• TheMadFool
    6.2k
    :smile: I've made it amply clear what understanding means to me. It simply involves 2 things:

    1. Connect symbols to referents (computable). Even Google search can do that. For instance when I type "water" into the search bar, Google takes me to articles that contain the word "water" and even images of glasses of water.

    2. Recognize patterns (computable). Google search couldn't have taken me to articles on water and images of water without it being able to identify patterns.

    As for the definitions of "conceivable" and "possible", I'd like to see them in a familiar format please, like in a dictionary.
  • Olivier5
    66
    Conscious being = True AI = P-ZombieTheMadFool
    One possible conclusion from this equation is that p-zombies, as defined, cannot exist.
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    One possible conclusion from this equation is that p-zombies, as defined, cannot exist.Olivier5

    :chin:
  • Olivier5
    66
    A p-zombie is defined as a human without consciousness. If it is equal to a human with consciousness, then either consciousness is equal to nothing, or p-zombies must be self aware in order to be able to behave as normal humans, and therefore true p-zombies cannot exist.

    I think it's obvious that they cannot possibly exist. Mind you, they don't actually exist. They are just a mind experiment designed to probe the nature of consciousness.
  • A Raybould
    42

    I have noticed a pattern here: you will post a claim, I will respond, then you will raise a different issue as if you had no counter-argument. A post or two later, however, the first issue will rise again, zombie-like, as if it had never been discussed before.

    For convenience, I will list these recurring arguments and my responses. That way, you can make a comment that merely states the number of the argument du jour, and I can reply by picking a corresponding response ID and just posting that. It will make things so much easier!


    A1: Understanding is simple, because understanding is computable.

    R1: Being computable does not necessarily entail simplicity. If this were the case, the whole of AI would be simple, the ABC conjecture would have a simple proof (if there really is one), etc.


    A2: Understanding is simple, because understanding is just a matter of connecting symbols to referents and recognizing patterns.

    R2.1 This is too vague to establish simplicity. It is so vague that you could make the same claim for any aspect of AI, or AI as a whole (like the people who dismiss current AI as "just database lookup"), but if it is that simple, how come there are still outstanding problems? 

    R2.2: Regardless of what definition you put forward, the claim that it is simple to implement is inconsistent with the fact that current AI has ongoing difficulties with, for example, understanding common-sense physics.


    A3: Understanding is simple, as shown by this simple example of what I understand from the word 'water'.

    R3.1: You cannot establish simplicity through only simple examples, unless there are only simple examples. As it happens, there are difficult examples here, such as the afforementioned difficulty with understanding common-sense physics.

    R3.2: If you could establish simplicity through simple examples, then the whole of mathematics would be simple, as established by the fact that you can teach five-year-olds to add two numbers.


    Did I miss any? Your help in completing the list would be appreciated!

    So, according to this list, your latest post is A2 A3, to which I reply R2.2 R3.1 (I have some flexibility here.)


    As for the definitions of "conceivable" and "possible", I'd like to see them in a familiar format please, like in a dictionary.TheMadFool

    We have already been around this define / whats-the-difference? / define  loop once before, and as I made clear, I have no intention of going round again until you address the whats-the-difference example.

    If you want to get into definitions, it's your turn to offer some, so how about if you proffer definitions which make the Collatz conjecture example/argument invalid or unsound? (Or, if you find that infeasible, you could simply say which premise or conclusion you first disagree with, and we can proceed from there.)
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    I have noticed a pattern here: you will post a claim, I will respond, then you will raise a different issue as if you had no counter-argument. A post or two later, however, the first issue will rise again, zombie-like, as if it had never been discussed before.A Raybould

    You've failed to notice your own pattern.

    Being computable does not necessarily entail simplicityA Raybould

    I never claimed understanding as simple. I said it's computable.

    This is too vague to establish simplicityA Raybould

    I never brought up the notion of simplicity. I don't know where you got that from. Also, 1)word-referent matching and 2) pattern recognition, as far as I can tell, aren't vague at all. If you insist they are, demonstrate them to be so.

    We have already been around this define / whats-the-difference? / define  loop once before, and as I made clear, I have no intention of going round again until you address the whats-the-difference example.

    If you want to get into definitions, it's your turn to offer some, so how about if you proffer definitions which make the Collatz conjecture example/argument invalid or unsound? (Or, if you find that infeasible, you could simply say which premise or conclusion you first disagree with, and we can proceed from there.)
    A Raybould

    I don't see a necessary connection between conceivable & possible and the Collatz conjecture. Are you implying the meanings of conceivable and possible are based off of the Collatz conjecture? If yes, I'm more than happy to see a proof of that.
  • A Raybould
    42

    I never claimed understanding as simple...TheMadFool

    I don't know why people make such a big deal of understanding - it's very simple.TheMadFool
    To cut to the chase, understanding the words "trees" and "water" is simply a process of connecting a specific set of sensory and mental data to these words.TheMadFool
    ...and so on. These are not 'gotcha' quotes taken out of context; the alleged simplicity of understanding is a big part of your claim that there is nothing special about it.

    ...I said it's computable.TheMadFool
    But the issue is not whether it is computable, as I have repeatedly had to remind you. Do you not remember this?
    In other words, it's implied, you feel understanding is uncomputable i.e. there is "something special" about it and for that reason is beyond a computer's ability.
    — TheMadFool

    Absolutely not. As you are all for rigor where you think it helps your case, show us your argument from "there's something special about understanding" to "understanding is uncomputable."
    A Raybould

    I am quite willing to believe that initially, you may have merely misunderstood what I meant, by drawing an unjustified conclusion such as the one above, but to continue as if this is the issue in contention, after having been repeatedly corrected on the matter, is another example of trollish behavior, and I will continue to call you on it wherever I see it, whether it is in response to me or someone else (in fact, if it were not for this aspect of your replies, I would drop the issue as being merely a misunderstanding and a difference of opinion.)

    1)word-referent matching and 2) pattern recognition, as far as I can tell, aren't vague at all.TheMadFool
    For one thing, they are vague, when considered as an explanation of understanding, in that they lack the specificity needed for it to be clear that anything having just those two capabilities would necessarily understand, say, common-sense physics or Winograd schema. I am willing to believe that a machine capable of understanding these things could be described as having these capabilities, but I am also pretty sure that many machines, including extant AIs such as GPT-3, could also be so described, while lacking this understanding. If so, then this description lacks the specificity to explain the difference between machines that could and those that cannot understand these things.

      
    Are you implying the meanings of conceivable and possible are based off of the Collatz conjecture?TheMadFool

    No - I should have made it clear that the Collatz conjecture is just something for which neither a proof nor a refutation has been found so far; any other formal conjecture would do as well in its place. The essence is that there are two conceivable things here, and we know that only one of them is possible (even though we don't know which one), so the other (whichever one it is) is conceivable but not possible.
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    ↪TheMadFool
    I never claimed understanding as simple...
    — TheMadFool

    I don't know why people make such a big deal of understanding - it's very simple.
    — TheMadFool
    To cut to the chase, understanding the words "trees" and "water" is simply a process of connecting a specific set of sensory and mental data to these words.
    — TheMadFool
    ...and so on. These are not 'gotcha' quotes taken out of context; the alleged simplicity of understanding is a big part of your claim that there is nothing special about it.
    A Raybould

    Firstly, I admit that I used the word "simple" in reference to understanding but only to characterize its nature as not something magical and beyond the scope of computers. Understanding, as it appears to be, is probably a complex phenomena, nevertheless computable. That's what I mean when I said "I don't know why people make such a big deal of understanding - it's very simple. Very simple in the sense of being reducible to logic, something computers are capable of. To clarify further, take aerodynamics - the science of flight - and you'll notice a simplicity in the fact that flying involves only 4 forces viz. lift, weight, thrust and drag but building a plane is a complex affair. Similarly, the simplicity in understanding lies in it involving only a couple of actions viz. word-referent matching and pattern recognition but the complexity lies in how these simple actions can be programmed at the required level in a computer.

    For one thing, they are vague, when considered as an explanation of understanding, in that they lack the specificity needed for it to be clear that anything having just those two capabilities would necessarily understand, say, common-sense physics or Winograd schema. I am willing to believe that a machine capable of understanding these things could be described as having these capabilities, but I am also pretty sure that many machines, including extant AIs such as GPT-3, could also be so described, while lacking this understanding. If so, then this description lacks the specificity to explain the difference between machines that could and those that cannot understand these things.A Raybould

    I wouldn't go so far as to say the two conditions for understanding I mentioned in my post are complete. Some other conditions may need to be added.

    No - I should have made it clear that the Collatz conjecture is just something for which neither a proof nor a refutation has been found so far; any other formal conjecture would do as well in its place. The essence is that there are two conceivable things here, and we know that only one of them is possible (even though we don't know which one), so the other (whichever one it is) is conceivable but not possible.A Raybould

    So, you're saying, with reference to the Collatz conjecture, that it's conceivable for the Collatz conjecture to be true AND false. Put differently, you're claiming:

    1. It is conceivable that the Collatz Conjecture is true AND it is conceivable that the Collatz Conjecture is false

    That's a contradiction.
  • Olivier5
    66
    Understanding, as it appears to be, is probably a complex phenomena, nevertheless computable. That's what I mean when I said "I don't know why people make such a big deal of understanding - it's very simple. Very simple in the sense of being reducible to logic, something computers are capable of.TheMadFool
    Computers as we know them are not aware of the world around them, and that means they cannot realy understand anything, because they don't know that there exists referents out there for words like "trees" or "water".

    Let me take your own example to illustrate the point. Here is how, as a human being, I understand the proposition "trees need water": it means to me "IN ORDER TO STAY ALIVE, trees need TO ABSORB SOME MINIMUM AMOUNT OF water PER UNIT OF TIME".

    STAY ALIVE: Evidently, dead trees don't need water for anything. The need is related to life and its maintenance.

    ABSORB: Evidently, trees don't need water that they can't absorb. They absorb water usually though their root system, so if you just place a glass of water standing next to a tree, you're not providing for its need.

    SOME AMOUNT... PER UNIT OF TIME: Evidently their water needs are not infinite. If you don't water to a tree for a day or two, it will be fine. And if you place a tree under water (or water-log its root system) it may well die. So they need SOME water, and some trees require more water than others.

    So your seemingly simple proposition, "trees need water" cannot be properly understood by a machine who has no clue about trees and their biology.
  • A Raybould
    42

    I think we have reached the point that we can agree to differ over whether or not there is something special about understanding, because we are approaching the question from different perspectives.

    With regard to conceivability: It would be a contradiction to say that 'the Collatz Conjecture is true AND the Collatz Conjecture is false', but 'It is conceivable that the Collatz Conjecture is true AND it is conceivable that the Collatz Conjecture is false' is not the same, at least formally.

    To see this, consider sentences of the form 'It is P that the Collatz Conjecture is true AND it is P that the Collatz Conjecture is false'. Substituting 'true' for P leads to a contradiction, but substituting 'uncertain' does not. Without more precise semantics for 'conceivable', we cannot say that we get a contradiction when we substitute it for P (in the Collatz conjecture argument, I avoided giving a full definition of 'conceivable' by saying that everything that has been conceived of is a subset of everything conceivable. You can read 'conceived of' as 'thought of'.)

    Chalmer's p-zombie argument is entirely dependent on taking the step from p-zombies being conceivable to being possible, so what he intends these two words to mean, and the relationship between them, is of critical importance. If they have the same meaning, then he is simply asserting that p-zombies are possible, without offering any argument for that claim; to put it another way, he would merely be inviting us to share his belief, without there being any risk of us falling into a contradiction if we decline to do so.

    Chalmers, therefore, is walking a narrow path: his definition of 'conceivable' has to be distinct from 'possible', but not so distinct that he needs additional assumptions to get from the former to the latter, and especially not any contingent assumptions, which could be false as a matter of fact.

    I know one thing you are thinking right now: So what is Chalmers' definition of 'conceivable'? I am not certain, and I don't think there is an easy answer; the first place to look would be his paper Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?, though it is not an easy read. For what it is worth, my impression of the paper was that he only says it does so in those cases where there are other, independent, reasons for saying that the conceivable thing is possible - which amounts to saying "no, conceivability by itself does not entail possibility", and therefore his 'argument' for the possibility of p-zombies is merely an unargued-for belief.
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    :up: Thanks. Sorry if it seemed like I was trolling. I couldn't troll anyone as efficiently and as expertly as I troll myself.
  • A Raybould
    42

    Thanks for saying that. It is easy to get carried away whan defending a point of view. I do, and I used to do it a lot more; I have to make a conscious effort to back away.
  • A Raybould
    42

    I had some more thoughts on conceivabilty vs. possibility. Most philosophers accept possible-world semantics for dealing with questions of possibility and necessity, in which to say something is possible is to assert that there is a possible world in which it is true, regardless of whether it is true in the actual world (that looks somewhat self-referential, but logicians seem to agree its OK.)

    It is also generally held that mathematical truths are necessary truths, and necessary a priori at that. A mathematical fact is true in all possible worlds, and always has been.

    Putting these two things together gets tricky when we consider a mathematical conjecture. Given that we do not know whether it is true, we might want to say it is possible that it is true; at another time, we might want to say that it is possible that it is false. Under possible-world semantics, however, if mathematical truths are necessary truths, then one or the other of those statements must be false: if the conjecture is true, it is necessarily true, so there are no possible worlds in which it is false, and vice-versa.

    What we want is a way of saying that something might be true, without invoking all the implications that come with possible-world semantics. Saying that it is is conceivable is a way of doing that. (Note that even though, in everyday usage, 'might be true' and 'possibly true' usually mean more-or-less the same thing, they are different when 'possible' is being used in the context of possible-world semantics.)

    Chalmers also says p-zombies are 'logically possible', which looks like a strong statement, but it really just says that he is unaware of any facts that could disprove them. Given that he has defined p-zombies in a way that makes them immune from being ruled out by any sort of scientific investigation or discovery whatsoever, this is not saying much.
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    Let me get this straight. In reference to a mathematical conjecture like the Collatz one, you mean to say, that there are two conceivable outcomes (the conjecture is true or false) but only one outcome is possible. So, in a sense, conceivability in re a proposition is about available options as to its truth value but possibility has to do with which of these options obtain. Am I on the right track here?

    What about the following statements then:

    1. It is possible that a mathematical conjecture is true or false.

    Nevertheless,

    2. It's impossible that a mathematical conjecture is both true AND false

    Compare statements 1 and 2 with:

    3. It is conceivable that a mathematical conjecture is true or false

    Nevertheless

    4. It is jnconceivable that a mathematical conjecture is both true AND false

    As you can see, the notion of possibility does have, within it, the idea of all available truth values for a given proposition, just like conceivability does. Most importantly, contradictions are both impossible AND inconceivable which seems to suggest that conceivability supervenes, if that's the right word, on possibility.
  • ssu
    2.8k

    But isn't the real question here, that in some certain cases there is no way for us to prove / compute if a conjecture is either true or false? Wasn't this what Turing showed in the first place?

    That mathematics, to be logical, has to have unprovable statements, which still are either true or false.

    And hence, it would be perhaps provable that consciousness is unprovable.
  • A Raybould
    42

    Yes, I think you are on the right track here, though it may be leading in a surprising direction.

    Firstly, there is no difficulty with 'it is possible/conceivable that the Collatz conjecture is true (X)OR it is possible/conceivable that the Collatz conjecture is false', which is the correct way to express the fact of our incomplete knowledge (at least if it is decidable.)

    Secondly, your assertion that 'it is inconceivable that a mathematical conjecture is both true AND false' depends on whether false statements are conceivable. You may find it inconceivable that they are, but others may logically disagree.

    There is an alternative view here that is... conceivable? It says that it is conceivable that a mathematical conjecture is both true AND false, it is just that we can immediately refute it (i.e. immediately see that it is not possible.) In this view, we had to conceive of it first (to form the thought in our minds), in order to prove that it is not possible.

    You might wonder if there is anything that is not conceivable in this view. For one thing, I can conceive of there being inconceivable ideas by virtue of them requiring too much physical information for a brain to contain (and, as information can grow exponentially with the medium in which it is expressed, I do not think this can be avoided by positing an AI larger than a brain.) Maybe the true Theory of Everything is like this. Also, as Eliezer Yudkowsky pointed out, two millennia of philosophizing over epistemology and metaphysics never conceived of the sort of non-local reality that is the only sort allowed by Bell's Inequality; it only became conceivable in the light of new knowledge.

    In my previous post, I wrote "Given that we do not know whether [the Collatz conjecture] is true, we might want to say it is possible that it is true; at another time, we might want to say that it is possible that it is false." I have emphasized "at another time" here because in my first draft, I wrote 'and' instead, but changed it, as the original statement would be begging the question I was trying to address. The point I wanted to make in that post is that, under possible-world semantics, and regardless of any difficulties with conjunctions, one cannot even know[1] that 'it is possible that the conjecture is true', because if it is actually false, there are no possible worlds in which it is true.

    This is mostly moot, however, because what matters here is not how you or I see it, but how Chalmers is using it. Chalmers, and apparently most philosophers, seem to take the view that obviously false ideas are not conceivable, but obviousness is in the mind of the beholder, and is dependent on what they believe, yet if we take 'obviously' out of the definition, then 'conceivable' is simply a synonym for 'possible'. Likewise, if we rule out concepts that are false by definition (such as Chalmers' example 'male vixen'), they are also dependent on what we know, and often on which definition we accept. This may not matter, as things that are true by definition are usually uninteresting (the vixen case, for example, is just a consequence of the contingent fact that the English language happens to have different words for the male vulpes vulpes and the female vulpes vulpes. There are no profound metaphysical truths to be found in this.)

    I think you are trying to show that 'possible' and 'conceivable' are synonyms. If so, then fair enough, but you should realize that, as Chalmers' argument depends on a distinction between 'conceivable' and 'possible', you would be disputing Chalmers' p-zombie argument (and, furthermore, over the same issue that many other people dispute it.)

    [1] I originally wrote 'assert' instead of 'know', but then realized that one can, of course, assert a counterfactual.
  • A Raybould
    42

    I think you are alluding to the Lucas-Penrose argument aganst the possibility of there being algorithms that produce minds. If so, that is a separate argument from Chalmers' p-zombie argument. Chalmers is attempting to refute metaphysical physicalism, but Penrose is a physicalist.

    I am not sure what you mean by 'It would be perhaps provable that consciousness is unprovable.' Specifically, I am not sure what it would mean to say that conciousness is provable - what is the premise that one would be proving?
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    And hence, it would be perhaps provable that consciousness is unprovable.ssu

    As far as I can tell, Nagel made a big deal of consciousness being just too subjective to be objectivity-friendly. Since proofs are objective in character, it appears that consciousness can't be proven to an other for that reason. Nonetheless, to a person, privately, consciousness is as real as real can get.
  • ssu
    2.8k
    I think you are alluding to the Lucas-Penrose argument aganst the possibility of there being algorithms that produce minds.A Raybould
    No, just the basic mathematics in Turings answer on the Entscheidungsproblem with his Turing Machine argument. Above was talking about mathematical conjectures.

    The fact is that there exists unprovable conjectures, even if they are either true or false.

    Specifically, I am not sure what it would mean to say that conciousness is provable - what is the premise that one would be proving?A Raybould
    Let me try to explain.

    We can agree on the definition what is an living organism and what isn't and when an organism lives or is dead. Do we agree on a clear definition on what consciousness is? I don't think there is a clear definition to that. We don't know what it is and philosophers find it puzzling and controversial. Just look at everything what has been written about consciousness.

    Now a little thought experiment:

    a) Let's assume that mathematics models reality extremely well: hence mathematical conjectures and objects can as models of reality tell us something about reality.

    b) In mathematics there are unprovable, but true objects. The problem is of course that we can not give a direct proof about them (or calculate or compute them). We can give only an indirect proof: it cannot be so, that they wouldn't be true.

    c) Assume these unprovable, but true objects do model our reality also. What would they look like?
  • ssu
    2.8k
    I can tell, Nagel made a big deal of consciousness being just too subjective to be objectivity-friendly.Since proofs are objective in character, it appears that consciousness can't be proven to an other for that reason. Nonetheless, to a person, privately, consciousness is as real as real can get.TheMadFool
    Wow.

    Well, he's right on that thing. Because it is genuinely a problem about subjectivity and objectivity. Or to put it another way: the limitations of objectivity. And proving something has to be objective. You simply cannot make an objective model about something that is inherently subjective.

    Can you give reference where Nagel said that? It would be interesting to know.
  • A Raybould
    42

    It's not entirely straightforward to come up with a definition of what's alive and what's dead; there is some disagreement over whether viruses are truly living, and defining the exact point of death of a complex organism is not a simple matter.

    Definitions are not proofs, and they are not generally provable, even though some of the arguments made for favoring one definition over another may be provable or disprovable. We don't have a clear, generally agreed-upon definition of consciousness because we don't know enough about it, and gaining sufficient knowledge will be an exercise in science, not logic.

    Even if we accept that mathematics models reality extremely well, it does not follow that every mathematical entity models some aspect of reality. I think it is true to say that all unprovables require infinities, and it seems unlikely that modeling any finite aspect of reality, such as the human mind or the whole of the visible universe, require infinities (for example, the singularities that appear in relativistic models of black holes are taken for evidence that the models are not complete, and the expectation is that they would be resolved in a more complete theory.)

    I am not convinvced that you simply cannot make an objective model about something that is inherently subjective. Qualia, for example, are widely regarded as subjective, yet it has been posited that they can be explained as a set of abilities.
  • ssu
    2.8k
    It's not entirely straightforward to come up with a definition of what's alive and what's dead; there is some disagreement over whether viruses are truly living, and defining the exact point of death of a complex organism is not a simple matter.A Raybould
    Sure, but it's easier than defining consciousness and what is conscious and what isn't. Doctors have some kind of definition that they apply on the issue.

    Even if we accept that mathematics models reality extremely well, it does not follow that every mathematical entity models some aspect of reality.A Raybould
    Not every, but true but unprovable mathematical objects could be useful. At least in explaining what the problem we face is.

    I am not convinvced that you simply cannot make an objective model about something that is inherently subjective.A Raybould
    Ok, I'll use from math/set theory negative self reference and Cantor's diagonalization to make an example.

    a) Reply to my post with an answer that you "A Raybold" will never give.

    b) Do such answers exist as in a)?

    Naturally you cannot give any answer that never give, but obviously as life is finite there obviously are answers or remarks that you, A Raybold, don't give. Notice the 1) subjectivity and the 2) negative self reference. Notice that in Turing's example of the Turing Machine and that it never halts, the logic behind it is of negative self reference too.
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