March 1, 2007

This was inspired by a post of a youtube video on celluloid blonde.# Thanks Max. In some of my writing recently I have been exploring free will. Not so much in the ‘hurting fluffy animals’ or ‘causing world wars’ or even in the ‘getting my end away’ sense but rather more in the thoughtful, considered, might-have-been-smoking-weed sense.

For someone who considers themselves to have a decent amount of intelligence- higher than say George W. or a chicken but lower than ‘Q’ from Start Trek, Yoda from Star Wars or a bloke I know down the pub who seems to know everything about everything- I like to explore what that thought means, if anything, and where it leads, if anywhere, and whether they will have a drink waiting for me when I get there.

After all, that is the hallmark of all civilization and we do rather hope that’s where intelligence would lead us.

So, considering that the normal idea of what free will is finds itself, in the face of science, looking a little silly and embarrassed and hoping someone says something soon so it can pop into the kitchen, do up it’s fly, get itself a civilized drink and pretend nothing happened- considering this and that we are having to face the fact that we are variously ‘intelligent’ meat-machines* where does the intelligence start and stop?

Is our brain the only intelligent thing? The brain-dead body does some pretty smart stuff with only a little help from machines or, in the case of George W., alcohol and his favourite toy- a real life GI Joe (actually 140,000 of them- the whole set). If you think it is only the brain what about part of the brain? How much do you need for intelligence? 90%? 70%? 10%? Would it survive on it’s own? For intelligence to exist it needs support systems.

If the way the body’s organs work together is pretty intelligent and for the most part they don’t need the brain to do it we should accept that the being is intelligent and we don’t distinguish a single part of it because it works together. Then where do we stop? Our friends who we bounce ideas and thoughts off are extensions of our intelligence. Computers that we use for research or to create on are too. As are our teachers. Books.

There is a hive mind that is bigger than the individual. One person alone in a field own without the hive mind learns nothing and does not advance. Sitting in that field eating mud and waving at cows waiting for a “nice kitty” to come along, purring, and rip his limbs off.

And those other animals are part of the hive mind too. For many of us animals are our first steps toward learning empathy, behaviour control and what “big people” do to the disobedient. So they and the ones who teach us (by example) not to sit in the field saying “cute kitty” are part of the hive mind, much like the interacting neurons in your brain.

And this brain, like yours, needs something to support it (preferably something/ one rich and generous). And it has it. The earth becomes part of the organism, the planet, by the same definitions, becomes and intelligent entity, one big brain of thinking parts. It may not have control over it’s direction and movement like most humans but neither does, say, Stephen Hawking. It has the ability to think. The same ideas extrapolated applies to our solar system, the galaxy and ultimately the universe.

We live in an intelligent universe.

Considering this we have to ask ourselves: why don’t the trains run on time and why is most television so utterly stupid?

Perhaps we live in an intelligent universe, but not a very intelligent universe. We got the George W. of universes that everyone points and laughs at. Some very smug creatures somewhere got the Steven Hawking universe and are laughing at us right now.

Just thought you might like to know. That’s all.


*- albeit very sophisticated and impressive meat machines with cool sunglasses, computers and nipple-rings.


2 Responses to “extrapolation.interpretation.intelligence.”

  1. Woeful Says:

    Intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes, it’s relative. Humans are very complex biological systems wherein each system cohabitates for the betterment of the whole organism. Each of these systems can be thought of as being independently intelligent regarding a specific function or process. Furthermore, the individual cells that are the building blocks of these systems also possess a certain level of intelligence, they adapt to stimuli.

    Sentience, however, is something all together different. Consciousness… I think therefore I am, is a powerful tool. What we do with this awareness (our free will) is what sets us apart from the great apes. Sometimes we use our sentience for selfish purposes, for greed and spite. Sometimes we use it to compose symphonies, or to better mankind in some small way.

    We are on the cusp of creating artificial intelligence… Teaching The Machine. We haven’t done it yet but at the rate we’re advancing it can’t be that far off. Recently, Intel fashioned a teraflop chip. It’s capable of computing one trillion calculations a second! Human engineers couldn’t build it without the help of another Intel chip that led the designers down the correct path. To my knowledge, this is the first time The Machine has taught its Human creators. There is certainly a rudimentary level of AI at work there.

    In the not too distant future, one of our electronic creations will indeed pass the Turing Test. From that moment forward, we will no longer live in a world where we know whether we are interacting with a machine intelligence or a Human intelligence…

    The real question is; at this level of intelligence, does the glorious machine automatically become self-aware?

  2. Hi woeful,

    Thanks for the comment, your knowledge of computer advances definitely outstrips mine. A previous piece I wrote (buggered if I know when, I looked for it under “free will” and “science” and I cannot find the damn thing) dealt with free will and the evidence that it is nothing more than an illusion between the subconscious and the conscious. Now that we can read a brain’s activity in real time it looks increasingly likely, through tests, that our traditional view of free will has to be revised. There is no traditional idea of “choice” in a situation. We react exactly according to our genetics and programming (experience). There is no traditional “choice”. This has huge societal ramifications as you can imagine.

    As to “sentience”…
    sentient; adjective FORMAL
    able to experience physical and possibly emotional feelings

    So dogs, cats, apes and a great many other animals have sentience of different levels (able to demonstrate a wider or narrower set of emotions) so sentience is not an absolute but, like everything else in the world, a sliding “grey” scale. On some very minor level all creatures that revolve around societal actions must have an “emotional” programme, even if it is incredibly simple, for instance the chemical reactions that make an ant want to work with other ants, but it is easier to leave natural prejudice at the door and look at larger creatures like rabbits, buffalo or crocodiles. Dogs, cats and rabbits think, therefore they are, too. Just at a different level.

    We are special in, apparently, being at the top of this scale on the planet but at some point our creations in computers may outstrip us. Possibly by combining organic brain tissue with computers. In the USA they have attached part of a mouses brain to a circuit board and got it to fly a fighter plane on a simulator. This confirms what I have long suspected about fighter pilots, by the way. (there is a link in “external links” on midnightjester.co.za).

    That, however, was not the centre point of the argument. My argument is that the universe can be seen as one intelligent organism with a lot of moving parts just as a human is. There is no rational, scientific way of separating the two concepts that I can think of. Can you?


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