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What is a human being?

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Maken
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Perhaps the best way to explain it is that my understanding of Objectivism makes the ethics and politics a simply deductive consequence of the fact that it is discussing a rational, self-aware volitional life form. Humans are such life forms (in fact, the model by which we created the concept of such life forms in the first place, but humans do not exhaust all the possibilities which fit under the concept), so Objectivism obviously applies. I don't see anything in the nature of man which is not contained in the above description which influences Objectivist ethics or politics in terms of principles. Their application will be very different of course, since the context is different, but the virtues of Objectivism and the prohibition of force are a logical requirement arising from the qualities in my idea of "person."

Ah! Very nice to see that someone gets it.

While the concept "man" is completely sufficient to deal philosophically with currently known existents, getting rid of the non-essentials allows better focus on what matters - and reveals the true scope of the philosophical truths derived in Objectivism.

While some people here have argued otherwise, knowing that the Objectivist ethics are the proper ethics for any concievable living being with a rational faculty is relevant knowledge.

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It seems that many place certain things beyond human understanding, such as how consciousness arises, or how intelligence arises, etc.

This is not what I was doing when stating that I find it doubtful that we can develop another consciousness that resembles our own. I fully believe that we will one day have a complete understanding of man's consciousness -- I just don't believe we will be able to re-create it in anything but another man. The argument is as much metaphysical as it is related to the complexity of the neurological and biological systems involved.

Man's type of consciousness is inseparable from the totality of his mind and body. Every single biological system in a man is tied together in his brain. And, as such, only another man can have a man-like consciousness -- A is A. Neurological case studies have shown that impairment, sometimes in as little as one system, can significantly alter a man's mind to the point that we would say that he is "not normal". While the brain has a certain capacity to "work around" damaged areas, it's improbable that there would not be some abnormality if entire systems were missing. Perhaps we could perform radical experiments on chimps, but unless every single system in a man is also represented in the "chimp", it's highly likely that he would be abnormal to the point that his resultant consciousness, such as it may be, would be nothing like mans. And there's no reason to assume that we would share any of the same values, goals or aims.

The same argument, I believe, can be made for electronic-based artificial intelligence.

I believe that when we imagine artificial intelligence in computer programs or imagine beings from outer space, they inevitable resemble us because that's the only type of consciousness that we can imagine. This is tied to the fact that all thought (even fantasy) can ultimately be traced back to percepts. We can't imagine something un-like anything we've ever seen before. We may some day create artificial intelligence in electronics or consciousness in an engineered animal or discover an alien life form with consciousness, but the odds that they would be similar to man would be very small.

Edited by New Buddha
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We may some day create artificial intelligence in electronics or consciousness in an engineered animal or discover an alien life form with consciousness, but the odds that they would be similar to man would be very small.

I don't need them to be similar to man. Only that they are individual volitional rational creatures/consciousnesses/life-forms. Those are the things which result in the Objectivist ethics and politics. They will have radically different values (say, arsenic, silicon, and electrical power, what have you), they will pursue radically different goals, but they will be acting in their own rational self-interest and must not, by their nature, initiate force if they wish to live as the entity they are. The virtues in Objectivist ethics are the same, the application quite radically different.

All that is necessary for Objectivism to apply (the principles, not applications to certain individuals) is that the entity:

1. Is alive, i.e. must continue to perform self-sustained, self-generated action in order to maintain its capacity to do so (life must continue living in order to live/be life).

2. It has a conceptual faculty, i.e. it integrates its percepts of reality using reason through the application of logic.

3. Obviously it must also have a volitional capacity, though I think any life form with a human-level capacity for conception and reason will be volitional (the two probably go together, if only as a result that conceptual faculty creates the concept "I" and volition seems dependent on that, and it seems logical to me that it is in fact a sufficient condition for at least limited volitional capacity, the degree of volition increasing with the acuity of the conceptual faculty).

These things are not necessarily only applicable to humans. The above describes anything we would ever call a "person" in the sense of a thing with a mind, a "soul" if you will. The above necessitates all of Objectivist ethical and political principles. It gives you the whole shebang so-to-speak. And so anything broadly defined "life-form" with a volitional rational faculty has its ethics and politics described by Objectivism. That is an important insight. It doesn't weaken Objectivism to say that it can automatically handle future technological developments such as machine consciousness or uplifted animals, etc. So long as the above conditions are met, Objectivism holds. That is a statement of the power of Objectivism, as mrocktor said in his last post.

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I don't need them to be similar to man. Only that they are individual volitional rational creatures/consciousnesses/life-forms. Those are the things which result in the Objectivist ethics and politics. They will have radically different values (say, arsenic, silicon, and electrical power, what have you), they will pursue radically different goals, but they will be acting in their own rational self-interest and must not, by their nature, initiate force if they wish to live as the entity they are. The virtues in Objectivist ethics are the same, the application quite radically different.

As a thought experiment, imagine a rational alien race that, like the praying mantis, must kill one of their own rational members to reproduce. Or worse, imagine one visiting earth and using human beings as "parasitic pods" to germinate their young. By their nature they would be acting in an ethical and moral way. However, this would be completely unacceptable to man. Man's values are about Man and are specific to his cognitive and biological nature.

I realize that these are far-fetched examples, but it's conceivable that a completely rational race could be required by their nature to behave in a way that is harmful to humans. I only use these examples to illustrate that our values are specific to our species.

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As a thought experiment, imagine a rational alien race that, like the praying mantis, must kill one of their own rational members to reproduce. Or worse, imagine one visiting earth and using human beings as "parasitic pods" to germinate their young. By their nature they would be acting in an ethical and moral way. However, this would be completely unacceptable to man. Man's values are about Man and are specific to his cognitive and biological nature.

I realize that these are far-fetched examples, but it's conceivable that a completely rational race could be required by their nature to behave in a way that is harmful to humans. I only use these examples to illustrate that our values are specific to our species.

Well your first example is apparently wrong. I looked into praying mantis's, since that whole deal never made sense to me. As it turns out, there is strong evidence that that is a result of intrusive study by human beings, not something they usually do in the wild. Plus, I doubt any species of rational beings would be so skittish as to rip of its mates head when someone walks in the room. Oh, and btw, this intelligent mantis' would by right be engaging in copulation by consent, so the killing of one member would not even be an initiation of force in that instance (though that proposal still seems absurd at best).

As for the "parasitic pods", you can use cows, apes, etc. for such purposes. Or they would use artificial "pods", since any alien race capable of traveling that distance would also be easily able to build such systems. You don't get to kill or initiate force against other rational beings because you need them to reproduce. You do not have a right to reproduce. You have a right to reproduce so long as you have the consent of everyone involved.

So, sorry, try again, I suppose.

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Ah! Very nice to see that someone gets it.

While the concept "man" is completely sufficient to deal philosophically with currently known existents, getting rid of the non-essentials allows better focus on what matters - and reveals the true scope of the philosophical truths derived in Objectivism.

There is nothing in Objectivism that suggests some misterious true scope of philosophy beyond understanding reality through Reason (the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses). So, unless you saw or heard (or even jut smelled) these aliens and thinking computers which are the subject of a conversation I'm supposed to "get", please stop linking your theories concerning them to Objectivism. Objectivism is about things that actually exist, and are perceived, hence the name.

As for "getting rid of non-essentials", that sounds like a sloppy version of what you first thought measurement ommision is, then you thought the rule of fundamentality referrs to, both points on which I corrected you with Rand quotes that directly contradict you. I guess since "getting rid of non-essentials" is not Objectivist terminology, now your post is supposed to be impossible to contradict, huh? Sorry, there's still no such thing as getting rid of non-essentials in concept formation. A concept subsumes all of the characteristics of all of the existents it integrates.

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The idea behind all of this is, I think, that for the purposes of any discussion about future technological advancements, or future events in human history (such as detecting another civilization somewhere in the Universe), we can use the concept I discussed as "person" to describe the sphere of all possible entities that the philosophy of Objectivism applies to (and thereby serve to inform our discussions of possible consequences of such things, much as it did in part in the "Avatar" thread). It serves no purpose other than that for the time being. It does not effect the content of Objectivism, its principles or virtues or ideas, at all. It changes nothing in fact, except identifying the class of possible entities which would by their nature have Objectivism as their proper philosophy for living, precisely so that we can hold such discussions.

Now, a criticism of this seems to be that you shouldn't talk about the future except if you are discussing stuff based entirely on the past. So, you can talk about, perhaps, the possibility of major earthquakes in LA (just made that up as an example), but not the creation of a new intelligent, self-aware life form by man. It does not matter, apparently, that there is reason to think such an event will happen eventually, and possibly in some of our lifetimes (I am only 19 after all), and that it would be a world-changing event and would cause all sorts of problems if we had not considered it before.

I am being slightly sarcastic in the above, but it's because the position just seems silly to me. Discussion about the future is important, even discussion about speculative things, because if they are possible (and not "conceivable" but possible as in "we have reason to think they may very well occur"), then we should consider such things. They would obviously affect our lives, and perhaps someone might want to try to bring such an event about as a major goal of their's. Simply ignoring them because they haven't happened yet is not a wise choice. At worst, it provides a stimulating conversation, making you exercise your philosophical muscles in a new possible context. At best, it can prepare you for dealing with what will likely be an astonishing future, perhaps even providing an impetus to try to make your speculative future a reality because you think it would be a desirable outcome.

Does being an Objectivist require that you never consider anything speculative at all, ever? That is an honest question (not sarcastic), as that has been my interpretation of a number of comments I've read in this thread and others around the board. I understand you should be serious about life, but never imagining anything beyond a plan for getting some practical thing done seems limiting at best, boring, soul-crushing, and mind-numbing at worst.

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The idea behind all of this is, I think, that for the purposes of any discussion about future technological advancements, or future events in human history

And you're basing this statement on? Star Trek, maybe? I know you're not basing it on any knowledge whatsoever of "future advancements or events".

Now, a criticism of this seems to be

I doubt this will be it, it usually isn't when people set out to reinterpret what people wrote. Oh well, the actual criticism is contained in my posts, it's best that you check, compare it to your version, and then decide if you got it right or not.

It does not matter, apparently, that there is reason to think X

If by "reason to think X" you mean X is a logical conclusion you reached using your rational faculty, please describe your reasoning, keeping in mind Rand's definition of Reason.

I am being slightly sarcastic in the above, but it's because the position just seems silly to me. Discussion about the future is important, even discussion about speculative things

It's not my position that science fiction is unimportant, only that Objectivism is not science fiction, nor should it be.

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The Playstation 4 does not exist. The cure for cancer does not exist. Interstellar travel does not exist. A perfectly spherical cube does not exist. The first three and the last have a fundamental difference which makes thinking about, conjecturing and even (for some people) preparing for the first relevant (or even essential, for people in the business), the second relevant, the third fanciful but not really useful (for now) while the fourth is a complete waste of time for anyone and always will be.

Your "understanding" of what is and is not within the realm of rational consideration is lacking.

In addition, your tone is unnecessarily uncivil and quite presumptious. Some short research has shown that this is typical and not the exception for you on this forum. Thus until such a time as you indicate some actual thought on issues, as oposed to simple recitation by rote, and genuine interest in honest discussion this will be our last exchange.

Feel free to place me on ignore if my posts bother you, or to report them if you feel they go against the purpose of this forum.

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It's not my position that science fiction is unimportant, only that Objectivism is not science fiction, nor should it be.

I agree with this distinction. My rejections of your (nanite1018) philosophical assertions are not rejections of science fiction or speculation. If anything, you haven't read enough science fiction yet. Literary science fiction, not movie and television sci-fi, is where you find serious grappling with aliens that are actually alien, and not just regular people with prosthetic-of-the-week pasted onto their foreheads as in Star Trek, or regular people that are tall, blue and in touch with nature as in Avatar.

I'll recommend The Mote in God's Eye as a excellent exploration of intelligent rational aliens. The God's Eye referenced in the title is a reference to a fictional astronomical location, a thick nebula in which the alien's star (The Mote) exists. This is classic, hard SF.

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The Playstation 4 does not exist. The cure for cancer does not exist. Interstellar travel does not exist. A perfectly spherical cube does not exist. The first three and the last have a fundamental difference which makes thinking about, conjecturing and even (for some people) preparing for the first relevant (or even essential, for people in the business), the second relevant, the third fanciful but not really useful (for now) while the fourth is a complete waste of time for anyone and always will be.

This is all irrelevant to the conversation. We know that the Playstation 4 is in development, we know people are working and have had successes in curing various cancers, so rational statements about these things, in actuality, are quite possible. That is in no way similar to talk of alien intelligence and volitional AI, which are both pure fiction.

Interstellar travel is also pure fiction, and I never heard of a spherical cube (except for some mapping scheme wiki mentions, which does indeed exist).

Feel free to place me on ignore if my posts bother you, or to report them if you feel they go against the purpose of this forum.

Your posts aren't stupid or distasteful, they are merely wrong on occasion. The problem with that is that, if left uncorrected, they are far more likely to confuse and mislead honest members who wish to find stuff out, than someone who is obviously an idiot. I won't place you on my ignore list (unless you prove to be such an idiot in the future), instead I will correct you when you make factual errors about Objectivism, such as the ones you made in this thread. Then, you'll have the option to not respond (like you did in this thread previously), after I pointed out factual errors you committed, or you can defend your position.

If you choose to not respond to my arguments, like you did on page two of this thread when you bowed out of the conversation, but later pop back into the conversation and continue on your way as if I never proved you factually wrong, I will also call you out on that. You don't get to just trot on with false claims about Objectivism, just because you're overly sensitive about being corrected.

And now, if you wish to challenge my statement that you did make several mistaken claims about Objectivism, that I rightfully corrected, and that you subsequently ignored, I can quote your words back to you, I have the time.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I agree with this distinction. My rejections of your (nanite1018) philosophical assertions are not rejections of science fiction or speculation. If anything, you haven't read enough science fiction yet. Literary science fiction, not movie and television sci-fi, is where you find serious grappling with aliens that are actually alien, and not just regular people with prosthetic-of-the-week pasted onto their foreheads as in Star Trek, or regular people that are tall, blue and in touch with nature as in Avatar...

I have read a number of novels from Stephen Baxter, which discuss radically different life forms, such as a species so far in advance of humans that we do not understand virtually anything about them or their technology (called the Xeelee), among others. We don't interact diplomatically with them, and in fact go to war against them, but that is a combination of them seeing no reason to interact with us, and our irrational aggression against something we don't understand (we lose in the long run, btw). I'll read your suggestion, eventually (I have "the Culture" series by Iain M. Banks to read first).

To Jake Ellison:

Your criticism seems to be based on your assessment that volitional AI or uplifted animals, etc. are all fictional and there is no reason to think they will ever exist. This is where I disagree. I understand Objectivism is not meant to be science fiction. My position is that Objectivism is applicable even in a "science fiction" context, or any discussion about things like volitional AI (which I see no reason to think is impossible, and many reasons to think it will be created in this century). The basic principles do not change. I have stated it has no importance to human life at this point in time, but if we are ever going to have a conversation about such things (whether you think we should or not), Objectivism can still apply because its basic structure remains applicable in the context I have already described. Objectivists can go on using "man" as their concept for the subject of the philosophy, because it does not change its application in human life, for now.

You challenged me to give you reasons to think that such things will occur, keeping in mind the Objectivst definition of reason. Okay:

1. Computing power has been growing exponentially for going on 40 years, and there are numerous technologies being developed to allow it to continue to do so beyond the limits of the computing substrate of silicon.

2. Models of the brain are getting better and better.

3. Methods of observing the action of the brain are getting exponentially better, and have been doing so for years (helping reason 2). For example, a relatively crude model of one half of a mouse brain in 2008 exhibited patterns of behavior similar to those observed in actual mouse brains.

4. Biotechnology is advancing rapidly, projects for creating truly artificial life are advancing rapidly, and our studies of animals are making significant progress as well (for example, we just learned that there is good reason to think that dolphins are second in intelligence only to humans on this planet, as opposed to apes being in second place, as was previously thought).

Those are all identifications of trends in reality, and their underlying causes (funding, number of researchers, advances in technology driven by market demand) are going to continue to exist indefinitely, at least based on current information. I observed them, identified them, and produced a conclusion from them, that is, I used reason to reach the conclusion that the development of volitional AI or uplifted animals are likely to occur some time in the next century (liberal estimates for the computing capacity necessary to emulate the human brain, coupled with modest estimates of computing power advance, place our achieving that capacity in this century). So, there are reasons to think they exist, and so discussions about them are not fruitless or purposeless.

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Does being an Objectivist require that you never consider anything speculative at all, ever? That is an honest question (not sarcastic), as that has been my interpretation of a number of comments I've read in this thread and others around the board. I understand you should be serious about life, but never imagining anything beyond a plan for getting some practical thing done seems limiting at best, boring, soul-crushing, and mind-numbing at worst.

nanite1018,

I've enjoyed this post because it's made me brush-up on my Objectivist Metaphysics. Here's what I understand regarding the above quote.

There is a difference between probability and speculation (or imagination). However, they are both very important to humans.

Probability is a condition of identity, and as such is only applicable to things (i.e. concretes). When you roll a twenty-sided die, the probability of any number appearing is 1/20. Similarly, when planning for potential earthquakes, you do so based upon observation of historical seismic activity in a given area. However, trying to assign a time-line for something like a potential new discovery (a cure for cancer, man's ability to create a rational being, etc.) is not an issue of probability, but of speculation. Any guess to when it might happen is just that, a guess. Even if it's dressed up with statistics.

It's important to make the distinction. It is rational for man to plan for future probable events when he has observable, reproducible and verifiable scientific evidence upon which to to base his actions. However, it is not justified or rational to base actions upon speculation about what may happen. This doesn't mean that speculation and imagination are not important, but that they should not form the basis for action.

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1. Computing power has been growing exponentially for going on 40 years, and there are numerous technologies being developed to allow it to continue to do so beyond the limits of the computing substrate of silicon.

How much computing power do you need to make it be intelligent and why?

2. Models of the brain are getting better and better.

3. Methods of observing the action of the brain are getting exponentially better, and have been doing so for years (helping reason 2). For example, a relatively crude model of one half of a mouse brain in 2008 exhibited patterns of behavior similar to those observed in actual mouse brains.

I assume you are familiar with those advances. What specifically does knowledge of the human brain tell you about the nature of an artificially intelligent entity, or about the way to create one?

projects for creating truly artificial life are advancing rapidly

Advancing toward what? An AI? How do you know they're not advancing toward a dead end? This is the same argument I heard for M-theory, the Higgs boson etc.: it's just a matter of time before it's proven/found, because advancements are being made.

, and our studies of animals are making significant progress as well (for example, we just learned that there is good reason to think that dolphins are second in intelligence only to humans on this planet, as opposed to apes being in second place, as was previously thought).

In what way, specifically, does the study of dolphins halp you identify the nature of an AI or the way to create one?

Those are all identifications of trends in reality

This is begging the question, nothing more. There is going to be an AI, beause there are trends in research towards the creation of one. (and so is your previous remark, that research in AI is advancing)

The fact that people are trying to create an AI is not evidence that it is actually going to happen.

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How much computing power do you need to make it be intelligent and why?...

I assume you are familiar with those advances. What specifically does knowledge of the human brain tell you about the nature of an artificially intelligent entity, or about the way to create one?

If you can emulate the human brain, you can create a human mind in a computer system (with proper routines for modeling speech, movement, and our various senses, you can actually interact with it in a virtual environment or the real world through robotics). So you will have created a human consciousness inside a computer system. I didn't really design the intelligence, just copied it from nature, but I did change the substrate in that case. And since it obviously is not a human, it doesn't have human dna or a human body in the world that we can interact directly with, we would need to figure out how to interact with this computer-based mind.

The rough estimate, a liberal one, is 10^28 calculations per second, which is roughly the capacity it would take to emulate the flow of materials through the cell membrane of the neurons, the interactions at the synapses, etc. Most neuroscientists (based on surveys) do not think we will have to model down to the level of individual molecules and protein folding and even quantum effects, etc. in order to capture the behavior of the brain at the macroscopic level. I trust their opinion. Some suggest it could be significantly lower than 10^28 cps, but that's a pretty high estimate. For background, that's around 10 trillion times more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer on the planet at this time.

In what way, specifically, does the study of dolphins halp you identify the nature of an AI or the way to create one?

My point 4 was evidence for the possibility of uplifting animals, i.e. making animals with a human level intelligence.

We are working to create new intelligent life forms, and we will continue to work on it, likely until we either succeed or we go extinct, whichever comes first. That is because it would arguably be the greatest achievement in human history, and would quite possibly allow us to do things that are highly desirable and otherwise likely impossible, like eliminating involuntary death (by, for example, scanning someone's brain to sufficient detail and inputting that into our brain emulation system, if such scanning is possible). But pure curiosity is likely to continue to drive people to attempt it until someone succeeds.

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Probability is a condition of identity, and as such is only applicable to things (i.e. concretes). When you roll a twenty-sided die, the probability of any number appearing is 1/20. Similarly, when planning for potential earthquakes, you do so based upon observation of historical seismic activity in a given area. However, trying to assign a time-line for something like a potential new discovery (a cure for cancer, man's ability to create a rational being, etc.) is not an issue of probability, but of speculation. Any guess to when it might happen is just that, a guess. Even if it's dressed up with statistics.

It's important to make the distinction. It is rational for man to plan for future probable events when he has observable, reproducible and verifiable scientific evidence upon which to to base his actions. However, it is not justified or rational to base actions upon speculation about what may happen. This doesn't mean that speculation and imagination are not important, but that they should not form the basis for action.

So it is not rational to use data concerning the growth of computing power to make predictions about what computers will be capable of in the future and base my actions on that? Video game companies make their money often times on that. Ray Kurzweil has made a lot of money doing it in some of his business ventures. If you have statistics about the growth of computing power, and you look forward and see nothing to block that growth (takes some knowledge of why it is growing), then you can predict with some confidence that in x years computers will be able to do y calculations per second and have z bytes of memory.

Basing your actions on "guesses" based on statistics and trends (provided you understand the reasons underlying those trends), is not irrational. Obviously, saying "you had zero husbands yesterday, and one husband today, so by the end of the month you will have several dozen husbands" (xkcd reference) or "By 2014, Gillette will have either a razor with 14 blades, or a razor with several million blades, depending on if this is a linear or exponential curve" is absolutely ridiculous (though amusing). Blind extrapolation isn't a good idea. But extrapolation based on trends coupled with an understanding of what gives rise to those trends is not irrational, it can help keep you ahead of the curve. Otherwise, I assume you would argue that having money in a 401k is totally stupid, as just because the stock market has historically grown at x%, extrapolating that into the future with any confidence at all is wrong and irrational.

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So it is not rational to use data concerning the growth of computing power to make predictions about what computers will be capable of in the future and base my actions on that?

In my last post I was trying to move away from specific examples and instead focus on Objectivist metaphysics regarding the difference between probability and speculation via. scientific breakthroughs. However, I think I see a way to illustrate this using computers.

My understanding of the PC CPU industry is that they are still essentially using the x86 architecture that was created in 1978. Other than migrating from 16-bit to 32-bit to 64-bit, there have been no fundamental breakthroughs towards a new CPU architecture. Much of the advance in computational power can be attributed to components other than the core CPU (i.e. multiple CPU's, RAM, GPU's taking on additional processing, more sophisticated software, etc.). As I understand it, the industry is frantically trying to find a new architecture because they have pretty much exhausted the x86's capabilities. They need a fundamentally new architecture.

No one can predict when this breakthrough will happen.

They can speculate that it will happen, but they can't scientifically state the probability of when it will happen. It all depends on a "John Galt" type inventor with a radically new idea.

Again, I'm trying to not focus this discussion on computers (or examples), but rather on the metaphysics of probability (as per concretes and identity) vs. speculation -- realtive to planning for the future.

As an architect, my main focus on Objectivism over the years has been aesthetics (including the neurological under-pinnings of aesthetics). It was Climategate that renewed my interest in the scientific method and metaphysics. So I don't claim that what I've stated above to be correct. I'm still learning....

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I can't believe you guys are still discussing that small issue raised by mrocktor. It is unessential.

No, this digression actually goes toward the 'personhood' standard of what is a human being.

In response to a question at the end of lecture 6 of "Induction in Physics and Philosophy", Dr. Peikoff stated (paraphrased, so no quote block)

Occam's Razor - "Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity." Utterly invalid. Versus Rand's Razor - "Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity." Rand's Razor is epistemological while Occam's is metaphysical. Concepts are tools that serve the purpose of cognition, choose to create a new tool only when that purpose is advanced. But Occam says "something doesn't exist if something simpler can exist" ex. "there are no epicycles because we can get along without them." But foisting a criterion of simplicity upon reality is primacy of consciousness.

Rand's Razor applies here. I'll concede it is possible, but maintain it is speculative to make the personhood distinction to cover non-human sentient beings when we have no such beings on hand to justify putting it into practice. If you want to write science fiction, then probably you need that particular tool.

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Rand's Razor applies here. I'll concede it is possible, but maintain it is speculative to make the personhood distinction to cover non-human sentient beings when we have no such beings on hand to justify putting it into practice. If you want to write science fiction, then probably you need that particular tool.

But all this is completely minor. It all started when mrocktor said that in discussing individual rights he prefers the term "rational being" putting the emphasis on rational rather than animal. From that followed about 3 pages of discussion. Your comment adding to it. I think this point is very minor, since he wasn't even talking about what is a human being nor about the definition but just about what is better to use in discussing individual rights.

Unless I am missing something, you guys are talking about something completely beside the topic.

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