Monday 14 March 2016

Gen 1:3 and logic said: Anthropomorphising Logic

Remove the Goggles, and God is logic. So why is he sometimes described as a person?

We can show mathematically that logic has preferences: it prefers some outcomes to others, But this does not capture how it feels to be part of the universe, and to rely on it for our needs. So it helps if we personify logic: to say "logic says this", or "logic wants that".

This is exactly the same reason why we personify ourselves. What, after all, is a person? A person is a pile of atoms interacting in vastly complicated ways. But the only practical everyday way to think of ourselves is by describing feelings and desires.

All highly complex systems are best understood in terms of emotions and needs.Take computers for example:
[M]ost hackers anthropomorphize freely, frequently describing program behaviour in terms of wants and desires. Thus it is common to hear hardware or software talked about as though it has homunculi talking to each other inside it, with intentions and desires. Thus, one hears The protocol handler got confused , or that programs are trying to do things, or one may say of a routine that its goal in life is to X . Or: You can't run those two cards on the same bus; they fight over interrupt 9. One even hears explanations like ... and its poor little brain couldn't understand X, and it died. [...] 
As hackers are among the people who know best how these phenomena work, it seems odd that they would use language that seems to ascribe consciousness to them. 
[...H]ackers who anthropomorphize are expressing not a vitalistic view of program behaviour but a mechanistic view of human behaviour. Almost all hackers subscribe to the mechanistic, materialistic ontology of science (this is in practice true even of most of the minority with contrary religious theories). In this view, people are biological machines - consciousness is an interesting and valuable epiphenomenon, but mind is implemented in machinery which is not fundamentally different in information-processing capacity from computers. 
Hackers tend to take this a step further and argue that the difference between a substrate of CHON atoms and water and a substrate of silicon and metal is a relatively unimportant one; what matters, what makes a thing `alive', is information and richness of pattern. This is animism from the flip side; it implies that humans and computers and dolphins and rocks are all machines exhibiting a continuum of modes of `consciousness' according to their information-processing capacity. 
Because hackers accept that a human machine can have intentions, it is therefore easy for them to ascribe consciousness and intention to complex patterned systems such as computers. If consciousness is mechanical, it is neither more or less absurd to say that The program wants to go into an infinite loop than it is to say that I want to go eat some chocolate - and even defensible to say that The stone, once dropped, wants to move towards the centre of the earth . 
This viewpoint has respectable company in academic philosophy. [The quote then refers to the teachings of the influential philosopher Daniel Dennett.]
(From The New Hacker's Dictionary)
Those who understand computers the best are most likely to treat them as being conscious. Similarly, those who know humans best are most likely to treat them as conscious, even though consciousness is "nothing but" chemical processes. Consciousness is the most useful and therefore the best way to understand people, computers, and all complex systems, including (and especially) the logic of the universe itself.

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