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Help with a paper on AI?

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Hi everyone - I am new here, I have already introduced myself on the 'hello' thread.

Anyway, I am currently writing a paper on AI, and I have stumbled upon a myriad of questions, which cut into a whole variety of fields, from philosophy to psychology, to child development.

I heard from someone that "objectivists" would be good start to try and answer my questions. So here I go:

1) How are you? Good, so am I. :)

2) What are the defining qualities of a being that is "self-aware"?

3) What is thought? We think. Do mammals in general think? Do reptiles think? Ants? Fleas? Worms?

4) Depending on the answer to #3, can you have thought without being conscience?

5) How does a human baby "know" that it can move two arms and two legs?

...one I have really been struggling with:

6) What is the source of values? i) How are values formed in the mind? ii) When are they formed? iii) (Why?) iv) Do the particular values that someone develops have some genetic dimension? If so, then how much of values depend on the external world? v) Why is my favourite color blue, not red? (value of color).

Oh, some more:

7) Apparently, the free-will circuitry in the brain has 100 billion neurons, with each neuron in contact with 10,000 other neurons. What is the configuration of this circuitry in the anterior neo-cortex part of the brain?

Thank you in advance for your feed-back, and anything else you may want to add.

Oh! One more important one:

8) Attachment is a mammalian quality - which we humans have the capability of due to our central mammalian part of the brain. Now, if and only if, we crudely define attachment as "Wanting to be in the vicinity of that which we value", then that would seem to imply that cats have values right? Afterall, a mommy cat gets very attached to its babies. Does it not value the babies? Does it not "want" to see them live?

Thank you!

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I don't mean to be dismissive, but the philosophical answers to these questions depend on a huge hierarchy of knowledge that you don't have. You can't just jump into philosophy midstream and demand answers about the nature of values, consciousness, the mind/body relationship, etc.. It's like trying to learn calculus before you know arithmetic. All I can do is recommend studying philosophy in general and Objectivism in particular.

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Although I agree with you my friend, but I simply do not have the time do to that. The paper is due in 2 weeks or so.

However, I thought that since most of you already have done just that, or more than I have, you could share your knowledge for this purpose, by answering the questions laid forth above. No need for a lecture, just some statements on what you think the answers are.

Much obliged, and appreciated! :)


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1. Fine.

2. At least perceptual consciousness.

3. A) Volitionally directed, conceptual cognition. B, C, D, etc.) No.

4. No.

5. It doesn't; it must learn this.

6. Life.

i. Broadly, the same way all knowledge is "formed." "Discovered" is a more appropriate word here.

ii. Usually in adolescence.

iii. We humans conceptualize values to guide our actions.

iv. Not in any meaningful sense. For relatively insignificant values, like favorite flavor... maybe.

v. You tell me.

7. I don't know why you're bringing up this bit about "free-will circuitry". For starters, it's false. Also, this is a philosophy board, not a neuroscience one.

8. All organisms have values. Humans are the only ones that must conceptualize them.

See what I mean? This isn't going to help.

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I too must ask why you reject out of hand this specific physical mechanism (neuro-circuitry, for free choice).


I too must ask why you ask philosophers, out of the blue, what they know of neuroscience that a cognition-programmer doesn't know. To my knowledge, Objectivism does not specifically deal with the anterior neo-cortex.

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It appears to me that the objective of AI is considered to be to create a computer that thinks like a human, has its own consciousness and free will etc.--or, in other words, to create a "human" with an extremely powerful brain.

I don't think this is what we would really want. Giving our supercomputer a free will (assuming we can accomplish that in the first place) means we will have no guarantee as to what purposes it will use its brainpower for, or whether it will use it at all. It might turn into a Hitler, or it might just be like your average Joe. After all, most humans are not mediocre because their brain is so weak; we all have powerful brains, only not all of us choose to make the best of it.

Rather than create a supercomputer with its own will, I would just create a supercomputer that always does as I tell it to.

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Nothing in the brain has free will; the brain is a physical system that obeys the laws of physics. The mind is what is volitional. And philosophy aside, I am fairly up-to-date with the current work relating neuroscience to consciousness, and there is no evidence whatsoever of free-will circuitry. (There is a way you could mean "free will circuitry" to make it plausible, but not in the context of AI.)

Try reading this thread:


It's not expressly about volition, but its very related.

I really don't want to get into this in detail. It's a very specific aspect of the mind-body problem. But... if you feel like you understand the Objectivist resolution for the mind-body split, and don't understand what I'm saying here, and it's really bugging you, then PM me or email me. Or, go listen to Harry Binswanger's "Metaphysics of Consciousness" lectures if you want the full rationale behind my statements.

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From my knowledge Matt, the brain is an interconnection of a vast amount of neurons, more or less placed in different parts of the brain for different purposes. The anterior for sight, left lobe for emotion, etc. There is some part of this neural circuirty that is responsible for giving rise to the "free will" phenomenon, and this is what I was asking about. I still do not know why you reject the idea off hand. No matter, this is a biological question, which has no place here, so lets forget about it.

I would rather then ask you this:

Kindly summarise for me the official objectivist position on free will, VS determinism. I will then take this to the oist club here and talk with them.



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  • 3 months later...


"Free will" is not an isolated property of human minds. It's not like you can pluck out the free will from someone's head adn then plop it into a frog, and now you've got a frog with free will and a guy who does whatever he's told. No. Volition is a complex emergent property posessed by only the most sophisticated sort of conceptual consciousness known to man.

Should we give an artificial person free will?

A better question would be, "If we succeed in creating an artificial person, will we have any choice in the matter?"

If it thinks like a human, to the point of being able to think conceptually on our level, capable of moral agency, then it will necessarily have free will. If you dont' have free will, the necessary implication is that you don't think like a human.

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I’ll tell you if human beings have “free will” or not just as soon as somebody explains to me what on earth the term could possibly mean. Everything, absolutely everything, happens because of cause and effect and is mechanistic OR it does not happen because of cause and effect and is random. Free will is an idea so bad it’s not even wrong, just gibberish.

John K Clark [email protected]

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The word “random” simply means unpredictable – that is, having no known pattern within the current context of knowledge. Since randomness has a lot more to do with the posts above than with volition, I’m closing this thread. You can go here to discuss free will.

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