Drabblecast 124 - Ghosts and Simulations

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ROU Killing Time
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:30 pm

Well, I certainly agree that today's computers do not fit the bill as far as matching the complexity of the parallel processing power of the human brain. Let's stipulate a hypothetical silicon brain, designed on parallel processing structures of equal computational power to the wet-ware of our organic brains. (hey, this is a SF site, after all...)

Given that Apples to Apples comparison (regarding level of complexity) does the organic brain now have any inherent advantage in self-awareness potential to the silicon brain?
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by Mr. Tweedy » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:31 pm

Squirrels survive at least as well as humans, and with much less intelligence. Granted an animal with squirrel-level problem solving, where's the impetus to get smarter? Put another way, all the apes that stayed dumb also survived the big cats. We've still got those adorable little spider monkeys, after all. Obviously, there are much simpler, less engineering-intensive ways to beat a big cat that to develop a giant abstract-thinking brain. Evolution has no ambition: It's not going to find an hard solution when an easy one is available.

As to wet vs dry brains, I don't think there's any basis to say one is better than the other, because we really haven't got a flippin' clue how intelligence works. I always read these cute little articles about how scientists found that such and such a part of the brain is active when someone is imagining or remembering, and how that's some kind of big discovery. That's like looking at a computer and saying "This part gets hot when it's making pictures," and thinking that tells you anything about how the computer works. Brains are magic: We understand the broad outlines of what they do and we understand how they work just enough that we can give them rough shoves in certain directions. But we don't really know how the magic works.

Wet or dry? Who can know? I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter, but it's just a feeling.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:39 pm

Mr. Tweedy wrote:Wet or dry? Who can know? I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter, but it's just a feeling.
Well, of course in this context to say that something matters is purely subjective. Odds are we won't survive the heat death of the universe anyway.

Willie the Shake put it all in perspective so very nicely when he wrote:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
to the last syllable of recorded time,
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.
Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think. - Horace Walpole
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by eric_marsh » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:43 pm

ROU Killing Time wrote:Well, I certainly agree that today's computers do not fit the bill as far as matching the complexity of the parallel processing power of the human brain. Let's stipulate a hypothetical silicon brain, designed on parallel processing structures of equal computational power to the wet-ware of our organic brains. (hey, this is a SF site, after all...)

Given that Apples to Apples comparison (regarding level of complexity) does the organic brain now have any inherent advantage in self-awareness potential to the silicon brain?
I guess that one would be very hard to call without a lot of specifics. Let's face it, our wetware has a great many shortcomings. It's essentially been engineered by chance. So one would think that a properly engineered artificial brain would have a lot of advantages. The big mystery is whether or not it would be truly conscious.

Personally my money is on humanity borgifying. It will start with direct neural connections to the internet. Then we will start cross connecting and that will be the end of our species as we know it now. Might be an improvement. I'm guessing that the mega-churches will be the first go Borg.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emrys

Post by myke_deschain » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:49 pm

still catching up on back-issues of Dc....

I liked this one, though not because it was the most thrilling plot or the most original idea. Hmm... that's not quite fair i suppose; it was certainly the first virtual 'old-folks home' type community for ghosts I had ever heard of... Though the core ideas I feel as if I've discussed before, whether it was in a class of people or while talking to myself. Regardless, I've always been partial to the question of a 'self', or a sense of a soul, or what makes up 'me.' What ever you call it there tends to never be a week where i don't consider this question for some period of time. This week the thought was brought up by this episode of the DC and for that it gets a wholehearted golf clap.

Hmmmm... Now one qualm or question rather that i found with this story. If what is going into this community of disembodied ghosts is a backup of the persons mind, wouldn't that be only a copy of that persons mind, and not the original? That is to say that when people go to talk to that persons ghost their not really talking to that person, its only a copy of that person. This thought kinda rubbed me the wrong way. It spoke to me of the sometimes inability to let go of people after they die. The program that allows your collective mind to live on seemed like it was more for the people left behind than for the person that dies. It kinda reminds me of a part in the Ender's Series i read awhile ago by Orson Scott Card (towards the end where a copy of Ender's brother Peter is created from memories of him stored up in Ender's mind... As much as he looked, talked and acted like Peter he was not Peter. Peter was long dead and this was just a copy and reacted based on how the original Peter had acted in his life).

...and i apologize if any of this has been covered already.. i didn't really have time to read though the whole thread...

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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emry

Post by Unblinking » Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:21 pm

Someone suggested that the measure of success of an evolutionary path is the number of creatures, but I don't think that's really a fair comparison. The planet couldn't sustain a number of humans to equal the number of any particular breed of bacteria. I think a better measure would be to consider the likelihood of species survival in the long term--in which case bacteria probably still win, though cockroaches have gotta be right up there too.

Intelligence is certainly an evolutionary advantage! Most species have gained their place in the world through specialization, a spoonbill evolving a beak that's good for sifting mud, an eagle evolving talons good for hunting, a mole evolving claws good for digging, a platypus evolving all of its awesomeness for some reason or another. But humans can trump all that, and can adapt to any situation without having to evolve new traits-who can adapt the quickest can survive longer to reproduce, making it an evolutionary advantage. And our social nature has to play a part too--no one could invent our current technology without what came before it, but our society passes on the knowledge that came before, allowing growth of adaptability to increase over generations without evolutionary changes. Humans inhabit almost every area of the world, except Antarctica (where not much else lives either), and even Antarctica has scientists living on it in intervals.

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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emry

Post by strawman » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:18 pm

Our evolutionary advantages are accompanied by potentially disastrous traits - what other species is so sold on wishful thinking, for example? Or the concept of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul? Or eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away?

Or an earthquake and a tsunami? No way!

Imagine if you had to plan for every eventuality!
Just you and the insurance industry, all in, for an illusion of security.
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Re: Drabblecast 124- Ghosts and Simulations by Ruthanna Emry

Post by Unblinking » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:02 pm

strawman wrote:Our evolutionary advantages are accompanied by potentially disastrous traits - what other species is so sold on wishful thinking, for example? Or the concept of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul? Or eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away?

Or an earthquake and a tsunami? No way!

Imagine if you had to plan for every eventuality!
Just you and the insurance industry, all in, for an illusion of security.
I certainly agree that our evolutionary advantages are combined with all kinds of disastrous traits. Not least of which that we are capable of destroying ecosystems, and are so good at adapting that our growth is unchecked, which is already problematic. But, well, evolution isn't about finding traits that make our survival over millennia stable, it's about finding traits that give survival and breeding advantages in each generation and long-term consequences be damned.

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Re: Drabblecast 124 - Ghosts and Simulations

Post by Varda » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:48 pm

I found this story tremendously moving. It had one of the best descriptions of post-chemotherapy pain I've ever heard: "skin is pain", described that way because generally speaking, chemotherapy attacks cancer by attacking all cells that divide rapidly, notably epidermal cells - thus, painful skin, painful swallowing, and hair loss. I'm told that for some types of cancer, it almost feels worse than the cancer itself, at least in the short term.

Given that, I thought the most powerful part of this story was the exploration of the connection between human body and spirit. The dying woman, in her pain, looks forward to her inorganic resurrection knowing that her last backup was before she entered the hospital and that she won't have gone through the pain when she regains consciousness. That's 100% rational, and makes complete sense from her perspective. But for her husband, the memory of the pain will always be with him, even if he later becomes a ghost too. That's where the real fear in this story lies: the erasure of a very important part of their mutual history. A divergence of their paths. There's no picking up and moving on after that for the husband.
Unblinking wrote: Intelligence is certainly an evolutionary advantage!

But humans can trump all that, and can adapt to any situation without having to evolve new traits-who can adapt the quickest can survive longer to reproduce, making it an evolutionary advantage.
My thoughts exactly. We evolve intelligence so we don't have to change anything else - we just use technology to adapt everything to ourselves! :)

I loved reading this whole discussion, especially ROU's question about wet vs. dry hardware. With our current technological capabilities, it's like comparing apples to oranges, ain't it? Computers are awfully good at what they're good at, and awfully terrible at a lot of things that are a piece of cake for our wet brains. Just an hour before I listened to this episode, I was reading a fascinating explanation about why it's so dang hard to create a program that can read text aloud in a way that sounds natural to the human ear. The problem relates to the fact that so far, we've only been able to program computers to read letter by letter or word by word, but meaning is actually carried on the sentence level in human speech. Computers process sequentially (albeit really, really fast) while organic brains are engaged in all sorts of non-Euclidean gymnastics to do what they do.

So how will we get to the point where we can simulate all the tasks of our grey matter in silicon? And will we ever do it? It sure would be an achievement for the ages. I'll bet you my brain that it won't happen in our lifetimes though.
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