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Rather difficult to navigate, but one of (surprisingly few) references to Steve Wolfram's neo-animism. "It'sssss aliiiiiive"! Well, according to Steve, most things are... :D

Wolfram's neo-animism: Are minds nothing more than computational devices?

http://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/toc.html (Original reference?)

Edited by Macavity
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More analogies! The trouble with analogies is that they are inherently reductionist. Okay, there are some similarities between brain and internet, say. The more aspects of the analogy that one finds, the more seductive tha analogy becomes. Find enough similarities and at some point one is in danger of turning the thing round and deriving from it an assertion that that one has no right to make; 'There is no difference between internet and brain.'

I think I had a tendency to work this way in my other life of literary criticism and rather reluctantly changed my style under pressure from my elders and betters.


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More analogies! The trouble with analogies is that they are inherently reductionist.

And the trouble with language is that you are inevitably creating an analogy whatever words you use ... your words create a mental picture in the listener / reader which may or may not correspond to the meaning you intended to convey. At least by analogy you are steering the listener / reader towards the meaning you intended.

Of course analogies are imperfect. But then so is any universe - real or imaginary - whuch contains me.

The real point here is that very simple rules can result in very complex behaviour. Go back to Conway's "Life" cellular automaton to check this out. It is proved that a self replicating "Life" automaton can exist, though no-one has actually condtructed one - computer power is still hugely inadequate to do so as the smallest possible self-replicating pattern would contain at the very least 10^12 active cells and would take of the order of 10^15 "clock ticks" to replicate itself. This is in a "universe" whose "physics" are immensely simple compared with the physical universe we think we perceive.

It's a reductionist argument to assume that a quality that exists in a complex system must exist in at least some of its components. Complexity theory (together with realted mathematical concepts like "chaos theory") tells us that a complex system can (and often does) exhibit behaviours that cannot be predicted from the capabilities of its ruthlessly analysable parts. If intelligence and/or consciousness actually exist then I don't see any reason why they shouldn't exist in a suitably complex computer or network of computers, provided that the protocols used for communication are sufficiently flexible to allow algorithms to evolve.

In cybernetics, in my opinion, we probably have the hardware already, but are some orders of magnitude & abstraction behind what the brain of a higher animal does. I'm not certain of this but I think it is for those who believe that "intelligence" is "special" rather than the converse.

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Ummm ... I suppose so ... but that doesn't mean you can assume the internet is "intelligent" or "conscious", any more than you can build an airliner by tossing the parts into a box, shaking it and hoping the parts jiggle themselves into the right places.

Well, if you see the internet as a box of information/entertainment that the individual uses then ok it's not "intelligent" or "conscious" but if one sees it as a system which has constant input/output, has software (search engines) which constantly sifts and sorts the memories (webpages) according to relevance to a question put to it...

We are only seeing the internet as an infant at present. Take for example, PDF files on the internet. One thing is see constantly is the duplication of the same info, if we develop software that can look at the content and then produce one definitive structure for the information I asked for then I would be getting my info directly from the working machine and not the individual who placed the file online. In that way we could be getting near to producing true consciousness in a machine.

I'd rather see that as AI than a "thing" standing at the sink doing the washing up.

Edited by astromerlin
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I've been watching the blu-ray edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey over the weekend and I'd like to ask "How do we know we are not machinery ourselves?"

A good film to watch after 2001 is Spielberg's early film 'Duel.' It may seem to be about a truck and a car but it isn't, it's an improvisation on 2001 and the question of man and machine. (The hero is called Mann - he spells it out so we don't overlook the fact.) But the key allusion comes in a short sequence in which Mann is filmed through an open washing machine door. Not an accident, I think! Interesting that whenever Man(n) gets out of his car and confronts the machine (lorry) it runs away. it is a fabulous film to try to unravel. I studied it for years, on and off. Recoommended.


Edited by ollypenrice
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