Microphysical laws are time reversible, but macrophysics, chemistry and biology are not. This paper explores how this asymmetry arises due to the cosmological context, where a non-local Direction of Time is imposed by the expansion of the universe. This situation is best represented by an Evolving Block Universe, where local arrows of time emerge in concordance with the Direction of Time because a global Past Condition results in the Second Law of Thermodynamics pointing to the future. At the quantum level, (...) the indefinite future changes to the definite past due to quantum wave function collapse events. (shrink)
The causal closure of physics is usually discussed in a context free way. Here I discuss it in the context of engineering systems and biology, where strong emergence takes place due to a combination of upwards emergence and downwards causation. Firstly, I show that causal closure is strictly limited in terms of spatial interactions because these are cases that are of necessity strongly interacting with the environment. Effective Spatial Closure holds ceteris parabus, and can be violated by Black Swan Events. (...) Secondly, I show that causal closure in the hierarchy of emergence is a strictly interlevel affair, and in the cases of engineering and biology encompasses all levels from the social level to the particle physics level. However Effective Causal Closure can usefully be defined for a restricted set of levels, and one can experimentally determine Effective Theories that hold at each level. This does not however imply those effective theories are causally complete by themselves. In particular, the particle physics level is not causally complete by itself in the contexts of solid state physics, digital computers, or biology. Furthermore Inextricably Intertwined Levels occur in all these contexts. (shrink)
It has been just over 100 years since the birth of Alan Turing and more than 65 years since he published in Mind his seminal paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence. In the Mind paper, Turing asked a number of questions, including whether computers could ever be said to have the power of “thinking”. Turing also set up a number of criteria—including his imitation game—under which a human could judge whether a computer could be said to be “intelligent”. Turing’s paper, as (...) well as his important mathematical and computational insights of the 1930s and 1940s led to his popular acclaim as the “Father of Artificial Intelligence”. In the years since his paper was published, however, no computational system has fully satisfied Turing’s challenge. In this paper we focus on a different question, ignored in, but inspired by Turing’s work: How might the Artificial Intelligence practitioner implement “intelligence” on a computational device? Over the past 60 years, although the AI community has not produced a general-purpose computational intelligence, it has constructed a large number of important artifacts, as well as taken several philosophical stances able to shed light on the nature and implementation of intelligence. This paper contends that the construction of any human artifact includes an implicit epistemic stance. In AI this stance is found in commitments to particular knowledge representations and search strategies that lead to a product’s successes as well as its limitations. Finally, we suggest that computational and human intelligence are two different natural kinds, in the philosophical sense, and elaborate on this point in the conclusion. (shrink)
Physics and chemistry underlie the nature of all the world around us, including human brains. Consequently some suggest that in causal terms, physics is all there is. However, we live in an environment dominated by objects embodying the outcomes of intentional design (buildings, computers, teaspoons). The present day subject of physics has nothing to say about the intentionality resulting in existence of such objects, even though this intentionality is clearly causally effective. This paper examines the claim that the underlying physics (...) uniquely causally determines what happens, even though we cannot predict the outcome. It suggests that what occurs is the contextual emergence of complexity: the higher levels in the hierarchy of complexity have autonomous causal powers, functionally independent of lower level processes. This is possible because top-down causation takes place as well as bottom-up action, with higher level contexts determining the outcome of lower level functioning and even modifying the nature of lower level constituents. Stored information plays a key role, resulting in non-linear dynamics that is non-local in space and time. Brain functioning is causally affected by abstractions such as the value of money and the theory of the laser. These are realised as brain states in individuals, but are not equivalent to them. Consequently physics per se cannot causally determine the outcome of human creativity, rather it creates the possibility space allowing human intelligence to function autonomously. The challenge to physics is to develop a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures, with top-down causation and memory effects allowing autonomous higher levels of order to emerge with genuine causal powers. (shrink)
Brain evolution is a complex weave of species similarities and differences, bound by diverse rules and principles. This book is a detailed examination of these principles, using data from a wide array of vertebrates but minimizing technical details and terminology. It is written for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and more senior scientists who already know something about “the brain,” but want a deeper understanding of how diverse brains evolved. The book's central theme is that evolutionary changes in absolute brain size (...) tend to correlate with many other aspects of brain structure and function, including the proportional size of individual brain regions, their complexity, and their neuronal connections. To explain these correlations, the book delves into rules of brain development and asks how changes in brain structure impact function and behavior. Two chapters focus specifically on how mammal brains diverged from other brains and how Homo sapiens evolved a very large and “special” brain. Key Words: basal ganglia; cladistics; development; hippocampus; homology; lamination; mammal; neocortex; neuromere; parcellation; primate. (shrink)
Agroecology has been criticized for being more labor-intensive than other more industrialized forms of agriculture. We challenge the assertion that labor input in agriculture has to be generally minimized and argue that besides quantity of work one should also consider the quality of work involved in farming. Early assessments on work quality condemned the deskilling of the rural workforce, whereas later criticisms have concentrated around issues related to fair trade and food sovereignty. We bring into the discussion the concept of (...) contributive justice to welcome the added labor-intensity of agroecological farming. Contributive justice demands a work environment where people are stimulated to develop skills and learn to be productive. It also suggests a fairer distribution of meaningful work and tedious tasks. Building on the notion of contributive justice we explore which capabilities and types of social relationships are sustainably promoted and reinforced by agroecological farming practices. We argue that agroecological principles encourage a reconceptualization of farm work. Farmers are continuously stimulated to develop skills and acquire valuable experiential knowledge on local ecosystems and agricultural techniques. Further, generalized ecological studies recognize the significance of the farmer’s observations on natural resources management. This contributes to the development of a number of capabilities and leads to more bargaining power, facilitating self-determination. Hereby farm work is made more attractive to a younger generation, which is an essential factor for safeguarding the continuity of family farms. (shrink)
Plato pays little attention to the third class in his ideal city, regarding them as raw material on which the Guardians exercise their art. But modern criticism is interested in them, for upon their treatment and opportunities our judgement of Plato's city partly depends. They are the great mass of the people, and centuries of Christian equalitarianism have made us regard their welfare as an important criterion of the city's value.
ABSTRACT Benjamin Page's thoughtful critique of my book, The Illusion of Public Opinion, strives to reassure readers that all is well?despite the book's extensive documentation of measurement?error artifacts in numerous public opinion surveys. Page's own careful polling practices are not followed outside of elite academic survey centers. Moreover, even in such well?run surveys, the respondents are often ignorant of the issues being probed. The fact that nonrandom reasons of some sort must be determining on?the?spot survey responses may allow us to (...) call the respondents ?rational? in a loose sense. But the responses still don't represent actual opinions about the specific policy issues being probed?let alone well?informed answers. Finally, while Page argues that measurement errors are most likely random, and should cancel out in the aggregate, the ?miracle of aggregation? doesn't occur when the form, wording, and context of questions varies from survey to survey. And even when wording and context are held constant, the respondents' understanding of the same words can vary dramatically or subtly over time, due to new political events and their changing interpretation. (shrink)
Contextual emergence was originally proposed as an inter-level relation between different levels of description to describe an epistemic notion of emergence in physics. Here, we discuss the ontic extension of this relation to different domains or levels of physical reality using the properties of temperature and molecular shape as detailed case studies. We emphasize the concepts of stability conditions and multiple realizability as key features of contextual emergence. Some broader implications contextual emergence has for the foundations of physics and cognitive (...) and neural sciences are given in the concluding discussion. Relevant facts about algebras of observables are found in the appendices along with an abstract definition of Kubo-Martin-Schwinger states. (shrink)
This question as to whether machines can, or could, be made to think, has become familiar in recent years since the renewed outburst of interest that has taken place in the development of Cybernetics. The notion of servo–mechanisms and the like has a history in remote antiquity but the form of its fundamental question has recently taken on a new and especially acute significance.
William Harper presents five reasons for concluding that God should be referred to exclusively in male terms. To the contrary, I argue that: (1) by devaluating the feminine gender, Harper is guilty of the same reductionist and dichotomous thinking as his protagonists, (2) Harper’s view of God is contrary to “the Biblical example,” and (3) Harper’s position rests on a number of logical confusions. I conclude that Harper’s view should be rejected by both men and women of Christian convictions.