Artificial Intelligence Cosmology Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Could AI understand the universe better than we do?

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Better than we ever could?

Recently, we discussed well-known chemist and atheist proponent Peter Atkins’s claim that science, not philosophy, answers the Big Questions:

One class consists of invented questions that are often based on unwarranted extrapolations of human experience. They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self, such as Why are we here? and What are the attributes of the soul? They are not real questions, because they are not based on evidence. Thus, as there is no evidence for the Universe having a purpose, there is no point in trying to establish its purpose or to explore the consequences of that purported purpose. As there is no evidence for the existence of a soul (except in a metaphorical sense), there is no point in spending time wondering what the properties of that soul might be should the concept ever be substantiated. More.

Having dismissed all this in favor of the study of physics and chemistry, he went on to say that he thought AI could be built that would understand the universe and consciousness better than we do, given the impasse we are in:

Of course, foothills have given way to mountains, and rapid progress cannot be expected in the final push. Maybe effort will take us, at least temporarily, down blind alleys (string theory perhaps) but then the blindness of that alley might suddenly be opened and there is a surge of achievement. Perhaps whole revised paradigms of thought, such as those a century or so ago when relativity and quantum mechanics emerged, will take comprehension in currently unimaginable directions. Maybe we shall find that the cosmos is just mathematics rendered substantial. Maybe our comprehension of consciousness will have to be left to the artificial device that we thought was merely a machine for simulating it. Maybe, indeed, circularity again, only the artificial consciousness we shall have built will have the capacity to understand the emergence of something from nothing. More.

What do you think?

Also new at Mind Matters Today:

Imagining life after Google: Reviewers of George Gilder’s new book weigh in If we have simply taken the big software, hardware, and social media companies who dominate our lives for granted, the reactions from the business world to Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy should give us a lot to think about.

Silicon Valley grew old before it grew up By April of this year, 100 employees were complaining about the Google groupthink Quip making the rounds: Would you trust a self-driving car from Google? Answer: Sure, if I needed a car that decided for me where I should go and then just drove me there.

Our anonymity may be an illusion Because we talk about ourselves so much online, few leaked pieces may even be required to identify us.  Dr. Dinerstein: In what is now a classic study, researchers used de-identified credit card data for 1.1 million people, in 10,000 stores over a three-month period. Using just four pieces of “outside” data they could identify 90% of the shoppers.

Karl Marx’s eerie AI prediction He felt that capitalism would fall when machines replaced human labor Because Marx held that the value of goods resided in the labor required to produce them, if goods were produced by automatons, without human labor, the economy would fall apart and capitalism would fail.

and:

Slaughterbots
Is it ethical to develop a swarm of killer AI drones? For threats like slaughterbots, the answer is the development of newer technology. Like it or not, history is replete with accounts of new military technology replacing old.  Evil, seeking influence, demands a response, so the technology to provide one must be developed. (Robert J.Marks)

vs.

Slaughterbots: How far is too far? And how will we know if we have crossed a line? A greater focus should be on restoring the foundations of our nation over building superweapons. And the key foundation is all human beings’ right to life. (Eric Holloway)

6 Replies to “Could AI understand the universe better than we do?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    If science paid any attention to evidence on the questions that ARE within its own realm, we might be more willing to listen to this nonsense. Unfortunately science no longer bothers with testability or evidence. Big bang, quantum, evolution, global warming, economics, multiverses, dark matter, etc. Untestable theories and decisively disproved theories are now the basis of science.

  2. 2

    I don’t recall why, but I receive a technical journal several times a year dealing with “Cyber Security.” Typically I take a quick scan through the issue before discarding it since I have no knowledge or interest in the subject matter. But an article in the current issue caught my attention dealing with Artificial Intelligence that seems apropos to the discussion here.
    Take a look at my summary at: https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/mimicking-a-neural-network-an-exercise-in-intelligent-design/, and read the original article yourself. I’d be interested in readers take on what is being reported.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “Perhaps whole revised paradigms of thought, such as those a century or so ago when relativity and quantum mechanics emerged, will take comprehension in currently unimaginable directions.”

    Perhaps properly understanding relativity and quantum mechanics in the first place will enlighten Peter Atkins to the true ‘spiritual’ basis of reality that he never thought was possible?

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QDy1Soolo

    as to:

    “Maybe we shall find that the cosmos is just mathematics rendered substantial.”

    Interesting comment,,, and exactly how does Atkins think that immaterial, (and ‘incomplete’, i.e. Godel), mathematics was ‘rendered substantial’ in the first place?

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.
    Maybe our comprehension of consciousness will have to be left to the artificial device that we thought was merely a machine for simulating it. Maybe, indeed, circularity again, only the artificial consciousness we shall have built will have the capacity to understand the emergence of something from nothing.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    An Interview with David Berlinski – Jonathan Witt
    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/20.....-here.html

    as to:

    Maybe our comprehension of consciousness will have to be left to the artificial device that we thought was merely a machine for simulating it.

    Perhaps it would be good for Atkins to understand that a computer does not ‘know’ anything?

    “Your Computer Doesn’t Know Anything” – Michael Egnor (January 23, 2015). .
    Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich. Your math book doesn’t know algebra. Your Rolodex doesn’t know your cousin’s address. Your watch doesn’t know what time it is. Your car doesn’t know where you’re driving. Your television doesn’t know who won the football game last night. Your cell phone doesn’t know what you said to your girlfriend this morning. People know things. Devices like computers and books and Rolodexes and watches and cars and televisions and cell phones don’t know anything. They don’t have minds. They are artifacts — paper and plastic and silicon things designed and manufactured by people — and they provide people with the means to leverage their human knowledge. Computers (and books and watches and the like) are the means by which people leverage and express knowledge. Computers store and process representations of knowledge. But computers have no knowledge themselves.
    http://afterall.net/quotes/mic.....esnt-know/

    Nor can a computer create any information above and beyond what was initially programmed, or fed, into it by a human mind:

    The mathematical world – James Franklin – 7 April 2014
    Excerpt: the intellect (is) immaterial and immortal. If today’s naturalists do not wish to agree with that, there is a challenge for them. ‘Don’t tell me, show me’: build an artificial intelligence system that imitates genuine mathematical insight. There seem to be no promising plans on the drawing board.,,,
    – James Franklin is professor of mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
    http://aeon.co/magazine/world-.....-be-about/

    Observation of Unbounded Novelty in Evolutionary Algorithms is Unknowable – 2018
    Eric Holloway and Robert Marks
    Abstract. Open ended evolution seeks computational structures whereby creation of unbounded diversity and novelty are possible. However, research has run into a problem known as the “novelty plateau” where further creation of novelty is not observed. Using standard algorithmic information theory and Chaitin’s Incompleteness Theorem, we prove no algorithm can detect unlimited novelty. Therefore observation of unbounded novelty in computer evolutionary programs is nonalgorithmic and, in this sense, unknowable.
    http://robertmarks.org/REPRINT.....ovelty.pdf

    LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW – William Dembski – Robert Marks – Pg. 13
    Excerpt: (Computer) Simulations such as Dawkins’s WEASEL, Adami’s AVIDA, Ray’s Tierra, and Schneider’s ev appear to support Darwinian evolution, but only for lack of clear accounting practices that track the information smuggled into them.,,, Information does not magically materialize. It can be created by intelligence or it can be shunted around by natural forces. But natural forces, and Darwinian processes in particular, do not create information. Active information enables us to see why this is the case.
    http://evoinfo.org/publication.....ation-law/

    as to:

    “Maybe, indeed, circularity again, only the artificial consciousness we shall have built will have the capacity to understand the emergence of something from nothing.”

    Again, computers don’t ‘understand’ anything,

    “Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich.”
    -Egnor

    And secondly, even if a computer did somehow ‘understand’ how something can possibly come from absolutely nothing then that would instead reflect a profound programming error on the part of the programmer, not a genuine insight.

    Atkins’s patently absurd proposition reminds me of Krauss’s book “A Universe from Nothing”

    Scientists Can’t Avoid Philosophy – Here’s why… – Michael Liccione – January 22, 2016
    Excerpt: “Horgan: Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree?
    Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities…He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did. And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.
    Thus what he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true. Well, you can’t get any evidence about what existed before space and time came into being. Above all he believes that these mathematically based speculations solve thousand year old philosophical conundrums, without seriously engaging those philosophical issues. The belief that all of reality can be fully comprehended in terms of physics and the equations of physics is a fantasy. As pointed out so well by Eddington in his Gifford lectures, they are partial and incomplete representations of physical, biological, psychological, and social reality.
    http://www.intellectualtakeout.....philosophy

    As to

    “Of course, foothills have given way to mountains, and rapid progress cannot be expected in the final push. Maybe effort will take us, at least temporarily, down blind alleys (string theory perhaps) but then the blindness of that alley might suddenly be opened and there is a surge of achievement.”

    Perhaps this ‘surge of achievement’ that Atkins’s envisions, instead of being brought about by further technological breakthroughs, will instead be brought about by man finally ‘re-realizing’ that he has a ‘spiritual’ part to his nature that is made in ‘the image of God?

    “There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly”
    – Adam Sedgwick to Charles Darwin – 1859

    Verse:

    1 Corinthians 2:9
    However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him–

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Prior question: can an AI understand at all? If yes, how so? (Esp. given the inherent blindness of a signals processing computational substrate.)

  5. 5

    KF @4:
    I think my comment @2 might address your question. It seems to me that people are working on AI applications that will be able to read human emotions. The question/concern I have would be, to what (bad)end could this be used against those being surveilled in an uncooperative fashion (BIG BROTHER is watching?)

  6. 6
    outside_observer says:

    I think that if the AI has enough raw data it might be able to connect the dots in some ways that it would be hard for humans to. In that sense it certainly could aid understanding. But the AI being able to understand and extrapolate meaning from the data is a far different thing.

    There are so many different kinds of analysis that can be done on even the simplest of scenarios. For instance, if I look at a pond, I could examine the bacteria in the water. I could study the air quality above the pond. I could study the sociological behavior of the ducks in the pond. I could study the aesthetic quality of the pond for a prospective piece of art. All these different ways of thinking enhance my ability to “understand” the pond.

    But, assuming you could get the AI to “understand” at all, it would have to be able to categorize the information and make it meaningful across many different fields. That in itself is not the easiest thing to do. Let’s say that the AI was programmed so that it could study bacteria and sociological interactions of ducks on the water, but nothing else. In order for the AI to be able to think in terms of art, for instance, it would have to be able to create a new paradigm of thought beyond its original programming. And then it would have have some way of checking whether or not its new mode of thinking was any good. The AI would have to weigh the different analyses and decide what it actually signifies. It would not just be a matter of deciding which analysis is “better.” They might all be valid in some way. It would need some kind of value system to both judge between them and mold the information into a coherent “understanding” of the world. It is not readily apparent to me how that could happen without human intervention.

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