous to your perceived Self.

Based on this understanding, do we have any reason whatsoever to believe that the mere mimicking of the information flow in human brains, no matter how accurate, will ever lead to a new dissociation of mind-at-large? The answer to this question can only be 'yes' if you think the kidney simulation can make the computer urinate. You see, if the only known image of dissociation is metabolism – that is, life – the only reasonable way to go about artificially creating an alter of mind-at-large is to replicate metabolism itself. For all practical purposes, dissociation is metabolism; there is no reason to believe it is anything else. As such, the quest for artificial consciousness is, in fact, one and the same with the quest for creating life from non-life.
ME: There you go again, dissociation IS metabolism, and metabolism IS life. Objectively, there is no reason to believe in anything your subjective Ego tells you about objective reality, simply because it will never be anything but relative truth.
Whatever anyone tries to create, it is being created within a bigger picture. There is no free will, no agency besides my Egos acute sense of acting as if a separate agent of free will.
This whole argument of Mr. Kastrup falls prey to that prevailing illusion.

The computer engineer's dream of birthing a conscious child into the world without the messiness and fragility of life is an infantile delusion; a confused, partial, distorted projection of archetypal images and drives. It is the expression of the male's hidden aspiration for the female's divine power of creation. It represents a confused attempt to transcend the deep-seated fear of one's own nature as a living, breathing entity condemned to death from birth. It embodies a misguided and utterly useless search for the eternal, motivated only by one's amnesia of one's own true nature. The fable of artificial consciousness is the imaginary bandaid sought to cover the engineer's wound of ignorance.
I have been this engineer.
Or so the Ego says, in fear of knowing the truth. Ego wants the "divine power of creation" so badly. Sorry Buddy, we’re all done.
For the benefit of all.

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