Intelligence as an emergent property of matter?

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Intelligence as an emergent property of matter?

Postby Infinite » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:01 pm

December 11, 2006 2:43 AM

I remember having a debate with a very good friend of mine a few years back regarding whether or not artificial intelligence was feasible. It went back and forth along the usual lines traipsing around the details of emotion and ambition and gravitating back towards the fundamental issues such as awareness etc. One path that was followed however was a reduction- ad absurdum whereby my “opponent” was forced to admit that for his stance to be logically consistent a calculator had to be considered intelligent.

I thought at this stage I had something, that all I had to do was show that a calculator was nothing more than something that contained information and that could change state – just like a tree branch burdened with the weight of snow and then moving in response to a sudden decrease in weight after a stiff wind took it off. A change in state based on nothing more than a change in the environment. He was not deterred.

Maybe intelligence IS something that permeates every atom as some sort of extra dimension, property or force of nature. This particular dimension (perhaps it should be referred to as consciousness instead?) only becomes visible when there is sufficient, organized communication between each information bit – and the reason we don’t see it is because in most cases it’s “invisible”.

There is something going around in theoretical physics at the moment called “Super String Theory” or “M Theory” where M can refer to anything from Matrices to Magic. The common thread (excuse the pun) is that the universe is in fact closer to ten dimensions (which is what I think the general consensus is now, they were bandying about 26 I think at one point) and that the only reason we don’t see these extra dimensions is that they’re curled up so small (less than something called the Planck length) that they are impossible to directly measure. A good way to try and envision something like this is to bring it down to a level we are all familiar with, three and two dimensions.

If you have a tiny sphere made up of a very tightly condensed sheet and something happens to unravel it – let’s call this the “Big Bang” – and the sheet rapidly unraveled until it was almost perfectly flat; so flat that it got to the point where everything appeared two dimensional, it would be easy for inhabitants of this universe to assume that it really was only two dimensional. However, there could be some rare spots in this universe where there is enough “material” that something bends a little and this extra third dimension could be seen. It is also easy to see how a dimension can “curl up” to the point where it is no longer visible.

I am not suggesting that intelligence is one of those extra dimensions; I am only using this little story as an analogy to illustrate that something can be there and still be completely invisible to us. Invisible only because there needs to be a specific type of concentration before the behavior becomes strange enough for us to recognize it as something special.

What would this mean for the study of artificial intelligence, or for intelligence in general? Is it something that emerges de facto in every universe (if there is more than one)? Is it one of the extra dimensions – or perhaps the only remaining extra dimension? Could this intelligence property, if discovered, then be measured sensibly? Would this affect how we look at the world around us, knowing that there is some sort of connection between us and every single atom that floats around? Could it be manipulated and manufactured? Could it be used as a method of travel in a way other than imagination? Does this go anyway in explaining the reason that conscious observation makes such a difference at the subatomic level? Does this mean anything at all?

That's what I thought. What we might call intelligence is just communication between different things. For example, we consider ourselves intelligent because we can use memory, reasoning, senses, language, and all sorts of things at the same time. It's just the communication between these different skills that makes us "intelligent."

As far as consciousness goes, it could be that everything is conscious but that the communication is necessary for this consciousness to become apparent to anybody else. Like a robot would probably not be considered conscious to a human until that robot could communicate what its drives were, and at the same time remember things, detect environmental changes (sense things), etc.

I guess if the tree burdened with the weight of snow had some sort of system where it could recall its branches breaking because of the weight of snow in some previous scenario, and at the same time sense the weight of the snow, and had the ability to move by itself... and then threw the snow off itself, people might even consider trees to be intelligent beings.

Mr. Safety
I think the problem that you and your "opponent" were having, is that your discussion was limited to applying the idea of "intelligence" in terms of a calculator - or a computer.

You never even thought to compare the calculator to what we actually consider to be intelligence, or consciousness.

Do you actually believe that there is some extra, completely magical thing that makes up our intelligence? Our consciousness? Do you think it is some metphysical process that interacts with our physical selves (and in doing so, disobeying the laws of physics!)?

I tend not to think of our intellect in this manner. I think of us as a natural collection of processes, which strung together give us the properties of "free will", "intelligence", and "consciousness".

Each system in our body has a specific purpose - a monotonous series of stimulation, followed by reactivity.

Our hearts pump blood to our limbs and organs. Our lungs provide the oxygen. These things we know we do unconsciously.

What about sight?

There is a photoreceptive portion in the back of our eye. As soon as light hits that, it triggers a series of reactions - the light patterns sensed by the photoreceptivity are turned into chemical patterns, which trigger electrical signals along the optical nerve to the occipital lobe, where it decodes the electrical signals, and depending on what the information says, triggers a new set of reactions elsewhere. Simultaneously, the same photoreceptive portion triggers a reflexive contraction of the iris, to adjust to the light.

Every subsystem in our body can be explained in terms of its reaction to a stimulus. Its only when we try to put these systems together, into a working consciousness that people get skeptical about the automation. I wouldn't say that this process is COMPLETELY "automated", but I would certainly say that it is 100% physical, and that there is no metaphysical portion of the process, triggered by some outside force; some "soul" or "mind" seperate from the physical process.

In my view, the brain is the control center. It's sole purpose is to identify patterns; it creates association between stimuli, and the stimuli that follows as a result. For instance, when we learn language as a small child - our brain has the purpose of identifying the pattern that when my mother enters the room, and sees me for the first time, she says "Hello!!!". If I have just awoken, she says "Good morning!". Surely, this must be of some significance.

I realize eventually that I can somewhat mimic these sounds, through manipulation of certain muscles, while passing air through my vocal cords (obviously not thinking quite this advanced; the brain is making the connections, not my mind), and when I mimic these behaviors, there is a favorable reaction.

If I extend my hand toward a bottle (a shape which I have identified as satisfying my physical urge for food), that generally results in my receiving the bottle.

I believe that for any particular stimulus, once our minds have developed, our automated processes begin a chain reaction of pattern recognition in the brain, and the brain's sole responsibility is to identify those patterns, and find which following step to the pattern has historically resulted in the most favorable outcome. Each particular subsystem which has some sort of interaction with the stimulus tries to react automatically in its own automated way; which may sometimes interfere, or contradict with the automated reaction of another system.

Intelligence, I think, is the suppression, by the brain, of the least favorable reactions, due to developed pattern "recognition", which in reality is just a newly learned automation of sorts. An "expectation" or "assumption" is made about what the next step in the processes is. A reaction is formed, and a new association is made with some measure of favorability. This new pattern recognition (stimulus > reaction > favorability) becomes a new basis for reaction the next time a stimulus with a similar pattern arises.

Thus, consciousness, and intelligence become an ever-evolving, self-correcting algorithm - which of course makes it computable, and replicatable.

So yes, I do believe artificial intelligence can be achieved.

The problem is that computer scientists have approached it without an understanding of cognitive development. There has to be some combination of inherent traits (genetic, evolutionary instinct) and plastic traits (learned through experience) in order to achieve true artificial intelligence. There has to be some element of "self"-reflection, and some chaos in the gathering of external stimulus, organized through the recognition of previously identified patterns, in terms of favorability, and assumption in the case of newly encountered stimulus.

I'll be working on this in the future.

One problem with your ideas. Why develop consciousness at all? If it's just a brain process, then what's the point? If I were just a learning, self-protecting machine I could just as well protect myself long enough to pass on my genes to a future generation without consciousness. Sort of an equivalent of gathering food, eating, fighting, reproducing etc in my sleep.

Also, something that I feel science is quite unable to touch on, is the non-physical world. You can argue that your emotions, sense of consciousness, thought processes etc are the result of physical processes, but to you they exist beyond the physical. I mean can you measure your sense of joy in terms of its physical presence?

Anyway, he never said consciousness was some metaphysical force. It could just be an energy force, which would permit it with the ability to interact with the physical things like your brain.
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