On 29 May 2012, at 09:02, Colin Geoffrey Hales wrote:
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
] On Behalf Of Jason Resch
Sent: Tuesday, 29 May 2012 3:45 PM
Subject: Re: Church Turing be dammed.
On Tue, May 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM, Colin Geoffrey Hales <cgha...@unimelb.edu.au
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
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
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
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 us.
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 cognition.
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.
I recently read the following excerpt from "The Singularity is Near"
on page 454:
"The basis of the strong (Church-Turing thesis) is that problems
that are not solvable on a Turing Machine cannot be solved by human
thought, either. The basis of this thesis is that human thought is
performed by the human brain (with some influence by the body), that
the human brain (and body) comprises matter and energy, that matter
and energy follow natural laws, that these laws are describable in
mathematical terms, and that mathematics can be simulated to any
degree of precision by algorithms. Therefore there exist algorithms
that can simulate human thought. The strong version of the Church-
Turing thesis postulates an essential equivalence between what a
human can think or know, and what is computable."
So which of the following four link(s) in the logical chain do you
take issue with?
A. human brain (and body) comprises matter and energy
B. that matter and energy follow natural laws,
C. that these laws are describable in mathematical terms
D. that mathematics can be simulated to any degree of precision by
Brain physics is there to cognise the (external) world. You do not
know the external world.
Your brain is there to apprehend it. The physics of the brain
inherits properties of the (unknown) external world. This is natural
cognition. Therefore you have no model to compute. Game over.
If you have _everything_ in your model (external world included),
then you can simulate it. But you don’t. So you can’t simulate it. C-
T Thesis is 100% right _but 100% irrelevant to the process at hand:
encountering the unknown.
The C-T Thesis is irrelevant, so you need to get a better argument
from somewhere and start to answer some of the points in my story:
Q. Why doesn’t a computed model of fire burst into flames?
This should the natural expectation by anyone that thinks a computed
model of cognition physics is cognition. You should be expected
answer this. Until this is answered I have no need to justify my
position on building AGI. That is what my story is about. I am not
assuming an irrelevant principle or that I know how cognition works.
I will build cognition physics and then learn how it works using it.
Like we normally do.
I don’t know how computer science got to the state it is in, but
it’s got to stop. In this one special area it has done us a
This is my answer to everyone. I know all I’ll get is the usual
party lines. Lavoisier had his phlogiston. I’ve got
computationalism. Lucky me.
You make a level confusion (as Quentin explained).
You confuse also computationalism (I am a machine) and Digital
physicalism (the world is a machine). But if computationalism is true
then digital physics is false. If I am a machine, the physical reality
emerges from the infinite first person indeterminacy on arithmetic,
and this is not Turing emulable. You are supposing physicalism or even
primary matter. That is your phlogiston, I would say. It contradicts
If we are machine, then we cannot know which machine we are, and below
our substitution level, we should find a mean on infinities of
computations, like QM-without-collapse already confirms.
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