[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment

John Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Fri Feb 5 16:04:28 UTC 2010

>> Stripped to its essentials intentionality means someone or something that can change its internal state, a state that predisposes it to do one thing rather than another; or at least that's what I mean by the word. I like it because it lacks circularity.

>> The Avantguardian

> While I understand your dislike of circularity, the definition you give is far too broad. Almost everything has an internal state that can be changed. The discovery of this and the mathematics behind it made Ludwig Boltzmann famous.

You are making my case for me! Certainly looking at things that way proved to be very productive indeed for Mr. Boltzmann. 

> A rock has a temperature which is an "internal state". If the temperature of the rock is higher than that of its surroundings, its internal state predisposes the rock to cool down.

I have no problem with that, if it's good enough for Boltzmann it's good enough for me.

> evolution by natural selection is based on a circular argument as well. Species evolve by the differential survival and reproduction of the fittest members of the species.

The circularity is in the redundant nature of your sentence not in the Theory of Evolution; it could be better stated just by saying "Species evolve by differential survival". And even then it would only be 50% true because it says nothing about random mutation. And speaking of Evolution, I have pointed out many times that Gordon's ideas are totally incompatible with Darwin's, nobody has disputed this but they just shrug and continue to argue about some arcane point in his latest thought experiment. I don't get it. 

> all software currently in existence exhibits only the intentionality of the programmer and not any native or implicit intentionality of its own.

You are advising us in the above to get right back on the good old circular express; I believe that looking at things that way will bring us about as much enlightenment as Gordon has given us in the last month or so. I also think you are making an error in assuming that intentionality is an all or nothing thing. Yes a Turing Machine finding a zero or a one may seem simple and un-mysterious compared with our deepest desires, but as I said before that is in the very nature of explanations, or at least it is of good ones.

> The way of reductionism is fraught with the peril of oversimplification.

For some reason nowadays it's very fashionable to bad mouth reductionism, but it is at the heart of nearly every scientific discovery made in the last 500 years; waiting until you understand everything before you try to understand anything has not proven to be productive. If you refuse to break down consciousness into smaller easier to understand parts you are doomed to circularity as Gordon has ably demonstrated. 

> I prefer empiricaI science to philosophy.

Me too.

> I think experimentation is the only hope of settling this argument.

But that would not change Gordon's mind, he specifically said that no matter what a robot did, no matter how brilliantly it behaved he would not treat it as conscious because... well... because it's a robot. What really got me was that the other day he had the gall to mention the word "Evolution".

 John K Clark 


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