27 May 2015

Search for miracle in a Matrix Universe

Let’s play with the popular Matrix scenario supposing that we live in a coded, artificial universe. In this case one of the most important questions is: Why we cannot able to observe any sound evidence of this fact?
Unless our mighty coder is either pathetically incompetent or he/she doesn’t want to unmask him- or herself, it is logical to expect some signs that points out that it is a constructed world.
These signs should be clear and apparent. In other words, they should be easily distinguishable from every other component of our world: A “miracle” seems to be appropriate for this purpose. Obviously, it should be really convincing: According to Hume, “no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish”.
It was impossible to detect a “miracle” in the pre-scientific eras of human history, since it was possible to interpret any phenomenon as a miracle (and to attribute e. g. to a god) and science didn’t exist serving as a reference point. When everything is miracle, then a miracle has no distinctive function at all.
So it is logical from the coder’s point of view to hide such a kind of a “miracle” that can be detectable as a deep irregularity only after the beginning the era of the science. Optimally, it would be a very strange phenomenon remaining unexplained from the early experiments to date.
But according to the history of science, it is difficult (or even impossible) to find such a phenomenon. Neither planetary motions nor lightings are unanswered questions today, and although we have to face with some unsolved problems (e. g. the origin of life), we have better and better attempts to decode them. In accordance with this, every scientific era has different central problems from the theory of electromagnetism to the non-existence of ether. So: where is that mysterious miracle?
Perhaps logically impossible to construct a world both with intelligent beings and such a kind of unanswerable problems: We humans simply work out reasonable solutions for any irregularities (even they aren’t necessarily true).
Another possibility is that from our coder creator’s point of view, there is not a substantial difference between the science of the early 17th and the 21th century. He/she wasn’t able (or willing) to specify exactly the level of scientific knowledge needed to discover his/her signs. It would be a good piece of news for us, since it suggests that the future development of science will be enormous, and in comparison to the reachable level in future, there is no an essential difference between Galileo’s scientific knowledge and the string theory.
So it is possible that we still didn’t find that message-anomaly.
Or: we already found it, but we still didn’t recognize it as a quintessential “miracle”. My favorite candidate is the dark energy and I am really curious whether it will be an unsolved problem a million years from now.

20 May 2015

AI, super intelligence, and super consciousness

A “legal theater” was organized in the USA in 2003 to examine some problems of the AI’s legal status. Its heroine was a fictional super intelligence named BINA 48 and the question was whether she (it) had “rights to live”.
According to the story, BINA 48 was able to produce human mental capacities and she accidentally learned that the company owned her decided to switch her off permanently to use her parts to build a new supercomputer. So BINA 48 sent e-mails to attorneys asking them to protect her rights to life and consciousness, and the story ended with the jury’s announced about their inability to decide if she (it) was really intelligent or she only emulated an intelligent behavior.
This case raises other questions over the main problem, namely, whether a computer can be really intelligent. First of all, it isn’t clear that an artificial intelligence/super intelligence is necessarily a GPS (general purpose system): Humans use their cognitive apparatus as a general problem solving mechanism from walking to dating to thinking. But it isn’t a necessity to a BINA 48 to have a general problem solving “brain”–after all, she never would have a date:-). Operating a GPS is an evolutionary solution, since a living being wouldn’t be able to survive without it, but an artificial intelligence can be a “segment intelligence” (it is more or less a synonym of the “weak AI”). After all, she doesn’t have to fight with predators, to survive: It is enough to her to think and perform her tasks. Perhaps it is possible to build a GPS AI, but perhaps it is not essential if our aim is only to construct systems that would serve us.
Similarly, we feel to exist a strong connection between intelligence and consciousness. But it is questionable whether machine consciousness is an essential ingredient of machine intelligence. These are two, radically different things: AI is about problem solving and consciousness is about to know that you solve a problem. Chess programs’ efficiency as segment intelligence shows that the consciousness is not a prerequisite for complicated problem solving. Obviously, these two features are inseparable in humans, but do not mix up evolutionary/historical paths and necessity.
Last, but not least, evolutionary development follows trial and error methods and because of it can reach only local maximums. The traditional idea of an artificial super intelligence is about the improvement of “simple” human intelligence. We are animals with consciousness, of course, but we are far from the real consciousness: for example, regarding a usual day, how many minutes (seconds) are you aware of the fact that you are conscious? According to Susan Blackmore, “In some ways the brain does not seem to be designed the right way to produce the kind of consciousness we have.” (Consciousness. A very short introduction, 17) And it is not a surprise: Nick Bostrom mentions that evolution wasted a lot of selection power for other aims than developing intelligence (Superintelligence, 57), and it is a certainty that the same is true in the case of consciousness.
So why not to try to build instead of a super intelligent machine a super conscious one?

13 May 2015


According to Robert Laughlin Nobel Prize winner physicist, Newton’s “fundamental laws” aren’t fundamental at all, since their rise is “a consequence of the aggregation  of quantum matter into macroscopic fluids and solids—a collective  organizational phenomenon.” [Laughlin: A Different Universe, p. 31.] So perhaps we can build up a physics based on the idea of emergence, and it is at least questionable whether either the fundamental laws or the fundamental constants remain important after reinterpreting this field.
It is undoubtedly an interesting idea, and I don’t have any problem with the approach of a new interpretation of nature. But I have some problems with this emergent approach.
First of all, why do we presuppose that the laws of the quantum level is more fundamental than the level of Newtonian physics? Because is it about a smaller magnitude?
Second of all, the use of the term of the emergence is sometimes resembles for the “God of the gasp”: Certain theologians interpret the gaps in actual scientific knowledge as a proof of the existence of the Lord. The classical example for the emergence is the ant hill, and I don’t think that the emergent interpretation is false in this case. But notice that the emergent approach offers an answer for the strangeness of a certain phenomenon (i.e. organized ant behavior), and, at the same time, it contains a tacit an assumption.
The “normal” scientific way is to observe a natural processes and then, by using induction, we deduce the natural law which resulted the given process. The emergent approach is different: we hypothesize that not some describable laws (that are descriptions of the rules) cause the phenomenon, but the phenomenon causes the effect. But, ad absurdum, it is possible that although there is a natural law to determine the organization of the ant society, having been unable to point out it, we would declare that this process’ nature is emergent. If Newton’s laws would be unknown, then we could state with conviction that the moves of the planets in the Solar System are emergent: We observe the process, and then we conclude that the process itself causes the phenomenon. Ad analogiam: how could we sure that there isn’t a law to describe the connections between the micro- and macroscopic level in Laughlin’s example?
Of course, there are emergent processes: I.e. Wolfram in his New Kind of Science presents examples where a process is uncompressible. But there are fundamental differences between math where, optimally, we can prove whether something is impossible, and physics where a similar demonstration is more problematic.
And there are other questions, as well. The dichotomy of “laws” and “objects” comes from Aristotle: He believed that on the one hand, there is a category of “natural things, which displayed change and complexity”, and there are “static and absolute truths” that are mathematical rules. [Barrow: World within World, p. 39.] Obviously, it is a kind of Pythagorean belief about the fundamentally mathematical nature of the Universe.
But it is an important question whether both the laws and objects really exist, as it is believed by the so-called realist philosophers of science. Opposite to it, the instrumentalists state that the physical laws are only instruments to describe the observed processes but they aren’t exist in reality.
It is undecidable which camp is right, since there is no an experiment to point out whether a natural law really exists or it is only a mathematical description. In short: it is pointless to debate over it.
Similarly, it is undecidable whether the individual ants’ behavior emerge into a coordinated activity to cause the anthill or the rules behind the operation of the colony drives the individuals.

05 May 2015

Maxwell’s demon and the physical nature of space

Maxwell’s demon is a thought experiment to examine the second law of thermodynamics. But is not only about a special part of physics, but about some unspoken features of our Universe as well.
It is a small, intelligent entity who can detect the speed of individual molecules and opening or closing a door that divides a box into two parts, he/she is able to separate the fast molecules into one while the slow ones into the other part of the box. The result is the decrease of entropy in a closed system – that is contradicts the second law.
Or not, since, according to an argument based on information theory, the main problem is that if Maxwell’s demon’s memory isn’t infinitely large, then sooner or later information should be erased form it.This process emits heat into the box, because information erasing necessarily causes heat [Charles Seife: Decoding the Universe, p. 85.]. So the second law remains valid, since the entropy grows in the closed system.
This answer is partly based on the presupposition that only finitely large memories are possible and includes another presupposition, too, about the nature of space–after all, if you would be able to divide the space into infinitely small amounts, then it would be possible to store an infinitely large amount of information in a finite storage (at least, theoretically). I.e. If you have a two square cm surface of data storage, then you could use the first square cm to store the first piece of data; a half square cm to store the second piece of data; etc. ad infinitum.
An infinitely large memory perhaps not as unreal as it seems to be for the first sight, since there are plausible theories about hypercomputing based on relativistic spacetime of blackhole physics (see the details here). In this case manipulating an infinitely huge amount of data in an finite period of time is possible thanks to the nature: since it is presupposed that time is divisible infinitely many pieces, the result is that we have enough time to perform infinitely many operations in a finite period of time.
Ad analogiam: We can hypothesize that the space’s nature is similar and it is divisible infinitely, so it is possible to build a spatially finite storage to store an infinite amount of information. So we never should erase a bit of information–and the entropy wouldn’t rise in the box.
Obviously, nobody knows whether the space continuous, but it has been shown by this example how the laws of thermodynamics is embedded into the "environment" of the existing physical laws. And we cannot exclude the existence of Maxwell’s demon if the space we live in is not discrete, but continuous.