I'm amused by things that almost make sense but don't. Arguably, that's the basis of all humor. Humor works best when there is some truth in it while still being an exaggeration into the realm of nonsense. It's the juxtaposition of truth and nonsense that triggers the brain hiccup called laughter.

I was reminded of this by a comment on this blog from Jengineer. Her argument was a bit different than the one I am about to make, but it sparked the following thought: There are only two conditions in the universe: Programmed or random. In other words, action is either a simple chain of cause and effect, or it is somehow immune to cause and effect.

Intelligence can't be random. That would be the opposite of intelligence. But intelligence also can't be programmed, for if that were allowed, your alarm clock would be called intelligent, and obviously it isn't.

So if there are only two possibilites -- programmed or random -- and intelligence can be neither then intelligence must not exist. It must be an illusion.

The thing that amuses me about that argument is that I'm sure it is wrong, but I don't know why. And that is further evidence that intelligence is an illusion. At least my own.

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Nov 30, 2008
Interesting thought process, but there is a logical flaw. You state that intelligence can't be considered programmable, because then an alarm clock would be considered to have intelligence. This makes the mistaken assumption that if intelligence is programmable, then everything programmable must have intelligence. It is possible that intelligence is a subset of programmable (or better stated, intelligence is based on cause-and-effect). Stating that the two are equivalent makes as much sense as saying that since pregnancy and alarm clocks are both programmable (or cause-and-effect based), then alarm clocks must also be responsible for bringing new life into the world.
Nov 24, 2008
The problem is, true randomness simply does not exist, only an incomprehensible number of variables in the cause and effect program so as to boggle our minds, forcing us to create a new word for aspects of our existence which exhibit this mind-boggledness:


So yes, intelligence is programmed, we just can't understand the programming, hence we call it random. Or you could say your alarm clock is random, it's just so very low on the random-scale that we can understand it, either way.
Nov 19, 2008
The problem with intelligence is that is overridden by "free will", or rather, our lack thereof. Intelligence is random, as our programmed actions beat up and subdue most of the other thoughts in our heads. Everyone has those moments where they do something out of character, and an awful lot of movies pin their culminations on the moment of 'intelligence' when the baddie turns good just in time to save the hero, city, damsel in distress, etc.

'Course, you could argue that those moments are purely emotional, but emotions and intelligence would have to be pretty tied up. After all, we only have the one head and it all has to live in there together.

Not sure that made any sense outside my head - it looked better from the inside...
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Nov 19, 2008
Have you thought of it this way? May be intelligence can be programmed but not necessarily its programmable by human beings.
Nov 19, 2008
Think about smart products. They are considered 'smart' until they are out-dated, and they they are just 'products.' If the 'non-random' is sufficiently complicated, it takes a long time before it's not considered smart (intelligent), and that can only happen when something better comes along. Until something smarter than a human comes along, humans will be ocnsidered intelligent.

Also, she made a mistake in suggesting that intelligence would have to be either random or non-random. It's more likely to be a combination of both in different components of intelligence (just as artificial intelligence can randomly select a strategy to seem creative).
Nov 18, 2008
How abstract. We're all kind of guessing and giving on spin on things.

"I'm happy the elections are over." Someone said above. Ahhh, unless you have a contested election. I suspect as far as I am concerned the senate election for this state will be over the day alzheimers kicks in for me or I die. It doesn't end even once someone is sworn in for office.

My take on it is simply that we don't know enough about anything, except how to live our individual lifes and to some extent work together to further our know, but the road is long and the learning curve is steep to make progress.

I sometimes think we're fascinated because we have theories and beliefs, but we don't really know. It's like watching a children's magician. If you know things can't disappear because a human wills it, we know the answer is something we did not detect happened and it's a clever trick. However, when I was 8 and I didn't have that knowledge, it had to be magic to me.

If I tell my grandson when he's 4; "Grandpa bought you a pony and Grandma killed it." He's going to look at Grandma a lot differently and be afraid. But if I waited until a certain point and said that, the response would be, "Sure grandpa, why don't you go back to the internet, you crazy old coot." What's interesting is the places we are in between those two responses. I think as a species we're in between accepting what we see and hear in our universe and knowing what's really going on.
Nov 18, 2008
I'm glad the elections are over, because your blogs are finally interesting again. Sorry, but all your rants about Obama and McCain being decent people didn't seem "intelligent".
Nov 18, 2008
cf. false dichotomy
Nov 18, 2008
i was talking to my husband about the robot post and this is the copy of the email i sent him:

"you have to get past the absurdity of it to realize the question he's actually asking. if something that was "programmed" to do something does it, does that qualify as intelligence. and i'd say no, the robot wouldn't be an intelligent designer, who or whatever was responsible for the creation of the robot and the writing of the program would be the designer. so now you're back to square one again. did an intelligent engineer build and program this robot god or did the incredible complexities happen by chance. he's obfuscating the question by inserting an additional ridiculous layer to get you to not think about it in the terms you've been taught and accustomed to and to actually rationally think out what your response to the scenario is. i find it to be a rather creative and brilliant and fun."

the flaw in the programmed vs random theory is that either we're all just moist robots that are following a program (whether you think it's random in origin or designed) and thus no more intelligent than an alarm clock, or there's a third option, free will, the ability to choose to violate our programming. that's what separates us from alarm clocks and robots.
Nov 18, 2008
The only logical choice is that there is another classification, which could be called intelligence. But, for that to work, there must be free will.

I used to dither about the existence of free will. Then I heard a story about someone lecturing on the topic. He told the audience to assume that he believed that there was no free will. But, if there isn't, then his belief in the lack of free will is pre-determined. And if it is pre-determined, then it has no requirement to be based in truth. It would be like a parrot repeating a phrase but not understanding it.

Now, if you plug that concept into your theory, it follows that unless there is free will, there is no intelligence.

One could argue that although there is free will, it seems to not be used very often.
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Nov 18, 2008
OK, this is two days running the blog has followed the format of:

- Premise which is abstract to the point of almost being meaningless
- Logical development of premise, albeit with sinking feeling that there is a big hole in it I am not clever enough to spot
- Conclusion which makes bold claim/conclusion, albeit with sinking feeling that whichever option I choose to agree with is wrong.

I have no problem dealing with abstract concepts with little relation to the real world (I have a degree in economics myself - haha), but I find it hard to connect with these sort of posts.

I am not sure if this means Mr Adams, that us lesser mortals just simply aren't in tune with what you are free to ponder while you are sitting atop Maslow's pyramid, or alternately, if I am just not as intelligent as I thought I was.
Nov 18, 2008
I've had this discussion several times before.

First of all, I would like to say that like you've said, intelligence does not exist. But why not? Because it is an umbrella term that can describe a plethora of items that differ from one person to the next. Generally, most of us would formulate in our brains the concept of "intelligent" whenever there is something that functions miraculously; i.e. in a way that we do not understand.

So let's say that the "intelligent" thing itself find a third thing that functions miraculously, then we'd have an intelligent thing that finds something else intelligent; presumably even more so than the first person. Let's say that this is a hierarchy that goes to infinity... Woah, anyone see a social hierarchy here?

My friends consider me intelligent for many things I do that they can't. However, I often find these things to be clockwork. Similarly, when I inquire to others about things which make me think them intelligent, I find I get similar shrugs of clockwork. Is that it? That intelligence is but a mutually observed respect for our respective places (i.e. respective functions) in the social mosaic? That's not for me to answer.
Nov 17, 2008
It is a frequent misconception that randomness is not following rules - randomness and determinism are just two sides of the same coin, and the difference we see is an illusion.

The real two ways of things happening are those that we comprehend because we would do them the same way, and those we don't comprehend because we would'nt.

Oh, and that limited illusionary way of thinking about nature is called - you guessed it - intelligence.

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Nov 17, 2008
oops, I missed off the "but I don'k know why" from the quote.
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Nov 17, 2008
"The thing that amuses me about that argument is that I'm sure it is wrong,"

I'm not sure I believe that since the errors are so glaringly obvious. You have a false dichotomy, a false sylogism and you are begging the question.
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Nov 17, 2008
Actually, when something does not make sense but seems like it does is called a Mondo, not to be confused with words in other languages. There are many famous Mondos in the world as well as not so famous ones. An example of a Mondo can be found in the Principia Discordia: "The whole world can tell a snake from a dragon, but you cannot fool a Zen monk." Many will argue why this makes sense, and the more you read it and think about it, the more your mind tries to force it to make sense.

So basically, the idea that there are only two possibilities is a Mondo. It almost makes sense, but it just doesn't.
Nov 17, 2008
What if intelligence was programmed to 'behave' randomly.. After all, if you take a large enough population's response, its bound to follow a random order

The problem of course, is this, that the issue has to be one which is not influenced by any kind of social norm or upbringing.. Which is not really possible, unless the population is tested on novel but really minor and insignificant issues or yes / no questions, which doesn't solve the purpose
Nov 17, 2008
There is a logical fallacy in the argument. You state that intelligence cannot be programmed, because an alarm clock is programmed and not intelligent. Intelligence being programmed does not imply that all programmed things are intelligent. This is akin to saying bananas are not fruits, because apples are fruits and they are obviously not bananas.
Since your argument is incorrect I would have to say that it is not intelligent, and probably bananas.

Nov 17, 2008
I think that intelligence does not exist (and for that matter consciousness also does not exist). To see this consider what evidence we have for the existence of either. The evidence rests entirely (and necessarily so) on the very organism that claims that intelligence and or consciousness exist and that (this) organism has that attribute. The problem is that the organism is forced to look at itself when it makes this claim. There is no evidence that a self referential claim ever has any credibility in any sense other than some meta sense. I think the most that can be claimed is that humans are modeling engines who just constantly model their sensory inputs in order to navigate their environment without bumping into walls or walking off cliffs. To claim any more is to make a meta argument and does surely doom you to quickly spiral into a paradoxical state. This does not preclude making models of everything, including intelligence and or consciousness but it does preclude claiming some sort of existence of the actual objects themselves.
Nov 17, 2008
Dear Scott

You often express belief in a "kid in a garage" at will find “out of the box” solutions to important problems, well not only kids have garages, take a look at what a “adult” can dream up:

see http://www.wjetech.50webs.com/afasp.htm

Looks crazy but will be tested.
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