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The Mechanics Of Thinking The Mechanics Of Thinking
by Jan Sand
2022-04-17 07:22:08
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Many of the attempts to analyze the nature of thought present the disposition to exclude our animal friends from that process but recently reconsideration has tended to dismiss that prejudice, although there is small doubt that humans are quite special in that process. My own tendency is to examine thinking from a different fundamental which leads me to suspect, most surprisingly, that thinking can be a device that exists uniquely as a totally independent process.

think0001_400The universe in general seems to be a collection of interactions of its basic forces in different ways to produce what we are capable of observing and that capability is extraordinarily limited to what our evolution required. This varies in all sorts of ways between different species depending upon the environmental challenges that must be confronted and conquered. Human ingenuity has, especially in current eras, prompted humans to devise instrumentation that immensely increases their awareness of new types of phenomena not generally available to other species. This has inflated the self-regard of many humans to a degree that disturbs me, since a large number of these most fascinating discoveries may be vastly extraordinary in an abstract way, but it is of little relevance  to humans that there may be habitable planets in galaxies millions of light years away.

My considerations in this area are directly concerned with life itself whose fundamental nature is quite different from other natural processes. If life can have a generalized definition that separates it from everything else, it has little if anything to do with the presence of water, carbon, oxygen, or a clement temperature. Its prime quality is an agenda with a goal. Intent is its identifier, and the intent of life is to sustain and proliferate. Life on this planet does overwhelmingly require water, carbon, oxygen and a restricted temperature range but there are many planets where these do not exist, and no one can say that intent is not possible in some planetary areas alien to Earth conditions.

The term homeostasis describes the dynamics of a life form. Even the most favored environmental conditions usually have a wide spectrum of variation. This range frequently permits conditions threatening to a life form. Therefore life sustenance must somehow solve problems to maintain livable conditions and this is its ultimate goal. The life dynamic has two primary tools to manage species survival under adverse conditions. The first is the power to produce all sorts of variations in each new reproduction of a member of a species in the probability that this might produce a superior form. Inevitably this new variety can be, not only inferior, but not viable.  This is when the second tool is used to ensure the inferior variation will not survive to pollute succeeding generations. The process is exceedingly crude and mercilessly cruel, but it is the one that has succeeded, over many millions of years, to generate all the many, many different species of planetary life since the first crude life originated.

Whatever its quality, since it is a dynamic with a goal that has a long record of huge success. by my proposed definition of thinking, it must be accepted as a thought process that exists without a thinker.

But since we each are thinkers it’s worthwhile to define what a thought might be. Essentially, as an artist, I am drawn to the concept that a thought is a pattern of elements. The elements can be a collection of several of the same thing or of many different things. Mathematics is a study of patterns and the elements can remain undefined and merely represented alphabetically. Our minds receive inputs of patterns from our sense apparatus of sound and light and touch and scent and flavor and a few others. The arrangement of these elements of patterns are not only received and classified and stored in memory, but also are generalized into abstractions of these arrangements, so that a sound pattern can be classified with a similar light pattern or one of touch etc. Each of these patterns is a thought and within a living brain each thought is captured by a group of interconnected neurons and therefor is alive. The difference between neural pattern format and the patterns stored in a computer as data is substantial in fundamental ways. Computer data patterns are essentially static and given intent by a programmer through algorithmic indications. Neural patterns are retained by living cell groups and processed as they are accepted in the brain system with emotional indications as to quality and intent so that they possess motivational qualities. The cells can gossip among themselves creating interconnections and abstract pattern groups as an ongoing general dynamic of brain operation and this underlying activity permits innovative underlying awareness of possibilities presented frequently as dreams. A standard computer indulges in none of this kind of operation unless a specifically designed algorithm activates something similar. The fundamental inherent intents of survival and propagation are the dynamics of life itself. Computers, currently, have none of this.

I have only the vaguest generalities in attempting to understand artificial general intelligence, AGI, but I perceive its dynamics go beyond the standard relationships within previous computers of static data directed algorithmically wherein it can independently modify its performance to approach the problems it has been given to solve in ways that can be somewhat mysterious to its human controllers. Along with its ability to progress in its search for answers thousands of times faster than a human can think it can and already has solved problems well beyond what has been previously thought possible. Brilliant people such as Stephen Hawking have expressed immense apprehension as to how this tool can be properly used and controlled, even though its very early potentials have been very rewarding. I am in no position to judge whether or not its greatly extended powers contain anything resembling human intention where it is donated qualities of judgement as to behavior acceptable to human existence. In the wonderful fantasy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the solution, 42, is obtained from a super computer in answer to the question of the meaning of everything and this explicitly points out that one must understand what the answer might be before an answer can be understood. It seems likely AGI is capable of obtaining answers well beyond human comprehension and it is very possible that these answers, if applied, could be totally catastrophic.

If our tools are granted powers far beyond our capabilities to understand where these victories may lead, are we fooling ourselves that we can remain safe from their exercise of powers that puzzle even the best of us? It is not a matter of these machines surrendering to ambitions with evil intent since the question of intent most probably will never arise in these matters. Even today within the social constructions basic to our society there are decisions within the military, within corporate policies, within financial institutions, within industrial necessities, that are very frequently made to do horrible things to millions of helpless people to secure goals that make good sense within the values accepted by these organizations. These controlling people have been totally seduced by the logic of their organizations with a faith that they must adhere to their cold logic. If AGI is incorporated into this decision making with a logic far advanced beyond human comprehension, we are probably placing our destinies where we are totally insecure.

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