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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 17, 2008
I have a friend that came up with the following philosophy: Reality is stupid, therefore the only way to fully experience reality is to experience stupidity. In that case, all of us who are taking all this spagetti logic seriously, rather than just discuss about it because there's nothing better to do, are fully experiencing reality. Hahahahahahahahahaha, cough, gasp, choke, thump.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
I have a friend that came up with the following philosophy: Reality is stupid, therefore the only way to fully experience reality is to experience stupidity. In that case, all of us who are taking all this spagetti logic seriously, rather than just discuss about it because there's nothing better to do, are fully experiencing reality. Hahahahahahahahahaha, cough, gasp, choke, thump.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
I have a friend that came up with the following philosophy: Reality is stupid, therefore the only way to fully experience reality is to experience stupidity. In that case, all of us who are taking all this spagetti logic seriously, rather than just discuss about it because there's nothing better to do, are fully experiencing reality. Hahahahahahahahahaha, cough, gasp, choke, thump.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
Exactly Scott. I think you're starting to see what I have tried to explain before, though I'm not sure I explained it well in the past, and I'm not sure you're going to like it. The flaw in this whole discussion is found in the premise that there are only two categories. I'd like to make a brief argument as to why there cannot be only two categories. First, let's examine what is true if either of the options you place here are true.

Let's assume for a second that the world is basically determined by randomness. In other words, every person is simply living along the chain of causality. If this is true, then it encompasses every aspect of our lives. Our beliefs, emotions, thoughts - all of it would simply be determined by our context in the causal chain of events. As an example, let's think about evolution. The person who believed that evolution is true would only think that because the random chain of events taking place prior to them led to them thinking that way. Likewise, the one who thought it to be false would be under the same situation. So it would be foolish for either of them to argue against the other one - they are simply doing what they were determined to do by the random events prior to them. Obviously, as you pointed out yourself, the case is the same if they are programmed to think in a certain way. Even if person X was programmed to correctly interpret reality (i.e. to know what is true) there would be no way for that person to know that they were programmed that way, and there would be no way for person Y to know that they were programmed to falsely interpret reality. And either way, this could not really be called intelligence. And if it's true that intelligence is an illusion, then the illusion of it falls under one of these categories at the very least.

But intelligence can't be an illusion. Denying the existence of intelligence isn't exactly the best way to make an argument is it? It's self-refuting - you need intelligence to be real in order to make any sort of sensible argument to begin with. So what would allow for such intelligence if not randomness and not programming?

What I would argue is that there is only one option for how intelligence and knowledge of truth can exist, and that is via free will. Free will allows for something vital to knowledge to take place. That is, it allows for us to examine the world independent of our context. Even if our context leaves us with great personal bias, we can still examine the world for what it is, and decide on a truth that we may not even like.

So in the end, that is the problem I see - intelligence can't exist under one of those two categories, but the premise that there are only two categories is false. And in fact, trying to prove that those two categories are the only two categories is self-defeating, since it destroys the very thing it needs to prove itself. Free will is real - it is by far the best way to make sense of many aspects of the world.
 
 
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Nov 17, 2008
I think that there is no such thing as intellingence. How we judge competance is based on a person's resistance to ignorance. (Wow, that actually sounded deep!)
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
Scott, as a christian, I believe that the creationist view is not generally accepted because of the suppression of evidence, not the lack of it. You better watch out or your reasoning may lead you to believe in God :-). In fact, even current evolutionary scientist believe that the universe came from nothing (in reference to your last post). I really don't know how we can argue about if intelligence exists or not. When you argue, is that not intelligent? When you draw a cartoon, is that not intelligent? How could non-intelligent beings build complex things - irreducibly complex things, nonetheless. No matter how many years you give the world, it will never create a car on its own. What is more complex, a car or a cell? Do you have any idea how complex the simplest cell in existence is? It is much more complex than a car, or at least...a toaster. Is it a stretch to say, as with the car, that no matter how many years you give the world, it will never create a cell on its own? Besides, there are many other examples of irreducibly complex systems. I have much more to say, but if I write any further "the length of this document will protect it from its being read."
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
The alarm clock goes off at the time you specify, just as predicted. That makes it arguably more intelligent than most humans, who are far less predictable and reliable... assuming you define intelligent in terms similar to "performing a useful, goal-directed action in a given context."
 
 
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Nov 17, 2008
Life is neither random nor programmed. It is self-organizing. Intelligence is one aspect of that self organization.

If everything was random we'd all be drifting toward heat death, absolute entropy.

If everything was programmed, it would have broken down already (after 13 billion years) and it would join the same progression as the fully random universe.

However, life is different. Life absorbs energy and creates organized islands amid the general randomness. Intelligence is another aspect or level of that self-organization.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
Both are programs, but both are subject to the incursion of random events. Just a small drop of chaos in an otherwise neat and tidy universe/brain/computer etc.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
I'm continually amused, intrigued and irritated (not necessarily in that order) about your blog readers comments. But I love that we all have the freedom to think as we will and to speak those self owned truths.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
This is a false dichotomy. Nature is neither "random" nor "deterministic."

It is probabilistic.

Biology, for example, often relies on the stochastic interaction of proteins bouncing into each other. This is a "random" process, but biology constrains the event by changing the number and location of the proteins.

So, the system is "designed" to achieve a desired outcome, but you don't get the exact same response every time.

A given stimulus will occasionally elicit a different response from the organism. This might kill the organism, but the organism might also learn from the event.

This appears to be a feature of the fabric of the universe. Quantum mechanics is inherently weird. It's neither random, nor obviously pre-determined.

So, yes, this could all be part of some elaborate hoax played on our intelligence. Or, it's just a feature of nature. You don't get the exact same response every time you run the simulation.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
What's intelligence (or random and programmed for that matter)?

Why is "condition" immediately replaced by "action" in the next sentence? Are they the same?

It all seems rather incomplete to me.


However for those convinced by the argument: on my stove there are 2 pots. One has cold water and one has warm water. "So if there are only two possibilites" -- cold and warm, do you want to put your hand in the 3rd pot?
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
@notbugme:

You make several logical flaws in your argument. The first is you miss the fact that god = programmed. The second is being "certain" that the argument is wrong. It may feel wrong, but it still must be proven to be wrong. The third is that if the premise is faulty, there is only a third option. There truth is there could be many more options. So even if you called the third option "god" (which I've always defined as being false), as a religious individual, what do you call options four to infinity? Finally, since I have shown that there are many possible options, the burden of proof that "god" is the correct answer is on you. Apparently you missed a couple of days in school when scientific proofs were discussed.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
Hmm, it seems a bit strange to say "right, someone says everything is either A or B, now, let's assume that's true, and take a third thing, which I'll define in such a way that it can't be either A or B, and you tell me what it is!"

That said, just to play along, I say that it could be A B. Intelligence could be the sum total of some programmed *and* some random elements.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
There are two types of people in this world,
those that divide people into two types
and those that don't.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
So --- which do you want me to cut off: your right leg or your left leg?

You start to go wrong with yer own ASSumption that it's either/or, programmed or random. After that slide, accurate thinking is just too far out of reach.

Thanks for the commentator's mention of Wikipedia's false_dichotomy listing; I had the concept without knowing someone had named it!

 
 
Nov 17, 2008
A few problems with this hypothesis. First, the oversimplification of the universe into 2 types of conditions. Second, deciding that intelligence is a condition, and not something else, like a characteristic. Is Blue a condition? Is Blue programmed or random? Maybe it's just a characteristic, not a condition, and maybe saying that there are only two conditions for the universe is wrong.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
"Necessary but not sufficient" is the best way to begin approaching the orderedness (this is a better way to approach the issue than "programmedness") of intelligence. There's also many orders of complexity between the brain and an alarm clock - mmight we call such a device more intelligent than a rock? Maybe.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
Intelligence, if it exists, would be in its own category. Saying that something must be either programmed or random works just fine if you can prove that no category outside of them called "intelligence" exists, but an analysis using that dilemma as a central supposition cannot be used to prove it one way or the other.
 
 
Nov 17, 2008
This is why I love reading your posts daily. Nowhere else do I get to hear a "new" thought.

I'd have to agree with an earlier commenter that those two options must not be the only ones. It doesn't compute.

How about an intelligent design, where evolution (adaptation), is planned but the exact path is not really known? ie. Design something as a game that will evolve, and not know whether (or when) it will evolve into the destruction of itself or the achievement beyond your expectations?
 
 
 
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