>From Osher Doctorow [EMAIL PROTECTED], Sat. Nov. 30, 2002 1005
I agree generally with Tim May on mathematics and physics vs computers and
AI. My most amusing example is something of a Jonathon Swift parody of all
four of these fields. Gulliver lands on an island inhabited by
mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists/computer engineers, and AI
people, all competing. He notices that they all rushing ahead to greater
and greater complication and complexity and so on, and it occurs to him that
this might be their weak point. Could they all have overlooked something
simple [question-mark]. He discovers, as it so happens that I discovered
some 20 or so years ago, that they are all using division and multiplication
to formulate relationships involving influence and causation [I omit
calculus limits for those unfamiliar with them], and minimally using
subtraction and addition. Gulliver then reformulates all of their theories
using subtraction and/or addition, and it turns out that all of the
resulting theories are completely different from the old ones. Not one
person among all the island's so-called geniuses had come up with the very
tiny idea of changing from division/multiplication to subtraction/addition
in all of their work. Upon presenting this fact to the gathered people of
the island, the people debate for a long time, and then decide that Gulliver
knows more, so they decide to drop their entire four fields and start all
over again much more slowly, this time not racing to greater complication
before analyzing the simple concepts that they are using. The name Socrates
is mentioned as an example. The predictions of several popular science
writers on the island such as Professor Kaku to the effect that computers
are going to almost literally swamp everything else are accordingly
considerably modified to say the least.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tim May" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2002 2:37 PM
Subject: Alien science
> On Saturday, November 30, 2002, at 01:32 PM, Ben Goertzel wrote:
> >> ...
> > I think this is certainly a plausible prediction of the future, but I
> > see it
> > as an unlikely one.
> > I think that intelligent software programs will be brought into
> > existence
> > within the next 10-50 years, and that among other effects, this will
> > cause a
> > physics revolution. Furthermore, it will be a revolution in a
> > direction now
> > wholly unanticipated.
> It will be interesting and exciting if you are right, but I think the
> kind of AI you describe above and below is further off than 10-30
> years, though perhaps not 50 years.
> > Right now we analyze data about the microworld in a very crude way.
> > For
> > example, we scan Fermilab data for "events" -- but what about all the
> > other
> > data that isn't "events" but contains meaningful patterns?
> > Create an AI mind whose sensors and actuators are quantum level, and
> > allow
> > it to form its own hypotheses, ideas, concepts, ontologies.... Do you
> > really think it's going to come up with anything as awkward and
> > overcomplex
> > as our current physics theories?
> I have no idea. True, it may come up with all sorts of weird theories.
> But, absent new experimental evidence, will these new theories actually
> tell us anything new?
> Your point about AIs exploring physics is an interesting one. And you
> are right that Egan has his AIs, his uploaded Orlandos and even his
> computer-produced Yatima, looking very much like humans. Not at all
> like the "Entities" of Vinge's "Deepness," Zindell's "Neverness," or
> Stephenson's "Hyperion" series. But let us imagine that an advanced AI
> were to be turned loose on a Newtonian world. I can well imagine that
> such an entity, left to its own devices, might come up with weird names
> for inertia, mass, friction, etc. Perhaps even synthetic combinations
> of what we take to be the basic vectors of classical mechanics. Instead
> of 3-space being so primal, phase spaces of 6, 18, and even many more
> dimensions would perhaps be more "natural" to such a mind. (Needless to
> say, given that today's best AI programs and computers are having a
> very hard time even doing "naive physics," a la ThingLab and its
> descendants, I'm not expecting progress very quickly. And ThingLab is
> more than 20 years old now, so expecting massive breakthroughs in the
> next 10-20 years seems overly optimistic.)
> More importantly, would an AI version of classical physics, complete
> with incomprehensible (to us) phase spaces and n-categories and so on,
> including constructs with no known analogs in our current universe of
> discourse, would this version give any predictions which differ from
> our own? In short, would the AI's version of physics give us any new
> My hunch is no. It might be better at solving some problems, just as
> the mental architecture of birds may give them much better abilities to
> solve certain kinds of 3D problems than we have had to evolve, and so
> on for many other such examples, but would the physics be different or
> I will grant that had such minds existed earlier in the development of
> physics they might have anticipated certain things decades or centuries
> ahead of humans, so I will grant that in this sense they might have
> found "new physics." And hence I will grant that perhaps an alien mind,
> or an AI mind, might be able to look at what we have already measured
> with our machines and may be able to see new physics we have not found.
> Interesting topic, to be sure.
> (On a tangent, we also have some experience with non-Western cultures
> coming to modern science with their own "alien intelligence" (to a
> slight extent, not a fraction of the alien intelligence a non-H.
> Sapiens would have) and we can examine the question of whether their
> non-Western outlook gave them any particular insights into science or
> fresh points of view. My verdict is that no, the non-Western outlooks
> were not particularly important. Sure, Gell-Mann drew some ideas of the
> "Eightfold Way," but the group-theoretic developments were there
> anyway. Ditto for Eastern ideas of other sorts, I think. And ditto for
> the feminist notion that masculine ideas apparent in physics need to be
> supplemented with more feminine, nurturing, holistic kinds of crapola.
> But I am in danger of digressing into political topics, which I don't
> want to do here on this list.)
> > I suspect our current physics theories are overcomplex because they're
> > based
> > on extrapolating into the microworld, mathematics and intuitive
> > concepts
> > that originated primarily in models of our everyday physical world.
> > Particle theory... wave theory ... path integrals. There are no
> > particles,
> > waves or paths down there.... There is no "observation" either....
> > No
> > strings. No membranes. Our attempts to project these concepts onto an
> > inappropriate domain may well strike future quantum-domain-natural
> > minds as
> > mildly hilarious...
> Probably so. But at any given point in time the best we can do is to do
> the best that we can. We of course cannot just wait for the machines...
> Whether there "are" branes and strings and spins and suchlike at the
> Planck scale is unknown to me, but physicists seem to be making
> progress in acting as if such things have some meaning.
> The universe is not a rubber sheet, either, but it can help to think of
> gravity with the rubber sheet model (though an Arcturan squid creature
> might use a Flozzleblet to picture gravity, and an AI might use
> something entirely different).
> It is true that taking the "at hand, all around us" experience we have
> with physical objects and with the logic of physical objects is
> problematic at the quantum level. The fact that small things do not
> behave the way rocks and spoons behave, being either here or not here,
> having some speed which can be measured, etc., is why quantum mechanics
> is so weird to newcomers and others. So, yes, the physical world is not
> really made of rubber sheets or strings or little blue balls called
> electrons. But the fact that reality is so weird is not, in my opinion,
> an argument of any kind that we should not try to make some sense of it
> with the best arsenal of tools and concepts we can gather.
> > Humans may or may not arrive at a workable TOE before the advent of
> > AI's
> > with quantum-level sensors and actuators. Following this advent,
> > however,
> > the progress of fundamental physics will be unimaginably fast, and
> > will move
> > in humanly-unimaginable directions.
> > Will mathematics be central to this new physics? Maybe. But not our
> > mathematics.
> I disagree fairly strongly on this point. I think our mathematics is
> what is most lasting, albeit the mathematical ideas change names and
> new ideas become more important.
> And I expect the mathematics the AIs develop, or that alien cultures
> may already have, will look like a "coordinate transformation" on our
> space of mathematical basis vectors. Their categories may be slightly
> different, but the underlying structure will be similar. (If natural
> transformations are what "slide" one category and its morphisms into
> other categories and morphisms, 2-categories, 3-categories, and
> n-categories in general are the tools for looking at how these natural
> transformations slide around.)
> > Anyway, this was part of why I decided to start thinking about AI
> > rather
> > than fundamental physics ;->
> AI remains interesting, but I think new views of physics will be coming
> from AIs long after other important things come out of AI. Just my
> (For example, some friends of mine are doing interesting work on using
> systems of several million machine agents to data mine large amounts of
> financial data. It seems likely that this kind of work on machine
> learning, pattern extraction, support vector machines, and a plethora
> of other "AI tools" will have major effects on the world of economics
> and forecasting. And on creating financial derivatives (synthetics)
> which are alien to human thinkers/investors.)
> > I think Greg Egan's fiction is great, but I also think Diaspora is
> > badly
> > flawed futorology, because his uploaded minds never get tremendously
> > more
> > intelligent than humans. I don't think that's a very realistic
> > prognostication, though it makes for easier storytelling.
> I totally agree. His characters were all recognizably human. Where were
> the entities with the equivalent of a truly alien intelligence, or with
> an IQ of 1000? (Not of course in the sense of thinking 5-7 times faster
> than the average bright person on this list, but of having many times
> the difference in conceptualizing power than an Einstein or a Wolfram
> has over a 100 IQ drone.)
> Where were the "Jupiter-sized brains" so beloved of the Extropians and
> Vinge would say, apropos of your "easier storytelling" point, that such
> minds are on the other side of some flavor of Singularity, with little
> to say except to say that there are "Entities" out there, brooding and
> thinking their deep alien thoughts like some kind of unseen Lovecraft
> --Tim May