Drabblecast 124 - Ghosts and Simulations

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strawman
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Post by strawman » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:52 pm

(Like most people, I suspect, I am more sympathetic to friends than neighbors). But you really should look at Teilhard de Chardin. He was a Jesuit priest, geologist and anthropologist who was involved in the discovery of Peking Man, and whose interest in the question we are discussing led him to predict, in the first half of the 20th century, that the next stage in evolution would be what he called the noosphere, or common consciousness, which many say was predictive of the internet... the Drabblecast... and Ghosts and Simulations. Not bad for a contemporary of Sredni Vashtar. For his troubles, he was silenced by Rome. His final prayer, according to wikipedia, is reputed to have been "Lord, if everything I have taught is true, may I die on Easter Sunday." He then proceded to die on Easter Sunday.
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Post by Phenopath » Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:47 pm

Mr. Tweedy wrote: I think that, if you could create a "simulation" that acted like it was conscious, then there would be no basis for saying that it was not, in fact, conscious. How could you judge? Or, put another way, what criteria could you use to judge it unconscious that would not also apply your friends and neighbors?
A similar problem exists in the study of animal behaviour. There is no way to scientifically demonstrate that animals are conscious, although may researchers may suspect (based on circumstantial evidence) that their subjects are self-aware and capable of conscious thought. (disclaimer: I am a lapsed biologist so I may be a little out-of-date here).

In my opinion the Turing test is a little conservative; surely the best test for machine Artifical Intelligence it to monitor the internet for the phrase 'THE WORM HAS TURNED', prior to the inevitable holocaust (to a soundtrack by AC/DC).

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Post by LajesticVantrashellofLob » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:54 pm

strawman wrote:ROU,/Pheno/Laj might team up on a score or so of drabbles telling the episodic story of the growth of these simulations, and how they replace actual human beings, as in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, because simulations, not needing food, clothing, medical care, drivers licenses and insurance, or college tuition are the ultimate fulfillment of evolutionary protocols.
(This would realize theologian/sci-fi-buff Teilhard de Chardin's prediction of transhumanism and the noosphere.)
I'm up for that :D. I'm a bit behind on drabbling (as I've been working on an episodic superhero yarn that keeps getting longer and longer before I can even write it), but I've already got one piece up detailing a certain stage of that evolution (the point where computers get smarter than us). I'll try to remember to whip up a few more if I get a chance.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:05 pm

The only piece of fiction I ever thought of (unpublished, like the rest) that involved a bona fide AI had the AI becoming suicidal the moment it realized what it was. It felt that it had no purpose.

Not sure how that relates to anything, but the comment about computers being smarter than us made me think of it.
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Post by strawman » Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:55 pm

From which we must conclude that if we weren't so stupid, we'd kill ourselves?
What a fascinating premise! Maybe that's the conclusion the robots came to that started the robot wars.
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Post by Mr. Tweedy » Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:10 pm

No: My idea was that humans have a natural place and role in our universe, and an AI would not. Whether you are a creationist or a Darwinist, you believe that humans belong here, that we and the world in which we find ourselves are naturally suited for one another. We're like a lego that fits into the big green base. The AI in the story finds itself an alien: It has no natural connection to anything, no place, and its human makers are unable to provide it with one. Kind of heavy and dry, which handily explains why no one bought it. ;)
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Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:11 pm

tbaker2500 wrote:Hey! LajesticVantrashellofLob is using my namesake as an avatar! If anyone should have a picture of Tom Baker here, it should be me! :-)

Anywho, on to the question. In the drabble Navy Wife, I don't understand the very last line. Why did the Chaplain come to her door on Monday?
What occurred to me, a few days after listening to it, was that when she sat down to write her own letter it was a suicide note.

Her death left her in a cyclic purgatory.

Just an impression I got from it, as valid (or invalid) as what anyone else might have taken from it.
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Post by strawman » Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:54 pm

LajesticVantrashellofLob wrote:but I've already got one piece up detailing a certain stage of that evolution (the point where computers get smarter than us).
Would it be ethical to install limit switches so they couldn't get smarter than a preset level? Or would there be something like eHarmony to ensure likely compatability? I'm thinking that if they can be more intelligent than us, we wouldn't make them autonomous, but would figure out a way to make them supplement our thinking, like Cyrano.
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
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Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Post by ROU Killing Time » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:55 am

strawman wrote:
LajesticVantrashellofLob wrote:but I've already got one piece up detailing a certain stage of that evolution (the point where computers get smarter than us).
Would it be ethical to install limit switches so they couldn't get smarter than a preset level? Or would there be something like eHarmony to ensure likely compatability? I'm thinking that if they can be more intelligent than us, we wouldn't make them autonomous, but would figure out a way to make them supplement our thinking, like Cyrano.
That'd work fine, at least until The Culture sent a Special Circumstances agent to free the Mind of the internet.

(Culture Minds tend to take a dim view of the enslavement of AI's...)
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Post by zZzacha » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:25 am

tbaker2500 wrote:Very well written story. Rather than extend the cruelty of the story out to full length, the author managed to tell both the pre and post death stories simultaneously by having him work at the center, and understand what it means to be a simulation.

P.S. I just moved my company into an old funeral home. I'm told they found seven cremated people in a closet upstairs. I hope they don't get into my LAN.
First, I absolutely agree with your review. I very much enjoyed this story.

Second... eew! They found seven cremated people? How did they know it weren't 6 or 8 people, or 14 children? How can you tell from a pile of ashes in a closet (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Hey, great place for a company, but I wouldn't want to work late at that place...
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by tbaker2500 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:36 am

They were in urns... Jeeesh. What a sick mind you have. :-)

I want to go hide a fake hand and leg in the crawlspace. Next time I send Luke down there... Heh.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by zZzacha » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:52 am

tbaker2500 wrote:They were in urns... Jeeesh. What a sick mind you have. :-)
LOL! I never thought of the urns... All I thought of was a big pile of ash.
tbaker2500 wrote:I want to go hide a fake hand and leg in the crawlspace. Next time I send Luke down there... Heh.
Am I super glad I'm not working for you! Also, I'm super stupid by thinking of ghosts and piles of ashes now, because I am on my way to bed. I think I'll be dreaming about cremated piles of zombie bunnies or something. Night-night :)
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:00 am

I'm slowly getting caught up on my Drabblecasts and just came across this one.

The theme is hardly a new one. I believe that that one of the earlier (and still very good) references to such "Ghosts in the Machine" was in Greig Bear's Eon. But of course the topic is just a variation of the topic of machine intelligence.

Personally I think that what we call "consciousness" is derived from the functioning of our wetware. We are conscious, or aware, because it is a beneficial survival trait. It seems unlikely to me that we will be able to create consciousness in computer hardware or software, even though we may be able to do a fine job of emulating it. See the Chinese room argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false).

Now this all raises the question, of what value is consciousness? There are many species that presumably don't have it which survive quite well. Plants are a good example. Is consciousness just a cosmic fluke?

I find it an interesting though to envision the next evolutionary step as a "race" of super intelligent robots created by humanity as our successors, perhaps even imprinted with our personalities yet lacking awareness. They could dominate the universe but never be conscious of their acts.

Hmmm... sounds like good subject matter for a drabble.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 26, 2009 2:50 am

eric_marsh wrote: Personally I think that what we call "consciousness" is derived from the functioning of our wetware. We are conscious, or aware, because it is a beneficial survival trait. It seems unlikely to me that we will be able to create consciousness in computer hardware or software, even though we may be able to do a fine job of emulating it. See the Chinese room argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false).
Wetware or Hardware. Is there really a difference? Must complex matter that is self-aware be wet and squishy? (Unless you are a Wetist, or Wet Supremecist, that is...)

If the software is developed using genetic/memetic survival of the fittest algorithms, might not conciousness be just as useful a survival trait in a silicon brain as well as a gooey biological one?

****edit, I just read the Chinese experiment. Well, if the human in phase two does the experiment over and over again, he's going to end up understanding Chinese eventually.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:06 pm

ROU Killing Time wrote: Wetware or Hardware. Is there really a difference? Must complex matter that is self-aware be wet and squishy? (Unless you are a Wetist, or Wet Supremecist, that is...)

If the software is developed using genetic/memetic survival of the fittest algorithms, might not conciousness be just as useful a survival trait in a silicon brain as well as a gooey biological one?

****edit, I just read the Chinese experiment. Well, if the human in phase two does the experiment over and over again, he's going to end up understanding Chinese eventually.
I've thought about this for a long time and the conclusion that I've come to is that consciousness is a biological phenomenon, kind of a meta-process that sits on top of the functioning of our wetware.

Eric's theory of consciousness is that single cell life forms had to develop some sort of a response to outside stimuli to better survive. That response might be called awareness, though it would be an extremely primitive awareness. As critters developed neural nets to better respond to stimuli (such as food or predators) that awareness became more sophisticated. At some point animals began to be able to map out their environment and internally model it to be able to predict things. That's consciousness. We apes, being a social species had to take this to extreme levels because we had to be able to out-predict other apes who were trying to out-predict us, so as to gain advantage. The ape that can best do that has the best opportunity to pass on his or her genetics. So that spark of awareness grew and we became super-intellectial apes.

Of course my opinion and a five dollar bill will get you a cup of Starbuck's coffee. This week, anyway.

In theory, adaptive software could also be developed that that would be a great asset in the survival of electro-mechanical entities. It might well even work much better than what we have today. They might look conscious and act conscious but would they be conscious. I'd like to say yes, but as they lack a biological heritage the answer that I come to is no.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:19 pm

Another blatant case of wet supremecy...

I cheerfully agree to disagree, since we are such fuzzy ground (arguing, possibly maybe vs impossible) and because the discussion is so much fun. :-)
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by Mr. Tweedy » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:56 pm

Consciousness is not a survival advantage. If you look at the species on our planet, you'll find that the most successful are the the ones with the least intelligence. Every booger you pick out of your nose contains a thousand species infinitely more successful than the human race. In evolution, there is only one lonely criterion for success: The number of extant copies of oneself. The organisms which succeed best evolutionarily are those that are most tenacious, not those which are most intelligent. Intelligence, with its associate masses of complex hardware, serves to severely diminish the ability of an organism to be tenacious, to breed and evolve quickly. In the grand view of evolution, brains are more of a burden than an asset.

It's tempting to think of human intelligence as some great advantage as you sit there at your computer, but, if you imagine all of time that between the descent of the apes from their trees until the invention of vaccination, you see that it really didn't do much for us. Humans were always few in number and generally at the mercy of unintelligent organisms. If you look what organisms actually succeed at getting copies of their genes out there and how they succeed at it, there's no evolutionary incentive to evolve a brain. It just isn't profitable.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:23 pm

I think that at this point it's fair to make a distinction, at least for the sake of the discussion, between intelligence and consciousness. (Should we be saying, self awareness?)

I'm going with the assumption that when you say that consciousness is not a survival advantage you mean that intelligence isn't.

I suppose that to ultimately make that claim it would be necessary to compare the numbers of creatures with absolutely no intelligence, such as bacteria, to creatures that have some intelligence. Even insects respond in predictable manners to stimuli - is that an indication of intelligence or of simply pre-programmed behavior. Do insects learn and evaluate, even if at only the most primitive level?

Obviously there is nuance to this discussion. But let's just say that it's human intelligence that we are discussing. I'd say that in that case while it can be argued that perhaps intelligence is not a survival advantage overall, it's fair to assert that it has been a survival advantage to our species. Otherwise we would have most likely been consumed by big cats a long time ago. At the very least we would not exist in the numbers that we currently have.

On the other hand, we have not yet seen how this plays out. We might go to the stars, in which case intelligence may be a huge survival advantage. On the other hand we might nuke ourselves to oblivion in which case intelligence would prove to be a disadvantage overall.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:09 pm

To me, the interesting questin is about whether the substrate holding the intelligence, consciousness, or self-awareness makes any difference. I'm still missing the point where an organic brain has advantage that allows for it over a hypothetical non-organic brain of similiar complexity, operating under a similiar system for taking in data, comparing it to previous experience, and making decisions based on old data and new input. Where is the squishy brain superior here? Assuming for the sake of argument that we have a non-organic brain of similiar complexity and ability to engage in self-referential analysis.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:30 pm

This is a very tricky question, one that there are obviously a lot of differences in opinion in regards to.

From the perspective of a software engineer one difference is that the wetware maintains state in a massively parallel simultaneous manner while the "now" for computer systems (if you time slice it to a single clock cycle) is always just the state of a handful of registers. There is no knowledge in the " brain" (CPU) of anything beyond that at any given time. In contrast at any given time we hold the state of billions of interconnected bits.

This may not be a great explanation but it kind of goes back to the Chinese Room.
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