Friday, November 21, 2014

The Church of the Technological Singularity, Part II

Part I, II, III

Superstition Disguised as Science

It is easy to make fun of Singularitarians because almost everything they preach regarding intelligence, the brain and consciousness is either faith-based pseudoscience or wishful thinking. I am tempted to feel sorry for them because, after having been lied to by established religions for so long, it makes sense to look elsewhere for salvation. But in so doing, they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Take, for example, their belief in the idea that, in the not too distant future, humans will achieve immortality by transferring the contents of their brains into simulated virtual entities residing in vast collections of powerful networked computers. Suppose for the sake of argument that this is possible, then copying one's brain onto a machine would result into two distinct conscious entities, the copy and the original. To prevent this from happening, singularitarians would have to destroy (i.e., murder, kill or euthanize) the original entity. Aside from the fact that there are laws against murder, it is doubtful that anybody, except Singularitarians, of course, would agree to be put to death in order to insure that only one copy of themselves can continue to exist. The silliness of it all is almost unbearable.

The Brain Is Not Probabilistic

It is a well known fact that the brain is very good at judging probabilities. It is also known that the brain can function efficiently in the presence of uncertain, noisy or incomplete sensory data. The prevailing hypothesis among Singularitarians is that, internally, the brain builds a probabilistic or Bayesian model of the world. If this were true, one would expect a gradation in the way we recognize patterns, especially in ambiguous images. However, in the last century, psychological experiments with optical illusions have taught us otherwise.
When looking at the picture above, two things can happen. Either you see a cow or you don't. There is no in-between. You do not see a 20 or 50 or 70% probability of a cow. It's either cow or no cow. Some people never see the cow. Furthermore, when you do see the cow, the recognition seems to happen instantly.

The only conclusion that we can draw from this type of experiment is that the cortex uses a winner-take-all pattern recognition strategy whereby all possible patterns and sequences are learned regardless of probability. The only criterion is that they must occur often enough to be considered above mere random noise. During recognition, pattern sequences in memory compete for activation and the ones with the highest number of hits are the winners. This tells us that, contrary to Singularitarian claims, the brain builds as perfect an understanding of the world as possible. Indeed, this is what we all experience. We expect the stove and the kitchen sink to be exactly where they were every time we go into the kitchen. Everything in our field of vision moves exactly the way they are supposed to. Probability has nothing to do with it.

Note, however, that the brain does not represent the world the way that deep neural networks do. DNNs are useless when presented with a completely new pattern. The brain, by contrast, can instantly learn and see objects or patterns that it has never seen before. It may or may not retain them permanently in memory but there is no question that the visual cortex can instantly change its internal structures to accommodate a new pattern. If it weren't so, it would not be able to see it and interact with it intelligently. This is a crucial aspect of intelligence that AGI designers in the Singularity community seem completely oblivious to.

Consciousness and Materialism

Singularitarians believe that the brain is all there is to the mind. This is the entire basis of the religion. Consciousness, we are told, is just an emergent property of the brain. How do they know this? They don't, of course, and this is what makes their movement a religion. There is no science behind it. When pressed, they will affirm their belief in materialism. The latter rejects dualism, the old religious idea adopted by Descartes according to which the conscious mind consists of a brain and a spirit. Why do they reject it? Overtly, they will say it is because the immaterial cannot interact with the material. But the hidden, unspoken reason is that they view traditional religions with contempt and will contradict them as often as they can. And why shouldn't they? Every religion wants to be the only true religion, no? But how do they know that the immaterial cannot interact with matter? They don't. It is a definition game. Since they define the immaterial as that which does not interact with matter, their argument becomes just an empty and pathetic tautology.

The inescapable fact remains that consciousness requires a knower and a known. The two are complementary opposites. That is to say, the knower cannot be known and the known cannot know. This automatically eliminates the brain as the knower because matter can always be known. It is that simple.

Coming Up

In Part III, I will go over the reasons that the Church of the Singularity is wrong about intelligence and motivation.


Brad Willborn said...

Could you expound on the last paragraph?

I feel it is a very important idea.

I think I comprehend what you are saying but I would like to feel more comfortable about my understanding of it.

My current comprehension is that in the last sentence "matter" is the "brain", is that correct? If it is not the brain then that's what makes me need a better understanding.


Louis Savain said...

Brad, you are correct in your understanding. I did not want to add too much to the explanation because I think it would distract from its purity.

It tells us that there are two complementary realms, the physical and the spiritual. This is true by logical necessity. Only one can be known directly. The other can only be inferred by its actions. This is why, in Christianity, all spirits must be tested. Not even God can know a spirit directly.

Brad Willborn said...

Thanks for the quick response.
So I'm glad I had it correct but know you have me wanting to understand this:
"..., all spirits must be tested." and "Not even God can know a spirit directly."

So our souls have to be baptized and our life has to be lived well and we must ask for forgiveness and the only way to God is through his grace. Is that the testing part?

Is the second part explain that Heaven is a real place and that not only our souls will go to heaven but our bodies will be cleansed and renewed on the final day?

Thanks again and God Bless,

Brad Willborn said...

Is this another way of saying the last part.
Not even God can know a spirit directly but the Holy Spirit can!
But if you believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one can't you say God can know a Spirit? or do you have to think of God as God can't but God as the Holy Spirit can?

I was reading this site to help.


Louis Savain said...

Brad, I am a yin-yang dualist through and through. In my opinion, there can be no exception to the rule of duality. This Trinity stuff means nothing to me. It's just pre-medieval nonsense from the Catholic Church (I don't belong to any organized church). The teaching from Jesus is "I and the father are one." This is analogous to the left and right hemispheres of the brain being one person. This is one form of duality. The other is the duality between the spirit and the brain. The spirit of God searches the deep things of God. I see no Trinity in the picture.

Human souls are already known to be sinful, so there is no need to test them for righteousness anymore. We failed that test. The only other thing we are being tested for is faith.

As far as going to heaven is concerned, I'm sure those who are saved will be resurrected and given an immortal body. But somehow I doubt that God created this awesome universe just to abandon it and retire in heaven. Personally, I love planet earth very much. But I'm sure there will be many more worlds and galaxies to explore.

dashxdr said...

I don't see the problem with having two copies of the same consciousness. Each would be self contained within the machinery that is hosting it (human body/nervous system vs a big computer or whatever).

However if you assume only one must be allowed to exist at any time, why can't the copy be responsible for murdering the original? The copy would wake up into consciousness with all the memories of the original, and it would realize the original is now no longer needed. So _it_ pushes the button to terminate the original.

Louis Savain said...


I don't see the problem with having two copies of the same consciousness. Each would be self contained within the machinery that is hosting it (human body/nervous system vs a big computer or whatever).

Well, the problem is that, assuming this is even possible, the two are not the same consciousness. They are two separate consciousnesses. You cannot gain immortality if you kill the original. You do that and it dies. And it's murder anyway you look at it.

Gaining immortality through uploading is a wet dream for nerds who have swallowed the materialist lie hook, line and sinker.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree that there is more to consciousness than emergent properties of the "material" brain. Materialists should look into the research involving extra-sensory perception, remote viewing, pre-cog and such. There appears to be evidence for an informational field of sorts that can be tapped into by sensitive individuals.

Of course, this is all old news to Eastern cultural philosophies that through meditation practices have been directly experiencing these phenomena for millennia.

On the subject of the existence of a trinity, I would add that along with the presence of the knower and the known you allow some space for "the act of knowing."

This is what constitutes a "trinity", at least in Hindu philosophy. I don't think it interferes with your dualistic view. It simply adds an important intermediary and complementary component, in my opinion.