mpp

Intelligence programmable? Quote Binswanger

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I would like to open a bit of a discourse about the idea that we could backwards engineer how our brains process information to create an artificially intelligent machine. 

To start here is a quote by Harry Binswanger from his book How we know that seeks limits this possibility: 

 

Quote

"The nonbiological perspective stands markedly revealed in the common question: is it possible to develop a computer that can think? My answer is: before a computer could think, it would have to be able to understand ideas (concepts); before it could understand ideas, it would have to be able to perceive the world and to feel emotions, such as pleasure and pain, desire and fear; before it could perceive and feel emotions, it would have to be alive — i.e., be engaged in action to sustain itself. We can dismiss notions about a thinking computer until one is built that is alive — and then it wouldn’t be a computer but a living organism, a man-made one.”

I follow his "answer" up to the bolded segment. Then I ask, could we not break down perception and emotions into algorithms? Why should these two phenomena not be replicable without life? I assume there is an answer that consciousness cannot be reduced to matter, but I'm questioning whether it would have to be? Couldn't we just mimic the way consciousness does its thing, just as we are now mimicking how our eyes perceive and evaluate things; e.g. visual recognition software; my iPhone can tell me what is a beach, what is a dog, etc. 

So for the machine to be able to perceive and feel emotions we define an enormous amount of if-then statements and other fundamental principles about how our mind works and handles input as to mimic how we process information.

 

 

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1 hour ago, mpp said:

I would like to open a bit of a discourse about the idea that we could backwards engineer how our brains process information to create an artificially intelligent machine. 

To start here is a quote by Harry Binswanger from his book How we know that seeks limits this possibility: 

 

I follow his "answer" up to the bolded segment. Then I ask, could we not break down perception and emotions into algorithms? Why should these two phenomena not be replicable without life? I assume there is an answer that consciousness cannot be reduced to matter, but I'm questioning whether it would have to be? Couldn't we just mimic the way consciousness does its thing, just as we are now mimicking how our eyes perceive and evaluate things; e.g. visual recognition software; my iPhone can tell me what is a beach, what is a dog, etc. 

So for the machine to be able to perceive and feel emotions we define an enormous amount of if-then statements and other fundamental principles about how our mind works and handles input as to mimic how we process information.

 

 

Binswinger begged the question.  It so happens that some alive entities have evolved into intelligent beings.  That  does not necessarily imply -only- alive being can become intelligent. 

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We need to go back to what it means to be ailve.  Binswanger's essential assumption is to be engaged in action to sustain itself. By that definition, all of the cells in a baby are alive, but the "baby qua baby" is not.  We might accept crying as an attempt to sustain itself, which I believe is inadequate. On the other hand, is the growth of a crystal an expression of its having life? 

Back in the mid-1980s, discussing software life, I looked up definitions for "life" in biology textbooks.  As you can imagine, they were general and intuitive, not rigorous.  The attributes of life do not apply to all living things.  For instance, "mules" (real donkey-horses, and other hybrids) do not reproduce their own kind because they are born sterile.  (Some exceptions apply. It depends on the species of the jack/jenny and mare/stud. That seems true in other kinds of hybrids.  In the wider context, fertile hybrids call Darwinian definitions of "species" into question.)  At any rate, Binswanger is just adhering to Ayn Rand's definition, which, again, is intuitively obvious, but perhaps not rigorous. Almost every cell in your body would be alive, of course, but by that definition your gametes (sperm, ovum) are not.

I worked in robotics and factory automation in the 'nineties. For one robot show, Kawasaki had two six-axis mechanical units controlled by one computer, to which was also included a vision system. It solved Rubic's Cube in a minute.  (Can Binswanger do that?) I built hobby robots since then. Right now, we have this toy for our cat. The toy has a simple mechanical servo to back away and re-direct after hitting a barrier. That is more that a sperm can do. 

Then, of course, her in this Board, we have discussions of computers that play chess.  In fact, as I understand it, we are now at the point where humans are relegated to a different arena because the computer always wins. If not "always" certainly "often."  

Autonomous machines are important to space exploration. That they cannot reproduce their own kind does not disqualify them as "life."  They certainly do perceive and react to their environments to sustain their range of actions.

 

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2 hours ago, syrakusos said:

We need to go back to what it means to be ailve.  Binswanger's essential assumption is to be engaged in action to sustain itself. By that definition, all of the cells in a baby are alive, but the "baby qua baby" is not.  We might accept crying as an attempt to sustain itself, which I believe is inadequate. On the other hand, is the growth of a crystal an expression of its having life? 

Back in the mid-1980s, discussing software life, I looked up definitions for "life" in biology textbooks.  As you can imagine, they were general and intuitive, not rigorous.  The attributes of life do not apply to all living things.  For instance, "mules" (real donkey-horses, and other hybrids) do not reproduce their own kind because they are born sterile.  (Some exceptions apply. It depends on the species of the jack/jenny and mare/stud. That seems true in other kinds of hybrids.  In the wider context, fertile hybrids call Darwinian definitions of "species" into question.)  At any rate, Binswanger is just adhering to Ayn Rand's definition, which, again, is intuitively obvious, but perhaps not rigorous. Almost every cell in your body would be alive, of course, but by that definition your gametes (sperm, ovum) are not.

I worked in robotics and factory automation in the 'nineties. For one robot show, Kawasaki had two six-axis mechanical units controlled by one computer, to which was also included a vision system. It solved Rubic's Cube in a minute.  (Can Binswanger do that?) I built hobby robots since then. Right now, we have this toy for our cat. The toy has a simple mechanical servo to back away and re-direct after hitting a barrier. That is more that a sperm can do. 

Then, of course, her in this Board, we have discussions of computers that play chess.  In fact, as I understand it, we are now at the point where humans are relegated to a different arena because the computer always wins. If not "always" certainly "often."  

Autonomous machines are important to space exploration. That they cannot reproduce their own kind does not disqualify them as "life."  They certainly do perceive and react to their environments to sustain their range of actions.

 

Living system:  a thermodynamic system that operates far from equilibrium  which is capable of replicating itself.  The living system can maintain itself far from thermodynamic equilibrium for as long as it can replicate portions of itself that no longer function (limited self repair).  If you take this definition (or description) seriously then you can conceive of non-organic  living systems. 

Intelligence is something else.  I am not sure intelligence has a thermodynamic definition or characterization.  Of course any material/energy system which carries out intelligent operations is subject to the laws of thermodynamics.  One way of looking at it is to regard entropy as a process that can turn sugars and proteins   into  works of art and mathematical theories. Just as a hen can transform scrambled eggs into whole eggs by eating the scrambled eggs.  Living things can diminish entropy (locally) at the cost of entropy increasing elsewhere  to produce a total universe entropy that is always increasing.  Entropy measures how degraded energy becomes when part of the energy is transformed into organized physical work.  Energy is neither created or destroyed but low entropy energy which can do a lot of work  turns into high energy entropy which was become work degraded because it was transformed into work.  The amount of energy does not change. 

 

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I am sorry, Ba'al, but I find that your description is too reductionist, so it misses the essence.  Just for starters, I already pointed out that living things do not necessarily replicate themselves: hybrids are often sterile, but are alive nonetheless.  At the cellular level, not all cells reproduce. Red Blood Cells (erythrocytes, which is only Greek for "red cells") are made in the bone marrow. Perhaps your description properly puts them outside the definition of "life".  But, evolutionarily, maybe they were independent at one time and just "devolved." Animals without interior bones must have some other ways to transport oxygen. 

But, again, I regard my own words above as falling into the reductionist fallacy. You can take something apart and never find the "it" that you took apart because "it" is the sum (greater than the sum?) of its parts.

As for intelligence, I think that it is possible that intelligence reverses entropy. Ideas are immaterial. That opens the door to our nature as "spiritual" beings. I think that perhaps all other living things are also "spiritual" only that they have less "spirit."  And, likely, other living things have more than we do: higher orders of angels, you might say.

I went back and read some of the posts by jts in Sports and Recreation about chess programs. How are they not intelligent?

 

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2 hours ago, syrakusos said:

I am sorry, Ba'al, but I find that your description is too reductionist, so it misses the essence.  Just for starters, I already pointed out that living things do not necessarily replicate themselves: hybrids are often sterile, but are alive nonetheless.  At the cellular level, not all cells reproduce. Red Blood Cells (erythrocytes, which is only Greek for "red cells") are made in the bone marrow. Perhaps your description properly puts them outside the definition of "life".  But, evolutionarily, maybe they were independent at one time and just "devolved." Animals without interior bones must have some other ways to transport oxygen. 

But, again, I regard my own words above as falling into the reductionist fallacy. You can take something apart and never find the "it" that you took apart because "it" is the sum (greater than the sum?) of its parts.

As for intelligence, I think that it is possible that intelligence reverses entropy. Ideas are immaterial. That opens the door to our nature as "spiritual" beings. I think that perhaps all other living things are also "spiritual" only that they have less "spirit."  And, likely, other living things have more than we do: higher orders of angels, you might say.

I went back and read some of the posts by jts in Sports and Recreation about chess programs. How are they not intelligent?

 

This living thing or that living thing may fail to replicate itself for accidental reasons  (injury,  disease, lack of a mate, or in the case of humans, choice).  But for a substantial portion of its life has the ability or capability of replicating itself.  And a living thing will for a portion of its lifetime be able to replicate its microscopic parts.  Can your desk top  computer  replicate any of its chips?  Can a chess playing machine learn to tie knots?  

All of my kids could play chess (not all that well)  and they could also tie their shoe laces. My desk-top computer can do neither but it plays a mean game of tic-tac-toe.  It never loses.  But I don't think it is intelligent.

Intelligence is general.   I know there are machines which play Chess and Go better than the best  players of these games,  but that is a cleverly programmed capability.  These machines lack general problem  solving ability.   The only general problem solvers I know of  are organic and biological (but not necessarily human).

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before it could perceive and feel emotions, it would have to be alive

 

There is something which takes place before reactive thought and reflexive emotion... and the conscious awareness required to spontantously and autonomously act on that before thought and emotion makes all the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

It's possible to create amoral artifical intelligence which can perform like a trained monkey on the level of a government bureaucratic employee.

However, it is impossible to create artificial wisdom.

 

Greg

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I think the question Harry tries to answer needs a lot of work on definitions after which it's an empirical question not likely to be answered anytime soon.  Armchair philosophizing cannot answer it.

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3 hours ago, bob_hayden said:

I think the question Harry tries to answer needs a lot of work on definitions after which it's an empirical question not likely to be answered anytime soon.  Armchair philosophizing cannot answer it.

Harry did not study science enough to mix science and philosophy. Some of his omissions and goofs are illustrated in the latest The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, in the article written by Robert Campbell called "What We Need to Know." The article discusses Binswanger's book, "How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation." 

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As Sally Field said, “. . . . I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

 B

ob wrote: “How did Harry get through MIT without some exposure to science?”

The article I mentioned was over my head so I recommend speaking to Robert Campbell, the author. He might still be around OL so I would recommend contacting him and reading the article. Peter

Some old notes I wrote or quoted from “How We Know.”

I looked at his footnotes from the first 129 pages and many are from history, Peikoff, or Rand, a couple scientific ones from the 1950’s but also: “CF. Gregory Salmieri’s distinction between perception and “post-perceptual processing.” Salmieri 2006. end quote

In the preface Harry writes: Mankind has existed for 400,000 years but 395,000 of those years were consumed by the Stone Age. The factor that freed men from endless toil and early death, the root cause of the elevated level of existence we now take for granted, is one precious value: *knowledge.* The painfully acquired knowledge of how to master nature, how to organize social existence, and how to understand himself is what enabled man to rise from the cave to the skyscraper, from warring clans to a global economy, from an average lifespan of less than 30 years to one approaching 80. end quote

From “How We Know,” by Harry Binswanger, page 42: Like existence, consciousness is an irreducible primary. One can subdivide conscious actions, separating different kinds: seeing for example, is one kind of conscious activity and hearing is another. Analogously, one can subdivide existents – e.g., into living and non-living things. But just as one cannot go beneath the fundamental fact of existence, so one cannot get beneath the fundamental fact of consciousness. One cannot reduce conscious action, qua conscious, to something else.

To ask: “What kind of action is consciousness?” is to ask: “What do all conscious processes have in common that makes them actions of consciousness rather than physical actions?” The only answer is: all these actions are actions of consciousness; they all involve awareness of something. And “awareness” is a synonym for “consciousness” . . . . “Irreducible” here means “cannot be analyzed.” If you try to analyze what it is to be aware, you will soon discover that no analysis is possible . . . . So, what makes something a ‘conscious’ causal response? Consciousness. That’s all we can say. There is no further analysis. end quote

Harry Binswanger writes in, “How We Know” on page 73: There is indeed a polemical value to saying “Perception is valid,” and such a statement is unobjectionable, if one means “Perception of reality.” But the deeper point is that perception is, if I may put it this way, beyond valid, as metaphysically given, perceptual data are the standard for judging what is valid or invalid. end quote 

Harry Binswanger wrote in “How We Know,” pg. 63: To summarize in a preliminary definition: “Perception” is the ongoing awareness of entities in their relative positions, gained from actively acquired sensory inputs. end quote 

On page 86 Harry writes: Perception is the direct awareness of reality, in the form of spatially arrayed entities, that results from the automatic neural processing of actively acquired sensory inputs. (It is taken as understood that the awareness is ongoing, not momentary or episodic, and that perception is “metaphysically given,” and hence inerrant.) end quote 

“How We Know,” by Harry Binswanger, Pg 61 to 62: The three dimensional spatial array given in perception is what fundamentally distinguishes perception from sensation. It is not merely that perception (especially vision) gives entities, but also that perception provides the co-presence of all the entities that the animal can act on or be affected by. We see in one spread the entire scene of entities. end quote

“How We Know,” by Harry Binswanger, Pg 27 to 28: Consciousness, unlike existence, is a property: Consciousness is an attribute of certain living entities, but it is not an attribute of a given state of awareness, it “is” that state. (ITOE, 56) Just as existence is not something distinguishable from, added to, or underlying the various things that exist, so consciousness is not something distinguishable from, added to, or underlying the various states of awareness . . . . Existence and consciousness are irreducible primaries. end quote

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Perhaps Harry studied enough science but the passages you quote seem to approach problems by analyzing words rather than gathering evidence from the world around us.  In this he follows AR.  She was quite brilliant at it but not all (or even most) problems can be solved this way.  Elsewhere at OL is a thread on why she quit smoking in which she gave theoretical reasons why smoking did not cause cancer but failed to consider a huge body of relevant empirical evidence. 

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It is odd that some objectivists lack a scientific background. Yet, people who are engineers, NASA personnel, and people at the U.S. military academies are fans of Rand.

Smoking is irrational. Take a hit 30 to thousands of times a day to stave off withdrawal,  and so you can remain addicted, lose lung capacity and die an EARLY horrible death from emphysema, or lung cancer. Not rational. Plus you stink from the smoke and others close to you will suffer second hand smoke.

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On 7/18/2018 at 11:59 PM, Peter said:

Harry did not study science enough to mix science and philosophy. Some of his omissions and goofs are illustrated in the latest The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, in the article written by Robert Campbell called "What We Need to Know." The article discusses Binswanger's book, "How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation." 

Binswinger's grasp of the history of the human species  is  very much in error.  Our kind of human did not emigrate from Africa  until about 60,000 ybp.  This was the second wave of emigration by homo sapien.  The first successful emigration of hominids from Africa  eas Neanderthal,  about 300,000 ybp.  Neanderthal  was very successful  but the Ice Age and the competition from Homo Sapien Sapien finished Neanderthal off about 35,000 ybp.  Homo Sapien Sapien had a more gracile skeleton than Neanderthal and was less muscular.  However Homo Sapien Sapien caught on to human networking, exchanging ideas and trading stuff  so had much better hunting technology than did Neanderthal.  There is evidence that limited mating took place between H. S. S.  and H. N  and Homo Sapien Sapien outside of Africa acquired Neanderthal genes  to a limited extent.  The Human Race as it is currently constituted  has about 1 % of genetic material  inherited from H. Neanderthal.

Our kind of human survived because he learned to use his wits and indulge in abstract thought to some degree. We can tell from the cave paintings that some of our ancestors has a "good eye"  and artistic imagination. 

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Ba'al, and anyone else? What do you see for the next 100 to 1000 years in store for humans?

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51 minutes ago, Peter said:

Ba'al, and anyone else? What do you see for the next 100 to 1000 years in store for humans?

If humans survive all the bad stuff that is happening, reduction of work to almost zero with robots taking over jobs. And fabulous wealth for everyone.

Bob Black -- The Abolition of Work

 

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2 hours ago, jts said:

If humans survive all the bad stuff that is happening, reduction of work to almost zero with robots taking over jobs. And fabulous wealth for everyone.

Bob Black -- The Abolition of Work

 

How much will people work, it's a very interesting question.

Gene Roddenberry seemed to have believed that productivity of labor will reach a level at which almost all people will choose to stop working altogether. The reasoning is that, given perpetual productivity growth, ever-smaller quatities of labor are required to achieve a lifestyle of comfort. An hour a day. Then an hour per month. Then an hour per decade. It's mathematically inevitable in this view.

There is also the Mises/Reisman position, that says human wants are without limit, which implies human desire to be productive is without limit.

If we make perpetual productivity gains a given, then the day will arrive when one could work one hour per month and live like a 20th-century millionaire. I'm confident many would accept this life, certainly in 2018, and likely for the remainder of this century. But what about the 22nd century and the 23rd and 24th centuries? Will all that many people still accept that life? If their friends all have multiple starships and weekend galaxies, why not work two or ten hours a month and live like that?

If we brought frozen Neanderthals back to life would they be surprised we don't accept working just one hour per month and living like their richest tribal chiefs did (for fewer than 30 years)? What didn't they anticipate?

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"The nonbiological perspective stands markedly revealed in the common question: is it possible to develop a computer that can think? My answer is: before a computer could think, it would have to be able to understand ideas (concepts); before it could understand ideas, it would have to be able to perceive the world and to feel emotions, such as pleasure and pain, desire and fear; before it could perceive and feel emotions, it would have to be alive — i.e., be engaged in action to sustain itself. We can dismiss notions about a thinking computer until one is built that is alive — and then it wouldn’t be a computer but a living organism, a man-made one.”

Harry suffers some rationalisms. In '89 or '90 he came to my student club to give a speech. I had a two-city-block talk with him about an infinite universe. I said I saw no problem with a universe of infinite existents and extent. He said it was a logical issue, and there are only two options, a finite universe or an infinite universe, and since an infinite universe is logically impossible, it has to be a finite universe.

Same as his quote above. Since only living things can think, a thinking thing has to be alive. Boom, pure logical problem.

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4 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

Harry suffers some rationalisms. In '89 or '90 he came to my student club to give a speech. I had a two-city-block talk with him about an infinite universe. I said I saw no problem with a universe of infinite existents and extent. He said it was a logical issue, and there are only two options, a finite universe or an infinite universe, and since an infinite universe is logically impossible, it has to be a finite universe.

Same as his quote above. Since only living things can think, a thinking thing has to be alive. Boom, pure logical problem.

Jon,

All this is premised on an unstated proposition, that humans at their present stage of evolution can detect universal laws that apply to things they have not observed and cannot observe. Like the "edge" of the universe, whatever the hell that could be in this weird finite universe idea. People used to say and "prove" the earth was flat, too. :) 

And don't forget the corollary, this knowledge is revealed through logic. It seems like observation as the foundation of logic is thrown right out the window with him. I won't even go into evolution...

I don't know what is wrong with saying, "we don't know yet," but preeminent fundie Objectivists avoid this like the plague.

I call it religious faith dressed up to look like reason.

Michael

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17 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

How much will people work, it's a very interesting question.

Gene Roddenberry seemed to have believed that productivity of labor will reach a level at which almost all people will choose to stop working altogether. The reasoning is that, given perpetual productivity growth, ever-smaller quatities of labor are required to achieve a lifestyle of comfort. An hour a day. Then an hour per month. Then an hour per decade. It's mathematically inevitable in this view.

There is also the Mises/Reisman position, that says human wants are without limit, which implies human desire to be productive is without limit.

If we make perpetual productivity gains a given, then the day will arrive when one could work one hour per month and live like a 20th-century millionaire. I'm confident many would accept this life, certainly in 2018, and likely for the remainder of this century. But what about the 22nd century and the 23rd and 24th centuries? Will all that many people still accept that life? If their friends all have multiple starships and weekend galaxies, why not work two or ten hours a month and live like that?

If we brought frozen Neanderthals back to life would they be surprised we don't accept working just one hour per month and living like their richest tribal chiefs did (for fewer than 30 years)? What didn't they anticipate?

As we work less over time, I think humans will spend more time socializing and dabbling in art. Occasionally, I have gone to someone else’s house and noticed they had a painting easel set up, or they are creating pottery.   

The Weather Channel just mentioned that a “signal fire” must have three components, otherwise it is just a camp fire. I looked to see if I ever saved anything written about “spatial relations” which interests me, and there were not many hits. Peter

Rand wrote: "Architecture is in a class by itself, because it combines art with a utilitarian purpose and does not re-create reality, but creates a structure for man's habitation or use, expressing man's values."  and, "(Architecture, qua art, is close to sculpture: its field is three-dimensional, i.e., sight and touch, but transported to a grand spatial scale.) end quote

Roger Bissell wrote about Robert Efron: Efron says that all perception is the "immediate consequence of energy absorption," but that we do ~not~ perceive "energy qua energy." Instead, we perceive "discriminated existents." Efron proceeds to unpack this term. An existent is simply "something which exists." He says that "it is the only word which is sufficiently abstract to encompass all the different kinds of things we perceive. We need a word to refer to the ~objects~ which we see or touch, to the ~sounds~ we hear such as the 'chirp' of a bird, to the ~shadow~ cast by an object, or to an ~odor~ or ~taste~ of an object." While the term "existent" applies to ~all~ perceptual contents, the terms "object" or "entity" typically are used to apply more narrowly to "spatially cohering collections of matter." As for the term "discriminated," it calls our attention to the psychological pre-condition for perceptual awareness of reality, which is also the ~defining~ characteristic of perception: "the action of perceptually isolating and treating as a unit some ~part~ of the total spatio-temporal stimulus configuration" that interacts with our bodies. (He acknowledges that the term "discriminated" is redundant here. "How could one be aware of an existent that was ~not~ discriminated?") Thus, Efron intends to use the term "discriminated existent" to refer to "the segregated, isolated, cohering 'thing' which is perceived. The objects we see or touch; the notes, tones, or voices we hear; the odors we smell, and the flavors we taste."

Stephan Hawking observed on page 22 of his tenth anniversary edition of “A Brief History of Time”: “. . . . the theory of relativity put an end to the idea of absolute time! It appeared that each observer must have his own measure of time, as recorded by a clock carried with him, and that identical clocks carried by different observers would not necessarily agree.” And on page 31: “In general relativity, bodies always follow straight lines in four - dimensional space – time, but they nevertheless appear to us to move along curved paths in our three - dimensional space. (This is rather like watching an airplane flying over hilly ground. Although it follows a straight line in three – dimensional space, its shadow follows a curved path on the two - dimensional ground.) end quotes

Andrew Taranto wrote on Atlantis: I don't think this is too far from what I meant when I said that music recreates the temporal dimension of reality. I don't feel fluent enough to get very precise, but I'll offer an anecdote. Branford Marsallis once said that a good jazz solo takes the form of good love-making (naturally, a bad jazz solo would follow the form of bad love making). To me this has much broader application: music replicates the changes in intensity inherent in ~any goal-directed action~, sex or otherwise -- hopefully leading to some kind of climax (hopefully, only if the competence of the musician and/or the love-maker is in doubt). Changes in intensity, of course, take place over time, which is something that music naturally replicates, itself proceeding in time. Other media -- literature, drama, etc. -- also replicate the temporal, but music replicates the ~only~ temporal, while literature, et al also involve spatial replication, e.g., via imagery. (Well, music can ~sorta~ replicate the spatial: Deubssey's La Mer comes to mind; but I tend to think of that sort of thing as verging on the gimmicky.) end quote

Resolving the Government Issue by Roger Bissell. REMAINING PROBLEMS. We have now eliminated most of the problems which obstruct an understanding of Rand's concept of government as being consistent and correct. The only questions yet unresolved are those concerning the "geographical area" and "exclusive power" criteria in Statement (G1). Concerning the former criterion, it is possible that the given geographical area (over which a single institution exclusively enforces certain rules) might be a number of spatially separated areas, rather than one continuous region. [8] The tendency to visualize the "given geographical area" as one single, unbroken expanse, can be corrected by asking: "Given -- by what?" If the "given-ness" is not to be totally arbitrary, restricted to continuous regions, then the "geographical area" criterion must mean: the geographical area equivalent to the owned properties of those who choose to become and/or remain governed by the same institution. If interpreted in this way, the criterion would still apply to the case where a government over a continuous country forbids secession and the citizens choose to remain under its jurisdiction anyway, rather than revolt or move out. More important, it would allow for vastly more possibilities, all properly referred to as government. For instance, there might be a pattern of spatially separate yet not too distant governed areas forming a patchwork. (Even in the United States, where we are forced to support the Federal, State, and local governments, that is somewhat the case, and other private agencies perform governmental functions in the same "patchwork" pattern. But then how does this affect the latter criterion? In such a free, moral society, wouldn't various governments compete with one another? In one misleading sense, yes; they vie for the job of protecting their prospective citizens'/supporters'/customers' rights and perhaps also enforcing other rules. However, once the job is assigned, the geographical area of jurisdiction is set, regardless of how temporary that arrangement may be. The competition is part of the process of seeking citizens to govern, not part of the process of governing per se. That is, only one agency actually governs at a given time and in a given respect. end quote

Peter Reidy wrote, about something I had written back in 2000: I've seen the claim that males tend to be born with more skill at mathematics and spatial relations. Would this count as innate knowledge of the world?

But Peter misstates the position‑‑males are emphatically not born with any skills at all regarding mathematics, though it is the case that many males demonstrate enhanced ability at certain types of mathematics‑related skills involving spatial rotation and mechanical abilities of various sorts as it is also true that many females demonstrate enhanced language‑use potential versus males.  This is not an inborn skill or knowledge, but a <potential> based upon slight average differences in brain development at different stages of development‑‑some possibly related to prenatal testosterone exposure. To be born with "skills" said males would have to be able to demonstrate them at birth.  And, again, there are visible differences in preferences and behaviors in males versus females from birth, but these are not in the realm of "knowledge." And, veering off into another aspect‑‑while John Gray mistakes cultural norms and differences from innate differences, it remains true that there ARE, obviously, differences, on average, between males and females.  The significant difference between human and animal sex differences is that humans can compensate for these by choice. end quote

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Ba’al wrote: Binswinger's grasp of the history of the human species is very much in error.  Our kind of human did not emigrate from Africa until about 60,000 ybp. This was the second wave of emigration by homo sapien. The first successful emigration of hominids from Africa was Neanderthal, about 300,000 ybp. end quote  

I recently started reading the 2018 book, “The Future of Humanity” by Michio Kaku and he said that 75,000 years ago Mount Toba in Indonesia erupted and the ash, global cooling, and lack of sunlight for plants left a mere 2000 humans alive, on Planet Earth. Consequently the genetic differences in any two people today out of billions is less than any two chimpanzees, which fared better than humans during the disaster. Michio talked to Carl Sagan about this and Carl said humans need to be a two planet species. Peter

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Even if we do not need to work many hours to take care of basic needs, adults may share a child's infinite desire for toys;-)  Someone mentioned more people spending their free time on art, but this will increase demand for art supplies.  All this says nothing of the human tendency to spend to enhance one's self image.  I work with high school statistics teachers who often do polls of their classes.  One question that has become popular is, "How many pairs of shoes do you own?"  This turns up lots of girls with astronomical numbers of shoes.  No doubt there are marketing people right now trying to figure out how to further "feminize" boys so they buy similar quantities of shoes.  Online entities like Google and Facebook are getting fabulously rich from advertising.  But that is a zero-sum game.  They need to create (perceived) needs for this to remain profitable.  One can get people to switch brands of laundry detergent but it is not so easy to increase total demand for laundry detergent. 

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Bob Hayden wrote, “Even if we do not need to work many hours to take care of basic needs, adults may share a child's infinite desire for toys;-)”

When “construction and manufacturing work” is obsolete there will always be work dealing with people. Well, at least until we need Asimov’s Four Laws of Robotics simply because AI has taken over “people or service work”. Will we always play sports? I think so. Will the sports become more dangerous over time?

And I think we will always have the desire for adventure; “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Long term, scientific thinkers say we need to be a two planet species. Now that is a task for us to complete! Peter

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And I think our species will be genetically modified in the near future, to aid in exploration of the cosmos and for survival and health on earth. 

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5 hours ago, bob_hayden said:

Even if we do not need to work many hours to take care of basic needs, adults may share a child's infinite desire for toys;-)

A child’s desire for toys, cute.

Here is George Reisman, who earned his PhD under Ludwig von Mises, in his book, Capitalism, Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 3, Page 42:

 

“3. The Limitless Need and Desire for Wealth

The leading propositions laid down in Chapter 1 were that economics is the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labor and that capitalism is the essential requirement for the successful functioning of a division-of-labor society, indeed, ulti- mately for its very existence. It is implicit in these propositions that the ultimate source of the importance of the division of labor and capitalism, and of the science of economics, is wealth. This is because, in the last analysis, the division of labor, capitalism, and the science of economics are all merely means to the production of wealth.


Nevertheless, many philosophers and religious think- ers have held that the production of wealth serves only a low order of needs of secondary importance and that concern with its production beyond the minimum neces- sities required for the sustenance of human life is evil, immoral, and sinful by virtue of elevating low material values to the place properly reserved only for the pursuit of noble spiritual values. If these beliefs were correct, then economics would at best be a science of secondary importance and preoccupation with it by serious thinkers would be a mark of perversity.


In the face of such attitudes, it is incumbent upon economics to justify itself by providing philosophical validation for the production of wealth being a central, continuing concern of human existence. In other words, economics must explain the role of wealth in human life beyond that of the food, clothing, and shelter required for immediate sustenance. It is necessary to show how the continuing rise in the productivity of human labor made possible by the division of labor and capitalism serves objectively demonstrable human needs—to show, in- deed, why there is no limit to man’s need for wealth.”

http://www.capitalism.net/Capitalism/CAPITALISM_Internet.pdf

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