thinking is dangerous

The beauty of today

Today has been a good day. Simon woke me up just after 10, and my room had cooled off to the point that I nearly wanted a blanket. I won an internet argument and convinced a moral nihilist that his position was incoherent, which will surely look good in the eyes of St. Peter. I shamelessly hit my roommate up for money, and she was happy to oblige, so my immediate financial problems are at least postponed until I get back from California. I successfully arranged a meeting with the new professor and his wife for lunch, and rehearsed the hour or so of material I have for appearing intelligent and well-read in the area of cognitive science and artificial intelligence.

I walked a mile to campus, and will walk a mile back in just a few minutes. I arrived on campus around 3, and within 20 minutes of research I stumbled across a couple of very important books. One of these books is by a frenchie named Vincent Descombes, who uses lessons from AI to inform a philosophical anthropological critique of cognitivism; and I found some interesting critiques from some of my own personal heroes in response. I also found a book transcribed from a conference on the nature of mental representations, which had Clark, Dennett, Smith, Cummins, and Haugeland each present papers on the work of the others, and is complete with a full transcription of the relevant discussion both during and after the presentations of the papers. It is perhaps one of the most entertaining pieces of philosophy I have read in a long time; to see Haugeland tear apart Clark, and Dennett snap back at Haugeland, had me laughing a deep, satisfying laugh.

More importantly, Cummins is the very person I will be meeting for lunch on Monday; and this book tells me more than anything else that a) he is completely familiar with the area I am interested in, b) my approach to this field is not entirely out of the mainstream, c) and even still, my central project is not taken up or even considered by these big names.

I am now going to go home, shower and get ready for a poker game tonight, in which I plan on winning big. I cannot foresee any other outcome.
17:44 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

I Think, Therefore I Am — Sorta

D&D thread

INTERNET's own rJames said:
Is intelligence simply the ability to inductively and deductively solve problems (of a more general variety than board games)?

I think this misses the point, or is at least too simplistic. Computers are good at traditional forms of reason: logic, math, deduction. Intelligence surely requires inductive knowledge as well; the problem, however, is that 'inductive knowledge' doesn't pick out any formal set of methods or procedures as it does with deductive knowledge. A scientist's ability, for instance, to pick out the important implications of a particular data set isn't simply a pure rational procedure, and is therefore extremely difficult to port this ability over to computers.

What is required is not another set of logical and mathmatical laws, but a kind of deep background knowledge, and in particular one that is keyed into human interests- which includes a robust understanding of psychology and social situations. The social dimension is probably made a bit easier in a military setting, since rank and protocol are so sharply defined. And I disagree with Stewart that 'psychology' is just metaphoric- the above program of course uses only a subset of general human psychology, but using concepts or 'frames' that classify, store, and evaluate information is itself the very essence of psychology. Multi-agent simulation might be important, but is by no means a necessary part of psychology.

INTERNET's own Stewart said:
You cant just 'program in' goals.

Somehow, you think you are justified in simply asserting this, and then conclude that any talk of goals or artificial psychology is just fanciful metaphor. This intuition, however, is wrong, unfalsifiable, unscientific, and just stupid.

I agree that 'goals' aren't a simple thing, but they are far less mysterious than you make them out to be. Having goals, or being understood as intentional in any sense, entails being understood as participating in the relevant practice wherein those goals and intentions can be seen as meaningful. Deep Blue, insofar as it is playing chess, can be understood to have certain goals and intentions that explain its behavior, even if these goals and intentions are not directly observable in its program or architecture. Similarly, simulations, insofar as they can be understood as participating in, say, a training exercise, can be understood to have different goals and intentions. To a large extent their behaviors are 'programmed in', as you so lovingly put it. But its goals do not come from its program, they come from the rules and circumstances that govern the activity itself.

INTERNET's own Stewart said:
Well for me, having goals is very fundamental to having a psychology in general. Perhaps even necc and suff. My problem with your discussion here is its too broad, in that we can interpret hand calculators and thermostats and maybe even domino lines as having goals. And I dont think we want to start confusing simple physical causality with goal-directed behavior, which I think is what you are forced to do, but maybe you have no problem with that. To me I think there is a principled and philosophically important difference between me working an electric switch to regulate my room's temperature, and a thermostat doing the same thing.

I agree with you that social context is of fundamental importance in creating human-level AIs, but I dont see how just asserting program X understands such context and has various goals really makes it so. I could make a complicated "Choose Your Own Adventure"-type book and make similar claims.

Dominos dont have goals. Dominos dont do anything. Thermostats do have goals, when understood in the context of temperature regulation, and when properly functioning as part of a temperature regulation system. The thermostat apart from this context (ie, apart from this specific activity) is just a strip of metal that bends according to temperature.

I'm not confusing causality with goal-directed behavior, I am offering a view that explains the source of the goals themselves- the activity in which the system functions. You have stressed the importance of goals, and I agree that goals are important in particular sorts of activities (those we might describe as 'games'), but goals aren't things you can point to or that have any sort of causal role in a system's behavior, so your view comes off as metaphysical and mysterious.

My point isnt that this gives 'human-level' AI, but that to be considered intelligent in any capacity requires some level of participation with humans in particular activities. And without robust knowledge of our social and psychological structures in particular domains, machines cannot be considered intelligent.

The upshot is that it isn't a matter of the causal structures in the human or the machine that give it intelligence; the causal structures just regulate behavior. That behavior can be judged intelligent relative to the particular activity in which it is engaged, since only in the context of an activity can we make judgements about goals and intentions. And intelligent behavior (as opposed to mere logical behavior) entails that the activities are uniquely human.

Understanding, like intelligence, is a activity-specific quality. I dont see how what is going on 'inside' the system is more relevant to its intelligence and understanding than its activity within some domain.

INTERNET's own SRG said:
I agree that "goals," and related sorts of things like "meaning," can only be understood as a part of a system or set of conventions. I disagree, though, that thermometers have goals, and I'm surprised that you would say they do. Thermometers have an intended purpose for which they are used, but they don't have goals. The user of the thermometer has the goal. How do you defend the assertion that the thermometer has the goal? It doesn't, for instance, react to a failure to achieve the goal by trying a new strategy. That would be, to me, a criterion for goal-oriented behavior.

I admit that your interpretation here is standard, so I hope I dont seem dense by arguing against it.

However, I do find contradictions in your interpretation that aren't easily remedied short of the mystical explanation Stewart seems to want to defend, where goals are somehow transcendent over the behavior of the system. Goals aren't things; and nothing, strictly speaking, 'has' goals. As you say, goals are understood as part of convention. Or better, goals emerge from particular activities or practices that various systems and agents participate in. Goals aren't to be attributed to the agent independent of those practices.

So the thermometer doesn't have any goals, taken in isolation. Rather, as I said before, when the thermometer is hooked up in the right way to a well-functioning system of thermoregulation- that is, when it is part of the right activity- then it can be understood as having a goal.

Saying it has a goal is more than saying it has a function, but also that its function serves some end. A common response, as you point out, is that the end derives from a designer, who intended the system for this or that end. After all, the temperature of the room is nothing to the thermostat- it behaves the same whether or not it is hooked up to the heater and can control the temperature.

But the designer isn't part of the activity of temperature regulation in any direct sense, nor does he play any active role in the thermometer's behavior. The designer engineered the mechanism to function in a particular way to achieve some end. This requires some understanding of the activity, but does not imply that the ends are the designer's alone. Rather, the ends derive from the activity, as I have been arguing; and the themostat, insofar as it participates in that activity, can be said to be directed towards that end.

There are two points to make here. The first is that the question of 'design' or 'original intention' is irrelevant to determining whether or not a system is goal-oriented. For instance, I might use a hammer as a paper weight, independent of its original intention. Second, there is nothing 'inside' a system, in terms of mechanism, material, or complexity, that determines whether or not it is goal-oriented. A thermostat is a simple mechanism, but its simplicity doesn't detract from the fact that it is well-suited for its task.

Even still, the thermostat is dumb and can't vary its responses to its environment, to try a 'new strategy'. Of course the reason for this is how well a thermostat functions- there is no need to make alternative strategies available to it. But this only implies the thermostat isn't intelligent, not that it isn't goal-directed. And your point here suits my view well. For instance, an organism with no defense that gets eaten by another organism is also incapable of trying new strategies, since it is now merely food. But surely the species can adapt to new environments and adopt or evolve new strategies- so is the proper locus of goal-directedness the species? It is much easier and more coherent to see the goals as emerging from the activity in which the organism participates- in living and trying to survive.
07:01 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Picross is deep, man

The result of a lengthy and indepth discussion on the logical (and consequently, philosophical) implications of the game Picross (goon owned and operated), expressed in monologue form by Happy Epsilon, o.k.a. Januarygirl.

Additional: This particular monologue concerns level 11, which is a son of a bitch.

[01:16] HappyEpsilon: god, you were so right about this fucking game
[01:16] HappyEpsilon: this level is all about super guessing and playing out the possibilities
[01:17] HappyEpsilon: but that one dude claimed out never had to guess
[01:17] HappyEpsilon: so either he is a liar, or i am missing something
[04:01] *** "HappyEpsilon" signed off at Tue Jul 19 04:01:21 2005.
[08:28] *** "HappyEpsilon" signed on at Tue Jul 19 08:28:12 2005.
[12:49] *** Auto-response sent to HappyEpsilon: I am currently away from the computer.
[13:11] HappyEpsilon: oops, nope, i am finding a way to do this without guessing again
[13:12] HappyEpsilon: using just one row or column
[13:12] HappyEpsilon: and LOGIC, my best friend LOGIC
[13:14] HappyEpsilon: but before that, i WAS guessing, and my guesses forced me to see contradictions which then forced me to see a new box to fill iin which led to other moves
[13:14] HappyEpsilon: i suppose i shouldn't claim one row or and/or plus one column is what is necessary for a move to become apparent
[13:14] HappyEpsilon: but i am still doing this thing where i don't have to compare more than 2 lines at a time, any way you slice it, to come up with a move
[13:32] HappyEpsilon: i am making serious progress now
[13:33] HappyEpsilon: so there is no "guessing" involved still as you can look and see where you are FORCED to put an X or box, instead of just testing it to see if it works, you can use logic to see that it MUST be there or MUST not be there
[13:36] HappyEpsilon: so this particular puzzle is extremely difficult, and i may not see the place where a box MUST or MUST NOT be, but it is still there, and if i start "guessing" i may well find a spot where i realize a box MUST or MUST NOT be, but there is still a logical reason for that that was available to me before guessing that I just failed to notice, so after guessing, i see the rule and can go back and fill in the correct spaces, but the rule was there all along and i did not have to guess, i just guessed because i couldn't see the answer
[13:36] HappyEpsilon: i hope that all makes sense
[13:38] HappyEpsilon: fyi- i keep making progress then getting stuck and resorting to guessing, so i have two tabs open where i keep one that i KNOW is right and then play with the other
[13:43] HappyEpsilon: but after guessing twice and finding moves and restarting boards, i have made tremendous progress without any more "guessing"
[13:47] HappyEpsilon: solved it
[13:48] HappyEpsilon: so i never had to "guess" insofar as the board is governed by rules, and i can use those rules to know with certainty where a box must or must not go
[13:48] HappyEpsilon: and if i follow the moves i can make for certain, i will find more moves i can make for certain based on the rules of the board
[13:48] HappyEpsilon: i never once have to guess, the moves are there, but it is a matter of whether or not i see the required moves
[13:49] HappyEpsilon: if i cannot locate the required moves, it is not because they are not there, but because i am not seeing them
[13:49] HappyEpsilon: so guessing is not required
[13:49] HappyEpsilon: but may become necessary for an individual if she cannot find the moves that must be made
[13:49] HappyEpsilon: which is the fault of the player and not the game
[13:50] HappyEpsilon: i can show you what i mean and how this works if you would like
[13:50] HappyEpsilon: preferably today though, as i might not remember where to find moves a few days from now, despite knowing they are there
[13:50] HappyEpsilon: though i am fairly certain i could defeat this puzzle again without guessing
[13:51] HappyEpsilon: it was my unshakeable faith in the fact that guessing wasn't required that allowed me to pursue these puzzles with glee before
[13:51] HappyEpsilon: then you cast a doubt on my belief, and i became disgruntled, but determined to defeat it anyway
[13:52] HappyEpsilon: then i saw i was right, and that no guessing is necessary to the game, but i had made it necessary to myself through my own inability to see the move and partially my lack of faith that such a move existed
[13:52] HappyEpsilon: once i had convinced myself agian that such moves exist, i quit guessing altogether and systematically beat the level
[13:52] HappyEpsilon: i am actually pleased that you managed to shake my faith in math
[13:53] HappyEpsilon: because now it is renewed and i have better reason for my faith :)
[13:53] HappyEpsilon: so now i am back at my previous stance that these games do not require any sort of guessing, but rather logic skills
[13:54] HappyEpsilon: and it is not required that you think many moves in advance
[13:54] HappyEpsilon: at most, you only have to compare two lines to see where a box must or must not go
[13:55] HappyEpsilon: though i am still curious about our definition of guessing
[13:55] HappyEpsilon: goddammit, wake up and revel in my absurd logical skillz
[14:01] HappyEpsilon: i am doing it again from the beginning to prove my dominance over this game :)
[14:11] HappyEpsilon: done
[14:11] HappyEpsilon: i am utterly confident in my ability to show this level now
14:43 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The aftermath

Dancing, though hyped and prepared, did not materialize. The floor was cleared and the atmosphere attained, but backsides did not shake.
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I suffered a wound at the hands of Simon, who as it turns out is not too fond of stairs:
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The philosophers were out of commission:
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I awoke this morning to blasphemy of the highest order:
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Christopher Robin was particularly disturbing:
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14:48 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The passion of Daniel Estrada

The perp:
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The inquirers:
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A witness:
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The shame:
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Simon fights a monkey:
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00:06 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Going strong

Air conditioner buzzing. Heat dissipating.

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23:52 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The folks:

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Ass Shots:
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22:57 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

We have air!

I put the philosophers to task and made them install my air unit. Here we are in action:

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Finished product:
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22:52 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Philosophers arrive

Joe and Todd
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Harmony and Simon:
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Todd's nose:
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22:37 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Tireless updates:

Susan just arrived. Here's a lame first shot at a rebel yell:
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Here is what outside looks like. Looks like a pretty nice spread.
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22:32 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Hermoine dies

The girl in the green just finished the new Harry Potter book, and is all a flutter.
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Another attempt at ass shots.
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It is quite hot. Loren and Cathy left. I am ready to get high.
22:22 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


I figured out how to turn on the flash!

Here's outside:
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More cooking in the kitchen:
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And general kitchen goings-on:
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22:14 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Current demographic breakdown:

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Females: 6
Male: 3

More on the way.
22:09 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Damn the night!

It is too dark outside, so my shots are either way too blurry or way too dark.

Here was the best I could do, ass shot wise:
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Here is the dark craziness outside, where people aren't as keen to show their asses.
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Loren and Cathy just arrived. More of the philosophy crew should be here shortly.
21:58 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

As per request

No Mr. Ducky, dont jump!
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21:41 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Still waiting on the drinkers

Candles on outside. Still rather hot inside.
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21:38 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

My pictures are now creeping out the guests

Mudslides in hand, there is nothing to prevent them from confronting the fact that a weird man in a black has been snapping their photos since they walked in.
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Since I haven't said anything to them, I suspect their annoyance is warranted.

I'm going out on the porch to smoke a cigarette and make amends. It should be noted that these are by no means the regular capoeira crew. Things will by necessity get much livelier then.

Update in 15.
21:23 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


Activity all around, several projects now underway:

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Getting Nathalie's iPod to function properly (note sly philosopher's joke):
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21:15 :: :: eripsa :: permalink