Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, August 15, 2007day link 

 Censoring yourself
picture There's an improv game that's useful in getting beyond one's built-in mental censor. It's a well-known kids game, for that matter.

You tell a story by each person providing one word at a time in turn, quickly.

"Joe" - "ate" - "some" - "rotten" - "shoes" ...

The thing is that most adults will attempt to censor themselves in such a game. In particular, most people will have some fear of saying something dirty, and will concentrate on NOT saying "fuck" or "ass" or something. Thus they'll hesitate, because they first need to filter or sort the things that actually come into their mind first. And the funny thing is that people will do that even if they wouldn't think twice about using the same words in a proper context. But if it is an improvised stream-of-consciousness kind of thing, we're likely to pay too much attention to how we'd be perceived, and how people will judge us if we say "balls" every time it is our turn.

And, indeed, if one gets over it and stops censoring oneself, the stories would probably be fairly filthy at first. But once one becomes ok with that, it changes again, and better stories develop.

Our sub-conscious is wiser than we usually are willing to admit. We too often try to be smarter than our instincts and impulses, by processing and filtering our first responses, so that they sound reasonable and logic. And that isn't always better.

"What's the first word that comes into your mind?"

That should take about a tenth of a second. Most people will take several seconds to answer. Not because they didn't have a word right away, but because they have to think about why you might be asking, whether their answer is a good one, and what you'll think about it.

That sort of need to censor what naturally happens is at the root of a lot of evils in society. Repressed urges, moralizing, standing up for things one doesn't really believe in. The old freudian belief that what is sub-conscious is crazy and evil and perverted. It really only is as long as you're repressing and denying it.

And it is also something that blocks our natural creativity. Good creative ideas are rarely the stuff you figure out logically. It is typically something that comes to you. But you'd need to be willing to let it, without second-guessing in advance what it might be.
[ | 2007-08-15 17:16 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Our world as a simulation
picture NY Times article about researcher/philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has concluded that there's a high mathematical probablity that we're all living inside a computer simulation, created by technologically advanced descendents of ours in the future. Although his gut feeling tells him that it is only 20% likely that we actually are living inside a simulation.

I always find that kind of conversation stimulating. We very well might live within The Matrix. It might be a computer simulation. Or this might be a universe created by some advanced race from a previous universe. Or the quantum soup universe might just basically work as if it is a simulation, where the reality we experience is the result of our laser beam of consciousness hitting the neutral stemcell type of quantum particiles, which happily will be whatever you want them to be.

But there are things that bother me. Huge fallacies that tend to appear in such a discussion.

There's the very widespread AI superstition that if you make a computer program that is sufficiently complex, it will be conscious and have its own thoughts and feelings. And that this simply is what consciousness is. So that if we make a simulation of your brain, it will think that it is you. That's a load of hogwash, in my opinion, and nobody has succeeded in demonstrating anything remotely like that. The corrolary of the idea is that if you're a sufficiently good simulation, you wouldn't know. Which is a very upside down way of looking at things, and if you believe it, you ought to be worried as well about your soul being stolen when somebody takes a picture of you.

And then there's the God thing. People who have this kind of discussion, of intelligent simulations in artificial realities, are usually atheists, and will usually take time out of their schedule to explain to you why you're a complete moron if you think the universe somehow is intelligently designed, or there possibly could be any intelligence guiding its evolution. And in the next breath we're having a discussion about exactly the same thing, the possibility of you just existing as a simulation in the computer of some advanced alien, who might or might not be benevolent, who might turn you off when he feels like it, if he doesn't like what you do. Uhm, sounds a lot like that God in the sky with the grey beard. So do you believe in it or not?

I don't. But I do believe in the primordial existence of consciousness, and I do believe I exist. The world responds as if me being in it makes a difference, and I can obviously guide my own path to a considerable extent. But I haven't seen any sign of outside influence, of anybody arbitrarily breaking in and changing things. Doesn't mean it couldn't happen, and the whole thing shuts down tomorrow with a "Memory Full" message. But I think it is very unlikely.

I'm sure we in the future will become able to simulate whole universes. But we won't be succeeding in developing artificial intelligence before we have addressed it from a totally different angle. And once we actually figure it out, it doesn't really matter if we're in somebody's simulation or not, and there'll be no need to worry about whether robots will become smarter than us.
[ | 2007-08-15 17:17 | 29 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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