Thursday, July 26, 2018

Things shared by the simulation argument and superintelligence, a deconstruction

By simulation argument I mean the argument that suggests that we are living in a computer simulation created by a race of super-intelligent Orchestrators (my term).

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The Orchestrator
By superintelligence I mean, of course, a superintelligent machine. An optional extension is that this superintelligent machine may also harbor ill will toward humans.

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Malevolent Superintelligence
Both arguments assume that what’s essential is sufficient computing capacity, CPU cycles and memory space.

capacity + magic = {superintelligence or simulation}

Let’s put the magic off to one side; I don’t care about that, though Mickey up there sure does. Magic’s what made his dream come true. And, alas, physical reality, in the form of water, is what crashed it.

Both arguments trivialize the physical world. As I argued yesterday, Bostrom’s argument is all about simulating minds. That’s his main and all-but-only concern. And of course, if you’re going to simulate human history, then you have to simulate minds. Can’t avoid it. He treats the physical world as, at best, an optional accessory for the minds. Big mistake.

The argument for superintelligence is somewhat different. But it tacitly assumes that a mind can be built directly (and, I might add, from the “outside”). That’s not how human minds are built. They’re built through a process of interacting with the environment (and they’re built from the “inside”), where the mind starts the minimal capacities, devoted mostly to feeding and human interaction, an emerges through interacting with the world as more and more capacity (neurons) mature and brought “on line”. A robust physical environment is thus critical to development. Interaction with the external (physical) world is where the mind gets so-called “common sense” knowledge, the missing ingredient in AI.

Now, the thing is, one thing my teacher, David Hays (computational linguist), emphasized to me, is that computing, real computing not abstract theory, is a physical process. It takes place in time and requires physical memory. Of course the simulationists and superintelligencers make that central to their argument; in deed that’s almost the only thing in their argument that’s explicit. The rest is magic. Neither Hays nor I ever believed that the physicality of computing is somehow apart from physicality in general. Not so with the Supers.

Are they stuck in Never Never Land?

* * * * *

And just why, you might ask, is this a deconstruction. Not because I argue against the Supers. Alas, that's not what deconstruction is, though that's what the word has devolved to. No, it's a deconstruction because I take a central feature of both arguments, the availability of physical capacity for computing, and show that the arguments work through a denial of physicality in a larger sense.

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