Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

brain biases

Episode Twenty Two – Biases, AI and Current Affairs

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Today we are talking about inherent biases, AI, time travel and faster than light travel. And then we will go over a shocking legal decision.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Click here to download the PDF transcript.

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the much needed and crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today. We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds to our community.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

We are your hosts and guides through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Dwayne Davies, my husband, is the founder, primary content creator and voice for Metaphysics of Physics. I am Ashna and I help out however I can. You can find out more about us on the About page of the website.

You can also find all the episodes, transcripts, subscription options and more on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Hi everyone! This is episode twenty-two of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. Today we are talking about inherent biases, artificial intelligence and parental neglect in the current affairs section.

Inherent Biases

The other day, one of our listeners shared a diagram on Facebook. It purported to show which parts of the brain are responsible for various cognitive biases. This is nonsense for many reasons, but we will explore some of the most obvious ones.

Firstly, this treats cognitive biases as though they were inherent functionalities of the brain. As though the reason we are sometimes guilty of these biases is that neurons in some specific part of our brains are firing.

But this is not how cognitive biases work. It is not as though they are the result of the hard-wired structures of our brain.

brain biases

Lets see if we can find the parts of the brain responsible for other biases? No, I don’t think we can either …

They are the result of a failure to properly reason. When we accuse someone of a cognitive bias, we are essentially saying “Well, what you said is not consistent with reality. You have made an error.”. They are not biases. There is nothing inherent in our brain which makes us more prone to make such errors.

But that is what this chart would like us to believe. That there are some parts of the brain which make us inherently inclined to such errors. But that is not how it works. Such errors are simply the result of improper reasoning or evading to reason at all.

If these so-called biases were indeed localized like this, then why is it relatively easy to avoid these biases? Why is it that the better one learns to think, the least subject they are to such biases? Why is it that highly logical people with sound reasoning skills seldom, if ever, are subject to such biases?

What is the motive behind all of this?

To excuse poor reasoning and to try to avoid the need to overcome the tendency some of us have towards these so-called biases. That way they can be poor thinkers and then blame their brain for being wired that way. And minimize or avoid the need to learn to avoid them by learning to think more rationally.

They want to evade responsibility for being prone to these biases. As though they cannot help it if they have biases built into their brain!

They can help it. By learning to reason properly to avoid such biases. But they would rather not accept the responsibility of learning to properly reason. It can be a long and difficult process. They would rather not do the work.

Learning to reason well involves a lot of practice and study for many of us. Effort some would not rather not make.

Perhaps some of them see little value in learning to reason. Why learn to reason when you can continue to be a poor thinker? And instead, pretend to be a victim of the unfortunate alleged structure of your brain.

This is a form of intellectual cowardice and laziness. And I find this morally reprehensible. It is difficult to imagine anything as immoral as the evasion of the need to learn to think rationally.

We should do our utmost to recognize any flaws in our thinking processes and attempt to learn to avoid them. That is how we become more rational and better able to deal with the world around us. Which is how we lead better and happier lives.

An Interesting Comment on AI

We recently received an interesting comment from one of our audience. It got us thinking and we have an answer you might find interesting. Here is the comment:

One possible way in which AI may emerge is the continual replacement of human parts until there is no longer any organic parts left.

e.g. as of today, I can replace most parts of a human, legs, arms, heart, most organs etc.

On the head I can replace the eyes, ears, nose & some parts of the brain.

As we understand more of what it is to be human, we will be able to replace more of the brain.

Eventually, the “consciousness” part of the brain will be replaced & on that day we will have an artificial AI or artificial human.

So, like organic evolution I think artificial evolution will occur in steps over a significant time period, but significantly less than that required by organic evolution i.e. 1000s of years not millions

Note: Given the expansiveness of the universe the only way humans can explore it is to evolve into artificial bodies since cosmic radiation is lethal to organic life & time travel & FTL travel are an impossibility.

Life 3.0 Cover

Episode Fourteen – Life 3.0: A Slow Death

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Today we start our review of the book “Life 3.0” by Max Tegmark. This book claims that greater than human level intelligence is inevitable and then discusses what can be done to keep it safe. Part One introduces the book and discusses the prelude and the first chapter.

Click here to download the PDF transcript with illustrations. This episodes transcript has no illustrations.

Episode Transcript

[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Introduction

Metaphysics of Physics is the much needed and crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today. We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds to our community.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

You can find all the episodes, transcripts, subscription options and more on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Hi everyone! This is episode fourteen of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Thanks for tuning in!

Today we are going to start our review of “Life 3.0” by Max Tegmark. This will be the first part of a series where we go many of the central ideas presented in this terrible book.

Life 3.0 cover
Here is the book we are reviewing.

Today we will cover the prelude and the first chapter. Later parts will cover further chapters at about two or three chapters per part. Meaning that the entire series will be about three or four parts long.

But, without further ado, let us start with a quick introduction to the book itself.

The book is called “Life 3.0” and it is subtitled: “Being human in the age of artificial intelligence”. Which, to be fair, does give you a fair idea of what you should expect.

Here is the end of the blurb provided on the inside jacket of the copy I have before me:

“What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn’t shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues – from super-intelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos”.

Basically, it argues that artificial intelligence in the form of greater than human level intelligence is all but inevitable. And that we should start thinking about what this implies for us. Now, rather than in the future when Max Tegmark believes it will be too late.

The book starts by making the case that the issue of how to handle the possible rise of artificial intelligence is the most important issue of our time.

It then goes on to show the possible benefits and dangers of AI and how it might drastically alter our lives and civilizations. And what we should do to make sure AI does not prove to be dangerous enough to wipe us out.

Our Mathemtical Universe Tegmark
Tegmark’s other book “Our Mathematical Universe”. Another terrible book we might cover one day …

Before, we go any further, when I say “AI”, it should be assumed that I mean “strong AI” or “human-level intelligence” unless otherwise stated. Alright, now we have that noted, let us continue.

What do we think of all of this? Well, the main issue we have is that it makes a huge, huge leap: That AI is possible in the first place. We have argued that in fact, it is not.

You can see our argument for this presented way back in episode four:

If we were to assume that such AI is indeed possible, then we would probably leave the book alone. Since if AI was indeed possible, then some of it would certainly follow.

We disagree with this premise, so we are not going to leave his book alone. Instead, we are going to deal with his arguments for AI and whatever other philosophically dubious ideas we encounter.

This being Max Tegmark, we should not have a lot of trouble finding quite a few philosophically dubious ideas.

Now that you have some idea of what the book is all about, let us start our criticism of the book. Starting with the prelude and working our way through chapter by chapter. We will only deal with the philosophically interesting parts of the book and leave the others alone.

Artifical Intelligence

Episode Four – The Possible and AI

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Our fourth episode discusses the concept of the “possible” and provides a brief argument for why we do not think AI is possible.

Episode Transcript

[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences].

Welcome to episode four of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science today. Thanks for tuning in!

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.  We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

You may want to subscribe via iTunes or any of our other subscription methods.  Also, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can do all of this from the shownotes or the media player on the website, at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Today we are going to discuss the concept of “the possible” and some reasons why we do not think that it is reasonable to believe that AI, by which I mean computer AI, is possible.

Ok, let’s get into it.

Let’s establish the proper meaning of “possible”. I think a lot of people, including a great many in science, do not grasp what this word means. Something is not “possible” simply because one cannot think why it is not true.

“X is possible” means: “That according to the context of my knowledge, there is some evidence that X is true and none that proves that it is not”.  Note, that there may not be very much evidence that supports X, but there has to be at least a little bit.

The evidence might not be very conclusive, and the truth of X may still need to be verified.  But, at least I have established the possibility of the claim.

Let’s take an example.

Suppose that I come to understand that some organisms seem to undergo a process of evolution by natural selection.

Let us also suppose that I do not know how humans came to be.  I wonder if humans might have evolved from some other species. I have not yet established that this is possible, at this point, it is just speculation.

So, I then proceed to find evidence that would suggest such a thing, such as perhaps fossils or genetic evidence.  The evidence seems to suggest that man evolved from some earlier form of man-like ape.

Australopithecus africanus
There is much evidence that man evolved from other apes. Such as this Australopithecus africanus skull.

Therefore it seems possible that man evolved from an ape!  I have not simply asserted that it is so because I can imagine that it is so.  I have concluded that it might be so, on the basis of some evidence that seems to suggest this.

Am I certain of this? No, all this is not very conclusive yet.  But, I have some reason, based on evidence, to think that it might be true.  I have a basis for my belief that man evolved from this earlier species.

But, suppose that I simply declare that man evolved from apes.  I have no evidence of any kind to suggest that this is true. I just assert that it is so because I simply believe it to be so.

This is speculation. It is not the same as establishing that something is possible. You have no reason, based on no evidence, to believe it might be true.  One cannot base an argument solely on speculation.

So, for something to be possible, you have to have a reason, based on evidence, to think that it is so.  It also has to not contradict known facts, as we shall see in a moment.

According to this definition of “possible”, it is not true that “anything is possible”.  Unless you can establish a reason to believe something is true, it is not possible.

Therefore, lots of things are not possible and cannot be established to be so.  Note, that all gods fall into this category. No valid evidence of any god has ever been given.  By their nature as allegedly supernatural entities that allegedly supersede nature and thus evidence, no evidence can ever be given for their existence.

If you can establish if X was true it would contradict a known fact, then X cannot be possible.  There cannot be any contradictions in reality. Nothing that is true contradicts something else that is true.  If you know Y is true, but X contradicts Y, then X is not possible.

Let’s say that I wish to establish that man is a reptile.  But, I know that man is a mammal. But, if man was a reptile, this would contradict the known fact that man is a mammal. Therefore, it is not possible that man is a reptile.

I think that just about covers the issue of the possible. Let us move on.

If anyone wants to claim that computers can be conscious, or intelligent, then the burden of proof is on them.  Nobody in the history of AI has ever passed the most basic hurdle required for such proof.

Having said that, it is easy to establish that computers cannot be expected to be conscious and therefore they cannot be intelligent.

They can only do what their instructions tell them to. Otherwise, nothing happens. This is a fundamental fact.  This is a fundamental aspect of a computer’s nature. It is simply a bunch of logic gates, on and off switches and it only does what its instructions tell it to and nothing more. It cannot do anything else.

A computer, at least when you consider the parts that do the processing, is literally a bunch of on and off switches wired together. A computer toggles these switches on and off according to a pattern determined by the programming code.  The code is first reduced to what amounts to a combination of “on” and “off” instructions, which are usually represented as ones and zeroes.

The programming code simply tells the computer which switches to turn on and off.  That is essentially all it does. It seems amazing that simply toggling switches on and off is as useful as it is, and it is amazing.  By toggling these switches on and off we can store all sorts of patterns of things and cause all sorts of things to show up on monitors, printers and so forth.

Programming code
This code is reduced to ones and zeroes.

But, it should not be forgotten, that as magical as all this seems, when it comes to processing, you are essentially just toggling whatever switches the programming code tells the computer to.

Ah, some would say, computer programs do amazing things. They seem to be able to beat people at chess and predict what people want to buy on Amazon. And other things that seem to require an understanding of things and the ability to think and perhaps even reason.  It sure seems to understand what is going on and to be able to think!

While humans require intelligence to perform certain tasks, computers do not.  Just because a task requires intelligence for a human to perform it, does not prove that a computer must be intelligent to perform that same task.  All that is required for the computer to perform that task, is that it is possible for the task to be performed by executing programming code. A computer can be instructed to do many things which do not require the computer to have any intelligence.