Velmans’ paper raises three problems concerning mental causation: (1) How can consciousness affect the physical, given that the physical world appears causally closed? 10 (2) How can one be in conscious control of processes of which one is not consciously aware? (3) Conscious experiences appear to come too late to causally affect the processes to which they most obviously relate. In an appendix Velmans gives his reasons for refusing to resolve these problems through adopting the position (which he labels ‘physicalism’) (...) that ‘consciousness is nothing more than a state of the brain’. The rest of the paper, then, is an attempt to solve these problems without embracing a reductionist physicalism. Velmans’ solution to the first problem is ‘ontological monism combined with epistemological dualism’: First-person and third-person accounts are two different ways of knowing the same facts. This kind of reply is not new; it is, for example, a twist on the position expressed in Davidson (1970). True, there are substantial differences: For one, Davidson reconciles the tension between descriptions of events in mentalistic and physicalist language, not between firstand third-person descriptions of states; for another, Davidson actually provides an argument for his position, although to do so he assumes that there are no psycho-physical (or indeed, psycho-psycho) laws, something which I suspect Velmans would be reluctant to do. Nevertheless, they have in common the idea that the causal efficacy of the mental is not at odds with the causal closure of physics, since a mind-involving causal story is just another way of talking about the same facts that a purely physical causal story talks about. This ‘dual-aspect’ approach is a popular tactic for resolving the mind–body problem, but it has some well-known problems, and it is unfortunate Velmans doesn’t reply to these standard objections. For example, a frequently discussed issue in connection with theories of mental causation is the problem of overdetermination (see, e.g., Unger, 1977; Peacocke, 1979).. (shrink)
Another book on how computers are going to change our lives? Yes, but this is more about computing than about computers, and it is more about how our thoughts may be changed than about how housework and factory chores will be taken over ... Thoughts can be changed in many ways. The invention of painting and drawing permitted new thoughts in the processes of creating and interpreting pictures. The invention of speaking and writing also permitted profound extensions of our abilities (...) to think and communicate. Computing is a bit like the invention of paper (a new medium of expression) and the invention of writing (new symbolisms to be embedded in the medium) combined. But the writing is more important than the paper.... (The Preface) .. (shrink)
It is conjectured that humans and some other altricial species instead use innate mechanisms for decomposing situations into components that can be explicitly learnt about, and stored in such a way that the competence can be re-used in combination with other learnt competences, in perceiving novel situations and performing novel actions.
This paper, along with the following paper by John Mc- Carthy, introduces some of the topics to be discussed at the IJCAI95 event `A philosophical encounter: An interactive presentation of some of the key philosophical problems in AI and AI problems in philosophy.' Philosophy needs AI in order to make progress with many difficult questions about the nature of mind, and AI needs philosophy in order to help clarify goals, methods, and concepts and to help with several (...) specific technical problems. Whilst philosophical attacks on AI continue to be welcomed by a significant subset of the general public, AI defenders need to learn how to avoid philosophically naive rebuttals. (shrink)
This file is http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/p-geometry.html From time to time I shall use html2ps and ps2pdf to create a PDF version, better suited for printing: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/p-geometry.pdf The PDF version will probably have formatting flaws, and may not be up to date.
It is often thought that there is one key design principle or at best a small set of design principles, underlying the success of biological organisms. Candidates include neural nets, ‘swarm intelligence’, evolutionary computation, dynamical systems, particular types of architecture or use of a powerful uniform learning mechanism, e.g. reinforcement learning. All of those support types of self-organising, self-modifying behaviours. But we are nowhere near understanding the full variety of powerful information-processing principles ‘discovered’ by evolution. By attending closely to the (...) diver- sity of biological phenomena we may gain key insights into (a) how evolution happens, (b) what sorts of mechanisms, forms of representation, types of learning and development and types of architectures have evolved, (c) how to explain ill-understood aspects of human and animal intelligence, and (d) new useful mechanisms for artiﬁcial systems. (shrink)
Here are some thoughts arising out of the fact that the University of Birmingham has recently gone through a re-branding exercise led by its administrators responsible for marketing, who failed miserably in marketing the exercise to staff and students within the University, as a result of which there is an online 'Save the Crest' petition that has attracted so many supporters that it made the national news The original version of this document referred to a web site at which the (...) people responsible for the re-branding exercise attempted to explain why they had done what they had done. That web site used to be here: http://www.general.bham.ac.uk/brand/ but no longer seems to be accessible. It made totally untrue, and highly embarrassing, claims about how this university was 'unique'. I don't knowwhether its removal was a response to criticism or an unintended side-effect of reorganisation of the web site: the sort of thing that far too often breaks links and bookmarks when done by people who don't understand what the internet is about and don't realise that their web site has become a highly distributed entity, whether they intended it or not. Although some people are pleased to see the currently used crest abandoned, staff and students in my school have mostly been very critical of the changes and especially of the move to the new format for business cards -- apparently designed on the assumption that what your job is is more important than who you are and therefore should be listed first. This is typical of decision making by people who have very little understanding of the diversity of functions and interactions of a university and its members. (shrink)
It may be of interest to see what can be done by giving a robot no innate knowledge about its environment or its sensors or effectors and only a totally general learning mechanism, such as reinforcement learning, or some information-reduction algorithm, to see what it can learn in various environments. However, it is clear that that is not how biological evolution designs animals, as McCarthy states.
At the end of the seminar, I suggested that most researchers on language and its evolution (including Derek Bickerton I suspect, though I've only read snippets of his work), mistakenly ignore a host of other competences that are present in far more species.
RCLIB is a 2-D graphical interface package available as an addition to the Poplog software development system. "RC" stands for "Relative Coordinates": all the graphical commands are relative to a frame of reference, which can be changed without altering the commands, making it easy to draw the same thing in different parts of a display, using different sizes or orientations, and possibly stretched or sheared.
The discussion below could be extended by pointing out that there is a fifth notion of freedom which refers to what you are free to do within a context of a game, a system of laws, a moral regime etc. This notion of freedom is close to the notion of permission. It is worth noting that the law may forbid something without enforcing that proscription. So many people constantly do what they are not free to do in this sense.
The document starts The overall goal proposed here is to construct physically instantiated systems that can perceive, understand, and interact with their environment - but also evolve in order to achieve human-like performance in activities requiring context-specific knowledge. I posted the following comment on 15 Feb 2006..
At the ceremony Ron Chrisley introduced me and my work with some kind words and ended with a reference to the claim on my website that I tend to upset vice chancellors and other superior beings. After Ron, I had to make a short speech. I had prepared a few bullet points to be projected on the screen to remind me of what I wanted to say, but for some reason they never appeared, so I talked from memory. I remembered (...) all the points except one, about computing education. Since that is a very important point, I thought I would retrospectively write out an expanded version of the acceptance speech here, with the omitted point included, below, as point 3, and other parts expanded and corrected, thanks to reminders from Sussex colleagues who have read and commented on this. (shrink)
Since the 1970s AI as a science has progressively fragmented into many activities that are very narrowly focused. It is not clear that work done within these fragments can be combined in the design of a human-like integrated system – long held as one of the goals of AI as science. A strategy is proposed for reintegrating AI based around a backward-chaining analysis to produce a roadmap with partially ordered milestones, based on detailed scenarios, that everyone can agree are worth (...) achieving, even when they disagree about means. (shrink)
It is often said that the only reason why so many mischief-makers or criminals develop viruses/worms/trojan-horses that attack PCs running Windows is that there are far more PCs running Windows accessible via the internet than any other operating system.
Maybe they have been made, but I missed them because I don’t read and listen enough, as most of my energies are focused elsewhere. Apologies if this is all old hat. Don’t feel you have to read on. In case others are interested, I shall put this on my web site at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/˜axs/gov/ My main point is that it is just silly to talk so much about universities and top-up fees without putting universities in the context of a complete policy (...) on post-school education. What I am offering is not a detailed policy, but a framework for thinking about the problem. Perhaps someone has already done this but I have never heard it mentioned in any of the public debates. I suspect that’s because this top-up fees issue is not part of a coherent policy but just a sort of religious commitment to a “new way”, like other things done by this government. I start with some comments on the fees issue, then go on to talk about how to think about post-school education, distinguishing several categories that need to be separated and funded differently as part of a joined-up system. (shrink)
Note added 3 Nov 2009: Having received a number of email comments, I thought some future comments might as well be made public. If you would like to have a comment added here, please send it to me, and I'll consider adding it. Plain text or html only please -- no .doc files, pdf, etc.
CONJECTURE: Alongside the innate physical sucking reflex for obtaining milk to be digested, decomposed and used all over the body for growth, repair, and energy, there is a genetically determined information-sucking reflex, which seeks out, sucks in, and decomposes information, which is later recombined in many ways, growing the information-processing architecture and many diverse recombinable competences.
Test domains for AI can have a deep impact on research. The polyﬂap domain is proposed for testing complex AI theories about architectures, mechanisms and forms of representation involved in features of human and animal intelligence that evolved to enable perception, action, and learning in diverse environments containing things that we can perceive and manipulate, and many complex processes involving objects that differ in shape, materials, causal properties, and relations to one another. We need a test environment that is rich (...) enough to provide some of that variety of structures, processes and affordances, yet simple enough to be within reach of robotics research in the not too distant future. (shrink)
This paper rehearses some relatively old arguments about how any coherent notion of free will is not only compatible with but depends on determinism. However the mind-brain identity theory is attacked on the grounds that what makes a physical event an intended action A is that the agent interprets the physical phenomena as doing A. The paper should have referred to the monograph Intention (1957) by Elizabeth Anscombe (summarised here by Jeff Speaks), which discusses in detail the fact that (...) the same physical event can have multiple (true) descriptions, using different ontologies. (shrink)
NOTE: Neither the University of Birmingham nor the School of Computer Science is responsible for any of the views expressed here. I am grateful to both for continuing support and access to facilities. All my work is subject to a creative commons licence and may be freely copied, quoted, or used for any purpose, without charge.
Often, when people discuss the role of simplicity in science, they do not notice the trade-off between simplicity of ontology and simplicity of theory using an ontology. Einstein appears to have been emphasising simplicity of ontology (basic elements), though he might have included theory as well (basic axioms/assumptions).
What evolved first: Languages for communicating, or languages for thinking (Generalised Languages: GLs)? (PDF) http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/talks/#glang Presented to Language and Cognition Seminar, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham. 19th Oct 2007..
The implication is that the majority of universities (i.e. the ones lower in the tables) are inferior. A consequence of this is that whether such pronouncements are accurate or not they will influence decision-making in various quarters in such a way as to attract resources (through good student applications, good job applicants, funding allocations) towards a small subset of the organisations, thereby amplifying differences that already exist, or, in some cases introducing real differences in quality where previously the alleged differences (...) were spurious. (shrink)
Evolution produced many species whose members are pre-programmed with almost all the competences and knowledge they will ever need. Others appear to start with very little and learn what they need, but appearances can deceive. I conjecture that evolution produced powerful innate meta-knowledge about a class of environments containing 3- D structures and processes involving materials of many kinds. In humans and several other species these innate learning mechanisms seem initially to use exploration techniques to capture a variety of useful (...) generalisations after which there is a "phase transition" in which learnt generalisations are displaced by a new generative architecture that allows novel situations and problems to be dealt with by reasoning -- a pre-cursor to explicit mathematical theorem proving in topology, geometry, arithmetic, and kinematics. This process seems to occur in some non-human animals and in preverbal human toddlers, but is clearest in the switch from pattern-based to syntax-based language use. The discovery of non-linguistic toddler theorems has largely gone unnoticed, though Piaget investigated some of the phenomena, and creative problem solving in some other animals also provides clues. A later evolutionary development seems to have enabled humans to cope with domains that involve both regularities and exceptions, explaining "U-shaped" language learning. Only humans appear to be able to develop meta-meta-competences needed for teaching learnt "theorems" and their proofs. I'll sketch a speculative theory, present examples, and propose a research programme, reducing the 'G' in AGI, while promising increased power in return. (shrink)
When scientists discuss experimental observations, they often, unfortunately, use language that evolved for informal discourse among people engaged in every day social interaction, like this: What does the infant/child/adult/chimp/crow (etc) perceive/understand/learn/intend (etc)? What is he/she/it conscious of? What does he/she/it experience/enjoy/desire? What is he/she/it attending to? Similar comments can be made about the terminology used in many philosophical discussions about minds, cognition, language, and the relationships between evolution and learning.
Updates Open Letter to my MP: Lynne Jones Why large IT development projects are problematic The mathematics of searching for a design Richard Feynman wrote: Getting requirements right from the start is impossible Are problems unique to IT projects? Physical constraints Implications for Government policy What can be done? Some suggested prerequisites: requirements for openness A precedent for this proposal: The internet How the internet grew Implications for government policy (continued) Are some projects exceptions? Concluding Comment NOTE: Related comment..
What most people seem not to have noticed is that there's another kind of obesity, a sort of 'mental obesity' which may be causing as much harm to the nation's health -- its mental and intellectual health.
I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, If the meaning of the words "machine" and "think" are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to (...) the question, "Can machines think?" is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words. ...". (shrink)
On re-reading Appendices III and IV of my Oxford DPhil thesis "Knowing and Understanding Relations between meaning and truth, meaning and necessary truth, meaning and synthetic necessary truth", (1962), online here, I found to my surprise that several of the topics discussed below had been discussed in those two Appendices, and that the distinction between logical topography and logical geography was made in Appendix IV, discussing conceptual analysis, even though I did not use these words.
but I don't know of anyone who has documented the varieties of atheism. Unlike James I don't here attempt to collect data about what atheists say and do, and how they came by their atheism. This is, instead, an analytical paper describing how various sorts of atheistic position can arise in opposition to various sorts of theistic position. Clarity about this could help to make debates about atheism and theism more fruitful.
A related note on why European (and other) research plans will fail because of the lack of a suitable lower level education system Unjamming the education pipeline: Thoughts on educational prerequisites for an ambitious European research initiative.
This document explains, from the viewpoint of a philosopher/scientist atheist, why intelligent design should be taught alongside standard evolutionary theory. I have been very disappointed by things I have read by scientists recommending suppression of this topic, and even in one case arguing that the worst arguments in favour of ID should be collected together and refuted, which is a prescription for scientific dishonesty. An honest attack would present the best arguments, as cogently as possible, before exposing their flaws. (Something (...) I learnt from the writings of Karl Popper.). (shrink)
Many debates about consciousness appear to be endless, in part because of conceptual confusions preventing clarity as to what the issues are and what does or does not count as evidence. This makes it hard to decide what should go into a machine if it is to be described as 'conscious'. Thus, triumphant demonstrations by some AI developers may be regarded by others as proving nothing of interest because the system does not satisfy *their* definitions or requirements specifications.
Some old problems going back to Immanuel Kant (and earlier) about the nature of mathematical knowledge can be addressed in a new way by asking what sorts of developmental changes in a human child make it possible for the child to become a mathematician.
Discussions on the UKCRC and CPHC email lists about research funding, including mention of the high proportion of research time and funding budgets that goes into writing and assessing proposals recently provoked me into reviving an idea that always seems to produce shock and horror, even though I think that (with suitable refinements) it could be an excellent way to fund research, namely, using a properly designed lottery.
There are many religious scientists who misrepresent or misquote Einstein in support of their claim that there is no conflict between science and religion, and who, deliberately or out of ignorance, fail to point out that what Einstein meant by 'religion' is totally different from what most people mean, and moreover that he regards the ordinary kinds of religion as possibly only for inferior minds and inferior cultures.
I get a steady stream of enquiries about internships and a growing stream of enquiries about the possibility of doing a PhD with me. I don't answer letters from people who say they have read my home page and really want to work with me and then reveal by what they write that they have NOT read my web page and know nothing about my work. I cannot take on internship students but..
In December 2005 I was invited by a well known researcher, Carrol Izard, on emotions to contribute to a discussion by answering a few questions as briefly as possible. He asked for 'one-liners', but I was not able to comply with that condition. However, the answers were short for me!
and who has recently founded a company Numenta to develop 'a new type of computer memory system modeled after the human neocortex'. With science writer Sandra Blakeslee he wrote a book On Intelligence . I confess the book is still on my (very long) 'to be read' list, though I have read and heard quite a lot about it.
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Most philosophers appear to have ignored the distinction between the broad concept of Virtual Machine Functionalism (VMF) described in Sloman&Chrisley (2003) and the better known version of functionalism referred to there as Atomic State Functionalism (ASF), which is often given as an explanation of what Functionalism is, e.g. in Block (1995). -/- One of the main differences is that ASF encourages talk of supervenience of states and properties, whereas VMF requires supervenience of machines that are arbitrarily complex networks of causally (...) interacting (virtual, but real) processes, possibly operating on different time-scales, examples of which include many different procesess usually running concurrently on a modern computer performing various tasks concerned with handling interfaces to physical devices, managing the file system, dealing with security, providing tools, entertainments, and games, and possibly processing research data. Another example of VMF would be the kind of functionalism involved in a large collection of possibly changing socio-economic structures and processes interacting in a complex community, and yet another is illustrated by the kind of virtual machinery involved in the many levels of visual processing of information about spatial structures, processes, and relationships (including percepts of moving shadows, reflections, highlights, optical-flow patterns and changing affordances) as you walk through a crowded car-park on a sunny day: generating a whole zoo of interacting qualia. (Forget solitary red patches, or experiences thereof.) -/- Perhaps VMF should be re-labelled "Virtual MachinERY Functionalism" because the word 'machinery' more readily suggests something complex with interacting parts. VMF is concerned with virtual machines that are made up of interacting concurrently active (but not necessarily synchronised) chunks of virtual machinery which not only interact with one another and with their physical substrates (which may be partly shared, and also frequently modified by garbage collection, metabolism, or whatever) but can also concurrently interact with and refer to various things in the immediate and remote environment (via sensory/motor channels, and possible future technologies also). I.e. virtual machinery can include mechanisms that create and manipulate semantic content, not only syntactive structures or bit patterns as digital virtual machines do. (shrink)