Here's a story I just wrote. I'll get it published in due course.
Just posted it to the FoR list, thought you might appreciate the sentiments....
It's 100,000 BCE. You are a politically correct caveperson. You want dinner.
The cooling body of the dead thing at your feet seems to be your option. You
have fire back at camp. That'll make it palatable. The fire is kept alive by
the fire-warden of your tribe. None of you have a clue what it is, but it makes
the food edible and you don't care.
It's 1700ish AD. You are a French scientist called Lavoisier. You have just
worked out that burning adds oxygen to the fuel. You have killed off an
eternity of dogma involving a non-existent substance called phlogiston. You
will not be popular, but the facts speak for you. You are happy with your day's
work. You go to the kitchen and cook your fine pheasant meal. You realise that
oxidation never had to figure in your understanding of how to make dinner. Food
for thought is your dessert.
It is 2005 and you are designing a furnace. You use COMSOL Multiphysics on your
supercomputer. You modify the gas jet configuration and the flames finally get
the dead pocket in the corner up to temperature. The toilet bowls will be well
cooked here, you think to yourself. If you suggested to your project leader
that the project was finished she would think you are insane. Later, in
commissioning your furnace, a red hot toilet bowl is the target of your optical
pyrometer. The fierceness of the furnace is palpable and you're glad you're not
the toilet bowl. The computation of the physics of fire and the physics of fire
are, thankfully, not the same thing - that fact has made your job a lot easier,
but you cannot compute yourself a toilet bowl. A fact made more real shortly
afterwards in the bathroom.
It is the early 20th century and you are a 'Wright Brother'. You think you can
make a contraption fly. Your inspiration is birds. You experiment with shaped
wood, paper and canvas in a makeshift wind tunnel. You figure out that certain
shapes seems to drag less and lift more. Eventually you flew a few feet. And
you have absolutely no clue about the microscopic physics of flight.
It is a hundred years later and you are a trainee pilot doing 'touch and go'
landings in a simulator. The physics of flight is in the massive computer
system running the simulator. Just for fun you stall your jetliner and crash it
into a local shopping mall. Today you have flown 146, 341 km. As you leave the
simulator, you remind yourself that the physics of flight in the computer and
flight itself are not the same thing, and that nobody died today.
No-one ever needed a theory of combustion prior to cooking dinner with it. We
cooked dinner and then we eventually learned a theory of combustion.
No-one needed the deep details of flight physics to work out how to fly. We
few, then we figured out how the physics of flight worked.
This is the story of the growth of scientific knowledge of the natural world.
It has been this way for thousands of years. Any one of us could think of a
hundred examples of exactly this kind of process. In a modern world of
computing and physics, never before have we had more power to examine in
detail, whatever are the objects of our study. And in each and every case, if
anyone told you that a computed model of the natural world and the natural
world are literally the same thing, you'd brand them daft or deluded and
probably not entertain their contribution as having any value.
Well almost. There's one special place where not only is that very delusion
practised on a massive scale, if you question the behaviour, you are suddenly
confronted with a generationally backed systematic raft of unjustified excuses,
perhaps 'policies'?, handed from mentor to novice with such unquestioning faith
that entire scientific disciplines are enrolled in the delusion.
Q. What scientific discipline could this be?
A. The 'science' of artificial intelligence.
It is something to behold. Here, for the first time in history, you find people
that look at the only example of natural general intelligence - you, the human
reading this - accept a model of a brain, put it in a computer and then expect
the result to be a brain. This is done without a shred of known physical law,
in spite of thousands of years of contrary experience, and despite decades of
abject failure to achieve the sacred goal of an artificial intelligence like
This belief system is truly bizarre. It is exactly like the cave person drawing
a picture of a flame on a rock and then expecting it to cook dinner. It is
exactly like getting into a flight simulator, flying it to Paris and then
expecting to get out and have dinner on the banks of the Seine. It is exactly
like expecting your computer simulated furnace roasting you a toilet bowl.
Think about it. If there was no difference between a computed physics model of
fire and fire, then why doesn't the computer burst into flames? If there was no
difference between a computed model of flight and flight, then why doesn't the
computer leap up and fly? These things don't happen! Not only that, any
computer scientist would say you were nuts to believe it to be a possibility.
Then that same computer scientist will then got back to their desk, sit down
and believe that their computer program can be brain physics.
Now I am all about creating real artificial general intelligence. Call me
crazy, but I find I am unique in the entire world. I am set about literally
building artificial inorganic brain tissue. Like the Wright Bros built
artificial flight. Like the caveperson built artificial fire. I will build
artificial cognition. There will be no computing. There will be the physics of
Ay now here's the rub.
When I go about my business of organising and researching my artificial brain
tissue I get questioned about my weird approach. I find that I am the one that
has to justify my position! For the first time in history a completely systemic
delusion about the relation between reality and computing is assumed by legions
of scientists without question, and who fail constantly to achieve the goal for
clearly obvious reasons..... _and I am the one that has to justify my
approach_? If I have to listen to another deferral to the Church-Turing Thesis
(100% right and 100% irrelevant) I will SCREAM!
I am not saying artificial general intelligence is impossible or even hard. I
am simply suggesting that maybe the route toward it is through (shock horror)
using the physics of cognition (brain material). Somebody out there.....
please? Can there please be someone out there who sees this half century of
computer science weirdness in 100,000 years of sanity? Please? Anyone?
By Colin Hales
Natural physics is a computation. Fine.
But a computed natural physics model is NOT the natural physics....it is the
natural physics of a computer.
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